Tag Archives: Dolphins

We Need to Talk About Jason…

The folks over at the finely tuned machine that is Fangraphs had a great article several days ago on the “forced retirement team,” that is, players who seemed to have gas left in the tank, couldn’t find work, and were forced to ride off to the sunset. I’m not sure where, if at all, Jason Varitek falls on that team. His place on a realteam is a much more relevant for now. Admittedly, his skills have diminished. Yes, he can still run into a fastball. Yes, he is still notorious for working tirelessly on game planning, something even the dumbest of pitchers appreciate (cough, John Lackey). But his defensive skills have deteriorated and he’s almost 40 years old. Those two pieces of information alone usually signify the end for a catcher, especially one with weakening offensive skills and no opening at DH to slide into. The final, industrial-sized nail in Jason Varitek’s Red Sox coffin may be the 2011 team’s collapse.

 

Red Sox fans have loyally stuck by Tek as his production has decreased, citing all sorts of justifications. He’s a top-notch game caller. He’s a gamer. He hit A-Rod. Varitek undeniably gave his heart to the organization. If you question his passion for his team, go back and watch that clip of Varitek shattering his elbow as he desperately goes after a foul ball, or watch him shove Alex Rodriguez’s centaur-face. I watch that video when I’m having a bad day. Red Sox Nation knows what Varitek has meant to this franchise, and no one questioned for a second that he deserved to be the captain.

But there’s the rub — he earned that right to be captain. He therefore must shoulder the considerable responsibility that comes with the now-infamous collapse of the Red Sox in 2011. Pitchers slacking off, giving up, players appearing to lose interest- these are not on Terry Francona entirely. Part of the concept behind naming a captain is to help a manager facilitate the clubhouse.

Francona was notoriously a “players’ manager” yet still faced the type of behavior in 2011 that has come to light. What’s the point of having a captain if they cannot reel in a team losing respect for a manager?  A captain should be the last line of defense against that kind of insubordination. Either Varitek stopped trying to be a leader (in which case it’s time for him to take a break) or he was complacent in the disaster that was the epic turmoil that was the end of 2011 for Boston (in that case, good riddance to him, in my book).

Regardless of whether Varitek had an active or role in the 2011 Red Sox demise, his situation and Tim Wakefield’s retirement bring to light an interesting conundrum in all of sports. What do you do with an aging cornerstone of the team?

The city of Boston has two teams dealing with this type of situation as the aging Celtics are facing a critical juncture with its ‘Big Three.’ Like Varitek, Paul Pierce has been a hardworking and loyal teammate. The difference between the Big Three and Varitek is value. Teams would still like to have any one of the Big Three on their team for a playoff push. Varitek will either be brought back to the Sox or likely retire. So the question really is- what, if anything, does a team owe a player beyond a contract? What is loyalty in sports?

a job at Seaworld, perhaps?

When people look back on ‘the good old days,’ they lament today’s sports contracts, attitudes, and a (perceived) lack of loyalty. Players leave the team they came up with every year for the highest dollar (Ahem, Mr. Pujols.), abandoning fans and cities, taking their ‘talents’ elsewhere. Those quotation marks may seem unnecessary, but Lebron James effectively ruined that term for athletes forever. So what has changed? Why are there not more players like Stan Musinal? Ted Williams? Bill Russell? John Stockton? These guys who were not only pillars of the team, but pillars of the community.

Money, as usual, lies at the root. Players make a lot of money nowadays, if you didn’t know. The staggering dollars even marginal players make compared to eras past cannot be discounted. Sure, maybe guys felt stronger ties to cities and programs back then, but our concept of loyalty then is just as tied to money as it is now.

Players in all sports stayed in one place because it made sense financially. It’s a heck of a lot easier to transition into some sort of business after your playing days are over if you have a base in the area.  In the ‘modern era’ we see players hanging on to their playing days, leaving their teams for another city, another paycheck, because they have nowhere else to go. Players across the sports world often have no clue what to do after the game.

There are only so many seats at a pregame show and only so many color commentating spots. Many players do not plan for being retired, and see no need to. There is so much money nowadays (comparatively) that a smart player does not have the need to have a ‘real job’s’ skill set, as he may have had to in the past. Superstars or even guys with ‘personality,’ such as Kevin Millar can easily find endorsement deals or talking head spots. But some are in the in-between, like Varitek.

Varitek was never a superstar, nor was he a yapper like Kevin Millar or Tony Siragusa. He possesses a determination and work ethic that his peers respect which, in turn, makes us the fan respect him. He seems destined, as the newly retired Tim Wakefield does, for a place in the Red Sox organization. Call it a loyalty program. However there’s no one, fan or ownership alike, can pretend 2011 did not happen. So what was Varitek’s role or lack thereof in the team’s follies?

Wakefield was a less instrumental part of the 2011 team. He will remain a huge influence in Boston as he has been heavily involved in the Jimmy Fund and other charities for his entire career. A job at NESN is not out of the question. But what of Varitek? Does he still have the gravitas to be a bullpen coach? A pitching coach? A bench coach? A minor league instructor? We may never know the inner workings of the 2011 collapse in terms of who stood out and who stood idly by. But as Varitek’s lack of place on the team and likely retirement looms, we’re going to need to talk about Jason.

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Filed under catchers, MLB, offseason, Opinion, Posted

Happy Stuffing Day!

Or Thanksgiving or whatever.  As much as I love to write about baseball, and as much as I love baseball to my very core, there is something truly awesome about Football and Thanksgiving.  From the High School football to the now-epic slate of NFL games, sports on Thanksgiving is a whole-day ordeal- which is excellent because most of us have important things to do all day (mainly, drinking and eating).  I go back and forth how much I like semi-zealot Gerry Callahan (he’s like a super-funny, super-mean, super-crazy uncle who sometimes toes the line) but there is a great tradition here in Boston of republishing his outstanding article on Thanksgiving High School games in the Boston Herald.  If you have a second to read it tonight or on Thanksgiving, read it.  It is a quick read but is a great bit on the magic of Thanksgiving football.  It will set the stage nicely.

But that is not the point of my writing, merely a nostalgic side note.  The real reason is…. OH MY GO LOOK OUT IT’S WATCHING YOU!

……and this turkey is PISSED.

I am, of course, deadly serious.  Do not cross any wild turkeys tomorrow.  They know what’s going on.

Honestly though, the NFL has lucked into a stupendous day of football.  If you had told me in August that the Lions would have a chance to halt the undefeated Packers’ march, the Cowboys-Dolphins game would be interesting enough to check during dinner, AND the 49ers-Ravens game would be even MORE interesting than which Harbaugh brother gets to give the other a swirlie when they win – I would have said you were crazy.  But we have just that.  All three games promise to be highly interesting.  I am pumped.  Stuffing, beer, and football all day?  AND THE NEW MUPPET MOVIE IS OUT?!?!?! IS THIS THE BEST THANKSGIVING EVER?

it is.

Truly, this figures to be a great Thanksgiving.  So while I don’t usually do stuff like this, I’m going to show off my football Nostradamus skills and talk some games/ make some picks.  While I don’t condone illegal betting… I don’t NOT condone it, so, do with that what you will.

Green Bay Packers @ Detroit Lions 12:30 on Fox

Aaron Rodgers is a stud.  From his passes to his celebration to his commercials, he is killin’ it this year.  I fully expect them to make another Super Bowl run.  That being said, the Lions are a legitimately good team this year and will absolutely do their best to keep up with the Packers’ offense.  With minimal defense being played, a 42-37 game is not out of the question.  Which means it will probably be 12-7, but what can you do.  I think the Lions have the best shot at beating the Packers this year, whether it be this week or the last week of the season.  With Jay Cutler breaking his thumb badly, the Bears simply don’t have the offense and I am unfazed by the Giants.  I hope the Lions get pumped for the game and win a shootout.  For the record, the line for this game is 6.5… Packers win 35-24.

Miami Dolphins @ Dallas Cowboys 4:15 on CBS

I want to hate Tony Romo.  I so much really really completely do.  But something about his aw-shucks grin and gunslinging attitude amuses me.  So there’s that.  He is not, however likable a guy he might be, a likeable QB.  He makes dumb plays too often when his team needs him to be smart.  Matt Moore and the Dolphins have been playing remarkably well considering how piss-poor they started the season.  Just to point out – Moore has completed 68% of his passes the last four weeks.  Pretty darn good.  This game is interesting for two similar-but-different positions for both sides.  The Dolphins have an opportunity to assert themselves as not purposely ‘sucking-for-Luck’ and perhaps even catching the now-stinky Bills.  The Cowboys need to make a statement that they should be taken seriously in the NFC and keep ahead of the Gents and Not-So-Dreamy-Eagles (I had far more inappropriate things to call them, but just knowing their failure makes me so happy as a sports fan I am going to let it slide).  Both teams are fighting to be taken seriously.  Add that to the honor and tradition of Thanksgiving and this should prove to be an intense game.  Which is a moot point because most of us are going to be face-first in vats of turkeygravystuffing mash.  Wait, ya’ll don’t smush them all together in a tough?  Weird.  Dolphins win 28-21 and Romo throw 2 picks.

San Francisco 49ers @ Baltimore Ravens 8:20 on NFL Network

Honestly, these teams could both be 2-8 and I would watch this game on the off-chance the Harbaugh brothers got into it before or after the game.  This is even more likely to happen because the teams are good.  I mean think about it.  Ravens win in a close one, Niners win a close one, either way tension is high and the brothers will be pissed at one another.  Niners stifle the stagnant Raven offense (sometimes) and blow out Bulletmore.  John will be pissed.  Flip the situation and the volatile Jim will likely get steamed.  I’m almost more excited to see which one of these guys winds themselves and their team up more for this game.  Sibling rivalry aside, the game will prove to be exciting as well.  The 49ers are legit – that defense is mean, fast and nasty.  And the Ravens are the Ravens.  This could be a seriously gritty “ground and pound” (do other people laugh when commentators say that phrase so earnestly?) style game.  Both teams have squat, powerful running backs and nasty defenses.  Both have just enough screws loose to come out in this primetime game guns a-blazing and put a WORLD of hurt on one another.  This last game and the Lions-Packers bookend what should be a great day of stuffing my face.  I’m thinking a 16-14 game.  I put the over/under of intense close ups of the Harbaugh brothers screaming what are clearly obscenities at 5.5.

 

 

Folks, this is going to be a great day.  Enjoy the football.  Enjoy the Turkey, the stuffing, the jams, the yams, the potatoes and the gravy.  Enjoy the family (as much as you can).  Enjoy some pumpkin beer (I highly recommend Shipyard’s Pumpkinhead Ale).  If you get a chance this weekend, go see the Muppets.  You will feel better after the inevitable post-thanksgiving hangover (both food and drink induced).  Enjoy the leftover sandwiches and running into people from high school you were hoping to avoid.

Happy Thanksgiving loyal readers (all 4 of you). Hope it finds you well.

-w

p.s.  Not sold on the Muppets?  Watch:

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