After a prolonged, yet unintentional absence, I am back to posting. Having a new job really cut into my time to write about the sporting world.
Since I last wrote....
-After going down 3-1, the Sox forced a game 7 with the Rays but couldn't muster enough offense to finish the comeback. While I'm not happy with the way things turned out, I'm proud of the resiliency this team showed. After a few days of reflection, I realized that not only was this team lucky to beat the Angels in 4 games but taking a superior Rays team to the limit should have been viewed with a glass half-full approach. Senor Octobre', David Ortiz, was a ghost throughout the post season. If you take away Grant Balfour's idiotic location with his pitches in game 5 of the ALCS when he gave up the 3-run shot, Ortiz would have had no production to speak of. I'm hoping that his hand was still injured and he isn't following the familiar pattern of the declining middle-aged slugger (i.e. Frank Thomas ect...) I never really thought it would happen this early with Ortiz for a few reasons. First, he's a DH and all he has to worry about is hitting. Even first base can be cumbersome for those who aren't fleet of foot. Secondly, he lacks the wear and tear that other slugging stars carry with them as they reach their mid-thirties. He was never a full-time player in Minnesota and has only been a starter since he joined the Sox in 2003. Ortiz blamed much of his failures on how he was pitched to but I saw a multitude of pitches he had good swings at that he used to crush but were easy fly outs. Seeing how that wrist feels in March after a few months of rest will help decide whether or not this is a long-term problem.
Even taking Ortiz's struggles into account, it's become apparent that the Sox need to acquire another "bopper" who can help shoulder the load of the offense come post season. If Mike Lowell were healthy, I'd say this wouldn't be as glaring of a problem but no one knows how that hip will be feeling come spring training. The Sox lineup (Jason Varitek aside) is a production line of good hitters, none of which really caught fire in the ALCS. I'll talk more about this later but Mark Teixeira would be the prime candidate here, despite not having a position in our current infield.
-The Phillies took it to the Dodgers in 5, once again proving me wrong. Nicely done. I really underestimated the Phils lineup and bullpen beyond Brad Lidge. Both Ryan Madson and J.C. Romero (aka Red Sox legend) have been phenomenal. This team is currently up 3-1 on the Rays due to an awoken offense and the arms of Cole Hamels and Joe Blanton. By the way, Blanton wasn't kidding when he said his eyes were closed for that home run he hit. Good stuff. Rain washed away the potential celebration in Philly tonight. If I were a Phillies fan, I'd hope my boys get the job done at home Wednesday in the final innings of tonight's game because James Shields and Matt Garza are two tough customers...especially Garza as Sox fans found out.
-The Patriots have somehow found themselves tied with the Bills for the division lead at 5-2 after two weeks of good football. I went to last Monday's 41-7 torching of Denver and I liked what I saw. The running game gashed the Bronco defense for the most yards gained on the ground for a Pats team since I was born. I know Jay Cutler was hurt for most of the game but the team improved defensively in one important area: third down conversions. They didn't allow Denver to go on sustained drives and when the Broncos reached Patriot territory, they forced turnovers. The only negative about the game was Sammy Morris's injury after he rushed for 138 yards in the first half. He adds toughness to an offense that is often lacking in that area. Side note: If Morris participates in last year's Super Bowl, things are different. I'm not being bitter by bring up the "what-ifs" but I think that statement speaks to how important he is to this team.
This week's win over the Rams indicated to us that Matt Cassel can make the throws in the final minutes that win games. He isn't going to be a super star this year, or maybe any year for that matter. But what's important is that he's progressing each week at about the speed Coach Bill and the team expects of a kid with the natural ability he has. He's finally looking at the whole field and checking down each of his receivers before darting out of the pocket with the football with the sole intent of running with the ball. Now he's looking to pass and when his initial options aren't there, he either buys time to throw or tosses it out of bounds.
I just realized I've had this blog since August and I have written almost nothing about the Celtics. After a short summer that the team and fans would be more than willing to go through again in '09, the Champs are back in action tomorrow night against the Cavaliers. I expect this to be the first of many great games between these two teams this season. The addition of Mo Williams will do wonders for the Cavs. Not only does it relieve the pressure of ball-handling duties from Lebron, it gives him another player who is a reliable starter. This team took the C's to 7 with essentially just Lebron. Having Williams at his side could sway things the Cavs way this season.
Anyway, it's good to be on this thing again and I'll be posting my NBA preview tomorrow.