Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Grilling season

Ten free minutes for me, 10 free Manny-owned appliances for you . . .

1. Well, since the Twins weren't giving up Joe Nathan and the Yankees are yet to make Mariano Rivera available, I guess this is the next-best thing, right? Returning Jonathan Papelbon to the role in which he dominated like no other Sox closer since . . . well, who, the Monster? . . . makes plenty of sense even if you do detect a whiff of panic, for it solves a big problem while creating a much smaller one in the starting rotation. (One I think Tito is convinced Kason Gabbard will eventually fill.) I have to admit, though, I'm a bit disappointed that Papelbon won't be starting. I was giddy over the thought of having a trio of 26-year-old potential aces surrounding Curt Schilling and Tim Wakefield in the rotation, and it seems to me the Sox's greatest advantage over the Yankees coming into the season was starting pitching. I had Papelbon penciled in for 16-18 wins and 200 Ks. I guess 40 saves and a lot less late-inning stress will be an acceptable consolation prize. (And yes, we are pretending that we have no concerns about his shoulder's ability to handle the burden. Let's just move on, okay?)

2. I've caught myself rubbernecking at Schilling's 38-car pileup of a blog (yeah, I know . . . pot, kettle, black) the last few days, and mark my words, he's going to write something that causes a *^&$storm in the clubhouse, and sooner rather than later. Just today, he took an unbecoming shot at Bob Tewksbury, who's about as controversial as vanilla ice cream, revealed that "John" would be closing, and answered a question about a long-ago incident with Scott Williamson that A) made no sense, and B) sure read like a guilty man's revision of history. Yeah, I suppose we should have known he'd be as self-important behind the keyboard as he is in front of a microphone.

3. Let's see, since pissing away the AFC title game, the Patriots have: retained their ballhawking young cornerback whom everyone thought would bolt for the biggest bucks as a free agent; signed the best linebacker available, one who happens to perfectly fit their defensive system; acquired three intriguing wide receivers, each of whom brings a different skill-set to the huddle; signed a blocking tight end and a versatile backup running back; and vastly improved their team without trading either of their first-round picks. So I have to ask: Is it possible to actually surpass a best-case scenario?

4. As far as I can tell, there have been four worthwhile NBA season-inside books through the years. 1) "The Breaks of the Game," David Halberstam (about the the transitional late '70s Blazers, with plenty of Halberstam's patented big-picture wisdom). 2) ":07 Seconds or Less," Jack McCallum (about last year's Suns, a fun read but comes up slightly short in the insight/juicy details department). 3) "Unfinished Business," McCallum (about the 1990-91 Celtics, it's worth it for the comedic stylings of Kevin McHale alone). 4) "The Short Season: A Diary of the 1977-78 Boston Celtics," John Powers (a winning look at a surprisingly terrible team, but one that did not lack for characters). If you've got a fifth to add to this list, well hell, let me know, because I'd love to read it.

5. For the record, I have no problem with the Official Muse Of TATB's increasing aversion to clothing . . . well, other than the fact that the pictures tend to melt me until I'm nothing more than a puddle and a pair of tube socks. But I'm guessing you knew that. In a related note, when the hell is "The Office" coming back with a new episode? It's been so long, if Roy did indeed live up to his vow to kill Jim, ol' Halpert's probably been reincarnated by now. I'm suddenly finding myself spending my Beesly-free Thursdays watching "American Idol" for the first time, and frankly, I'm not all that comfortable with that. But it is addictive, you develop your favorites, and I'm pulling for the beatbox kid, Blake. He nailed that Keane song a few weeks back. And Sanjaya . . . yikes. Step away from the curling iron, son. I think he's the hermaphrodite child Michael Jackson never had. I honestly don't understand why the voters haven't sent this tone-deaf Peter Pan back to Neverland already.

6. Yep, I'm convinced. Daisuke Matsuzaka is going to be worth every digit on his paycheck. As if his ability to throw four above-average pitches at varying speeds to the exact spot Jason Varitek places his mitt isn't enough to convince us he'll be an ace from Day 1, then Varitek's complete inability to mask his admiration (is awe too strong a word?) for Dice-K is evidence enough of his elite talent. I cannot wait.

7. I hope I'm wrong, but I'm assuming that Donny Marshall will not be with Fox Sports New England for long. The former UConn star and NBA vagabond is nothing less than outstanding as Tommy Heinsohn's stand-in and, more often, as a studio analyst on the Celtics broadcasts. Marshall is refreshingly candid in critiquing his former peers, such as when he noted recently that Desmond Mason, a capable enough scorer, actually has a reputation for clogging up his team's offense because he insists on posting up all the time despite being just 6-foot-5. It was exactly the kind of insight I want to hear from a former player. You'd have to think one of the networks at some point is going to catch on to Marshall's talent and swipe him away.

8. Seriously, f you didn't laugh at the whole "Hi, this is Manny Ramirez. Check out this kickin' grill!" episode, then you are taking your time here way too seriously, my friend. (And that goes double for that bloated bag o' gas John Dennis, who actually spent moments of his life trying to find out if Manny was violating any eBay rules, for no other reason than to stir up more faux-controversial nonsense) This whole situation was classic Manny, and I mean that in the good sense. Why not enjoy it? (And I'm still laughing at his response the other day to a question about the closing situation: "Not my department." Again: Classic Manny. I sure am going to miss the goof when he returns to his native planet.)

9. Allen Ray, Brian Scalabrine, and Rajon Rondo combined to play 64 minutes against the Bobcats without scoring a single point. Consider those numbers again: Sixty-four minutes. Zero points. Nah, Doc's not tanking a thing.

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

Because sometimes it really is random.

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