Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Changes In Attitude?: Sox, Pats, Derby and More...

When your as passionate and as skeptical as someone like yours truly tends to be, it's always important to keep one popular saying at the forefront of your mind...

It's not impossible for two intelligent people to disagree, while still remaining respectful and civil.

Now I'm pretty sure what I wrote is a slightly altered version of the correct phraseology, but the overall point still rings true. Unfortunately, I find myself having to fall back on this saying far too much lately when it comes to the bosses of New England's 2 premier sports franchises...

Naturally, I'm talking about Danny Ainge and Peter Chiarelli...and if you believe that, you gotta come see the one man production of Precious I'm putting on this weekend in the basement of the Attleboro YMCA. If I'm not arrested for inciting a race riot on Friday night, there should be an early show Saturday, so plan accordingly...

But all racially charged theatrical joking aside, I'm obviously referring to Red Sox General Manager Theo Epstein, and New England Patriots Commander in Hood, Mr. Bill Belichick, NOT those other two Garden dwellers whose sports see it fit to continue to screw with my normal TV programs. Ahhh, who am I kidding? I don't watch the channels that broadcast the NBA and the NHL for the most part anyway, so that complaint isn't even legit. I'll tell you right now, though. Should I turn on Adult Swim one night and find the Senators V Penguins or some shit instead of my normal King of the Hill reruns? Well then that, my friends, will be the day I come out spitting straight fire, and change my life's work towards burning that very league to the ground and relieving myself on the smoldering wreckage of charred European flag pieces and beard bits...

But for now, we'll just stick to the topic at hand, which is how lately I seem to find myself deferring to Bill Belichick and Theo Epstein even though I may ultimately disagree with them. Something that's not usually in my playbook, and something that's got me in quite the unfamiliar head space. It's like watching someone fix something you have no idea how to fix, like a car for instance, and getting the sketchy feeling that they aren't doing it right. Ya know, and then you start in with the "Well I'm no car expert, but I'm pretty sure that shouldn't be happening". Well I'm no GM, but there are a few things that I've been seeing lately that I don't think should be happening, either. Regardless of whether they ultimately fix the car or not...

Then again, maybe this is just the classic example of there being more than one way to skin a cat. An example of intelligent people disagreeing, if you will. I guess that means now, the onus is on me to make sure things remain respectful and civil...

Yeah. Wish me luck...

We'll start with the Pats...

New England Patriots 2010 Draft

Now to judge a draft in it's immediate aftermath is just pointless, which is why the cardinal rule these days is to wait 3 years before you give a particular draft class or player a "grade". That doesn't stop all the various pundits and analysts from telling you how each team did, mind you, but at least it seems that most people are willing to wait until these guys actually take the field and prove their worth before they go passing judgment on a team's draft day decision. It may seem like a cop out, but it's definitely the way to go. I'm sure you all remember our good friend, Sauce Beatman, right? Well this is a lot like that. Sure you could make outlandish statements about draft picks right now, but why would you? You really have very little to gain, and by the looks of some "grades" given out in year's past, only your credibility to lose...

But in keeping with this week's theme of like and intelligent minds finding themselves on opposite sides of an issue, I have to point to the Patriots draft strategy in 2010 as something I don't necessarily see hood to hood with...

Now it's a fine line here with Belichick and myself, because while I don't agree with how he went about picking his players, I actually do like most of the guys they brought in.

Devin McCourty is a physical corner who is a big time special teams difference maker; Aaron "Buds" Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski provide solid competition and pass catching potential at TE; Brandon Spikes and Jermaine Cunningham are solid linebackers that can provide depth if nothing else; WR Taylor Price is by all accounts an above average receiving talent; Zoltan Mesko appears to be the next "most popular punter in the NFL" based on name and size alone; and even final selection, QB Zac Robinson, could end up being someone that Patriots fans end up becoming very familiar and enamoured with. They're an extremely big and physical group, and they certainly fill a lot of needs, there's just something a little off...

Maybe it's because, if I had explained it to you like this, you'd be more likely to want to "Brandon Spikes yourself" then you would want to ever watch another Patriots game. What if I said...

"Yeah the Pats traded back in the first round...yeah, again...where they could have had WR Dez Bryant, but instead opted for a special teamer from Rutgers that one of the worst coaches of all time judged as the #1 talent in this year's draft, and was definitely alone in doing so. Oh yeah, and then they went out and took 3 guys from a college whose coach is perhaps the biggest Ted in the history of the world, a TE with chronic back issues, some receiver from Ohio, and a punter named Zoltan."

Not such a great lookin' draft now, is it? And for me, it's all about the fact that Bill Belichick seemed to take his cues in this year's draft from Dave Wanndstedt and Urban Meyer. Wanny being the only one that was hyping McCourty, and Urban obviously being the one who saw 3 of his Gators headed to Foxboro over the weekend...

On one hand, you think Wannstedt did recruit and coach Darrelle Revis, so maybe he knows of what he speaks when it comes to Big East DB's. But on the other hand, he's Dave freakin' Wannstedt. Shady mustache, awful coaching record, and just overall a man who's opinion is not to be trusted. He's not the college version of Matt Millen, not yet, but traveling along those lines is where you'd probably find his residence. His is the mailbox with the mustache for the flag...

And Meyer? Dude's proven over the last year that he's probably closer to a Tiger Woods like fall from grace than he is from winning another National Championship. I mean, I know it takes a "special" kind of guy to do a job like that, but Urban's headed more towards a helmet on the short bus type of special than a place in class behind Myron Rolle kind of special, if you know what I mean...

Ultimately, they're just not guys I want my guy taking cues from, and guys that I wouldn't think he would put so much stock in. And who's to say he did, right? I know. (Although it's pretty obvious that Bill loves him some Florida) It's just a little unsettling that such direct lines can be drawn to guys I wouldn't want within 100 miles of my football team...

Then, there's the trading back in the first round, to which I'll simply say what I say every year when the Patriots do it. "When the world comes to an end, the Patriots will be stuck with a 1st round pick, and 3 2nd round picks, in the following year's draft". Eventually you gotta pick somebody, don't you? I get there's a lot of salary cap type math that I'm not totally 100% on that affects how and where team's draft, but it's one thing to do it occasionally, and another to make it your M.O. ...

Hey, maybe it's just frustration that's got me lookin' for faults. The trading down, the passing on big named players, the drafting of relatively unknown players. Maybe it's just so many perceived negatives that I can't help myself. I'd buy that. But maybe, it's just like the case of the mechanic I mentioned earlier. It may not sound right to me, but the guy doing it knows a Hell of a lot more about it than I do...

Fortunately for me, I have 3 years to determine whether or not I was right or wrong about these picks and their merit. The Patriots? Well they better hope they get those answers in 2010, or they could be headed towards a 2011 off season that could turn Gillette Stadium and the Kraft Empire on it's head. Not that I'm predicting an immenent collapse should this draft class not work out, that would be ludicrous. It's just to say things might not be as rosy as we're used to there up on old Rt. 1, with a certain QB and WR tandem possibly headed for free agency...

But that's a bridge we'll cross when we get to it. For now, I cast a skeptical, yet hopeful eye on the 2010 draft class, and hope this is just another case of the mechanic knowing a Hell of a lot more than the dimwitted customer...

Theo Epstein? Well he's not getting off that easy...OR is he?...

Red Sox Update
Overall: (9-11) 4th place 5.5 games back in AL East

This Week: @ TOR (4/27-4/28) @ BAL (4/30-5/2) vs LAA (5/3-5/6)

The Sox may have gone 5-2 this week, but in wake of this week's theme and last week's promise, I feel it's my duty to at least give you some insight as to my thoughts about how Theo Epstein has managed this year's team...

In the off season, Theo went about assembling a team that was advertised as a squad built around defense and pitching. With additions like Cameron, Beltre, Scutaro and Lackey, that definitely seemed to be the case. The team even stated publicly that they were at temping to shore up those areas of their team...

But what I saw, was a team and a man trying to sell something that they themselves didn't necessarily deem to be true. And I was hoping they were right! I knew, like most of you, that Scutaro, Cameron and Beltre were legendary defenders, but I felt Theo and friends were more using their defensive prowess as a cover. I think, they though, these guys were actually going to hit! I think, part of their plan was not just to have these guys upgrade the defense, but that their addition was actually going to upgrade the offense as well! IT's the "forest through the trees" thing I alluded to last week, and I think it's something Theo is currently suffering from...

IT's like when you would build MLB teams on XBOX or PS2 back in the day. You stock it with players that you want on your team as opposed to guys you're team would realistically need. You know, like on that ill team you had where Randy Johnson was your closer, but you had a guy in right field named A. Player R. Fielder? Yeah, you did it. You know what I'm talkin' about. Only problem here is, Theo Epstein doesn't have a reset button. Gorilla suit, yes. But the reset button, I regret to inform him, has yet to be invented. I'm sure Al Gore's working on it, but until he cracks that nut it's something we're all going to have to learn to live without...

Fortunately, despite the injuries and the fact that team's been playing like ass, I still like the Sox chances for success if they stick to the plan I outlined as likely when I predicted they would win the World Series. The pitching will come around, they'll add a bat and a few bullpen arms, and they should be right where they ought to be come October...

And while I may not agree with the way Theo went about building this team, I do have faith in his ability to fix it, and faith that the right moves he did make will begin to bare fruit as the season moves on...

Not right, not wrong. But different styles and different opinions. IT's what makes talking about sports so much fun, and at the same time can make evaluating it all the more frustrating....which to me, is often just as rewarding...

Now, just a few quick hitters before I call it a day...And is it me, or did it seem like I was rip Theo and Belichick only to again give them both the benefit of the doubt? Damn, I'm a sucker. But hey, I guess "until the car breaks down", right? Right...

OK, now we can really move on and finish this sucker out...

*One of my favorite sporting events of the year, The Kentucky Derby, is this weekend, and I've already started feeling the buzz. My first instinct is to have Awesome Act (above) leading most of my bets, but I'll have a bettor handle (pun!) on that by the end of the week. My man, Sean P, is on the case, per usual, scouring the OTB's and the New York papers for the latest tips, so I'm sure to have all the near relevant insight you'll need come the sound of the trumpet...

Check back on Friday and I'll have all the Derby picks you need, complete with money making trifecta picks and the best bet for which horse will get put down on the track. Sadistic? Yes. Immoral? Yes. But when it comes to midgets riding on animals for money, I tend to think that absolutely nothing is off limits. NOTHING!

*Could Mad Men be headed for it's final season? In the words of Bob Ryan in reference to impending signing of JD Drew "...On behalf of an eager contingiency, I hope the rumor, isn't true"

And if the rumors are true, you Teds out there that haven't been watching better hope it's because creator Matt Weiner wants it to end, and NOT because there haven't been enough viewers. Again, as with King of the Hill, if that's the case I'll hunt you all down and burn you where you sleep. If you have a beard, it will be very similar to the NHL situation...

*I watched the Jack Kevorkian biopic "You Don't Know Jack" on HBO this weekend, and actually as I type this it's running again. And my review? Rather unremarkable. John Goodman was good, Danny Huston was good, and Al Pacino was good, but the movie itself just really wasn't all the trailer promised it would be. Maybe it's just that Kevorkian wasn't all that interesting a guy to begin with, I don't know, but the movie just didn't really seem to deliver. And for what it's worth, as good as Pacino's performance was, I couldn't help but think that an aged John Turturro would have been the better pick for the slightly off kilter, "Dr. Death". But that's just me...

Now if you don't know much about Kevorkian, and want to treat the movie as a sort of history lesson, then by all means give it a look. Otherwise, feel free to move it to the back end of your DVR and spend your TV watchin' time gobblin' up old episodes of Family Guy, High Stakes Poker, No Reservations, and for the love of GOD MAD MEN!!!...

*Oh and speaking of poker, I've again resumed my $0-$??? quest on PokerStars, recently having built my once $14 bankroll all the way up to it's current state of about $45. IF you ever want to play, you can find me on Stars as River_Rooch, usually playing the low level buy in tournaments and the micro stakes cash games. For those not familiar, I was able to start with $0 and make money because you begin by playing for money in really big tournaments that actually have cash prizes. It's a path that's been taken by many a grinder and top pro before me, and while I don't have a specific dollar amount I intend on reaching, the discipline something like this entails, coupled with my overall enjoyment of poker, have truly made this something I really enjoy doing. Maybe having an ultimate goal would be a good thing, but I figure as long as my bankroll is headed north, I'm headed where I want to go. Some day that'll be me bluffing Phil Ivey with the 4 high...Or not...

And speaking of wanting to go, that might not be what I want to do, but it indeed is what I'm going to do. I hope you've all enjoyed your most recent adventure through my psyche, and wish you all nothing but the best moving forward through the week...

Be good, people...

Teddy Williams...



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