Sunday, October 30, 2005

Hot stove season, plus "other sports".

As soon as the last bit of confetti was cleared from LaSalle Street after the White Sox celebration, the hot stove season officially began. Not surprisingly, all the media attention has shifted east, with Theo Epstein, the Red Sox, and Manny Ramirez being the topics of choice. While it looks like Epstein will return, Ramirez has reiterated the trade request he made earlier this year. Given his contract, ($57 million due over the next 3 years), the Red Sox will be all too willing to accomodate him. But the only reason we even know about this trade demand is because of a leak in the Boston organization. They are understandably peeved about this, because they will lose leverage. They can get some of it back by picking up most of his salary, but that sort of defeats the purpose of the trade.

Who should trade for Manny? At first glance, I say the OC Angels or the Twins, if most of that salary is paid. The Twins would probably have to give up Scott Baker, one of their top pitching prospects, but that's a good price to pay when getting someone of Manny's offensive caliber. His lack of defense wouldn't be an issue because he would either DH or be covered for in left or right by Torii Hunter's ability. Anaheim would be more willing to take on salary, and given owner Arte Moreno' s strategy for selling the Angels to the Hispanic population, I can definitely see him making a run at Manny. I'm not sure who they could give Boston in return, though if I were Boston I'd ask for John Lackey or Ervin Santana. Given the lack of quality on the free agent market this year, the Ramirez trade will likely be transaction that represents the biggest shift in the balance of power.

I attended the Northwestern vs. Michigan game last night, in the hopes of witnessing another Instant Classic like the 54-51 game from 2000. For a Northwestern fan, last night's game couldn't have been any different. After having shredded defenses with a good mixture of run and pass all season, NU turned into a one-dimensional passing offense; they only ran 17 rushing plays all night. They were also uncharacteristically sloppy with the ball. Basanez threw only his 2nd and 3rd interceptions of the year, but both were a result of poor routes by veteran receivers Shaun Herbert and Mark Philmore. These were the kind of mistakes you'd expect from rookies, and while the players certainly have to take some blame, I'm not letting Randy Walker off the hook either. Whether they were overconfident or nervous is only for him to know, but he did not prepare them well enough for handling the pressure of being a home favorite, something this team is definitely not used to. The coaching staff also made some very questionable play calls. They fell in love with the wide receiver bubble screen at very inopportune times, such as when they were losing by two touchdowns and facing 3rd and 12 in their own territory. Not the time for the bubble screen guys. Why not run the freakin' ball with Tyrell F. Sutton instead of throwing a bubble screen, and when you want to pass, throw it downfield, which actually didn't work out too badly if the receivers actually ran the correct routes.

Sadly, they laid a complete goose egg on national television and for the homecoming crowd, which was one of the best crowds I've ever seen at an NU game. They still have to beat only Illinois to become bowl eligible, but if they want to stay out of the Motor City, they'll have to beat Iowa at home next week. I just can't see them beating Ohio State in Columbus, not with those linebackers.


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