Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Tito, get me a tissue

Ten free minutes for me, 10 free throwaway lines for you . . .

1. It's reassuring that the Red Sox took care of their most personnel business early in the offseason, signing Mike Lowell and Curt Schilling to reasonable, fair deals, and all but ensuring that next year's team will look a whole lot like the one that ended this season so triumphantly. But there is still one more matter that needs to be resolved in the next few weeks for this offseason to be considered a complete success: Theo Epstein must give Terry Francona, who has one year remaining on his contract, the lucrative extension he deserves. You know how I feel about Francona, and I trust those of you with clear eyes and at least a dollop of common sense feel the same: He's is the best Red Sox manager of this and perhaps any era. There is no one else I would rather have running this baseball team, and he deserves to be at the top of the managerial pay scale. I have little reason to believe this is the case right now, but if Theo and his underlings somehow actually subscribe to the Billy Beane theory that the importance of a manager is vastly overrated, then they are making a grievous, inexcusable error. Francona is necessary. They'd better realize as much.

2. Someone with an appreciation and knowledge of defensive line play, answer me this: Is Richard Seymour doing the kinds of things that don't show up on the stat sheet - commanding a double team, collapsing the pocket, making life easier for the linebackers, etc. - or is he, as the stat sheet suggests, doing nothing at all? Because right now, I'm beginning to think it's the latter, and I'm wondering what became of the game-altering beast who wreaked such havoc a few seasons ago.

3. Dr. Charles Steinberg, the Red Sox' Vice President of Schmaltz who is leaving the Red Sox for the Dodgers, always struck me as the Smithers to Larry Lucchino's Mr. Burns, and I have to assume he's to blame for such insidious adominations as the Red Sox Nation Presidency and that trainwreck dating show on NESN. Yet when Steinberg got it right, he really got it right, most notably regarding the pitch-perfect 2004 ring ceremony, and I suppose the fact that the Sox are more popular than ever has at least something to do with his marketing savvy. I won't miss him, but then, as a lifelong and eternally loyal Sox fan, I'm not who he was trying to appeal to anyway.

4. TATB's two favorite Celtics moments from the past week: 1) Ray Allen's improbable, delightful buzzer-beater at Charlotte, which happened only after Paul Pierce had the presence of mind to feed him the ball rather than heave up an ill-advised attempt of his own. Hey, he's learning. 2) Rajon Rondo's behind-the-back fake that deked Derek Fisher out of his tube socks, an impossibly athletic move that Rondo finished off with a layup. Eddie House was so pumped and jacked after Rondo's highlight-reel move that he comically ran onto the court and whacked him with a towel as play continued. Man, this is a fun team.

5. You know your perspective as a Red Sox fan has undergone a healthy change when you hear reports that the Yankees are in trade discussions with the Twins for ace Johan Santana, and your initial reaction is something along the lines of this: Huh. I guess we'll just have to keep Buchholz and Ellsbury then. Seriously, it's a refreshingly satisfying feeling to know that the Yankees are chasing the Sox now, and in order to get the 28-year-old two-time Cy Young winner, they'll have to give up some of that quality youth (hopefully Philip Hughes and Robinson Cano) that their ancient, thin roster so desperately needs.

6. I still don't think I was wrong in assuming the discovery of a 10-pound hairball in a person's stomach had something to do with Fred Smerlas.

7. Ideally, they'd both be back next season, and I'd say right now there's decent chance they both will be. But I'll ask the question anyway: If the Patriots can retain only one marquee-free-agent-to-be, who would you prefer it to be? Randy Moss or Asante Samuel? Discuss.

8. I think Bill Belichick is much more sentimental than his dour public persona would suggest - he's given Doug Flutie and Vinny Testaverde their moments in the sun in recent seasons for no reason other than it was a nice, respectful gesture to a couple of old pros - and it's going to be fascinating to see if his obvious admiration for Troy Brown affects the decision to add him to the active roster or not. I hate to say it, but at the moment, there just doesn't seem to be a spot for ol' No. 80 on the offensive side of the ball, especially with Jabar Gaffney being so dependable as a fourth receiver and Kelley Washington such a force on special teams. Though, come to think of it, the way things are going with the DBs lately, maybe Brown will be playing nickel back for this team by December.

9. It won't happen this year, but Tim Raines, one of the notable newbies on the 2008 Hall of Fame ballot revealed yesterday, deserves a plaque in Cooperstown. The man they called "Rock" didn't get his due for a couple of reasons: he played in the same era as the transcendent Rickey Henderson, he spent his finest seasons in the distant outpost of Montreal, and he was tarnished by a drug problem early in his career. But Raines was one of the most dynamic, efficient, and underrated offensive performers of the '80s, and he was a superior player to, among other Hall of Famers, Lou Brock. (Go ahead: look it up. Or better yet, read this.) Like I said, it will never happen on the first ballot, but I do hope one of these years, Raines gets his just reward. And his ex-teammate and mentor Andre Dawson belongs there with him.

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

Anytime an ex-Maine Guide/recovering coke head writes a book, you know I'm readin'.

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