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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.