Saturday, April 07, 2007

Dice-K, Agent Zero, and other mysteries

Ten free minutes for me, 10 free Celtics phantom injuries for you . . .

1. Now, I'm certainly not suggesting he'll be as good, because I'm a believer that the 1998-2001 Pedro Martinez was a once-in-a-fan's-lifetime gift from the sports gods, that Petey did things on the mound that we'll never witness again. But - and here we try, probably in vain, to fight off the hyperbole - in terms of anticipation leading up to a start, then having anabsolutely thrilling performance justify every single syllable of hype . . . well, if that wasn't straight out of the Vintage Pedro playbook, I don't know what is. Wednesday just cannot get here soon enough.

2. If you've visited the space for any length of time, you surely realize that the Red Sox could have replaced Jerry Trupiano with Charlie Brown's teacher (Mwah-mwah-MannyRamirez-mwahmwhamwha-mwha) and I would have considered it a worthwhile tradeoff. But the fact that Dave O'Brien is Joe Castiglione's new partner is almost too good to be true - the new guy's got great pipes (as did Troop), but his feel for the pace of the game and professionalism is an immeasurable upgrade on his predecessor, who was more interested in talking Cardinals or putting together his All-Fish team (Troop: "You'd have Tim Salmon in right, Joe . . ." Joe: Groan) than actually attempting to call a decent game. What a pleasure it is to be able to turn on the Red Sox game and not be annoyed to the point that assaulting the steering wheel seems like a good idea. (I'll reserve my review of Glenn Geffner for a later date, since I haven't heard him for more than a few innings yet.)

3. You can't help but appreciate Jonathan Papelbon's willingness to move back to the bullpen, no matter whether he did it for the betterment of the team or because, as he is now claiming, closing is his personal preference. But you have to wonder how his agent feels, given that a quality starting pitcher (or even a not-so-quality rotation filler) tends to make considerably more money over the course of his career than do relief pitchers not named Mariano.

4. I suppose he could become more lackadaisical the more comfortable he becomes in Boston, but from what I've seen so far, J.D. Drew plays the game a lot harder than we've been led to believe. I like what I see - he's the most well-rounded player on this team, whether he's ultimately a Dirt Dog or not.

5. Tito Francona seems to have a lot of faith in Kyle Snyder considering he was pegged as the long relief guy, and I wouldn't be surprised if that faith proves justified. The former first-round pick has always had the stuff to succeed, just not the health.

6. Is it too soon to revoke my prediction that Coco Crisp will bounce back in Year 2 with the Sox? Man, he looks brutal, and assuming the Sea Dogs actually get any games in before June, Jacoby Ellsbury is going to be pressuring him for that center field job sooner rather than later. I realize it's only four games, but if Crisp keeps this up, he might be hitting routine grounders to second for the Pittsburgh Pirates by the All-Star break.

7. With the daffy, dazzling Gilbert Arenas down for the count with a knee injury, the NBA playoffs just got a whole lot less interesting. But at least it gives the him more time to continue to kick Curt Schilling's ample ass in their pursuit of the Dundie Award for the Best Blog By A Pro Athlete. Consider this snippet from a post after his injury:

I told them to cut the leg off a couple times. You know, cut it off and then bring it back to me when it was all healed. Because, you know, Heather Mills on Dancing with the Stars, she had that leg. I was saying I could borrow one of those and finish out the season. But they wasn’t going for that.

Hey, any NBA player who has the pop-culture awareness to joke about McCartney's peg-legged ex is cool with us.

8. Congressman Smerlas? Watching that overgrown hairball Chewbacca his way through a debate would be must-see TV, no doubt. But if he gets elected to any position higher than assistant meter maid, you'll be able to find me in the nearest bomb shelter, because that'd undoubtedly be a sign that end is near.

9. Well, I suppose this means I can't freely rip on Joe Buck anymore. But I'm damn sure going to find out if McCarver is still fair game.

10. As for today's Completely Random Football Card:

When I was a kid, I ripped up and mutilated every Jack Tatum football card I ever got. It was my childish way of paying tribute to a fallen Patriot I was too young to have seen play, but one whose teammates - and more importantly to me, my dad - spoke of with great reverence. There have been a lot of terrific columns written and anecdotes shared about Darryl Stingley the past few days, and I think this heartfelt email, from reader Shaun Kelly, belongs with them.

As a Patriot season-ticket holder throughout the 70's, I had the genuine honor of seeing every one of Stinger's touchdowns he made as a Patriot at Schaeffer Stadium. We used to wait outside the old clubhouse after home victories, and Darryl was always most cordial and polite to all of us who greeted him. Let me tell you, friend, he was a superb wide-receiver who was like Troy Brown with a little more ability.

I used to hate John Madden because he coached the Raiders, but the way he treated Darryl after his injury in Oakland , my attitude changed completely on the man. As you know, Coach Madden visited him every day in the hospital during his prolonged stay in the local Bay Area hospital. Madden then called him continuously for the rest of that year and even retired from the Raiders after the season because the injury so affected him. When he became a broadcaster and found himself doing Bears games in Chicago , John Madden invariably visited Darryl at his home there.

Steve Grogan once told me that Coach Fairbanks immediately took the play (an over-the-middle sprint in which that -------, Jack Tatum, nailed him) out of the Patriots playbook after Stingley's injury because he didn't want to subject his offensive players to hearing the play called in the huddle. Grogan then said, "It's not just that one of our players became paralyzed, it was Darryl. We loved him like a brother."

Stinger has his legs again. Heaven just got a hell of a receiver and an even better human being.

Rest in peace, No. 84.

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