White Hat Sports Headlines

Sunday, August 31, 2008

NFC North Preview Part Two

Here is part two of the NFC North preview. To see part one of the NFC North preview or both parts of the NFC East preview just scroll down.

3. Detroit Lions-Projected Record 7-9, third in NFC North.

Quarterback: Jon Kitna is similar in my mind to Jeff Garcia. The guy is good, but by no means great. The difference between him and Garcia is that Kitna will put up better fantasy numbers because he has a couple of great weapons to throw to. But while Jon Kitna may lead your fantasy team to victories, I sincerely doubt Kitna leads the Lions to enough wins stay at 500.

Running Back: Kevin Smith is a guy I am extremely high on for fantasy purposes because he is a rookie so you can draft him late, and rookie running backs are the most likely position players to succeed in their rookie year. Plus, Smith only has to compete with Tatum Bell, who is a talented guy but not a threat to steal many carries. After Bell the team doesn't have another true running back on the roster, so they must think highly of Smith. However, he is still a rookie so this could be a position of weakness for the team.

Wide Receivers: With the amount of draft picks spent on this position by the Lions over the last few years they should have about five pro bowlers. While that isn't the case, I truly believe they will have two this year in Roy Williams and Calvin Johnson. If this team makes the playoffs it will be because of these two. Shaun McDonald and Mike Furrey are both decent as well.

Tight End: Michael Gaines is a journeyman that has been around the league for awhile, and that is not a good thing. He'll make a few good blocks here and there, but he's not going to catch many balls and he isn't going to win the team any games.

Offensive Line etc...: Honestly, their offensive line could really struggle this year. I truly don't think they have the right mix of guys up front to be competitive against even average defensive lines. As far as their defense, they were better before they got rid of a few players, now they are average at best. As far as special teams, Mike Furrey is expected to return kicks, and he is like a poor mans Wes Welker.

4. Chicago Bears- Projected Record 4-12, last in NFC North.

Quarterback: Rex Grossman and Kyle Orton. Kyle Orton and Rex Grossman. Yeah, need I say more?

Running Back: Cedric Benson was their leading rusher (which isn't saying much) and he's gone, which means.... Another rookie running back, as the teams in this division seem to all hoping for the Adrian Peterson experience to work for them. Matt Forte is a decent back, but I'm not as sold on him as Kevin Smith. Fantasy wise he is in a similar situation, there just isn't anyone to compete with him, but I'm just not sure he is as talented. I will admit I still drafted him in a league or two because I am a risk taker, but he is really a wild card at this point.

Wide Receiver: Not only did they lose their leading rusher, but they also lost their leading receiver in Bernard Berrian. Again, that's not saying much, but unless Devin Hester becomes an All Pro (don't count on it, there is a reason he is a corner back) this team is severly lacking options.

Tight End: Here could be the lone bright spot on this offense. I do believe Greg Olsen will do well this year, and he could be the guy that is the key to any type of offense they may muster. Right now he is behind the somewhat talented Desmond Clark, but I don't expect that to stick.

Offensive Line etc...: They have a decent offensive line, but it's getting old. It won't matter much with the talent positions being as weak as they are. Their special teams may outscore their offense this year, it really wouldn't surprise me. That being said, I'm going to say something that will shock and awe here. Devin Hester is overrated as a kick returner. Sure, he makes a few electrifying plays, but he also fumbles away way to many kicks. As far as defense, they are still one of the best, but they are getting old and this could be the year they start to decline.

White Hat Sports fantasy league drafts tomorrow night, stay tuned for the coverage of it. I'll also try to get out the beginning of the NFC South preview this coming week.

~Aaron Jackson

We've seen this before

I just got a text message from my buddy Olderman, saying that The Trade (the Ramirez trade has taken on a life of it's own) is starting to feel like the other huge trade in Red Sox history (the Nomar trade). The trades are very similar, in each scenario the Sox traded a guy who is considered to be the face of the franchise and or a hall of famer candidate for a guys who were considered to be good players, playing on bad teams. Orlando Cabrera have similar make ups, coming from Montreal (perhaps the worst franchise in baseball history) and Pittsburgh (the worst team in baseball right now).

Though it's something else that is giving me the warm and fuzzy's about this team right now and yes their latest string of good fortune does have something to do with it. In each of the Red Sox World Series years, there was a series late in the season (mid-august through the end of the season) where the Red Sox would make the White Sox look second rate, gain a sweep and take a ton of momentum. This series might be it, though it just got a lot tougher because as I am writing this Jim Thome just raked a 2-run home run off Tim Wakefield in the first inning. I still have a good feeling about today, there's something about Dustin Pedroia batting clean up that just makes me feel secure. Plus, has a team ever hit more doubles in a month?

Back to the original point of this column, Jason Bay is exactly what this team needed when Manny apparently went AWOL at the end of last month. Bay has 30 rbi this month, his first with the team, he has played good defense, he has hit a few home runs and has been a seem less addition. He hasn't been the only one, just like in 2004 when everybody focused on Orlando Cabrera and overlooked the deals that brought Mike Myers and Dave Roberts to Boston. Roberts ended up getting his due as a great addition but for some reason Mike Myers never did the credit that he deserved, he was a terrific weapon in that bullpen. (Has anybody ever looked more uncomfortable than Hideki Matsui did against Myers in the ALCS that year? I say no.) The post trade deadline moves right now look incredible, bringing in Paul Byrd for a wad of cash that John Henry had sitting in the cup holder of his car and then trading a 19-year old for Mark Kotsay look like moves to make this team the deepest contender in the League. Darin Erstad said it best after the Red Sox swept the Angels in the 2004 ALDS:

"Those boys are winning the World Series, that's the deepest team I've ever seen. They have every piece of the puzzle. I don't see anybody beating them."

Key late season additions will do that, and they might be doing it again.

Sterling Pingree

Saturday, August 30, 2008

NFC North Preview Part One

Here is the beginning of the NFC North previews. If you want to see the NFC East rankings or the AFC East Rankings just scroll down as Sterling and I are both slacking and they are all on the main page.

1. Green Bay Packers-Projected Record 10-6, first in NFC North.

Quarterback: Brett Favre is still considered one of the elite quarterbacks in the game, and had one of his best seasons last year. While I don't expect him to repeat that for the Packers, I do think...wait, Brett Favre isn't with the Packers? When did that happen? Now Aaron Rodgers is the starter? Oh, well in that case, I really like Rodgers as well. If he can stay healthy (big if) he should be as good as most of the young quarterbacks out there. The defense, not Rodgers and the offense will be the difference on this team though.

Running Back: I'm going to give you guys a fantasy tip here...don't be so sure about Ryan Grant. Sure, he led multiple fantasy teams into the playoffs as a waiver pick up, but he is still completely unproven. I don't think he will be bad, but I do expect Brandon Jackson to steal some carries from him, and he may eventually take over the starters job.

Wide Receivers: Donald Driver and Greg Jennings are both good targets for this team, and it seems as though James Jones is a good red zone option, but none of these guys will overwhelm. Driver has always been consistent but never great, and Jennings so far has been following that mold. For fantasy owners, I expect Jones to steal some TD's while not racking up many yards this year.

Tight End: Donald Lee is average at best, and tight end is a weakness for this team.

Offensive Line etc...: Their offensive line is good, but how good? Will they be able to protect Rodgers in the pocket enough to allow him to build his confidence? Only time will tell. The defense of this team is their key, and while they don't have a lot in terms of household names, they do have a lot of very good talent that just fits well. The special teams is average.

2. Minnesota Vikings-Projected Record 8-8, second in NFC North.

Quarterback: Tavaris Jackson is considered developmental by the Vikings, but I consider him anti-developmental. Realistically he is not the guy to get this team very far, and they need to just accept that. Whether that means taking a chance on a young talent that is benched (Brady Quinn) or try a guy that failed elsewhere ( Alex Smith) or wait until the draft I don't know, but they need to do something. Jackson not only makes the team worse, but he holds back their development in what is otherwise probably a playoff team.

Running Back: I love Adrian Peterson just like everyone else, but he is an injury risk. That doesn't mean you shouldn't draft him in your fantasy leagues (I've drafted him over L.T. this year) but it does mean don't be surprised if he misses a few games. And if he does the team won't win, despite Chester Taylor being a good back up. They have nothing explosive in their offense without All-Day.

Wide Receivers: The signing of Bernard Berrian is not what this team needed. He was an alright and inconsistent guy with the Bears who don't have a lot of receiver depth, why do they think he will be the star of their team when they are in the same situation. I will admit Sydney Rice does intrigue me some, he could be a good player.

Tight End: I'll be honest, I don't even know who they have at tight end. As a reporter that works in T.V. sports and a guy that works in radio sports on the weekends I like to think I know my sports. Never mind the fact that I am an avid fantasy sports player. Lets just move on here and consider this a weakness.

Offensive Line etc...: This is one of the best offensive lines in the league. They have the veteran talent in guys like Steve Hutchinson and Bryant Mckinnie, but also have decent youth. Their defense is also one of the best in the league, as they have probably the best defensive line. If their secondary does well they could sneak into the playoffs, but I think they are a little too weak there. Their special teams is, once again, average.

Second half of the NFC North preview to come.

Also, don't forget our fantasy league drafts Monday night, and Sterling and I be doing some ground breaking things in our coverage for it. Make sure to stay tuned.

~Aaron Jackson

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Breaking It Down: NFC East Part Deux

2. Washington Redskins-Projected Record 9-7, tied for second in the NFC East.

Quarterback: Jason Campbell continues to show flashes of what he could be, but those flashes are surrounded by mediocrity. Meanwhile, Colt Brennan has shown nothing but brilliance as far as I can see. I'm not saying...I'm just saying. Regardless, Campbell will continue to be the starter for the time being, despite what I think, and I can see them doing well. I don't know if they or the Giants make the playoffs though, I think (call me crazy) the wild card will come from the NFC South, but they will be right there when it's all said and done. While starting Brennan may make them worse short term, I do think it would make them better long term.

Running Back: Clinton Portis still is a consistent running back, and Ladell Betts will continue to be a viable back up. They aren't going to wow you most games, but they will provide the most consistent part of the offense.

Wide Receiver: Santana Moss is good, but exactly how good? It seems like he either has a great game or a terrible game, and lately it's been more terrible games than good ones. After that they have a bunch of talent, but none of them seem to be capable of putting it together well enough to actually contribute.

Tight End: Chris Cooley is a very good tight end, and if they actually use him like they should he will provide a valuable piece to their offense. Unfortunately he gets under-used in their offensive sets. He is definitely one of the many very good young tight ends though.

Offensive Line Etc...: Their offensive line is, as are most, fairly average. They have some areas where they excel and some areas where they fail. Their special teams I consider to be full of potential, but often times that potential seems to go unused. Their defense is what I consider their biggest strength, but losing Jason Taylor could certainly change that.

3. Philadelphia Eagles-Projected record 7-9, last in NFC East.

Quarterback: I still think McNabb is a good QB. but he has slowly fallen out of the elite level. He has games where he is great, but he also has games where he throws the ball too hard, and it seems like he doesn't have any faith in most of his wide receivers.

Running Back: Brian Westbrook is, and will continue to be, an elite playmaker in the NFL. He is what Reggie Bush should strive to be. That said, it seems only a matter of time till he gets injured. Until that happens he is their biggest strength.

Wide Receivers: They don't have much at this position anymore. Reggie Brown is decent, and Kevin Curtis is what I like to call "white Jesus" on Madden, but in real life he is way to streaky. DeSean Jackson will be the key to this team. If he can come in and perform well they will be in contention, but it's tough to expect that from a rookie receiver.

Tight End: L.J. Smith is one of those guys that has tons of potential but has problems staying healthy. He seemed to break through two years ago, but this past season put him a few steps back. If he can come back strong he will be their best option in the passing game.

Offensive Line Etc...: They have a good offensive line, but again, nothing great. Their defense is good, but not as good as it used to be, and they seem to be hit with injuries a lot. As far as special teams, they are alright, but not great.

NFC North will come next week.

~Aaron Jackson

AFC East Preview

For nearly a week I have been checking in on this website and each time I have been scared away from writing my preview of the AFC East this season. Why?

Eli Manning holding up a football with the Super Bowl logo on it. It opens up wounds that I have tried to put behind me, but after having my first fantasy football draft last night (first of four this week) and listening to Hank Williams Jr's "Are you ready for some football?" on a loop, I can finally answer, yes I am.

1. The New England Patriots: Projected record, 15-1

Did you really want me to do it? Did you want me to predict that this team could go undefeated this season? I know that it's not outside the realm of possibility though, the running game which was suspect at times last season due to the injury of Sammy Morris in the Dallas game, is back to what it was at the beginning of last season and has probably even improved. The offense last year that became almost one dimensional last season with the exquisite passing attack, now has a stable of backs (Maroney, Morris, Lamont Jordan, Kevin Faulk and Heath Evans) that can beat up the front four of anybody in football.

The passing game brings almost the exact same compliment of weapons that it had last season, minus Donte Stallworth who left for Cleveland. I think that Jabar Gaffney though will be able to step up into that 3rd receiver role with no problem, because he held that spot for almost all of last season. Randy Moss is Randy Moss, I will be interested though to see how Wes Welker does this season. I am expecting big things out of him this coming season, as evidence by the fact that I drafted him in the 4th round last night and was my first wide receiver taken. But I feel like teams aren't going to be surprised by him anymore, but he is a hustler and plays hard all the time he is on the field and (if Brady has one) is Brady's security blanket.

The defense is older, but they did get a little bit younger at linebacker with the addition of Jerod Mayo, but the loss of Asante Samuel and Randall Gay could spell trouble for a secondary that people saw as vulnerable last season. They did add John Lynch, who coupled with Rodney Harrison brings another big hitter to the secondary and could push teams to go towards the side lines more instead of having their receivers going across the middle and taking a smack from two of the biggest hitters since Ronnie Lott.

2. New York Jets ( 10-6 )

This team will be better this year, because they finally have a quarterback. (Yes, I am saying that they are much better with Brett Favre than they are Kellen Clemens or that Pennington kid.) They have pretty good receivers, they have a decent running game, I think the talent around him is comparable to what he had in Green Bay last year, a lot of names you haven't really heard of that can be productive, an undefined running game with a plethora of backs in the backfield that is supposed to be anchored by Thomas Jones.

The difference between Favre's situation in Green Bay and the one he's stepping into in New York is the defense on the team. Last year's Packers defense was one of the most surprising in the NFL and is projected as a top ten defense in football this time around. The Jet's defense is good, but not as good as it was last season. The loss of Jonathan Vilma is huge for this team. One of the leading tacklers in the league left for New Orleans in the off season, which will hamper this defense as many of their recent draft picks have come up empty leaving a core group of players that aren't what they were projected to be.

3. Buffalo Bills ( 6-10 )

I really want to pick this team to do better this season but I really can't. I like the call of playing Trent Edwards over JP Lossman, which for some reason I just hated since the day he was drafted. Edwards was good and very underrated coming out of Stanford. When he took over the Bills had a boost that last a few weeks but didn't last because of their overall lack of talent. They will be better this year, with a little more upside, but Edwards has been hurt some this preseason and if he is out it could be bad for this team. Not because he's irreplaceable, but I don't see much behind him with things like J.P Losman, Gibran Hamden and Matt Baker lurking in the wings. Add in the fact that Marshawn Lynch might need to attend driving school or something at some point, this team has a few obstacles.

4. Miami Dolphins ( 3-13 )

Bill Parcells has made some interesting moves with this team in the off season and I really wanted to say that they were going to show a big improvement over where they were last season, but I just don't see how they are going to do it. They lost their best overall player (Jason Taylor) and have no way to replace him. Houston, Oakland and San Francisco all at home, might be the only chances this team has to win games this season. Their quarterback has improved, I think they are finally passed the Cleo Lemon era, but Chad Pennington? What's the matter, Patrick Ramsey wouldn't return their calls? They do have Chad Henne behind him and probably Josh McCown who could see time this season and that might be the best thing for the Fins.

The reason I'm going to be paying some attention to the Dolphins this season is to see what Matthew Mulligan can do on this team this season. The graduate of the University of Maine (and dominant wiffle ball pitcher) was signed by Miami as a priority free agent directly after the NFL draft ended. There were several teams interested in the 6-4, 265 lbs monster's services including the Ravens, Patriots and Cowboys. He has been working out at tight end and could be a monster on special teams as well.

The Patriots will once again be the class of the division, but I do believe that the Jets could sneak into the playoffs this year. That being said, I don't for see the Patriots losing a game within the conference, though their toughest test will be taking on those Favre led Jet's in New Jersey. Though if Favre doesn't perform early, there could be a backlash for the Riverboat Gambler and if that happens the Jets season could be a wash.

Only time will tell.

Sterling Pingree

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Breaking It Down: NFC East

The weather is now starting to get cooler, the trees are beginning to change color, I have to mow my lawn less and less, and bostondirtdogs.com is beginning to panic about the Sox. What does all this mean? Football season. And with football season means meaningless projections on how teams will do. So, despite what I just said, I too will throw my hat into the ring. I'll start with the NFC East as they hold the Superbowl champions in their division. I'll go position by position with quick analysis, and I'll project each teams wins and losses as well.

1. Dallas Cowboys-Projected record:11-5, first in NFC East
Quarterback-Tony Romo proved last year he can get it done, at least in the regular season. He certainly seems to be an up and coming player in the league, and he has got plenty of talent around him. If he is hurt they don't have much behind him, but you can say that about most teams. Overall, I wold consider Romo one of the best QB's in the league.

Running Back-Marion Barber is a beast, and he seems like he has been ready to take over full time duties in the backfield for a couple years now. With Julius Jones now in Seattle he'll certainly have that chance. I expect big things from him this year, and if rookie Felix Jones can live up to his potential they could have the most potent backfield in the NFC.

Wide Receivers-We all know that Terrell Owens is a top NFL receiver, but Patrick Crayton as a number 2 is a big question mark. Personally I expect him to step up nicely, but if there was a question mark in this offense Crayton has got to be it. Also, this is about the time Owens starts to break apart teams, so it'll be interesting to see how he handles himself this season.

Tight End-Jason Witten has become, as far as I'm concerned, the top NFL tight end. Antonio Gates has had some injuries, and Tony Gonzalez is still going strong but has no one to throw to him. After that the closest is Kellen Winslow, and he has yet to produce over an extended period of time. I know most probably won't, but I consider Witten the best player on this offense.

Offensive Line, Defense and Special Teams-The Cowboy's defense is quick and athletic at most positions, but seems to break down mentally at times, especially at their most talented positions. As long as they can hold teams under 20 they should win most of their games. As far as offensive line, I won't pretend to know much about them, but I do know they had a good year last year, and no one cares about special teams that much unless you are the Chicago Bears.

2. New York Giants-Projected Record 9-7, tied for second in the NFC East
Quarterback: Call me a hater, but I'm still not sold on Eli Manning. He makes too many mental mistakes, throws off his back foot too much, and just doesn't seem like a good leader. I know that last one I can't really prove, but if you watch video of him play and look at his interception totals you can see the other two issues are still major.

Running Back: I'm also still not sold on Brandon Jacobs. He's good, but his style of play is such that he is going to get small injuries, which seem to be something he has a hard time dealing with. Ahmad Bradshaw is a nice back up and change of pace back, but I don't see him being able to carry a full workload should Jacobs go down.

Wide Receiver: Plaxico Burress is definitely one of the top receivers in the league, and should be targeted even more this year without Jeremy Shockey. After that it's kind of a toss up between multiple other guys, but I do expect Steve Smith to break away slightly from the bunch. It won't be enough though, and I think this team lives and dies strictly on how Burress plays.

Tight End: No matter what anyone tells you, losing Jeremy Shockey will not help this team. He was a major talent despite his attitude, and I guarantee Eli will be missing him by mid-season. Sure, Kevin Boss looked like a decent fill in, but once teams watch tape of him they will contain him, and this team will be much worse off than they were before they traded Shockey.

Offensive Line, Defense and Special Teams: Again, don't know a lot about this offensive line. As far as defense, they have a team that lives and dies on QB pressures. If they can continue to get a high number of pressures on the QB they will succeed, if they give QB's time to throw they will fail. It's that simple. Their special teams is average, with no one player sticking out really.

Stay tuned for the second half of the NFC East Preview later this week.

~Aaron Jackson

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Winners of the White Hat Fantasy Competition

Congrats to the winners of the White Hat Fantasy Competition; Derek Farrington of China, ME and A.C. Davidson, also from Maine. The information to access the site has been sent to them, and they will now be dominated this season in fantasy football.

In other news, being a sports reporter does have it's perks, as I had the chance to speak to scouts from the Giants, A's and Royals organizations over the weekend, as well as meet former Sox broadcaster Sean McDonough at the Senior League World Series, which to my surprise was a great event to cover. ESPN covered the final game, and really the entire week was much more enjoyable than I could have ever expected.

And for die hard Sox fans I had the chance to sit in the Sea Dog's (Sox double A affiliate) dugout and watch them win on a walk off hit. During my time in the dugout I got the chance to meet Lars Anderson, one of the top first base prospects and overall prospects in the country. He was very down to earth and funny, and took the time to sign autographs for 10-15 minutes after the game, something no other players did. He's been my favorite Sox prospect ever since Jacoby Ellsbury became overrated, and I really see big things for him in the future.

That's all for now...

~Aaron Jackson

Let's just not talk about Toronto

The Sox lost two straight games to the Jays and got blown off the field today, even worse it came during Josh Beckett's start. They now go on the road for 9 games all within the division, 3 in Baltimore, 3 in Toronto and then 3 more in New York next week. This is going to be a very telling stretch for this team, not make or break, but it will determine whether or not this is going to be easy or not in terms of winning the division. They should beat Baltimore, but Baltimore is the best hitting team in the AL since the all star break and some weird things have been happening to the Sox during each trip to Camden Yards. Right now, I don't expect the Red Sox to win a single game in Toronto next weekend. Not one. It will mark the third straight start Paul Byrd will be matched up with Doc Halladay and the rest of the weekend might just follow that dubious start.

Did anything good come out of today's game?

On the field no, but watching the game in the war room with my buddy Zach, something good did happen. Jed Lowrie got a nickname!

Since he has come up, he has impressed me enough for me to start to get behind him and not just because he is replacing Julio Lugo. I've never been crazy about the name Jed, there's just something about it that makes me not like the name. It's short, the only thing it has going for it is that it rhymes with shed. (Yes, I view this as a positive. If Lowrie had been involved in the brawl with the Rays, I definitely would have pulled a suedo Will Farrell and yelled "Get off the Jed!")

Hence forth, Jed Lowrie is to be known as the Beverly Hillbilly! You're in awe I can tell. I'll just give you a moment to let it sink it...........................yawn..............................Okay.

So now we have the middle infield for the Jed "The Beverly Hillbilly" Lowrie at shortstop and the "American Dream" Dustin Pedroia at second base. In the words of Zach, "We can just throw those two out there everyday for the next 50 years and forget about it."

I completely agree.

Sterling Pingree

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

What do I hear and What do I say?

I've been slaving away at the salt mines (I'm going to mask my job from now on and just claim that I work in the salt mines or simply the mines. Hey, you don't hear me asking you about your personal life do you?) so my columns have been coming rather sporadically and I apologize for that. It will get worse before it gets better, but I will continue to leave you with thoughts and random ramblings from the Red Sox as we head down the stretch towards the playoffs. Without further ado here's what's on my mind this week (just a disclaimer, I have been listening to a lot of WEEI and some ESPN radio this week. Just throwing that out there, I felt you should know.)

~I like the Paul Byrd move, I was a little concerned about the rotation as evident by my previous post, but at first I have to say, I didn't see this as that big of a deal. Thinking about it now and looking at his numbers his last four starts this season (4-0, 1.27 ERA) this move looks better and better all the time. One thing that has me concerned is his one time "addiction" to porn? I apparently it's well documented in his autobiography, he has an autobiography? Why am I ending all of my sentences with question marks? Maybe it's because I still have questions about this, but it's a risk free move really. Unless Byrd kidnaps the American Dream or something, I don't really see a down side to this move.

~How good is Michael Phelps? I have to admit that I've been addicted to watching this guy and sit through a lot of other events that I couldn't care less about (gymnastics, THE CHINESE TEAM IS A COMBINED 13 YEARS OLD!!!) just to make sure I don't miss this guy stalking his prey like Jaws on the 4th of July. ("WE WILL BE OPEN!!!") I hope he does it, I can understand though where Mark Spitz is coming from though, he is known for being the 7-time gold medal winner and apparently for being a dentist. Only he's not a dentist, for some reason everybody thinks he is, he is actually a motivational speaker and opens many of his speeches saying "I'm the most famous person people think is a dentist." Take away the record for gold medal's in a single Olympics and combine that with the fact that he's not there to get his mustache-less face in the media again (he shaved it because he said "It was starting to look kind of gay") and the fact that he isn't a doctor and he has to watch his record get broken on TV.

~How isn't Justin Masterson the best right handed set up man for the Red Sox right now? Last night's wild Red Sox game (which really got a lot of people talking didn't it?) you have the last "Acolyte of Hope", David Aardsma who got tagged even giving up a three run shot to Ian Kinsler and then Manny Delcarmen looked like he was on the next bus back to Pawtuckett. Masterson didn't work last night's game, but did work tonight and got out of a mini jam by keeping his head and using that power sinker to get a well developed double play to end the threat in the 9th. Masterson is looking great, it's a lot to put on a young kid but he seems like he can handle it. I'm not saying he has to be the set up man, Okajima was a silver lining last night and has been pitching pretty well for a while but I think Masterson has by default or not, should be the right hander used in tight games.

~One last thought to leave you with that I want to throw out there. I was thinking a few minutes ago while I was driving back from my buddy Zach's house about the Red Sox and the Rangers. Like if the Rangers had even middle of the league pitching how much noise they'd be making in the AL West right now. Even with Anaheim playing as well as they are, a team this scary offensively with a decent pitching staff would make the Angels very uncomfortable down the stretch.

This thinking led me to, how good would the Rangers be if they had say, the Red Sox pitching staff with their offense. Then I thought though, Boston's line up might not be as good, but it is certainly (as we've seen these first two games) much deeper. What would be ideal would be this:

Combine the two teams.

Varitek Catcher

With Saltilamacchia as the young back up ready to take the reigns when the captain calls it quits.

Youkilis at firstbase.

Though I do like this Chris Davis kid, he's real big. He looks like what scouts described when they explained how good Billy Beane was in the first few chapters of Moneyball.

Pedroia at secondbase

What about Ian Kinsler? Oh you just wait.

Young at shortstop

Lowrie becomes a utility infielder, I LOVE THIS IDEA! I like Lowrie, but if you have Young, Lowrie becomes a terrific all around back up player.

Kinsler at thirdbase.

Now I know what you're thinking and I do really like Mike Lowell but with his injuries it gets tough and Kinsler would make this infield incredible defensively and offensively, all have been all star's in their careers.

Hamilton, Drew and Ellsbury in the outfield.
It was a tough call between Bay and Drew, I think I have to go with JD Drew, but it's a tough call. Imagine this outfield? Scary, especially when you add in David Ortiz as the designated hitter and this team would win 105 games ATLEAST.

Well, if they have the Red Sox pitching staff and bullpen, because Texas brings nothing to the table in those areas.

I guess that's how I got to this point in the first place.

Sterling Pingree

An Inconvenient Truth

I know I haven't made many posts lately, but I have been a very busy man, especially this week. This week is the Senior League World Series in Bangor, so needless to say I've been busy covering teams from across the world. I did have the chance to meet scouts from the Oakland A's, Kansas City Royals and San Francisco Giants, among others, that were scouting some of the players from Curacao. One in particular was hitting 90-95 consistently on the radar gun, which is absurd for players of their age.

I am extremely tired, so I am not doing an in depth post on anything, but I would like to point out one thing quickly. While the Olympics have been great this year, I do have my concerns about their coverage. First off, NBC's reporters are doing a pretty terrible job, and many of their online hosts are doing as bad, which brings down the quality of the overall event some. Mainly though I want to point out NBC's lack of coverage when it comes to anything but sports. The volleyball coach that had a family member killed, the Tibet issue, the pollution issue and even issues with the Chinese Olympic teams. I mean, there is no way the Chinese Gymnasts are of age. In fact, even multiple Chinese media outlets and Chinese officials have admitted as such by mistake. Check it out. Not only that, but they are taken away from their families at an early age and placed in what are essentially gymnastics concentration camps, and are only allowed to see their family once a year. Or how about the fact that families are sometimes forced to abort children before they are born if they are girls. I'm only scratching the surface on the issues that are in China. If NBC took any time at all to report on some of these issues, to show the injustices going on in this communist country, maybe they could start changes.

Oh, and lets not forget the fact that the opening ceremony fireworks on tv were actually computer generated, and that the little girl that sang during the ceremony was lip-syncing because the girl that actually sang the song was deemed "not cute enough". And the Olympic Committee just sits there and accepts it, stating it was a "casting decision".

While these Olympics may have been good so far in terms of the sporting side of things, there are other issues at stake. Sure, we don't live in a perfect world, nor am I disillusioned enough to believe we will ever live in one. But improvements can be made if we try, and not trying is unacceptable, because while the Olympics have been great now, the real greatness would be achieved in the face of a little girl who's life was saved from the tragedies of a ethically starved nation.

~Aaron Jackson

Sunday, August 10, 2008

"Just when I thought I was out, they pulllll me back in"

This is most likely going to become the most used title on this site. Where I realize that it's from The Godfather, the meaning to me is more so from The Soprano's, hence the picture of Silvio Dante to go along with this column. My buddy Zach and I get a huge kick out of watching Sil, we can't help it, look at his shoulders while he talks.

Though right now this fits because the Red Sox keep trying to turn the corner and get everybody healthy to make a run at winning the division and boom, somebody key goes down. The latest report is the Tim Wakefield is heading towards the disabled list before today's game in Chicago. Wake has been arguably the team's second most consistent starter since June and is 7-8 only because of a criminal lack of run support. The thing with Wakefield going down right now is that Colon got tagged in his first rehab start in Pawtuckett so now it's looking like fellow knuckleballer Charlie Zink is going to get tabbed for his first major league start against the Texas Rangers on Tuesday. Do the math with this one, Zink has been a career minor league player who became a knuckle ball pitcher somewhere along the way after he dropped from being the next Jon Lester to another Abe Alvarez. Add in the fact that he's featuring the knuckle ball, which used incorrectly gets you TAGGED at Fenway and multiply both of these points with the fact that Texas is a good hitting team and you have an equation for disaster Tuesday.

The thing that worries me the most about Wakefield going down right now is the fact that this might be the same sort of injury that he suffered late in the season last year and eventually kept him off the World Series roster. This could be really bad for the Sox if Wakefield is down, because then it locks them into leaving Clay Buchholz in the rotation which might not be the best thing for him long term, right now and of course it forces you to tag a replacement for Wakefield and the two best options are Charlie Zink or Bartolo Colon? Really?

Here's what it comes down to though, making the playoffs. It sounds simple enough right? All they have to do is win the wild card. The thing is though, this could be a team that is better suited for the playoffs than they are for the stretch run to even get into the playoffs. I am a firm believer of bringing an ace back on 3 days rest (by the way, Beckett is the best since Bob Gibson at doing this) and that teams like the 2001 Arizona Diamondbacks had the right idea in starting Schilling and Johnson 5 of the 7 World Series games and bringing Johnson back in Game 7 as a reliever. This team would be TOUGH in a 5 or 7 game series with Beckett, Lester and Matsuzaka at the top and then the worst case scenario for a 4th starter is Clay Buchholz. That's definitely not bad, the only team that the Red Sox wouldn't dominate in the playoffs with that pitching set up would be Anaheim, and we know how Boston plays the Angels in the post season dating back to 1986. The Angels will have home field advantage in the playoffs though, but the Red Sox have Daisuke Matsuzaka who has been lights out on the road this season and could be a prime candidate to start game one or two and steal home field, which in the words of Carl Spangler.

"Which is nice."

(By the way, the odds of me getting a Godfather/Sopranos quotes in the same column as a Caddyshack quote was coming out as 5-2 today. Not bad.)

Sterling Pingree

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Brett's leaving on a jet plane, don't know when he'll be back again.

The earth turns, taxes increase, fast food still makes you fat and Brett Favre is still unsure where he wants to go. Well, for now anyway. Reports have surfaced stating Favre and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (my favorite team, in case you were wondering) are close to entering a marriage in hopes to win a Superbowl, but nothing is set in stone yet. For all we know, Aaron Rodgers could get injured running away from Favre's shadow and Brett would have to come back to the Pack. Personally, I'm thrilled by the possibility of the Buc's acquiring Favre, but not for the reasons you may expect. Here's why...

First, Favre does improve the product on the field here and now. I'm not naive enough to believe a quarterback in his late 30's will be the difference between a first round playoff exit and the Superbowl, but they could finish with 12 wins and make it to the NFC championship game. He would make the receivers around him better, and would definitely provide leadership to the team.

Second, it would mean more Buc's games on T.V. Living in Maine is tough as a Buc's fan, as they normally play on Fox and we get mostly Giant's games on Fox, unfortunately. I can guarantee that whatever team Favre goes to will immediately get more games broadcast nationally, because the NFL has the new fluctuating schedule. Plus, any chance John Madden has at seeing Brett Favre he's sure to take. I bet Madden would boycott the season if he doesn't get at least three Favre games for Sunday Night Football.

Third, and finally, it would symbolize a change for the Bucs. Right now the starting QB is Jeff Garcia, and it sounds like Garcia thinks he has three or four years left. If Favre goes to Tampa Bay then Garcia is gone. I doubt Garcia will sit quietly behind Favre, and I doubt the team would want to keep Garcia and his salary as a bench QB with so many other QBs on the roster. This means that, when Favre retires yet again either next year or two years from now they will need a young quarterback to take over. That is something that makes me ecstatic. I'm sick of the young guys the Bucs have now. The Chris Simms, Bruce Gradkowkis and Luke McCowns of the world just aren't going to get it done, yet the team seemed content with them until they acquired Garcia, and then seemed content with Garcia after that. In every case they were content with mediocrity. By acquiring Favre they are showing they are trying to commit to excellence, and I believe that applies not only to the Favre acquisition, but also to the next QB. If Favre joins the team I am willing to bet they commit to drafting a QB high in the next draft, which is something they should have done already. Favre coming to the team clinches, at least in my mind, that happening.

When it's all said and done, maybe Favre stays and maybe Favre goes, at this point no one really knows. What I know is this; both bays need a change, and this deal would be a step in that direction. Maybe it's only one step, but sometimes it only takes one step to start running.

~Aaron Jackson

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Tip toeing through the rain drops and not getting wet.

While re-reading Seth Mnookin's phenomenal book, "Feeding the Monster", something struck me as funny while reading the beginning of the book where he rehashes the troubled history of the Boston Red Sox. You remember that right, back before the two recent world series championships when the Red Sox were "cursed" and could never and would never win a World Series Championship. While reading through the section about the Ruth era in Boston and his departure to the Yankees two things struck me funny.

1. That the Broadway play that is rumored to have been funded by the selling of the Babe to the Yankees, No No Nanette, which actually came out years after the sale of Ruth. This is the end of an urban legend that pseudo fans accept as truth and feel like they are big time Red Sox fans because they know the name of the play. Well Pink Hatters, you know less than you think you know.

2. Ruth didn't serve during World War I, granted he was pitching at that point mostly for Boston, but he did start batting during this era while a lot of other players did serve.

The second point is the one that made me ponder for a longer amount of time and led me to a conclusion. Was Ruth really the greatest player of all time, or was he just the best player who didn't lose large sections of his prime to things outside his sports. The case can always be made for Ted Williams missing the equivalent of 5 years of his career to military service, that he would have hit at least 30 home runs per season, (which is low balling him, the first three years would have been perhaps his greatest seasons.) Right now Williams is set at 521 home runs, add onto that 150 home runs (672 total) and he would be fourth on the all-time list or third whether or not you count Barry Bonds. The fact of the matter is that Williams sacrificed his overall numbers for the military, thus his greatest accomplishments are things he did in a single season (.406 batting average in 1941 and the second highest slugging percentage in a season behind only Babe Ruth) instead of being known as one of the top home run hitters of all time (which he was).

Williams possible total of 672 would put him a dozen home runs ahead of Willie Mays on the all-time list, or would it? Mays also lost time due to being drafted into the military in 1952. Overall he missed 266 games between 1952-53. Though this was at the very beginning of his career you can make a case that he might have been the one who broke Ruth's home run record of 714 before Hank Aaron did it in 1974. Adding these prime years to the careers of Williams and Willie Mays might put four players in history ahead of the Babe's total right now and to me that definitely discounts his overall standing as the greatest player of all time. But now it looks like I'm picking on the Babe here and maybe I have been but to show that I'm not, I'll use another example.

It depends on whether or not you believe Bill Simmons conspiracy argument that Michael Jordan's first "Retirement" was actually a suspension for gambling, but either way you look at it Jordan missed 2 seasons in his prime to another sport. If you take Jordan's career total for points, 32,292, and add on the point totals for the seasons surrounding the ones that he missed and he would have flirted with breaking Kareem Abdul Jabbar's all time scoring record and he probably would have broken in while playing for (gulp) the Washington Wizards. This case is different though than opposed to the Ruth case, because Jordan is considered to be the greatest Basketball player of all time and some people believe that greatest athlete of all time. Giving him the all time scoring title locks it up even further because some people like me believe that Wilt Chamberlain might have been a little bit more dominant.

The case for an all time great missing time and it not really effecting his legacy except for robbing us from seeing more of his greatness. Muhammad Ali missed three years during what might have been his prime in the late 1960's because he refused to serve in the Viet Nam War. The case of Ali is different from all of the others, in the way that he missed time out of his prime and is still considered to be the "Greatest of All Time". Boxing is different though, because it isn't about numbers at all really. Nobody counts how many times they were the world champion, just that they were the champion at some point. Besides how much they weight and what weight class they are in, number don't mean a damn thing. Ali is still the greatest and his time away from the sport robbed us all of seeing more of his greatness.

Now what was the point of all of this?

The point is, why is it that some of the greatest players of all time in most sports have missed time in the midst of their careers and the ones who didn't are the ones who hold the records and are seen on a higher level. Besides Ruth you can look at Hank Aaron as well. He didn't miss time due to military service, never had any long term injuries that made him miss prolonged periods of time and he was incredibly steady throughout his entire career. It's about avoiding landmines through out your career, just ask Ken Griffey, Jr. Griffey missed time, Bonds didn't and Bonds who wasn't named to the All Century team (Griffey was, the last century seems so far away) passed him by on all the all time lists (with a little help from his friends, at BALCO). The overall point of this whole argument is that the numbers through out a career doesn't always say who the greatest players were.

Williams the best damn hitter that ever lived.

Mays, the best all around player of all time.

Ali, he must be the greatest.
Sterling Pingree

Sunday, August 3, 2008

White Hat Sports Fantasy Competition

Alright, so I haven't posted anything new for a few days. I know. I have been dealing with Manny leaving, so when I'm not working I'm wondering where it all went wrong. Manny was like a family member to most Red Sox fans that truly love the game, and for us to lose him really hurts. I'll admit that much. I was beginning to believe we may finally have another number retired behind Pesky Pole, but given the Sox overly tough guidelines I doubt the number 24 gets there now.

Anyway, no need to rehash all this. For those of you who loved Manny, you don't want to feel any worse about it, and for those of you who wanted to get rid of Manny, you got your way. Either way, you don't need more Manny coverage. It happened, it's over, time to move on whether we want to or not.

The good news? It's beginning to get colder outside, and that means it's time for football. And with football comes, for most of us, fantasy football. With the Hall Of Fame game being played tonight, I figured it would be the best moment to unveil our first White Hat Sports Competition. To kind of steal a line from Seinfeld, it's fantasy football on Fleaflicker.com, and it is fabulous. It's a keeper league, with different rosters than most leagues will have. Twelve teams total, with three divisions; Vick's Fighting Dogs, Pacman's Rain and Brett Favre's Retirement Home.

Heres how you enter...

Either email us (whitehatsports@gmail.com) or put in the comments on this post why you feel you should be a member of this league. We have two positions open, so make sure you act fast on this. The two winners will be notified on August 17th, and will be given the information needed to access the league.

Good luck.

~Aaron Jackson

Friday, August 1, 2008

Sitting on the dock of the Bay

To start the week, the ring tone on my phone had been Dirty Girl by Bobby Light AKA Rob Dyrdek. It had been for a few months and always got a kick out the reaction that it got. Then I had an idea to get a new ring tone. I downloaded it on Wednesday and went to my buddy Zach's house to watch the Sox-Angels game. Then I started hearing it play every 20 minutes for the next 20 hours, until the trade deadline.

The day of the trade deadline is always a special day for baseball junkies like me and my friends. My text messages went from manageable to out of control completely. I was deleting them by the inbox yesterday they were coming so fast and furious from friends. The thing I noticed was that trade rumors came in text form the entire day, but once the deadline came and the deal went down, it became a day of phone calls. I was one the phones again, just like last year when we got Gagne, talking about whether we gave up too much to get rid of Manny. Read the last part of that sentence again, did the Red Sox give up too much to get rid of Manny? Usually you think about things like did they give up too much to get the superstar? My buddy Marty was the first to call he always is in these scenario's because he's the most prepared too. He was ready to head to the bar to celebrate or drown his sorrow in the deal that never happened. As I was on the phone with him, the word came down that the Sox had thrown Craig Hansen and Brandon Moss into the deal. Now first you must understand that Marty and I are the two biggest fans of Craig Hansen in New England. We've both thought that this kid was going to turn the corner at any time and become an elite set up man for years to come. Giving up Moss was okay because we didn't have space for him in the outfield. But Hansen? I thought the main objective a week ago was to get another reliever to try and bolster the bullpen? I guess everything stopped when Manny went AWOL and getting rid of him became the only objective.
One GM said today that the big deals that happened during this landmark day squashed a lot of other smaller efforts, which could lead to more waiver trades than what is usually seen in August. Trading away Hansen though does two things and neither of them are remotely positive.
1. It weakens the bullpen.
Whether or not Hansen was about to become the 8th inning set up man for the post season this year is unlikely but now instead of bolstering your bullpen you're handicapping it by taking one of the members out of it. That piece has to be replaced though, and I'm not sure where it's going to come from. Masterson has pitched better than people think out of the pen so far, but Delcarmen has even his most ardent supporters grabbing an inhaler every time he enters the game right now. The worst part is I don't see anything in triple-A right now that is ready to step up this month and become a bullpen arm down the stretch. Bowden just got brought up two weeks ago to triple-a and most believe that his future is as a starting pitcher and Daniel Bard is still a few years away. Bard's name was actually thrown around in trade talks for Atlanta's Will Ohman.
2. It takes away the direction of the bullpen.
The pen has had a feel in it since last season and that is that the team wants to build it up with power arms from within the organization and from the draft. They were starting to hand the reigns from Mike Timlin to Manny Delcarmen and so on and so fourth building a bullpen of young arms to set up their young closer Jonathan Papelbon. Now Hansen is gone to Pittsburgh which could be good for him, he might even become the closer there if Matt Capps continues to have problems staying healthy.
Moss as well might have a better opportunity to play a lot more in Pittsburgh obviously.

So as I drove home from Bangor today from seeing my buddies and watching trading deadline coverage, my cell phone has finally cooled off. But when it finally rings and Otis Redding's "Sitting on the Dock of the Bay". It dawns on me, maybe I knew that Jason Bay was coming to Boston, maybe I didn't. maybe he's going to become an all-star and average 30 homers a year for the next 5 years in Boston. All I know is that the Sox have a chance and at this point in the year, that's all you can hope for.

Sterling Pingree