Jerry Ballgame is back with some leftover random thoughts and observations from 2011.
I realize that we’re almost two weeks into the new year, but I still have a few things from my 2011 notebook I wanted to clear out so I’ll start with those. Actually, I have things from my 1958 notebook, but I’ll save them for the next Ken Burns documentary.
Thing one would be that it’s good to have Bill Buckner back in Boston, as a bench coach for new manager Bobby Valentine. Although remembered by most for one shameful night in Shea Stadium, Buckner was a very solid performer for 22 seasons with the Dodgers, Cubs, and Red Sox, before ending his career with short stays in a variety of places. Finishing up as a lifetime .289 hitter, those last years likely cost him a shot at .300, and serious Hall of Fame consideration.
Although the point was made somewhat moot by Boston’s win in 2004, there has been an ongoing debate amongst us Sox fans of a certain age, as to whether or not utility backup Dave Stapleton should have been a defensive substitute. Buckner was, at his best, considered a pretty good defensive first baseman, but was dogged at that point by a troublesome Achilles tendon issue (Those high-tops spikes he wore were for support and not fashion). Watching him lean forward to field a grounder was always an unsteady proposition and his attempts at running, downright painful. So logic would seem to dictate that at such a crucial time you substitute, right?
Apparently, when your backup has the nickname of “Shaky” because of his questionable fielding prowess, you are not as apt to make the switch. At least that’s what then Sox skipper John McNamara has recently explained as his reason for leaving Buckner in. It seems then that going with the old pro that was functioning at about 60 or 70% of effectiveness was at the time, a better gamble then a younger, healthier, somewhat less reliable sub, and we all know how that turned out.
McNamara was also roundly criticized for removing his dominating ace from the game after the seventh inning. Roger Clemens had allowed only 2 runs (one earned) on 4 hits, while striking out 8, when he was replaced by the very forgettable Calvin Schiraldi. Well, ‘Mac’ has revealed that Clemens asked to be removed, leaving in question just how much fight the ‘Big Texan’ had in him. True or not, I find it ironic that in 1986 the Sox lost out on a championship in New York by taking their ace out too soon, and in 2003 losing out, once again in NYC, by leaving their ace in too long.
Thank God, for 2004.
OK, so I started with 2011, but somehow ended up in 1986. Come with me back to 2011 and I will point out two things I got right. The first was my prediction that the Red Sox would go with Bobby Valentine as their manager and that it would not last long. If you find my submission regarding the rebuilding of the Sox, I put forth the theory that they would go with a non-players’ manager type, with experience, and Valentine fit that description. My belief that it will not last lost long stems more from the observation that there always seems to be a short term substitute sandwiched between two successful regimes (I offer as exhibit one; Pete Carroll, between Parcells and Belichick). At any rate, Boston management must have read my blog as they chose to offer Valentine a two year plus an option contract.
Well, at least we don’t have to listen to him on ESPN anymore…..
I’m not sure I can take credit for predicting the mess that has become the New York/New Jersey Jets, but I believe I was the first to compare them to the Wade Phillips’ Cowboys. That final weekend, players quitting during a game, coaches crying, backup QB’s calling out the team, players gesturing unkindly at the press; was like something out of reality television. I bet HBO was sorry they missed it.
For me the most interesting part of the discussion is the general belief that Rex Ryan will be given one more year to change his approach, and become more of a head coach and less of an entertainer. The irony here (there’s that ‘I’ word again) is that after the 2006 season, the Giants’ Tom Coughlin was given one more season to change his approach and lighten up, or face being fired. Coughlin had found that the hard-ass, drill sergeant method of leadership wore thin with adult football players. He got the message, and the result was the 2007 season.
Now if you could just somehow cross breed Rex Ryan and Tom Coughlin, you would end up with a very large man with very small eyes, but a hell of a coach! Think about it. While you’re doing that, I’ll go tell the villagers to fire up their torches…
To quote Michael J. Fox; Back to The Future! Actually to next Saturday’s match up between Tim Tebow and the New England Patriots. Assumedly, he will bring the rest of the Broncos with him. I can only hope that flying out with them on his back will tire him out. Although I was initially rooting for Denver in this one, assuming them to be the better match up for the Pats, I wasn’t as sure as the game progressed. You have Roethlisberger hobbled by a bad ankle, his center Maurkice Pouncey also suffering a high ankle sprain, and left tackle Max Starks out, and you have a rather depleted unit that maybe would have been a doable matchup for the at home Patriots (Besides, I didn’t want to listen to a whole week of Tebow magic talk, so my television has been set to PBS and A&E all week).
New England fans learned last year that lopsided regular season wins do not necessarily have any carry over effect to the playoffs. I have to believe that the Patriots themselves have figured that out and will be prepared for a tough battle this week at the “Razor”. Their rather unpredictable defense got a real boost with the return last week of Patrick Chung, which should help the communication between linebackers and secondary.
About the only thing I’m not prepared for this weekend is a shutout. Shootout maybe, but no shutout; doesn’t seem to be in the DNA. I expect the Patriots will win relatively easily and keep on track for their Super Bowl showdown with the Packers.
Speaking of the Super Bowl, I have revised my predicted score. PATRIOTS 74, PACKERS 66. Who needs defense!
Valentine image courtesy of: Charles Krupa | AP
Ryan image courtesy of: http://www.sodahead.com/
Tebow/Brady image courtesy of: http://nbcsportsmedia1.msnbc.com/
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