Rainy days are great for two things -- sleeping and thinking. With the only thing missing around here the last few days being an ark, there was a lot of time to flood the mind with thoughts. So, with the return of that strange, yellow orb in the sky, it's a good time to unleash a few rainy day ruminations about Boston sports.
1. My guess is that the contract standoff between the Patriots and Pro Bowl left guard Logan Mankins has to come to some sort of conclusion by Oct. 19, the NFL trade deadline. Mankins, who has stayed away from the team and declined to sign his restricted free agent tender, which has been slashed to $1.54 million, could show up and sign the tender by Nov. 16 and still get credited with a year of service toward free agency.
However, I don't see Patriots coach Bill Belichick letting a disgruntled player show up 10 games into the season. It's too much of a distraction. Instead of engaging in a dispute with the NFL Players Association over Mankins showing up at a time when the team might not want him anywhere near Foxborough, the Patriots are better off simply parting ways with him by the trade deadline.
2. If the Red Sox go to St. Petersburg, Fla., and take two out of three from the Rays, general manager Theo Epstein owes it to his persevering players to grab a veteran outfielder before the Aug. 31 trade deadline. The Sox already tried to make Johnny Damon redux a reality, but Damon spurned his former club. How about making a play for Damon's Red Sox replacement, Coco Crisp? Crisp has heated up this month for the A's. He's batting .341, with three of his six home runs and has a .383 on-base percentage. Crisp is batting .350 versus lefthanded pitching this year and would provide a speed element (22 stolen bases in 24 attempts). We already know what he can do defensively.
If not Crisp, the Angels put outfielder Juan Rivera on waivers this week. Rivera is having a down year, and has $5.25 million due in 2011, but he has some pop.
3. Speaking of the Sox, does anybody else think the timing of Daisuke Matsuzaka's back injury is a little curious? I'm not doubting the injury. Matsuzaka probably does have a stiff back, but it's pretty obvious the Sox wanted to line up their pitching for the all-important Tampa series. Now, they're throwing Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz and John Lackey, whose numbers against the Rays (2-1, 5.94 ERA) are deceivingly bad because he gave up eight earned runs over 3 1/3 innings against them in April. The real injury here might be Matsuzaka's wounded pride.
4. Generally speaking I'm what is considered a Manny Ramirez guy. He was an incredible, if extremely temperamental, talent when he was here. But was anyone really buying this idea that Manny had found religion in Chavez Ravine with the Dodgers? Manny wasn't misunderstood here. He was understood all too clearly, and now L.A. sports fans understand him as well. It turns out Manny was the biggest faker of all in a town full of fakers. Now, the Dodgers have put him on waivers and "bitter" Red Sox fans are saying, "I told you so." Wonder if they still have that billboard of Manny on La Brea Avenue in Hollywood?
5. Say what you will for the job that Epstein has done this year and the lack of major in-season additions, but you have to give the Sox some credit for unearthing players like Daniel Nava, Darnell McDonald and Bill Hall. There is no way the Sox would still be in the playoff chase if Epstein and the boys in baseball operations hadn't done their due diligence in helping to build organization depth. Hall has 17 home runs, three more than Yankees outfielder Curtis Granderson, in just 267 at-bats and has played every position except catcher and first base for the Sox, even pitching a scoreless inning. He cost the Sox Casey Kotchman and a player to be named later, plus the Mariners are eating $7.15 million of his $8.4 million salary. McDonald was a journeyman anyone could have had, and Nava was signed in 2008 out of independent ball. People often say the Sox and Yankees win because they have more money than other clubs, but you can't put a price on good scouting.
6. Can't wait for Nov. 5 and Nov. 7. Those are the days in back-to-back games the Celtics are scheduled to play the Chicago Bulls (at home) and the Oklahoma City Thunder (road), respectively. I have a feeling that Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo is going to have something to prove to Bulls guard Derrick Rose and Thunder guard Russell Westbrook, ballers who beat him out for a roster spot on USA Basketball's World Championship entry. Chauncey Billups, Stephen Curry and Eric Gordon were all going to make the team because they provide perimeter shooting, so it came down to the somewhat redundant skills of Rondo and Westbrook and to a lesser degree Rose. Rondo lost out, and he doesn't take losing well.
7. Congratulations to Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski, who has agreed to a four-year extension with the team that runs through 2014. The deal has an average annual value between $3.4 and $3.5 million. What Gostkowski has done in succeeding Adam Vinatieri doesn't get enough attention. Vinatieri is arguably the greatest kicker in NFL history. That's a lot of pressure to follow up at a position that is already full of pressure, and Gostkowski has handled it with grace, production and professionalism.
8. What ever happened to all that talk about Tom Brady getting a new contract before playing a preseason game? Brady is preparing to play tonight against the Rams in the Patriots' third preseason game, always the one in which the starters play the most, and he still doesn't have a new deal.
...That's what the Patriots have when it comes to picks in the 2013 NFL Draft, which starts Thursday. After all those years of stockpiling picks the way a survivalist does non-perishables the Patriots have just five picks in this year's draft, thanks to Band-aid trades for Albert Haynesworth, Chad Ochocinco and Aqib Talib. Five picks would be the fewest draft picks in franchise history. (Part of that is attributable to the trimming of the draft to just seven rounds in 1994). Further complicating matters is that two of the Patriots' greatest needs are at wide receiver and cornerback, positions where they have sustained draft droughts. With that in mind, I'm convinced the Patriots are going trade back out of the first round of a quanity-over-quality draft where you're just as likely to pick a Pro Bowl player in the second and third round as you are in the first round.