Ramble On Sports

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Posts Tagged ‘Kate Faber’

Belichick proves his genius yet again

Posted by Bill Koch on October 12, 2010

Can we all take a step back and realize that Bill Belichick is still playing chess while the rest of the NFL plays checkers?

He sent a wide receiver who wasn’t going to get his big contract, who was going to walk away at the end of the season no matter what and who was shut out in his last game with the New England Patriots out of town and got something valuable in return. He also just traded Laurence Maroney for Deion Branch, replacing that disgruntled wide receiver and keeping his star quarterback happy in the process.

Don’t believe me? Let’s break this down in excruciating detail for those of you who refuse to see the big picture.

Randy Moss had nine catches in four games with New England this year. He had zero catches while the Patriots rolled up 41 points on the Miami Dolphins and Tom Brady was still excellent in that game, going 19-for-24. Moss is well on the wrong side of 30, and you don’t get faster with age unless you play Major League Baseball and can use performance-enhancing drugs. He wants one final big contract to ride off into the sunset. He wasn’t going to get that contract in New England after he turned down Belichick’s offer to talk in training camp. He had one foot out the door, no matter how physically talented everyone thinks he still might be.

Let’s dismiss the talk about how much defensive attention that Moss draws, because it’s overstated at this point in his career. Perception becomes reality after a while, but that doesn’t mean it’s the truth. Darrelle Revis shut him down 1-on-1 last season, and he did it twice. Brady threw one of his worst passes of this season in Moss’ direction during that Week 2 embarrassment somewhere in the Swamps of Jersey, an interception disguised as a jump ball that gave the New York Jets all the momentum. It wasn’t the first time that Brady, Daunte Culpepper, Randall Cunningham or any of Moss’ other former quarterbacks have made a poor decision with him in the lineup. It wasn’t going to be the last.

Turnovers kill teams in the NFL, and Brady turned it over a lot less when he was winning championships by using his tight ends, hitting receivers on quick passes to move the chains and avoiding the rush by delivering the ball efficiently. Now that Aaron Hernandez, Rob Gronkowski, Wes Welker, Branch and Brandon Tate are in place and ready to roll, look for Brady’s former self to emerge. That’s a guy that we want quarterbacking our favorite team. Moss was never a part of that mix. He was a luxury item who had stopped going over the middle and had become a decoy. You can pay Tate a lot less money to have him run down the sideline and be a decoy.

We all know that Brady threw a hissy fit behind the scenes when he found out that Moss was gone. That’s what every quarterback does when it looks like his weaponry is being reduced. It’s not a coincidence that the first name out of Brady’s mouth was that of a former teammate, or that said former teammate – Branch – ended up in Foxboro less than 24 hours later.

Belichick knows that if Brady isn’t happy, he won’t be happy. His team won’t be happy. His fans and his owner won’t be happy. He decided to keep everybody happy, and all it cost him was the same fourth round pick that he just acquired for Maroney. Did Maroney ever make anybody happy in Foxboro? He has now, and he has Belichick to thank for it. That’s about as close to doing the impossible as you can get. Oh yeah – the Patriots still have their own fourth round pick in 2011 along with six other picks in the first three rounds.

Check mate.

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Patriots Branch out, acquire former wide receiver

Posted by bdowd625 on October 11, 2010

ESPN’s Adam Schefter broke the news tonight that Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Deion Branch is heading back to New England for his second tour of duty with the Patriots. (Those of you who follow us here at Ramble On know we trust Schefter as much as our own mothers. Maybe even more so. Sorry, Mom.) In exchange for Branch, the Seahawks will receive a fourth-round draft choice, and since the Pats stockpile draft picks like I hoarded pogs back in sixth grade, they’re really not losing much.

We applaud the Patriots for getting back to their roots and re-acquiring a solid citizen like Branch. It doesn’t hurt that he’s still got some talent – Branch was the Super Bowl MVP back when the Pats edged Carolina during the 2003-04 season – and is, by all accounts, extremely close with quarterback Tom Brady. But let’s not get carried away here, people. This isn’t seven years ago. Branch – and Brady, for that matter – aren’t getting any younger. Branch, 31, has battled injury problems since heading to Seattle before the start of the 2006 campaign, playing in only 51 of a possible 68 regular-season games. He’s on pace for 52 catches this season, though, and he hasn’t hauled in that many passes since his first season with the Seahawks. (If you’re curious, Branch had 78 receptions and five TDs in his last season with Brady and the Pats.)

Don’t get us wrong – we welcome Branch back with open arms and hope this trade returns New England to its real glory days. We’re just not overly optimistic at this point. I guess we’ll get our first taste when New England returns to action following a bye during Week 5. First up for the new-look Pats? Baltimore. Bring. It. On.

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Bruins bounce back in style

Posted by Bill Koch on October 10, 2010

This certainly was more of what we were expecting out of the Boston Bruins when they opened their 2010-11 season on Saturday afternoon in Prague.

The Bruins bounced back from a lame performance to shut out the Phoenix Coyotes, 3-0, and salvaged two points to bring back across the pond. Boston looked like a completely different team on Sunday morning, a team that we actually have fun watching. The Bruins were skating hard, finishing their checks, generating chances and playing responsibly in the defensive zone. This is the sort of performance that allows us to believe everything will be okay after last year’s postseason implosion. Let’s move to our five points from Sunday’s matchup to break this one down.

— Very nice Bruins debut for Nathan Horton. He added another goal and an assist on Sunday to make it four points in two games and looks like the perfect fit as the power forward that this team desperately needs. Boston is going to welcome this guy with open arms if he keeps lighting the lamp on a regular basis.

— We couldn’t help but feel like Milan Lucic is this team’s barometer after watching both games this weekend. Lucic didn’t do all that much on Saturday and we don’t think it was a coincidence that Boston was flat. He was much more aggressive on Sunday, got on the board with his first goal of the season and teamed with Horton and center David Krejci to form the best line either team rolled over the boards. The Bruins clearly responded with a complete, 60-minute effort and need an invested Lucic going forward.

— Tyler Seguin, welcome to the NHL. Congratulations on your first goal with the Bruins and we hope that there are many, many more in your Boston future. Seguin finished off a breakaway with a nifty backhand that put the game out of reach in the third period, a well-timed goal considering that Phoenix had put together a couple of good shifts and looked like it was about to threaten the Bruins’ two-goal lead. It was the kind of scorer’s finish that we’d expect out of the No. 2 overall pick in the 2010 NHL Draft.

— Did anybody else notice that Daniel Paille was scratched on Sunday? Jordan Caron was an instant upgrade on the wing, giving the Bruins some youthful energy and playing with the desperation that we would expect out of someone fighting for a spot in the first 20. We’d rather see a young player get his feet wet and grow into a spot with the team than watch a veteran who has already had his chance and done very little with it any day of the week, and we hope to see much more of Caron going forward.

— Tim Thomas showed no ill effects from offseason hip surgery while pitching a shutout against the Coyotes in his first start of the year. This was the perfect example of why many NHL insiders consider Boston’s goaltending depth to be the best in the league. Thomas and Tuukka Rask will never have to play back-to-back nights during the regular season, can take a rest at the end of a long road trip and can allow any little injuries that they pick up during the grind of the 82-game season heal completely before taking the ice again. That said, let’s not turn this into a controversy. Rask’s team didn’t show up in front of him on Saturday – it could have been 10-2 instead of 5-2 if he didn’t play as well as he did – and Thomas benefited from a solid performance by the Bruins on Sunday. Consider these two men No. 1 and No. 1a for right now.

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Umpiring controversy strikes MLB playoffs — again

Posted by Bill Koch on October 9, 2010

Another night, more umpiring fiascos and an addition to the list of ejected managers have stolen the attention away from the action on the field.

Welcome to the 2010 Major League Baseball postseason.

Bobby Cox and the Atlanta Braves were the victims again as they locked horns with the San Francisco Giants in the National League Division Series. The call in question had very little to do with Game 2’s outcome – no runs were scored and Atlanta’s late comeback was far more entertaining – but it brought more attention to a problem that is threatening the credibility of these games.

Alex Gonzalez was called out on a grounder to deep short, a mistake made by first base umpire Paul Emmel after he missed Aubrey Huff’s foot slipping off the bag. It was the second time in as many nights that Emmel had screwed the Braves, and Cox added to his all-time lead in ejections by getting sent to the showers early. Television replays showed that Emmel was wrong and Cox was ejected for arguing something that he never should have had to contest, the same type of injustice that has already happened twice previously in these playoffs.

Cox joined Joe Maddon (Game 2 of the Tampa Bay-Texas series) and Ron Gardenhire (Game 2 of the Minnesota-New York series) in the group of managers who have been ejected since the postseason began. The cause of all three ejections, upon video review, was a blown call. Michael Young’s three-run homer (which followed a disputed check swing that should have been strike three on a slider in the dirt) and Lance Berkman’s RBI double (which followed a 1-2 fastball from Carl Pavano that clearly caught the inside corner and should have been strike three) never should have been allowed to happen. It was a call that Cox didn’t argue that hurt even more in Game 1 – Buster Posey was out at second on a stolen base attempt and Emmel missed it, allowing Cody Ross to knock in Posey with the game’s only run in a 1-0 Giants’ victory.

Defending the umpires is easy enough. You can insist that their respective calls alone didn’t decide the respective outcomes of the games, and you’d be right. Not many teams are going to win games striking out 14 times and scratching out just two hits like the Braves did in Game 1. Chad Qualls shouldn’t have thrown a fastball down the middle to Young on his next pitch. Pavano should have buried his changeup in the dirt instead of leaving it ankle-high to a low-ball hitter like Berkman. I’ll concede all of those points.

But it shouldn’t come to that. We shouldn’t know Emmel’s name. Video replay is so accurate and could be implemented so easily that Major League Baseball has to act sooner rather than later. As usual, Bud Selig and the rest of his cronies are dragging their feet and will be forced to kick and scream before they do anything proactive. They sat back and watched when steroids and performance enhancing drugs shredded the record book and while the gap between rich teams and poor teams grew to the point where baseball has become irrelevant in places like Kansas City and Pittsburgh.

Selig should have learned his lesson when Jim Joyce was thrust into the national spotlight after he blew a call at first base on what should have been the final out of Armando Galarraga’s perfect game. The Detroit Tigers’ righthander had history and the crowning moment of his career taken away when Joyce ruled that Jason Donald beat out a grounder to first on what should have been the 27th and final out. Replays showed that Joyce was wrong and pressure was put on Selig and the rest of MLB’s executives to reward Galarraga after the fact in the record books. Selig chose not to do that (and we agreed with him, because that would open Pandora’s Box), but he didn’t take any steps to make sure it would never happen again.

The umpires themselves, a historically stubborn group, also share the blame. They insist that nobody hurts more than they do when a call is missed. If that was truly the case, they’d be pressuring MLB just as hard as the fan base to reform the current system and take advantage of all that technology has to offer. It took forever for umpires to agree to conference on the field in the name of getting calls right – they’re extremely reluctant to overrule a colleague. You think they’d take kindly to replay? No shot. What’s left unsaid is that the umpires want to get it right – on their terms. They don’t have the true best interests of the game at heart, and we’ve never thought that Selig has been the man to protect baseball during his time as puppet commissioner. This postseason is proving those points for us yet again, and it’s a shame.

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Random YouTube Video of the Day: A trip down memory lane

Posted by bdowd625 on October 7, 2010

As you all know by now, Randy Moss is no longer a member of the New England Patriots. Still, we felt the need to post this old video of one of Moss’ touchdown grabs against the Jacksonville Jaguars. The whole clip is good, but the real fun doesn’t start until about the 2:10 mark. I can’t do it justice by trying to explain it, so please just watch. We’ll certainly move on from Moss as Patriots fans, but moments like this one won’t soon be forgotten.

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Ramble On’s 2010 MLB postseason guide

Posted by Bill Koch on October 6, 2010

It feels a little strange to be starting postseason baseball without the Boston Red Sox involved, but that doesn’t mean that Ramble On is going to be any less interested in what goes on. We’ll be watching night after night as Tim McCarver continues to make a jackass of himself on FOX and new heroes are born on the way to the 2010 World Series. Here’s a brief breakdown of each of the Division Series matchups.

Tampa Bay Rays-Texas Rangers
We wish that Josh Hamilton, our American League MVP choice this season, had never jumped into that wall at Target Field and cracked his ribs. He won’t be anywhere close to the absolute force he was during the regular season and the Rangers will suffer because of it. Elvis Andrus ended the season in a terrible slump, Vladimir Guerrero’s resurgence will end now that it’s the postseason (just two home runs in 29 career playoff games) and the Texas pitching staff is largely untested on the big stage. Cliff Lee can’t win all three games for the Rangers in this best-of-5 series.

The Rays are simply tough to beat. David Price is in our top-3 for the AL Cy Young Award, fronting a young rotation loaded with power arms. Tampa’s lineup is pesky enough to give the Rangers fits and the Rays are so athletic that they’ll run wild on the bases and play great defense. Even with a gutless fan base that has no idea how to appreciate what it’s seeing right now, we like Tampa to advance.
Prediction: Rays in 4 games

Philadelphia Phillies-Cincinnati Reds
The Reds are one of the feel-good stories of the 2010 season. They were picked anywhere from fourth to dead last in the National League Central and surged to win the division behind an MVP effort from first baseman Joey Votto, a rare healthy season from third baseman Scott Rolen and a pitching staff that has one of the brightest futures in all of baseball. The problem for Cincinnati is that manager Dusty Baker has a way of making sure that any young arms – think Mark Prior and Kerry Wood, Cubs fans – have a habit of not making it to old age. Edinson Volquez has already had Tommy John surgery, Mike Leake is shut down for the playoffs and Aroldis Chapman is a couple of 40-pitch appearances from exploding in the center of the diamond.

The Phillies will likely be our pick to win the World Series when the time comes. They have the best 1-2-3 punch in recent memory with Cy Young winner Roy Halladay and rejuvenated studs Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels. Philadelphia’s lineup also seems to be getting healthy at exactly the right time, with Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, Raul Ibanez and Ryan Howard all coming off the DL late in the season to give the Phillies their trademark punch. There might be no stopping these guys on their way to late October.
Prediction: Phillies in 3 games

New York Yankees-Minnesota Twins
Is this finally going to be the year that the Twins get past the Yankees? Minnesota seems to run into New York every year in the postseason and comes up short, and the Yankees usually don’t need the help that bogus umpires like Phil Cuzzi tend to provide in key spots. The Twins are celebrating the opening of Target Field with a postseason berth, a reborn Francisco Liriano, an emerging ace in lefty Brian Duensing and maybe one last chance at a ring for aging slugger Jim Thome.

We’re not sure if Minnesota will have enough offense without first baseman Justin Morneau (concussion), but this series will be all about pitching – or a lack of it. The Twins have the deeper bullpen and New York’s starting rotation is in shambles after C.C. Sabathia. How many more postseason bullets does Andy Pettitte have in that shoulder? His achy groin might be the bigger question mark this time around. Phil Hughes hit the wall sometime in July (11-2, 3.65 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 8.1 Ks/9, 3.14 K/BB ratio before the All-Star break; 7-6, 4.90 ERA, 1.34 WHIP, 6.6 Ks/9, 1.9 K/BB ratio after the All-Star break) and seems like a guy begging to be lit up. A.J. Burnett and his $82.5-million deal didn’t even make the rotation.
Prediction: Twins in 5 games

San Francisco Giants-Atlanta Braves
We’re glad to see Bobby Cox back in the postseason in what’s set to be his final season in Atlanta’s dugout. The Braves’ longtime manager is making his 16th postseason appearance, a Major League record that is just about impossible to duplicate while staying with one franchise the entire time. This season marks one of one of his best managerial jobs and he will be missed.

The problem for Cox is that he might have more energy left than his players. The Braves had to sell out in the season’s final week just to qualify for the postseason, using Tim Hudson and Derek Lowe on three days rest and trying to force some runs out a lineup that is missing NL MVP dark horse Martin Prado due to an oblique injury. The Giants seem to be coming on at the right time behind trade Tampa Bay bust Pat Burrell, electric rookie catcher Buster Posey and a young rotation that is as good as any in baseball. Tim Lincecum, Jonathan Sanchez, Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner will be a tough out for any club, especially one with the Braves’ limited offensive firepower.
Prediction: Giants in 4 games

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Five thoughts from Pats/Dolphins

Posted by bdowd625 on October 4, 2010

I’m not usually a big fan of the Patriots playing on Monday Night Football. The normal seven-day wait is long enough, and I have even more trouble controlling my nerves for that extra 24 hours. Moreover, I feel like every time they have a big game on national TV they shit the bed (i.e. last year’s debacle at New Orleans). I had nothing to worry about tonight, though, as the Pats’ special teamers exploded in the second half to help New England absolutely dismantle the Miami Dolphins. Here are five thoughts from tonight’s game:

*  Brandon Tate gave us a little taste of his ridiculous talent with his kickoff return against Cincinnati in Week 1, and Tate’s 103-yard touchdown return tonight proved it wasn’t a fluke. Tate likes to dance around for a while to throw off opposing defenders, then clicks the fast forward button on his remote control and flies down the sideline and into the end zone. You really can’t afford to blink when he has the ball in his hands.

*  How about Patrick Chung? A second-round selection out of Oregon in the 2009 NFL Draft, Chung is rapidly becoming New England’s best defensive back. You didn’t actually think Brandon Meriweather, the self-proclaimed “party-starter” was the Pats’ best safety, did you? Whatever the case, Chung seems to be in on every tackle, and his blocked punt tonight gave New England a short field to work with early in the second half. He also blocked a field goal and had an interception return for a touchdown, you say? Screw the party-starter. Chung for president.

*  Speaking of defensive players… Rob Ninkovich snagged not one but two interceptions after an entire career without one? Yes, please! The defense needed a couple of game-changing plays like that early on and Ninkovich was there to grab a pair of awful Chad Henne throws. It’s a damn good thing Henne made those bad decisions because Miami was moving the ball at will for the ENTIRE first half.

*  The legend of Danny Woodhead continues to grow. I really don’t have anything else to say about this. It’s just awesome to see short white guys play in the NFL and be successful.

*  On a personal note, I needed Tom Brady to have a 40-point night for my fantasy team to win. Brady looked exceptional when he actually had the ball in his hands, but for the most part, the Pats didn’t need him. Special teams and – surprise! – defense ruled the day and that’s certainly fine by me. I don’t care how they win, just that they win.

The Pats are now tied for first in the AFC East, bitches! Hopefully everyone who listens to sports radio will back off the ledge until they resume play in Week 6 following their bye. As always, thanks for reading. Now check out our poll question.

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Bloody Sunday for Americans at Ryder Cup

Posted by Bill Koch on October 3, 2010

I’m not even sure if I want to get up at 4 a.m. to watch the conclusion of what is shaping up to be an American execution at the 2010 Ryder Cup.

This might be my favorite golf competition of them all, ranked above The Masters and the U.S. Open, but not when it goes like it did Saturday. Europe dominated from start to finish and will take a 9.5-6.5 lead into the predawn hours here on the East Coast for the Ryder Cup’s first ever Monday finish.

The Americans were exposed by the Euros’ superior depth on Saturday, as all 12 players from each team were in action in both the four-ball and alternate-shot formats. No matter the rules, the Euros showed no mercy and were able to turn around the 6-4 advantage that the Americans built through the rain-soaked opening two days of play.

Another weather suspension pushed Sunday’s play back into the Welsh evening, but nothing could have stopped the solid play of the hosts and the poor play of their guests from continuing. Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, the alleged No. 1 and No. 2 players in the world, respectively, can stand at the head of the goat line for the Americans. Woods suffered the worst Ryder Cup loss of his career when he and Steve Stricker were crushed 6 and 5 by Luke Donald and Lee Westwood and Mickelson has contributed nothing to the proceedings in three days – he’s 0-3 while partnering with young guns Dustin Johnson and Rickie Fowler. Westwood, meanwhile, has been absolutely brilliant and is now officially The Best Player To Have Never Won A Major, a title that Mickelson held for so long before breaking through at Augusta in 2004.

Yes, I’ll probably be tuned in sometime before the sun comes up this morning to see how this all ends up. This feeling I’m having right now is similar to two other sporting moments in my lifetime, and they both turned out pretty well – the 1999 Ryder Cup at The Country Club in Brookline and the 2004 ALCS when the Boston Red Sox battled the New York Yankees. I was pretty hopeless in both of those circumstances and those were two miracles that ended up going my way. Do I expect the same thing to happen in Wales tomorrow? It doesn’t matter. Like I told my Dad when he ripped me for time-wasting while watching Game 4 in 2004, I just have to see what happen this time.

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