January 1, 2009

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LONGSHOTS: Predictions and Wants for the new year ahead
by Dave Long

With the new year looming on the horizon, here’s a mix of things I’d like to see happen as the year plays out and some predictions about whether they will happen or not.

Want: Coach B to understand that there is a distinction between playing it close to the vest about injuries during the season to keep the other guys guessing and letting the public know about Tom Brady’s health at this point because Patriot Nation wants to know that he’s OK — just for his sake.
Prediction: He won’t.

Want: For him to look at all options in the Matt Cassel-Brady situation going forward. While reports of Brady’s health have put him in question for the start of next year, which diminishes his trade value, they should still explore all options. That’s because after his year-long audition, I’m convinced they can win a Super Bowl with Cassel. So it’s incumbent to the best interest of the team to learn who brings back the best return in a trade, who reduces the salary cap burden in the long haul, who they can count on for the longest period of time and how all that translates to staying in contention for years to come.
Prediction: Cassell will quarterback more games for New England from this point on than Brady does.

Want: To see Saint Anselm, SNHU or both in the men’s NCAA basketball playoffs. It’s been a few years since that’s happened and given the history of the two that seems like a lifetime in these parts. Prediction: I think Saint Anselm at least makes it.

Want: For someone besides me to figure out that emperor of the stat geek fantasy baseball crowd Bill James has no clothes. I mean, I’ve got nothing against him personally and find his writing to be interesting. But, while I never thought his stuff had much real value, seeing him use stats to “prove” Jim Rice is below Roy White on the all-time left fielder list confirms his crackpot status as far as I’m concerned. Hey, I love Roy White, but are you nuts Bill?
Prediction: He’ll still be looked on as a god by civilians who think they know a lot more about what makes a good baseball player than they actually do and by GMs who, not so coincidentally, keep overpaying for free agent talent.

Want: Actually I don’t care if the fantasy crowd knows it or not. I just want Theo, after using some of James’ thinking in signing Matt Clement, David Wells, JD Drew and Julio Lugo to big free agent deals, to finally understand James is a crackpot. Because the eyes of a scout and word from the manager he plays for go a lot farther than coming up with stats to justify how good a stat geek says a guy is. As Dustin Pedroia shows, numbers and physical size don’t tell you a thing about heart.
Prediction: This is my lock of the year. Theo is smart enough to learn from his mistakes.

Want: Even in wake of the Yankees’ spending spree, I still don’t want baseball to institute a salary cap the next time it can. Yes the Yankees have a big advantage over everyone. But they haven’t won a thing lately and I like the huge financial edge the Red Sox have over almost everyone else as well.
Prediction: As for the Yanks’ new haul, Tex goes 30, 100, .300, Sabathia wins 19, while AJ Burnett is on the DL before July and chokes in September as the Yanks finish out of the money again.

Want: After his despicable exit, Manny gets penalized by the baseball gods despite his sensational play in L.A. and doesn’t get anywhere close to want he wants, which at that time was in the neighborhood of $100 million over four years
Prediction: It happens, especially if the Dodgers take their original $45 million for two years off the table and play hard ball instead. Alas, even if they do, he’ll still be doing a lot better than me.

Want: I’d like to see Brett Favre do what he wants to do and not what the clamoring public says he should do. Because even if a great player is not what he once was, the legacy of his career is up to him, not up to what others think it should be.
Prediction: We’ve seen the last of Brett. The resignation in his voice at Sunday’s post-ame press conference made it seem final to me.

Want: I’d like to see the L.A. Kings hire Scottie Bowman to run the organization so they’ll get the talent to dominate in the minors.
Prediction: Can’t see Scottie in la-la land, or the Kings shelling out the bucks to get him.

Want: While I know they have had the best start in NBA history, I want Pierce to stop deferring to everyone else (or is it conserving energy?) and start being aggressive offensively. He, not Ray Allen shooting three’s, or Rajon Rondo’s penetration, is the straw that stirs the drink in half court and his passive early play is a big reason why they lost in L.A. on Christmas Day.
Prediction: He does after dreaming he got a message from Red that said “Earth to Paul Pierce: start taking it to the basket or else!”

Want: UNH to finally make it past Northern Iowa.
Prediction: They do, as I’m seeing in my crystal ball the football team winning a national title before the hockey team does.

Want: Plan B for the Red Sox in losing out on Teixeira to focus on getting the relentless one-through-nine line-up they had in 2004, with the number one option being making a run at bringing Hanley Ramirez back to play shortstop and bat lead-off. Michael Young of Texas is plan B in plan B.
Prediction: They won’t get Ramirez even if the Marlins are willing because Theo won’t part with the young players Florida would want back. They should; Clay Buchholz as a center piece is worth it, because Hanley’s really good, by Mark Teixeira standards — cheap, and with him leading off followed by Ellsbury, Pedroia, Ortiz, Youk, Drew, Bay, Lowell and whoever, the line-up is better than the Yanks’ — even with Teixeira.

Want: Drama and good story lines in the Class L basketball playoffs. On the boys’ side that would mean at a Memorial-Trinity match-up Dave Keefe and Mike Fitzpatrick where teammates when Central won a Class L title sometime last century would meet. And I’d like to see Fitzy face Central — who he won a couple of titles with — as well.
Prediction: It happens, because the hoops gods will smile on me and I’m all about the drama.

Want: For all to have a happy New Year everyone.
Prediction: You will.

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.


12/25/2008 A look in the rear view mirror at 2008

12/18/2008 The Pats' playoff run and new Yankees contracts make big news
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