Saturday, January 31, 2009

Coming Sunday: Super Live Blog

Yeah, yeah, I'm Mr. Original. Stop by and check out my running commentary anyway. Like you're actually going to be riveted to the game...

Super Prediction: House of Cards

I am a serious fantasy football player. My friends know it. My girlfriend Susan knows it. She even played in one of my leagues. I had three teams going this season, and to be perfectly honest, I sucked.

Last year, I was the Golden Boy. All three of my teams made the playoffs and two of them won championships. When I played in the semifinals of one league, my opponent had virtually the entire record-destroying Patriots offense -- but it was the week they played the Jets in an ice storm. Piece of cake.

This year, I overthought my way to a pair of 5-9 teams. Only one of my teams made the playoffs, and I only got in with an 8-6 record. I was a lot like the Arizona Cardinals, limping into the playoffs and not expected to go very far, especially with the powerhouses I could expect to face in the championship game.

Ah, but even a dog has his day, and with a dash of Jay Cutler here and a pinch of Maurice Jones-Drew there, I was able to sneak off with the $500 championship prize, defeating a team with Donovan McNabb, Adrian Peterson and Andre Johnson, among other studs.

So I'm totally feeling the Cardinals tomorrow. Troy Polamalu can't cover everybody, and Big Ben already took the pipe in one Super Bowl. Why not another? Expect Willie Parker to come up big, and my guess is Nate Washington becomes this year's David Tyree, but in the end, too much Warner and Fitzgerald.

Cardinals 34, Steelers 21. Somewhere, Pat Tillman will be saluting his former mates. What do you think? Check out my poll and get your votes in. But please, no wagering.

UConn Goes For The 1-and-1

The mecca of college basketball still resides in Storrs, and the UConn men can make it official this afternoon against Providence. A victory against the surging Friars at Gampel Pavilion will lift the Huskies to No. 1 in the men's poll, where they will join the undefeated women for the fourth time in the program's history -- all since 1995.

The men are trying not to get caught up in the re-claiming the No. 1 ranking, and after Providence's triple-digit upset over No. 15 Syracuse Wednesday, it will be up to the defense to come through one more time.

The UConn women travel to D.C. today for Geno Auriemma's 800th game as a head coach. Of all the milestone games, No. 600 has to rank as his No. 1. That was the 2003 NCAA Championship game in Atlanta, when Diana Taurasi almost singlehandedly delivered back-to-back titles in a 73-68 victory over Tennessee, complete with Diana kicking the ball into the Tennessee fans' seats at the final buzzer.

There has been a ton of second-guessing of agent Scott Boras over the way he handled Jason Varitek's free agency this winter, all of it warranted after Boras allowed Varitek to throw a potential $10 million arbitration contract out the window before settling for $5 million Friday. Bob Ryan takes Boras to task in today's Globe.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Welcome To The Pahk

So exciting was the Jason Varitek news that I forgot to introduce myself and my blog (because you can't have too many Boston sports blogs!).

My name is Jeff Goldberg, and I am here for your reading entertainment and amusement on all topics Boston and UConn sports, with a little of everything else thrown in. I will try to be funny and witty and linky and maybe even break a story or two. But mostly I want to give my perspective on the sports and teams I've grown up loving and had the great pleasure of writing about during my 23 years with the Hartford Courant.

As we move along on the blog, I hope to add special features, such as live chats and Q&As with those still gainfully employed in the New England media (lucky bastards), as well as my own reporting on events such as Red Sox spring training, which I will be attending Feb. 18-25.

Feel free to throw in your two cents (but be nice!), as I navigate my way around the blogosphere. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I will enjoy writing it.


Oh Captain (Oy Captain!)

Our long Red Sox Nation nightmare is over. Or perhaps it has only just begun. Jon Heyman at is the first to report this afternoon that Jason Varitek has agreed to a one-year, $5 million deal to return to the Red Sox in 2009, with a $5 million team option or a $3 million player option for 2010.

The Boston Globe reports that the deal includes performance-related incentives, including the always dangerous games-played incentive, which is said to be $2 million for 80 games in 2010.

Today's long-awaited conclusion is certain to divide an already polarized fanbase even further in regards to the longtime captain, who will be 37 in April. Varitek was a shell of himself in 2007, hitting .220 with 13 homers and 43 RBI, enduring a season marred, in part, by a pair of debilitating in-season illnesses in the first three months and the personal drama of a divorce.

But Varitek's reputation as an expert game-caller and, more important, game-preparer for the pitching staff remains strong within the organizaion, and with the team unable to make a deal for Texas' Jarrod Saltalamacchia or Arizona's Miguel Montero, there was little alternative for a team with a glaring hole in the farm system at the catching position.

Many in the anti-Tek wing of the Nation pooh-pooh the "intangibles" argument with Varitek and tend to scoff when Curt Schilling, who knows a little something about pitching and game preparation, pontificates on Varitek's value for a reason. To the Red Sox pitching staff, it's not just some nice way to prop up an empty "C."

Now, all the game-calling in the world doesn't make up for a frignteningly anemic performace at the plate, and the Red Sox offense is not what it was even two years ago, when a bad bat could be absorbed more easily with Manny Ramirez and a healthy David Ortiz in the middle.

But the guess here is that Varitek will rebound, to an extent, in 2009 -- something along the lines of .240, 10, 55. Certainly not great, but not awful for $5 million, while the Sox continue their search for a younger, more permanent replacement for 2010. If Varitek has a successful 2009, logic dictates he turns down his $3 million option in search of another free-agent contract. If he falters, it is just as likely he will retire with a $3 million parachute.

Just pray that the "C" on his jersey doesn't stand for "Cooked."