Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Tom Brady was stupid to destroy his phone, but I understand

The NFL for some reason needed a few weeks to come to the decision to do nothing about Tom Brady's suspension, and keep it at 4 games. This was announced literally on the eve of training camp, with Patriots players scheduled to report on Wednesday the 29th and Brady himself already in Foxborough. The bombshell with the announcement is the fact that Tom Brady evidently destroyed his cell phone during the investigation.

Frankly, the cell phone being destroyed is impossible to defend or explain. The NFL using the word "destroyed" is intentionally dramatic. It conjures an image of Tom Brady blowing his phone up with an M-80, or dropping it in a river in the wilderness. What actually happened to the phone is probably less theatrical. How many of us actually know what happens when we trade in or donate our phones?

Even if the phone was the smoking gun, you still don't destroy it. You just refuse to hand it over. You accidentally leave it next to a magnet, or drop it in the pool, or lose it while hiking, or let Gronk spike it into oblivion as an apparent joke.

It was not smart for Brady to have his phone "destroyed."

But I understand it. The witch hunt atmosphere created by the NFL's leaks and the media firestorm around this story would make it difficult to consistently make calculated and correct decisions. Brady couldn't simply admit guilt for this misdemeanor because it was being treated like a felony. Admitting guilt would tarnish your legacy and everything you've worked for your entire life, not to mention demoralize your teammates before the biggest game of their lives. Brady couldn't be honest so all he could do was shape, twist, and hide the truth as best as he could.

Some people are good at hiding the truth and deceiving people. You don't even notice them. Others aren't very good at it.

I'm not going to defend Tom Brady as innocent. I am going to point out how absurd this story has been from the beginning. This was a set-up. This was Brady getting caught stealing a candy bar and getting charged with grand theft auto, because some elements of the NFL want to see him pay.

Brady evidently broke a rule, got caught, and didn't come clean. He should be punished for violating the initial rule, which was an equipment violation. Should he be punished for obstructing "justice?" I'm not so sure. The NFL didn't seem to be seeking justice, it seemed to be seeking to destroy his reputation. That's vengeance, not justice.

Pedro Martinez is greatness beyond greatness

Pedro Martinez was by far the best thing going during the Great Boston Sports Depression between Larry Bird and Tom Brady. Before Boston teams won Super Bowls and World Series, all we fans could be proud of was a skinny, cocky, unbelievably dominant Dominican pitcher.

It can be difficult to remember the mindset we had in the late '90s and very early 2000s, before the Patriots won the Super Bowl, before the Curse was Reversed, before Boston teams claimed 9 titles in 14 years. And with the abundance of Boston sports heroes in this young century (Brady, Ortiz, Garnett, Thomas, and so on), we kind of forget how special Pedro Martinez actually was, and how for a few years he provided us with that feeling of joy and sense of superiority once every 5 days. So let's remind ourselves of his greatness beyond greatness.

From 1997 to 2000, he was perhaps the best pitcher of all-time
At the height of the most offensive era in MLB history, Pedro Martinez was by far the best pitcher. From '97 to 2000 he won 77 games (19.25 per season). He struck out 1,153 (288.25 per season) and had a 2.12 ERA. In those 4 homerun heavy seasons, he only allowed 68 balls to leave the park. He allowed an impossibly low 9 homeruns in 1999, only 0.34% of the total homeruns hit by AL batters.

He won 3 Cy Youngs in this stretch, and probably should have won an MVP. But we'll get to that later.

In 2000 he struck out almost 9 times as many batters (8.88) as he walked. In 1999 he allowed 0.4 HR per every 9 IP. In '97 the barely 170 pound Pedro threw 241.1 innings. In 2000 his WHIP of 0.737 set the record for the lowest of all time, 0.032 lower than Guy Hecker's WHIP in 1882. Yes, Pedro broke a 118-year-old record. And he did that in the steroid era, in a league with a DH.

While sluggers were smashing Roger Maris' single-season HR record, Pedro was challenging Bob Gibson's ERA record (which was set on a higher mound, and with pitchers batting). Pedro Martinez did more to limit offense in the steroid era than mandatory PED testing eventually did.

His playoff performances were legendary
In Game 5 of the 1999 ALDS against Cleveland, Pedro Martinez pitched 6 no-hit innings of relief in the deciding game of the series. Despite his arm being worn out and his fastball considerably slowed, he held an offense that had scored 1,000+ runs that season, to zero hits. Manny Ramirez, Jim Thome, the Alomars, Kenny Lofton, all of them failed to get hits off Pedro. He entered the game when it was 8-8, the Sox won 12-8, and claimed their first playoff series since 1986.

Then in Game 3 of the '99 ALCS, Pedro beat the Yankees with 7 scoreless innings. He only allowed 2 hits and struck out 12. It was New York's only loss of the post-season.

He could have been the winner of Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS if not for poor management. Had Grady Little gone to the bullpen to finish the game, few people in Boston would know who Aaron Boone was. Pedro was brilliant for 7 innings, then began to falter in the 8th. Had he been removed, the Red Sox probably would have gone to the World Series, and had a good chance against the Marlins.

He was a big part of the Red Sox winning the 2004 World Series
Since we tend to associate Pedro so much with the pre-2004 era of Red Sox history, we forget how vital he was to the Sox winning the World Series in '04. Not only with his pitching, but just with his presence. His presence on the team made the Sox a contender, and the new ownership parlayed that in their pursuit of players like Curt Schilling. Pedro was also part of that team's loose yet confident attitude.


He wasn't that great in the 2004 regular season. And in the ALCS against the Yankees, he struggled. However in Game 3 of the World Series he threw 7 scoreless innings, allowing only 3 hits. This was a great post-season start in the most important series in Red Sox history this side of 1920, and Pedro's pitching was a major contribution.

He should have won the MVP in 1999
Apart from Pedro and Nomar, the 1999 Red Sox weren't very good. Jose Offerman, Wilton Veras, Damon Buford, Darren Lewis, Reggie Jefferson, Ed Sprague. The #2 pitcher was Bret Saberhagen, when he was healthy. Then there was Mark Portugal, Pat Rapp, and Brian Rose. John "Way Back" Wasdin was still out in the bullpen. It wasn't a very good team. Yet they won 94 games. They were 25-5 (.833) when Pedro started, and 69-63 (.523) when he didn't. I'd say he was quite valuable to that team's success.

He had an ERA of 2.07, struck out 313 batters, had a WHIP of 0.923, was AL Pitcher of the Month 4 times, and led the AL in WAR. He only allowed 9 homeruns in 213.1 innings (1 per 23.7 innings). He came in 2nd in MVP voting, behind Ivan Rodriguez. Why? Because some people didn't think a pitcher should be eligible for the MVP because they're not "every day players." Pedro got one more 1st place vote than Rodriguez did. But some voters felt that the Cy Young was for pitchers, the MVP was for positional players, and left Pedro off their ballot. So I-Rod won.

He threw a perfect game, but not really, but really
In 1995, Pedro retired every batter he faced for 9 innings. However, after 9 innings the Expos and Padres were still tied 0-0. The Expos scored in the 10th, but Pedro allowed a double in the bottom of the inning and was relieved. So he didn't even get credit for a shutout, let alone a perfect game.

Nevertheless, he still pitched 9 perfect innings, still retired 27 straight batters from 1st to 9th. And a ball from the game is in Cooperstown with other balls from no-hitters.



Pedro was often on teams that didn't support him very much. We can only imagine how much higher his winning percentage would be if he had more help.

The abundance of absurd but true Pedro stories
Remember his performance in the '99 All-Star Game? He struck out Hall of Famer and 12 time All-Star Barry Larkin. Then Larry Walker, who was hitting .382 at the time. Pedro then punched out Sosa and McGwire, who had combined for 136 homeruns the year before and hit 128 in '99. After Matt Williams reached on an error, Pedro struck out Jeff Bagwell and I-Rod threw Williams out trying to steal second. The most impressive 2 innings pitched of all time.

2,222. That's how many homeruns were hit by guys Pedro struck out in the 1999 All-Star Game

Remember the 17 strikeout one-hitter against the Yankees?

Remember the no-hit bid against the Devil Rays after he hit Gerald Williams with a pitch?

Remember when the Red Sox played a 19 inning game in Seattle in 2000, then Pedro saved the bullpen the next day with an efficient complete game? It was one of his most impressive demonstrations as a pitcher. He only struck out 7 (he was averaging 11.8 K/9 that year), instead pitching to contact and inducing 14 groundballs (including 2 GIDP) to keep his pitch count low. He won the game, and saved the beleaguered bullpen.

His stuff was amazing. And when his fastball gradually lost its ferocity, his accuracy and pitching acumen allowed him to remain elite. He was an artist. He was one of the smartest players in the game and one of the goofiest. He had a small body but big balls. He dominated, he enraged, he impressed, he intimidated, the game revolved around him when he was pitching.

You absolutely had to watch his starts. You coveted tickets to see him pitch in person at Fenway. Each start had a realistic chance to be a no-hitter or a 20 strikeout game. You learned Spanish because of him. Pedro didn't just dominate the game, he dominated the lives of Boston sports fans.

Monday, July 27, 2015

No more Boston 2024 (thank God)

Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh doesn't want to put taxpayers in the position to pay for cost overruns. That unwillingness to make Boston's citizens the insurance policy for Boston 2024 has resulted in Boston's bid being dropped completely. And thank fucking God for that.

The organizers of Boston 2024 were so sure of their budgeting estimates, that they were willing to put the people of Boston's money on the line to pay in case costs surpassed expectations. That's money that could go to schools, police, fire, public works, snow removal, pothole repair, instead going to pay for a velodrome. Which is a steeply banked bicycle race track. Which nobody has any use for, which is why we don't already have one.

The benefits of hosting the Olympics would have been shared among a select group of rich individuals and companies. It would be a bonanza for Suffolk Construction. Bob Kraft would get a cheap soccer specific stadium for the Revs. Everyone publicly pushing for the games to be here would have seen their wallets fatten, whether through business deals or just the paychecks they get working for the Boston 2024 organization. And if costs exceeded expectation, the people would have paid. While the beneficiaries still got paid the same.

After watching the Olympic debate on Fox 25 last week, my anti-Boston 2024 sentiment went from a small controlled fire to a raging inferno. Steve Pagliuca could not give straight answers to simple questions. Daniel Doctoroff was a smarmy jerk. Every question raised by the media or by people against Boston 2024 was dismissed as "hyperbole," or "inflammatory," or not answered at all.

And the T wouldn't benefit directly from the Olympics. There are no Boston 2024 funds allocated to improving it. The T needs to be fixed on its own, BEFORE 2024. The commuter rail and subway lack modern, functioning equipment. Routes and systems need to be updated. The amount of economic production lost due to public transportation issues is unacceptable for a major city. And we should focus on remedying these problems before taking on the challenge of catering to the Olympics.

The Boston 2024 plan was built by optimistic businessmen who stood to gain from Boston hosting. And if their optimistic cost and revenue estimates didn't come to fruition in reality, the people were going to pay. And that's wrong. You can't have one group of people enjoy the profit while another group takes the risk.

So bon voyage, Boston 2024. To translate intoto Bostonian: Go fuck yourselves.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

BBS Awards: New England Patriots win Team of the Year

The Boston Blood Sox Awards (or Bloodies) are awarded for great success and/or pitiful failure in the 2014-15 sports calendar.

Back in January of 2008, I awarded Team of the Year to the Patriots. They were 16-0. This was before I realized that I should write these posts sometime after the Super Bowl.

I'm very happy to name the Patriots as the Team of the Year for 2014-15.


They won 15 games, including a very hard fought playoff battle against the Ravens, and of course the Super Bowl against Seattle. They were tough, they were imposing, they were difficult to match up against, they were clutch.

The stars were stellar. The role players rose to the occasion. They all did their job.

The season started poorly. At one point a reporter asked Belichick if he was considering replacing Brady (who was that idiot by the way?). The team believed in itself, even though the fans and the media didn't. The Patriots moved on to Cincinnati. Then to Buffalo, then the Jets, the Bears, the Broncos, the Colts, and so on. They scored 87 points in 2 games against the "AFC Finalist" Colts.

And the Super Bowl will probably be the Game of the Century for Boston Sports.

Belichick, Brady, Gronkowski, Revis, Edelman, Wilfork, Stork, Browner, McCourty, Blount, Gray, Vereen, Amendola, LaFell, Jones, Jones, Ninkovich, Casillas, Collins, Butler.

What a great team. What a great year.

I can't wait for the 2015 season to begin.

BBS Awards: Tom Brady wins Athlete of the Year

The Boston Blood Sox Awards (or Bloodies) are awarded for great success and/or pitiful failure in the 2014-15 sports year.

Without a doubt Tom Brady was the best athlete in all of sports in 2014.


He's better than Aaron Rodgers. He beat the Seahawks. Against the best defense in the NFL, he had the best and most clutch 4th quarter of any quarterback in Super Bowl history.

And not only did he lead his team to the top of the NFL in 2014, he's currently in a fight against the NFL and just might beat the League itself.

So much better than Aaron Rodgers.

BBS Awards: Bill Belichick wins Lifetime Achievement Award

The Boston Blood Sox Awards (or Bloodies) are awarded for great success and/or pitiful failure in the 2014-15 sports year.

By winning his fourth Super Bowl, Bill Belichick cemented his legacy as the greatest football coach of all-time. Among Boston coaches in all sports, he's second only to Red Auerbach. NFL coaches can only dream of achieving half of what Belichick has achieved.


Four Super Bowl wins as a head coach, 2 more as an assistant. He's been part of 8 Super Bowls spanning 4 decades. Named Coach of the Year 3 times by the AP. His defensive gameplan from Super Bowl 25 is in the Hall of Fame.

He's won 232 games including 22 playoff wins. His 211 regular season wins is 6th all-time, and with 12 more wins he'll pass Paul Brown for 5th.

One of Belichick's biggest strengths is his ability to move on from adversity. "We're on to Cincinnati" became a theme of the 2014 season, but moving on has been a key part of Belichick's career. He was a failure in Cleveland, but was able to learn from the experience and move on. When the Patriots lost Bledsoe in 2001, he and the team moved on. When they lost 31-0 to the Bills in 2003, they moved on. When the SpyGate story erupted, when Brady got hurt in 2008, when Aaron Hernandez murdered people, when the team was 2-2 last year and people were questioning if Tom Brady should be the quarterback, when DeflateGate broke. Belichick moves on.

No team excels in the face of adversity like Belichick's Patriots.

Few coaches have lost Super Bowls as heartbreaking as the two that Belichick lost against the Giants. And yet he still isn't afraid of risking defeat. He still has massive balls. He had the balls to reject the Jets and work for the Patriots (having learned from his Cleveland experience how important it was to work for owners who let you do your job). He had the balls to keep 4 quarterbacks on his roster, one of them was Tom Brady. He had the balls to let Brady try to win Super Bowl 36. He had the balls to let Lawyer Milloy go, to sign Corey Dillon, to bring in Randy Moss, to drop Randy Moss, to trade Logan Mankins, et cetera.

His aggression has sometimes been questioned, and it hasn't always worked out, but that aggression is why he and the Patriots are 4 time champions.

You could write a 200-page thesis paper on leadership by talking about Bill Belichick. So I'll stop myself here.

But Belichick has yet to stop. He's still doing his job.

BBS Awards: Bill Belichick wins Red Auerbach Award for Executive/Coach of the Year

The Boston Blood Sox Awards (or Bloodies) are awarded for great success and/or pitiful failure in the 2014-15 sports year.

Bill Belichick the GM had been the focus of criticism in this town for 7 or 8 years. Some of it deserved, much of it exaggerated, most of it emotionally overblown. Somehow as a GM, the 2007 team he assembled was inadequate. And the 2011 team, with an unhealthy Gronkowski in the Super Bowl, was insufficient in the talent department to win. He was even blamed for Gronkowski's injuries.

The Patriots' mantra in 2014 was "Do Your Job." The GM's job is to put together a team capable of winning. And that's what Belichick did. And all the critics of Belichick the GM can shut up, finally. From familiar faces like Tom Brady and Vince Wilfork, to a 2nd round steal like Rob Gronkowski, to ring hungry Darrelle Revis, to a former Kent State quarterback turned receiver, to an oft-injured replacement for Wes Welker (who is himself now oft-injured), to an undrafted free agent out of West Alabama named Malcolm.


The team was built for toughness and versatility. It could beat you with offense and defense. And they were physical.

Belichick was also the coach of the year. He kept his team focused even when they were 2-2. He didn't allow DeflateGate to distract them in the Super Bowl. He and his staff prepared his team to make big plays, made the right adjustments during the game, and had the balls to let the clock run out in the 4th quarter.

Bill Belichick was the best coach and best GM in Boston sports last year.

BBS Awards: Super Bowl 49 wins Game of the Year

The Boston Blood Sox Awards (or Bloodies) are awarded for great success and/or pitiful failure in the 2014-15 sports year.

There are about 85 years left in the century. That's around 14,000 baseball games, over 7,000 hockey and 7,000 basketball games, and counting the playoffs, about 1,400 football games. Odds are, none of those games will be able to top Super Bowl 49 as the Boston Sports Game of the Century.


The game was great, but so was everything going on around it. The build up with DeflateGate. The story-lines of old dynasty vs. new dynasty, of attitude vs. adjustment, of Sherman vs. Revis, of Carroll vs. Belichick. The two most talented teams, the two toughest teams. A powerful running back, a powerful tight-end, formidable DBs on both sides of the ball. The anticipation was unreal.

The game itself surpassed expectations, featuring some of the best individual plays of the season. Great throws, great catches, great interceptions, from both teams. So many big plays. So many heroes. Brady, Gronk, Amendola, Edelman, Butler.

And it ended with the best quarterback of his era leading his team to victory. And the best coach of all-time seeing his adjustments, his pre-game preparation, and his audacity pay off.

The lasting impact of the game is another rarity. The Championship tore down the divide between the glory years of 2001-2004, and the "almost" years of 2005-2013. It launched Brady and Belichick into the "best ever" category.

It's very rare that a sporting event has such high expectations, then exceeds them, and then has a major impact in the history of the game. Super Bowl 49 did all of that.

And just imagine what enduring all those blizzards would have been like had the Patriots lost.