Free and easy (down the road)
Ten free minutes for me, 10 free half-formed thoughts for you . . .
1. While the Merril Hoge's of the world continue to spew their concussed nonsense about some "blueprint" to beat the Pats, I have to say that I'm actually more confident that they're going to run the table than I have been all season. Here's why: 1) Laurence Maroney is running with more determination and ferocity than I can recall seeing since the beginning of his rookie season. 2) Richard Seymour looks fully healthy for the first time this season, Tedy Bruschi is suddenly rejuvenated and running around like a madman again, and long-lost Eugene Wilson appears to be regaining his usefulness, meaning that their defense is peaking at the perfect time. 3) I have complete faith that once the postseason arrives and every throw matters again, Tom Brady will stop trying to play pitch-and-catch with Randy Moss even when No. 81 is quintuple covered, and the entire passing offense will again become viciously efficient and prolific.
2. A subtlety smart move the Patriots made last season: signing Jabar Gaffney to a two-year contract after he got cut by the Eagles. One other thing about TATB's new football binky: in 2005 with the Texans, he caught 55 passes for 492 yards . . . resulting in a puny 8.9 average. I can't think of a receiver ever having a lower YPC during a productive season. I suppose that's what you'd call the David Carr Effect.
3. Jon Beason, the Miami linebacker we thought the Patriots would take in the first round, is third in the NFL in tackles (130) in his rookie season with Carolina. Another rookie who was long gone before the Pats picked - San Francisco dynamo Patrick Willis - leads the league with 162 tackles, and Jets freshman David Harris is tied for 10th (115). I'm not going to pretend I know how well any of these players would fit the Patriots' system, but from my uneducated perspective it sure looks like the past draft would have been a fine time to take that young linebacker they're going to need in the coming seasons.
4. The Celtics' three losses are a two-point loss at Orlando, a five-point overtime loss at Cleveland, and two-point loss to Detroit - three very winnable games. I'm not saying they would be 26-0 - there are certainly a couple they have won that they could have lost - but they're a lot closer to perfection that most of us realize.
5. The Miami Heat is 8-21, the worst record in the Eastern Conference. Pat Riley, never one to stick it out at the expense of his career winning percentage, should be resigning from "exhaustion" any day now.
6. I hope Dan Shaughnessy is correct in his column today and this is the year Jim Rice, the Sox' slugging superhero in my first seasons as a fan, gets the call from Cooperstown. But I just can't convince myself enough voters will change their minds on him the season to put him over the 75 percent threshold.
7. I'm skeptical that the Sox's interest in Johan Santana is 100 percent genuine as it is - I'm fairly certain they just want to see Hank the Tank cave in and give up Hughes and Kennedy - but the thing that makes me really believe they won't make this trade is the ace lefty's request for a seven-year, $140 million deal. There is simply no way Theo Epstein agrees to pay any pitcher $20 million dollars per season at age 35, let alone one who will cost a collection of fine prospects in trade and who showed subtle signs of decline at 28.
8. Wonder how baseball's version of George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley feel about each other these days. Andy Pettitte's admission that he tried HGH was basically an indictment of Roger Clemens, his longtime teammate and workout buddy. Pettitte, to his credit, took the honest way out. Clemens called his lawyers, sought out Steinbrenner crony Mike Wallace to interview him, and issued a string of non-denial denials. Pretty much what you'd expect from both of them, actually.
9. Just when I start wondering if karma is nothing but a convoluted way for people to convince themselves that the cruel injustices of the world will eventually be righted, Clemens's career ends with him hobbling off the mound in a losing cause, then has his reputation and baseball resume irreparably damaged by his very own cheatin' heart. And then, oddly enough, I find myself a believer in such a concept again.
10. As for today's Completely Random Baseball Card:
Because sometimes, it really is random.