Sunday, January 23, 2011

Hope Springs Eternal

Went to the annual Pawtucket Red Sox Hotstove today at McCoy Stadium to get free autographs.  With the frigid weather and a lack of no-doubt future major league stars, the turnout was low--and so was the wait!  Normally the lines last for hours, but that's with better weather and players like #1 draft pick Casey Kelly (last year; since traded to the Padres in the Adrian Gonzalez deal) and Lars Anderson and Daniel Bard the year before that (when Bard smudged his own autograph when he gave the ball back to me; I'm looking at it in my office now.  Anyone have a Daniel Bard autographed ball to trade?).

But even a wait of hours is worth it.  Even when it was about 3 degrees last year--and not much warmer this year--it's worth it.  Hope springs eternal at any ballgame, at any level, but at these things, even the ballplayers signing autographs need hope.  Most of them won't make it to the majors.  This year's athletes included a Rule V draftee from a few years ago and a pitcher who had a cup of coffee last year in September.  The Rule V guy--designated as a probable no-shot to begin with, as most Rule Vs are--probably won't make it to the majors if he's spent a few years in the minors as a Rule V guy already.  The pitcher who came up in September didn't impress; no one knows that more than him.  Those guys usually don't get 2nd chances.  The guy most likely to get to the majors today was Ryan Lavarnway, drafted 6th in 2009, who tore up Division I at Yale and set records for homers there; he hit 22 homers and drove in 102 last year.  But the Sox are stacked with catchers, and he's got to learn to call a better game if he's going to make it at all.  He'll probably be traded or go as a free agent to another team who needs a decent hitting catcher--if he doesn't hit the wall before then.

But any one of these guys could make it.  One of them could go all the way to the majors this year.  They show us that we all could do something we dream of.  I could get an agent this year; I could get a novel published.  That's why grown men stand in lines in the cold for hours to get autographs of other guys who most likely won't make it to the majors, thereby making their autographs worthless.

Because they could.  We all could.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Johnny and Manny

So Johnny Damon and Manny go to the Rays.  Who would've thought that Johnny Damon would get paid more for a year than Manny?  Johnny gets $5.25 million; Manny gets just over $2 million.  Not chump change for sure, but the Rays are saying right now that Damon is worth $3 million more than Manny.  Think about that a second!  Who could've seen that 5 years ago?  (Come to think of it, Jason Bay, who replaced Manny with the Sox, isn't doing so hot these days, either.)

Don't think it's Manny being Manny that got him the lower contract, either.  It's the spectre of the 'roids, of course.  I haven't seen Manny play every day for a couple of years now, but talk has it that his swing has holes now, that his wrist action is just a touch slower.  That's the absence of 'roids, people say.  I don't know.  But I have to say that I wouldn't pay a negative, whining, complaining slugger, who can't slug well and never could field well (though honesty compels me to say that his outfield throws have usually been very accurate)--and he's got a lousy work ethic, too.

Damon will give his all, and be largely inappropriate as he does so.  He'll field well and throw badly.  He'll draw his share of walks and pull some homers to right.  He'll steal quite a few bases if they let him play full-time, though he'll need to rest more these days.  People don't realize what a workhorse he used to be, playing over 155 games a year for many consecutive years.  All told, one of the more under-appreciated players of my baseball-watching career, which started in the mid-80s.  He'll be sabermatricians' favorite player by the time he retires.  He'll probably fall just short of the hall.  Manny, after the writers have punished him long enough for the 'roids and his on-field antics, will get in, probably after his 8th or 9th try.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Any Given Sunday

You play badly in football, you deserve to lose.  The Patriots played very badly indeed.  It was obvious after the pick, even though no points were scored on that, and when they went behind 10-3, I called it a loss and went out to dinner.  I was right.  (I'm good at calling their losses very early in the game.)  They deserved to lose, sad to say.  Winning isn't a right; you have to earn it.  Even as a fan of the team, I know this to be so.  They don't deserve to win just because I'm a fan of the team.  (Too many sports fans don't get this simple concept.)

Well, out of the 4 remaining teams, I'd have to call Pittsburgh, simply because they're the only team not severely over-performing.  The Packers, Bears and Jets are all playing over their heads; none of them are as good as they're playing--I don't care what Bill Parcells' famous expression says.  I'd have to pick Pittsburgh to win it all.  (As long as the Jets don't, I don't really care, to be honest.)

If they do, that would give Big Ben 3 Super Bowl wins, and now we're talking Hall of Fame credentials.  This is one of the uncomfortable things about sports, that you can't take individual honors away from a guy just because you don't like him.  It's the reason the Hall hasn't kicked out O.J., and it's why they'll have to let Big Ben in.  There's no doubt that he's not a great person--few of us are, I guess--but he seems to cross the line into seediness.  But if he wins again, he'll quietly have as many rings as Tom Brady, though he's obviously not in the same league as a player. 

That's the NFL today, or at least the Super Bowls in the last 7-10 years: the Patriots, the Colts and the Steelers, with occasional upsets thrown in.  There's parity, for sure, but still, at the peak, you have the same repeaters.  It's the latest secret of the sport: more wins for more teams, but in the end, when it matters most, the same ones are there, with an occasional surprise.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

5 Baseball Musings

Quick randomness:

--Trevor Hoffman retired too late.  If you're a player having spent your entire career for one organization over a span of 15 years or more, you must reflect upon your decision to play for another team.  Trevor Hoffman finishing his career with the Brewers isn't like Tony Gwynn doing the same, but it's close.  He's free to do what he wants, and certainly the money was outstanding, as the Brewers severely overpaid, but...leaves a slightly bad taste.  Not like Favre leaving the Packers left a bad taste, but, again, it's comparable.

--With the trade of Matt Garza, the Rays have almost completely dismantled its playoff teams of the past few years.  They're going down now as the Rangers continue to ascend.  The lousy attendance at Rays games and the small fanbase were going to catch up with them sooner or later.  Hard to figure, as the Rays have been a winning and exciting team for some years now, certainly for long enough to build a solid fanbase.  But it didn't happen.  You might remember when the Braves weren't selling out home playoff games in the 1990s and 2000s, and when the Marlins couldn't draw during their 2 World Series winning years.  Sinful.

--If the Rays' rookies come through, they'll give the Yanks a fight for 2nd place.  Either way, though, don't look for the Wild Card team to come from the American League East this year.

--What happened to the Angels?  Why doesn't anyone want to play for them anymore?  Nobody's changed in the administration, and I'd play for their manager any day.  They have trucks of money to dump on players, as they always have, and yet nobody's taking it anymore.  They're losing players like they're the Expos, and they can't replace them.  The ones they've lost in the last 3-4 years could form an All-star team.  The players union knows something about the Angels that I and the more-than-casual fan don't know.

--I'll be in the stands for at least 4 Sox games this year.  I have a truly awesome friend who brings me (we travel for the other two games).  I TOLD YOU--I'M LOOKING FORWARD TO IT!!!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Michael Vick

And so Michael Vick's season comes to a close.  Newspaper pundits I have read recently have placed him third in MVP voting (a few place him 2nd) and most of them don't have him winning the Comeback Player of the Year Award, either.  Many have him 2nd, some 3rd.  Brady is still too much of a great player for anyone to remember that he missed all but one game last year.  He is, though, picked by most to win another MVP.

This is an example of how sports transcends itself.  Michael Vick isn't, of course, just a quarterback anymore.  He will forever be under the microscope, by fans, critics and reporters, and he will be hated by most of them.  Forgiven by few outside of management; in fact, the Eagles deserve credit not just for hiring him, per se, but for being willing to deal with the mountain of criticism they had to be expecting.  They signed him anyway, and he's had a great offensive year.  (The Offensive Player of the Year Award is something he did not finish in the top 3 for, according to the stuff I read today.  Brady didn't, either.  The winner is expected to be the KC Chief's HB.)  He's been taught to run last and hang in there in the pocket, and outside of it, with the ball.  I have to admit that I didn't value him highly when he played for the Falcons.  Too many games around 100 yards throwing, 150 yards rushing, and seemingly not enough of either to make them win consistently.  The Eagles gave up on McNabb for him, astounding enough; even more amazing is that it seems like the right call.

Did Vick deserve it?  Well, I don't know.  The guys voting for the awards don't seem to think so.  I fear some moralizing going on here, and I feel about it just like I felt about it in terms of the Baseball Hall of Fame voting the last few years.  (See blogs below.)  They seem to be saying that he's lucky enough to get a job in the NFL again; an award is too much to ask for.

Perhaps.  I'm not a big awards guy, and I suspect that Vick is just happy to be out of jail, to have a job that he loves, and to have a job that pays extremely well.  Does he deserve that job?  Well, I see it this way: He's been released from prison, which means a few things:

The simpler thing to say is that he's out, and he needs something to do.  I suspect that the millions he made before the trial are gone; I'll bet that he's in debt to the same lawyers he's already paid millions to.  So he needs a job, and I don't doubt that football is the thing he does best in life.  So he needed a job.  The Falcons understandably had to release him or fire him, as per the league rules of suspension for conduct.  Certainly once he had to go to jail, he had to be replaced by somebody, and the Falcons did very well this year without him.  But the Eagles needed someone, and the genius of an offensive coach they had thought he could change his playing psyche, which he did.  The Eagles and their fans would take a winner, and they got won.  I don't fault the Eagles for offering him the backup position, which he then upgraded to the starting position with his play, and I don't fault him for taking the offer.  What else, after all, was he to do?  It's not his fault that he's extremely good at a sports job that pays very well.  While it is true that few people in life get the second chance he did, you can't fault him for taking it.

The second thing it means, him being out of jail, is that he has paid his debt to society and he's a free man--outside of whatever probation he got, and he's of course also special in that, because of his job, he is free to roam the country when most guys on probation cannot legally leave their state.  Whatever.  The bottom line is that you either believe in the system, or you don't.  He paid his debt to society, and hopefully he's rehabilitated.  That's what the jail system was at first designed to do, right?  Rehabilitate?  Hopefully it has.  I didn't know he was doing all that horrible dog stuff before, so I guess I wouldn't know it if he still was now.  But you have to believe in the system, because if you don't, what are all those people doing in there now?  If you don't believe that such people can be rehabilitated, then you're saying that anyone who has ever been in jail is doomed to a loser life when he gets out.

Since that is the horrible truth for many, if not most, we need to celebrate those who leave the system, hopefully changed for the better, who make something of themselves.  To truly prove that he has, maybe Vick can travel the country--now that his season is over--and speak at other prisons, or halfway houses, or whatever, and show ex-cons that maybe they can make something of themselves as well.  That would be nice.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Seahawks vs. Saints

The problem, as I see it, is the Saints' defense, not the fact that the defending Super Bowl champs had to play a road game against a sub-.500 team.  Strictly speaking, you don't give up more than 40 points to a 7-9 team.  If you do, you'll lose, and you'll deserve it.  That last running TD of the Seahawks was the closer, and a travesty to allow.  Really poor tackling (though nice stiff-arm at the end).  But enough already of how the Saints were defeated by a faulty playoff system.  They were defeated by their defense.  Truth be told, they won it all last year with a dynamic offense, as Brees had one of the best years ever for a quarterback.  Their defense was lousy last year, too.  They just had a better offense and, let's be honest, a lot of luck last year.

And how about giving some love to Hasselbeck?  He's been a quality gunslinger for a long time; he always has the potential to beat you.  The 'Hawks go as he goes.  When he's on, he can pile up yards and just beat you with his arm.  I didn't call the game for them, but I knew that it was very possible that the Saints could not cover the spread.  Both teams had good offenses and bad defenses, and if the real Hasselbeck showed up--and he did--I knew this could be a close one, especially with the Seahawks at home.  I should've bet.

Finally, how about a round of applause for Pete Carroll?  He's lost the deer-in-the-headlights look he used to have with the Patriots, hasn't he?  I guess that time at USC really turned him around.  Good to see him picking himself up and dusting himself off in the NFL.  He never was a bad guy in New England; people genuinely liked him around.  He just seemed completely out of his element, over his head, or whatever your favorite cliche is.  Maybe he just needs a smaller, less rabid media center to work in.  I don't know what the media situation is in Seattle, but it can't be the blistering furnace that the sports media and fanbase is in New England.  

Friday, January 7, 2011

Roberto Alomar

Don't worry, this post won't be as long as yesterday's.  For good reason: His selection to the Hall was a no-brainer.  His career stats are very good, though not mind-blowing, sort of like Frankie Frisch.  A quick glance at his sheet lays it bare: 12 straight All-Star appearances; 10 Gold Gloves in 11 years.  (Who broke the string in 1997?)  It's that simple.  The fans and his contemporaries thought he was the first or second best 2nd basemen in the league for 12 straight years.  That's dominance.  His contemporaries and sportswriters thought he was the best fielding second baseman in the league 10 out of 11 years.  That's dominance. 

Add to that 2,700 hits, 500 doubles, a .300 batting average, base-stealing excellence, bat mastery and run-scoring ability, not to mention that he passed the eye test (attributed greatness from those who watched him play, in the park and on television), and you have a sure Hall of Famer.  Simply stated, he is the best fielding second baseman I've ever seen, period.  He made it look easy.  He made it look graceful.  He made a highlight reel play there every day, literally.  He got to balls no one else has since; he made throws from short right to first base all the time.  He could play that far right of second because of his unnatural ability to cover a ton of ground up the middle and turn his body like a ballerina and throw to first, all in one motion, often in mid-air.  He deserves to be in the Hall for his defense alone.  He is the Ozzie Smith of second basemen.  Plus, if that wasn't enough, he's one of the best hitting second basemen I've ever seen (with Ryne Sandberg, Jeff Kent--and Pedroia in a much shorter career so far). 

Another easy litmus test: Ryne Sandberg is in the Hall, and played alongside Alomar for a bit of their careers (Sandberg started about 5 years earlier).  At the very least, Alomar hit his prime just after Sandberg was finishing up.  Anyway, you can very easily and quickly compare them; this is a comparison that Alomar very clearly wins.  He was the best second baseman in the 1990s, period, and perhaps the best ever.  Announcers at the time would speak of his greatness during the game.  It was an established feeling that everyone had.

A sure-fire first-ballot Hall of Famer did not make it on the first ballot because of The Spit, of course.  Though I'm not a fan of the sportswriters using the power of their votes to moralize, it should be noted that

a) The Hall does have a moral clause in its benchmarks that voters are asked to follow.  (If they followed this clause fully, Ty Cobb, George Sisler and others would not be in the Hall; it's why Pete Rose isn't.)  And--

b) The Spit really was that shocking.  I remember seeing it live on television; I remember being shocked to silence for many moments, my mouth literally agape.  The announcers were shocked and angry.  So were the fans.  It is still, to this day, the one action of my baseball-viewing career that so totally shocked and angered the sport.  Fairly or not, he will be remembered for it.

I am okay with the writers stating their displeasure, years later, by making him wait a year, and not letting him be a first-balloter because of it.  I have to also suspect that they suspect that perhaps that moment was a temporary rage caused by something besides the umpire, if you know what I mean.  This alone would make the writers pause a year before opening the door.  I'm okay with that, too.  It's a message, sure, but as it says these two important things, I'm okay with it.  It says, "We suspect."  (And look at the very sudden collapse at the end of his career, almost immediately after an MVP-caliber year.  That's all I'm sayin'.)

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Hall of Fame: Bert Blyleven

I'm glad Blyleven was elected to the HOF for many reasons, but mostly because he's the poster child for sabermetrics.  (The importance of sabermetrics will be the subject of another entry.)  His stats, superficially below the Hall's standards for so long, now show why those standards were superficial to begin with.

Were the writers put off by his 287 wins--13 wins shy of the magical 300?  Were the writers that stickly?  300 wins, or else?  Even without the knowledge of WAR and other newer sabermetric standards (some of which I am honestly ignorant of myself), these writers knew what ERA was, right?  And WHIPs?  (That's walks + hits divided by innings pitched.  Essentially this shows you the number of runners allowed on base by the pitcher per inning.  Statistically, this absolves good pitchers who work for bad defensive teams.  It also shows you the occasional pitcher who has high WHIPs but low ERAs.  How can that be?  Answer: He pitches well in the clutch, when he has to.  Think Dice-K from a few years ago.)  I don't doubt that this was actually an issue early on in the voting.  But how could it have been as the years went by?  287 wins means he probably should have had 300, so why didn't he?

Look at his stats from 1971 to 1974.  In order, his won/lost records were 16-15, 17-17, 20-17, 17-17.  His ERAs were 2.81, 2.73, 2.52 and 2.66.  Here you have the definitive "problem" of his career.  In those 4 years, he was among the league leaders in wins and ERA each year, yet, all told, he won only 4 more games than he lost.  How can a pitcher win so many games while losing so many games, and have good ERAs?  Simple: He pitched for teams who did not score for him, or did not field well for him.  This is odd, because (I'll have to research this) but the Twins at the time had Killebrew, Oliva and Carew and Olivo, didn't they?  They should've scored well, and often.  Maybe they just didn't for him, or they dropped the ball.  (sorry.)  That's odd, too, because Blyleven was a strikeout/flyball pitcher.  Hmmm...I'll have to come back to this.  The point is, though, that with a swing of 3 games a year--easily possible with his ERAs--then he's got a 19-win season and three consecutive 20-win seasons.  And 299 wins.  Pick up one more in all the years he pitched, you got your 300 wins, and your established peak value.  With those, there would not be a HOF discussion about him.  This also points out that win totals are often a lousy indicator of a pitcher's value.  With King Felix's Cy Young last year, this will be forever cemented in the minds of the voters.  He pitched for a lousy team that was one of the worst all-time scoring runs, and so he won just one more game than he lost.  But the voters, more savvy than in the past, correctly looked past that and gave him the Cy.  Imagine pitching for that team for most of your career--though not that bad a team--and you'd have a career much like Blyleven's.  Had Blyleven pitched for the A's or Yanks from 1971-1974, he would have easily won at least 22 games each year.  A quick glance at a Bill James Abstract shows that his teams were well below .500 teams in those years.  In 1973, he went 20-17 for a winning % of .541.  Not great on the surface, but spectacular when you see that his team played .488 without him.  In 1984, while with Cleveland, he went 19-7, for a .731 winning %, and the team played .412 ball without him.  That's an extreme example, of course, but it shows you what we're dealing with.  By the end of the 1986 season, he had 21.4 more wins above the rest of his team, according to James's Abstract published in 1988.  In other words, as mediocre as his .534 winning percentage is, it is far better than the combined winning % of the teams he played for.  In short, he played really well for some really bad teams.  (A quick glance at Nolan Ryan's stats shows you that, had he pitched for the Yanks for most of his career, rather than some very bad California and Texas teams, he would have won close to 400 games.)

To further prove this point, a few quick things I learned while gleaning other people's articles and blogs:

Joe Posnanski, a sportswriter for SI, points out that Blyleven won more 1-0 games than anyone else in the last 90 years.  Why?  Because he had to.  Blyleven, I mean.  At a guess, you'd have to imagine that he also lost more close games--or gotten a no-decision--than any pitcher in the last 90 years.

He's 13th all-time amongst pitchers in WAR.  This means that if you removed him from the roster, and replaced him with an average pitcher, that pitcher wouldn't be able to win as many games for that particular team than Blyleven did.  It takes a special pitcher to win for bad teams, and essentially Blyleven was the 13th best pitcher at doing that, all-time.  As a point of reference, Steve Carlton won 27 games and a Cy Young for a last-place team one year.  Blyleven (without pitching exactly as well as Carlton, in one year or for a career) did that almost every year of his career.

The obvious stats:

His 287 wins are 27th best, all-time.

His 3,701 Ks are 5th, all-time.

His 60 shutouts are 9th, all-time.  Since 1966, only Ryan and Seaver had more.  These last two things highlight another essential aspect of a HOF career: dominance.  If you strike 'em out, and you shut 'em out, you're dominating them.  If they can't hit you at all, and they can't score off you at all, you're dominating.  He was the 5th best and the 9th best at doing that.  Ever.

His 241 complete games is 91st all-time.  Not so hot on the surface, but from 1970 to the present, that'll be in the top ten.

He's a ROY winner, a two-time World Series winner, and he threw a no-hitter.

In 1985, he went 17-16 but led the league in games started, complete games, innings pitched, shutouts and strikeouts.  Again, if you finish what you start, and pitch more than anyone else, and they can't hit you or score off you, that's dominance.  He completed 24 games that year.  No one since 2000 has finished more than 10.  In 1985, when no one but Bill James was aware of these other benchmarks we've discussed, the Cy Young voters still looked past his won/lost record and he finished 3rd in the voting.

I could go on, but we've both probably had enough.  Why am I taking this so seriously?  First, it's very clear to me, and has been for a long time, before I ever knew anything about these other sabermetric benchmarks, that if you've pitched more innings than most, and you've struck out more than most, and you've shut down opposing teams more than most, then you're better than most.  And, if you're better than most, you should be in the HOF.  I knew this 14 years ago.  This is simple logic, and you don't have to be a sabermetrician to very clearly see this.

It is frustrating when people, in baseball and in real life, have a certain bias towards what they're looking for to the exclusion of everything else.  It is true that he doesn't have 300 wins.  It is true that he won 20 games just once.  It is true that he doesn't have a very obvious showing of peak value.  It is true that his peak years, statistically, may have come early, and since they came for a bad team, the stats they created don't look great on the surface.

But I hate on-the-surface thinking.  It annoys me--and often angers me--that sometimes that's the best that most people can do.  There's a lack of long-term, big-picture thinking here, of seeing the forest through the trees.  Blyleven wasn't the beautiful woman you can easily pick out of a crowd.  He's the beautiful woman who wears baggy sweatshirts who slips through the cracks of the minds of superficial thinkers.  He's the actually-attractive woman at the end of an 80s or 90s movie who the lunkheaded guy finally sees for who she is.  He's the guy who pitched for mediocre teams in the 70s and 80s that were not in NY or CA and therefore not on television most of the time for everyone to see.

He's the person you actually have to think about to appreciate.  And it took baseball's best 14 years to be able to do it.  And without a rabid fan base of sabermetricians and internet supporters, they wouldn't have.  He's not Pedro; he might not transcend eras like Pedro did.  But I tire of the articles and blogs today that make it seem like you have to be an expert in theoretical quantum physics to understand the numbers well enough to appreciate him.  It isn't so.  You just have to think.  A little.  Why is that so hard?

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Random Thoughts

--It isn't fair that the younger fans never had to suffer through the 1-15 years like I did.  Then again, that makes them not appreciate these Patriots like I do, and those my age.  Remember when they used to be called the Patsies?  And when someone said Pats, it was with a much more negative tone.

--Brady and Belichick will make the Hall of Fame.  But let's not forget Robert Kraft.

--The fact that the Patriots improved vastly by trading away Randy Moss tells you all you need to know about Randy Moss.  For those of you familiar with old-time baseball, you'll understand when I say that Randy Moss suffers from Rogers Hornsby Syndrome.

--I'll take Deion Branch over Randy Moss any day.  Unless you need a catch in back of the endzone.

--The Pats still get decent picks in that trade for Moss, even though the Vikings discarded him immediately.

--Speaking of the Vikings, the head coach took the hit for the whole organization.  There's been some really bad decisions made up there the last few years.  The owners never fire the owner, do they?

--Speaking of owners, the big guy of the Raiders needs to go.  Can't the NFL make him step aside like baseball did to Marge Schott?

--I'm glad the Bengals and Browns have gotten better.  I was tired of seeing them be the jokes of the league since the Patriots improved.

--More than any other sport, the organization makes or breaks the team in football.  Baseball teams win with bonehead GMs and owners all the time.  (Like the Yanks and A's of the 70s, for example.)  Not so in football.  And before you say Jerry Jones, remember that the Cowboys won a lot when he had a coach he trusted and he wasn't a pastiche of himself.

Monday, January 3, 2011

It's What He Doesn't

So again Brady throws for about 200 yards, but has 2 touchdowns, no picks, and wins handily.  Getting a touchdown from a runback doesn't hurt, either, and of course the second string threw one, but I am again amazed at how much he can do while doing so little.  The point needs to be made again that it's not what he does that testifies to his greatness--because, as great as that is, plenty of people have done more, including Manning and Brees this year--but it's what he doesn't do that makes him surpass the greatness of Manning and, to a lesser extent, Brees.  Each of them have thrown over 15 picks since Brady threw his last one.  And, although they may have thrown more passes for more yards, Brady leads the league in touchdowns, which is what counts.

He doesn't get picked.  He doesn't fumble.  He doesn't take unnecessary sacks.  He doesn't absorb unnecessary hits.  He doesn't hold the ball too long.  He doesn't make ill-advised throws.  He doesn't force something to happen.  He doesn't say stupid things to the press (or to anyone, for all I know).  He doesn't talk garbage about his players or his coach.  He doesn't talk garbage about Randy Moss, who in turn talks about everybody.

This facet separates him from the traditional gunslingers.  Manning, Favre and Bledsoe are/were too much in love with their own arms.  They forced throws.  They took unnecessary hits and sacks.  (The fact that Favre did so more than anyone I've ever seen, and still came to play every week, is an even more unbelievable facet to his record.)  They threw tons of picks because of these things.  Brady doesn't.  That's what elevates him. 

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Tom Terrific

Okay, been away for awhile.  Holidays, writing, life gettin' in the way, ya know?  Well, let's talk a little bit about Tom Brady.  I won't bother with the stats.  You can go to and tons of other places if you want that.  What I want to mention is how impressed I am about the fact that he can win in tons of ways.  He can simply throw for over 350 yards and just outmuscle the other team.  Or, like last week, he can throw for about 230 yards, maybe less, and connect on only about half his passes, but still throw 3 touchdowns with no picks and beat you handily.  He connected on a low number of passes, but three of them were TDs--which means, he's on the money when it really matters.  And he can pick apart your defense, too.  There were more dropped passes than there were off-target passes, last week, I assure you (and some lucky passes that weren't picked off, sure).

I mention all this because he just wins.  He wins sparingly; he wins by outslinging the other QB; he wins because of his accuracy; he wins because he was lucky not to be picked off; he wins because his line protects him well and gives him a lot of time to throw; he wins because he's got a great coach.  He wins.  He just wins.  And, I don't know if anyone's been noticing this, but he also wins without taking any days off.  He's not in Favre's league yet, but he takes some hits and gets back in there.  He does all this without being a prettyboy, a primadonna, a jerk, or a mistake in front of the mike.  He could so easily be any of these things, and not just because of his talent, his wins, his Super Bowls, or his wife--plenty of players have been more of a jerk and not done quite as much.

He's a role model in a time when no one is anymore.  What else can you ask for?