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Pats, Sox, C’s and B’s — and a pirouetting robot

Posted in Uncategorized by mrochele on January 15, 2009

Recent success for Boston sports teams shows no signs of slowing down

Besides holding a football from time-to-time, there seems to be no explanation for why Fox uses "Cleatus" as their TV mascot during sporting events

Besides holding a football from time-to-time, there seems to be no explanation for why Fox uses "Cleatus" as their TV mascot during sporting events. (Courtesy: MySpace.com)

As I watched the broadcast of this Sunday’s NFC Divisional playoff game I was annoyed. It was bad enough listening to monotonous announcer Joe Buck and stuttering color commentator Troy Aikman call the game. Then that damn Fox Sports robot kept popping up and dancing around like an idiot before and after ever commercial break.

Fox is notorious for having immature, unpopular mascots. Remember ‘Scooter’ the talking baseball introduced in a recent postseason? He would talk about how different pitch types are thrown with this ridiculous voice by the same guy who does Sponge Bob Square Pants. Scooter’s oversimplified the explanation so much that it made Tim McCarver’s comments sound ingenious. But, at least I understood the connection between the squawking baseball and the World Series.

So, with my laptop nearby, I searched online to find out what the hell this Lou Ferrigno-shaped robot had to do with football or sports in general.  After several searches on Google I found  no one has the slightest clue as to why the machine named ‘Cleatus’ even exists. And, it turns out, I am not alone in having a grief with this character.

Some dislike it because they feel its physique is part of a conspiracy to subliminally promote steroid use. Others are appalled at Cleatus’ dance moves, which includes “the swim” and pirouettes. But, most are just perplexed as they try to solve the mysterious robot-football connection.

What’s more bewildering is that it appears to its his own MySpace page and has been made into a 10″ posable action figure sold for $19.95 plus shipping and handling.

Perhaps this metallic mascot is what distracted New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning causing him to throw two costly interceptions in his team’s 23-11 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. So, obnoxious as it may be, if Cleatus caused Giants kicker John Carney to miss two field goals, wide receiver Steve Smith to fumble or any part of the defending Super Bowl champions to make an early exit from the playoffs, then I guess he’s OK with me.

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS

As a Massachusetts native and Boston sports fan, the only thing more enjoyable than seeing any team from New York or either one of the Manning brothers get defeated is watching the hometown team win, especially since they tend to air on the robot-free CBS.

Unfortunately, the New England Patriots fell just short of reaching the postseason this year after reaching four out of the last seven Super Bowls – and winning three of them. They did manage, however, to set themselves up for a potentially productive offseason.

According to ESPN’s sources and other news outlets, the Pats will use a franchise tag on QB Matt Cassel to keep him from becoming an unrestricted free agent in March.

NFL.com)

The Patriots are expected to use a franchise tag on quarterback Matt Cassel. It is likely they will keep Cassel if QB Tom Brady does not recover from his injury in time for next season. However, if Brady is healthy Cassel will likely be traded. (Courtesy: NFL.com)

For now, as The Boston Globe reports, it seems all is well with QB Tom Brady’s recovery from the season-ending injury he suffered just minutes into week 1 of the regular season. But, if Brady has any setbacks during his rehab and cannot start next season, the Patriots have a reliable insurance policy by franchising Cassel who proved to be a great QB and offensive leader.

In an ideal scenario,  Brady will be healthy and Cassel’s impressive performance thus far will make him a valuable trading chip for one or more high draft picks.

Though some of the Pats front office and coaches may be elsewhere next season, Belichick, the s0-called mastermind behind the team’s championship success, will still be on the sidelines and their injury-riddled defense should be back on the field at full strength.

With all the adversity they faced this season, the Patriots played at an outstanding level. If injuries weren’t enough, the Pats were simply unlucky becoming the first NFL team with an 11-5 record to miss the playoffs since the Denver Broncos in 1985. Despite a disappointing end to their season, the Patriots’ have an exciting offseason ahead and they are likely to be a top Super Bowl contender next year.

BOSTON RED SOX

So, what about the Red Sox? Are they likely to be World Series contenders in 2009?

Well, the rival New York Yankees are making it tough. If there was ever a team that has truly tried to ‘buy a championship,’ the Bronx Bombers’ 2009 roster is guilty. So far this offseason, they have spent $423.5 million on free agent first baseman Mark Teixeira and starting pitchers C.C. Sabathia and A.J. Burnett. After missing the postseason last year for the first time since 1993, New York will be a front runner to win the World Series in ’09.

However, the Sox are not as far behind as some may think. The lack of blockbuster signings or trades should not worry Boston fans. Consider how some of the team’s biggest offseason moves over the past few years have not met expectations in their debut season:

  • In 2006, Josh Beckett was acquired to be the ace of the rotation, and though he won 16 games, his inconsistency resulted in 11 losses and a 5.01 earned run average.
  • After hammering 20 homers and getting 100 runs batted in with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2006, J.D. Drew has struggled to match those numbers with the Sox. Even with a $14 million-a-year salary, he had just 11 four-baggers in 2007 and 19 in 2008, while knocking in only 64 runs each year.
  • Amid all the hype that came with leaving Japan to join the Red Sox, Daisuke Matsuzaka often struggled with his command, posting a 15-12 record and a 4.40 ERA in 2007.

What this offseason has featured is several low-key, low-budget signings with big potential; and, moves like these have played out nicely in the past for general manager Theo Epstein & Co:

  • With everyone’s eye on Dice-K, a lesser known Japanese player stepped up, exceeding everyone’s expectations in 2007.  Reliever Hideki Okajima has been one of Boston’s most reliable arms out of the ‘pen earning 50 holds as a setup man over the past two seasons with a solid 2.41 ERA. Making just over $1 million per season, his performance has given Boston great bang for their buck.
  • Few thought there was much left in the tank for 31-year-old Florida Marlins third baseman Mike Lowell when he hit a dismal .236 with 8 homeruns and 58 RBIs in 2005. But, taking a chance on Lowell paid off for the Sox as he hit 20 homeruns in his first season with 80 RBI and a .284 average. In 2007 he launched 21 moonshots and drove in 120 runs while hitting .324.
  • And, you can’t forget Boston’s biggest bargain of them all – Big Papi. Designated slugger David Ortiz was signed in 2003 for $1.25 million and has belted out 30+ hrs and 100+ RBI in every season since except the most recent as he battled a wrist injury. He won the American League’s Silver Slugger Award from 2004 to 2007 and has had more highlight-reel, clutch hits in recent memory than nearly every other player in Major League Baseball.

So, as some Sox fans and others in the baseball world roll their eyes when the Sox sign players like John Smoltz, Brad Penny, Takashi Saito, Rocco Baldelli, Josh Bard and Mark Kotsay, you have to consider how deals like these have fared in the past for Boston.

The 2004 Red Sox team celebrates after winning their first World Series in 86 years by defeating the St. Louis Cardinals. General Manager Theo Epstein's moves have been questioned at times, yet they have brought success to Boston and the fans hope this offseason's decisions will bring more of the same - even if they don not land any big name players. (Courtesy The Boston Globe/Jim Davis)

The 2004 Red Sox team celebrates after winning their first World Series in 86 years by defeating the St. Louis Cardinals. General Manager Theo Epstein's moves have been questioned at times, yet they have brought success to Boston and the fans hope this offseason's decisions will bring more of the same - even if they don not land any big name players. (Courtesy The Boston Globe/Jim Davis)

Furthermore, consider the cost. These six players agreed to one year contracts combining to just around $15 million, though each player could earn more if they reach certain incentives. Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez makes nearly double that at $28 million.

But, A-Rod is one of the best players if not the best player in the game so he deserves that kind of money right? He hit .302 with 35 homeruns, 103 RBI, a .392 on base percentage and .573 slugging percentage in 2008, which are outstanding numbers but he’s way over paid. For $3 million, Red Sox first baseman Kevin Youkilis hit .312 with 29 homers, 115 RBI, a .390 OBP and a .569 SLG in the same season. Would you pay an additional $25 million for 6 more homeruns?

The Red Sox have also developed and introduced some great young prospects in recent years. Jacoby Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia, Kevin Youkilis, Jed Lowrie, Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, Jonathan Papelbon and Manny Delcarmen are examples of that. And, according to many baseball experts the talent in Boston’s farm system is growing and these young players should contribute to the big league club for some time.

On a somewhat related side note, former outfielder Jim Rice came up through the club’s farm system, played for the Sox for his entire career from 1974 to 1989 and was elected to the MLB Hall of Fame earlier this week. Congrats!

So, back to the upcoming season, take an already very talented ball club, add the bargain free agent signings and some upper-level, low-cost minor league prospects, and Boston has a good shot at making the playoffs, while still competing with New York for the division title in 2009.

BOSTON CELTICS

AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

Boston Celtics captain Paul Pierce puffs on a cigar while holding the championship series MVP trophy during a victory parade in Boston last June to celebrate the team's first NBA championship since 1986. (Courtesy: AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

Coming off their first NBA title in 22 years, the Celtics came out strong to start the season which included a record-setting 19-game win streak. That streak ended several weeks ago when they fell to the Los Angeles Lakers.

After that game, the team struggled losing 7 out of 9. However, they have one three straight since and still hold the fourth best record in the NBA – just percentage points behind the Orlando Magic and a half game behind the Lakers and Cleveland Cavaliers. They are 12 games ahead in the Atlantic Division.

Now, at the halfway mark of the regular season, head coach Doc Rivers and the Celtics certainly have some consistency issues to work out before they can adequately defend their championship. However, they have time and a very talented, experienced starting five on their side – not to mention a chance to add some talent before the Feb. 19 trade deadline.

BOSTON BRUINS

Can the Bruins make Boston a hockey town again?

Well, it’s likely they’ll have to share the limelight with the other local sports teams who have already won over many of the city’s sports fans; however, the B’s are making a strong push to join the Pats, Sox and C’s.

Another win tonight improves the Bruins record to 33-7-4 and puts them at 70 points, one point ahead of the San Jose Sharks for the top spot in the NHL and a whopping 11 points up on the Washington Capitals to lead the Eastern Conference.

Though they are dealing with injuries to some of their top players, the B’s have held it together so far and are shaping up to be the team to beat for the Stanley Cup.

GREATEST SPORTS CITY OF ALL-TIME?

I think the data at the bottom of this post, courtesy nuttyaboutsports.com and verified on ESPN.com, speaks volumes on the historic success Boston has experienced across the four major professional American sports. Compared to New York, which has an extra team in every sport but basketball, Boston looks like the more successful and well-rounded city.

When you look at these numbers you have to consider how successful the Pats, Sox and Celts – and now the Bruins – have been all at the same time over the past six years. Boston has won three Super Bowls, two World Series and one NBA title since 2002. And, I don’t think anyone would be surprised to see the number of championships rise over at least the next few years.

Perhaps the only strike against Boston is a lack of interest in college sports. However, schools like Boston College and the University of Massachusetts are still competitive whether they get the local recognition they deserve or not.

And, I know a lot of people would be upset if I did not mention anything about soccer when talking about major sports. So there, I mentioned it. But seriously, if soccer were popular enough in this country then I’m sure the New England Revolution would dominate just like every other Boston team, because this is the greatest sports city of all-time.

Sport Boston New York
Baseball Boston Red Sox – 3rd New York Yankees – 1st
New York Mets – 13th (tie with 6 other teams)
Basketball Boston Celtics – 1st New York Knicks – 7th (tie with 4 other teams)
Football New England Patriots – 4th (tie with 4 other teams) New York Giants – 8th (tie with 3 other teams)
New York Jets – 11th (tie with 7 other teams)
Hockey Boston Bruins – 4th (tie with 1 other team) New York Rangers – 6th (tie with 3 other teams)
New York Islanders – 6th (tie with 3 other teams)
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