Monday, September 11, 2006

Changing seasons

We've gathered, from our occasional radio gigs and various other cool/frightening correspondence with our readers, that TATB is perceived as primarily a baseball site. Not so. While baseball is our lifelong passion, a bond with our dad, and all those other saccharine-but-truthful sentiments that make the likes of Doris Kearns Goodwin all frisky, the truth is we're pretty freakin' crazy about football, too. As a matter of fact, the first post on this site, back in Nov. '04, was a rant about Drew Bledsoe that was expanded from an email I had sent a buddy, and the Nine Innings baseball column that is sort of the anchor of the site actually derived from our First and 10 Patriots column, which will be making its 2006 debut Tuesday. So like the rest of New England, while we focus on the Sox through the summer, our mind turns to the Patriots with the arrival of fall, particularly if the Sox, you know, suck. With that certainly being the case this September, consider this post the official notice that we are changing seasons. We're ready for some football . . . right after this transitional round of Name Association:

Mike Timlin: He was one of my favorite Sox during the best times in '03-'04, seemingly as steady and reliable off the field as he was on it. But I really wish he'd stop claiming he "made a great pitch, good location, they just hit it" blah blah blah during his late-season streak of Slocumbness. I'm not sure if he's in denial or he's making an excuse, but it's relentlessly annoying when someone I thought was accountable refused to acknowledge that he just threw another meatball with the game on the line.

Manny Ramirez: Here's hoping he stays healthy and motivated enough to remain in the lineup these final 20 or so games, because the hunch here is that it will be our last opportunity to see one of the greatest hitters of all time perform in a Red Sox uniform. You, me, and Gammons know the front office has always wanted to unload him. The late-season collapse, the mystery surrounding his injury, and the general manager's desire to rebuild will be their justification for finally doing so. And unless they get equal value - yeah, right - I'm going to be beyond pissed when it happens.

Josh Beckett: Of course I'm going to give this deal time, even as I try to wrap my head around the notion that "prospects" Anibal Sanchez and Hanley Ramirez have a better shot at the postseason than does the alleged contender that traded them. But for those Beckett bashers among you who are trying to figure out just who in the front office signed off on this trade, here's Seth Mnookin's take from his hugely (and deservedly) successful book, "Feeding the Monster":

"The Beckett trade appeared to be a fantastic one - young, proven arms are rare commodities in baseball - and the local media reacted accordingly . . . [But] it didn't take long before details about the trade began to emerge that made it seem less of an obvious steal. An MRI of Beckett's shoulder . . . revealed serious concerns about his rotator cuff. Assistant to the general manager Jed Hoyer, in constant consultation with Epstein, had been wary about making the trade, but Lucchino has been eager to get it done. "It was clear what was going on," said someone with an ownership stake in the team. "You had the people who were looking out for the long-term interests of the club advising to hold off, and the people who wanted to get the focus off the front-office fiasco pushing to make the deal."

Funny, Lucchino didn't seem too eager to take credit for it when Gerry Callahan asked him point-blank recently if this deal was his baby. What did Steinbrenner call him all those years ago? A chameleon? Huh. Interesting.

Kason Gabbard: For someone who was considered little more than minor-league roster filler - he spent two mediocre seasons in Portland and wasn't rated among the top 30 pitchers in the system entering 2006 - he sure did look like he belonged during his masterful seven shutout innings against Chicago. If he pitches well again tonight . . . well, I'll at least admit he's the pitcher Abe Alvarez was supposed to be, and maybe more.

Julian Tavarez: The Sox could do worse for a fifth starter next season. Of course, I sure as hell hope they do better.

Jonathan Papelbon: It's just a tired arm? Honest? (Exhaling). So I'm guessing the Japan trip is out of the question?

Javy Lopez: Well, guess we learned the hard way why Maddux couldn't stand him. Lazy and useless is no way to go through life, son.

Junior Seau: I've never been much of a Seau fan - he became hugely overrated once his amazing athleticism could no longer make up for his lack of discipline - but I'm glad he's a Patriot. Know why? Because it's been absolutely delightful to listen to the 'EEI hypocrites try and pretend that they haven't mercilessly ripped the guy for years. Who knew men so bloated could backpedal faster than a young Mike Haynes?

Laurence Maroney: Not a bad debut, eh? He's so ridiculously talented - and apparently such a deferential, egoless kid - that the proud Corey Dillon is willing to split the carries and play the role of mentor. A mighty running back tandem! Who da thunk it?

Kevin Faulk: For a player with a habit of fumbling at the most inopportune times, he sure does have great hands. (Dammit, do I ever make sense?)

Deion Branch: The conventional wisdom among Pats fans seemed to be that Branch was getting bad advice, that he's a levelheaded kid who was being manipulated by an agent with an agenda, and he'd come to his senses and accept the Patriots' perfectly fair offer (3 years, $17 million) once he realized the season would go on without him. But now? Now I'm thinking Branch is just one more lunatic diva of a wide receiver, a T.O. wannabe. There's simply no other explanation for the way he's allowed his agent to try and shoot his way out of Foxboro.

Doug Gabriel: Is it wishful thinking to believe that the talented but underutilized ex-Raider will be the right player at the right place at the right time? Yeah, probably. If he doesn't do the job and Branch doesn't come to his senses, the Pats may be starting Donald Hayes and Bert Emanuel by Week 6.

Gil Santos: His booming pipes are still among the most distinctive in the biz. ("Brady back to pass . . . down the middle . . . "CAUGHT! . . . TROY BROWN!") But - how can I say this delicately? - he and Gino could use a little more help from the spotter in identifying players. It's one thing to accidentally confuse Reche Caldwell (the new No. 87) with David Givens (the former No. 87), especially in the season opener. I just worry that one of these days, he's going to have Brady completing a pass to Randy Vataha, and neither he nor Gino will catch the mistake.

Hanley Ramirez: He's been predictably inconsistent, but having accumulated 59 extra-base hits, 46 steals, 107 runs, while batting .286, there is no debating that he has exceeded all expectations in his rookie season. He sure looks like a superstar in the making. Anyone else care to argue that Dustin Pedroia is a better prospect? Anyone? Bueller? C'mon, you were out there this spring . . .

Jermaine Dye: Can you believe the Royals once had a Dye-Johnny Damon-Carlos Beltran outfield? Do they have anything to show for trading three of the most valuable players in baseball this season? No, Mark Teahen does not count.

Daunte Culpepper: Trust me when I say I would have written this before his gruesome two-pick fourth quarter Thursday: He is the most overrated quarterback of the past dozen years, a player who put up impressive numbers because he could heave the ball deep to Randy Moss when all else failed. His carelessness is going to drive Nick Saban crazy. Or crazier.

Drew Bledsoe: He's the second-best quarterback in Patriots history, he was crucial in the rejuvenation of the franchise, and it's with admiration that I consider him the most normal star athlete I've ever encountered. But isn't it an indictment of his dedication that he's still making the same stone-skulled mistakes that he made in '93? The ending of last night's Dallas-Jacksonville game couldn't have been more predictable.

Peyton Manning: If he delivered in big games as often as he does in his numerous funny commercials, he might have some accomplishments that actually justify his reputation. (Friend of TATB Tom Curran puts it much better here.)

Terrell Owens: If you think there is any chance of this T.O./Tuna/Bledsoe marriage actually working, let me suggest that you read Tom Friend's stellar piece in the recent ESPN Magazine. T.O. is a petulant, misguided teenager, and shockingly, Parcells is not exactly willing to play the role of guidance counselor. This is going to be as ugly as a Jerry Jones facelift, people.

Adam Vinatieri: The sentimental fan in me already misses him. But I'm not so sure the Patriots will, and anyone who suggests he'll mean two or more victories to the Colts this season is either an imbecile, Peter King, or both.

As for today's Completely Random Baseball Card:

In 11 major-league seasons prior to 2006, Kevin Jarvis won 34 games, lost 47, had an ERA of 5.97 . . . and made nearly $10 million. Frankly, I'm not sure if this is an example of why this is a great country, or an example of what is wrong with it.

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