Saturday, September 17, 2005

Nothing Like a Sure Bet

Mid-September in Boston, no longer Loserville but the City of Champions. Whatever the sentiment on "Idiot Radio", the Fan on the Street isn't feeling 100% confident with both the Team That Must Never Be Named and the resurgent Tribe breathing down our collective necks.

All of which calls for a departure from sturm and drang (a trip here should be an educational experience) to tongue-in-cheek. How do the organizations of the World Champion Red Sox and the thrice World Champion New England Patriots stack up?

We're all familiar with John Henry, lead owner of the Sox, billionaire trader (nerves of steel, wallet of platinum) who knows not only how many RBI David Ortiz has, but the value of a franc, be it French, Swiss, or Belgian. Somehow I'm betting that his safety deposit box is stuffed with gold doubloons, not Hank Aaron baseball cards. In contrast, nouveau riche Bob Kraft, has gone from 'The Paper Guy' to a candidate for the lead role in the remake of 'Trading Places'. The Patriots franchise, once worth Henry loose change, now rings the register at over a billion dollars. Is the rumor true that Krafty Bob asks for separate checks? Edge: Red Sox.

The Sox have a management team headed by Theo Epstein, supplemented by the Baseball Boys, mostly but not exclusively Whiz Kids with the philosophy of WYSIWIG on their laptops, churning out strikeout-to-walk ratios and OPS trends. The Patriots have Scott Pioli and his national scouting team, whose philosophy is on-field production, not just numbers. Football has to be important to prospective Patriots. Can you see the football equivalent of Manny in the NFL? Fuggedaboutit. Or maybe that's Randy Moss. Edge: Patriots

On field, Terry Francona leads the Sox. Admittedly, Francona arrived with the Sisyphusian task of leading the Sox to a World Title. What have you done for me lately, brother? Despite getting almost nothing from last year's pitching heroes, Curt Schilling and Keith Foulke, the Sox are still in first place. Give the devil his due. On the other hand, the Patriots have Mr. 'We Haven't Done Anything Yet, Last Year Has Nothing to Do with This Year' in Bill Belichick. Belichick has given his soul and his family life to become the Coach of the Century (hey, it's 2005...). Edge: Patriots

You can't talk about leadership without talking about the players on the field. Salary issues aside, 'Money Can't Play'. The Patriots have a raft of leaders, proven performers on the field, from Tom Brady, to Richard Seymour, Rodney Harrison, Willie McGinest, Mike Vrabel, and more. The Sox leadership comes from David (MVP) Ortiz, Jason Varitek, and others who lead more intangibly like Trot Nixon, Bill Mueller, and Gabe Kapler. Edge: Patriots

From an offensive perspective, the Sox have been leading the major leagues in run production for three years. Baseball is about scoring runs and preventing runs. As much as the traditionalists want to ridicule the Bill Jamesian approach, it's worked. The Patriots seem content to do enough offensively to win, although nobody can forget the final minutes against the Rams or the second half against the Panthers. Edge: Sox.

Defensively, the Patriots are the bend but don't break guys combining Stretch Armstrong with the Predator. They'll give you something, but have a mean streak that produces winning streaks. The Sox are the Jekyll and Hyde staff, with talented, inconsistent pitching. Tim Wakefield's knuckleball embraces that mercurial reality, not so much producing streaks but streakiness. Edge: Patriots

Finally, we have to look at intangibles. Gillette Stadium versus Fenway Park, Adam Vinatieri versus Adam Stern, Foxboro versus The Hub, Paul Tagliabue versus Bud Selig, the Patriot Cheerleaders versus Wally the Green Monster, The Snow Bowl versus Chris Snow, and Carlinesque 'Paydirt' versus 'Run Home'. Edge: Patriots.

But you knew that, and we have Pennant Fever anyway.

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