December 18, 2008

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LONGSHOTS: The Pats’ playoff run and new Yankees contracts make big news
by Dave Long

News item: Will the Patriots Make the Playoffs?
I would have bet the farm on it if the Jets hadn’t totally lucked out to beat the Bills on Sunday. You can thank brain-dead JP Losman for not tucking it and taking the loss with less than two minutes to go instead of trying to make a play he didn’t need to before his fumble was returned for the winning score. Having said that, they needed the Ravens to lose and got that lucky bounce when the Steelers scored their only TD with three seconds left to beat them. They also got a break when Dallas beat the suddenly stumbling Giants to keep their playoff hopes alive and make winning a necessity when they met the Ravens this Sunday in what could be the game of the season.

So as it stands right now, they need to win the next two over the Cardinals and Bills and for two of the Ravens, Jets and Dolphins to lose a game. They’ll get one of those losses in Week 16 when the Jets and Dolphins meet, so my advice is to, despite the presence of the annoying Jerry Jones on the sidelines, root for the ’Boys to beat Ray Lewis and company on Sunday. Because if the Pats win earlier that day vs. Arizona — whose excellent passing game is a tough match-up for the Patriots’ weak secondary — it’s up to Losman and the Bills to stop them the next week in Buffalo. I think the Pats will do what’s needed, but I’m not sure if Baltimore will cooperate because they have a great defense and that’s what wins this time of year.

News item: Sí, Sí Señor Sabathia, Burnett and K-Rod Score Big in the Apple
Since it was in all the newspapers, I’m sure you’ve heard by now that we are in the midst of economic peril in this country. Wall Street, the auto industry, AIG, investors in the alleged ponzi scheme by Bernard Madoff and just about everyone with a 401(k) had a terrible fall, to say the least.

But while the pathetically out of touch United Auto Workers Union is striving to help its members unjustifiably avoid sharing in even a little of the carnage hitting Motown they helped create, there are a few guys in baseball who not only missed the carnage but hit the jackpot as well. As you might expect if the jackpot is in sports and money is the prize the Evil Empire is involved. And yes they are, having just lavished $250 million and change in questionable contracts on two pitchers. But they weren’t alone, as the cross-town New York Mets signed the closer they needed in Francisco Rodriguez for a paltry $37 million following a record-setting 62-save season for the Angels.

Interestingly it happened in the same week those teams asked the city of New York for an additional $450 million to cover cost overruns on the new stadiums each will open in 2009. That’s mentioned here because it takes a certain kind of chutzpah, even for the Yankees, to ask a city at ground zero of the Wall Street meltdown fallout for $450 million more after already being given a free $1.5 billion for those ballparks in the same week they lavished nearly $300 million on three measly people. Of course, given reports his losses are perhaps as high as $300 million in Madoff’s collapse, you probably can understand why unfortunate Mets owner Fred Wilpon had his hand out. 

News item: Did the Deals Make the Yanks the Team to Beat in the East?
Not from where I sit. At least not yet, as I suspect they’re not done yet. The contracts aside, which I’ll get to in a minute, since he’s never won more than 19, how many more do you expect Sabathia to win than the 20 Mussina won in 2008 when the Yanks finished eight games behind the D-Rays? So, while he may save some innings in the bullpen, all the first signing did was replace Mussina — which makes them better than they were going to be, but not better than last year.

That brings us to the J.D. Drew of pitchers. I’ve heard all the stuff about A.J. Burnett’s nasty stuff, how he could be better than Josh Beckett and that he’s coming off his best year. Well, that’s what we’ve heard about Drew, whose two best seasons coincidentally came in years leading to a new contract through free agency. Since coming here from L.A. following a 20-homer and 100-RBI year while playing in a career-high 146 games, he’s had consecutive 64-RBI seasons, hit a combined 30 homers in two years and played in just 246 games total. Is that worth $15 million per?

All I know about Burnett (other than that I wish I were him this week) is that if you look up his stats on Baseball-Reference.com you won’t be wowed by the guys his lifetime stats compare to. That is unless Pete Harnisch, Ernie Broglio, Erik Hanson and Juan Guzman among others send shivers up your spine. Is that worth $52 million? He’s 31 and old dogs don’t change spots (or something like that). Take out the 18-10 from 2008 and his career record is 69 and 66. I think the Nation should be happy with this one.

As for the contracts: do the names Carl Pavano, Kevin Brown, Randy Johnson, Jaret Wright and Paul Quantrill sound familiar? They’re fading big-money, long-term deal pitchers the Yanks got stuck with this century. Even Johnson, who won 17 games twice thanks to the hitting, did it with a 5.00 ERA in 2006 while battling injuries. So while I like Sabathia a lot and Burnett much less, the full “brilliance” of the deals will have to stand the test of time. Because giving a seven-year $22 million-per deal to a guy who weighs north of 300 pounds and five years at $15 per to a 31-year-old who’s pitched 200 innings (barely) three times in 10 years seems very risky to me.

News item: Lights Could Be Turned Off for Friday Night Football Games in ’09
Manchester School Superintendent Thomas Brennan said last week high school football games may be switched to Saturday afternoon next year to save money for other areas in the athletic budget. Even though I’m a tradition guy, given the dour economic conditions mentioned earlier, saving money by playing day games for a year or two to prevent cuts in other areas seems like a no- brainer to me. Thumbs up on that one. Of course, if they had the imagination to try some innovation in fundraising programs from the outside, they might not need to do it in the first place. As you know what they say, necessity is often the mother of invention.

Dave Long can be reached at dlong@hippopress.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.


12/11/2008 Random thoughts and associations

12/4/2008 Pats should consider options when it comes to Cassel and Brady
11/27/2008 Putting the thanks in Thanksgiving
11/20/2008 News of the week has people talking
11/13/2008 Cassel's in the clouds compared to early expectations11/6/2008 Mail bag delivers some interesting questiont10/30/2008"Yankees Suck" - like mentality fuels political discontent10/23/2008 No ray of hope as season closes in Tampa Bay
10/16/2008 Going to the nines a thing of the past
10/9/2008 C-eeing some interesting stories unfold this week
10/2/2008 "How come?" is the main question of the day
9/25/2008 Observations on baseball in 2008
9/18/2008 If I were a QB, a DB, a stat geek or a soccer mom ...
9/11/2008 After disaster Brady's bunch won't pass on season
9/4/2008 Pats start off with high expectation and some concerns
8/28/2008 A race to the finish to take all month long
8/21/2008 National news items of interest for local folks
8/14/2008 A little of this and that from the good side of sports pile
8/7/2008 Manny happy returns from the Evil Empire
7/31/2008 Manny being Manny - the sequel Part XXXII
7/24/2008 Open the mail bag for some Red Sox questions
7/17/2008 Hall-worthy or not the latest question on Schilling
7/10/2008 Baseball season has actually started
7/03/2008 UL editorial in denial — stop the presses
6/26/2008 Boston turnaround makes NBA green with envy
6/19/2008 Letters from the NBA finals
6/12/2008 A Father's Day letter to dad
6/5/2008 Twenty-one and six are the lucky numbers for the Cs
5/29/2008 Sometimes a bat is just a bat
5/22/2008 Some questions for folks right up there in the front row
5/15/2008 Numbers don't add up to supposed Fenway
5/8/2008 Cavalier attitude nearly derails first meeting with LeBron
5/1/2008 I'm so old,I remember ...
4/24/2008 Sox Line-ups, Celtics and ESPN investigations are in the mail bag
4/17/2008 Show me the way to that All-Star Game
4/10/2008 For C'ing a great time ahead as playoffs arrive this spring
4/3/2008 Bill James and the stats for 2008 — Take Two
3/27/2008 Drowning in the NCAA office pool
3/20/2008 Whether forecast is right or not is the question
3/13/2008 Comment sparks wonder over just what I did
3/6/2008 New hires, new trades in pro sports
2/28/2008 Celtics issues far from black and white in the early days
2/21/2008 Congressional ineptitude muscles in on steroid hearings
2/14/2008 Basketball rounds into form under the cover of Pats football
2/7/2008 A giant win leaves Patriots fans feeling blue
1/31/2008 Foxboro lads earn pats on the back, and old Celtics mystique makes sense
1/24/2008 Mail bag asks about Rice, the hall and wild-eyed liberals
1/17/2008 Peyton manning the fort back home as Pats take on Chargers
1/10/2008 Grumpy old Dolphins are lost at sea on this one
1/3/2008 The primary concern is getting a clear picture
12/27/2007 The annual sports awards close out 2007
12/20/2007 Holiday gifts for the deserving and not so deserving
12/13/2007 Jets land in Foxboro as pat go number 14
12/06/2007 To include or not to include Ellsbury — that is the questione
11/29/2007 Yanked from the sports pages in the Big Apple
11/22/2007 Here's what I'm thankful for at Thanksgiving
11/15/2007 Waiting game leads to a series of random thoughts
11/8/2007 OK — it's week nine and I'm ready to talk
11/1/2007 Finally a little shut-eye for a sleep deprived nation
10/25/2007 A rocky mountain high for Red Sox Nation
10/18/2007 Time to go to the mailbag
10/112007 Who'd more popular, Patriots or Red Sox
10/4/2007 IA weekend chock full of nuts, chokes and great moments
9/27/2007 I hate to say I told you so...
9/20/2007 Media and fan bias shades the severity of sports crime
9/13/2007 All round baseball week starts with a look at leaders
9/6/2007 It's Superbowl or bust for Pats in 2007
8/30/2007 The race is on as baseball enters September
8/23/2007 Spine vs. lack of spine theme for school board debate
8/16/2007 Time for thoughts from the summer mailbag
8/9/2007 Will this three make it big in Boston?
8/2/2007 Trading places all in a day's work for Boston GMs
7/26/2007 Getting out of a slump; an ameteur golfer can feel Sox' pain
7/19/2007 Does second chance guarantee a great outcome?
7/12/2007 Masse still a honeymooner in local baseball culture
7/5/2007 Brown Monster a big Fisher Cat hit
6/28/2007 Rambling along with some random thoughts
6/21/2007 The future is now for the C's come Thursday night
6/14/2007 Homers create bonds among fans for generations
6/07/2007 Sox win by losing two of three this weekend
5/31/2007 Lutz of things to think about
5/24/2007 Down 2-0 M’s for playoff payoff
5/17/2007 Baseballs' conventional wisdom is for the birds
5/10/2007 The Rocket lands in Gotham during Monarchs' playoff break
5/3/2007 Raiders say "No Moss" in fight with talented wideout
4/26/2007 A little history on the ancient Sox and Yanks rivalry
4/19/2007 Lessons to be learned from Robinson, Monarchs and I-Man
4/12/2007 A few questions for the sports gods
4/5/2007 Stanton his case on a variety of current topics
3/29/2007 Sox spring back into action on Monday
3/22/2007 A guide for having fun on NCAA hockey weekend
3/15/2007 The madness of March kicks off on Thursday
3/8/2007 Jumping through hoops after an odd season
3/1/2007 A trip to the mail bag for Hippo Sports
2/22/2007 Six degrees of Muhammed Ali
2/15/2007 Monarchs rule as streak reaches 12
2/8/2007 Talking a good game ahead on all-sports WGAM
2/1/2007 Manning the Super Bowl watch more difficult in '07
1/25/2007 Winning and what else matters in college coaching
1/18/2007 ESPN polls are fanning the flames of national lunacy
1/11/2007 Patriots marching to MIami promised land
1/4/2007 Predictions for 2007
12/28/2006 REcognizing the best on the national front
12/21/2006 Present under the tree for all
12/14/2006 Mailbag open for busines at a time filled with questions
12/07/2006 Lions and Gators and Bears, oh my
11/30/2006 Does Fenway frankness roll to the negative side?
11/23/2006 Turkeys and thanks as the big day arrives
11/16/2006 Green-around-the-gills Celts looking to earn some respect
11/9/2006 Blame game reaches new local low
11/2/2006 A week of highs and lows in sport
10/26/2006 Curses! The U is foiled again
10/19/2006 Time for a trip to the sports mailbag
10/12/2006 U turns Granite Stare around on football
10/05/2006 James' gang riding into town to face the Celtics
09/28/2006 Words to describe a lost Red Sox season
09/21/2006 Football Friday can't stack up to Saturday
09/14/2006 A lesson to be learned in remembering a somber day
09/07/2006 Usual pat choice to win AFC East questioned
08/31/2006 Whining won't yank AL East away from NY
08/24/2006 Spring forward or fall behind for Sox
08/17/2006 Trash talking abounds in the Empire over Sox and Pats
08/10/2006 Monarchs call press conference to crown new leader
08/03/2006 Deadly Fenway duo leave mark on history
07/27/2006 Word of the wise gets lost in sports translation
07/20/2006 Looking beyond the Big Three
07/13/2006 Cream rises to the top of baseball talk at the Dot
07/06/2006 Greetings and salutations toThe Nation at mid-year
06/29/2006 Being dealt is a consequence of the trade
06/22/2006 A year later, Boudreau's cup runneth over
06/15/2006 See dogs and cats battle for a different fan experience
06/08/2006 Not Bad Anymore league makes a comeback
06/01/2006 Luck goes Sox way with Lowell in Massachusetts
05/25/2006 Pitching in to help the Sox trade a few places
05/18/2006 Going to school by cutting Red Sox payroll
05/11/2006 Columnist blows his mind; here are the results
05/04/2006 Yanks stormed Manchester 37 years ago this week
04/27/2006 Regular crowd nowhere to be found come playoff time
04/20/2006 Questions and answers from the mailbag
04/13/2006 Local sports teams spring into action
04/06/2006 Predictable Red Sox season lies ahead
03/30/2006 Analyzing this and that as Pats roster shrinks
03/23/2006 A week of following the bouncing balls
03/16/2006 The beginning of four days of basketball bliss
03/09/2006 Many miss the central point of the story
03/02/2006 Better late than never to jump through local hoops
02/23/2006 Celtic green means raw, not envy as it once did
02/16/2003 An issue that is all black and white
02/09/2006 Nomar curses from the UL's Sullivan
02/02/2006 Super memories from 40 years of watching the big game
01/26/2006 A certain uniformity to the inquiries in the mailbag
01/19/2006 Sudden end to Pats' season leave just one thing to do
01/12/2006 Pats on the back for the football team
01/05/2006 Predictions for Manchester Sports 2031
A lesson for Leo the Lip and nice guys everywhere

Chop House opening is Berra of good news
Event-filled weekend missed en route to evil empire
Hero’s death lays to rest misuse of the word
Saint Theo ascends to new heights in The Nation
Santa sack filled to the brim with sports
Patriots march through injuries toward threepeat
Sports talk should be on the air
Stars shine brightest when winning is in the mix
The Demonization of Johnny Damon
Thirty-seven topics and so little space
Too many holes in Sox for repeat
Trip to the injured list makes it a long weekend for local scribe
Turkeys and giving thanks take center stage this week
Yanked from the edge of your seat