Tea Time: The September Chaos

It’s this time of year that things start getting complicated for fans of multiple sports.  Just as baseball playoff races heat up, football starts and hockey starts, with all the excitement of the new season, and close behind them is basketball.

Obviously, this keeps us very busy.

Over this week’s cup of tea (we’re going with a lovely Assam this week) and some cucumber sandwiches, Sarah and I have a great deal to discuss: not one but two very dramatic Patriots games, the Bruins preseason and the Kessel trade, plus our beloved Red Sox are on a wicked hot streak, which isn’t that uncommon when we go to Camden Yards, but it’s coming at a critical time of the season.

Enjoy!

***

M:   Because last week the Pats game was on Monday night, we’ve had two Pats games since last time.  Two very interesting games.  What were your thoughts?

S:  Oh lord. Well, I’m not too happy. It’s nice to see that Brady’s still flashing brilliantly with some of his passes (see: end of the Bills game), but there are some things that definitely need some work.

M:  Yeah, as unhappy as I am so far, there are certainly glimmers of the team we know they can be. Yesterday was just a mess, though.

S:  It’s true. Unfortunately I could only see the game when the Jets or the Pats were at the 20-yard line or closer, due to stupid regional issues – all I had to watch was ESPN Red Zone, which is craptacular. But from what I could see, there are just some gaping holes that need to be patched up. Which is totally do-able; they just need to take a step back and realize that they AREN’T last year’s team. They’re missing key players, and new guys need to step up and fill the holes.

M:  That’s actually a really good point.  I think the Pats are strongest when they adapt quickly to whatever’s going on– in their best games, they can do it instantly.  For some reason, they’re not adapting right now. Knowing Belichick, however, he is communicating quite well with his players about how to improve their game though.  He’s not one to sit in silence and let things unfold.

S:  No, definitely not. I’m expecting to see some significant changes in next week’s game…  if I get to see next week’s game. Yeah, I’m bitter.

M:  I hope no New England fans believed that Tom Brady would never lose another game.  I mean, really.  This is far from a bad team, there’s loads of talent.  They just need to get their shit together.  I’m keeping the faith.

S:  Also, another thing some people tend to forget is that Tom Brady Is Not The Patriots. He is one man in a roster of dozens; if it weren’t for his spectacular O-line, those three Super Bowl trophies probably wouldn’t be ours. My faith is steadfast as well, contingent on the improvement of the new defensive and offensive linesmen.

M:  It would, however, be better if they got it together sooner rather than later. I mean, I’m a patient woman… um… sometimes… but it would be really nice to see more than glimmers in next week’s game.  Anything else on the Patriots?  I’d rather not dwell on them too much, because as irrational as it is, I’m still totally bummed from yesterday.

S:  No, I think I’m good. The take home message just has to be: learn from those games and move on.

***

M:  How about the Sox?  Magic number of 7 today, with the Rangers falling.  We’re 5 games behind the Yankees and we’re headed to Kansas City while they’re on the west coast.  We still have a 3 game series against them at Fenways.  Bats looking great right now, starting pitching have their act together.

S:  I like it.

M:  A few weeks left in the season and given the dark times we experienced this summer (34 straight innings with no runs?), I’m pretty impressed we’re where we are. Team seems pretty resilient.

S:  I think those 34 innings happened when I wasn’t paying attention. Or maybe I blocked them out. Either way, I’m very happy with the way things are going. More specifically if we want to talk about starting pitchers, I’m pretty proud of Mr. Matsuzaka’s work the other night. Boy seems like he’s back and good to go now, which is nice to see.

M:  Also, I was upset about losing Justin Masterson, because he was such a great kid, but Victor Martinez has been absolutely outstanding on the field and in the clubhouse.  Fantastic trade.  And the Billy Wagner trade and Alex Gonzalez’s return have turned out really well. And yes, Dice-K’s return is really important.  Plus I’ve been thrilled by Clay Buchholz’s performances too.  Dare I say he’s looked consistent?

S:  I think we can tentatively say that he has!

M:  That is a big deal. Also, in the Department of Delicious Vengeful Schadenfreude, it was nice to see Brad Penny finally get shelled in a Giants uniform.

S:  Delicious. Very, very delicious. Can we see some more of that soon? I don’t really miss fat Brad at all.

M:  Yeah, that rotation went through a pretty painful period. So, I think my keys for the next few weeks:  In the bullpen, Papelbon needs to keep up his good work.  It’s been great seeing him in vintage form.  Wagner and Bard as set-up guys look awesome, which is fortunate, because MDC has been making me want to stab myself in the forehead with a soup spoon lately.

S:  Dear god, what is WRONG with MDC lately?

M:  I haven’t the faintest idea but he looks dreadful out there. Daniel Bard, however, has really impressed me.  He had a few rough outings but his stuff is good enough that he bounced back beautifully.

M:  Moving to the starting rotation.  Very simple:  stop giving up home runs, first of all, if they can help it.  Dice-K needs to go as deep as possible into games, though I believe Clay’s earned that third spot in the rotation.  Byrd needs to, you know, just sort of avoid sucking too much. Wakefield… I have to say, knowing what I do about his injury, we should not rely on him too much.  That guy’s in a lot of pain.

S:  Lester was lucky the other night that the bats were working so well; his start wasn’t too neat.

M:  Lester and Beckett though– they’re at the point where I see bad starts as a fluke rather than cause for concern.  I’m pretty confident when they’re out there.

S:  Truth.

M:   Ellsbury has really improved even over the course of the season in the leadoff position.  Jason Bay and Mike Lowell can make or break a game, I’m convinced at this point.  Alex Gonzalez is a lot better than I expected too.

S:  Can I just say? Sometimes I watch Jason Bay make some of his catches out in left field there, and I remember how Manny totally WOULDN’T have made 99% of those catches… and then I love Jason Bay just that little bit more.

M:  Yeah, and it isn’t like Jason Bay is that great defensively, at all.

S:    No. The fact that he’s THAT much of an improvement is a little sad.

M:   But just the fact that he makes even the slightest effort, you know?  It’s the same with shortstop.  All of the sudden these hitters are out that weren’t before.  Double plays are being turned magnificently.  And Pedroia always looks so excited when that happens.  He and Gonzalez clearly have a great rapport.

S:   They do. Pedroia’s been doing his job spectacularly, at least on the defensive side of things.

M:  And we can’t have a Sox discussion without talking about catching.  Tek has embarrassed himself recently.  I’m actually fairly convinced that one reason Buchholz is so strong is that he has a great relationship with Martinez.  I’m sorry, but on any given day, I want V-Mart behind the plate.  I won’t get into Tek bashing, but now that even Tek’s defense is looking shoddy, there’s little to keep him in the lineup.

S:  Man, I will be the first to defend Tek from any bashing of him – he’s consistently been one of my favorites to watch for YEARS – but even I’m a little embarrassed to watch him as of late.

M:  See, I’ve always been a skeptic.  I’m not a believer in intangibles. Please appreciate my lack of smugness here.

S:  Wow. Appreciating, for sure.

M:  I know, right?

S:  I’m a little scared, actually. But I’m with you on V-Mart. Dude seems solid, seems to have good chemistry with our pitchers. (Do they use the chemistry word in baseball, or is my hockey leaking out?)

M:  No, they do. His teammates love him.  From everything I’ve heard, V-Mart is a phenomenal guy to have around.  Has special handshakes and nicknames and everything.  I think that kind of thing is needed when we have a clubhouse full of guys who take the competition so damn seriously.

S:  Dare I ask if you think there’s a possibility the Sox can overtake the Yanks? Or do you think we should settle for securing the Wild Card right now?

M:  I think there’s a possibility.  I don’t think I’d put money on it, but it’s a possibility. And if there’s any team that ccan come back from being that far back in the division, it’s the Red Sox. This team is incredibly resilient and I doubt they’ve given up on it.

S:  I feel like we’d know if they’d given up on it. This team has pulled off some ridiculous comebacks before. Who says they can’t do it now?

M:  Yeah.  I suspect the elder statesmen wouldn’t let that happen, not after the 04 ALCS.  It’s evidence of the kind of change in mindset on this team since then.  It’s a different way of playing.  And think about it:  how long ago was it that there’s no way we would even fathom being able to overtake the Yankees.  It amazes me how much that series changed the landscape of the AL East.

Any excuse to put up photos of the 04 playoffs.

***

M:  Okay, we only have a few more minutes.  Bruins preseason games.  So far they’re 3-1-0.  Not that it matters, but that’s not shabby considering it’s been our rookies out there.

S:  Can I proclaim my love for Steve Begin and reaffirm my love of the Kobasew-Bergeron-Recchi line right now? Is that cool? Because, dear lord.

M:  Steve Begin has won me over.  And I always knew you loved that line.  Bergeron is looking absolutely fantastic. All our centers, actually, have impressed me.

S:  They have.

M:  Who do you think is getting a callup at some point this year?  Marchand stands out to me.

S: Marchand and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Hamill get a callup as well, at least for a few games.

M:  Andy Wozsafoeiwjqfoeiwja;ofij whatever his name is actually has been looking like a decent option, along with Boychuk.

S:  Wozniewski. Come on, it’s not that hard to spell.

M:  Oh, look at you. All smarty-pants.  Once again showing me up.  We couldn’t go one week, could we?

S:  Not at all. And the situation here is that Boychuk’s contract this year is one-way, so if he gets sent down in favor of Andy Woz, he’ll be one of the most expensive of all the AHLers. The Bruins don’t want to be paying that much for someone who’s not even contributing to their team.

M:  That’s true.

S:  So we’ll have to see – I foresee Woz being the first callup if anyone gets hurt, with Boychuk as the 7th d-man, at least to start the season.

M:  Speaking of expensive AHLers, I think the job is Tuukka Rask’s to back up Tim Thomas.  I just don’t see Sabourin as being measurably better.

He doesnt always look this calm.

He doesn't always look this calm...

S:  Sabourin just doesn’t look quite as comfortable as Rask does in goal. Rask seriously has been steadily improving over the last two years. If Sabourin gets that job I’ll honestly be shocked.

M:  You’ll cry. Admit it.

S:  Okay, yeah, fine. I’ll cry pretty hard. I love that kid.

M:  What do we think of the rest of the returning players?  Any other observations?  It’s hard because I’ve only watched that one game and I went to a practice.

S:  On the forward side of things I’m seeing Sobotka as the extra forward, possibly getting more playing time on Krejci’s line until he comes back full force. He’s looking good this year. So are Savvy and Ryder, in fact. There’s been a bit of rust, but they’re shaking it off.  That’s what preseason is for, though. Shake off the rust, figure out the lines. I’m pretty happy with the results so far – the real test will be on 10/1.

M:  I know we’ve posted about this… but any last words on Kessel before we never ever ever mention it again?

S:  Yeah. Commenters both made good points. I’m hoping the general consensus becomes that of apathy towards him instead of anger and haterade. We need to shift the focus inward.

M:  I want to emphasize the total and complete lack of trust Bruins fans have in their management that has been apparent through the whole process.  I don’t know whether it was the Thornton trade, or the 37 years without a Cup, or a combination of everything, but we act like a bunch of kicked puppies.  I said it in the post:  a winning season filled the Garden again, but this team has a long, long way to go before Bruins fans feel comfortable again. We’re always waiting for the next shoe to drop, for the next team-breaking trade, for the next bad signing.  And if it isn’t a bad move, or might not be one, there are still Bruins fans yowling away about the management’s failures of the last few years.  “They always do this, blah blah blah…”

S:  Agreed, 100%. Imagine if the fans felt the same way about the Sox front office? Or the Pats? If we didn’t have epic trust in Theo or Belichick or Pioli?

M:  I know, but they’ve also earned it to some extent. They have results.  A lot of them.

S:  This is true. It was a THOUGHT EXERCISE, though.

M:  OH.  THINKING.  Right. In any case, I still hate Jacobs.  I look at him and all I see is evil. It isn’t an issue of being cheap, though he was, it’s an issue of being a doof who doesn’t care about winning.

S:  He sort of looks like the old Emperor from Star Wars. Or some sort of stereotypical bad guy.

M: Mr. Burns.

S:  YES.

S:  He sort of runs things similarly to Mr. Burns, as well, don’t you think?

M:  Yeah, pretty much.

S:  Fail.

M:  Epic fail. So, in summary here, Go Pats But Get Your Act Together, Go Sox, and Go Bruins?
S:  Precisely! Order of importance right now is probably Sox because of postseason being right over the horizon, then Pats because their season is short, and Bruins can continue to sort of experiment with lines and whatnot, so they’re a bit lower priority for now.

M:  It is important to prioritize.

S:  Thanks, I try.

M:   Thanks for only one-upping me once today.  I think my self-esteem might be intact.

S:   No problem. I’ll try to keep the one-upping to a minimum. This is a friendly blog, after all.

M:  Yeah, we’re friends.  Buddies. I mean, as Bostonians there’s a constant baseline level of antagonism and distrust.  But we get by.

S:   We do.

Photos courtesy of Getty Images, AP Photos, John Wilcox/Boston Herald,
Reuters, the Boston Globe

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