|Connelly’s Top Ten: Patriots Win By Less Than a FOOT||Panic Mode in Full Effect, Minutemen are Struggling||Patriots Survive Gritty Challenge From Jets||Smart Era Gets Off to a Good Start with Win over T’wolves|
I haven’t written a column in a while, so I figured I would chime in on a bunch of sports topics floating around the airwaves, newspapers and Twittersphere the past month. So let’s start with the…
• Unfortunately, this team has more experience and guts than talent and playmakers to truly go the distance. The playmakers are actually there, but they are trapped in the bodies of old men. No one thought when the Celtics lost on Christmas Day that they would still be playing basketball in June. It’s a shame and a tad ironic that Avery Bradley, the Celtics’ young, athletic guard and catalyst in the second half of the season couldn’t make it healthy through the playoffs, while Kevin Garnett continues to look ageless. It would have been fun to watch Bradley chase Wade around for at least six games.
• Kevin Garnett has just been terrific this season. He’s only been a Celtic for five years but he’s easily one of my all time favorites. It’s sad to listen to narcissists like Mike Felger try to portray Garnett as a dirty player. Garnett’s a winner. His knee injury in 2009 probably cost the Celtics at least one and perhaps two championships in this “New Big Three Era.” I hope he comes back for at least one more year.
• This was another phenomenal season for Paul Pierce. There has been a lot of discussion as to whether he gets enough credit. The answer is yes. Pierce lost a lot of quality seasons on bad teams but he was never so good that he could elevate the Celtics to the top of the heap on his own the way Bird, Magic or Kobe could. It would have been great to see him with a better supporting cast earlier than 2008. Thanks Rick Pitino.
• Looks like the end of the road for Ray Allen. Don’t get me wrong, after bone spur surgery he can still come back and give some team a quality 20 to 25 minutes off the bench. But his days as a difference maker are gone. He was meant to be a Celtic, and I’m glad we got to see him in Celtic Green.
• It’s Rajon Rondo’s team now and that might not be a good thing. The Celts will try to re-sign Garnett, add some solid role players and hope they can hit on a draft pick and at least want remain in contention in the Eastern Conference. “Blowing it up” makes no sense because it guarantees you nothing but half-empty arenas. They will also need Rondo to continue to improve and mature as a person and player with Avery Bradley at his side. Right now that remains to be seen.
• What if Jeff Green doesn’t get hurt and David West signs here instead of Indiana? Add in a pickup at the trade deadline and the Celts would have been much better positioned not just to beat the Heat but anyone in the West.
• If this is the end of the Big 3, it was a fun run. They only won ONE title, which was disappointing, but they brought one of the great franchises in NBA history back from obscurity and the NBA back to Boston.
• It’s about time the media and the fans in this town except one thing; Jon Lester is never going to be a elite pitcher in the American League East. Put him on the Phillies and he’s a perennial 17-game winner. But, you can’t nibble in the American League and be great. You need to be able to keep the pitch count down, you need 10-pitch innings and you need to be able to hang with the Yankees, Rays and Rangers. Lester dominance in interleague play is not an aberration. He dominates weak lineups. If you make him work, you can beat him. He doesn’t attack hitters the way Justin Verlander, C.C. Sabathia and David Price attack hitters. He’s got the stuff but not the temperament to be elite.
• You can’t overlook the correlation between the length of time between pitches and the struggles with the Red Sox starting staff.
• Theo Epstein, in his last 4 years a Red Sox GM, did the following: He signed Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford for over $300 million. He signed John Lackey and re-signed Josh Beckett to multi-year deals. He traded Justin Masterson and Nick Hagadone for Victor Martinez and then let Victor walk. He chose Kevin Youkilis over Adrian Beltre and that forced him to give up two MORE prospects to get Gonzo and his 4 home runs. He also failed to develop a bullpen or draft and develop pitching depth in the minor leagues, which is why Lackey was given that contract. It seemed everything he did from 2003-2007 worked and everything he did after did not.
• I think Bobby Valentine has been a pretty good manager. Forget all the petty talk on 98.5 about the game passing Valentine by. He has put together a solid bullpen with a bunch of stiffs and has kept the team together despite a ridiculous amount of injuries and distractions that have lingered from last season.
• Still, I think the Red Sox are not much more than a .500 team. They’ll be in the hunt for that extra wild card, but I doubt they can compete with the Rays, Yankees and Rangers UNLESS Lester and Buchholz have mid-season epiphanies and start pitching the way they did in 2009.
• Last year’s run was a terrific surprise and fun for me as a casual NHL fan. That being said, despite two years of Felger and Joe Haggerty telling me how great the NHL is, it still will always be the 4th best sport in the US. Last year the Bruins won it as a #3 seed, but this year a #6 faces off against a #8 seed. It makes the regular season look absolutely pointless and leaves you with the feeling you’re not seeing the best when you sit down to watch the Stanley Cup Finals.
• For all that want to trade Tim Thomas and replace him with Tuukka Rask, be careful what you wish for. Rask has never proven anything over a long period of time. Even last year when his GAA was one of the lowest in the league, Thomas was still getting the call against the top teams. I still contend that this would not even be a discussion if not for Thomas’ political views being counter to the beliefs of a very liberal media in one of the most liberal states in the country.
• It wasn’t unexpected to see the Boston media portray the Patriots as the “big bad one percenter’s” during the Wes Welker contract saga last week. If you have the largest media voice denying the existence of a salary cap, what can you expect? As a fan, why the hell should any of us care whether Welker gets $9 million or $99 million! Fans want Super Bowls. It’s that simple.
• The Patriots are not going to pay top money on offense to Tom Brady, Logan Mankins, Wes Welker, Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez. If Gronk and Hernandez aren’t on this team in two years, then the Patriots were full of crap, otherwise the Patriots are playing within the system and Welker makes sense for this year on the franchise tag.
• Looking at the way the Patriots are putting together this team, I have to think the only way they aren’t playing in Super Bowl 47 is if the inconsistency we saw from Tom Brady in the 4th quarters of both the AFC Championship game and Super Bowl was the beginning of a decline in skills. Brady wants that elusive fourth Super Bowl before he leaves this game. I would hate to see him finish one title short like Larry Bird did.
• After the Celtics won game 5 against the Sixers, I tuned in for the first 45 minutes of the Felger and Mazz show. The first 3 topics were: Kevin Garnett is a dirty player, David Ortiz is selfish and the Patriots treatment of Wes Welker. This is what sells on talk radio today. When the local teams were all rolling the talk media was definitely too overenthusiastic in their praise of the local teams. In an effort to differentiate, The Sports Hub decided to try a more critical approach under the guise of “telling it like it is.” Early on, I think the formula worked from 10AM to 6PM. Since, many of the hosts seemed to have confused the higher ratings as a license to push the envelope even further and that has led to radio that isn’t about sports talk but about identifying who the culprits are in sports and why we should loathe them. The fans of talk radio should expect more, but I wonder if they can tell the difference.
• It was pathetic to see the zest and joy that the local media embraced with regards to the Curt Schilling “38 Studios” story. As Nick Cafardo wrote, people lost jobs and families lost health insurance. Curt Schilling didn’t come off as a fraud as much as he did as a failure in business. When Felger and Minihane railed on his past comments on big government I just think they sounded foolish. Clearly there was a lot of political agenda involved in the Schilling condemnation. Felger made this clear with the Tim Thomas White House story. If we hated it on Dennis & Callahan should we embrace it on Felger and Mazz? Having worked in business for 17 years, I thought government impotence was once again proven in this case. You never, ever give $75 million to an unproven entity. You need to do months of due diligence and bring in the best experts in the business and then you STILL have to be careful when you are talking about taxpayer money. There is a line in the movie “Secretariat” where Seth Hancock says, “My Daddy always said rich people stay rich because they are smart with their money.” Shouldn’t we expect the same of government? That’s the headline. Curt Schilling is just another ex-athlete who failed in business. Athlete is the key term there. The Rhode Island government should have considered that Schilling has proven nothing to this point in his life but how he can perform with a baseball in his hand. He joins a long list of athletes who failed in business. If you want to call him a hypocrite, go ahead. It’s not wrong; it’s just half the story.
I first started writing about talk and electronic media because I wanted to make clear where and when I thought the media was expressing their own personal bias. I want to thank Bruce Allen for encouraging me to continue to pursue those discussions. I also want to thank KC Downey and the guys at Sportsofboston.com for letting me opine about the media and other local sports topics on a weekly basis for the last several months.
I will say this, writing and coming up with new ideas is a full-time job and I respect anyone that can sit at a keyboard and do it on daily basis. I’ll continue to make inane and sensationalistic tweets and hope to throw a column out there from time to time because every once in awhile you get that complement that makes it feel like it’s worth your time.
It’s been fun.