Monday, December 13, 2010

Is It Just Me... Or is Logan Mankins the REAL MVP this Year?

As I was reading the Boston Globe's sport page this weekend, it dawned on me. Logan Mankins is the reason that the Patriots have gone from a good to dominant team in the NFL. After sitting out for seven games, he returned (and started) during the Cleveland Browns game. It's no coincidence that that was the last game that the Patriots lost.

New England Patriots All Pro Guard, Logan Mankins
I know that Kyle Flaherty will back me up on this but just like starting pitching going an average of seven innings versus six can have a profound impact on the bullpen and the other starters, a great offensive lineman (especially a guard -- right or left) can have an equally great impact on all aspects of the game. For one, Mankins, a two time pro-bowler, provides better blocking protection for the running game which of course makes passing easier. And then there's the passing which is up about 2 yards/catch on average in games where Mankins starts. While a lot of that has to do with the receivers (and backs) continuing to have monster YAC numbers, anecdotally, I know this also has something to do with the extra 1-2 seconds Brady has in the pocket to look downfield at his 2nd and 3rd reads. And because the offense is now spending more time on the field, a well-rested defense is also looking better.

Yes, part of this has to do with the emergence of the law firm aka Green-Ellis stepping up his game. And it doesn't hurt to have a second "possession receiver" in the form of Deion Branch. The growth of tight ends Hernandez and Gronkowski as they shake off their rookie jitters also contributes. But at the end of the day, I think many of the commentators and prognosticators have overlooked the importance of having one of the best right guards in Patriots history (second only to John Hannah of course) back in the fold.


Image courtesy

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Why I'm Not Thrilled about the Crawford Signing.

First, let's get this out of the way: Carl Crawford is, at the very least, a good baseball player. In some ways, he's a very good baseball player. I'm not trying to take anything away from him.

But he has never been a great baseball player. Not ever. Not so far. Yet the Red Sox just signed him for great-player money and a contract that is probably two years too long, if we're only looking at performance on the field. Let me give you a few reasons why:

  • Item: Crawford just finished his age-28 season, which means that we've probably already seen him at his best. He may well sustain that level for several more years, which will certainly be valuable to the Sox, but it's unrealistic to expect him to raise that level, or to raise it by much. He won't get faster, he probably won't translate his speed into 70-steal seasons, and he probably won't raise his walk rate or his home run rate by enough to make a big difference. At this point, he is who he is, for better and for worse.
  • Item: Crawford plays left field, which means that he must -- absolutely MUST -- hit the crap out of the ball to justify great-player money. Yet he's never cracked the top 10 in the American League for either on-base percentage or slugging percentage. (Contrast this to Adrian Gonzalez, playing at another slugger position, whose career OBP is 31 points better, and whose career SLG is 63 points better.) Crawford's been in the top 10 in total bases once, and he's about 15-20 extra-base hits per year below truly elite numbers. Leading the league in steals and triples isn't enough to make up for this.
  • Item: Crawford is clearly well above average as a defender, with superior range, a sure glove, and enough assists to tell you that he throws pretty well. But good left fielders will never be worth as much defensively as similarly good defenders in center or right. If Crawford put up identical numbers, but as a center fielder, it would mean substantially more. 

A lot of discussion among this group has centered on Crawford's personality traits: Is he a focused "grinder"? Is he misdirected? Is he a loafer or a malcontent in the locker room? To all of that I answer: Who knows? And who knows how he'll react as a newcomer to a club with a strong culture and several outspoken leaders? If pressed, my guess is that he'll be fine -- less of a clubhouse gem than, say, Victor Martinez or Kevin Millar, but also much less of a head case than Manny Ramirez.

I understand the economics of the game, and no doubt Crawford will put more butts in the seats at Fenway, and get more people to tune in on television. The financial structure of the franchise requires continual sellouts at Fenway, and lots of ad revenue from broadcast venues. So his contract might make sense from the perspective of selling more tickets. It just doesn't make sense from the standpoint of his performance on the field.

In this off-season, Adrian Gonzalez is the steak. Crawford is just the sizzle.


(Image source.)

Monday, September 27, 2010

Re-Awakening the Red Sox "Dynasty" (and this blog)

Other than a somewhat promotional post about the Ultimate Fan Experience, BigP has been a pretty quiet corner of the internet for the last 45 days. We were busy. Life got in the way. It's summertime, what do you expect? No need for excuses, but it's time to get back down to business.

On the eve of the Red Sox elimination from playoff contention, I'd like to ask you all one question...

What do they need to do in the off-season to compete against the Yankees and the Rays in 2011?

The current goat is our namesake, Jonathan Papelbon. He's had eight blown saves this year and last night certainly showcased his recent struggles. But that's not enough to fix this team. What moves would YOU make if your were Theo? Take your time. I want your best work.

Monday, August 30, 2010

The Ultimate Red Sox Experience? Certainly The Ultimate Pitch

Although we only took 1 out of the three in Tampa Bay I'm still holding out hope for the boys. In fact I think I'm probably enjoying this summer a bit more than the last few. Perhaps it's the influx of new faces and energy (Kalish's catch last night was truly terrific). But you also can not dismiss the fact that with all these injuries we are actually watching a Red Sox team over achieve. This was an impossibility over the past few years, when the Sox were expected to compete near the very top.

Rather than sweat out each game, I'm enjoying them a bit more and catching the nuances of baseball. It's been a joy. Then again, I'd trade it all in for a healthy team in first place...ahhh, there's the old Kyle. Nothing beats the experience of a good run in September/October. Speaking of experience, check out the great email I got today:

Hey Kyle!

How are you? I was wandering from Red Sox blog to Red Sox blog, and came across yours listed in the blogroll section of OverTheMonster. I know Red Sox fans are pretty die-hard (especially when it has to do with the Yankees), so I thought you might appreciate this contest that is holding, called "The Ultimate Red Sox Experience."

You get a chance to win tickets to see the Red Sox pummel the Yankees on October 2nd- including round trip air-fare,a pre-game VIP tour and the chance to turn the numbers on the Green Monster scoreboard during one inning. If you're interested in knowing more there's also a video that goes over the details.
Appreciate the contest? I LOVE the contest, especially since I live in Austin now, so it would be that much sweeter. But as a long time marketer who kind of dabbles in this "social media" stuff I also loved the pitch. Kudos to Selena Narayanasamy, the Director of Social Media Outreach at BlueGlass. Not sure if Selena knew some of the folks behind this blog like Aaron, Tim, Bryan, Adam, and Jim...but let's just say they are a bit of a big deal in the social media world.

Thanks for including us Selena! Check out why I loved this pitch so much on my personal blog, then go register for the contest as well as watch the video below:

Saturday, August 07, 2010

How Much Do You Love Your Team?

Last night while watching the Red Sox battle the Yankees, and with all these injuries it certainly IS a battle, my wife posed an interesting question to me:

"If one of our sons became a player in the MLB and was on the Yankees right now, what team would you root for?"

It was a no brainer for me, I would keep my loyalty for my team, the Red Sox, but hope for my son to go 4-4 each game. She then threw me another doozy:

"If one of our sons was drafted by the Colts or Steelers (my two least favorite NFL teams) in MSG would you wear a Colts hat to celebrate on ESPN?"

This one was much harder for me. On one hand what is the harm in just putting on the team hat during this great moment? On the other hand the Colts and Steelers are pure forms of evil to me. But in the end I said I could wear the hat during the draft, but would never wear one during an actual game.

Now it was my turn:

"If one of our sons was given a full ride to play for Notre Dame would you cheer for the Irish?"

I believe the look I got was enough of an answer...neither of our sons would ever set foot in South Bend, unless they were on the visiting team.

What say you?

Friday, July 23, 2010

Battah, Battah, (flash) Swing Battah...

This is pretty funny. Hat tip to friend, Jerry for forwarding. Pay close attention to the gal behind the plate.

Monday, June 14, 2010

An instant classic

To Tim's last post, I want this series over and done with in Game 6. I think the Celtics can do it too. For posterity's sake, here's is the NBA's mini-movie about Game 5. I love the pre-game practice and hope they share more footage of that.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Alert: Tong War in Progress!

Of course I want the Celts to win.

But I'll be honest, I want it to come in the third overtime of Game 7, as both teams crank up the effort to play both harder and smarter across the last three games of this Finals.

What about you? Would you prefer a quicker kill in Game 6? Or risk a heartbreaking Game 7 loss in order to see something transcendent?

Monday, June 07, 2010

Reason #2,348 Rajon Rondo is Awesome

Rondo is showing his aggressiveness and growth since 2008. Ray had an incredible game, but I think last night's game 2 vs the Lakers was arguably Rondo's best all around game as a Celtic. This video slo-mo is amazing.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Perfect SHAME

Welcoming myself back to this blog. I'd say that I've been 'busy', but who hasn't? Granted that a company merger is leading to LONG hours, and my weekends are spent from soccer fields, to rushed (often unhealthy) lunches, to T-ball games, etc. I have no good excuse - most of us have the same type lives.

However, last night's Detroit Tigers game has to go down as an utter shame. Armando Galarraga's perfect game.... Well, it was still perfect. Kind of. Without rehashing the game (who hasn't read about it or seen the highlights?) - Jim Joyce blew it. He made a call that was maybe, almost close with two outs in the ninth to break up a perfect game. A PERFECT GAME. The irony of it being that Galarraga himself covered first base and caught the ball, beating the runner by about a foot and a half - but the play was called safe. Who didn't say out loud 'Wait, wait?' upon seeing in? Unreal. And the call was so confident and assertive - which I understand is part of the job. But come on - it almost felt like he made up his mind before the play that anything close was safe.

I give Jim Joyce full credit for fessing up right away. But I still question the mentality of an umpire to make a call so assertively.

Putting myself in his shoes (which I did many times last night before falling asleep), I kept coming to the conclusion that anything close has to be called an out. It just seems like human nature. Admittedly that 'conclusion' of mine is flawed. As an official of any sport, your job is to remain neutral and have no emotional attachment to the game. I wonder how possible that is though. I could never umpire a Yankees/Sox game, referee a Lakers/Celtics game, or Pats/Jets game. As much as I would like to think that if it was my job I could remain neutral in that role, any close plays aren't going to be hard calls to make. Am I right?

Regardless... there was a perfect game pitched last night. Everyone involved was graceful in handling an obviously imperfect ending. But the history books will only be marked with a perfect SHAME. And we can only wonder why.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Bring it on: Celtics vs. Lakers (round 12)

Yes, this is the NBA equivalent of Red Sox / Yankees. Except in this case, it's the Celtics who are the evil empire with nine wins out of the eleven previous meetings in the finals against the Lakers. Where things become a little more balanced is when we look at the last couple of decades where the Lakers have actually won a slew of their fifteen championships. The Celtics on the other hand won all but one of theirs prior to 1987. In fairness, however, the last time the Celtics won a title in 2008, it was at the expense of the Lakers. And for any Kobe/Lakers fans out there, you likely still have the bad taste of the 39 point ass whooping in game 6 in Boston.

That bad taste was partially removed when the Lakers dominated the Magic in last years NBA finals. But just like the Red Sox needed to go through the Yankees in their epic 7 game series in 2004 before finally removing the Curse of the Bambino, so too do the Lakers need to exorcise their demons of 2008 be vanquishing the Celtics in this years battle royale. The problem is, the Lakers are facing an even hotter Celtic team this year with a healthy Big Three Four (including Rondo in this mix now). A team that just wiped out the number one and two regular seeds in the East -- and the top ranked teams in the NBA according to in the last two rounds of the playoffs.

But, that's the beauty of the playoffs and the reason you don't play them on paper. On any given day, any team can win. And of course that fact has led to a little trash talk going on on Twitter between the fans of LA and the good people of Boston (former citizens included). To that end, we have all decided to put our money where our mouths are (I think) and have decided to put a little wager in place.

Here's what I'm proposing...

If the Lakers win, Team LA (members below) will pick a restaurant in LA (or somewhere convenient for the five of them) with Team Boston footing the bill (not to exceed $50/person including tax/tip). The members of Team Boston will ALSO have to don a Laker-themed avatar for exactly one week following the final game of the series.
If the Celtics win, Team Boston (members below) will pick a restaurant in Boston (or somewhere convenient for the five of them) with Team LA footing the bill (not to exceed $50/person including tax/tip). The members of Team LA will ALSO have to don a LakerCeltic-themed avatar for exactly one week following the final game of the series.
An acknowledgement in the comments section below will serve as validation that you have accepted this friendly little wager. You all ready to rock?!?

Finals predictions?

I'm not asking what you WANT to see happen. I'm asking what you think WILL happen.

Tell us now: winning team, number of games, Finals MVP. No fence-sitting, please.

(Photo source.)

Friday, May 14, 2010

How good are the Celtics?

Item: LeBron played a bad series, especially in Game 5.

Item: Mike Brown might not be able to coach his way out of a paper bag.

Item: Cleveland sports pressure -- and defeatism -- is like it was for Red Sox fans pre-2004, but multiplied across three major sports. And the Cavaliers succumbed to it (again, especially in Game 5).

Unanswered questions for you to address in the comments: Just how good is this Celtics team? And do they have a chance to hang with Orlando?

Your thoughts?

Monday, May 03, 2010

Too early?

So when is it too early to give up? Have the Sox done that already? Who do you think is going to insert that shot of adrenaline that the Sox appear to so desparately need? It does not seem that the team is clicking either offensively or defensively. In any other division, this start would just be troubling or worrisome, but with the Yankees and Rays in front, it will be difficult to catch up, since both teams are so strong. (I can see one or the other stumbling, but not both, barring significant injuries of course).

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Nielsen Has to Be Wrong

Lots of chatter today about Nielsen's sentiment report listing the Cleveland Indians as the most hated baseball team. Here is the official list from the WSJ:

The Hatred Index

Using an algorithm designed by Nielsen Co. that measures positive and negative reactions on the Internet, here are the 10 most despised teams in baseball (scale is -5 to 5).

Team Score
1. Cleveland Indians0.9
2. Boston Red Sox1.1
3. Cincinnati Reds1.5
4 Houston Astros1.8
5. New York Yankees1.8
6. Washington Nationals1.9
7. Chicago White Sox2
8. Baltimore Orioles2
9. New York Mets2.3
10. Los Angeles Dodgers2.4
Well, I for one disagree. Here is my own top 5, at least (not just who I dislike, but what I think the real answer is out there in the public, based on volume of people who hate teams) - what's yours?

1. NYY
2. Phillies
3. Red Sox (Yes, I think there are many out there who dislike the Sawx - people hate winners)
4. White Sox
5. Mets

Who do you think is really at the top of the most hated? How about most loved?

Photo credit: Post406 via Flickr

So far, so neutral?

We're nearly through the first month of the season, and the Sox couldn't be more mediocre: 11-11, smack in the middle of the division.

So . . . where are we headed?

Friday, April 02, 2010

Boston Area Red Sox Tweetups

Next Friday, April 9, will be our first official in season Tweetup for the out of town game of the Red Sox at KC. Jerry Remy's new Sports Bar & Grill will be the venue. Jerry's business partners have been very supportive and are arranging for a portion of proceeds from food/beverage sales that night to go to the Jimmy Fund. Already a great crew will be there.

We're also divising thoughts on future tweetups, involvement of philanthropy, etc. Do you have any thoughts or suggestions on ways to improve and continue events this season? If not in Boston, what have been good events in your city and what made them great?

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Entertainment vs. Competition

This morning on WEEI Dennis and Callahan interviewed "Not So" Big Papi. They asked him about how fans treated him last year, and whether he thought fans were down on him too soon in his early season slump. Ortiz, gracious as usual, responded something to the effect that the fans at Fenway have always been his biggest supporters, and that they understand the work ethic and enthusiasm he brings to the table. He also said the athletes have a clear understanding that they are there to entertain the fans, and that the fans expect to be entertained.

That got me thinking. Are professional athletes entertainers? Or are they here to win? If they think of themselves as entertainers, does that jeopardize their chances to win? I guarantee Belichick would never say that "do your job" = "be an entertainer." Thoughts?


Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Are you Going to Blogapalooza? (ON HOLD)

Posting this on behalf of a new friend, Joe Gill, who is running a cool event called Blogapalooza that brings sports bloggers together. His quick blurb on the event is below...

What is Boston Sports Blogapalooza?
  • Social Media Outlets for Sports (bloggers) can finally meet, trade social media tips, and talk shop in a fun, relaxed atmosphere. Then I thought why not incorporate the Boston media, local companies, and music.
  • Media of both types (social and traditional) can mingle and discuss all the hot topics on the Boston Sports Scene.
  • Local companies can network with bloggers about their products and services. Partnerships between these companies and social media outlets would be agreed upon right at the event.

This event will be 18 plus. For more details, visit the Blogapalooza Facebook page or website.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Who Should Play Fenway Park This Summer?

What band should play Fenway Park this summer? A simple question, but there are a few rules:

1. The band/act must be actively touring (US or elsewhere) over the summer.
2. The band/act cannot have played Fenway Park already.
3. The band/act cannot have completely destroyed their legacy by playing the halftime show at a recent Super Bowl.

Who do YOU think should play the park? Who would cause you to call in a bunch of favors to score tickets?

Note: Here's the list of bands/acts that have played Fenway in the past (h/t @twalk).

Monday, February 08, 2010

Who are the Top 10 Position Players Ever in Baseball?

Enough of this "foot ball" nonsense; time to talk about a real game.

You can use any standard you want -- hitting, fielding, baserunning, well-roundedness, character, historical impact, whatever. But don't mince words: give me your all-time top 10 for baseball.

Play ball!

(Image source.)

Friday, February 05, 2010

Big P Makes Their Big Game Picks

I asked some of the team at Big Papelbon their Super Bowl predictions, here they are in no particular order:

This game features two very good teams with interesting flaws. To my mind, the most interesting flaw is the Colts’ lack of a running game, which ought to put to rest the old saw about how you win playoff games by running-and-stopping-the-run. They make up for it, of course, with (maybe) the most cerebral quarterback in league history and (certainly) a corps of receivers that is second to none. Plenty of teams in the league would be happy to have Garcon as a #2 receiver, or Collie as a go-to slot guy in the Welker mode; on the Colts, those two guys understand their place down the totem pole from Wayne and Clark . . . and yet Manning still seems to love throwing to all of them.

Brees is smart, scrappy, and spectacularly accurate. He has good receivers to throw to himself, and all bets are off if Bush has one of his occasional rush/receive/return monster games. But the Saints needed a goofball final play from Favre AND a lucky coin toss in overtime to beat the Vikings. If this game comes down to the wire – and I have a hunch it will – which passer+receivers group would you rather bet the farm on? I like the odds of Manning-to-Wayne, Manning-to-Clark, and Manning-to-Youngster-X about as well as I like the odds of anything in sports.

Colts by 3.

No question in my mind that the Saints win. The Colts are banged up. The city is behind the Saints in a BIG way i.e. they need this. Dwight Freeney being hurt REALLY hurts their chances against an amazing passing attack. The Saints D is just scrappy enough that they hold Peyton et al. to 28 points. Saints score 35.

Saints by 7.

As much as I'd like to think otherwise, the Saints don't stand a chance. Peyton Manning and the Indy offense are going to open up the first half with two quick scores and never look back on the way to a 42 point outburst. Meanwhile, Drew Brees and the Saints are going to spend most of the first half trying to get out of their own half of the field. Reggie Bush is going to run for 250 yards (side to side) and Brees is going to spend more time looking up at the beautiful Miami sky than he will down the field at his receivers. Several late scores make it seem closer than it was.
Colts 14. "42-28"

Let me state for the record that my heart is rooting for the Saints, but my wallet is rooting for the Colts. Peyton Manning is playing at a level never before witnessed in professional football, and doing it with a grade-B receiving corp. The Colts defense is highly underrated and it looks like Freeney will be fine for the game, but even if he isn't that doesn't matter. The Colts are going to run away with this game and as much as I want to see a good game AND see the Saints win I'm predicting a rout.
Colts by 11. "31-20".

Saints by 3. "31-28".

Indy by 4. "35-31".

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

The Brett Favre Problem

Thank you to Tim for making me write this post and re-evaluate my own thinking.

The debate had been raging recently on the top QBs in history and in nearly everyone's list Brett Favre was ranked below the fifth position. Interesting when you consider:

  • Favre is FIRST in completed passes, having nearly 1,000 more than Dan Marino and 2,000 more than Peyton Manning (closest active player).
  • Favre is FIRST in passing yards, having more than 8,000 more than Dan Marino and 19,000 more than Peyton Manning (closest active player).
  • Favre has won one Super Bowl and appeared in two (same, at this moment, as Peyton Manning).
  • Favre is FIRST in TD passes, having 77 more than Dan Marino and 131 more than Peyton Manning (closest active player).
  • Favre is FIRST in Interceptions, having 40 more than George Blanda and 200 more than Kerry Collins (closest active player).
Favre is VASTLY ahead in many of the offensive categories we consider most important for a QB and he has won the Super Bowl and MVP. Yet, people had him below Joe Montana, Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Johnny Unitas, Warren Moon, Terry Bradshaw, Troy Aikman and others. That is ABSURD!

Put away your annoyance of Brett Favre and his disrespect for his teammates, because that is what his retirement yo-yo actually entails. Shove that vision of Brett Favre in his wranglers to the part of your brain you reserve for bad memories. Now look at the numbers one more time and respect what the man has accomplished.

I was fortunate enough to watch Brett Favre play live on an October day in Green Bay. At the time my friend Alex Hahn was working for the Redskins and got tickets for me to go to the Frozen Tundra and watch the Skins versus the Packers. No, literally, I had field passes and actually stood on the Frozen Tundra. Does it rank as the top live sporting event of my life, even over famous ALCS games during World Series runs? You bet it does! I got to high-five with Gilbert Brown and get in a mini-shouting match with then Packer Terry Glenn (I was wearing a Deion Branch Patriot jersey to the game, yes, I can be a jerk sometimes about my football).

The game was an exciting one and midway through the Third Quarter Brett Favre was PUMMELED and down for the count. People around me acted as if the Pope had been kidnapped. At the time Favre had the most consecutive games started by a QB in the NFL, somewhere around 200. This man had played one of the most dangerous position in the NFL (even with absurd rule changes) and not missed a game in the span of 12+ seasons. After missing one series Favre came back into the game and ended up leading the Packers to victory in the fourth quarter.

After the game we tailgated for a few more hours and a young girl, probably 23 or so, said to me,
"I'm not sure I would ever watch football again if Brett Favre wasn't playing."
She was completely serious and I wish I could talk to her now and see what she has done the past two years.

The point is that Brett Favre has not only survived in a violent sport, but excelled in this violent sport at an age at which we believe he should be done. Perhaps the Brett Favre retirement saga was ultra annoying and it may become the same this offseason, but take a look at the numbers and I honestly can not see you rating Favre lower than third in your list of all-time QBs.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Has Federer surpassed Laver?

"For [Federer] to come out and play as well as he did here just goes to show he has stuff to prove to himself, not to anybody else," said Pat Cash, the 1987 Wimbledon champion. "I'm flabbergasted to understand how he remains so motivated. I certainly couldn't." (via ESPN)
Because that's the question at this point.

Rod Laver won the Grand Slam -- not the career version, but the actual, all-in-one-year kind -- in 1962 and again in 1969. Besides those eight titles, he won three other majors, plus about a squillion other tournaments.

And here's the massive footnote to his record: since he was a professional, he was not eligible to play in the majors from 1963 through the beginning of the Open Era at the French Open of 1968. Two things should stand out about this:
  1. He won 11 majors even though he was prohibited from playing in 21 consecutive majors in his prime.
  2. How do we know it was his prime? I refer you back to the years that he won the calendar-year Grand Slam . . . on either side of the enforced five-year hiatus.
Considering Laver's tournament record during those blackout years, and speaking very conservatively, his career total of wins in major could easily have reached 20. Clearly, Federer's current record of 16 wins is staggering . . . but the idea that he would need four more to reach Laver gives it more context.

Of course, the usual caveats about comparing one era to another apply here, just as they do for baseball, basketball, etc.:
  • Sports medicine and conditioning programs are better today, which means that Federer faces stronger, faster, fitter opponents on the whole.
  • Equipment -- especially rackets and shoes -- are much better today. Light-years better. Which could make Laver's performance all the more impressive. (I love my Adidas Rod Lavers and get lots of compliments on them, but I wouldn't want to play one set of tennis in them.)
  • Laver traveled by the best means available in the 1960s and early 1970s; Federer travels everywhere by private jet.
  • . . .
So, there's some context for the debate.

More than just a note on Pete Sampras: if life were perfect, Sampras and Federer would have been in their primes at the same time. It would have made for some of the greatest displays of speed, smarts, and grit ever seen on any tennis court, and we could have expected these guys to slug it out in many Grand Slam finals.

But, great though Pete was, Federer is better. Some points of comparison:
  • Sampras pulled off the incredible feat of winning major titles over a span of thirteen years. So far, Federer's up to a "mere" eight years. Advantage: Sampras.
  • There's a common theme among the tennis cognoscenti that Sampras played against more great players (Agassi, Courier, Becker, Edberg), but that Federer plays against more good players (i.e. that the average level of play is higher, in part because of better conditioning). That said, it's clear that Federer has found his Agassi in Rafael Nadal, and it's not like Murray, del Potro, Roddick, et al. are a bunch of cupcakes. Advantage: ???
  • Federer has already completed the career grand slam, which Sampras never did, but it goes beyond that: Federer has been in four straight French Open finals, and in three of them he lost to the only men's clay-court player of the past thirty years worth comparing to Bjorn Borg. By contrast, Sampras reached the semifinals of the French Open once, and never reached the finals. Advantage: Federer, by a lot.
  • Sampras won five U.S. Open titles and played in three more finals over the span of a thirteen years (1990-2002); Federer has won five in a row (2004-2008) and played in one more final. Advantage: . . . You tell me: is it more impressive to win five times over a broad span, or in a row? Maybe a slight advantage to Sampras.
  • Sampras won seven Wimbledon titles in eight years. Federer has won six Wimbledon titles in seven years -- and counting. (Recall that the one loss has been called the greatest Grand Slam final ever played.) Advantage: Sampras, but not by much.
  • Sampras won the Australian Open twice and played in one other final. Federer just won it for the fourth time, and has played in one other final (another heart-breaking five-set loss). Advantage: Federer, by plenty.
  • Sampras won two majors in a year four times -- which, when you think about it, is stone-cold awesome. Federer has won three majors in a year three times, plus two majors in a year two other times -- which is more awesome. Advantage: Federer.
  • Sampras is ten years older than Federer, to the week. After the 2000 Australian Open, Sampras had won 12 majors; at the same age, Federer has won 16. Advantage: Federer.
In my view, the overall advantage to Federer is clear -- and it's only growing.

(Thanks to Bryan for suggesting that I write this post.)


(Image via Wikipedia.)

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Who are the Top 10 Pro Quarterbacks Ever?

First, read Kyle's post bidding a fond farewell to Kurt Warner, who rides off into retirement with his head held high.

Then, get serious with some barstool palaver and list your all-time top 10 pro QBs -- in order -- in the comments.

The list I shared with Kyle last night:
  1. Montana
  2. Manning
  3. Favre
  4. Unitas
  5. Elway
  6. Marino
  7. Brady
  8. Young
  9. Aikman
  10. Tarkenton
Mind you, I swapped around the order three times before I hit "send" on that tweet -- and then swapped Manning and Favre again for this post. It's a hard question to answer.

(For the record, if Manning wins next week, he goes to my top spot as the hybrid of a Montana-style winner, a Marino-style stat monster, and an Elway-style come-from-behind artist.)

By the way, I keep wondering whether I haven't slighted Warren Moon here. Hmm . . .

Anyway . . . let the arguments begin!


(Image source.)

Friday, January 29, 2010

Enjoy Life Kurt Warner. Enjoy the Hall of Fame.

As you all know I have a huge amount of respect for Kurt Warner and hearing him retire today I thought back on the story I told just a few weeks ago. I hope that Kurt enjoys every minute of his retirement. The man won a Super Bowl, lost two Super Bowls and pulled in two MVPs. Hall of Fame? I say yes! And so do some other HOFers:

Troy Aikman: “I believe a player is a Hall of Fame player if you can’t tell the story of the history of the game without mentioning that player. In my opinion, no account of the NFL can be accurately given without discussing Kurt Warner’s impact on the game.”

Len Dawson: “I think he deserves it. I don’t know if I’ve seen a more accurate passer, and he generally didn’t make too many mistakes. The tag on him was he never got the opportunity. He was playing Arena Football and stuff like that. But once he got the opportunity, he took full advantage of it.”

Fran Tarkenton: “I think he’s deserving. To be a great quarterback, you have to understand the game, make adjustments by the second, by the minute, by the game. You have to take over the running of the game. And Kurt Warner has been able to do that.”

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Will the Real Daisuke Matsuzaka Please Stand Up?

One of the big question marks coming into the 2010 season is Dice-K... is he going to fade away or come back with a vengeance? Derek and I had a discussion last night on Twitter and we'd love your take. Derek's setting the over/under for regular season wins at 14.5.

Would you take the over or under and why?

Sunday, January 24, 2010

NFL Playoffs Week Three Picks

Since I started 0-4, then went 2-4, is there any doubt I'll go 2-2 today?

Jets 14-Indy 23

Vikings 28-Saints 29


Thursday, January 21, 2010

Big Papi on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon

Just in case you missed it...

Now the questions... Is it just me, or does Big Papi look lean/slim/fit in this video? What does it mean to the Red Sox lineup if he comes into 2010 like he played in the 2nd half of 2009? I'd love your observations.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

What's your greatest personal sports triumph?

Me, I was never much of an athlete, so I have to cling to a few playground memories.
  • Once, in a 2-on-2 pickup game in college, I went on a tear, sinking my patented (but usually terrible) running baseline hook over and over. My buddy and I beat two superior players with that shot plus hardnosed defense, and I'm still proud about it.
  • In high school, before I had even learned to shoot an open jumper, some friends schooled me -- in a good way -- about how to play serious man-to-man defense on the blacktop. Later that year, playing in a P.E. game, I caused problems for the best athlete in that class, who was running the point for the other team. (He was from the barrio and knew lots about fixing cars; I was an egghead on the school newspaper.) I knew I impressed him when, as he tried to set up a play from the top of the key, he smiled and said "You don't f--- around, do you?"
  • In fourth grade, through a combination of guile, teamwork, and simply running away, I found myself as the last surviving member of my team in flag-tag. My opponent was Billy Piper, by far the best athlete in the elementary school -- the golden boy. Though my teammates watched with dread, in the critical moment I managed a matador's subtle dodge when Billy came at me. I still remember staring at that flag in my hand. For once -- possibly for the first time in my life -- I had delivered victory for my team.
Now, surely you can do better than this. What are your greatest moments of sporting glory?

(Image source.)

Saturday, January 16, 2010

NFL Playoffs Week Two Picks

Because my week one picks were SO dead on it is not surprising that so many of you have been emailing, calling and faxing for my week two picks. No worries, I may be cutting it close, but here they are:

Baltimore at Indy

Baltimore is riding heavy momentum, while Indy has had a few weeks to kick back and get fat, with a rookie coach, and they haven't won a game in the playoffs after having a first round bye since...well since they were in Baltimore. Think old school Baltimore fans want to put a hurt on the Colts, you bet they do! It is all pointing to a huge Baltimore upset. Thus that is why I'm going Indy 31-Baltimore 27.

New York (A) at San Diego

You know who will have zero impact in this game? LaDanian Tomlison. You know who else? Mark Sanchez. Guess what will happen. That's right, San Diego rolls, 27-10.

Arizona at New Orleans

My sentimental pick overall is Arizona. That's right, Arizona, although the fact that they are playing my other sentimental pick almost makes me cry. I rooted for the Cardinals the entire playoffs last year and for only one reason, Kurt Warner. I'm a HUGE fan of the man. Strange, seeing that my Patriots were the team that probably gave him his first concussion. The reason is actually very personal and a story that most people probably don't know.

I interviewed for a job with the Rams at the end of May, 2004, which was a blast of a process, but as I left their office buildings located at their practice facility Kurt Warner was leaving as well. He not only held the door for me but ended up chatting with me for nearly 15 minutes in the parking lot. We talked about the day in and day out difficulty of being an NFL player, the politics involved and we even talked about the Pats Super Bowl win and the famous hit he took from Willie. I've been lucky to have been on the field for three NFL games (two in D.C and one in Green Bay, stories for another post) and talked with many players. Kurt Warner was the only one who seemed like an actual human being.

Two or three days later, he was released by the Rams. The meeting he was leaving when we met was most likely his last in St. Louis, and he knew it, but he still spent all that time talking to a football fan in the parking lot. Go Cardinals! Arizona 45, New Orleans 41.

Dallas at Minnesota
5,000 Minnesota season ticket holders said no to their option to purchase playoff tickets. Sign of the times or sign of bad fans? I'm saying 50/50, either way I could not care any less about either of these teams. Favre = ugh. Jerry Jones = argh. Tony Romo = dreamy annoying. Let's just say, um...Minnesota 24, Dallas 21, setting up a week of annoying Cowboys talk here in Austin.

Remember, bet against me and you WILL win. That is the Flaherty promise!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Do you have a dog in the NFL hunt?

Now that the Patriots are playing golf, where does you rooting interest lie? Or have you moved on to Big East basketball and looking ahead to Spring Training?

Inquiring minds want to know.


(Image source.)

Sunday, January 10, 2010

One and Done.

Not to be too flip about it, but it's hard to win a playoff game when
  1. The other team catches a bunch of early breaks;
  2. You play out of rhythm from the start; and
  3. The other team flat outplays you.
Did I miss anything?

Friday, January 08, 2010

NFL Playoffs Week One Picks

Because you all were wondering:

Jets at Bengals
Classic Wild Card weekend game. Rookie QB who has been shaky all year, on the road against a team that knew they wanted this match up last week to tanked it early. We might see a decent score at the half, but the Bengals run away with this one on the legs of Cedric Benson who is still upset about Colt McCoy's injury.

Jets 17 - Bengals 31

Eagles at Cowboys
Could you think of two more inept coaches to face off against each other in the first round. Wait. What? Andy Reid has actually been making all the right moves lately and Donovan McNabb has a chip on his shoulder right now? Watch out Cowboys, Eagles will peck your eyes out. Romo fumbles the snap from center for a potentially game tying FG at the end of the game and immediately breaks into a Jessica Simpson song.

Eagles 24 - Cowboys 21

Green Bay at Arizona
Can you think of another time when three of the four playoff games in one weekend were teams that faced each other just in the last week? You can? Well then you are a downright dirty liar because it has never happened before. Shame on you for lying to me. And shame on the Arizona Cardinals for having all their good players injured for this game because it won't even be competitive without a healthy Warner, Fitzgerald and more.

Green Bay 34 - Arizona 20

Baltimore at New England
I rewatched the game from October 3rd twice this week and talked it over in depth with some folks. Most people remember that the Ravens literally dropped the chance at winning the game in the final seconds, but rewatching the game it was fairly obvious that the Patriots made several mistakes around the 7-5 minute left in the game mark that could have placed the game out of reach. Each of the mistakes were made by Tom Brady. This only a few weeks after Albert Haynesworth purportedly broke three of Tom Terrific's ribs. Does Tommy make those same mistakes this week? Not a chance. Is our defense much stronger with 16 games under their young belts? Of course. This will be the best of all four games, but the Patriots will hold on to live another week.

Baltimore 21 - New England 28

Oh, and guess what I have for you:

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Another take on the Winter Classic

Panorama of Fenway Park at the Winter Classic on January 1, 2010

New England's own C.C. Chapman scored a free ticket to last week's NHL Classic at Fenway Park. In a blog post this morning, he recaps the experience and posts some of photos from his Fenway visit, including the stunning panorama above.

The Classic is truly evolving as one of those events we just can't stop talking about. No doubt the NHL is thrilled.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Redsox and Yankees in 2010: Who you got?

Following the announcement of the Red Sox signing Adrian Beltre last night, a discussion broke out on Twitter about whether this was a good or bad thing. We bantered a bit about whether a one year contract or a move to the friendly confines of Fenway Park might be a good thing or a bad thing. Then my good friend (and fellow Big Papelbon conspirator), Tim Walker, dropped the bomb on us...
@adamcohen @jimstorer @aaronstrout @peplau @DougH Bigger picture: the #redsox will not contend for the division this year, and that's that.

Whoa! If Tim wasn't a fellow Red Sox fan, I'd consider those fighten' words. Of course Tim has a point and that isn't that the Red Sox don't have a chance in 2010. Just that they don't stack up well against the men in pinstripes. So this got me thinking. For one, if you look at the Red Sox starting rotation, I'm pretty confident that we have an edge over the Yanks, particularly in numbers 3-5 (I'll give the Yankees a "push" on Sabathia and Burnett vs. Beckett and Lester). Yes, the Yankees did sign Javier Vazquez but he wasn't that impressive with the Yanks back in '04 (arguably one of their better years minus their ALCS performance). But the Sox have Lackey, Wakefield, Dice K, and Buchholz with up and comers Michael Bowden and Boof Bonser to boot.

Tim was willing to concede to my point about the pitching but correctly asserted that the Sox lineup wouldn't hold a candle to the "murderer's row" that the Yanks have assembled. While I don't think that there is as much of a disparity as Tim points out (Youk, Pedroia, Scutaro, Drew and VMart are all pretty decent hitters in their own right), I can't in good conscience try and argue that the Sox have a leg up on the Yanks. However, I will make the point that other than last year, the team with the best offense in the majors over the last decade has NOT been the World Series winner. In fact, teams like the '01 Arizona Cardinals, '03 Florida Marlins and '08 Philadelphia Phillies all won with a combo of good defense, great pitching and some timely hitting.

To back up my claim, I've listed the World Series winner and then the top run producer (my take on offensive dominance) in the column next to it. While I know there are a 1,000 different other stats/measurements like RBIs, OBP, OPS, etc., I think this is a fair measurment:
  • Year ----------------- Won WS ----------------- Best Offense (by runs)
  • 2009 -----------------Yankees ----------------- Yankees (915)*
  • 2008 ----------------- Phillies ----------------- Rangers (901)**
  • 2007  ----------------- Red Sox ----------------- Yankees (968)***
  • 2006 ----------------- Cardinals ----------------- Yankees (930)****
  • 2005 ----------------- White Sox ----------------- Red Sox (910)*****
  • 2004 ----------------- Red Sox ----------------- Red Sox (949)
  • 2003  ----------------- Marlins  ----------------- Red Sox (961)
  • 2002 ----------------- Angels ----------------- Yankees (897)
  • 2001  ----------------- DBacks  ----------------- Seattle (927)*******
  • 2000 ----------------- Yankees -----------------White Sox (978)********
*Red Sox were 3rd in runs w/ 872 in spite of losing in 1st round of playoffs

**WS winner, Philadelphia, was 8th in runs scored with 799

***WS winner, Boston, was 4th in runs scored with 867
****WS winner, St. Louis, was 14th in runs scored with 781
*****WS winner, Chicago (AL), was 13th in runs scored with 741
******WS winner, Florida, was 17th in runs scored with 751
*******WS winner, Arizona, was 7th with 818
********WS winner, NY (AL), was 10th with 871

At the end of the day, this is why we play the games, right?

Image credit: MLB

Sunday, January 03, 2010

NHL Winter Classic Re-Cap

NOTE: When playing each video, best to click 'play', then 'pause' and let a buffer build up before clicking 'play' again so playback isn't choppy.

Here's a fan's-eye view of the 2010 Winter Classic at Fenway in three parts. (Some of this stuff didn't make it onto the network broadcast).


Part 1: Madness in Twins & interviews with some interesting fans.
Part 2: A brush w/ a Red Sox front office big wig and an great fife & drum corp segment.
Part 3: The game-winning goal & crowd reaction.

And it bears mentioning that my Whalers toque got about 25-30 positive comments at the game. 20 years ago, I'd probably have been posting this from the hospital for wearing it.