Time Out for Sports Talk – Catching Up with Some New Faces
Todd: Talk about your madness! Nearly record low temperatures. More snowfall in northern New England. No matter how much time we take off between columns, it’s incredible I can still state how SICK I AM OF WINTER!!!
Still light out at 7:00pm yesterday, yet we’re having to wear our winter down jackets nearly every day. In the words of the immortal Charlie Brown, I can’t stand it! (A ‘good grief’ exclamation would also work here.)
Typical for this month on the sports calendar, many new names have blown into town and are hoping to make a significant impact on the Boston sports scene.
Todd: Remember a time when there was no such thing as an NFL ‘hot stove’ season? During this seemingly endless winter, that term feels as appropriate for football as it does in baseball. Since the New England Patriots became a legitimate franchise in the Robert Kraft era, the offseason tends to provide nearly as much news as the season itself, with this past week being a prime example.
My feelings as a Pats fan have run like a roller coaster the last few days, from the lows of losing a quality cornerback like Aqib Talib (to the Broncos, naturally) to the peak of acquiring a seemingly unattainable Darrelle Revis, followed by the drop of Vince Wilfork’s likely departure and another upward climb upon hearing about Julian Edelman’s return.
Despite a propensity for coming up injured when the games mattered most, Talib was still the best cover corner the Pats have had since Ty Law. When Talib was able to stay on the field he changed the Pats’ entire defense, and for that reason I thought the Pats should consider placing the franchise tag on him. Then Denver swooped in on day one of free agency with an insane contract (six years, $26M guaranteed). While I’m glad the Pats did not try to match that deal, I was still mad losing him to the Broncos. Can’t wait for that first locker room meeting between Talib and Welker. Any chance Wes tries to head butt him?
So after Talib’s departure, what were the odds that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers would cut Revis, and then only a few hours after hitting the open market, that Revis would choose to sign with the Patriots? It appears Pats fans will likely get to spend only one season visiting Revis Island, but if it ends with a Lombardi trophy, then it will be well worth it. The 28-year old is one of the few defensive backs considered an upgrade over Talib, but I’m curious if he’s still as great a defender as the reputation that precedes him. From all accounts last season, the Bucs misused Revis running their zone defense. With the Pats, Belichick will utilize him in much the same way he did Talib.
Revis’ arrival is a clear sign that Belichick and the Pats not only want to upgrade the entire roster, but specifically are looking to bolster the secondary, as former Seahawks cornerback Brandon Browner was also signed by the club last week. Once Browner serves his 4-game suspension for violating the league’s performance enhancing substance policy, the 6’4”, 220 pound defensive back will offer the kind of versatility where he could wind up defending pass-catching tight ends over the middle or big receiving targets lined up on the outside.
Unfortunately, all these improvements come with more than just a cost to the team’s salary cap. It’s also possible these signings spell the end of Wilfork’s time in Foxboro. The big guy gave us ten great years, but at his age (32) and coming off a severe Achilles’ injury, perhaps the Pats ought to take Vince up on his request to be released. The NFL can be a cold business, and even if Vince feels disrespected he’s foolishly naïve if he thought the Pats would never ask him to restructure his contract.
To use an analogy I know Mike will appreciate, the league is a veritable circle of life where the up-and-coming rookies eventually push out the older, worn-out veteran players and their bloated contracts. As long as the Pats can find the next defensive tackle capable of filling Vince’s big shoes, hakuna matata.
Revis wasn’t the only 28-year old to arrive in New England this month, as the Bruins acquired defenseman Andrej Meszaros from the Philadelphia Flyers at the NHL’s trade deadline. While Meszaros wasn’t the biggest name available and some fans were disappointed the Bruins didn’t try for more, they were able to add to their blue line depth.
Whether it’s a case of Meszaros’ addition, a favorable schedule or just everyone playing well at once, the black and gold have won eight straight games and are playing their best hockey of the season. As the second season awaits, the B’s look like the odds-on favorite to represent the Eastern Conference in the Stanley Cup finals. With Tuukka in net and a deep group of goal-scoring forwards, there is enough talent in place despite Dennis Seidenberg’s season-ending injury. Assuming they can withstand any further significant injuries, the Bruins are in good shape to advance in the postseason until they have to face one of the many tough teams out west.
Another new name on the Boston sports scene is current Red Sox outfielder/reclamation project Grady Sizemore. The 31-year old was once a rising MLB star, having posted at least 20 HR and 20 SB for four straight seasons with the Indians (2005-2008), but a multitude of injuries have slowed him down. For some perspective, the last time Sizemore played in a major league game (9/22/11), Terry Francona was still managing the Red Sox and were still leading the Tampa Bay Rays for the AL wild card. But so far this spring, Sizemore has remained in good health and has shown flashes of that talent from his days playing in Cleveland.
If Sizemore continues to stay on the field, he could well be both Boston’s starting centerfielder and leadoff hitter, pushing Jackie Bradley Jr. back to Pawtucket. I don’t see the big deal if that was to happen, as Bradley would be the first one called up should Sizemore get hurt again. It’s also possible a spring training trade might open up a roster space so that John Farrell could carry both outfielders on the 25-man roster. Bottom line is, if Sizemore can play and resembles any of his former playing self, the Sox might have a veritable steal on their hands, and a little more minor league seasoning for the 23-year old Bradley couldn’t hurt.
I realize my takes on the Boston baseball and football teams couldn’t be more of a 180 from one another. The Pats fan in me feels a sense of urgency to win now while Tom Brady can still compete at a high level, but the Sox fan in me generally feels that it’s okay to let the kids play and watch them develop into potential stars down the road (especially in light of an improbable championship last year).
Our next LIVE show is coming up on Monday, March 24 from 8-9pm. You can post your questions via Twitter using the hashtag #TOSTmar24 or call in at (617)484-2443.