Thursday, December 31, 2009

My Favorite Boston Sports Moment of the Decade

Ten years is a long period of time in any persons life. In best case scenarios it may be 10% of your existence, but in many it is much less. Therefore it is important when you reach the end of a year to reflect and the sense of this reflection is maximized at the end of a decade. Obviously the importance of the decade is measured in personal accomplishments, family and health. But for sports fans we also have the opportunity to look back at what happened during the past ten years.

As a Boston sports fan I've ended each decade of my life with mainly pain. Remember the end of the 70s, 80s and 90s? Not much to really celebrate. Of course the Celtics' championships in the 80s stand out and the Patriots, one of the laughable NFL franchises at the time, reaching the Super Bowl as a wild card in 85 and 96 were highlights. But when you think of the past decades you think of losing one-game playoffs, ball through the legs, locker room scandals and more negatives.

Well, we sit on the cusp of a new decade and this time we get to look back and nearly laugh with glee. Three Super Bowl Championships, a perfect regular season, two World Series Championships and a NBA Championship. Hell, you could add in the fact that the MLS team in New England has gone to three of their championship games, Boston College went to a bowl game nearly every year (and was even ranked #2 in the country at one point) and won a hockey NCAA Championship, as did BU and UCONN.

On the eve of the '10s I ask you, what was your favorite MOMENT from New England sports during the past ten years. Tell us the story of the moment, not just "when the Sox won it in '04". I'll start us out:

Climbing up into our truck parked out on Beacon Street my wife and I both looked at each other with pure amazement. The snow was coming down hard, there had to be at least five inches on the ground already. The street was completely covered, on a Saturday night, yet there was not a person around who really could be bothered to be bothered. The snow was the reason we were happy, the snow was the reason that what we just witnessed was so amazing, the snow was the reason we now have something we can call "the snow bowl".

Watching the game we had little expectations at the time, just happy that we had some playoff football to watch on this cold Saturday night in Boston. Only a small sampling of the typical Sunday crew had made their way out to my friend Mike's apartment for the game, the pending snow a deterrent. During the first quarter the snow was already starting to fall and cover the now ripped up field at the old Foxboro (Schaeffer Stadium to some of us) and the snow really made the game a spectacle. Not to mention that the New England Patriots were facing one of their long-time rivals, the Oakland Raiders.

Band-wagon jumping fans (you know who they are) of the Pats probably don't realize the enormously bad blood between these two franchises. But let's just say, when your owner gets in fist-a-cuffs with an opposing player after a game...there is some bad blood. That bad blood would not only continue after this monster game, but it would mark the end of a great franchise in Oakland and the blossoming of a new dominant NFL force in quiet little Foxborough, Massachusetts.

The game is a blur at this point, minus the tuck and the kick. But it was the snow outside after we left the celebration that is my favorite sports moment of the '00s. A fresh snow had blanketed the entire city and people were just running around high-fiving each other, realizing that what we had just witnessed after so many sports disasters was perhaps an inkling of some much needed luck. This moment, standing in the snow, I called my Dad, like I do after every game, and he immediately blurted out:
"Boston teams don't win those games!"
And if you are a fan, you know he is right. But in that moment we knew a Boston team HAD won one of those games, and it was the Patriots who had made it happen. The team that had been relegated fourth in the pantheon for decades. A few weeks later they would cement the foundation of a dynasty in New Orleans, but the shift in Boston sports started that one Saturday night in the snow when we all started to believe that our teams could start winning "those games".

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Magic and Bird

Cover image of *When the Game Was Ours* book, from Larry Bird and Magic Johnson

Is this book on your reading list?

Ready for the Winter Classic

ice skating at Fenway Park ahead of the 2010 Winter Classic

I'm not much of a hockey guy, but even I'm excited about this year's Winter's Classic.

Outdoor hockey, at Fenway Park, on New Year's Day? Absolutely brilliant (arguably one of the few brilliant marketing moves from the NHL over the years).

This will be the third annual installment of the Classic (with plans to expand to two outdoor games per season soon), and the Bruins and Flyers will have draw plenty of eyeballs this Friday starting at 3:00pm 1:00PM Eastern. Mine will certainly be among them.

Photo courtesy of my sister, Jill Person, who had a gig shooting a family on the Fenway ice last week.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Affirmation of Tom Brady's Dominance

Hat tip to Jim Storer who tweeted this post out regarding Tom Brady and the Patriots i.e. they might be a lot better than you think when you look at the pass defenses they played this year (toughest by a long shot). See the excerpted chart below for validation:

Quarterback    Passer Rating    Opp. Rating    Difference
Drew Brees               109.4               83.8               +25.6
Philip Rivers              102.8               83.4               +19.4
Tom Brady                  93.7               74.6               +19.1
Brett Favre               104.1                85.6               +18.5
Matt Schaub               98.9                82.8               +16.1
Peyton Manning        101.2                85.4               +15.8
Tony Romo                 97.8                83.3              +14.5
Ben Roethlisberger    100.6                86.2              +14.4
Eli Manning                96.0                82.6               +13.4
Aaron Rodgers          102.4                89.6              +12.8
Donovan McNabb        93.6                85.1                +8.5
Kurt Warner               93.0                89.0                +4.0

The author of this article, Kerry J. Byrne, goes on to explain...

The performance of New England’s opponents, its 74.6 Defensive Passer Rating, leaps screaming off the list. It’s a gauntlet far tougher than that which any other team in football has faced this year. In fact, it’s not even close.

The league-wide Defensive Passer Rating in the NFL this year is 83.7 — which means the average defense surrenders (and the average quarterback produces) an 83.7 passer rating.

Most of the game’s elite quarterbacks have faced defenses in that range. In fact, as you might expect from teams that face the game’s best quarterbacks, their opponents trend slightly below average, from the 82.6 that Eli Manning and the Giants have faced, to the cushy 89.6 defensive passer rating of Green Bay’s opponents.

Bottom line: given the cushy schedule faced by the likes of Peyton Manning or Kurt Warner, Brady’s numbers would be much, much better than they are already. 

What's most comforting about this article is the reminder that assuming the Pats make it into the playoffs, their likelihood of playing a top 5 passing defense again (minus maybe the Ravens) is nil until the Superbowl where they could face a rematch vs. the Saints.

Photo Credit: NBCSports

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Cow Down?

Phillips said the team doesn't feel a sense of desperation going into this game [Saints vs. Cowboys].

"We have confidence in our football team. We're not going to cow down to these guys. We think we can win. Every game we've been in so far, we thought we could win. I believe we feel the same way going into this one."

Is this a Southern version of kowtowing? Does this require something other than bowing? Perhaps it means that they won't be taking off their chaps and bending over for the Saints. Inquiring minds want to know.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Runs are runs.

John Lackey isn't the sexy name you'd like to hear connected with the phrase "is finalizing a deal with the Red Sox." You'd rather it were Roy Halliday, or Albert Pujols (ha!), or . . . you know, somebody big.

But 175 innings of pitching that's 15 - 20% better than average -- which is what you can expect from Lackey -- is nothing to be sneered at, especially given the rotation the Sox started with.

If we sign Mike Cameron to play left and/or Adrian Beltre to play third, the story will be much the same. I'd hate to overpay for either of those guys (even though Cameron has been a sentimental favorite of mine for many years), but if we understand that they represent adequate bats with super gloves and pay accordingly, we'll be fine.

Here's the thing: runs are runs, and it counts just as much to keep a run off the board for the opponent as it does to tally a run for the good guys. Impact bats are few and far between -- if not completely absent -- in the current free-agent market, so there's no way the Sox can replicate the Scary Monsters lineup of 2004 - 2007. It makes sense, in that setting, to push the run differential in the right direction using the other levers available.

You think?


(Image source.)

Friday, December 11, 2009

Take Off The Hat Tom and LEAD

This week Adalius Thomas, having been disciplined for the second time by Bill Belichick, retorted:
“Motivation is for kindergartners,’’ Thomas said, echoing what he said the last time he was punished (Thomas was inactive for the snow game against the Titans). “I’m not a kindergartner. Sending somebody home, that’s like, ‘You’re expelled until you come back and make good grades.’ Get that [expletive] out of here. It’s ridiculous.’’
One of the other players to arrive late? Randy Moss. There is no question the guy is a talent and last year he rose to the occassion. But if you saw five minutes of that Miami game and New Orleans game it is fairly obvious that he decides to pack it in when he chooses.

I expected this team to win the AFC East with 12 wins and lose in the Divisional Round. They won't get 12 wins, but it is more than likely that they will now lose to Indy in Round 2. I'm not surprised by what they accomplish this year since Belichick made it obvious in August (and I wrote) that this was a rebuilding year. That is OK and fans should be OK with it too.

What I hate to see is the fact that the locker room is apparently falling apart just a bit and rather than seeing quotes from Tom Brady demanding accountability, we get this:Perhaps the new cap for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays? Um, no...If you can't see it, the logo is his initials, "TB", but also his number "12". Just check out his new website. The last time I was so appalled by a cap the great Ted Williams was wearing it during the 1999 All-Star Game. Perhaps I'm over exaggerating because of my frustration about this team, but there is an issue in the Patriots locker room and it is because it is devoid of true leaders.

Tom Brady is an amazing player and this is NOT some Dan Shaugnessey recreation of history. The guy has done more for one organization than perhaps any football player in history. But this past week I saw his chiseled jaw on three magazine covers...the week after an embarrassing loss to Miami. The same week four players were kicked out of practice for arriving late (including the aforementioned Thomas). I don't blame the guy for being a cover model or pimping his personal brand, but I'd like to see him begin to lead this team off the field.

However, I have not seen or heard about him taking his teammates to task. Perhaps it is all happening ultra privately? I find that hard to believe as we heard constantly about how Ted Bruschi, Mike Vrabel, Rodney Harrison, Richard Seymour and Troy Brown would take on leadership roles in the locker room.

But I wonder if Tom Brady has what it takes to succeed in what may be his largest challenge to date?

This Decade's World Series Winners

At some point in time, I "okay-ed" some sort of sports app in Facebook and so from time to time, I remember to look at the notifications. Most of them are shit but today's asked an interesting question... "Can you name the World Series winners from this decade?" Amazingly, I not only knew everyone of them but I also remembered who they played against.

Without looking, can you name all ten winners? And as an extra bonus, the losing team? For an extra, extra bonus, name that year's MVP.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

"Best Name" Red Sox Line-Up (All TIme)

With the recent Red Sox acquisition of Boof Bonser, it got me thinking of the best names we've had in the history of the franchise. I'm sure I missed a bunch, so fire away in the comments and I'm sure we'll hammer out a solid All Time team.

Starting Line-up:
LF - Rip Repulski
CF - Coco Crisp
RF - Catfish Metkovich
1B - Walt Dropo
2B - Denny Doyle
SS - Pumpsie Green
3B - Rip Russell
C - Birdie Tebbets
P - Fritz Ostermueller

Hoot Evers
Faye Throneberry
Skeeter Newsome
Ski Mellilo

Boof Bonser
Dick Drago
Pinky Woods
Red Ruffing

Trading of Mike Lowell

Anyone have any thoughts on this trade? Sad to see him go, but his defense at 3rd was about as good as a lamppost's. No range at all. Sounds like they are trading him for a catcher who can't catch, but I guess at least they are getting something for him.

Hot Stove Sox talk as Winter Meetings wind down

Plenty of interesting tidbits and questions surrounding our favorite baseball team:

1) News broke late last night that the Sox had agreed on a deal to send aging third baseman Mike Lowell to the Rangers for catcher Max Ramirez.

Although the 25-year-old Ramirez looks to have some pop in his bat (here are his minor league numbers), this strikes me as more a salary dump than anything else. Lowell is scheduled to make $12 million in 2010, and Theo Epstein & Co. clearly didn't think the 2007 World Series hero had enough left to play third on a full-time basis. I understand the decision, but will certainly miss having Lowell around. He's a guy you can't help but pull for.

2) Globe is having a field day with Theo's line about the upcoming season serving as a "bridge" to more prosperous 2011 and 2012 campaigns.

Step down from your ridiculous high horse, Dan Shaughnessy. Most Red Sox fans are smart enough to understand that the team won't be true World Series contenders every season. A "rebuilding" year for this club still means 85-90 wins, and not dealing away too many top prospects does set the franchise up for better long-term success. And ... hello! The team has won two titles, been to two another ALCSes, and only missed the playoffs once in the last seven seasons. Let's keep it in perspective.

3) The Red Sox won't be opening 2010 in Australia, despite a report last weekend in the Sunday Telegraph that just such a deal was in the works.

While pulling for the story to come true (I lived in Australia for two years), I was certainly skeptical. You just know that Terry Francona and his staff would like a "regular" spring training for the first time in a while. The team played in Japan in 2008, and the World Baseball Classic threw off some plans last year (right, Daisuke?), so I'm betting the mere thought of taking his team halfway around the world again had to send Tito's blood pressure rising. Now the Red Sox ownership seldom sees a marketing scheme it doesn't like, so don't rule out the possibility of the team playing Down Under in 2011 or 2012.

4) With Lowell on his way out and Jason Bay still unsigned, there are still plenty of question marks about Boston's 2010 everyday lineup.

Who plays left field if the Sox don't/can't re-sign Bay and find the asking price for Matt Holliday too steep? What about signing Adrian Beltre to replace Lowell at third, or trading for first baseman Miguel Cabrera and moving Kevin Youkilis back across the diamond? Neither option looks particularly wise to me--Beltre would cost a ton while not putting up numbers much better than Lowell's, and Cabrera is a dangerous hitter but a guy whose contract would be just as obnoxious as Manny's was (plus, Cabrera just might eat his way out of the game at his present pace). So, just how does Theo plug the gaps?

5) And just can't resist this line: If form holds, the Sox will have three Ramirezes--none of 'em named Manny--and a Boof on their 2010 Opening Day Roster.

Man, gotta love the Hot Stove chatter, huh?

Monday, December 07, 2009

Twitter Lists and the Winter Meetings

Here's one way to keep up with the latest tidbits, signings, and rumors from baseball's annual Winter Meetings: Create or follow a Twitter List of plugged-in MLB reporters.

Twitter list of posts from MLB reporters at 2009 Winter Meetings

This list from user @ConorGlassey--@conorglassey/winter-meetings--is one of the first ones I stumbled on, and it's a good one. Conor's collection aggregates tweets from the likes of @GordonEdes, former longtime Globie and now Red Sox beat reporter for; @IanMBrowne, who covers the Sox for; @SI_JonHeyman from Sports Illustrated; and FOX's @Ken_Rosenthal.

Any tricks you're using to satisfy your Hot Stove fix? As always, informative and entertaining suggestions are encouraged in the comments section.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Liking the Bruins More and More These Days...

Following up on Kyle's great post the other day about people's alliances to Boston teams, I'm starting to like the Bruins more and more. Want to know why? As they say, a picture's worth a thousand words...

Image courtesy: &

Friday, December 04, 2009

Boston Team Allegiances

A Twitter communication (see how I did that @twalk?) last night about the Celtics made me think about the Celtics for the first team all season. I simply don't really follow the Celtics that closely, never have, even back in the 80s. Of course I root for my hometown team to win, but it is never with a bunch of passion or caring. It really is simply because they have the city name on their jersey's. Now this is not to say I don't like the NBA, I actually love pro ball. However, it is the only sport for me that I can watch all the teams play and really not care who wins/losses.

There are several reasons for this, but the real question that popped in my head when I had this realization was, "How do you rate your sports allegiances?". I take several factors into consideration:

1) Pain you feel after a loss.
2) Amount of times you'll re-watch a single game.
3) Percentage of games you'll watch during said season.
4) Amount of time you take discussing off season moves.
5) Money you spend on tickets/shirts/etc for said team.
6) Emotional pull to team unknown to common man (Dad went to UNC, Stan Musial donated a kidney to you).

Going through this list I weighed everything and put together a few lists, which I whittled down yet again after reviewing each. There were some surprises:

1) New England Patriots
2) Boston Red Sox
3) Boston College Eagles Football
4) Boston Bruins
5) St. Louis Cardinals
6) Boston College Eagles Hockey
7) U.S. Soccer
8) Boston Celtics

The first two are a no-brainer, and I've stated to many of you that I've always placed the Pats #1 and Sox a very close #2. I'm guessing most of you flip that around. But the rest of the list makes sense...but only after I thought about it a lot. Rather than dive through my reasons for the way the list is, I want to see your list in the comments.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Jason Varitek's Upcoming Charity Dinner

This charity dinner, put on by none other than Mr. Varitek and his charity, sounds like a solid event. Details below:

Jason Varitek's Captain's Dinner. The proceeds for this raffle will benefit the Celebrities for Charity Foundation. The raffle includes

Winner and three (3) guests will enjoy Dinner with Jason Varitek, on December 17, 2009, in the Greater Boston Area with an intimate group of fans
  • Winner and each guest will recieve an autographed baseball from Jason Varitek
  • Winner and each guest may bring up to 2 items to be autographed by Jason Varitek
  • Winner and each guest will be able to take a picture with the Captain, Jason Varitek
Tickets are only $2 each (min 5) and the proceeds once again benefit the Celebrities for Charity Foundation. Find more information about the raffle or to purchase tickets here.

Photo credit:

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Gut check.

Not that anyone needs to hear it again, but the Pats got killed last night. Whipped.

As always, Belichick and Brady took cold, hard stares at the results -- as captured in this ESPN writeup:
"There's obviously a big gap between us," Patriots quarterback Tom Brady said.

Drew Brees made the Patriots' defensive backs, who had been thriving lately, look like a bunch of XFLers. He bombed them for five touchdowns, something that has never been done to a Bill Belichick-coached team.

"They were better than we were in every phase of the game," Belichick said in the postgame news conference. "I don't know any other way to put it. They were better coached. They played better on offense, defense, in the kicking game, they covered better than we did."

Belichick punctuated his response with incredulity at the questions about how his team failed to compete.

"They were obviously the better team," he said. "You guys had to see that. You were at the game."
So . . . where do the Patriots go from here?