Happy Friday! I know I am excited for a weekend of March Madness!
The final week of winter has passed and in the Northeast and with that spring beckons. The green grass of infields, ballpark hot dogs, overpriced watered down beer, and sunshine seems far away, so close.
Of course, March Madness is kicking off right now with two of the craziest days in college basketball (wishing I called out of work for some quality time with the couch, beer, and college basketball). I will admit, my attention span waned on college basketball this winter. This year I was too caught up in the NFL all off-season and over-extended myself a bit with time commitments.
The mad first week of free agency is over and the signings are just trickling in slowly now. The battle for bargains is in place. The big signing on Thursday saw Atlanta overpay for a kick returner (Devin Hester). At 31, a three year deal for nine million dollars is a lot. Yes, the Bears had stuck him at wide receiver and cornerback in the past, but he is a pure special teams player.
I love how the New York Jets have had to put on a media dog-and-pony show to deal with the incessant criticism over their lack of activity in free agency despite a boatload of cap space. Their big news is that Michael Vick may come in and...well, what exactly? Cornerback Antonio Cromartie just signed in Arizona where he will team with Patrick Peterson to make a dynamic one-two punch. All the top corners are gone and there are no great quarterbacks available in free agency.
The Jets now are thinking about Vick to allow them to release Mark Sanchez and free up another $10 million in cap space they won’t spend? The best line by Ryan may have been about how his cornerbacks went from obscenely talented (Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie) in 2011 to...well nothing. Ryan said a lot of stuff about first round pick Dee Milliner and bust Kyle Wilson as part of his media show. But this line is just for the Patriots fans to make them smile:
“And there’s another guy, Ras-I Dowling, a guy that we really thought a lot of. . . . I’m happy with the guys that we have.”
Yup, the one and only Ras-I Dowling. From Revis to Ras-I...nice work, New York.
The highest profile free agent left is Jared Allen and he appears to be close to going to Seattle. Adding Allen would make an elite defense even stronger. Initially there were some frantic tweets that he had signed, but now it appears Allen will decide this weekend.
Finally, an interesting note from a piece on the Brandon Spikes and Aqib Talib bad-mouthing the Patriots on the way out the door about reporting injuries. Mike Florio of NBC Sports/ProFootballTalk had this in his article on Thursday:
Over the years, we’ve developed the distinct impression that the NFL prefers to avoid shining too bright of a light on the irregularities of the injury-reporting system. The procedure is aimed at creating the impression that there’s no inside information to be obtained by gamblers. Obsessing over the various violations of the letter and/or the spirit of the rules would serve only to highlight that, indeed, the truth doesn’t reside on a piece of paper filled out by the team — and that it can possibly be obtained by offering small, green, rectangular sheets of paper to persons who are in position to pass along accurate information about who’s really injured, and who really isn’t.
The involvement of the Patriots serves only to complicate matters for the league. As legend has it, the Spygate-related information given to the NFL by the Patriots that was destroyed by the league office consisted of evidence of cheating not only by the Patriots but also by multiple other teams in multiple other ways. As the folklore also goes, Patriots coach Bill Belichick vowed to go public with chapter-and-verse detail about cheating throughout the league if the league were to mess with the Patriots again.
Wow. I would have loved to have seen Belichick roll out the tape on all the other NFL teams that were also “guilty” of “spying”. Damn, that would have been fun to see.
I had my first fantasy baseball draft Thursday night as well. I am really cutting down on the fantasy sports. I am in a hockey league that I have been negligent of and probably won’t return to next year; I had an even dozen NFL fantasy football leagues that was just a bit too much for me and needs to be cut down; this year I am in only three fantasy baseball leagues and have made a point to keep it at that number. Of course, one of them is the Gab league as I have to make up for my terrible performance last season.
Still, baseball is in the front of my mind. It keeps calling to me more and more each day. I already got some bleacher seats for the end of April at Fenway for cheap (well, the wife got them for me). Did not get to Fenway the last two years, but am excited to get back there at a more reasonable price. The last two years the wife and I have dragged the kids to minor league baseball as there are great local products in Pawtucket (AAA Red Sox affiliate) and the Collegiate Summer League team the Brockton Rox. Paying MLB prices for tickets, parking, food, drink, driving (gas money) and/or riding the rails, etc has killed a lot of the joy, and for a family of four it is an afternoon ballgame for the price of a vacation.
I have been following the Red Sox preseason games trying to get as many looks at the young arms that should be on display in AAA Pawtucket this summer. Drake Britton and Brandon Workman look like they are in position to start the season in the bullpen, but it may be in their best interest to be stretched out starting in Pawtucket. That said, there may not be room in the rotation.
Rubby De La Rosa and Allen Webster came to the Red Sox from the Dodgers when the Sox fleeced them by unloading Carl Crawford, Josh Beckett, and Adrian Gonzalez. Both had opportunities for a stretch in Boston but need polishing. De La Rosa looks like a better fit in the bullpen and Webster had some rough starts in Boston but has a lot of promise.
Matt Barnes, Anthony Ranaudo, and Henry Owens are all starters who may be called on to step up during the season if need be for a spot start or due to an injury. The trio has been flying up the minor league system and all project to be starting in Fenway in the near future. Barnes is the 2011 first round draft pick from UConn with a major league fastball and but has to polish his off-speed stuff. Owens is a big lefty who was also a 2011 first round pick with a mid-90s fastball and devastating change-up. He projects to be a solid starter. Finally Ranaudo is the most interesting case. He fell off the prospect watch after injuries slowed him in 2012. He bounced back with a big 2013 that saw him land in AAA. Still only 24, he could be in Boston by the end of the season.
OK, that’s all I have for today. Enjoy the March Madness and have a great weekend!