Ten free minutes for me, 10 free half-formed opinions for you:
1. Three scattered thoughts on the Pats: 1) I love the Jabar Gaffney signing. If he caught 55 balls last year playing with David Carr, he's more than qualified to be a third or fourth receiver for Tom Brady. 2) Stephen Gostkowski hasn't won my confidence when it comes to putting the ball through the uprights, but his booming kickoffs are justification enough for a secure place on the roster. He gives the Patriots a tremendous advantage in field position. 3) I'm glad to see Hank Poteat found work during the bye week, signing with the Jets. I trust he'll be released from Manginiville in time to rejoin the Pats next weekend at Buffalo.
2. The more I hear from Lou Piniella during his playoff stint in the Fox broadcast booth, the more I wish the Yankees had hired him to replace Torre. Piniella is everything the Yankees don't need at the moment - he's rash, temperamental, and judging by his broadcasting gig, shockingly ill-informed. Maybe Joe Torre isn't the greatest game strategist, and perhaps he hasn't a clue how to deal with A-Rod, but for the most part he's done a remarkable job of cajoling the Yankees' egos through the years, and his departure from New York would have been to the Red Sox' advantage. Rats.
3. I'm torn on whether or not I want the Yankees to deal A-Rod. On one hand, retaining The Cooler pretty much assures the Yankees of another tense summer, and further, I dread the thought of them getting, say, a budding ace such as Ervin Santana and a couple of quality prospects in return; hell, Santana straight up for A-Rod would make them a better team immediately. On the other hand, A-Rod's availability makes it more difficult for the Sox to deal Manny, and unless Theo can coerce Anaheim into giving up Santana (unlikely) or Texas into trading Mark Teixeira for the Sox's man-child, then I'm all for bringing Manny back for another drama-filled .310-35-120 season. His bat is worth the antics.
4. Billy Packer long ago claimed Rajon Rondo as his Binky/Mancrush - I'm pretty sure he talks in his sleep about the size of Rondo's hands - but if the Celtics' off-the-charts-electric rookie point guard can play as well when the games count as he has in the first two preseason games, a smitten Tommy Heinsohn might take over the wheel of the bandwagon. Heck, from what I've seen, he might quickly nudge aside Ryan Gomes as my favorite Celtic. While my expectations for this team hover around 40 wins, I'm looking forward to watching them play. I've always appreciated Paul Pierce's game, and Al Jefferson, Gerald Green, Sebastian Telfair, and Rondo will be entertaining despite their raw skills. Now if Heinsohn could just refrain from referring to Rondo in the same breath as Bob Cousy until he's played an actual game . . .
5. I'm not saying Stephen Jackson is the biggest numbskull in the NBA, but if you happened to mention to him that shooting a gun in the air isn't a good idea because, well, those bullets do fall back to earth, I'm pretty sure he'd look at you quizzically, call you a b----, and shoot his semiautomatic way up into the pretty sky again.
6. Judging by the taunts in my inbox, more than a few of you noticed that on my first-round playoff picks, I pulled an A-Rod - yep, I went an embarrassing 0 for 4. I feel like such a know-nothing boob that suddenly, Steve Lyons and Thom Brennaman are actually starting to sound insightful. So as a matter of repentance, I offer this: I think the Cardinals and A's (despite their 2-0 hole) will advance to the World Series, I suggest you bet the opposite, and once you're rolling in dough, we'll call it even, okay?
7. It's a good thing the White Sox let Frank Thomas go before cutting their sponsorship deal with 7-11, or . . . (and let me apologize for this in advance) . . . the Big Hurt might have been forced to change his name to the Big Gulp!!! (I know, I know. Groan. Sorry. I figured at least once I had to put a joke on here that my dad would laugh at.)
8. This probably does little to help my credibility, but as Alexis Gomez was circling the bases tonight, I was scrambling through the pages of the Baseball America Prospect Handbook, trying to figure out just who the hell he is. If the Tigers keep playing like this - and Jim Leyland keeps pushing all the right buttons in between drags on a Marlboro - I'm going to have to concede that all those fawning puff-piece articles on The Wisdom of Leyland might have been entirely justified.
9. The same words rattled around in all of our minds today as the story of Cory Lidle's fatal plane crash unfolded on our TV screens. Surreal. Tragic. Bizarre. Chilling. Yet in times like these, I never know how to string them together properly without sounding trite. So let me just say that my heart aches for his family, especially his 6-year-old boy, and I'll leave the rest to a writer who can comment with much more wisdom than I can.
10. As for today's baseball card:
For Yankees fans of a certain age, I'm sure the shock and sadness of today's events also brought some unwelcome flashbacks to Thurman Munson's death 27 years ago. As someone who still remembers Lyman Bostock's death more clearly than some milestone moments in my own life, all I can say is that I sympathize.