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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.