Monday, November 22, 2004

Oney One

Alright, the Ninth One tonight is really easy, it's going to be Tom Brady. He's going to throw for a million yards and 2 million touchdowns. Don't check my math. But The Ninth vowed at the beginning of this thing that we wouldn't ever pick Brady because that's too easy. Oy. Such standards. So, as tempted as I am to pick Deion Branch with a surprise big start, I'm going to the defense.

The Ninth One Patriots v. Chiefs: Richard Seymour

This guy is the best player on the Patriots. How that doesn't get said enough, I don't know. Tom Brady's good, but Seymour is spectacular. But it's subtle. Go back and watch your Patriots Super Bowl DVD. Almost every sack a linebacker gets is a result of a double-teamed Seymour. He stunts, two guys pick him, and Vrabel slides in for the hit. But the play doesn't happen without Big Sey. Washington was an important influence, but New England played almost exactly as well against the run when he was injured. The guy they can't do without is Seymour, and that will hold true tonight. Even without Priest Holmes, the Chiefs can really run. Blaylock is a capable back up and Kansas City has a vicious O-Line. Teams usually run away from Richard, but Ty Warren has been having an impressive year. They'll both have to step up tonight. KC is easily the best 3 win team in the league.


Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Theo Incredible

Pedro Martinez had a private, sit-down meeting with Georgy Fats yesterday, and you know how the Nation reacted? They didn't. Nobody cared. Jason Varitek is getting closer and closer to catching for Mike Scioscia in Anaheim and Sox fans just yawn and wonder where they left the TV Guide. Amazing stuff. This is a city that was apoplectic when Lawyer Milloy was released. A group of folks that had serious problems with the trade of Antoine Walker. Heck, people still argue for Drew Bledsoe, and he died in August. Boston's loyalty is borderline obscene. They just don't like seeing their own depart, no matter how far their skills have declined. So how do we explain this change it attitude? Easy, Nomar.

If, as Verbal Kint tells us, the greatest trick the devil ever pulled was making the world believe he didn't exist, then the greatest trick Theo ever pulled was making us believe that stars don't exist. At the trade deadline, with his team comfortably in reach of the Wild Card lead, Theo Epstein traded the most popular Red Sox of the last 20 years. And people trusted him. I wouldn't say there was a groundswell of support for the notion, but fans gave Theo his room. Those who understood the numbers accepted that Nomar's best days might be behind him, and endorsed the move. But the real fire of Red Sox Nation -- the creepy guys you see constantly at Dunkin Donuts wearing a Patriots cap from 1983, saying how they finally learned to plow their own driveway using an old garbage can and their son's Huffy -- those guys were concerned. They didn't freak out, but they loved Nomah (second favorite player, to Trot Nixon of course), a lot more than they love a 29 year old GM who went to Yale. You could just hear them telling themselves "if this doesn't work, that little prick is going to pay." (The Ninth would never use such language). But very quickly, it did. After a 10 day malaise, Boston got red hot, and Theo was safe. Even if the Sox hadn't pulled out the games with New York and won, you know, the World Series, it would've been ok. It was clear that the trade had worked. Boston was better without Nomar. A lifetime Red Sox who had won batting titles and been on the cover of Sports Illustrated. A friend of Teddy Ballgame's and an enemy of the media. A guy who's name sounded cooler with Boston accent. I mean, this is powerful stuff. The Nation loves this sort of thing. But Epstein proved that it didn't matter. That's some pretty fine currency.

Now he's able to play real hardball. It would have been unimaginable 5 years ago for a General Manager to let big time free agents like Pedro and Varitek dangle. Imagine if Dan Duquette let Martinez take a meeting with the Yankees? There would've been a whole lot of crying in baseball. But Epstein has convinced the fans somehow that Damian Miller and Carl Pavano will be adequate substitutes. Sounds crazy, but he's proven that he knows what he's doing. It hasn't quite reached Belichick level, who could put a drunken kitty cat in the secondary and not be questioned, but Theo has a lot of blind trust right now. He made the gutsiest of trades in July and it's given him the power to do what he wants in December and January. It's not enough in baseball to make the moves that are right, you have to also make the ones your fans think are right. So Theo's in pole position, and can offer the Red Sox free agents only what he believes they're worth. And it'll work. Agents can't pressure him. Some players will go, others will stay, and good ones will come in. Through it all, Red Sox fans will rest easy. If it can work with Nomar, it'll work with anyone. In Theo, We Trust.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Get The Coals...

The Hot Stove will be fired up in earnest tonight at midnight (just the way the veterans like it), as individual negotiating rights between teams and players expire. At 12:01, officially, it's olly-olly-oxen-free. Could that phrase possibly have been about free oxen? Free agents will talk to all teams, and markets can start forming in earnest. See, as of now, we really don't know much. Gammons is writing and Rosenthal is typing, but they're just filling time. Until negotiations can openly occur, there's no foundation for analysis. I mean look, it's all well and good for Scott Boras to claim Jason Varitek is seeking 5 years/50 million, but if he can't find at least two teams willing to give him, say, 4 years/40 million, it ain't worth talking about. Right now, Pedro Martinez is not too enthusiastic about the "Curt Schilling World Series Memorial Contract Offer" Boston produced, but it might be the best thing he's gonna get. Who knows? And what about Baltimore, what crazy crap are they gonna do? Never can predict those Orioles. Remember that time they gave Marty Cordova like 15 mil for 3 years? Man was that funny. Anyhoots, let's hit some bullet points, run down a few ideas, and wait for the fun to start.

- Somebody big is always gone by Thanksgiving. It's a fact. Last year it was the Billy Wagner trade. This year it'll be the Yankees, and it'll be a pitcher. They're just too freaked out. Might not be something huge, but don't be surprised to see at least a middle of the road arm (Steve Kline, Eric Milton?) in pinstripes before Turducken time. That's turducken, a chicken cooked inside of a duck cooked inside of a turkey. Very popular with people who burn money for heat.

- Varitek and Cabrera are going to be a problem. Not because you could never replace their ability, but because you'll have a hard time doing it this year. The markets at short and catcher just aren't very good, and it could get Boston bullied a bit. Tek's starting price is obscene, especially when you realize it's twice the offer IRod got, and he's going to the Hall of Fame. The number will come down, but perhaps not enough. And if it doesn't, the Sox are going to be left with the Mike Matheny's and Einar Diaz's of the world. Anyone have John Marzano's number? The same thing with Cabrera. He got a lot of pub towards the end of '04, and some moron is going to over offer for a guy who's had one and a half good years. Then it's going to mean a mad dash at Renteria or a slow awkward dance with Jose Valentin while you stare at the punch bowl. The great, earth-shattering irony here is that probably the best match for Boston would be Nomar. Think about it. You could get him on a short contract, pay heavy on incentives, and add year or two on options. You'd a couple high quality years, then leave the future to Hanley Ramirez. Problem is, it could never happen. Oh well.

- When it comes down to it the money's not going to be that different, so it's really pretty simple -- who would rather have starting game 2 of the ALDS next season: Pedro Martinez, Brad Radke, or Carl Pavano? Pedro.

- Ken Rosenthal keeps saying, and it makes a lot of sense, that Boston can be flexible. The Red Sox have so much money to play around with that even if they do lose out on a few players, they can fill in elsewhere. Glaus, Beltran, and Ordonez are the kind of hitters that can make you forget about holes up the middle.

- If I had to guess I'd say Kevin Millar is playing somewhere else next year.

- Don't forget, every big player that Boston loses means at least one quality draft pick in return. Pretty good chaser.

Four hours and counting...


Friday, November 05, 2004

C's and P's

The Celtics might officially get, as Bill Simmons would say, frisky. They lost game 1, and they did blow 15 points worth of padding, but somehow in doing it they showed a lot of promise. The fact is, with Paul Pierce, Gary Payton, and Mark Blount they have more talent than most clubs at the 1, 3, and 5. Doesn't seem like it should be true, but it is. If those guys can stay healthy and out of foul trouble they are going to be a tough little team. But that's a big i to the f. GP already has a sprained thumb, and spent a lot of Wednesday night in exactly the same position as The Ninth, on his rear. Mark Blount has also been known for foul trouble so far in his brief career, and that won't do. Blount's rebounding and ability to change shots under the basket is not replicated by any other Celtic, and without him on the floor Boston will get killed. Everyone keeps saying Lafrentz is a shot blocker, but he has yet to show, and I'm not sure he could board over Larry Flynt. Wheelchair humor! Also irreplaceable, Paul Pierce provides the only unstoppable scoring punch, and Payton is by far the most capable court leader. The drop off to the Allens, Banks', and Jiris of the world is too drastic to survive for more than 3 or 4 minutes. And one or two is not enough, these guys really need each other on the floor at the same time. Pierce without Payton in the 4th quarter was completely lost, as Philly was able to exploit the one great vulnerability in his game: unwillingness to pass in crunch time. Since Antoine Walker left, Paul has insisted being option one, two, and three in the 4th quarter and that simply does not work against a double or triple team. Payton would have gotten him better shots, but he had 5 fouls. But when those players were out there together, the Celts played some nice basketball. The sort-of running game got great percentage shots, mostly because Pierce was able to attack the basket before the defense could set up. Also, Blount got his gentleman 15 footers, and Ricky Davis was able to slash to the hole. This will keep working if they keep doing it. So often in the Ainge/O'brien Era (can you call two months an era?) Boston would have a few games like this, then a transition game stinker. This team can't play that kind of basketball, and that team really couldn't. Commit to the run and they will win games.

Patriots - oy vey. About Pittsburgh, all you can say is, it's tough to win without your best receiver, your best back, and your two best corners. And I'm not sure they're going to be able to do it this weekend either. One thing to remember though: Belichick loves this stuff. As Cafardo pointed out on the Zone this week, Bill loves to be over-matched and counted out, and so do his players. He has stepped up with a brilliant scheme in this sort of situation many times in the past, and he may do it again. You know he loves to stick it to Mike Martz. And don't we all really. I've gotten a lot of emails about the disappearance of The Ninth One (chance of truth: 0%), so without further ado:

The Ninth One, Patriots vs. Rams: Troy Brown.

Hey, Brady's got to throw to someone. Big comeback game for Third Down. Speedy turf gives him back the step he's lost. At least one TD.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Rigoddamndiculous Part 2

Alright, who the hell did that? How could an entire group of people possibly be so dumb? Are you really serious that the worst President this country has had in 50 years is getting re-elected? How could that be? I mean, people actually voted for him. A lot. That's preposterous. The guy doesn't read. You know that, right? Won't read briefs because they're too "hard". Has to have them read to him by, presumably, an on-staff librarian. That doesn't bother you? The lying and saying we're going to war for fake reasons and letting the actually important war in Afghanistan go ignored - that's not a problem? The constant vacations. You're cool with that? I mean what is wrong with you people? Vacations! I write copy for an internet gift website and I don't have time for a vacation. This is absurd. And the sad part is, you think you did a good job. You're pleased with the outcome. You think the right guy won. How disgusting. I'm shocked that people are allowed to be this stupid. I was in a cab last night and the driver said things were better in his homeland, Egypt. And I agreed. Completely. I mean come on, Egypt, folks. Do they even have water? People are supposed to come to America looking for a better life, they're not supposed to go back. And it's not George's fault. No, he's just George'n it up, doing his thing. You're the idiots who voted for him. I mean what is going on in your brain? And I'm sure you're out there. Somebody who reads this site voted for him, I'm sure of it. A hundred hits a day, one of you jokers must've been involved in this. And you know what, you're done. That's it. Your visiting privileges are hereby revoked. Get out of here and don't come back. The Ninth has declared you unwelcome.

In the words of Johnny Most, Typical Disgusting Display.