LONGSHOTS:Mail bag delivers some interesting questions
by Dave Long
With the election behind us it’s time to go back to some straight sports topics, and what better way is there than to wade into the mail bag for some topical stories to talk about?
Dear Dave: What was the most striking thing to you about the Patriots’ loss to the Colts last Sunday night? Pak Mentalatee, 13 Second Guessers Lane, Media, Mass.
Dear Pak: Man — it would be that Adam Vinatieri, who was allowed to walk as much for concerns over leg strength as he was for money, beat them with a 52-yard field goal. That’s his longest since 2002, when he was doing it for the Patriots instead of to them. Did anyone doubt Mr. Clutch was going to nail that one? I’d have bet on him if it were 60.
Dear Dave: If Matt Cassel improves in the way Tom Brady did in his first year and pulls off what TB did in 2001, what will happen with the Patriots quarterback situation? Barnard Costar, 42 Miami Dade Drive, Cleveland, Ohio.
Dear Bar: You might be getting ahead of yourself, as the improving Cassell has a long way to go, but that still is an interesting question. First, because while it’s hard to fathom Brady could be disposed under any circumstance, it’s noteworthy to point out Bill Belichick has twice replaced franchise QB. And in Cleveland he did it to Bernie Kosar, a hometown boy as popular there as TB is here. And it hit the fan there after that to the point where they still hate Belichick. The obvious difference is that Kosar’s arm was gone and he had no choice here, because Drew Bledsoe was hurt and when he came back the team was clearly playing better than it had in the three previous years with Drew.
But there are a couple of other factors. If the Patriots managed to win it again this year with Cassel at the helm, while giving hints he’ll be even better the next year, it would put the team in a bit of a box. He’s a free agent next year. Thus they can’t park him behind Brady as insurance, because he will be a Super Bowl-winning quarterback with a market for him in places like Chicago, Miami, Minnesota and Detroit, to name four. Then throw in the huge cap hit Brady’s contract causes next year and do you think the brass of a team in need of some new young blood on defense would contemplate what they could get with both all the cap space and back for Brady in a trade? If Herschel Walker could bring enough in a deal to put Dallas on the way to winning three times in four years in the 1990s, you know Brady would bring back more. I can’t imagine they’d have the guts to do it, but if it all fell into place as you said, I’d lay money it would cross their mind.
Dear Dave: You said right after he was traded there’s no way Manny would get the money he and Scott Boras were aiming at. Well, after what he did in L.A., are you ready to admit you were wrong? Jon Knee, Daymon Drive #14, East Bronx, N.Y.
Dear Jon Knee: I still don’t think he’ll get the $100 million deal they’re shooting for, but he’ll do better than I thought. I thought he’d be better out there, as he always has come out smoking after every other “Manny being Manny” episode, but this time he was off the charts. My prediction for him in my 2008 Baseball Guide was pretty close in homers and RBI, though I missed in batting average after he went nuts in L.A. Given the decline the previous two seasons, the up and down periods here in ’08, coupled with what every other slugger in history besides Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth and Barry Bonds has done after 36, I figured a three-year deal at $15 million per would be tops. But after the two months in L.A., I think someone might step to the plate with more, and it’ll probably the Yanks. It gives them a clean-up hitter who actually produces when it counts, to pair with A-Rod, who doesn’t, and it’s a nice jab by Hank to stoke the rivalry.
Dear Dave: What’s your prediction for what will happen with Jason Varitek? S. Cot Boreus, 37 Dirty Pool Lane, Unethical, Calif.
Dear S. Cot: If it were me, I’d only sign the captain if he dumped his slimy agent after what he did in the Manny case. But I think Theo and John Henry are a little more granola-eating, crunchier, non-grudge-holding than I am. So I think they’ll offer two years — and don’t go “market value” cheap on him either. That means similar money to his current $10 million per year with the proviso that he might be pinch hit for more next year if ’08 wasn’t an aberration and that he shares the job with a 65-35% split in playing time while grooming the new guy to get more than half the playing time in ’10. Whether he’ll do that or not remains to be seen.
Dear Dave: You mentioned a while back the only way to get Mark Teixeira was to move Youk to third and trade Mike Lowell. Would they do that? Bill Wright, 13 Wideacher Place, Out There, N.M.
Dear Bill: I want to amend my statement. I want all three, as I love Youk’s versatility and the grit of Lowell and after watching Tex in the playoffs I think he’s the best guy out there to be the booper they need to replace Manny. That’s if they don’t try to re-sign Manny himself. That means Youkilis goes to left field, which most will say he can’t do. I ask why not? He’s a battler who played the entire season without an error after moving from first to third. And he moved back to third just as easily this year. While I wouldn’t put him in right field, playing left in Fenway is simple because it if goes over your head it’s coming back to you. Plus, while I have always said Manny was better than most gave him credit for (which was a chorus of one I might add), he played there for eight years without reminding anyone of Roberto Clemente. Manny probably has a quicker release and is more accurate, but Youk runs better, hustles a lot more and clearly has better defensive instincts. If it doesn’t work out, they can trade Lowell after 2009 and bring him back to third. But if Harmon Killebrew, Willie McCovey and Greg Luzinski could play left in much bigger places, I think Youkilis can. And if it works, the moderately priced Jason Bay is a nice chip in the search for a shortstop, middle relief or a fourth starter.
Dave Long can be reached at email@example.com. He hosts the Absolute Sports Experience at Billy’s Sports Bar in Manchester each Saturday from 10 a.m. to noon that is broadcast live on WGAM – The Game, 1250-AM Manchester, 900-AM Nashua.