Sunday, November 19, 2006

November rain

Why the title? Four reasons, really: 1) It's November. 2) It's raining out. 3) I heard the G 'N' R's bombastic epic on my drive home tonight and realized their catalogue is aging remarkably well even if Axl isn't. 4) It jogged my memory about a column I wrote in my Maine Campus days in which I weaved the lyrics of "November Rain" into a column about . . . wait for it . . . Magic Johnson and AIDS. Sound like it sucked? Yeah, it was actually worse than you think. Just abysmal. There's a better chance of me admitting Fillipelli is hotter than Beesley than of you ever seeing that thing posted here.

Anyway, a few scattered thoughts while we wait for kickoff . . .

• Sure, it could have been easy to overlook Bill Mueller. With his all-substance, little-style approach to the game and an understated Everyman persona that was contrasted by a clubhouse stocked with charismatic Idiots, it was easy to lose him in the shadows. Often it seemed he preferred it that way . But even as his arrival in and departure from Boston both were afterthoughts - he quietly slipped out as a free agent during all the Theo tumult last winter - I believe it's accurate to say he was one of the most universally admired players the Sox ever had. No matter whether you were a Trot-lovin' Dirt Dog or someone who reveled in the Manny moments, you appreciated all that Mueller brought to the team: excellent defense, a quality bat (.329 in '03), and genuine professionalism, every single day. You might recall he was pretty damn clutch, too. It's fair to say that among the handful of greatest highlights in recent Red Sox history, Mueller is at least the Best Supporting Actor in two of them, and I'm guessing the highlight reel in your mind is already playing them as you read this: There is, of course, the walkoff homer off Mariano Rivera that capped the comeback in the "Smell The Glove, A-Rod" game, and Dave Roberts will be the first to tell you that he wouldn't be a folk hero in these parts if Mueller hadn't whacked a single past Rivera's glove, scoring Roberts after legendary steal in Game 4 of the '04 ALCS. I bring all of this up because Mueller was forced to retire from the LA Dodgers this week, his famously creaky knees now "crumbling" and an active lifestyle an impossibility at the moment. While I'm sure he will be successful in his new role as a front-office consultant to Dodgers GM Ned Colletti, it's sad to see such an admirable athlete's career end prematurely. So I just wanted to say farewell - and thank you - to one ex-Red Sox everyone could agree was worthy of our cheers. It'd be a shame for him to be overlooked now.

• Three years and $14 million for Alex Gonzalez? First reaction: You gotta love the glove, but for that money, the Reds can have him and his noodle bat. Of course, this opinion is liable to be reversed come May, when the Sox are paying the unlikeable and uninspiring Julio Lugo $8 million a year to sling errant throws into the rich-guy seats.

• If the Red Sox are going to win the J.D. Drew sweepstakes, you bet I'd prefer the winning bid be the 2-year, $30-million deal the Rocky Mountain News reported this week rather than the 4-year, $56-million future albatross that Drew is supposedly coveting. I'm not as down on Drew as some people - there's no question he is a highly productive hitter when healthy, and he'd fit nicely into the five spot behind Papi and Manny. But when you hear about the famously passive L.A. fans growing frustrated with his nonchalant attitude, that's a clue he's probably not the kind of guy you want to reward with long-term security. I'm guessing he wouldn't be so injury-prone on a short contract.

Manny for Aaron Heilman and Lastings Milledge, eh, Buster? I'd like to believe there's at least one key name omitted from this rumor - hell, I'm pretending it's Carlos Beltran's, if only for my mental health. Unfortunately, that nagging suspicion can't be denied: If Omar Minaya is willing to give up Heilman (a journeyman waiting to happen) and Milledge (whose star fell farther with every overmatched at-bat last season), I think Theo gives serious consideration to moving Manny to the Mets. And just so you know, that's when I start breaking things.

• Two weeks ago, we never would have thunk it, but suddenly the course of the Patriots' season depends heavily on the outcome of today's business trip to Lambeau . . . and suddenly, it doesn't look so much like a sure 'W' as it did the first time we smugly eyeballed the schedule. If the Pats lose to Brett (He's Having Fun Out There! He's Like A Little Kid! He'd Play For Free! He's Swallowing Vicodin By The Fistful!) Favre and the Packers today, they're looking at a 6-4 record, a three-game losing streak, and the looming specter of a bloodbath with the Bears next Sunday. In other words: This is what you call a must-win. So . . . will they? Common sense says yes, that Brady will snap out of this funk, Maroney will get the ball more than 12 damn times, and the defense will be fierce and opportunistic . . . but I'd feel a whole lot better about if 3/4ths of the starting defensive backfield wasn't watching from afar. The prediction: New England 27, Green Bay 20, and it won't be pretty.

• Broncos linebacker Al Wilson was just quoted on SportsCenter as saying the Chargers' Philip Rivers is the second-best quarterback in the NFL after Archie's Older Doofus Spawn. I'd like to think our Mr. Brady was watching ESPN tonight and would find some motivation in this, but the truth is, the way No. 12 has played against the Broncos recently, I can see why Wilson would consider him just another quarterbacking mortal.

• As for today's Completely Random Football Card:

Three Lombardi Trophies later, and I can still see Hason Graham whiffing on the tackle like it was last Sunday.

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