Posted by: Nate | January 16, 2008

Week in Review

Lots has happened in the world of sports since my last update so this is going to be a bit of a grab bag, hitting on a number of topics and issues.

First of all, our New England Patriots moved to 17-0 with a convincing win over the Jaguars in the AFC Divisional round. Some elements of this game were typical Pats, while there were some new and impressive wrinkles. Tom Brady was phenomenal again, going 26 for 28, with the two incompletions being a Welker drop and an “misfire” to a blanketed Ben Watson that could have been pass interference. Think about that for a second. Not only was Brady essentially perfect, setting an NFL record for completion percentage in the process, but he only threw 28 passes. We’ve been used to the gunslinging, aerial assault Patriots with Brady throwing upwards of 40 or 50 passes a game. What filled the void this time?

That would be the virtually non-existent running game taking over and using a lot of clock in the process. It was refreshing to see Maroney running hard and the O-line getting a chance to get physical and smash people around instead of constantly pass protecting.  Maroney rushed 22 times for 122 yards and a TD, which was more than the entire Jacksonville running game combined. Not something you would have expected from the Pats this season, but just another testament to the number of ways that we can beat teams and the success Belichick has at taking away what opponents do best. Going into the game, myself and many other wanted Belichick to take away the run and make Garrard beat us, and he wasn’t able to do that when he had to. Classic Patriots last week, and it makes up for the ghostly performance of Maroney and the running game for the majority of the regular season.

On the hardwood, the Celtics have had a rough time of it as of late.  They had lost 3 of their last 4 going into tonight against a talented, young Portland team and this is one of those stretches that may come to define the team (and the coach). The big three need to step up and make sure to let everyone know that this kind of play isn’t acceptable and that they need to be sharper on offense and more fluid. Their defense has been pretty good, which bodes well for Rivers who has been harping  the whole “defense wins championships” mantra for quite some time.Someone ought to tell Doc that while shutting down the other team is great, you need to be able to score points of your own as well to come out ahead. I’ve never been a huge Doc fan and wanted him let go, not extended, after last seasons impressive implosion. I am worried that he will be the fly in the ointment of what I think can be a really great team.

Here’s hoping that Ray Allen can get healthy and locate his stroke again, that KG and Paul Pierce can get the team headed back in the right direction and that the C’s spend a little extra time working on offensive sets in practice in addition to their clamp down defense. Another point to pay attention to as the season goes on is the play of the bench. It seems to me that the key to winning games for the C’s both short and long term is the play of the bench. If they can come in and work effectively as the second unit, maintaining or extending leads while the big three can get some rest that will help them win now, as well as make the big guns more rested going into the playoffs when we’ll rely on them the most.

In the realm of baseball there were a lot of curious things going on in the past week. For starters, the fallout from the Mitchell Report continues, as Commissioner Selig, Player’s Union head Don Fehr sat in front of Congress on Tuesday morning. The session essentially boiled down to the two men admitting they they didn’t do enough to prevent the steroids problem from developing and didn’t act quick enough once the problem became apparent. Both pledged to some degree to step up their efforts and will be looking to implement more stringent testing and harsher penalties. We’ll see if that has any teeth as the off season progresses.

Elsewhere around the diamond(s), there were several trades and acquisitions of some note. The Cardinals and Blue Jays finalized a head-scratching trade of third basemen with Troy Glaus going to St. Louis and Scott Rolen going to Toronto. The rationale for the deal, as I see it, is as follows. Glaus was often injured and it is believed this was in part to the harsh surface at the Rogers Center and the Jays were tired of losing his production. Secondly, he was a defensive liability and Rolen is seen as a big defensive upgrade at the hot corner for them. Also, Glaus was linked to steroids and so the Jays may not want to deal with any fallout, suspensions or scrutiny from that and dealt him to “clean up” the clubhouse. The Cardinals, meanwhile, deal a player who has an open and well documented feud with the manager and has also had serious injury problems as of late. They get the younger, cheaper player with more power (at least in my opinion).

I was left scratching my head though, as this trade doesn’t make a lot of sense to me from a Jays standpoint. Essentially, I see them banking on the fact that Rolen rebounds from his shoulder injury and subsequent surgery (a big if) and that if he is healthy he will provide much better defense and better all-around offense then Glaus. While I’ll agree that Rolen will be a massive upgrade at 3B for the Jays, I am unconvinced that his shoulder will be what it once was and I feel that he is in the dregs of his career. Not good, considering the Jays own him for the next three years for a total of $33 million dollars. They only owed Glaus $12.75 million for this year, with a player option for $11.5 for 2009. I fail to see how tying up more money in an older player with an equal injury history to the one you gave up AND less power is a good idea.  would have hoped that the foot surgery had Glaus ready to roll this year and occasionally play him at DH at home to keep him off the turf a bit. Of course, I am not a major league GM and now that I have publicly stated I think Rolen is washed up he’ll probably have a career year and be a Sox killer to boot. Either way, I don’t get it.

In other moves, Jon Lieber returns to the Cubs for $3.5 million for next season, with performance incentives available. I like this deal for the Cubs as it provides them depth and experience at SP and  if Lieber can stay healthy he  is good value at $3.5 million.  He isn’t too far removed from a 17-13 season, which if he can get close to that win total he is a steal at that price. If he isn’t effective, gets hurt or is just done as a player the Cubs haven’t made a huge investment monetarily or a long-term commitment.

The A’s traded Mark Kotsay to the Braves for Joey Devine and another lower level prospect. The Braves are looking for Kotsay to rebound from back woes the past few seasons and to be their starting CF, replacing Andruw Jones. Obviously they aren’t going to get the type of glove or HR power that they lost in Jones, but if Kotsay can stay healthy and return to 2004 form, he should be a solid but not overly impressive addition for the Braves. In Devine, the A’s get a hard throwing prospect who has had some struggles but with the way Billy Beane and his staff have developed younger talent from other clubs, this could be a steal for them. Only time will tell.

Looking ahead, the Pats face the weakened San Diego Chargers for the AFC Championship this Sunday while the Celtics have their next two games against the 76’ers and the Knicks.

As of the finish of writing this up, the C’s beat the Blazers 100-90, with Ray Allen scoring 35 points on 12 of 20 shooting, hitting 4 of 10 from beyond the arc so that is great news. Until next time, Go Boston!

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Responses

  1. […] I was absolutely shocked that Rivers even had a job after last season’s stink bomb, and so it should come as no surprise that he is completely overmatched now that we are in the playoffs. His panic-stricken, tight […]


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