Opening Day 2011

Now that your in the mood for a little baseball, here we go! How could you not be ready for baseball after hearing that song? I don’t know about your ball park, but “Centerfield” by John Fogerty is played before every baseball game at Fenway Park. And there is nothing like walking out of the tunnel at Fenway, hearing that song blasted over the sound system, gazing over the hallowed ground of the field, and then your eyes hit the Green Monster. Not many other ballparks can offer the ambiance that Fenway Park can provides.

Although in New England, many believe that the Red Sox and Yankees are the only teams on the planet, yet there are other teams out there. Whichever team you follow, this has got be the most exciting time of the year. Every team has a chance, even the Pittsburgh Pirates and Kansas City Royals fans can fantasize about World Series dreams. Why not? Its opening day, your team is undefeated, and if your team wins the first one then they can’t lose them all.

For months and months I’ve listened to pontificators and blow-hards on the sports talk shows on 98.5 The Sports Hub and 850 WEEI talk about their prognostications and projections on how the season will pan out for the Sox.  Will the Sox win over 100 games?  How will Beckett and Lackey perform?  Will we see the Papelbon of old?  Soon the questions will stop and we will be able to sit back and enjoy the 2011 baseball season.

Now I know many will argue that football has over taken baseball as America’s game, but I am hear to say that baseball is and will always be America’s past time. This fact has never been as eloquently stated as it was by James Earl Jones in Field of Dreams. Jones’ character, Terrence Mann, says, “The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game: it’s a part of our past, Ray. It reminds of us of all that once was good and it could be again.”

Today you can relish in the fact that baseball is back. The local nine, the boys of summer, what ever you call them, they are back. “Well, beat the drum and hold the phone the sun came out today! We’re born again, there’s new grass on the field. A-roundin’ third, and headed for home, it’s a brown-eyed handsome man; anyone can understand the way I feel.” Let’s play ball!

Posted in Baseball, Boston, Josh Beckett, New England, New York, Red Sox, Sports, Yankees | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

How to Fix the 2011 New England Patriots

For most Patriots fans putting the 2010 season in the rear view mirror has been a pain staking experience.  Even though the season is long over, questions as to what went wrong still plague the New England faithful.  How could the number one seeded Pats, who finished with the best record in the NFL at 14-2 loose on their home field to of all teams the New York Jets?!?!  The answer to this question is actually quit simple, that is if you’re willing to over look the Patriots league leading 25 interceptions, as well as their 13 fumble recoveries.  The defense just wasn’t good enough.  In fact at times they were down right awful and it caught up to them in the end.

But fear not dear reader, this is not an article intended to berate your beloved Patsies.  In fact it is my belief that the Patriots defense can be fixed with hardly any major alterations.  All Bill Belichick needs to fix the Patriots defense is one playmaking defensive end.  If only the Patriots had a 6’-6”, 310 pound beast causing havoc on the defensive line like the Raiders have in Oakland, New England just might have raised their 4th Lombardi trophy this year.

The 310-pound beast I referenced above is none other than former Patriots defensive end Richard Seymour. Just this past week the Raiders resigned Seymour to a 2-year $30 million contract, with $22.5 million guaranteed.  The signing forced me to reminisce about the Patriots defense with Seymour and it got me thinking, “man that Richard Seymour was one hell of a player.”  Truth is that Richard Seymour is still one hell of a player and the numbers don’t lie.

Now before we dive into the defensive numbers that Seymour brings to the table, we first have to understand Seymour’s role in the 3-4 defense.  The role of any defensive end in the 3-4 scheme is to occupy as many offensive linemen as possible, making the jobs of linebackers waiting behind them a lot easier.  It’s all guts and no glory for defensive lineman in the 3-4 scheme; while they tie up their blockers, the middle and outside linebackers fill up the stat sheet in the tackles and sacks categories.

After the 2010 regular season was in the books your New England Patriots had the 25th overall defense in the league, Oakland ranked 11th overall.  The 14-2 Pats gave up 366.5 yards per game, and the 8-8 Raiders gave up 322.8 ypg.  The Patriots as a team recorded 36 sacks, tied for 14th in the NFL, the Silver and Black recorded 47 sacks, tied for 2nd in the NFL.  But here comes the two worst stats of all.  The Patriots gave up an average of 258 passing yards per game ranking 2nd worst in the league, the Raiders gave up 189.2 passing yards per game, ranking 2nd best in the NFL.  And last but not least the Pats were the worst team at getting off the field on 3rd down allowing their opponents to convert 47% of the time, Oakland was 7th best in the league allowing their opponents to convert 35% of the time.

Now I know what you might be thinking.  The Pat’s defense faired better than the Raiders defense did in 2009, even without Richard Seymour.  And I’ll come right back at you with the fact the Patriots had two solid DE’s in Ty Warren and Jarvis Green who knew the Patriots 3-4 scheme inside and out.  Which leads me to this conclusion:  For the first time since 2001 the Patriots were without a Pro-Bowl caliber defensive end in Richard Seymour or Ty Warren for the entire length of the season.  There is only so much big Vince Wilfork can do in the middle by himself.

If we revisit the 2007 Patriots; yes the 16-0 Super bowl losing Patriots.  You’ll find that the 2007 Pats recorded 47 sacks, 2nd most in the league. I’ll give you one guess as to which team finished 1st.  You guessed it, the 2007 World Champion New York Giants with 53 sacks.  It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that quarterback pressure makes for a successful defense.  Like the great Baltimore Ravens MLB Ray Lewis said, “football is simple, it’s not Chess it’s checkers.”

Now some of you may remember that Seymour only played in 9 games in 2007.  However the Patriots recorded 28 of their 47 sack’s in those 9 games; and team leader Mike Vrable recorded 8 of his 12.5 sacks rushing behind big old Richard.

Ty Warren missed all of the 2010 season after having pre-season hip surgery.  So in theory the addition of a healthy Warren at DE will repair the Pat’s 25th ranked defense.  But just in case Warren isn’t healthy it might be a good idea for the Patriots to spend their 17th overall pick (via OAK from Seymour trade) on a playmaking defensive end.  That is if there is a 2011 NFL season.

Don’t forget to check out Sports Haze Boston for related stories.

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Bruins Acquire Kaberle

The Boston Bruins stole the headlines today making multiple moves.  The Bruins were very busy today, but the move that has Boston buzzing is the Acquisition of Toronto Maple Leafs defensemen Tomas Kaberle.  With the trade the Bruins sent minor league forward Joe Colborne as well as a 2011 1st round draft pick, and a conditional 2nd round draft pick.

In Kaberle the Bruins get one of the NHL’s top puck moving defensemen who will be paired alongside Bruins captain Zdeno Chara.  Over the past six seasons only two players have more power play assists than Tomas Kaberle (157); former Bruin Joe Thornton and perennial All-Star Sidney Crosby.  Kaberle can only help improve the Boston Bruins 14th ranked NHL power play.

The 32 year-old Kaberle brings with him a strong veteran attitude that the Bruins have been lacking in past years come playoff time.  Kaberle has spent his entire 12 year career with the Toronto Maple Leafs, and has played in four All-Star games.  This is the player Bruins fans wanted at the trade deadline last year, yet even a year later fans of the Black and Gold are excited about the acquisition of  Kaberle.

In other Bruins news, the team sent forward Blake Wheeler and defensemen Mark Stuart to the Atlanta Thrashers and received center Rich Peverley and defensemen Boris Valabik.  With this move the Bruins cleared $1 million worth of cap space and acquire an underrated centerman in the 28 year-old Peverley; who had 55 pts. last year, with 22 goals and 33 assists.

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Sox Poll

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Ellsbury prepared for 2011

After only appearing in 18 games last year, Jacoby Ellsbury is putting the 2010 season in the rear view mirror. He is looking towards the 2011 season with optimism, hoping to reestablish himself as one of the most electrifying players in the American League.

Ellsbury missed most of the 2010 campaign with cracked and broken ribs.  Whether Ellsbury was being a little soft, not wanting to play through the injury, or that the Sox training staff just botched the diagnosis, will never be clear.  However, one thing that is clear: a healthy Jacoby Ellsbury coupled with newly acquired speed demon, Carl Crawford, will give opposing pitchers and catchers migraines throughout the season.

Ellsbury sat down with reporters and explained that, for him, this off-season afforded no down time.  “I’m excited, that’s why I started right away.  There was no off time for me.”  Said the Sox centerfielder,  “I just had to get back in the gym, and get back to working out.”  Ellsbury maintained the notion that he is back to 100%, and that there is no hesitation in his swing or in any other baseball related activities.

Last year, Jacoby  Ellsbury took a lot of flack from the media and even some teammates (Kevin Youkilis) for sitting out as long as he did, and rehabbing away from the team during the season at API (Athletes’ Performance Institute) in Arizona.  But prior to last season, Ellsbury had not shown signs of being ‘soft,’ playing in 145 and 153 games in his first two seasons in the big leagues. The Sox speedster also led the AL in stolen bases in 2008 and 2009 with 50 and 70 swipes respectively.

It’s a pity that the young Ellsbury lost an entire season to injury, but, like Ellsbury, Sox fans shouldn’t dwell on the past; but rather look towards the bright future.  It is still unclear where Red Sox manager, Terry Francona, will bat Ellsbury and Crawford;  but just imagine the fits they will cause on the base paths this year.  Since 2003, only one player (Chone Figgins) not named Ellsbury or Crawford has led or been tied for the lead in the AL in stolen bases.  Assuming Ellsbury and Crawford both stay healthy; the two should combine for over 100 stolen bases without batting an eyelash.

And we can’t forget Red Sox general manager, Theo Epstine’s, theory of “run prevention.”  With the speed of Ellsbury in center, Crawford in left and an above average defender with Drew in right, there aren’t a lot places for the ball to land, but in someone’s glove.

It is fine to reserve your opinion on Ellsbury until the season is a couple of months under way.  But keep in mind, that last season, no Red Sox outfielder stole more than 10 bases, had a batting average over .270, knocked in 70 runs, or scored more than 70 runs.  If Jacoby Ellsbury truly is 100% healthy along with Carl Crawford, they should completely blow those numbers out of the water.

This story was originally posted on SportHazeBoston

Posted in Baseball, Boston, Carl Crawford, Jacoby Ellsbury, New England, Red Sox, Sports | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Like we needed another reason to hate A-Rod…

At last weeks Super Bowl in Dallas, the Yankees golden boy, All-Star third baseman Alex Rodriguez was caught on FOX’s Super Bowl broadcast being fed popcorn by his newest girlfriend, actress Cameron Diaz.  During the broadcast of last weeks big game, FOX’s cameras were simply panning through one of the luxury boxes at the new Dallas Cowboys Stadium; a luxury box that included the likes of former President George W. Bush, John Madden, Ashton Kutcher and Alex Rodriguez among others.  Unfortunately, or shall I say fortunately?… FOX caught a short clip of Alex having popcorn fed to him, much the same way that a goddess would be fed a bunch of grapes.

Now what makes this story so wonderful, is that reportedly A-Rod was went crazy after he learned about FOX’s airing of the footage on National television.  In fact, according to Bill Zwecker at the Chicago Sun-Times, A-Rod “went ballistic” and truly felt that the “cameraman was out to get him.”

It’s okay Alex… Everyone outside of New York realizes what kind of ball player and man you are.  You’ve been handed everything on a silver platter your entire career and when things don’t go your way you stoop to the lowest levels to achieve your goals:  i.e. Steroid scandal, knocking the ball out of Bronson Arroyo’s glove in the 2004 ALCS, yelling “I got it” rounding third base in the 9th inning of a 2007 game against the Blue Jays causing Howie Clark to back off of an infield fly ball, and by backing down to any opposing player that challenges you on the field.  At least now we know that you carry yourself the same way off the field as you do on the field.  Maybe the Yankees can hire Cameron Diaz to crack open and feed Alex his sunflower seeds while he waits in the on deck circle, cause whatever Alex wants, Alex gets.

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Pat’s Playoff Poll

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