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Maza’s Monday Mailbag

Maza’s Monday Mailbag: What happens to Auburn?

A lot has gone on the past week in the world of sports, but the controversies always create the biggest buzz.

Springfield, MA wants to know: Will Auburn lose their shot at the national championship because of Cam Newton?
I really don’t think so. I’m reserving judgment because this is simply a case of he said, he said at this point. But whether these allegations prove accurate or not, the fact of the matter is the NCAA is going to have to do its due diligence and, in all likelihood, any decision of his guilt or innocence will come long after this season is over. It’s unfortunate that this question will hover over everything, but it’s the most likely scenario. It would be a tragic thing if a team ends up being denied a chance at the championship because Auburn stands in its way, only to find out later that the Tigers’ wins are vacated because the allegations prove to be sound. Then again, it would be just as tragic if the NCAA makes a snap decision and denies Auburn their shot if Newton did no wrong.

Holyoke, MA asks: With David Krejci out, do you think Tyler Seguin gets his chance to shine?
No. I do think that Krejci is the most talented centerman on the Bruins and I still think that’s true. And I do think it hurts them even more because Marc Savard is still on IR. It is a scary notion having Blake Wheeler as your second-line center, but I think it’s the right thing to do. Seguin is still a developing player and the third line for most shifts is the best place for him to learn to play the game at the speed and level of physicality it’s played in the NHL. He was benched in the game against the Blues on Saturday night, so moving him up to a line that requires more minutes when he’s playing a position he hasn’t proven to have the most aptitude at just yet just doesn’t make sense.

Framingham, MA says: Trading Randy Moss was a huge mistake. This team couldn’t do anything against the Browns so how can we expect them to do anything against a good team?
You can expect them to do good things because a man named Tom Brady is quarterbacking the team. I’ll not defend him for his play on Sunday because that was just awful. But then again, other than Aaron Hernandez and Danny Woodhead, you would be hard pressed to find a defensive player that had a good game. What you should be worried about more than the offense, which we all knew would be worse without Moss, is the fact that the defense got totally run over. Peyton Hillis has been a pretty good back this year (He also had 144 yards against Baltimore in Week 3) and largely overlooked because of who he plays for. He’s a hard runner who looks to blow up defenders at the line. But what is concerning is the fact that the Patriots’ defensive line was getting blown off the ball and no one was contacting Hillis until he was headed for the secondary. Bad news for an already mediocre Patriots defense.

Concord, NH asks: Is Boston College really overrated this season or is UNH that good?
Referring to the UNH victory on Friday night, I’m sure, your question is very prematurely asked. Boston College has lost three games this season, two of them by one goal and two of them on the road. You are not going to play in Hockey East and be undefeated for long. As for the UNH/BC game, I did not have the opportunity to see it and only have the benefit of a stat sheet. However, from the looks of things, it appeared to be a pretty even, clean game. BC outshot UNH, 32-30. Only one penalty (UNH) between the two sides. UNH just got one more by the keeper. It’s a long season, but I will say this for UNH, They have one loss over its first seven games and are on a six-game unbeaten streak. In those seven games, the Wildcats have played two games a Miami (then No. 3), one against Michigan (then No. 3), one at Northeastern, one at Cornell (then No. 14), one at Boston College (then No. 4) and one at UMass-Lowell. That’s as tough a streak of games as any team will play at any point this season. To come out of that 4-1-2 says a lot about the Wildcats.

Albany, NY ponders: Is is possible the Yankees will land both Cliff Lee and Carl Crawford?
The answer to that one is a resounding yes. The Yankees are one of the few teams that have the need and the payroll flexibility to do something like that. Cliff Lee is a no-brainer in terms of filling needs for the Yankees, who were middle-of-the-road at best as a pitching staff. Besides C.C. Sabathia, no starter had an ERA even close to being under 4.00. Crawford would be an upgrade to the outfield, but he’s not quite as essential. That said, Curtis Granderson’s first season in New York was as underwhelming as his last in Detroit, so picking up Crawford, moving Brett Gardner to center and planting Granderson on the bench would make sense if the Yankees were willing to look past the fact that they’re paying him $8.25 million next season. Surely they won’t be able to trade him, seeing as he’s getting that healthy paycheck this year, $10 million next year.

Don’t forget to submit your questions for next week’s Maza’s Monday Mailbag to mazasmusings@gmail.com.

Also, don’t forget to follow along on Twitter @Mazasmusings and ‘Like’ Chris Maza’s facebook page.

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Maza’s Monday Mailbag (10/18): Is Branch better than Moss?

An eventful week in the world of football and the release of the first BCS rankings of the year leads to some intriguing questions in today’s Mailbag.

Chicopee, MA poses the question: Deion Branch looked great (Sunday). Is he the Patriots’ new No. 1 receiver? I think he’s better suited for this offense than Moss ever was. What do you think?

I think Branch and Wes Welker are going to continue to be Tom Brady’s top wide receiver options, with some Brandon Tate mixed in. And yes, Branch did look very good in the fourth quarter and overtime of the Patriots’ win over Baltimore. One thing that Branch does have over Moss is his ability to run crisp routes and create separation that way. Still, let’s remember that the Patriots’ passing game was shut down for most of this game. Also, a guy like Moss would have been helpful in the case of that jump ball in the end zone at the end of regulation. It was a great game for Branch in his first appearance back in Foxboro, but I’d be interested to see if he performs next week when he doesn’t have all that emotional fuel.

Albany, NY fumes: Is this some kind of joke? Oklahoma at No. 1 in the BCS? They barely beat Utah State!

I am not a fan of the BCS and really think Boise deserves a little more love, but it is hard to argue with Oklahoma at least being in the conversation. Yes, they had a rough time in their tune up game against Utah State, but they came back the next week and absolutely dismantled a very good Florida State team, beat Texas in Dallas and beat an extremely underrated Air Force team on their way to an undefeated record. Style points don’t count in the BCS. Winning against quality opponents does and Oklahoma has been able to do that.

Manchester, CT once again asks: What do you think of Boise State’s chances at a BCS National Championship NOW?

This email was sent after Ohio State’s loss to Wisconsin and our friend from Manchester might not have sent it if he had waited to see the first BCS rankings released Sunday. With Boise State in third place, I don’t like their chances at all. It would have been tough, even if ESPN had been right in their projections that had Boise State in first, as other teams with more difficult schedules were expected to claw their way above Boise. Now at No. 3, the schedule alone will hold them out, especially with Nevada falling out of the rankings with the loss to Hawaii. Once again, Boise could be left out of the party, even if they go undefeated.

Springfield, MA asks: Will Oregon be the next No. 1 to fall, or are they going to hang on?

Oregon controls its own destiny at this point, but that’s not to say there aren’t teams that are capable of knocking them off. With an away game at USC. a home tilt with Arizona and another way game against Oregon State coming up in the season finale, there are still opportunities for the Ducks to slip up. Oregon is the better than all the teams I’ve mentioned, but given the way this college football season has gone, nothing would surprise me.

Maza’s (Thursday) Mailbag (10/14): Time to eat crow?

Due to the Columbus Day holiday, the Mailbag got put on hold. I don’t want anybody thinking I’m trying to dodge my own errors. Therefore, I’ll start out with…

Manchester, CT says: What do you think about Boise State’s chances NOW?

We all remember last week that when this reader asked if Boise State had a shot at the BCS National Championship, I said “In a word, no.” What I should have said is if things remain as they are and the top-5 teams in the nation all remain undefeated, then no, they don’t have a shot. Now I think they do have a shot, though it is an outside one. As of right now they are projected to be No. 1 in the BCS rankings, but I think the schedule will hurt them. Nevada being ranked helps, but if Ohio State can get through a conference schedule that includes Wisconsin, Iowa and Michigan unscathed – and I think they will – the Buckeyes have to move ahead of them. The same can be said of Oregon, who have already toasted Stanford and still have tough, yet not insurmountable, games against USC, Arizona and Oregon State. You can’t even rule out Oklahoma, who has already destroyed Florida State, beat up Texas and could go undefeated with possible strong wins against Missouri and Oklahoma State. TCU also runs into the same problem that Boise does when it comes to schedule. They beat Oregon State, but playing the likes of Baylor, SMU, Colorado State and Wyoming isn’t helping them. They have to hope they beat Air Force soundly and then Air Force finishes strong and then beat a tough Utah team. Don’t get me wrong. I would love to see a Boise or a TCU beat the system. Those who know and love me know that I hold the BCS with the same regard as I do mosquitoes. But with the way it’s drawn up, I’m afraid those teams need some major melt downs from the teams around them to make it happen.

Springfield, Ma wants to know: What do you make of the Deion Branch trade? Will he bring back some of that magic from 2004?

I think people should be careful romanticizing Branch’s return to the Patriots. Let’s not forget that Branch was a guy who forced his way out of town because he wanted to get paid. So don’t start painting Moss the enemy and Branch some kind of savior. In addition to that, Branch has not done much of anything since leaving the Patriots. While some of that is due to the fact he was playing in a West Coast offense, a lot more has to do with injury. From 2006 to 2009, he missed over 25 percent of the Seahawks’ games. I’m not saying he’s going to be bad, but expectations of him should be somewhat subdued, especially in the early-going.

Lowell, MA says: Notre Dame just had another really good win against a team that probably will win its conference. Is this a team that can make a run at the BCS?

In mentioning the fact that Pitt will probably win its conference – which I agree with – you’re not making the argument stronger for Notre Dame. You’re just pointing out just how weak the Big East is. If the Irish are going to have any chance of an automatic BCS bid, they have to win out, at minimum. It is possible that that can happen, but that would more of a product of the schedule being soft most of the way. Every game is winnable, but I think eight wins and a trip to the Champs Sports Bowl is a more likely scenario. I don’t think this Irish team is good enough at this point to beat Utah and that’s one they really, really need if they want to be taken seriously. They played have a good number of teams that are currently ranked (Michigan, Michigan State, Stanford), but they haven’t beaten any of them and Western Michigan, Navy, Tulsa and Army don’t carry much weight, so Utah and USC have to be the ‘statement games.’

Enfield, CT asks: Do you think Chicago will repeat as Stanley Cup Champions?

I think Chicago has a very good core group that will make them dangerous. If there’s one mistake I think that team made is letting Antti Niemi go and putting their trust in Marty Turco. Sure, Niemi was not all that heralded and almost didn’t make the team, but at the end of the season, he finished with a 26-7-4 record and an impressive 2.25 GAA and .912 save percentage. Turco is in the twilight of his career and knows it, which is why he took the substantial paycut to play for a Stanley Cup contender this year.

Maza’s Monday Mailbag (10/4): Does Boise State have a chance?

This week’s mailbag features quite a bit of college talk, both football and hockey.

Manchester, CT wants to know: Does Boise State have a chance at playing for the BCS National Championship?

In a word, no. And it’s not at all their fault. At the beginning of the season, Boise State had two ranked teams on their non-conference schedule and as of today, they have none. Virginia Tech still needs to convince a lot of people they are deserving after losing to James Madison and people may have soured on Oregon State for good. In terms of teams in front of them, Ohio State and Alabama haven’t done anything to take themselves out of the conversation. On top of that, Oregon has justified their argument to be considered for the national title by beating a very good top-10 Stanford team and dominating Tennessee at home. Oregon plays in a very tough conference this year and still has contests remaining No. 18 USC and No. 14 Arizona. If both teams win out, the strength of schedule favors and would probably put the Ducks at least in the conversation at the end of the year and leave Boise on the outside looking in again.

Dover, NH says: Whats your take on Dayne Crist, now that you’ve seen him in person? Can he take the Irish back to prominence/relevance?

Before we get into the heart of this question, we also have to remember that in his first year, Kelly is trying to run a spread offense without spread offense personnel. So the fact that the team isn’t scoring 45 points a game should not be a surprise to anyone. That said, I did see some things I liked from Crist. Even more than the way he was able to lead the Notre Dame offense on an opening scoring drive that left both the Boston College defense and the crowd stunned, I was more impressed with his third drive, which gave the Irish a 14-0 lead within the first 10 minutes of the game. He was very efficient on that series. I think he threw only one incomplete pass, which was still a good ball to the back of the end zone that Michael Floyd just couldn’t get his hands on. Crist is ranked 19th nationally in yards per game, but just 62nd in yards per attempt (7.0). Part of that, I believe, has to do with the fact that the Irish’s running game, has no teeth. While they’ve rushed for over 1oo yards in three of their first five games, there have been very few impact runs as Armando Allen continues to be a disappointment for the Irish. With the lack of a dangerous running attack, the Irish have seen teams be able to drop seven or eight men in the box against them, leaving Crist to rely on the short pass to move the ball down the field. Overall, Crist is still learning how to be a spread quarterback. He’s working on his mobility and did score on a seven-yard designed keeper, but ultimately, it’s not what he’s built for. I’d also like to see him improve on his accuracy. He’s only completing somewhere in the vicinity of 55 percent of his passes, although, in fairness to him, I think his receivers dropped five or six catchable balls on Saturday.

Billerica, MA asks: The (Boston College) Eagles were ranked first in Hockey East coaches poll and in the national preseason poll. Will they repeat as national champions and keep being the most dominant team in college hockey?

Personally, I think Hockey East is the deepest, most talented conference in college hockey and whatever teams end up making the national tournament have a more than decent shot at the national championship. But of all those teams, Boston College returns the most talent from a squad that absolutely scorched one of the fastest teams in the nation last year in Wisconsin. I mean, they made Wisconsin look like an over-40 pick up team. John Muse and Parker Milner make a terrific tandem in goal and offensively, the Eagles have the talent to beat anybody. That said, it is so hard to repeat in college hockey, you can’t say with any certainty right now that they will win it all. Since 1970, only two schools have EVER repeated – Boston University in 1971 and 1972 and Denver in 2004 and 2005. Especially with how good North Dakota looks to be this year, not to mention Miami and Michigan, it would be tough. But at this point, I would have to say the pollsters are right that Boston College is the favorite.

Concord, NH says: Who has more catches Monday night against the Dolphins? Hernandez, Welker, or Marshall? And aside from the play of the crappy cb’s in this game, who is the key to victory?

I can respond to both questions with one answer. If I were Brady, I would be looking for Hernandez and Gronkowski all day long. Miami has proven weak against tight ends this season. Visanthe Shiancoe racked up 86 yards and averaged 14.3 yards per catch in Week 2, while Dustin Keller caught two touchdowns and had 98 yards (16.3 yards per catch) in Week 3. If there’s one place the Miami defense looks vulnerable, it’s up the seam.

Syracuse, NY thinks: The Eagles were stupid to give up Donovan McNabb and the Chargers were stupid to let LT go. Can you argue with that?

From day one I did not understand what the Eagles were hoping to accomplish by trading McNabb at all, let alone trading him to a division rival. To this day, I still can’t come up with a good reason, so, in that case, I can’t see how I can disagree. The Tomlinson situation was a little different. The guy had not been overly productive in a couple of years and was showing a lot of the signs of wear and tear that a lot of feature backs in the league suffer from. Let’s not forget that it’s still Week 4. If LT can maintain this kind of productivity through, say, Week 10, then I’ll be a believer.

Springfield, MA ponders: Who is the most overrated team in college football?

There are so many different ways to look at this question, so I’m going to get murdered by someone no matter how I choose. Most overrated at this point would have to be Nebraska. They have to prove something to me before I will consider them truly elite and beating up on Western Kentucky, Idaho, Washington and South Dakota State (and only beating SDS by 14 points) doesn’t do that for me.

That’s it for this week’s mailbag. Remember to submit your questions for next week’s mailbag to mazasmusings@gmail.com.

Maza’s Monday Mailbag (9/27): Who’s Danny Woodhead?

Quite a few questions from up north this week, but this week, we’ll start with the simplest of questions that doesn’t have the simplest of answers.

Cary, NC wants to know: Who is Danny Woodhead?

Danny Woodhead is a third-year pro out of that Division 2 Chadron State in Nebraska. He was actually a two-time winner of the Harlon Hill Trophy, which is essentially D2’s version of the Heisman Trophy. He holds the all-time NCAA rushing record with 7871 yards over the course of his collegiate career. He signed as an undrafted free agent with the Jets  in 2008 in relative anonymity until becoming one of Rex Ryan’s favorites on HBO’s Hard Knocks. But with Ladainian Tomlinson as the backup to Shone Green, there wasn’t a spot for the Jets, who decided they had a greater need at wide receiver and waived him so they could sign David Clowney. The Patriots picked him up the day before their game against the Jets, presumably to get as much information out of him as possible. But when Kevin Faulk went down with a torn ACL, it opened up a more long-term spot for Woodhead. He fits Bill Belichick’s model for a player with versatility, ability and willingness to play special teams and, from what we saw yesterday, a terrific motor. While I don’t think he’ll make a career out of playing in New England, this season he can provide a good change of pace to downhill runners such as Fred Taylor, Benjarvus Green-Ellis and Sammy Morris.

Bow, NH asks:  Of V-Mart, Ortiz, and Beltre, who do you think the [Red] Sox should/would resign? Any free agents you feel strongly about pursuing? Thanks Maz, love the blog!

Victor Martinez should be the Red Sox’ top priority this offseason, followed closely by Adrian Beltre and it’s for a very good reason: the Red Sox have no major league ready option in the organization who can take over if they leave and the free agent talent out there would not be an upgrade. Ryan Lavarnway is probably the best catching prospect the Sox have and he split the year between Salem and Portland and has only been catching since 2007, so he still has some learning to do.  While he’s nothing special behind the plate, Martinez will be the best player available at his position in the upcoming offseason. Miguel Olivo’s  name has been thrown out there, but he’s been very good for the Rockies this year and it’s more likely they will pick up his option. While he probably only has a few more good years at catcher, Martinez offers you the option of playing DH in the future.
Beltre is a concern because in the two biggest contract years of his career, he’s put up by far his best numbers. Still, he seems to fit in with the locker room well and has shown tremendous hustle, even if that hustle did land two Red Sox outfielders on the disabled list early in the season. What catches my eye the most is his numbers are actually better on the road than at home, so his success has not been solely a product of Fenway Park. Throw on top of that the fact that the Red Sox’ best prospects at the position are in Salem and Greenville, respectively, the Sox need to fill that hole with a veteran and none of the free agents are worth taking a look at as a replacement.
Ortiz is not that high of a priority on my list simply because you can find anyone to DH, but not everyone can play the field. Don’t get me wrong, Ortiz proved me wrong by overcoming a brutal early season slump to hit 30 homers and he’ll drive in 100 runs by the time it’s all said and done.  But as far as value goes, Ortiz is very limited, not only by the fact that only AL teams will look at him, but there are only a few that can afford him at his asking price. Should the Red Sox pick up his option, he’d be making $12.5 million for one season. Vladimir Guerrero, who will finish the season with a better batting average, a comparable number of home runs and more RBI is making $5.5 million this season as a DH. Ortiz doesn’t want to play for one year, but doesn’t want to take a pay cut in order to sign a multi-year deal.  And most likely he’d want to go to a competitive team. The Yankees are getting older and have enough players that can fill the DH slot. Tampa Bay is talking about cutting payroll and if it wants to make a real effort toward keeping Carl Crawford, it’s going to have to pinch its pennies. There aren’t many options out there for Ortiz and the Red Sox have the upper hand in this situation. Most likely they will use exercise the option, then try to work out a two-year deal with Ortiz.
Outside of those guys, the Red Sox need major help in the bullpen. Injuries hurt the offense, but the pitching staff can’t use the same excuse. Theo Epstein is financially locked into the rotation he has now, but the bullpen can be addressed, starting with Jonathan Papelbon. Papelbon was very hittable this year with a 4.01 ERA as of today and lost a career-high six games this season. Papelbon went from a four-pitch pitcher to a one-pitch pitcher, falling in love with his fastball, which now he throws at 94-95 mph as opposed to 96-98 the way that he used to and that makes a big difference, especially when you’re not willing to throw your other pitches. There are certainly enough teams that overvalue big name closers and will take his past success into account that would like to have him. Daniel Bard was the Red Sox’ most dominant pitcher and outside of him, Felix Dubront and Scott Atchison were the team’s most consistent relievers. That’s a problem. Okajima pitched well in the second half when taken out of pressure situations and is still under the team’s control, but series middle relief help is needed. Michael Bowden has not taken to the transition from starter to reliever and with names like Scott Downs and J.J. Putz on the free agent list, the Red Sox need to make some efforts to sign guys there.

Aspen, CO says: Who would be your pick for AL MVP out of Josh Hamilton and Miguel Cabrera? Or do you think someone else is more deserving?

If I had to choose between those two, I would have to go with Cabrera. I know that Detroit didn’t do much this year and Texas is the team heading to the playoffs, I have to think that if Detroit played in the AL West and Texas played in the Central, the roles would be reversed. By the same token, I think the player who had the benefit of playing an unbalanced schedule with teams like Oakland, Seattle and Anaheim should put up better numbers. Honestly, I would not be upset if one got it over the other because you can make a case for both.
That said, I do believe there is one player who is forgotten in all this and I think he is most deserving. That player is Paul Konerko. Konerko played out of his mind this season and very quietly put up 38 homers and over 100 RBI with a .240-hitting Carlos Quentin protecting him on the lineup. On top of that, he has been a far superior defender than Cabrera or Hamilton and that means something in my book.

Dover, NH writes: What do you think about the Bruins chances? I haven’t heard a ton about Seguin, has he been looking good in camp? Will Savard ever live up to his deal?

I have very high hopes for the Bruins this season. Even despite being right up against the cap, they have been able to maneuver themselves into a very good place heading into the 2010-2011 campaign. The Bruins have arguably the best duo of goaltenders in the league. The defense will be an even better unit than last year and they have depth in the organization at the blue line, but where they are most improved is offensively. Tyler Seguin from what I understand has been as advertised in camp, but the guy I’m really looking forward to seeing more from is Jordan Caron. Caron is a big, physical winger who has the potential to be a real scoring threat. Basically, he’s everything that Blake Wheeler should be, but is not. As for Savard, the post-concussion syndrome is a tricky thing. Savard admitted himself that he probably came back too soon from the hit he took from Matt Cooke and, while I’m not doctor, it stands to reason that that might have something to do with his recent issues. As for living up to the contract, hey, last season the guy was still able to put up 33 points in 41 games, a pretty impressive number, considering the two guys he shared a line with both really underacheived.

Manchester, NH asks: What did you think of Kyle Arrington yesterday? If you were Belichick, who do you start, Butler or Arrington?

I thought Arrington played very soft, but was able to get away with it for most of the game against a Lee Evans. He did a nice job breaking up a potential touchdown pass, but was later burned on three plays in the third quarter that resulted in close to 50 yards. He did play almost every down and also played special teams, so there’s quite a bit to applaud him for in this game. Overall, it was a solid effort that earned him another start next week against Miami, but overall, I still think Butler is the superior talent who just plain played a bad game against the Jets. The guy was the best cover corner in the 2009 draft and I still think he’s the best cover corner the Patriots have in their young secondary.

That’s the mailbag for this week. Don’t forget to submit your questions for next week’s Mailbag by emailing me at mazasmusings@gmail.com

New and Improved Maza’s Musings

Welcome to the new home of Maza’s Musings.

Along with the new look, the blog will now consist of new features, better structure and hopefully a broader readership.

For those of you new to the blog, you can find out more about me by going to my professional Web site at http://www.chrismaza.webs.com

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