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Posted by Chad Finn, Globe Staff  January 14, 2009 01:10 PM

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You cannot trade Cassel without knowing the condition of Brady. We don't know how those draft choices will turn out. We seem to know much more about Cassel. I sure feel a lot more confident with him at the helm, then O' Connell. -- Ron G.

True, Ron, but keep in mind that the Patriots know more about the condition of and long-term prognosis for Brady's knee right now than we ever will, and they probably have a pretty good idea of exactly how healthy or damaged he is. If they trade Cassel, that will be the most encouraging sign we could ask for that Brady will return to full health. (When I heard that he got down on bended knee to propose to Giselle, I couldn't have been the only one who thought, "Well, which knee?") In a weird sort of way, Brady's injury, provided he comes back in something resembling his previous form, has almost -- I said almost -- been a blessing for the franchise long-term, in the sense that this season allowed Cassel, an afterthought his entire career (I wonder if any team would have signed him had been cut in training camp), to become an extremely valuable commodity, one who could help them get a few more integral pieces on the defensive side via trade. Consider: A Minnesota paper speculated last week that Cassel might cost the Vikings a first- and a second-round pick in a trade. If that scenario played out, the Patriots would have two No. 1s and three No. 2s in the upcoming draft. Ultimately, what he brings in return might be his greatest contribution to the franchise.

Top 5 Movies I never turn off when I run across them on cable, regardless of what point in the movie it is, or how late at night/early in AM it's on:
1. Goodfellas
2. Animal House
3. Tombstone
4. Ferris Bueller's Day Off
5. Scarface

-- Rob in CT

Great list, Rob -- I did exactly that with "Scarface" the other night when it was on Encore or something. It's still jarring when you seen Mary Elizabeth Mastrontonio's hair-raising tribute to Oscar Gamble for the first time -- let's just say there were some odd parameters concerning what was considered attractive in the early '80s. I'm not sure "Scarface" would be in my top five, though -- that would be "Almost Famous," "Office Space," "Boogie Nights," "Dazed and Confused," and "Faith Rewarded" in some order. But it would definitely be in or around the top 10, along with "GoodFellas," "Stand By Me," "Anchorman," "There's Something About Mary," (figures that Favre would lose in the end), and pretty much anything involving Steve Martin.

Chad, if Scott Pioli decides to retain Herm Edwards as coach of the Chiefs' would that settle once and for all who was the true brains behind the Belichick-Pioli tandem? -- Adam K.

If Pioli retains Herm Edwards as coach, one can only assume Belichick gave him the Randal P. McMurphy treatment before giving him his blessing to join the Chiefs. If Pioli believes in sports karma, he'll replace the Hermanator with Joe Pisarcik, though I imagine he's probably going to try to hire Iowa (and Maine) coach Kirk Ferentz, who from my experience dealing with him many years ago is a truly rare breed: A terrific football coach and a completely normal human being. By the way, Pioli's first act as Chiefs GM had better be to cut Bernard Pollard's sorry, cheap-shotting . . .

Where, in your opinion, does Paul Pierce rank amongst the All-Time Celtic Greats? -- Dennis T.

Let me answer that with my completely subjective top 10, and with the caveat that it's 3:02 a.m. and I'm probably forgetting someone I shouldn't:

1. Bill Russell. Because I fear Bob Ryan might come over to my desk and go all "Around The Horn" on me if I put anyone else here. Besides, how do you argue with 11 rings in 13 seasons? You don't.

2. Larry. He's been retired 17 years now -- four longer than he played. Ugh. I still miss watching him.

3. Hondo.

4. Bob Cousy. Not disputing his greatness here, because it was a different game then, but did you know he shot just 37.5 percent for his career? No wonder Russell got so many rebounds.

5. The Truth. Ryan has referred to Pierce more than once as the "greatest scorer in Celtics' history," meaning he has more effective, creative, and efficient ways of putting the ball in the basket than Larry, Havlicek, Kevin McHale, and anyone else you want to name. And I agree with that entirely. I was at the game against the Raptors the other night, and one of the things you notice about Pierce up close and in person that really doesn't come through on television is his incredible balance. He always has his body under control, especially when he's throwing one of his many fakes and even when he's getting hammered by his defender, and that one subtle skill goes a long way toward making him such a force offensively. He's not the quickest forward in the league, and he rarely dunks anymore, but he's got an uncommon knack for making his body do exactly what he wants it to on a basketball court. He must be part cat.

6. Dave Cowens. Can you imagine playing against that guy? He was like every rec league hacker you ever knew, except that he was a supremely skilled athlete was blessed with the highest vertical leap belonging to a redhead in the planet's history. (Sorry, Scal. You too, Matt Bonner.) His relentlessness must have driven Kareem nuts.

7. Kevin McHale.

8. Tommy Heinsohn: Because this list would be reeeee-diculous without him.

9. KG. Because in one year, he made anything possible.

10. Todd Day. Or Blue Edwards. It's a tossup, really.

You know there's a fourth team in Boston, too. I think you should mention them in your column, if you really want to touch ALL the bases . . . -- Alex

I know, and I promise you'll get your fill of Boston Lobsters talk in the spring, Alex. Boston loves you, Martina Navratilova! Woooo!!! . . . All right, I suppose you're talking about the Big, Bad Bruins, right? The reason I don't write about them -- for now -- is because I'm a complete bandwagon jumper with this team, and for now, I certainly have no more insight than any of you, and I don't want to pretend I do. (Doesn't stop me with the Sox and Pats, though, right?) I actually was going to write a light column with that sort of tone, but Mazz beat me to it (and did it really, really well) with his piece asking questions to Fluto and Kevin Paul Dupont. I will write about them as the season progresses. I just want to make sure my opinions have some substance before I do.

Freaks & Geeks was perfect. Though if you ever see the "fake IDs" episode, keep an ear out for the anachronism of guest-starring Jason Schwartzmann trying to insult someone he finds to be brutish by calling him "Laimbeer" (who wouldn't have been on the Michigan town's--or national--radar for another couple years). Everything else in the show: note perfect. -- Josh W.

Haven't seen that one yet, Josh -- we're through six of the 18 episodes (c'mon, Netflix, pick up the pace!) and you are absolutely right: It isnote perfect. I'm surprised Linda Cardellini (who was 24 when this show was made) isn't as big a star as some of the other cast members, because she is heartachingly perfect as teenage girl trying to figure out who she is. (I can so relate to that.) If it's as funny and touching to the end as it has been so far, I'd have to rate it up there among my all-time favorite contemporary shows, along with the second and third seasons of "The Office" and every single second of "Mad Men."

I know I'm a minority of one, but I think we are going to be pleasantly surprised when Julio Lugo lives up to his potential over the next couple of years. Yes, he's had a tough couple of years, but there's something there - speed, occasional pop - that makes me think he can be a real jewel. -- Mike From Maine.

I was just about to rip Maine (trust me, the phrase "inbreeding gone haywire" would have been utilized to great effect) when I realized that I'm from Maine. Dang, foiled by my hillbilly roots again. Actually, I'm surprised this e-mail wasn't signed "Theo E." Lugo is going to be the best-compensated utility man in baseball history this season, but I think there's a better chance of Juan Bustabad starting at shortstop for the Red Sox this season. To put it another way -- if Jed Lowrie falters, I think they'll trade for a stopgap before they give the gig back to Lugo.

Chad, here's a crazy idea: why don't the Red Sox just re-sign Manny? Give him a three-year, incentive-laden contract that brings him up to $25 million a year if he performs like he did (or anywhere close to what he did) in LA. No, I'll never forgive him for laying down on the Sox last year -- and his teammates may never forgive him, either, which would be a problem -- but with Tex and Burrell parachuting into the AL East, there's a different dynamic now. If it's possible to take the emotion out of this and treat it as a business decisions (a tall order, I know), it's the only logical choice. Possible? -- Paul O.

You had me at "crazy idea," Paul, but I think we both know the odds of that happening are about the same as the odds of Sox fans greeting Mark Teixeira with a standing ovation during his first visit to Fenway. The history needs no rehash -- Manny napalmed the Zakim on his way out of town, the Red Sox weren't exactly enamored with him even during what we perceived to be the best of times. I hope the wounds are healed with the passing of time and Manny is eventually remembered well by Sox fans (and vice versa), because for the majority of his days here, it was a treat to watch him play. But even a reluctant fan of Manny's like me knows that day is not coming anytime soon. I do have one question for the Mike Adamses of the world whose bashing of Manny has rocketed past justified and gone all the way to obsessive: How would Red Sox history be different if someone had claimed him on waivers after the '03 season? Would they still have two championships? One? None? Discuss.

Feel like somebody's got to get an Office question in there--whaddya think of this season so far? -- Christopher D.

It's better than last season, which was thrown out of whack because of the writers' strike, but it doesn't approach Seasons 2 and 3 so far. They've run into the age-old problem for sitcoms -- not that it's really a sitcom -- in that they lost their way a little bit after two characters who pined for each other finally got together. It's the Sam and Diane syndrome. "The Office" is still hilarious, particularly when the Dwight/Michael antics are used in moderation, but I miss the bittersweet aspect of the old Jim/Pam relationship, and there's no way to replicate that.

Which sportswriters, past and present, do you admire most? Which blogs do you regularly read? Does Mike Reiss ever sleep? Have you ever accidentally called your wife "Pam" or "Jenna" by mistake? -- Craig B.

1) First and foremost, Ray Fitzgerald -- the name of the column is a tribute of sorts to him. Ryan, Gammons, Montville, and everyone else I grew up reading in the Globe. Among current sportswriters outside of Boston, it begins and ends for me with Joe Posnanski. He's among the finest pure wordsmiths to grace the sports sections around the country, and his obvious and unabashed lifelong love of sports is just so refreshing when so many of his famous peers are transparent pot-stirrers and professional cynics. He could write about Snuggies and I'd read it. Wait, he already did.

2) Some I try to get to daily: Surviving Grady, Barstool Sports, Cardboard Gods, Baseball Analysts, Buster Olney's links roundup on ESPN.com, Kissing Suzy Kolber, and about a dozen other Sox blogs. I hardly read Deadspin anymore. Not sure why -- maybe it was because of Will Leitch leaving, or the new format. And I dearly miss Fire Joe Morgan.

3) Like Chuck Norris, Mike Reiss doesn't sleep. He waits.

4) My wife's name Jen, which can be a convenient loophole when you think about it, my friend. And for the record, Jenna Fischer (who absolutely brought her A game to the Golden Globes) doesn't mind at all when I call her Jen. (Why yes, the delusions are clouding my reality now. Why do you ask?)

What free agent signings do you see the Red Sox pursuing in the next couple of years? -- Scott in NorCal

Based on what I've seen this offseason, I'd say any accomplished pitcher coming off an injury/lousy season who's willing to accept an incentive-based one-year deal. I don't think they'll go after Matt Holliday, who is the biggest name in next year's free agent class. Few realize it now, but they will a few months into his first season in Oakland (and away from Coors Field): Jason Bay is an equal or better player. Their best move for next offseason could be to be proactive in signing their own players, starting with Bay. I'd also like to see Jon Lester get locked up long term. It's not happening with Papelbon, though.

Please sort out the Sox 2009 bullpen. There seem to be too many arms out there and not enough innings, even if Masterson gets the 4/5 spot on the starting rotation. Give us your take; I'll bet there'll be a ton of back and forth to follow. -- Mike M.

All Wes Littleton, all the time. Masterson is the wild card, obviously -- he could be what Derek Lowe was to the '98 Sox, only with a 95 m.p.h. fastball. Ramon Ramirez is murder on righthanders, so at the least he'll be the guy to come in and strikeout A-Rod with the tying run on third and two outs, and he could be the go-to guy in the eighth if his adjustment to Boston goes well and Masterson ends up in the rotation. Hideki Okajima's role probably won't change much, nor will Javier Lopez's, who didn't have a reverse split last season. Not sure where Saito fits, since a lot people thought his arm was shot last year, but it's a wise gamble at the least. And Manny Delcarmen will pitch the sixth (at least during Dice-K's starts), though I wouldn't be shocked if he was traded. And the closer goes without saying.

How do you think the Pats would have faired against the Ravens if they had beaten out Miami for the AFC East? We may not have beat them in the first round, but at home....we would have looked a lot better than those Dolphins did. -- Chris N.

I think the Ravens would have beaten them in a relatively close game, and in the postgame, as usual, Ray Lewis would have tried to find some way to take the spotlight from Ed Reed. He's a fraud of Favreian proportions. In a related note, I am annoyed that the Cardinals are in the final four after watching them quit roughly 30 seconds after arriving at Logan when they played the Patriots.

Given that Jim Ed Rice is on this way to Cooperstown with, as some feel, “borderline” Hall of Fame stats, will this cause an influx of baseball writers to start voting for similar-type players? Two players that come to mind are Don Mattingly and Andre Dawson. -- Glenn O.

I suspect it will cause more debate on both sides of the issue, Glenn -- Posnanski actually made a very compelling argument for Dale Murphy the day Rice was elected -- but it won't lead to more of those fringe-types actually getting in. Rice's election is really no different than, say, Tony Perez's or Orlando Cepeda's, and their elections didn't lead to the floodgates opening. Regarding those you named, If I had to guess, I'd say Mattingly never comes close (though you never know what the Veterans' Committee might do), and Dawson will get in near the end of his BBWWA eligibility, just as Rice did. My cause from here on out is going to be Tim Raines, for what that's worth.

As for the C's, call me crazy, but "back in the day," Red would bring in a guy like Marbury against everyone else's advice, and the guy would become a pussycat while helping the team win another title. I know this isn't 1968 or 1984, but I don't know--something tells me that Garnett, Pierce and Allen wouldn't let "Starbury" get out of line here. -- Tony

I've come around on that way of thinking, Tony. Marbury is a moron's moron -- his ego is so massive that I doubt he even recognizes that his career is in jeopardy -- but no one has ever questioned his talent, and the veterans on this team should be able to keep him in line. If Garnett's cool with it -- and he sounds sincere when he says he is -- then we should be too. It's a low-risk, high-reward move, one Red certainly would approve, and it would be fascinating to see how he would fit in. I can't imagine he'd be any more of a unconscionable chucker than Sam Cassell was late last season, and that worked out okay.

I heard that during his retirement press conference, Tony Dungy 'descended' straight into heaven on a cloud of light, is that true? -- SB

Yep, and then Peyton Manning shook his head, ripped off his chinstrap, and blamed his offensive linemen for making Dungy disappear. Then he went off to lick some Oreos with Eli. (That should not sound vulgar . . . yet it does.)

One of the good things to come out of the Teixeira becoming a Yankee is the “move Youkilis to catcher” talk will cease. In my 51 years of life, I have never heard anything more ridiculous than that discussion board chatter. -- Glenn O.

I'm convinced such nonsense comes from the same segment of fans who think Varitek Tut is worth keeping around for his pitch-calling and intangibles. Consider the irony there. Anyway, we all know they really should have moved Youkilis to short. Or left field.

Can the Celtics win it all without a PJ Brown type move? I think they may be in a bit of trouble, even if Perk stays healthy. -- Nick F.

I actually wrote about this to some extent in my "OT" column this week, Nick, but to answer it in about 1,097 fewer words: No, they can't. And Danny Ainge realizes it. My first choice would be to bring P.J. Brown back -- I'm an admirer for life after his performance in the Cleveland series, and while he claims he's retired for good this time, you know Pierce, Allen, and Garnett are taking turns badgering him to come back. If P.J. decides he's not up for a sequel, KG's pal Joe Smith would be a fine alternative. In the meantime, I'm keeping my fingers crossed that Perk can remain healthy. If this keeps up, the word "chronic" is going to start being associated with his shoulder problems, and that doesn't bode well for an inside bruiser.

Would you do this trade? Would the Rangers? Buchholz, Lowrie, Jeff Bailey, Michael Alamanzar and either one of the 10 no-name relievers the Red Sox have acquired in the last three months or a Single A pitching prospect for Michael Young, Jarod Saltalamaccia,and the Rangers pay $15 million of Young's contract. -- Scott in San Fran

No. And no. They will not sell low on Buchholz, I don't believe they consider Saltalamacchia equal value. And I bet if you caught Theo in a candid moment, he'd tell you he thinks Lowrie will be a better player than Michael Young in two years, and very possibly this one. (Young's OPS the last four years, starting in 2005: .898, .815, .784, .741. Lowrie's was .739 last season.) As for the Rangers, they are not going to eat Young's salary to send him to a large market club. He's the most fraudulent Gold Glove winner at shortstop since Derek Jeter, Derek Jeter, and Derek Jeter, and he'll eventually relent and move to third, where he'll be even less valuable. By the way, he also begins a five-year, $80 million contract extension this season that runs through 2013. There is absolutely no way the Red Sox have any interest in him.

Who do you feel was the better Sportsman, Teen Wolf or the dog from Air Bud? Oops, sorry. Thought this was a Sports Guy Mailbag. Seriously, do you think the Jason Varitek Era is over for the Sox or with pitchers and catchers reporting soon will one side fold and will Tek and his intagibles be back behind the plate for the Red Sox this season? -- Chris

The only side that could possibly fold is Varitek's, Chris. The Red Sox are somewhere between lukewarm and open to bringing him back on their terms, which has been the case all along, and even that window likely will close once they acquire a young catcher. As Gammons noted last week, it's a matter of whether Varitek is willing to swallow his pride a bit and come back on a one-year deal in the $2 million-$5 million range, especially after he turned down arbitration that would have paid him somewhere in the neighborhood of $10 million, which would have been a raise over last season. It's clear that Varitek and Scott Boras horribly overestimated the market for his services -- I guess that's not one of his intangibles. But he can return if he really wants to. As for your first question, Chris, the correct answer, from what I gather, is always Gabrielle Carteris.

Starter or reliever for Smoltz? I know the Sox say starter now.... but would a guy coming off shoulder surgery be more suited to pitching 3-4 days a week or once every fifth day? -- Chris D.

Starter. He sounds pretty adamant that that is what he prefers to do at this point in his career, and I assume the Red Sox made him a promise that he wouldn't be an option in the 'pen. Then again, if his arm starts barking and it's determined, as it has been in the past, that his health would be better served by him pitching out of the bullpen, well . . . he'd be a pretty intriguing eighth-inning option, no? I'm pretty much giddy about having this guy on the team in any role -- I can see him contributing like Bret Saberhagen in '98, and at the worst, Tom Seaver in '86. He's a class act, all-time great competitor, and by my nerdy accounting, he's the only currently active player in the majors who played at the The Ballpark in Old Orchard Beach, which lost its team in '88. Neat bit of symmetry this week: Smoltz debuted in the majors during Jim Rice's final season. Like Rice, Smoltz will someday be in Cooperstown, and it might take him 14 fewer years.

Hey Chad, Glad you agree on Manny. I eat at the same Starbucks as Mike Scioscia and I'm tempted to ask him why the Angels don't sign him. I heard Peter Gammons say he was in the best shape of his career! The Dodgers would be hurt and that would be just fine with me. I hate the Dodgers --. James D (via Facebook)

Two things here: 1) I think the Angels should pursue Manny as well, if only to make Vladi Guerrero look less goofy by comparison. In all seriousness, he's exactly what they need in the middle of their lineup. Scioscia has sounded interested despite talking to Francona about him -- and wouldn't you have loved to have been listening in on another line during that chat? -- but he's not the one who signs the checks. 2) The thought of ol' Suicide-Squeeze Scioscia eating regularly at Starbucks made me snicker for some reason. I wonder who's sucked down more venti Iced White Chocolate Mocha lattes though the years, him or Peter King.

CF, 1/3 of all your blogs start off with an apology/excuse about the lack of entries. I think .333 is good enough to be a first-ballot inductee into the procrastination Hall of Fame. -- Mike M.

I'd say it's more like 1 of 4, Mike, and there aren't too many .250 hitters in Cooperstown, or wherever the Procrastinators Hall of Fame may be located. (Washington, D.C., probably.) So there. On a similar note . . .

This isn't necessarily a complaint, so I hope it doesn't come across that way, but…what's up? When you switched over to Boston.com it seemed like you'd be free to write more often, and touch upon more subjects that you wanted to explore. Now it seems like two blog entries and an OT feature a week. I'm sure there are more behind-the-scenes duties you have to uphold, so I completely understand if that's the case. --Alex

The short answer: Yup, that's the case. The long answer: There are a couple of factors -- occasionally, I just don't have anything I'm interested in writing about that particular day, and I don't want to post for the sake of posting. But mostly, it is because there are other tasks that sometimes prevent me from getting around to the blog until later in the day -- editing as many of the blog entries, galleries, and mailbags as I can get to, for instance, or keeping our blogs updated with minor news and info, or writing a story when big news breaks and we want to get something posted as quickly as possible. For example, I'd have loved to have posted some sentimental fluff here about Rice's election the other day, but it was my job to have two Rice stories ready earlier in the day -- one for if he was elected and one for if he wasn't -- so we could get the right one posted as quickly as possible once we got word. It was a thrill thinking about how fortunate I was to be writing the story about one of my boyhood idols getting into the Hall of Fame, but on the other hand, I did wish I could have written about it here as well. But on some days, it's just no doable, and in retrospect, I think I probably aimed too high in vowing to write five days a week. But three substantial posts here along with the "OT" column is reasonable, and that's what I hope to do from here on out, along with maybe an occasional chat or mailbag. Any more than that, and you'll be sick of me, anyway.

About Touching All The Bases

Irreverence and insight from Chad Finn, a Globe/Boston.com sports writer and media columnist. A winner of several national and regional writing awards, he is the founder and sole contributor to the TATB blog, which launched in December 2004. Yes, he realizes how lucky he is.

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