Monthly Archives: October 2015
It’s Jets week folks…actually, the week is basically over, since the game is tomorrow. If you haven’t heard. And you possibly may not have heard. This past week has been one of the quietest lead-ins to a Pats/Jets game for as far back as I can remember. Of course, most of that probably has to do with that loudmouth Rex Ryan being no longer here. But still…
Not much chatter this week, you can almost hear a pin drop. Sure, a couple of Jets have said a couple of minor things that the local media has tried to escalate the meaning of a bit. But nothing like the past. Kind of depressing I say. I’m used to a lot more hype for the game. Guess we will have the Bills’ games for that though.
Coming right out and saying Patriots 31, Jets 16. Full disclosure, I picked the Jets plus 9.5 in a weekly picks pool I am in. But that is more about superstition than anything else. Seems like when I take the Pats, they never cover…and occasionally do not win. So I basically just pick their opponent every week if there is any doubt whatsoever. Against Jacksonville a few weeks back? Nope, I took the Pats. But divisional games I have to say I mostly pick the opponent, plus the points (isn’t it ALWAYS the opponent getting “plus the points” with the divisional foes?). Makes me feel like I am being somewhat partial anyway.
In any event, why this score? I mean, the Jets are 4-1, shouldn’t I really give them more of a chance? Especially since they have given up only 75 points in 5 games? Well, have you seen what the 4-1 consists of? Wins against the Browns, Colts, Dolphins and Redskins and a loss against the Eagles. That’s quite a murderer’s row, right? Other than the Colts in their house, I pay no mind to the rest of the scores. And that’s also stretching it, since the Colts haven’t been as good as most people thought they would be, especially when they came out of the gate. So please, enough about the Jets bandwagon…settle down with that. They do have some overall talent on both sides of the ball. And maybe Todd Bowles is a good coach in the end. But 5 games against mediocre competition and some are calling the J-E-T-S the main competitor to the Patriots in the AFC? A win for the NY team Sunday would go a long way towards that maybe. But until then…relax.
The main reason I think the score is even this close is because of where the Patriots have some injury concerns. And no, I am not talking about Matthew Slater. An aside, I love what Slater brings to the table. He is all over the field on every special teams unit. As William Belichick will tell you, special teams are indeed a big part of the game. But if Slater goes down, can’t they get some other young dude that runs with abandon down the field on every special teams play? It’s not like he even returns kicks or punts. As great as he is at what he does, he should be replaceable in that capacity. But I digress…
The offensive line is what I am talking about of course, as far as the injury bug goes. Nate Solder is of course gone for the year. His immediate replacement, Marcus Cannon, has also been ruled out. Cannon is up and down for sure, but he is at the very least serviceable. So they are left at the tackle spot with Sebastian Vollmer, a good lineman, but playing on the left side instead of his usual right. And Cameron Fleming, a 4th round pick in 2014, who was waived after only a year with the team earlier in the year (fairly soon for Bill to give up on a 4th rounder, especially a big body on either side of the line.). Any team could have claimed him for cheap money and they didn’t. So he ended up back on the practice squad, then back on the active roster and now in the actual starting lineup. Who is the third guy now? No one on the current roster. Chris Barker and Blaine Clausell (who?) are on the practice squad. TE Michael Williams moving back to tackle for the short-term? Maybe one of those dudes, but it’s obviously not ideal.
Throw in the fact that Shaq Mason is questionable at one guard spot too. Maybe Ryan Wendell is ready to play in place of him finally, recovered from whatever illness he had. But that also leaves Joe Kline and Tre’ Jackson at the other guard position, and although they seemingly have been decent, I’m not excited about them against the Jets’ front four. Ditto for David Andrews. He’s acquitted himself well this year, but is still a rookie and faces a major test on Sunday. Kind of a scary proposition when all things are considered. The Patriots have no doubt game planned around all this. But then there is the secondary to be concerned about, what with Darrelle Revis leading the charge back there too.
So why 31 points? I think the Pats offense is too good to lock down every drive. I think they will use quick passes to combat the OL issues and try to keep the secondary at bay somehow. I think Ryan Fitzpatrick will help by giving up a fumble or an interception or two which will lead one or two scores. Either directly by a defensive score, or indirectly by giving the Pats a short field. I feel pretty confident in this.
16 for the Jets? I believe the Pats will game plan around Brandon Marshall and not let him be the one who beats them. As is said over and over, Belichick seems to be able to normally shut down the oppositions best player. Some may say that is Chris Ivory. I think Ivory has the potential to run wild in this game. But he will get shorter chunks of yards than Marshall would get if they focused on Ivory and not Marshall. Ivory will get yards, but as usual, the Pats’ “bend, but don’t break” defense will shut him down inside the red zone and thus force the Jets to kick field goals. Jeremy Kerley always seems to play big against the Patriots. And he may well do so again, but his will be of the shorter variety as well. But will he play a big role? He hasn’t played much this year. Some dude I’ve never heard of was actually their 3rd receiver but was suspended earlier this week. So maybe Kerley does take his spot. Eric Decker? Good player, but not afraid.
Should be a fairly decent game for the country to see I would say. As long as the Pats get a win and Tom Brady doesn’t get killed, that’s about all we can ask for I guess. But I wouldn’t mind some sort of fireworks coming out of this game to juice up the second meeting later in the year…
*There seems to be some confusion on whether David Price is truly happy with how the Toronto Blue Jays are using him in the playoffs. There are whispers that he is unhappy, though he has been shooting those down as recently as yesterday. On one hand, I get it. Starting pitchers are creatures of habit and like their routines And why mess up a guy that should finish no lower than 2nd in the AL Cy Young voting this year? And who you presumably want to re-sign when he becomes a free agent when the year is done?
But this is the PLAYOFFS! Routine be damned. Egos be shelved. All that crap. Did you hear even a peep when Chris Young and Steven Matz were each lifted with a big lead, 1 out shy of qualifying for a win? Nope. Ok, I’ll grant you Young (36-year-old career journeyman) and Matz (24-year-old rookie) are not David Price. But still. You do what you have to do in the playoffs to win ballgames. End of story. It would probably help Price’s case if he had any kind of historical success in the playoffs.
*That all being said, what Toronto manager John Gibbons has done at times is certainly mystifying. Pitching Price in relief in Game 4 of the Division Series, where he wouldn’t be available for a possible Game 5 (and yes, I understand that there is no Game 5 if they don’t win Game 4, but they did have a big lead at the time Price entered as well). Warming him up in Game 5 of the ALCS (see parenthetical point above). Leaving Mark Buehrle off every postseason roster (why?). Starting a knuckleballer (RA Dickey) in October, not once, but twice, with predictable results. Pitching a position player for the first time in the history of the playoffs. Etc.
I get that the Jays are short on lefties in the bullpen now, what with Brett Cecil getting hurt in the ALDS and Aaron Loup leaving the team for personal reasons earlier in the ALCS. Thus the reason for having Price be ready on occasion I suppose. But Buehrle is a lefty. Where is he? He had a pretty good year as well. And didn’t Loup have to leave the ALDS as well for personal reasons? With all due respect to whatever his situation is, maybe they should’ve left him off the ALCS roster then. It’s not like he is that good anyway. And Dickey? I get that he finished the regular season strong. But I’ve lived through a knuckleballer in the postseason (Tim Wakefield). I don’t recommend it.
People are excited about the novelty of Cliff Pennington being the first position player in the history of baseball to pitch in the postseason. I’m not. I think it’s a joke. If your team is good enough to be in the last four standing, this should unequivocally not happen. Once again, I get that Loup left them a little short. And that the game was a blowout. And you didn’t want to waste “good” arms in Aaron Sanchez or Roberto Osuna. But still. Isn’t that what you carried a guy like Ryan Tepera on the roster for? Tepera is a soon to be 28-year-old nobody that didn’t pitch since the last day of the regular season. Granted, he was getting torched himself, but it’s not like you were worried about the game. And it’s not like he wasn’t fresh. And since he apparently isn’t a prospect, it’s not like you were worried about blowing his arm out. Let him finish. But once again, couldn’t Buehrle or Drew Hutchinson (not on roster either) have given you length in a spot like that? One of these two guys could have been a better roster choice than 150 year old LaTroy Hawkins as well. But I digress…
*Speaking of ALCS pitching staffs, the Royals’ staff ain’t so hot either. Yes, they have a bunch of flamethrowers in the bullpen. But you have to get to them first. And one of them is Franklin Morales, who appeared to have a pretty good year. But I’ve also lived through Morales in the postseason once. I don’t recommend that either. It looks like KC is just using him in mopup duty though, so they must have got the memo.
But I see these guys they are starting games with and shake my head. Was it that bad in 2014, when they were a whisker away from winning the World Series? Looking back, although there weren’t Cy Young guys left and right, the rotation was in a lot better shape. At least they had a clear top of the rotation guy in James Shields in 2014, though he is more a #2 than a #1. That was supposed to be Johnny Cueto for the second half of this year, but he has been subpar, to say the least. His last postseason start of 8 runs in 2 plus innings…yikes. Although Cueto thought the Jays were stealing signs and that he didn’t like the mound…ummmmm, ok.
In 2014, you also had 2 youngsters in Yordano Ventura and Danny Duffy that pitched great and showed good promise. And a couple of serviceable mid-rotation type guys in Jeremy Guthrie and Jason Vargas. In fact, these 4 plus Shields made 151 of the 162 starts last year. Pretty reliable group, at the very least.
2015? Shields departed to San Diego as a free agent. Ventura and Duffy took a step back. Guthrie was downright atrocious and is off the postseason roster. Vargas got hurt. 85 starts between the 4 that remain…and seemingly not a lot of great ones among the 85. KC replaced “Big Game” James with Edinson Volquez. Volquez actually acquitted himself quite well in his 33 starts, but…he is still Edinson Volquez. Young made 18 starts kind of off the scrap heap. Cueto took 13 largely uninspiring turns. And believe it or not, Joe Blanton got 4 starts. Joe Blanton? Ouch.
I suppose since they are on the brink of another World Series, maybe the difference in the rotations matters little. They are even down Greg Holland in the bullpen, one of the better closers of this particular “era”, if you will.
But maybe it says something about the state of the American League that 2 teams with subpar pitching can make the final two? Granted, the Jays lineup is stout. And the Royals, though not as electric, seems to work well together and do everything right (but where are you, “proven winner” Jonny Gomes?). But still…and also throw in the fact that the two managers, Gibbons and Ned Yost, aren’t exactly on anyone’s list of legendary skippers.
Gives me some hope that a 2016 Red Sox team can make a run with seemingly most of the putrid 2015 rotation coming back. And another non-legendary skipper leading the team in the name of John Farrell. I can dream, no?
*Patriots 45, Colts 24. Everyone wants the Pats to score 100. I do too. I think the game essentially will still be a blowout. But with the Patriots’ secondary in a state of disarray…and not being really good in the first place…maybe the Colts will score more than many people want. We know the Pats should be able to run on the Colts D. They may have to run more than they initially planned with Nate Solder being out and either Marcus Cannon (average at best) or Sebastian Vollmer (moving to a somewhat unfamiliar position) manning left tackle and protecting Tom Brady’s blind side. I’d love 66-3. But I think we have to be realistic.
*Speaking of Solder, he must be glad he signed that 2 year extension. But as far as his injury goes, we will see. He has kind of been up and down in his career and some wonder why the Patriots pay him so much. But he has largely been solid in my eyes. So that spot is clearly something to watch. The offensive line historically has come together every year and has been pretty good. But that was mostly under Dante Scarnecchia. Dave Deguglielmo is here now. It worked out with him last year after some early bumps. We will see about this year. The rookies inside have performed better than expected. But obviously left tackle is an extremely important position and is a much different story.
*Does David Price’s miserable postseason numbers give teams some pause in pursuing him as a free agent after this season? I think for most teams it should not. The guy is a stud. But for teams that have postseason hopes, maybe it should. I have always wanted the Red Sox to pursue him. But after another clunker last night (I know it was only 1 bad inning, but still…), I am having second thoughts. Ultimately, the Sox need a ton of pitching, so if they want him, they should still go after him. But they should be going after another top flight guy as well. I guess that much is obvious. I suppose it isn’t my 25 mil plus per year anyway, so they may as well make a strong bid.
*Jose Bautista’s bat flip this week against the Rangers really pissed a lot of people off. Not me. Granted, I hate when Big Papi goes through his antics when he hits a meaningless bomb in a 12-1 game. And/or the first inning of an early May game. Etc. But Joey Bats’ dinger was in a key moment of the playoffs…basically the game, even with a couple of innings left. The stadium was electric. No problem with the emotion in that spot. Maybe the Texas fans should reserve that anger for the putrid defense in the inning. Or Sam Dyson throwing a meatball to one of the games best power hitters. Or them blowing a 2-0 game lead. You get the picture.
*I’m all for breaking up a double play. But Chase Utley went in too wide, too late and too high. He’s a middle infielder and should know better. The announcers were saying that Ruben Tejada was trying to make a spectacular double play and he should’ve protected himself better and blah, blah, blah. That all may be true. But I say if you break a guys leg on a slide, something is wrong.
*I very rarely talk about Boston College football. Simply because I despise BC. And I don’t watch a lot of college ball anyway. But the BC/Clemson game was on where I was last night and I have to admit, I was surprised that BC head coach Steve Addazio was on the sideline. I somehow caught only the ending of the BC/Wake Forest game from the week before and was shocked that they somehow only ran one play in the last 29 seconds. Don’t even need to go through the details, but how that guy still had a job the next day was beyond me.
Short and sweet this time! Game is about to start…