Thursday, May 19, 2005

TATB Notebook: 05.19.05

Touching all the bases while wondering who will see the field first, Barry Bonds or Curt Schilling . . .

I know Tom Brady is considered a "steal" for the Patriots for his new sticker-price of $60 million, but pardon me while I go through the incredulous routine again and wonder how they stole him in the first place. I know he was scrawny, and I know he started but one full year at Michigan, and I know his arm wasn't the strongest . . . but man, five years and three championships later I still cannot fathom how all these experts let Brady become a sixth-round pick, chosen behind 198 players, including lesser-pedigreed so-called quarterbacks such as Giovanni Carmazzi and Spergon Wynn. Didn't anyone other than Bill Belichick and Scott Pioli put any stock in the many things he obviously did well as a Wolverine: his leadership skills, his accuracy, his intelligence, his readily apparent passion for football, his desire to win? I'm waiting for answers, Kiper. And yes, you're damn right this qualifies as gloating.

- Just when I was about to give in to the temptation to use "Edgar Renteria" and "Jose Bleepin' Offerman" in the same sentence, the Red Sox's thus-far disappointing shortstop drove in the winning run against Oakland Tuesday night, at last looking like the clutch player the Cardinals lamented losing. But I'm still surprised at how ordinary Renteria looks defensively. He has seven errors, would have at least 10 if not for the generosity of the official scorer, and frequently makes fundamentally poor decisions, such as backhanding a ball that he should get in front of easily. Renteria has two Gold Gloves to Orlando Cabrera's one, but anyone who watched Cabrera make routine and spectacular plays with equal aplomb last season knows the better gloveman is no longer based in Boston.

- The TATB take on who's staying and who's going among the Celtics' key personnel:

Ricky Davis: Staying. He's 25, behaved himself for the most part (the tranquilizers were a good idea, Doc), is in the top 10 percent of players in the league talentwise, and is ideally suited to play Danny Ainge's preferred fast-break style. Ainge would rather clone him than trade him.

Paul Pierce: Staying. Ainge will shop Pierce, but ultimately he won't get an offer close to equal value. (Ray Allen is not equal value. At least Pierce attempts to play defense, which is more than Jesus Shuttlesworth can say.) And that's a blessing. Listen, Pierce is a strange guy, moody and pouty, and his leaderships skills are severely lacking if not non-existent. But Celtics fans sometimes forget how damn good he is, just because we've become so familiar with his warts and flaws. Hopefully Ainge will give him a chance to prove he learned from his inexcusable yet overblown meltdown in Game 6 of the Pacers series. Other than Al Jefferson's glorious future, Pierce is the best thing the Celtics have going for them, still.

Gary Payton: Going. It was fun at first, but by the end, the Glove didn't fit.

Antoine Walker: Going. The Prodigal 'Toine's return was wonderful at the beginning, wasn't it? He was thrilled to be a Celtic again and he made rebounding and moving the ball his priorities. He seemed content to just try to fit in. But when he got more comfortable and the going got tough, he reverted to his old atrocious habits - ill-advised threes, six-dribble "power" moves, more ill-advised threes. For a long-time Walker defender, it was disheartening. It's almost as if he can't reconcile himself with the fact that he's not the best player on the court, can't restrain himself from trying to take charge even when the moment doesn't call for it. If 'Toine couldn't fully commit to changing his game this time around, with his desperate desire to remain in Boston at stake, it's obvious that he never will. Too bad. He's as accountable an athlete as Boston knows, and it was fun to see him again. But he sealed his own fate. It's time to go. This time for good.

- Anyone who thinks the Sox should move Bill Mueller to second base to replace the struggling MarK (Get it? K! For strikeout?!) Bellhorn has a short memory. Mueller has had two knee surgeries in the past year. Putting him at second base is a surefire way to get the Scalpel Hat Trick. Besides, as maddening as Bellhorn's strikeouts (45 in 117 at-bats) can be, he still gets on base at a respectable .350 clip, has 13 doubles, and plays a better-than-adequate second base. I'll take that from my No. 9 hitter every time. Especially from one who has proven capable on the postseason stage.

- Here's hoping John Olerud and his Magic Safety Helmet have enough left to force a lefty-righty platoon at first base. It's absurd that Kevin Millar and his Not-So-Magic Chicken Bucket have started all but one game this season. I don't want to trash the guy, because his "You'd better not let us win this game speech" before Game 4 of the ALCS still gives me chills, and he is important to the team's makeup. But he really needs to start doing something other than grounding to third and hitting long foul balls, or Theo Epstein may be tempted to check in with the Chunichi Dragons to see if they're still interested.

- Four words to torment a Knicks fan by: "Miller for three . . . yes!" This hoops junkie is going to miss the best 6-foot-8, 135-pound, jug-eared, Cheryl-huggin' sharpshooter in league history. I suspect Spike Lee will too.

- Four more words to torment Knicks fan by: General Manager Isiah Thomas. Yup, way too easy.

- If Steve Nash is the NBA's MVP, why is it so easy to make the argument that Amare Stoudemire is the Suns' MVP?

- It's easy in retrospect to say David Wells (1 1/3 innings, 9 hits, 7 runs against Oakland Wednesday) should have made a rehab start. Here are two good reasons why he shouldn't have: 1) Jeremi Gonzalez. 2) John Halama. When those two are the alternatives, I'll take my chances with Boomer every time.

- still lists Tedy Bruschi as a starting inside linebacker, but I suspect the more telling sign regarding his future is the fact that Belichick/Pioli have stockpiled the position to the point that there are 17 different linebackers on the depth chart. Safety in numbers, or something like that.

- From the Department of the Appropriate and Obvious: Patriots linebacker Wesly Mallard played collegiately at Oregon. That's right - Mallard was a Duck. (Groan.)

- If NESN is looking to add an articulate analyst to the Sox pre-game show - and I've got my doubts that a decent command of the language is a prerequisite - they should find a way to get John Valentin into the mix. During one three- or four-minute chat with WEEI's Dale Arnold and Michael Holley earlier this week, ol' Val offered more perspective and insight on what it's like to be a ballplayer in Boston than a certain former left fielder has in three or four seasons.

- An update on Peter Gammons's bizarre bashing of Manny on WEEI last Thursday: A couple of readers emailed to let me know that Gammons apologized on 'EEI's Sunday baseball show. While he apparently didn't clarify why he was so offended by the reasonable statement that Manny is one the best righthanded hitters in baseball, it was big of him to apologize. Not everyone of his stature would do so.

- And while you digest the preceding nonsense, today's Completely Random Baseball Card:

Swung the most memorable trade in Yankees history, swapping families (yes, families - wives, kids, hamsters, etc.) with fellow pitcher Fritz Peterson. Now that's a "Yankeeography" I might watch.