Saturday, April 29, 2006

First and 10: NFL Draft

First and 10 while wondering how I'm going to get my Kiper fix while attending my cousin's wedding today . . .

1. Be very afraid, Texans fans (all three of y'all): Reggie Bush, whose skill-set makes him an amalgam of Terry Metcalf, Joe Washington, LaDainian Tomlinson and maybe even some old-school cat named Sayers, will have his vengeance on the pea-brained bleep-ups running your football team. Good lord, I hope the J-E-T-S don't get Bush, because this is a pick even they can't screw up.

2. His performance in the Rose Bowl will be an ESPN Classic staple for years to come (at least when they're not showing the 1997 World Series of Poker for the 23d time that week), he's a phenomenal athlete and, Wonderlic disaster aside, is by all accounts a good kid. But I can't help but think that unless he gets in the ideal situation - namely, interning for Steve McNair in Tennessee for at least two years - Vince Young is going to be a bust in the NFL. I simply can't imagine that any quarterback, no matter how talented, will be able to adjust to the NFL quickly after having never taken a snap over the center in college. Young might eventually become a more powerful version of Randall Cunningham, but for now his shotgun-only experience coupled with his funky throwing motion make him more of a project than the hype would lead you to believe.

3. Javon Walker? Yes, please, assuming the price is right. I'd be jacked and pumped if the Pats could acquire the Packers' disgruntled but well-regarded receiver for, say, a second-round pick. Walker is a truly elite pass catcher when healthy, and while Joe Theismann, Peter King and the rest of the Brett Favre Is Just Having Fun Out There He Would Play The Game For Free Butt-Kissing Brigade will never admit it, Walker bailed out that ball-heaving fraud time and again. Besides, the Pats have to replace David Givens at some point, and this is a thin draft for receivers, especially after the Lions inevitably take one in the first round.

4. He's a talent to be sure, but if LenDale White can't keep himself from stuffing his face with Funyons, Ding Dongs, Nutty Bars and anything else his plump little fingers can pluck out of the snack machine now, during the most crucial time of his football life, what makes any team think he's going to get his butt into shape after he gets paid?

5. Matt Leinart strikes me a lefthanded version of a healthy Chad Pennington - a dependable passer with a soft touch and all the so-called intangibles, but lacking the ideal arm strength to ever become anything better than pretty good. (And before you say it, Tom Brady has outstanding arm strength. Why he doesn't get more credit for that I have no idea.)

6. Last year in this space I pleaded with the Patriots to select Lofa Tatupu in the first round, and we all know how that turned out . . . for the Seahawks. So when I say the one player I really wish the Patriots could get is Michael Huff, the lightning-legged, Riddell-crackin' defensive back from Texas, I have some credibility, right? What's that . . . I don't? Because I was adamant that they take David Terrell or Koren Robinson over Tomlinson and Richard Seymour, both of whom I guaranteed couldn't play? Damn, it was five years ago. Let it go already, will ya? Sheesh.

7. Jay Cutler looks like the lost Manning brother, right down to the haircut-via-toenail clippers. Archie Manning must be fighting off a confusing but overwhelming urge to commandeer the kid's life.

8. Mrs. TATB is due to give birth to Baby TATB No. 2 in mid-August. We've got a few names on the short list, boy or girl, but I haven't dropped my trump card on her yet. Check it out: D'Brickashaw Finn. Huh? Sweet ring to it or what? I think she's going to love it the way I do. (By the way, you have to like D'Brickashaw Ferguson for this reason alone. In a Q&A in the Sporting News NFL Draft Guide, the Virginia tackle and several other top prospects are asked what their first purchase will be after signing a pro deal. While most players listed a home or a luxury item - Jimmy Williams of Virginia Tech plans on buying a Lamborghini, which suggests to me that he's not on the Patriots' draft board - Ferguson kept it simple, and for an offensive lineman, appropriate. His answer: "I'll probably get something to eat.")

9. All right, presuming you have the common sense to realize that no one outside of the Gillette Stadium draft bunker really has any idea what the Patriots are thinking - don't even try to tell me you heard of Logan Mankins before last April - here is my bold prediction. When today's festivities are concluded, the Patriots will come away with two of these five players: 1) Richard Marshall, CB, Fresno State. 2) Bobby Carpenter, LB, Ohio State. 3) Maurice Stovall, WR, Notre Dame. 4) Manny Lawson, DE, North Carolina St. 5) Abdul Hodge, LB, Iowa. That said, I fully expect them to pick a defensive tackle from some Div. I-AA college I've never heard of in Rd. 1, prompting Kiper to mutter, "that's not good value there . . . he has a poor bubble and his hips aren't loose . . . I had him pegged for Round 4 . . . dammit . . . (bleepin') Patriots, I hate them . . . YOU'RE MAKING A MOCKERY OF MY MOCK DRAFT, SCOTT PIOLI!!!" Then he'll storm off the set, leaving Chris Berman to call behind him, "Why are you rumblin', bumblin', stumblin' away? . . . c'mon, don't go, "Rowdy Roddy" Kiper . . . you're with me, leather." Hey, it could happen.

10. As for today's Completely Random Football Card:

If the Patriots do select Bobby Carpenter with the No. 21 pick, let's just say I hope he's better at making tackles than his old man was at breaking them.

Monday, April 24, 2006

After the buzzer

Before the season escapes your mind completely, let me quickly eulogize the 2005-'06 Boston Celtics by saying this: For a mediocre team, they were almost always entertaining, and they offset their failures by offering hope for the future in the form of several precocious and likeable young players. I'm already looking forward to next year, particularly if Danny Ainge finds a way to add Adam Morrison to his growing collection of Goofy White Guys. But before we this one in the archives, let's take a player-by-player look at what the past season delivered:

PAUL PIERCE (Key stats: 26.8 ppg, 6.7 rpg, 4.7 apg): Think he has "Redemption Song" in his iPod? . . . after the '04-'05 season concluded with his ugly meltdown against the Pacers in the playoffs, followed by a summer's worth of trade rumors, had to figure his days in green and white were numbered . . . instead, he countered with the best all-around season of a stellar if uneven career . . . and he did it all with a smile . . . truly a pleasure to watch this season, one of the top six or seven players in the league . . . so what changed? . . . could be maturity, could be the willingness to make the best of the situation, but most likely it's that he truly believes in and enjoys playing with his younger teammates . . . ability has never been in doubt . . . a true scorer with an uncanny knack for getting to the line . . . best rebounding 2-guard in the league, bar none . . . much more careful with the basketball than he was in his professional youth, and involves his teammates more . . . winning is important to him, and he deserves to play on a contending team . . . safe to say his No. 34 will eventually hang from the rafters.

DELONTE WEST (11.8 ppg, 4.6 apg): For much of the season, was the team's second-best all-around player . . . relentless defender, though he sometimes struggles with the quicker types . . . dead-eye lefty jump shooter who hit 38.7 percent from three and 48 percent overall, excellent for a guard . . . handled the point well enough, but isn't a true playmaker . . . a building block, though on a good club, might be best suited to being the third guard . . . apparently dipped into a leftover bottle of Dennis Johnson's orange hair dye . . . smart and serious on the court, charmingly nuts off of it, which makes him an extremely popular teammate.

WALLY SZCZERBIAK (With Celtics: 17.5 ppg): Adjusted to midseason trade from Wolves as well as could be expected, particularly considering he was often playing on one leg . . . meshed extremely well with Pierce, which was something of a surprise considering his clashes with alpha dog Kevin Garnett in Minnesota were legendary . . . makes you wonder if it was KG's fault all along . . . fantastic shooter and a better athlete than you think . . . can finish on the break and even occasionally finishes a slash to the hoop with a power dunk . . . articulate and dedicated, a true pro who should be a good role model for the Celtics' underclassmen . . . best thing you can say about his defense is that he tries . . . attempted to play through a knee injury, but Celtics prudently shut him down for season when they were eliminated . . . gives the Celtics a legitimate No. 2 scorer heading into next season.

AL JEFFERSON (7.9 ppg, 5.1 rpg) : Disappointed in his second season, though in fairness, expectations were off-the-charts high . . . after stellar performance against Pacers in last season's playoffs, stardom was expected in Year 2 . . . instead of turning into Elton Brand overnight, he played like what he is: a talented, raw 21-year-old with very little experience at a high level . . . he's the anti-Blount in the low post: his hands are basketball magnets, and his back-to-the-basket moves are straight out of the Kevin McHale Guide To Low-Post Play . . . his toughness was questioned after he was reluctant to play on a sprained ankle . . . on defense, he likes to take naps, or maybe have a sandwich, while waiting for the offense to get the ball back . . . soft-spoken, easy-going kid, you hope he doesn't become jaded . . . makes so many silly fouls, even Tommy Heinsohn admits they are legitimate calls . . . just a little patience.

RAEF LaFRENTZ (7.8 ppg, 5.0 rpg): Played in all 82 games, which should help him shed the injury-prone label . . . the burden of high expectations resulting from his ridiculous contract make it easy to label him an underachiever . . . if his salary were commensurate with his ability, it might be easier to accept him for what he is . . . a useful, if soft, power forward who can block a shot or drill a three but isn't going to go rebound-for-rebound with Ben Wallace. . . ideally. Jefferson and Perkins would relegate him to third big-man status.

KENDRICK PERKINS (5.2 ppg, 5.9 rpg): Vicious rebounder, improving shot blocker, sets a mean pick . . . works his tail off on defense, though the refs still give him little leeway . . . offensive game is still a work in progress . . . in the post, often looks like he's made up his mind what his move will be without reading his defender, which leads to some awkward moments . . . clearly possesses the desire to get the most out of his ability and is probably the most mature of all of the Celtics' young players, excluding four-year college player Gomes . . . has completely transformed his body from his doughy rookie season . . . high-end projection: somewhere between Rick Mahorn and Paul Silas . . . even if he falls short of that, he's got enough going for him already to be valuable to a good team.

RYAN GOMES (7.6 ppg, 4.9 rpg): C'mon, what's not to like? . . . smart, instinctive player with old-school sensibilities . . . plays like he's been in the league for 10 years . . . other than Pierce's world-class play, watching this kid was the reason to tune in night-in, night-out . . . owns so many savvy positioning tricks while rebounding that you'd swear he was related to Moses Malone . . . indictment of Doc that despite an impressive preseason, didn't get a chance to play until injuries gave the coach no choice. . . good enough shooter, and owns a Danny Manning-style collection of junk moves around the hoop . . . if teams were given a do-over on the 2005 Draft, second-round steal would go in the lottery . . . oh, and we were right for once . . . he's not the greatest athlete and may not be a star, but can't you picture him being a key role player on a championship contender?

ORIEN GREENE (3.2 ppg, 1.6 apg): There are some pluses to his game . . . has arms like an octopus, which makes him a potential lock-down defender at the point . . . also carries himself like a point guard, looking for teammates at the expense of his own offense . . . deft ballhander and sees the court well, particularly in feeding the post . . . you knew the minuses were coming, didn't you? . . . couldn't hit an 18-foot jumper if he were alone in the gym . . . occasionally too deferential to Pierce, almost to the point he'd lock in on him like Bledsoe did with Coates . . . there are a dozen guys just like him in the NBA, and another dozen in the NBDL, so he needs to commit to correcting his flaws or come up with compromising pictures of Ainge if he wants to stick around longterm.

GERALD GREEN (5.2 ppg in 31 games): As green as his name or the uniform he's wearing, but damn, does this kid have lightning in his legs . . . in limited playing time, threw down as many highlight film dunks as any Celtic since . . . well, who, Connor Henry? . . seriously, he might be the most athletic player the franchise has ever had . . . when he got significant playing time late in the season during the Celtics' Road to Secaucus, showed more offensive polish than we were led to believe he had, scoring 18 points in one game and 22 in another . . . just clueless defensively . . . couldn't guard Red Auerbach at this point . . . looks like the love child of Cuba Gooding Jr. and Teresa Witherspoon, which I'm pretty sure is a physical impossibility . . . immature to the point that Ainge went to the NBDL to babysit him at one point, but hell, he should be a freshman in college . . . if he wants to be great, he can be.

TONY ALLEN (7.2 ppg): Got a look at point guard late in the season, an experiment Bob Cousy quickly declared a mistake . . . then again, the Cooz said Chauncey Billups would never make it as a playmaker, either . . . after offseason knee surgery, took him a while to get his springboard hops back, and he played tentatively . . . seems legitimately pissed when his man scores on him, and he has all the defensive skills to go with the desire . . . subpar shooter for a 2-guard, but his form looked much improved, so maybe he'll come around . . . sketchy involvement in a nightclub shooting has the Celts brass crossing their fingers that he won't be playing in the Chicago Penal League for the next 5-10 years.

MICHAEL OLOWOKANDI (No key stats except for salary) : If you're okay with having no work ethic or self-respect, and if the idea of money for nothing appeals to you, well, becoming the modern day Pervis Ellison ain't such a bad life at all.

DAN DICKAU (3.3 ppg in 19 games): Quality shooter, adequate playmaker, but often the game seems too fast for him - and that was before he blew out his Achilles'.

BRIAN SCALABRINE (1.8 fouls per game): If Ainge really had to spend $15 million to feed his Tall, Pasty Redhead fetish in the offseason, he'd have been much better off signing Matt Bonner, a semi-local kid (the pride of Concord, N.H.) who, unlike Scalabrine, actually belongs in the league.

DWAYNE JONES (1.0 ppg): He's tall.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Blame Canada

Playing a spontaneous, real-time Nine Innings while watching the Sox piss away a 6-2 lead in the eighth inning . . .

1. Whoa, check out! A Manny Ramirez sighting! Now that we know that Manny is indeed going to hit a home run this season (whoops, there goes another one . . . make it two), can the 'EEI mouthbreathers please get back to much more pressing matters, such as yowling about the backup catcher and the fourth freakin' outfielder, spinning Bronson Arroyo's numbers to make him sound like the modern day Babe Ruth, and - this is the important one, so listen up, Tubby - dropping to your knees and praying to the great Marconi in the sky that the rumor isn't true and the Sox radio rights don't end up with WBOS. Because then you might finally discover that those ratings you are always crowing about reflect more on the teams you are affiliated with than the talent-free buffoons you employ.

2. Mark Loretta reminds me a lot of Bill Mueller, and I think every Sox fan would agree that such a statement is high praise.

3. I've been a fan since his Sea Dog days, but I'm beginning to suspect A.J. Burnett is Matt Clement with a $55 million contract and a chronically sore elbow.

4. I usually think Jerry Remy's analysis is spot-on, but I had to disagree with him tonight. I have no doubt Beckett was trying to nail Aaron Hill the half inning after Alex Gonzalez got his by a Jason Frasor curveball. He took a little off his fastball and hit the bull's-eye on Hill's shoulder, pretty much what a pitcher is taught to do when he's trying to send a message or exact some sort of silly revenge. Whether it was intentional or not though, it jostled awake the Jays, and three homers later we might have had our first instance of Beckett's alleged immaturity hurting the ballclub.

5. If it were revealed tomorrow that Don Orsillo is not really human, but a vinyl-covered automaton whose "voice" is nothing but appropriate snippets of Sean McDonough's old broadcasts, well, let's just say that the only surprise would be that Remy didn't give the secret away long ago by shilling toy OrsilloBots on his ubiquitous website.

6. Doom-and-gloom prediction: Mike Timlin will be pitching far less meaningful innings a month from now.

7. According to reader Eric K., Wily Mo Pena repeatedly referred to Ron "Papa Jack" Jackson as "Papa John" during a pregame radio interview the other day. Wily Mo must have been impressed when he met him: "You mean he's a hitting coach AND a pizza maker? That's awesome, cat!"

8. Heaven knows the Sox have made some marginal Blue Jays look like All-Stars in recent years (yeah, we mean you, Johnson, and that goes double for you, Lilly) but there is absolutely no shame in getting beaten by Vernon Wells. If he's not the best all-around outfielder in the American League, he's on a very short list. What a player.

9. As for today's Completely Random Baseball Card:

How's this for a segue: I'll check in tomorrow with a player-by-player wrapup of the Celtics. You know, for the seven of you that actually care. Hey, there's a reason I saved it for the weekend.

(Sox lose in 12, 7-6. Not to get all technical and Baseball Prospectus-ish on you, but Rudy Seanez sucks. Ah, well. Hope Remy remembers to unplug Orsillo before he takes off.)

Oh, and what the hell - one more Completely Random Baseball Card just for the fun of it:

Moseby, the Jays' center fielder during their first winning seasons, was outstanding for a time, but Wells is the player he was supposed to be.

Labels: , , , , , , , ,

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

How they're doing so far

Rejected title of this post: Question: What Better Time To Make Critical Judgments Than After 14 Games of a 162-Game Season? Answer: There's No Better Time! Let's Judge!

And with that spellbinding intro out of the way, here's TATB's quickie take on the early, mostly encouraging returns of the 2006 Red Sox:

Jason Varitek: Man, I hope his ass is okay. Er, let's just move on ...

Kevin Youkilis: Surprisingly stellar in his first significant playing time at first base, and while he'll never knock down the Coke bottles, he almost never fails to have a quality at-bat. He's a clone of a young Dave Magadan, which isn't an insult at all.

Mark Loretta: Reminds me of Jody Reed at his best. Smart hitter, more punch than you think, catches everything he can get his glove on. Just a great trade.

Alex Gonzalez: In terms of the ballclub's offense-at-all-costs tradition, he's sort of the Bizarro Red Sox player: He has no plate discipline, and when he encounters an off-speed pitch, he looks like a blindfolded kid trying to whack a pinata. He sure is a treat to watch at short, though. Might be better than Cabrera.

Mike Lowell: His bat is slow, but there's enough crappy pitching in the AL that he'll end up hitting 15-20 homers. Add that moderate production to his Gold Glove defense, and ultimately he's an asset.

Manny Ramirez: Yup, he's pretty much sucked. And come October, his numbers will look something like this: .300-40-130. If you're worried, you're probably just looking for a reason to gripe about him.

Coco Crisp: Even though the finger injury has delayed his Fenway debut, the Nation adores him already, and Johnny Damon is jealous.

Trot Nixon: He's got the annual Nagging Injury Caused By Awkwardly Diving For A Misplayed Ball out of the way, so good health willing, maybe his hot start is signifying a .300-25-90 season to come.

David Ortiz: Good Lord, is it possible that he's still improving? That he gets anything to hit in clutch situations is a tribute to the general stubbornness (stupidity?) of big-league managers. I don't even want to consider what recent Red Sox history would be like without him.

Curt Schilling: We know he's not prone to understatement, but when Schilling says, "I feel like I'm the best I've ever been," well, we can't help feeling pretty damn good about this team's chances.

Josh Beckett: I've been an unabashed fan since his brief stopover with the Sea Dogs (he whiffed the first 8 batters he faced in his Double A debut), I've believed since the day the trade was made that he will be the 2006 AL Cy Young winner, and his starts are turning into must-see events much in the way Pedro's and Roger's used to be. My appreciation for him made clear, I must air one complaint: Given that he seeks vigilante justice whenever he determines an opponent (Ryan Howard, Shea Hillenbrand) isn't "respecting the game," shouldn't he tone down the fist-pumping histrionics just a bit? Competitiveness is great; I just like it better when the hypocrites reside in the Bronx.

Matt Clement: You know the scouting report: Sweetheart of a guy, better-than-average stuff, excruciatingly painful to watch. Maybe he'll continue to pitch well enough against the dregs of the league that one of them will eventually trade for him.

Tim Wakefield: It's been rocky as he's still getting acclimated to his new catcher (and vice versa), but ultimately he'll get his 13-17 wins, rescue the staff a few times, and prove as steady as a knuckleballer can possible be.

David Wells: Take your parting gifts - the case of America's Best and your bottomless box of coconut glazed Munchkins - and just go away already, okay Big Fella?

Jonathan Papelbon: Lights. Bleepin'. Out. And have you heard him interviewed? He even sounds like Clemens. I'm geeked like Pete Carroll at a Trojan pep rally.

Julian Tavarez: He's lucky Joey Gathright, a black belt who may or not be an apprentice of Chuck Norris, didn't snap his scrawny neck.

Keith Foulke: He's on his way back, and even Johnny From Burger King has to admit that he's handled everything with class this season.

Mike Timlin: He's one of my favorite Sox and I'd never bet against him, but I'm worried that he's slipping. It seems like he gives up a couple rockets in every appearance. Just something to keep an eye on.

Lenny DiNardo: When your long reliever could crack the rotation for at least half the teams in the majors, you know you've got a deep staff. I like him - in style and stuff, he's sort of a destitute man's Andy Pettitte - and given the chance, he might evolve into the lefty version of his ol' wingman, Bronson Arroyo.

David Riske: Haven't seen much. Haven't liked what I've seen.

Rudy Seanez: Decent stuff, lousy results, a.k.a., the story of his mediocre career. Why Theo signed him at age 37 after one outlier of a season in a pitcher's park, I have no clue. Here's hoping Hansen or Delcarmen takes his job by July.

Wily Mo Pena: All right, lay off, you jackals. Sure, the kid is flawed - defensively, he's such a one-man tornado that he makes you long for the days of Rudy Pemberton - but his raw power is phenomenal, he's showing signs of improving his strike-zone judgment, he's open to advice from Papa Jack, Papi and anyone else willing to help, and oh yeah, he's 24 freakin' years old. He could be an asset to this team for a long time, providing the talk-radio banshees and fellow mouthbreathers don't succeed in permanently turning him into a scapegoat or a punchline.

Josh Bard: And while you're at it, cut him a break too. He's catching too much flak . . . what's that? . . . yeah, yeah, ha, that's the only thing he's catching. Good one, Bob Saget! Listen, he's diligent, and he'll figure out this knuckleball thing soon enough. In the meantime, quit pretending Mirabelli was Johnny Bench.

J.T. Snow: Still Pennzoil-slick with the glove, but Youks is rendering him obsolete, which is probably a good thing.

Alex Cora: Occasionally makes a boneheaded error, but for the most part he's a savvy baserunner and dependable, versatile defender - in other words, just what you want from a utility guy. What, you prefer Cesar Crespo and Ramon Vazquez?

Adam Stern: Plays three outfield positions well, has a strong and accurate arm, is a better baserunner than he showed last year, and while the results are lacking, he seems to have an idea at the plate. So now we know: He belongs.

Dustan Mohr: Quadruple A hitter. Gabe Kapler without the personality.

* * *

As for today's Completely Random Baseball Card:

Because sometimes it really is random.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Game faces

Since our post titled That '70s Show ended up being the surprise box-office smash of the spring, I figured I crank out a quick Red Sox-centric sequel while I have few minutes. So here goes: Each of the following pictured players from the late '70s and early '80s either played for the Sox or is connected to the club's history in some way. As I did previously, I've offered a clue below each player's photo along with a link to his page. Without further ado, take your best shot at guessing their ID's, suckers, and shoot me an email to let me know how you did:

Okay, a fairly easy one to start. Actually, I'm just including this because the picture looks like it was taken in the basement from the movie "Saw."

Had the best arm of any shortstop the Sox have had, and he liked to show it off so much that he ended up blowing out his shoulder after he left Boston.

Best buds with Dennis Eckersley with the Indians . . . at least until he hooked up with The Eck's wife. Cleveland realized they'd better trade one of the two talented young players, and being the Indians and all, naturally they traded the wrong one.

Injuries robbed him of his promise as a hitter, but he did grow up to become a damn fine manager . . .

. . . but I sure as hell won't say the same for this obscure Expo's older brother. (Hint: Stupid is as stupid does, Forrest.)

The ultimate One-Year Wonder (and perhaps the most down-to-earth person we've ever met, let alone athlete) played out the string with the '83 PawSox after injuries robbed him of his magic.

Soft-tosser won 10 games as a rookie for the '77 Sox, was swapped to Cleveland in the Eckersley deal, and won exactly 20 more games as a big leaguer.

If you're a Sox fan of a certain age, you can't think of this '77 AL Cy Young winner without muttering "Danny Cater," likely followed by a string of expletives.

Spent one mediocre season with the Sox, 1981, right about the time he was trying to figure out how to compensate for losing 15 m.p.h. off his fastball at age 27. It wasn't easy, but he did eventually make the transition from flamethrower to junkballer and lasted a dozen more years after Boston dumped him.

After trading him to the Sox in the spring of '86, Steinbrenner famously warned that "his bat will be dead by August." Instead, his rock-steady demeanor and clutch power-hitting were major reasons the Sox played into October.

Last man in the bullpen for the '86 Sox, but he was a skilled hitter (for a pitcher, anyway) who I seem to recall coming through with a pinch single that season.

One of the scapegoats of the "Boston Massacre" in '78, the always accountable Eckersley took him off the hook for a crucial misplay of a pop fly by saying something along the lines of this to the postgame media swarm: "I'm the one who gave up 7 (bleeping) runs. Blame me. I'm the starting pitcher. Leave him the hell alone." (I'd get the quote precise if I could find my copy of Gammons's timeless "Beyond the Sixth Game" at the moment, but it's apparently buried somewhere on my desk here under old media guides, newspapers and empty Tostito bags. I think the intent and spirit of the Eck's comment is accurate, though.)

Affable, appropriately nicknamed slugger liked to claim that sweet necklace he's wearing was made out second basemen's teeth.

Hard-throwing young righty was dealt by the Sox to the Angels after the '77 season for some kid from Fall Rivah named Remy. Don't know what ever happened to him. Probably works on a fishing boat or something.

After Buckner's error in Game 6, reportedly began yelling, "I'm off the hook! I'm off the hook!" Once a dinkus, always a dinkus, I say.

Broke Jim Rice's wrist with a pitch late in the '75 season, sidelining the rookie slugger for the playoffs . . .

. . . and in a related story, this is the last thing poor Vernon Gerald Ruhle ever saw.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

A quick word

Ten free minutes for me, 10 free throwaway lines for you . . .

1. TATB's annual Bruins comment, a.k.a., It's Called Ruins: I thought the Joe Thornton trade was phenomenally stupid when it happened. The old adage says it's always a bad idea to give up the best player in trade, and the addendum is that you damn sure don't trade a 25-year-old with more talent than 99 percent of the players in the league for a good defenseman, a second- or third-line forward, and the lesser of the Primeaus. You just don't, even if your young superstar hasn't yet met all of his potential and seems a reluctant leader. Why Boston sports fans - and in this case, team management - are so reluctant to downsize their expectations of a player when its clear he was overhyped early on remains a mystery to me. So what if Thornton wasn't the second coming of Mario Lemieux or didn't command the locker room respect of Mark Messier. He's still a damn brilliant hockey player, one the Bruins were fortunate to have, and unless they are so terrible in the coming seasons that they end up with the No. 1 overall pick a few times, it's going to be a long time before they have anyone like him.

2. I was as bummed to see Adam Vinatieri, David Givens and Willie McGinest go as the next Pats fan, but the reasonable voice in my head assures me that the news that Richard Seymour signed a long-term contract makes this offseason an unqualified success. Vinatieri, Givens and McGinest, though admirable, were role players. Seymour is irreplaceable, a superstar in his prime. The Patriots are spending their money in the right places, still.

3. David Wells is doing his best to make sure there's a rotation spot available for Roger Clemens whenever the Hall of Fame-caliber attention whore finally makes up his mind. The guess here is that Boomer packs it in and beaches himself somewhere in sunny San Diego by June.

4. It's not officially baseball season until Trot Nixon pulls a muscle. Play ball.

5. I'm aiming to weigh in with a player-by-player take on the Celtics in the next few days, but for the moment let me say this: Paul Pierce, Ryan Gomes, Delonte West, and Gerald Green made watching a 30-something-win team much more enjoyable than you'd think it would be. Now if Wally Szczerbiak gets healthy, Al Jefferson grows up, Kendrick Perkins keeps working, Brian Scalabrine realizes he's more suited to lumbering around in the Concord, N.H. Men's League, and Doc Rivers stumbles upon a damn clue, then we really might have something to get excited about here.

6. Gotta say, it strikes me as a little curious that the sports-radio banshees are so eager to scapegoat Wily Mo Pena. Seems to me he's been pretty much as advertised: strikes out like a long-lost relative of Rob Deer, plays the outfield like he's being swarmed by bees, flashes intriguing 40-homer potential, and is a nice if slightly goofy kid with an excellent work ethic. Seems like someone you'd want on your ball club, especially in a supporting role. What? Oh, right, my bad: But he has fewer homers than Bronson Arroyo! Why didn't we just put Arroyo in right field? HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!) (Sigh. Excuse me a minute while I pound my head against the keyboard.)

7. The early returns on Alex Gonzalez suggest he has a chance to be the second-best defensive shortstop the Sox have had in the modern era (in TATB jargon, that means post-1978, which is when I started watching). His slick yet steady style is very similar to Orlando Cabrera's, and he might even have a little more range. No one, of course, is in Pokey's class. At the plate, however, he seems to have a bad case of Sorianoitis: Get two strikes on him, and he'll chase the low-and-away slider every time. All in all, no complaints.

8. You, me, and Mel Kiper Jr. have no idea what the Patriots are going to do on draft day, and don't even pretend to tell me you heard of Ben Watson (first rounder, '04) or Logan Mankins (first rounder, '05) before Paul Tagliabue called their names on draft day. Hell, I'm not ever sure they knew the Patriots were interested in them. But that said . . . I get a distinct feeling that to the Patriots braintrust, Ohio State linebacker Bobby Carpenter is to highly touted teammate A.J. Hawk what former Buckeye Mike Vrabel was to Andy Katzenmoyer a decade ago, and I don't believe that needs any further explanation around here. I think Carpenter is their guy, and while there's a very high probability that I have no idea what I'm talking about, I have at least as much credibility as Kiper's ridiculous four-round mock draft. So there. That's the prediction I'm going with for now.

9. Man, if I knew you guys liked goofy pictures of disco-era ballplayers so much, I'd just put up a random shot of someone like, oh, say, Hosken Powell here and call it a day. Seems the whimsical little picture quiz I posted Friday has pulled down over 10,000 hits in the last 48 hours, an astounding number considering it wasn't that long ago that tumbleweeds blew through our little ghost-town corner of cyberspace. We owe a tip of the ballcap to Will Leitch at Deadspin for throwing a link and a taste of national exposure our way, and we owe you guys a guarantee that we will make That '70s Show a recurring feature. I've got a couple hundred of those ridiculous photos stashed away, and let's just say there are plenty of porn-star mustaches, blindingly gaudy uniforms and skyscraper Afros to come. And one more thing: As always, thanks for checking in and making TATB a labor of love (well, okay, like) rather than just a labor.

10. As for today's Completely Random Baseball Card:

Just noticed tonight that Destrade, a classic Quadruple A slugger who never really found his niche in the big leagues save for one season with the expansion Marlins, is in the mix in the ex-player/so-called analyst role on "Baseball Tonight." So far, early returns are good - he seems understated, articulate and knowledgeable - though subconsciously I might be giving him bonus points simply because he's not one of the Three Stooges: John Kruk, Harold Reynolds or Jeff Brantley.

Friday, April 14, 2006

That '70s Show

Ain't no time to write tonight. Too busy plotting how to take Sox tormentors Ted (Sandy Koufax) Lilly and Frank (George Brett) Catalanotto hostage until, oh, October. While I try to accomplish my mission on behalf of The Nation - yeah, better put Reed Johnson on the list, too - here's a silly, simple little quiz to keep you pencil-necks occupied: Try and identify as many of the following players from their late '70s MLB mugshots as possible. Some should be obvious - if you don't recognize young RemDawg (RemPup?), you've obviously stumbled onto the wrong site - while others are even more obscure than the current Kansas City Royals. I've offered a clue beneath each photo; later today I'll add a link to each player's page as a way of ID'ing them. Have at it, and I should be back with a real post - you know, with words and sentences and maybe even an actual freakin' point - late tonight/early Saturday.

Okay, here goes . . .

First-ballot TATB Hall of Famer still hold Sox' single-season record for homers by a third baseman; real first name is Clell, middle name Lavern . . .

. . . his middle name, however, is seven letters, begins with F.

Decent hitter in his day who is actually more skilled at helping others succeed at the plate.

What he might have said in the summer of '78: "You think I can play? Man, you ought to see my oldest son. He's 14 and he's going to be a great one. All the talent in the world. Kinda has a big head, though."

At 5-foot-3-inches, he even had to call Freddie Patek "Big Guy."

Sure, you know who this is. But did you know he was an Oriole for a season?

Says he still hears from Sox fans grateful that he beat Catfish Hunter and the Yankees on the final day of the '78 regular season, thus forcing the 1-game playoff.

Pedro should have finished him off while he had the chance.

"Dude, where's my mustache? No, seriously, where's my mustache, dude? C'MON, IT WAS JUST #*$*$*#@ ON MY FACE A MINUTE AGO!"

He's TATB's pet cause, a .311 career hitter and a gem of a guy who, sadly, is remembered as little more than a tragic footnote to baseball history.

I went sky divin'/I went Rocky Mountain climbin' . . .

You might not recognize him without his finger in his nostril, but do you think he even admits anymore that he managed the horrendous '77 Mets?

Strangely, there is no mention of his miserably failed attempt at a home perm on his Hall of Fame plaque.

Claims he pitched a no-hitter while under the influence of LSD. Looking at this picture, I tend to believe him.

"And you want fries with that?"

As far as I know, he's the only player in big league history whose first and last names are comprised of the words for four body parts.

The original Boomer, he ate himself out of baseball . . . but he might still be in better shape than the current Boomer.

If he didn't have the coolest name in the big leagues in the '70s . . .

. . . then it was definitely this guy . . .

. . . though come to think of it, his name is pretty damn memorable too.

Nicknamed "Cool Breeze," his release by the Expos prompted Bill Lee to break into the general manager's office and protest in some bizarre way, eventually costing him his big-league career as well.

You know, I bet that's the same blank look he gets on his face when Orsillo tries to be funny.