Monday, May 6, 2013

Was the Kessel Trade Really That Lopsided?

In early February, the New England Sports Network (NESN) held a poll: what was the best trade in Boston sports history? Well, here are the results:

The infamous Kessel trade wiped the floor with the other choices, accruing nearly half of the votes. The fans have spoken and decided that this was the best trade in Boston sports history. Brian Burke, Toronto’s GM who pulled the trigger on the trade, admitted that the Bruins and Peter Chiarelli won the trade.

After Kessel scored a dagger of a goal in game two of the Bruins-Leafs playoff series, the trade has once again found its way into the consciousness of both fanbases. But were the Bruins really such a clear winner?

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Bruins vs. Maple Leafs Game Two Diary

The Bruins and Maple Leafs play their second game of their first round series tonight. The Bruins won game one handily, but the whole hockey world expects Toronto to fight back. Join me on the inevitable roller coaster ride of emotion that this game will be!

6:14 p.m. – So if Senators coach Paul MacLean is a “fat walrus,” Claude Julien is just a regular walrus, right? Or are they both fat, even by walrus standards? The one thing I know is that this man damn sure looks like a walrus.

6:18 p.m. – “Phil Kessel has to be better.” 0-0 with 1 shot on goal. Yeah.

6:21 p.m. – Julien says the choice for the player to take Ference’s place is down to Hamilton and Bartkowski. Well, considering Bartkowski is in Providence right now, I think Dougie is a pretty safe bet.

6:24 p.m. – NESN is showing highlights from the Rangers-Caps game. Holtby, man. He killed us in the playoffs last year and now it looks like he’s doing the same to the Rangers.

On the other side of that is Marc Andre-Fleury. Is he going to kill the Pens this year? I think everyone in Pittsburgh is a little unsure about him in net. It’s definitely their Achilles’ heel – a metaphor that’s even more apt than usual, because that really might be the only thing keeping them from being invincible.

6:26 p.m. – How ‘bout that symbolism in the Okposo-Niskanen fight? Okposo drew blood, and his team followed suit in the third period.

6:31 p.m. – If Julien is a walrus, Horton is a monkey.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Buchholz on Trial

Normally when someone follows up an accusation with “I can’t prove anything, I can’t prove anything,” it’s a sign that they should not be taken too seriously. Yet those charges hurled by former pitcher Jack Morris, the five-time All Star and partner of former minor league journeyman reliever Dirk Hayhurst in the Toronto Blue Jays’ broadcast booth, that Clay Buchholz is doctoring his pitches has gained significant traction.

Buchholz has gotten off to a scorching start, 6-0 in his first six starts thanks to a 1.01 ERA and 2.28 FIP. As recently as yesterday, his increased command was being cited for his excellent start, but Hayhurst and Morris have declared that it is not precision underlying his improvement, but baseball’s own pastime itself – cheating.

Here is the tweet that launched a thousand words:

 Let me just say that I am a Hayhurst fan – a Red Sox fan first and foremost, but a Hayhurst fan all the same. I read “Bullpen Gospels” and it is one of my favorite books. It says so in my profile. He is funny, witty and can write pretty damn well. I have every intention of reading “Out of My League,” in which Hayhurst details just how to doctor a pitch, “like Buchholz can load up baseballs,” he tweeted unabashedly.

Hayhurst is convinced that Buchholz truly is doctoring his pitches – evidence be damned! Morris backed up his partner’s allegations, telling ESPN the following:

I found out because the guys on the video camera showed it to me right after the game, I didn't see it during the game. They showed it to me and said, “What do you think of this?” and I said, “Well, he's throwing a spitter.“ ‘Cause that's what it is.

Buchholz denies it, of course. Pete Abraham of the Boston Globe noted that nobody has checked any ball in Buchholz’s six starts this season.

The indictment stems from video the two radio announcers watched from the May 1st matchup between the AL East rivals that shows Buchholz with a “glistening” left forearm, rubbing two fingers from his right hand on it.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Everything You Need to Know about Belichick's Draft Day Trades

Everyone knows it: Bill Belichick loves to trade down. Life, death and Belichick trading down. Other things people know include that he is as good at drafting wide receivers as Tom Brady is at dancing, he is good for one “wild card” pick per draft and his drafts have been noticeably worse since Scott Pioli, the former vice president of player personnel, departed.

I will be addressing each of those Theories of Belichickian Drafting in detail.

Up first: Belichick loves to trade down.

The first round of the 2013 NFL Draft took place on April 25th with the Patriots sitting at the 29th overall pick, but with only four picks throughout the following six rounds. That would be the fewest selections for the Patriots in their existence (the draft was shortened to seven rounds in 1994 and was as long as 17 rounds in ’76). Since joining the Patriots in 2000, Belichick has averaged almost nine selections per draft. Everyone knew he was trading down. Nevertheless, the inevitable decision to vacate the 29th pick caused reactions like this one by ESPN’s Bill Simmons:

A logical argument, considering only two receivers, Tavon Austin and DeAndre Hopkins, had been taken at that point in the draft. The Vikings jumped in and took a wide receiver of their own, Cordarrelle Patterson.

But the argument falls apart upon closer inspection. Belichick is shrewd and has always shown an ability to look ahead while remaining very competitive, one-play-from-another-ring competitive. True, Tom Brady does not have that many years left. But is he retiring after next season? No. This was not a trade for a future pick – it was a trade for four, four picks in the very same draft. These draftees will be spending a few years with Brady at the helm.