Report card feedback in the mailbag this week, which is pretty much code for a little J.D. Drew bashing. The people have found their scapegoat, and he’s not going to be able to use a sore groin as an excuse to get out of this spot.
Also, I take some grief for suggesting that Paul Pierce is merely a Hall of Famer and not his generation’s Larry Bird (guess I missed the three MVPs), try to care about Brett Favre, take my usual shots at ESPN and celebrate the finest half hour of each work day. And yes, the Clown Shoes make the most anticipated comeback since, well, Brett Favre.
To the ‘bag we go (and, as always, feel free to email away to email@example.com)
A D+ for J.D. Drew? Come on, have you watched the Red Sox once this season? The guy has been terrible and is freaking soft. He’s the highest paid player on the team and he has done nothing. Worst move of the Theo Era. You have to flunk him. A D+ is way too easy.
A: I agree that Drew has been a complete flop in Boston. No question. Jimmy Fallon as a Movie Star flop. But two things, I think, really make Drew a target.
(1) Unlike Ortiz and Varitek (the other obvious scapegoat candidates), Drew isn’t viewed as one of “us”. He’s what Rose Dewitt’s mother would call “new Red Sox”. Sure, he’s won a World Series and has a huge grand slam to his credit, but the 2004 guys are just looked at differently. And that’s understandable.
(And yes, it hurt to make my first ever Titanic reference on WEEI.com and not have it involve the great Billy Zane. It frankly makes me melancholy, and I don’t pretend to know why.)
(2) As a fan, it’s always perversely gratifying to first guess a GM and be dead right about it. And that is what happened here. Theo told us about OBP and 162-game projections, but we knew J.D. Drew wouldn’t work in Boston. Just knew it.
Two criticisms of your report card from 8/17.
1. J.D. Drew is making 14-million dollars a year and has been awful. Should have got an F. I’d rather see Josh Reddick out there every day. At least he actually wants to play.
2. I would have given Penny a B or B minus, if only because he’s taken the ball every fifth day. That’s been key with Dice-K and Wakefield out.
A: We’ve all been looking for a role for Varitek, right? He can’t play more than once or twice a week, so how about this? Let’s have him give Drew a makeover, give him the full captain treatment. I want the almost beard. I want Drew sprinting back to the dugout every time he strikes out. Maybe a steely look every once in a while. This way, if Drew hits .220 it’s not really a problem, because he will be loaded with intangibles that non-players like you and me could never, ever understand.
Penny? Well, I just don’t think a 5.22 ERA is worthy of a B or B-. True, he has pitched every fifth day, but I don’t think it would be hard to replace those innings. I think he’s been closer to a “D” than a “B”.
Sorry you got Yanged, but I didn’t need to read another kiss-ass Tiger Woods story. Go work with the rest of the Tiger suck-ups at CBS if that’s what you want to do. Who goes to WEEI for golf news anyway?
PS—I’m with you on Dennis Johnson. Hope he gets in next year.
A: Well, guess you won’t enjoy the Brad Faxon mailbag, Mike.
I agree for the most part with your grades. At this point, I'm not sure if I want the Sox to stagger in to the playoffs only to be soundly defeated by the Angels, or worse yet, the NYY. Regardless of what happens, this upcoming offseason might be Theo's most challenging yet since he donned the gorilla suit. Lots of age problems (Ortiz, Varitek, Wakefield), to sign or not to sign Bay and for how much, shortstop, etc, etc.
Just as an aside, I happened to be watching the MLB Network during the All Star break, and a 3 man panel of ex GM John Hart, Mitch Williams, and I believe Joe Magraine all predicted a World Series title by the Red Sox. How quickly things have changed in just one short month.
A: I’m not sure I agree with you on Theo, Bob. I actually think this is going to be a pretty light offseason. The only real question is whether or not they sign Bay. Ortiz is under contract for 2010 and Varitek has a player option. He’ll be back, I’m sure. All the young guys are under contract. The rotation is pretty much set (Beckett/Lester/Dice-K/Wakefield/Buchholz). Maybe Theo makes his annual Wade Miller/ Paul Byrd/John Smoltz “rebound pitcher on the cheap” move, but I can’t imagine anything else of consequence.
We’ve seen enough of Jason Bay to make a decision, I think. Would you give him five years, 75 million? It’s close, but I think I would. He’s only 30 years old, so this isn’t one of those contracts where you are basically admitting that the final year will probably be a washout. I think he’ll give you .280-30-110 and not make a sound for the next half decade.
Now that you seem comfortably entrenched as the mailbag guy I figured now would be a good time to take issue with some things you wrote a couple of months ago.
Throughout the course of your writing on WEEI.com, it has become ever-so apparent that you loathe Paul Pierce as a player.
It's OK though. You're just like 90 percent of all Celtics followers (whether they want to admit it or not), still obsessed with the 1980s and Larry Bird. Look, we all know the greatness of Bird. He is right there with Russell in the greatest Celtic of all-time argument.
But basically every Celtics fan over the age of 30 STILL looks at Paul Pierce and says to themselves, "That's not our guy."
Maybe it's an "Everything was better in the '80s," thing or maybe it's an "aesthetics" thing (the way they play, not looks ... after all, they both score a -3.5 on the every popular Dan Majerle good looks scale<http://www.geocities.com/thunderdanonline/dantina.jpg>), maybe it's even a "racial" thing for some (as I channel my inner Jimmy Meyers).
All I know is that for whatever reason, Paul Pierce is still not thought of as a transcendent Boston athlete.
The numbers are there. I would submit he is, in terms of length with the team, and amount of years as an elite scorer in the NBA, a Top 5 Celtic of all-time. He is going to the Hall of Fame. He has won a championship in Boston (in the 2007-08 playoff run he was, without question, the best player on the team). He might very well be, as Heinsohn and Bob Ryan have said, the best scoring Celtic in history (which you continually dismiss).
I believe the debate is still open for discussion. Bird was the better rebounder and was the best passer I have ever seen (aesthetics argument). Bird is a better outside shooter (aesthetics factors in here too, as Pierce has that little hitch in his shot).
But plain scoring? Getting to the rim and willing the ball into the basket? Give me Pierce. Getting to the tin has always been the better way. To quote Ron Burgundy, "It's science."
You are also such a Bird slurp that you go so far as to say that he should still be in the Michael Jordan argument as "greatest ever." I submit this and only this: Would Larry Bird have won one title with BJ Armstrong at the point instead of DJ and Luc "friggin" Longley in place of Parish?
You might want to stick to writing about Jussi Jokinen.
A: You know, every few weeks I’ll get an email calling me out on hating Pierce. I don’t get it. This is a guy I’ve (a) advocated for the Hall of Fame (http://www.weei.com/sports/boston/celtics/kirk-minihane/where-does-truth-stand) and (b) called one of the ten best Celtics in franchise history. That’s pretty high cotton; I’m not talking about the Sacramento Kings or New Jersey Nets here. High praise for a guy that’s never received a single first, second or third-place MVP vote in his career.
Paul Pierce is still not thought of as a transcendent Boston athlete? Well, there’s a pretty simple reason for that. Paul Pierce is not a transcendent Boston athlete. Come on, Matt. You’ve watched Pierce for 11 years now. Are you really comfortable putting him next to Williams, Russell, Orr, Bird and Brady? He’s somewhere on Level 3 with Neely, Rice, Seymour and Parish (Some Level 2 guys? Bourque, Yaz, Cousy.)
This speaks to something else, I think. The under-30 crew has grown tired of hearing their older brothers bond with their fathers over the Celtics of the 1980s. And the enduring symbol of those years, of course, is Larry Bird. So the youngsters have tried to convince themselves that they have a guy that is their Bird. And that’s fine, I guess. But let’s look at the two players. Who’s the better shooter, passer and rebounder? And by how wide a margin? Yup, Paul Pierce gets to the basket better than Larry Bird ever did. And that’s the only edge I’ll give him. Actually, if we are counting the ability to openly weep in pain on the court then we’ll give The Truth another check mark. Imagine if Pierce had hit his head on the court like Larry did in 1991 vs. the Pacers? Ed Lacerte might have had to put him down to end the suffering.
Pierce is a really good player, great at times (I’ll stand by what I’ve written before – his 24 minutes in the second half of the Game 4 comeback vs. the Lakers was the best half of basketball I’ve ever seen played by a Celtic.) But Larry Bird is a top 10 (at worst) all-time player.
And yes, I think a team with Larry Bird, Scottie Pippen and Horace Grant would’ve won at least one title. Why not? You think those Knicks teams would have beaten them year-in, year-out? Did I miss the poems and books written about the 1996 Sonics? Okay, fine, Michael Jordan was a better player than Larry Bird. I’ll buy that. But Larry Bird is a hell of a lot closer to Michael Jordan than Paul Pierce is to Larry Bird.
Just looking through your old blog entries, and a couple of comments.
I figured Pierce and Dirk were borderline Hall-of-Famers, with Pierce out and Dirk in. Now, shouldn't we factor in that Pierce is one of the top 5 Celtics all time? I'd put him #4, but then the same argument works against him, McHale is one of the top PF of all time.
A: I like the idea of someone combing through my archives. Makes me feel like Ernest Shackelton or something. Again, stop forcing it with Pierce, guys. Top five Celtic? Who are you taking off the list?
Take “top 10 Celtic and Hall of Famer” and run, Pierce Nation. That’s my best offer.
Is there a more tired story in sports today than Brett Favre and his endless flip-flopping journey through retirement, wait I mean un-retirement? Seriously, I understand the business decision of signing him to a 2 year deal for salary cap reasons, but can we please just call a spade a spade and acknowledge there is no way he is going to start for one complete season needless to say two?
Tell me this: if Brett Favre retires in a forest and there's no one there to hear it, does he actually retire? Please, enlighten me with a final word on this story so it can die a peaceful death.
A: I’ll be honest: I looked at this question for a half hour before I could muster the energy to write something down. This whole Favre story has worn me out. I’m done with it. Really, unless you are a Packers or Vikings fan how much should you really care? As long as I’m not the one that has to clean up the dump that Favre has taken on his legacy then I’m okay with the whole thing. He’s a grown man, this is America, the whole bit. Clearly Favre cares more about 12 million bucks and the chance to screw the Packers than he does about Green Bay fans. That’s a perfectly legitimate stance. Sure, he’s been exposed as a complete fraud, but this was true before he jumped to Minnesota. But do we really care? All this really means is that instead of five years from now it’ll be 15 years until they have Brett Favre Day at Lambeau Field. And on that day he’ll break down and apologize and the fans, as they always do, will forgive him. So I’m not going to get all worked up over it. I’ll leave that to ESPN, who continue to treat this story like it happening in 1996 and Favre is the best quarterback in football, when in reality it is 2009 and Favre is maybe the 15th best quarterback in football. God, I hate what has happened to ESPN.
Hawk Harrelson called Brian Anderson the closest thing the White Sox had to a 5 tool player. Wow! Well Hawk, I think your tool kit sucks.
Brian "the watcher" Anderson. The 1 tool I have identified on this guy so far is that he has good eyes. I saw him watch 3 straight pitches to his first K, then watch a catchable ball into a hit and then into a triple. Watching Jacoby Ellsbury run into right field behind him to field a ball that should have been caught is TP to the back ass of your pants embarrassing. Most players would be looking for a chance to redeem themselves perhaps becoming too aggressive in the process. Good thing, B.A. isn't hung up on those types of things because after mixing in a flailing half ass swing at a breaking ball, he took a good long look at strike 3 on the outside corner of the plate. Brian if you are just going to watch, those $225 dollar seats Ben and J-Lo used to sit in are open and they even have little TVs in them!
Obviously inspired, Victor Martinez successfully watched a double right into a single as he emulated former cleveland steamer Manny Ramirez.
That was aggravating, but nothing we haven't all seen before from any number of MLB sluggers. The Sunday broadcast however starts with Don Orsillo referencing the warning track shot as though V-mart was robbed of a home run saying, "Martinez understandably went into his home run trot and still can't figure out how that ball stayed in the park when off the bat it was a surefire home run."
That line, infuriating. First a home run is not a judgment call. Second, you say understandably, I say unforgivably. Victor, you just cost your team a man in scoring position at a time when runs are as scarce as they have been all season. Tell you what Vic, this ain't Cleveland. If it is indeed a home run, you can watch it on Sportsdesk, Extra Innings, Sports Final, Sportscenter and at least 2 segments of Baseball Tonight. In the case your eyes deceived you, then why not pedal your Johnny come lately ass to second. Brian Anderson could see that it wasn't leaving the yard, but don't get discouraged Vic that kind of visual prowess only comes with innings upon innings of standing around watching the baseball.
And lastly, there is a bunch of fuss about J.D. Drew asking out of a game the other day. If this guy isn't embarrassed to be on a field with guys like Lowell, Lester, Youkilis and Beckett based on toughness alone then why should it be offensive when he asks out of a game with a tweaked ear lobe or whatever it is this week. I accept that JD is a gelding. $17 million a year paid for the player, balls were an additional fee. Where's Tonya Harding when you need her to demonstrate to Jonathan Davis what a tweaked knee actually feels like.
A: Jake, I’m not comfortable with you suggesting that J-Lo somehow left her Pink Hat behind when she and Ben called it quits. Clearly you didn’t read her 15,000-word study on the post-Nomar shortstop era in Boston, titled “When The VORP Went South.” Ran last week in Baseball Prospectus and was nicely received.
The Orsillo comment made me think of something semi-related. Exactly when did it become okay for announcers to refer to players by their nicknames? Happens all the time now, but I don’t think it was even commonplace five years ago, much less 20. I think it’s just a way for these local homers (and I don’t think Orsillo falls in this category, by the way) to make themselves seem like they are “tight” with the players, which of course is exactly the last thing you would want in an ideal world as a viewer. But in the Stuart Scott/TMZ world where the follower wants to be as famous as the subject things get blurry. I don’t know, I guess my point is once again that I hate what has happened to ESPN. Even the SportsCenter anchors have nicknames now. A long way from Tom Mees.
Thought you’d like this. I was in the bathroom at work yesterday and saw that your column on Rice vs. Evans was printed out and lying on the floor. And yes, I picked it up and read it (had nothing else and made sure to double was my hands after). And I even printed out your mailbag and brought it in with me the next day.
A: Words escape me.
To be in someone’s work dump reading rotation is the highest praise that can be bestowed on any internet writer. I’m serious about this. In my three years writing hockey and football cards for Upper Deck the most important 30 minutes of each day were the 15 minutes I spent looking for a dump-worthy story and then the 15 minutes I spent reading the story in the bathroom. And to have someone choosing that time to read my stuff? The closest I'll ever get to a Pulitzer. Thanks, Jeff.
Reach Kirk Minihane at firstname.lastname@example.org. He can be heard co-hosting this week on the Mut and Bradford Show, from 10 a.m.-1 p.m., Sunday.