Early Celtics preview

So the ink is not yet dry on the new CBA agreement (if there is any ink on it yet at all) so I figured I could end my own personal NBA lockout and write my first blog about the Celtics.  Of course the big news before the lockout was that Doc Rivers signed a new long term contract extension with the team and will oversee the end of the Big 3 era and the beginning of the next one.  Let’s take a look at one they have in the lineup, on the bench, and what they need to add for the 2011-2012 season.

Returning starters: PG Rajon Rondo, SG Ray Allen, SF Paul Pierce, PF Kevin Garnett – It’s basically been the big 4 for the past few years and the big 4 are all returning for this season – for now.  I don’t even know who to put as the incumbent center since Kendrick Perkins was traded and Shaq missed the second half of the season.  I’m not sure if the supposed Rajon Rondo trade goes down.  Unless Paul or Howard come back (and I don’t think they will) I just don’t see equal value out there for Rondo.  I think it’s a safe bet for these four to be in the starting lineup on opening day, certainly the big 3 at least.  The question is how much do the big 3 have left in the tank.  Maybe the lockout helped them if they kept in shape.  There is no doubt they will be hungry to make that one last run.  They are all competitors and they may well have beat the Heat last season if Rondo were healthy for that whole series.  I’d imagine the 5th starter at C comes through an acquisition.

Returning bench players – SG Jeff Green, PF Jermaine O’Neal, PG Avery Bradley – Jeff Green is the type of solid swingman that every team loves to have but he was acquired at the expensive of the team’s starting center.  Still if the team can replace Perks’ production in the middle Green will have a huge role on this team.  O’Neal is basically KG support and you just hope he can make it through the season.  Avery Bradley probably won’t get much time unless somebody gets hurt or they can’t acquire any good back-up guards in free agency.  In other words hope Avery Bradley doesn’t get much playing time.

Impending Free Agents – PG Delonte West, PF Glen Davis, C Shaquille O’Neal, C Nenad Krstic, SG Von Wafer, PG Carlos Arroyo, SF Sasha Pavlovic – Obviously Shaq is retired so he’s not coming back.  The biggest names on here become Delonte West and Big Baby Davis.  I’m leaning towards West, who was hampered by injuries all of last year, as the guy they need to bring back.  There is already talk of a sign and trade for Big Baby and apparently the Celtics brass haven’t been happy with his weight.  I could take or leave Krstic, he’s not a bad player but not someone I would try and use heavy resources on, and Wafer, who is a decent enough complementary guy.  Arroyo and Pavlovic are gone.

Draft Picks – F JaJuan Johnson, G E’Twaun Moore – I am not an NCAA draft expert, especially since most of these kids play two years tops at college anyway, but it should be interesting to see if these two former Purdue teammates can make it on the Green together.  Rivers hasn’t extensively used rookies since Big Baby and Rondo but due to cap constraints these guys might be asked to contribute early.

I’ll dive into the guys who are available to the Celtics next week but the wish list is pretty straight-forward.  A starting center as well as some additional size for the middle.  A back-up point guard and more depth for the front court.  Insurance for the aging big 3.  This will look like a different team this season but with the Big 3, and possibly the Big 4 returning, expect another deep playoff run for the C’s.

Despite growing pains the future is bright for the Bills defense

I know that many of the members of Bills nation don’t want to speak optimistically about the future right now, after all they’ve been doing it for the past 12 years, but maybe it’s time to put some rose colors on those glasses.  The bills defense has been dismal so far this year but thanks to what looks like a much needed and long overdue loaded draft class the future finally looks bright.

Let’s start with #3 overall pick Marcell Dareus.  The Alabama alum was quick to fit into the Bills hybrid 3-4/4-3 defense because Alabama ran an almost identical defense.  Dareus was blowing up offensive linemen for the first few weeks of the season.  It looked like he was going to make quite the formidable duo with Pro Bowl Nose Tackle Kyle Williams but big Kyle’s season ended after 6 games and Dareus was kicked inside to the Nose.  He’s been playing out of position, and has been the focal point of opposing offensive linemen, but Dareus is learning at the school of Hard Knocks and will be battle tested once Kyle Williams is ready to return to the line-up in 2012 and return to his natural DE position.  It was a no-brainer pick for the Bills back in April but one that should set the front line of the defense up for years to come.

Next up was the 2nd overall pick in round #2, Aaron Williams, a cornerback out of Texas.  I have to admit I love this kid.  I love his attitude and his personality but he’s had a tough year.  He’s been thrown into the lineup because of injuries, been carted off the field himself in a big game against the Patriots, and had to wait out the injury while the Bills struggled to stay in contention.  Williams returned to the lineup two weeks ago against the Dolphins to immediate significant playing time.  This past week Williams was matched up with former Super Bowl M.V.P. Santonio Holmes and his play was absolutely sterling.  He blanketed him for most of the day, including a nice pass break up in the end zone.  In the end Holmes had too much time to run around as Mark Sanchez ran around in the pocket with no pressure being put on him and Williams lost him in the end zone for the game winning touchdown.  You live and you learn but there is no doubt in my mind that Aaron Williams will be a player in this league.

The Bills went linebacker in the third round taking Kelvin Sheppard, a veteran of Les Miles’ defensive system at L.S.U.  Sheppard has brought energy to the field since day 1 with the Bills defense.  Sheppard quickly supplanted starter and captain Andra Davis in the lineup a month into the season and quickly made an impact, crushing Michael Vick and forcing and interception and ensuing touchdown by fellow middle linebacker Nick Barnett.  Sheppard has been prone to the big play, recording a safety against the Dolphins in Miami a few weeks ago.  I’d like to see the Bills blitz Sheppard more and that will come as the defense is filled out.  As it stands it looks like Buddy Nix and co. went 3 for 3 as far as opening day 2012 starters go for the defense at the top of the 2011 draft.

Nix didn’t quit there.  He added to his special teams by drafting safety Da’Norris Searcy out of North Carolina in Round 4 and Linebacker Chris White in round 6.  Searcy has started the last two games for injured captain George Wilson and has filled in admirably.  He may well be starter #4 in a few years time.  Overall it was an excellent job by Nix and his scouting staff.  This is a draft for the defense that the Bills have been sorely lacking for years.  You could probably go back to 2001, when Nate Clements and Aaron Schobel were both drafted in the first two rounds, to find this type of prospective long term production for the Bills.  If these guys can live up to their potential, 5-2 might not turn into 8-8 next time around.

Twitter @ErikVenskus

Thoughts on Bills/Jets

After looking like they’ve been left for dead on the side of the road for the past month the Bills finally showed some signs of life yesterday at the Meadowlands.  It wasn’t enough, however, for the Bills to avert the Jets from completing the season sweep.  The last minute 28-24 loss made the Bills 0-2 on the season at the Meadowlands with losses by a combined 7 points.  Still the Bills are at 5-6 and barely clinging on to the playoff hunt.  It is almost impossible for the Bills to hop over the Bengals AND the Jets, as they have lost tie-breakers to both of those teams.  There is still something to be said for finishing out strong and the Bills might have picked up enough momentum to end the year with a handful of wins and build some momentum going into the all-important third year of the Gailey/Nix regime.  My game thoughts:

  • First let’s talk about how the 2010 draft set the Bills back and you can’t even fault C.J. Spiller for this game.  He ran hard and didn’t back down in his first full game as the primary back.  He’s still a work in progress.  2nd round pick Torell Troup missed another game and will likely miss the rest of the year.  3rd round pick Alex Carrington started off strong but has faded into mediocrity.  4th round pick Marcus Easley hasn’t seen a professional snap and may well never see one at all.  They’ve gotten no production at all from the class.  That’s the kind of draft class that set you back for years.
  • Now let’s talk about the 2011 draft.  Marcell Dareus is going to be a good player in this league for a long time, he just needs more people around him.  2nd round pick Aaron Williams was thrown into the fire after missing half the year and held his own (I’ll have more on him in a minute).  3rd round pick Kelvin Sheppard didn’t have his best game but he’s played real well in the last few weeks and plays hard until the last whistle.  4th rounders Chris Hairston and Da’Norris Searcy are great back-up players who have filled in admirably for injured starters.  This is the type of draft that can set you up for years.
  • Ryan Fitzpatrick seemed to get some of his confidence back yesterday.  It would have been nice if he made that touchdown throw to Stevie Johnson wide open in the end zone at the end of the game but it was a good bounce back game nonetheless for Fitz.  He’s generally played well in December for the Bills so I expect him to keep it going for the rest of the year.
  • Stevie Johnson also had a great bounce back game with 8 catches and 75 yards.  It would have been nice if he caught that ball over the middle right in his hands at the end of the game.  And that celebration.  Oh, that celebration.
  • You have to give the Bills offense credit for playing a good game against a good defense without Fred Jackson.  It was pretty ballsy for Fitz and Stevie to play pitch and catch right in front of Darrelle Revis, which they did for most of the game.  I’d like the see C.J. Spiller hit the hole a little harder and finish off runs.
  • Leodis McKelvin is becoming a beast on Special Teams.  The guy is a good football player and just needs to learn the instincts in the passing game to succeed at CB.  I said a few weeks ago that he can be great if he got it all together and maybe he can get his confidence back up excel at this part of the game.
  • Defensively the Bills are as inconsistent as ever.  They played hard but they are undermanned, both by injury and overall lack of depth.  Nick Barnett is a player but they have NOTHING at outside linebacker.  Spencer Johnson can not set an edge to save his life.
  • Back to Aaron Williams.  That kid has gone though a lot already in his first year…thrown into the fire when Terrence McGee was hurt in the first series of the year, being carted off the field in week 3 against the Patriots, missing the game in his hometown of Dallas, and then being thrown right back into the fire coming off of injury due to Terrence McGee’s second injury.  Williams started his first NFL game and played well all game against Santonio Holmes, a former Super Bowl M.V.P.  After all that he gave up the game winning touchdown after Sanchez had what seemed like an eternity to find Holmes open in the end zone.  From all accounts Williams is a great kid and a talented football player and I hope he bounces back and continues to become a key part of the Bills defense for years to come.

Well that’s about all she wrote for the Bills’ playoff chances.  It has to be disappointing for this team and this fan base to be back in mediocrity after such a promising start.  The important part is for the Bills to win a few more games this season and put together another good draft and come back next year and maybe finally make it “that year”  Until then it will be another long offseason in Western New York, unless of course they can work a miracle in the last five games.

Twitter @ErikVenskus

Has the Red Sox ownership come full circle?

As we steamroll towards a Bobby Valentine coronation in the coming days it is interesting to take a step back and look exactly what this decision may mean for the current Red Sox ownership group.

Now let me start by saying that this ownership absolutely turned this franchise around.  This was a directionless franchise for years and years until they took control.  They put into place cutting edge ideas that put this franchise out in front of basically all of the others.  They went the extra mile to put a winning team on the field and went out of their way to give the fans the best experience that they could possibly have coming to the park night in and night out, both on and off the field.  It was a great honeymoon between Red Sox Nation and John Henry, Tom Werner, and Larry Lucchino.  Like all honeymoons, however, it had to come to an end.

The Red Sox brass refused to sway from the new school line of thinking when they first took over.  When they were rebuffed by Sabre metric king Billy Beane they didn’t go out and hire a retread.  They hired Theo Epstein, then heralded as one of the best young minds in baseball.  Then they got together and found a manager.  Contrast that with the embarrassing back track that Ben Cherington had to make during his (to that point) ultra transparent search for a new manager when it was revealed that ownership had held talks with Bobby Valentine regarding the open position.

The formula seems pretty straight-forward to me.  Looking at 8 playoff teams this season 4 managers, Arizona’s Kirk Gibson, Milwaukee’s Ron Roenicke, Texas’ Ron Washington, and Tampa Bays’ Joe Maddon are all on their first managerial job.  The Yankees’ Joe Girardi had one year of prior managerial experience before getting the job as manager of the New York Yankees.  Only Charlie Manuel of the Phillies, Jim Leyland of the Detroit Tigers, and Tony LaRussa of the Cardinals had extensive prior managerial experiences before getting their current jobs (or in LaRussa’s case former job).  All three of those guys have at least one World Series victory and multiple pennant victories on their resume.  As a matter of fact the last 5 winners of the American League manager of the year were on their first jobs.  Why are the Red Sox now seemingly afraid to hand the reins to an up-and-comer?  It’s something that they have done in the past.  It’s what most teams do to succeed in the present.

Torey Lovullo, Dale Sveum, and Sandy Alomar all seemed to be good candidates from that vein.  Dave Martinez of the Tampa Bay Rays, Tim Wallach of the Los Angeles Dodgers, and Phillies AAA manager Ryne Sandberg head a list of up and comers that the Red Sox didn’t even approach to interview.  Instead they look to turn the keys over to a guy who has made the post season twice in 14 years of managing in the big leagues.  But Bobby Valentine is known as a disciplinarian, someone who will take no crap from his players.  Is Larry Lucchino and company looking for a manager or a sheriff?  Because make no mistake, despite what may or may not have happened in the Red Sox clubhouse this past September, it is still a manager that we need and not a sheriff.  The thing to remember is throughout all of the investigative reports and exclusive stories regarding what went on in the Red Sox clubhouse, the games are still won in between the foul lines every night.

Baseball is a young man’s sport.  The Red Sox knew that when they hired Theo Epstein.  They knew it when they hired Terry Francona at age 43 to manage the team.  They knew it when they hired Ben Cherington to replace Theo Epstein.  Somehow they forget this when it is time to replace Tito Francona.  It seems that there is more concern about what goes on in the clubhouse than what goes on out on the field.  Again, I reiterate that the game is won between the foul lines.

Is Bobby Valentine ready to shake off a decade long sabbatical from managing in the majors to undertake this team and this situation?  Maybe but it’s not a slam dunk that members of the Red Sox ownership might think it is.  Maybe Ben Cherington agrees with me, which is why an announcement hasn’t been made yet.  Either way, this type of decision seems like they one that if it fails could lead to the beginning of the end of the marriage, let alone a honeymoon, for this Red Sox ownership group.

Twitter @ErikVenskus

Everybody hates Gronk

Rob Gronkowski is young and brash.  He’s loud and obnoxious.  He is pompous, arrogant, boisterous, dramatic.  He poses with porn stars and posts the pictures on Twitter.  He spikes the ball extra hard after a touchdown, even when he is told by the league not to do so.  He jaws at his opponents.  He poses on the field.  He’s James Dean in a helmet.  And he’s quickly becoming the best Tight End in football.

Yeah, I guess it’s easy to see how you can hate Rob Gronkowski if you are a fan of the opposing team.  The above reasons to hate Rob Gronkowski are extremely vexing to his detractors for one reason – he is simply unstoppable on the football field.  You don’t want to see the Spike of Doom?  Go ahead and try and stop him from getting into the end zone.  That’s easier said than done.  He’s been there 20 times already in 26 career games.  That is the fastest a tight end has ever gotten to 20 touchdowns.  In fact no other tight end has ever gotten to 20 touchdowns by the end of their second season.  He’s done so with 6 games to spare.  Yeah, yeah, yeah he’s got Brady throwing him the ball.  So did Daniel Graham, Ben Watson, Christian Fauria, and Jermaine Wiggins.  Did he make those guys superstars?  This weekend Gronkowski will surpass the 100 reception mark for his career, 27 games in.  He’s also less than 150 yards away from 1,500 in his career.  A 13.8 career average has helped that out.  And to think that he has accomplished all this before his 23rd birthday.

Maybe the worst part about all of his antics is that he gets away with it.  That must crawl at his haters.  The fact that he is coached by Bill Belichick, quarterbacked by Tom Brady and they don’t seem to be phased by all of the show boating.  Belichick and offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien will still draw up plays to get him open and Brady will keep chucking him the ball.  After all they want to win right?  Gronk will help you do that no matter how insufferable a personality he has.  And he’ll keep doing things like taking pictures with porn stars and doing other things that he has to apologize for.  And he will apologize.  And his lovers will go on loving and his haters will go on hating.  And he’ll keep on putting up stats and making big plays.  And the cycle will continue.  Gronk just doesn’t care.

I’m not a Patriots fan but I definitely have become a fan of Rob Gronkowski and I think every other football fan should do the same.  The reason being is that behind the nu-school persona there is an old school football player.  He’s the Mike Ditka of Generation Y.  So what if he is a meat head?  He is an entertain meat head.  He’s also tough as nails, a hell of a pass catcher, a tremendous route runner and a pretty good blocker too.  He also loves to put his body on the line no matter what the situation is.  He admitted that he wouldn’t admit to suffering a concussion.  Surely a league which has put an emphasis on head injuries can’t be happy about that.  But that’s Gronk being Gronk.  He’s going to spike the ball harder and harder until they stop telling him not to.  What’s wrong with injecting a little fun into the No Fun League.  It’s like Chad Ochocinco back when he was good.  It doesn’t hurt anyone.

If my little sales pitch just now didn’t work and you still are stubborn enough to want to continue hating on the man remember one thing – he’s not going away anytime soon.

Twitter @ErikVenskus

Changing the culture in Buffalo

I mentioned in my blog about the Bills downward spiral the other day that a change of culture was badly needed in Buffalo.  Today I will dig a bit deeper into that.  Now most people will say one thing will change the culture  – new ownership.  But is it that easy?  Or that hard depending on how you look at it?  Sure there are plenty of success stories in sports relating to the change of ownership such as the Boston Red Sox, the Texas Rangers, and Buffalo’s own Sabres.  On the flip side there is always a Frank McCourt or a Fred Wilpon situation looming with such rich and powerful entities.  Being in a holding pattern waiting for new ownership, as the Bills seemingly are right now, obviously isn’t a good thing but fans need to realize that there is a “be careful what you wish for” scenario that can come with a new ownership group.

Keeping with what is on the field right now there are a few things that I have seen from this team in the past few weeks that I have not liked.  Well, maybe more than a few but some are more glaring than others.  Obviously the most important one is changing the culture of losing in Buffalo.  That one does not necessarily happen with new ownership either.  You have to win to be not used to losing.  I saw it right in the faces of the Bills players this past Sunday as they sulked on the sidelines.  You would think between the overachievers and the younger big school players that the tide might be changing but it’s reared it’s ugly head back these past few games.  The “it’s who were are so we might as well stop fooling ourselves and everyone else” attitude.  It needs to go away.  You would think that some of the players that have been here for a long time would be hungry to win.  Maybe that’s why they’ve stuck here for so long though, it’s not programmed in them to be winners.

The Bills almost exclusively brought in players from winning programs this past season, a change from the usual small school draft mentality they’ve had.  Marcell Dareus was a no-brainer to be picked where he was but his Alabama pedigree should help as he becomes the corner stone of the defense.  He was one of the few players who actually looked upset at the team’s play on the sideline.  Kelvin Sheppard, a 3rd round pick from LSU, never slowed down even as the game got out of hand.  2nd round pick out of Texas Aaron Williams is a high energy player and a popular teammate and will start his first NFL game this Sunday against the Jets even though he just came back from 6 game absence after being carted off the field in the Patriots game.  These three are guys you can build your defense around but there are too many holes around them and not enough veteran leadership to mentor them.  Williams and Dareus’ best prospects for mentors, Terrence McGee and Kyle Williams, have been in and out of the lineup this year and are now both on IR.  Other good leaders like Shawne Merriman and Chris Kelsay have been injured as well.  The team is also light on outside linebackers and defensive ends.  The 2010 draft seems like a wasted draft in hindsight but it was sandwiched by some pretty good drafts in 2009 and 2011 (Aaron Maybin not withstanding).   The Bills needs consistency drafting good, NFL ready players.

The other thing, which ties in a bit to the above, is coaching.  Obviously the problem I have talked about is that there is no identity for the defense.  Sometimes they blitz, sometimes they try to bring pressure with three or four guys.  They go man on man, then maybe they’ll play a little zone.  There is just no flow to the defense.  Is it the personnel or the coaching?  A little of both perhaps, maybe even a lot of both.  We’ve seen some of these players make plays but not with consistency.  Is that a talent failure or a coaching failure?  Seems like a coaching one to me.

Offensively the coaching seems to get a pass because Gailey is the head coach and the players seem to love him.  Let’s look at the play-calling.  Gailey doesn’t utilize Fred Jackson enough early in the game.  He seems resigned to the fact that teams will not respect the passing game and load it against the run.  Try to run it up the middle and look for a break.  Use screens and draws more…and then when you establish them use other plays to contradict it.  The offense needs more play action and roll-outs.  It has become incredibly plain and simple since they have started to struggle.  Also, the most overlooked guy in the room, Curtis Modkins, has some explaining to do.  Fred Jackson is successful because Fred Jackson is a good, smart, polished football player.  I don’t give Modkins as much credit for Jackson as I do for the failures of C.J. Spiller.  Spiller runs too stiff and upright.  He dances too much.  Somebody needs to get a hold of him and tell him that it’s not that easy to tackle someone who is running fast and tell him to put his head down and finish off runs.  I’m not so sure that’s what Gailey and Modkins want him to do though.  That will be tough when December comes in Buffalo and Spiller is the feature back to due injury to Fred Jackson.  Also they need to find a better system than having Andy Levitre be the back-up at every single offensive line position.  He was one of, if not the best left guards in the league throughout the first half of the season and won’t take a snap there for the rest of the year.  You need to put your best players where they play best.

Sadly I’m not sure that Chan Gailey is the guy for this job.  Maybe he is, maybe he isn’t.  With a franchise that has its whole future hanging on the balance of the health of one 93 year old man ownership can change at any time and there is no guarantee that Gailey will be the guy that new ownership wants anyway.  And around and around the wheel we go.  The fan base is getting antsy and hope was the last thing they needed and it’s what they got at the beginning of the year only to have the same old nightmares come back up.  Here’s hoping to success and stability to the Bills in the near future.  Ten plus years is a long, long time for a fan base to wait for it.

Twitter @ErikVenskus

And then there were 3

The process of finding the next Red Sox manager began in earnest roughly a week after the season when Terry Francona stepped down/was let go. They have interviewed 6 candidates. 3 are out of the race and 3 still remain. It’s clear what direction that the Red Sox are leaning, with the only two candidates with extensive prior managerial experience, Bobby Valentine and Gene Lamont, still in the running. Still Torey Lovullo is still in the running for a reason, most likely being his familiarity with the Red Sox organization and philosophy.

Let’s talk a bit about the deposed candidates before we get to the finalists. Pete Mackanin was the first to interview and coincidentally the first to be taken out of the running. Mackanin does have prior managerial experience, serving on an interim basis on two separate occasions, but it never seemed like his personality was the right fit for the job. Next was Dale Sveum who opted to take the manager’s job with Theo Epstein’s Chicago Cubs. The story is that while the Red Sox brass liked Sveum they weren’t prepared to make the decision at the point in time that the Cubs offered the job to Sveum which actually does make sense if true. The last candidate taken out if the running is Indians bench coach Sandy Alomar Jr. Alomar is a great candidate but is woefully short on experience. He only got promoted to bench coach for the Indians in September. He’ll be a great manager someday but not today.

Now for the final candidates. Bobby Valentine is obviously the big name floating around right now. There are many pro and cons that go with Valentine and they’ve all been talked about to death over the past few days. One thing is for sure if Valentine gets the job – it will be interesting days at Fenway Park. The other experienced candidate for the job, Gene Lamont, could be the surprise horse in the race this late. Lamont brings a lot of experience but will be 65 by opening day and he doesn’t exactly have the same type of big personality that Valentine would bring to the clubhouse. There is a possibility could be gaging interest in Lamont’s willingness to serve as bench coach for the less experienced Torey Lovullo. Lovullo is by far the most experienced candidate. That is not a good thing considering the reports that the Red Sox brass are valuing experience in the search. Lovullo does have extensive minor league managerial experience, serving as manager for three different AAA affiliates including the Pawtucket Red Sox during the 2010 season. He spent last year on former Sox pitching coach John Farrell’s coaching staff.

Right now it seems like Valentine’s job to lose but look out for Torey Lovullo. It looks like he may be the last candidate interviewed by Red Sox management and if he impresses there could be sentiment to give the job to the young upstart. GM Ben Cherington had said that he hoped to have a manager by Thanksgiving. With Thanksgiving only two days away that doesn’t seem likely. Eight years ago the Sox hired Francona on December 4th and I would expect a similar timeline this time around. There is still a lot of work to be done but remember the core of the team is already in place. The key job of the manager is to right the sinking ship that was the 2011 Red Sox and will be the 2012 Red Sox. Which man can handle the job? Which man will be asked? We’ll find out in the next few weeks.

Twitter @ErikVenskus

The Valentine effect

Bobby Valentine is a bit of an enigma. He has both strong supporters and detractors among all of the baseball men. To some Valentine is an over officious loud mouth whose time in baseball has passed. To others, such as the Globe’s Nick Cafardo, he truly is their favorite Valentine.

I’ve been going back and forth for the past few days since Valentine has emerged as the main candidate but I keep coming back to the skeptic’s side. At 61 years old I am having a hard time believing that Valentine can re-invent himself. He’s would have a big challenge coming into Boston and erasing the memories of the September past and he’s been out of the game for a long time.

One thing that jumps out at you when you look at Bobby Valentine’s history is that his teams have been incredibly mediocre. For a guy with a reputation such as Valentine’s you would think that he would have more than just 2 career playoff appearances as a manager. He was with Texas from 1985 to 1992 without making the postseason. When he returned to the majors in 1996 with the Mets he managed 2 postseason appearances in 7 seasons, including a World Series appearance in 2000. I do realize that Valentine’s Mets were not the same overpaid, underachieving Mets of the present day. I also realize that if Valentine took over the Red Sox that they would instantly be the most talented team that he has ever managed. By far.

Valentine did have a great deal of success over in Japan but what does that mean? I’m not too sure. There’s a big difference between the Chiba Lottes and the Red Sox. Is Valentine the right guy for the job? Maybe he is, maybe he isn’t. Right now odds are good that we’ll soon find out.

Twitter @ErikVenskus

The Valentine effect

Bobby Valentine is a bit of an enigma. He has both strong supporters and detractors among all of the baseball men. To some Valentine is an over officious loud mouth whose time in baseball has passed. To others, such as the Globe’s Nick Cafardo, he truly is their favorite Valentine.

I’ve been going back and forth for the past few days since Valentine has emerged as the main candidate but I keep coming back to the skeptic’s side. At 61 years old I am having a hard time believing that Valentine can re-invent himself. He’s would have a big challenge coming into Boston and erasing the memories of the September past and he’s been out of the game for a long time.

One thing that jumps out at you when you look at Bobby Valentine’s history is that his teams have been incredibly mediocre. For a guy with a reputation such as Valentine’s you would think that he would have more than just 2 career playoff appearances as a manager. He was with Texas from 1985 to 1992 without making the postseason. When he returned to the majors in 1996 with the Mets he managed 2 postseason appearances in 7 seasons, including a World Series appearance in 2000. I do realize that Valentine’s Mets were not the same overpaid, underachieving Mets of the present day. I also realize that if Valentine took over the Red Sox that they would instantly be the most talented team that he has ever managed. By far.

Valentine did have a great deal of success over in Japan but what does that mean? I’m not too sure. There’s a big difference between the Chiba Lottes and the Red Sox. Is Valentine the right guy for the job? Maybe he is, maybe he isn’t. Right now odds are good that we’ll soon find out.

Twitter @ErikVenskus

What went wrong for the Bills?

Instead of giving thoughts on this week’s latest Bills debacle against the Dolphins I figured that we might just tackle the question of what happened to the Bills altogether in the last three weeks. Here’s what I came up with:

1. Injuries and lack of depth – I hate the injury excuse so I will get it out of the way early. Clearly Kyle Williams and now Eric Wood have been crushing losses for the Bills. The Bills, however, haven’t been able to overcome their losses like other teams can. Marcell Dareus is getting double and triple teamed every snap and no one else on the line can make a play. Shawne Merriman and Chris Kelsay know how to put pressure on the Quarterback but when they went out there was no one on the bench to match their production. Same thing at wide receiver and the offensive line. Depth is the problem on this football team and you can give Nix and Gailey at least some slack here, being in only their second season at the helm, but you have to wonder about the lack of production that comes from last years’s draft picks. C.J. Spiller and Torell Troup had to have stepped up earlier in the year and so far they haven’t.

2. Lack of a defensive identity – What is the Bills defense? I know that it’s a hybrid 3-4/4-3 defense but what is it’s specialty? What is it’s calling card? They can’t rush the passer. They can’t cover particularly well. They go through stints when they can’t stop the run. They have decent players scattered through the defense but they simply have no defensive identity. Chan Gailey doesn’t give much thought to coaching the defensive side of the ball and that is fine as long as he is willing to go out and get himself a defensive coordinator who will give this defense an identity. I’m not talking about Dave Wannstedt either, I’m thinking more along the lines of a guy who has coached with Pittsburgh or New England.

3. Fix the offense – I’m not sure what has happened to the Bills offense but it’s on Chan Gailey to fix it, both this year and beyond. For this year it’s simple – utilize Fred Jackson as much as you can. Jackson is the best player on the offense and excels at all phases of the game. Let him put the offense on his back and loosen things up for Fitzpatrick and company. Long term they need a wide receiver with speed and they need to continue drafting and developing offensive linemen to create depth.

4. Change the culture – Just when you think that they are no longer your father’s Bills they become your father’s Bills. Just when you thought they’ve changed the culture of this team the ugly tendencies of a losing franchise come rearing its head. I sat right behind the Bills sideline and I can tell you that besides a few exceptions on the sideline, the Bills looked lethargic. There was a few guys that lashed out or expressed their frustrations as to what was going on. Marcell Dareus, who just came out of Alabama, and Nick Barnett, who spent years in the Packers organization were a few of the exceptions. They made a mistake a few years ago by drafting small school project players. They need to repeat what they did last year by drafting big program, winning players like Dareus, Aaron Williams, and Kelvin Sheppard. They need players that want to win and are used to it. Most of all they need players who don’t care what’s gone on before them, just what they can do to make the future better for Buffalo Bills football.

Twitter @ErikVenskus

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