April 30, 2009

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LONGSHOTS: Yanked from the headlines, the Fenway series yanks it back
by Dave Long

What a weekend for sports. I suppose it depends on your particular interest — but the Yanks and Sox was just the third most compelling match-up going in and it turned out a series with great drama and results for the Nation. Anyway, here’s my take on some things that stood out.  

News item: Weirdest box score ever?
Aside from the major daily newspapers under siege, one of the biggest casualties of the Internet is the box score. I have loved looking at box scores since as a kid I read them in the Sporting News, two weeks old by the time they arrived. Things are a bit quicker these days, but not in reading them on the Web — which takes a lot longer with having to click from one to the next. It takes out the glance factor, which is big for a box score reader like me. So instead of reading them all, now it’s just the Sox and maybe to see if anything bad happened to the Yankees.

But I did see the one for Saturday’s 16-11 win — which may be the weirdest I’ve ever seen. First can anyone explain how the Sox could get 13 hits and 16 runs while leaving 16 on base and still have just six official at bats over the minimum 27? The Yankees, who scored five fewer runs, while stranding an astonishing 27 runners, had 42 official at bats? Then there was lead-off man Jacoby Ellsbury, who played the entire game and did not have a walk or a sacrifice, batting four times when Jason Varitek, who hit eight, somehow had five at bats. How is that possible? And how about Mark Teixeira going 0-1 with three runs scored — thanks to being given a whopping five walks! Of course why you’d walk anyone five times when he’s hitting .233 is another story. And there was Mike Lowell on his way to a horrible day knocking in six in his last two at bats to take over the AL lead in RBI.

On the mound, where Josh Beckett is looking more like the 2006 version of himself by the day, he threw 116 pitches in five innings as he gave up 10 hits and eight earned runs to leave with a 6.00 ERA. Ditto for A.J. Burnett’s five innings when he also gave up eight runs in sending his ERA to 5.47. And those numbers were low compared to the really ugly ones coming out of the bullpen, like José Veras’ 6.30, Hideki Okajima’s 7.00, Edwar Ramirez’s 7.30 and Friday’s loser Damaso Marte’s 15.19 — which, believe it or not, is not even the worst on the team! That belongs to Chen Ming Wang, who is at 34.50.

A final thought from that game may explain why Ellsbury stole home with the bases loaded on Sunday. With JD Drew leaving six on base Saturday and 13 over two days, maybe he figured he’d die on the vine if he didn’t go. My conclusion — a nutty game even for Yankees-Red Sox standards.

News item: Patriots wheel and deal on Draft Weekend
While they still need a linebacker to replace Mike Vrabel, in theory I like what Coach B did on draft day. First was the wheeling and dealing that saw him wind up with 12 picks and add two more second-rounders for 2010. And given the money going to first-round guys, it appears second-round picks are now like the new first-rounders in terms of salary cap value. And he finally realized, conceded or just gave in on the notion that the secondary needs to be completely rebuilt. It actually started in free agency with the signing of Shawn Springs and Leigh Bodden and concluded with trading Ellis Hobbs to Philly for two late-round picks. In addition to hearing him talk a lot, he leaves me with the image of Plaxico Burress shooting the Patriots’ dream season down with that TD over Hobbs, and the notion that while he played hard and hurt, he was kick-returner, nickel back and not the number one corner he was last year. In between, they may have gotten the big hitter at safety to replace Rodney Harrison in Oregon’s Patrick Chung and in Darius Butler a highly rated corner to go along with the young’ns drafted last year. And pieces taken along the lines to provide depth for an aging team. The only thing missing is the dynamic pass rusher at LB — which could come in a trade with all those extra picks on hand. 

News item: The Bruins sweep Montreal out of the playoffs
Think about it: the local nine and local six each swept their historic tormentors in a series in the same week! And while the Bruins’ feat was certainly more significant, because it happened in the playoffs, the uniqueness of it certainly is cool — that can’t have ever happened before, can it? Beyond that, since I’ve been on sabbatical from hockey since Mark Messier led the Rangers to the Cup in 1994, I’m not really in position to dissect and analyze just how the Bruins have gotten to where they are. But I will say three things without embarrassing myself. They have me watching again, which is a feat akin to hitting 756 without steroids. They can score, as a look at the stats reveals seven guys with 20 or more goals. Not sure what the record is, but that’s a lot. And finally GM Peter Chiarelli has done a job on par with what Danny Ainge did last year — with more pieces to put in place. The only question left is who’s the best GM in town — him, Danny, Coach B or Theo?

News item: The Cs and Bs battle for the A
The crucial Game Five will have been played by the time you read this, so I’m not sure who’s leading the series. But I’ll tell you one thing. This Chicago team is better than the Hawks team that gave the Kevin Garnett-led Celtics such problems last year. While they don’t have anyone as good as Joe Johnson, I’ll take their back court of Derek Rose, Andrew Toney play-a-like Ben Gordon and the versatile Kirk Hinrich over Johnson, Mike Bibby and who? And up front — while leaping Tyrus Thomas looks to have a little Dennis Rodman in him and isn’t quite as explosive getting off the ground, he’s going to be a better player than Josh Smith. And even though Al Horford’s very good, the Bulls’ two-headed monster at center is better, as Brad Miller is physical and can score and Joaquim Noah is a defensive force with the best ability to chase sideline to sideline for double teams and still back to the paint to block shots and rebound since, I think, Dave Cowens! The Cs had better watch out, because this team is trouble and will be in the future.

Dave Long can be reached at dlong@hippopress.com. He hosts Dave Long and Company from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. each Saturday on WGAM – The Game, 1250-AM Manchester, 900-AM Nashua.


4/23/2009 Draft winds blow NFL teams to make interesting decisions

4/16/2009 Spring cleaning of a cluttered sports mind
4/9/2009 Red Sox Nation springs back to life
4/2/2009 Climbing sports Mt. Rushmore
3/26/2009 Mount Rushmore offerings and other spring thoughts
3/19/2009 B-Ball, Coach B and Baseball in the mailbag today
3/12/2009 Great talent a rush but not all it's cracked up to be
3/5/2009 In Bill we still trust?
2/26/2009 A mountain over this molehill
2/19/2009 Steroids muscle in on game's strength
2/12/2009 Bonner bombs away on Cs in garden party homecoming
2/5/2009 Nation's angst ends as V-Tek says what the heck and rejoins flock
1/29/2009 Super Bowl Sunday brings to mind past and present
1/22/2009 The elusive quality of greatness is the topic of the day
1/15/2009 Spring cleaning of the sports mind a little early
1/8/2009 Will hall have Rice on the menu come July
1/1/2009 Predictions and wants for the year ahead
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