Sunday, March 04, 2007

Three-pointer

Catching up on the three big Boston sporting developments of the past few days:

The Patriots ante up for ex-Ravens wrecking ball Adalius Thomas and a handful of other valuable free agents: Let us count the ways we are jacked and pumped about this stunning, stealth masterstroke by Bill Belichick and Scott Pioli. We'll start with the obvious: Thomas is exactly what the Patriots so desperately needed: a versatile, smart, playmaking linebacker whose mere presence will make Sundays much easier for Richard Seymour, Mike Vrabel, and Rosey Colvin. He's a prime-of-his-career clone of Willie McGinest, except - dare I suggest it - better than No. 55 ever was. His skills are so varied that, as the legend goes, he once lined up at cornerback - yes, cornerback - against the Bengals and promptly pummeled Chad Johnson mute. Hell, he even eased some of the pain from the collapse against the Colts, for had the Patriots not lost, Belichick wouldn't have had the chance to coach (and - get this - charm) Thomas at the Pro Bowl. But you know what might be the best development in all of this? It silences all the Blow-Dried Banshees who spent the entire season yelping and yowling that the Patriots are cheap and refuse to pay for talent simply because they wouldn't cough up 50 million or so bucks for a pretty good but not great receiver who was already under contract. Anyone who follows this franchise with even a shred of objectivity understands that Belichick, Pioli, and Bob Kraft are more than willing to pay top dollar for what they perceive to be A-list talent, whether it was spent on Colvin and Rodney Harrison after the '02 season, or on contract extensions for Tom Brady, Richard Seymour, Dan Koppen and Matt Light, among others. What they will not do is compromise the salary cap by paying a player more than they believe he is worth. And they should be applauded for that, just as they should be applauded for signing the top player on the free-agent market to a six-year, $60 million deal on the first day of free agency. At this point, only a Lubriderm-slathered metrosexual idiot would question the Patriots' team-building strategy. Not that we have anyone in particular in mind there.

As far as the rest of the shopping spree . . . well, again, what's not to like? Sammy Morris is an excellent depth acquisition, a fierce runner who also plays a mean special teams. Kyle Brady should help negate the impending loss of blocker extraordinaire Daniel Graham, and besides, the Patriots can never have too many Bradys. (I guarantee at least one of Ordway's lackeys thinks they're brothers.) And should the Dolphins not match the Patriots' offer to restricted free-agent receiver Wes Welker, New England will have added an amalgam of an in-his-prime Troy Brown and Tim Dwight while robbing a division foe of its leading pass-catcher. Yeah, you could say these have been a reaffirming few days for Patriots fans. When does training camp open again?

Daisuke Matsuzaka limits mighty Boston College to one hit in two innings in his Red Sox spring debut: Okay, so the stage wasn't exactly Yankee Stadium in October. Still, after an offseason's worth of hype and intrigue, it was cool to see Dice-K finally, you know, pitch. And while we can hardly draw any conclusions from his casual 25-pitch effort (other than the fact that he can definitely hold his own in the ACC), it was reassuring and just plain fun to catch snippets and flashes of the pitcher he is supposed to be. Our scattered early observations: His breaking ball is top-notch. A couple of times he got swinging strikes on lefthanded hitters on pitches that nearly hit them in the feet . . . His high fastball seems to dart naturally down and in on righthanded hitters . . . I am curious as to how often he will get the high strike call, because that supposedly was one of his main strikeout pitches in Japan. He certainly got the benefit of the doubt from the college umpire Friday . . . He was only throwing in the low 90s, but John Farrell said he could amp it up to 96 when the moment calls for it. That I want to see . . . His throwing motion is incredibly compact and smooth, very similar to Mike Mussina's . . . I was surprised at how small he looks out there - he almost makes Pedro look physically imposing . . . Bottom line: As long as the Yankees don't replace Johnny Damon with Johnny Ayers, I'm thinking he's going to be quite all right. I can't wait to see him pitch again.

The Celtics win three straight and fall 2 1/2 games "behind" Memphis in the Race For Oden/Durant: Quick, somebody pull a Gillooly on Paul Pierce! Encourage Rajon Rondo to shoot all the threes he wants . . . and the same goes for Kendrick Perkins! Put Bassy Telfair on the opposition's best scorer and tell him the defensive strategy is to kindly step aside! Bury that emerging beast Big Al on the bench, pronto, and make Veal Scalabrine the focal point of the offense! C'mon, Doc, this is urgent! Your Celtics are - gasp! - winning! It's time for you to wake the hell up and start "coaching" this team ineptly again! The future and our allotment of ping-pong balls depend on it!

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