posted: Jan. 30, 2006  |  Feedback

Some of you seem confused why I skipped the Super Bowl this year. Four reasons why:

1. I'm going to the NBA All-Star Game and spring training instead.

2. I've been to three Super Bowls in the last four years and wrote everything there was to write about the "fan at the Super Bowl" experience. Seriously, it's the same sequence every year -- same parties, same events, same schedule, same everything. How much can be said? For God's sake, I probably wrote 60,000 words combined in New Orleans, Houston and Jacksonville. Maybe I could have gone down there and played "real reporter" for a year, but who the hell wants to read me pretending to be a real reporter? Please. I'm taking the year off, refueling my Super Bowl batteries and coming back strong for 2007.

3. (This is a mystery reason that I will reveal in due time.)

4. It's in Detroit.

(By the way, I have nothing against Detroit. The Super Bowl shouldn't be held in Chicago, either. Or Boston. Or Philly. Or Washington. Or New York. Or anywhere else where it's cold and hard to get around. For the umpteenth time, I'm suggesting San Diego, Miami, New Orleans as the only three cities, unless Vegas sucks it up and builds a state-of-the-art football stadium and houses the event every year. No other city should host a Super Bowl. Ever.)

In the mean time, welcome to Cowbell Week! They don't need me for Page 2 because we're loaded with Super Bowl stuff, so I'm writing Cowbells every day.

Today's topic: Two subjects from the weekend that didn't deserve their own column but deserve some sort of mention ...

Subject No. 1
Because ABC had a doubleheader yesterday, I wasn't allowed to watch the Celtics-Bucks game (blacked out in all markets). Forget about the fact that I'm shelling out $189 for the NBA package so I can see every game ... what's the logic behind blacking out everything else because ABC is showing a national game? Do they honestly think that blacking out my favorite team means that A.) they're going to get a huge rating bump from all the NBA fans who planned on watching their favorite team, and B) we're going to ignore the other 500 channels on our cable package and gravitate towards some crappy Heat-Rockets game on ABC because we're in the "Well, my heart was set on watching an NBA game, and since the Celts are blacked out, this will have to do" mindset? Who thinks like that? I can't speak for everyone else, but I ended up watching "Dazed and Confused" on the AMC channel and taking my dogs for a long walk.

Here's the best way to describe how dumb this blackout policy is: Imagine you went into Dunkin Donuts every morning for coffee. This happened every day for like four months in a row. Then, you walk in there yesterday and they tell you, "We're not serving coffee today, the coffee has been blacked out ... instead, we're serving green tea." Do you buy the green tea, or do you go somewhere else for coffee? You know what you do? YOU GO SOMEWHERE ELSE FOR COFFEE!!!!! I hate professional sports sometimes.

Subject No. 2
I like Coco Crisp. I think he will be better in every respect than Johnny Damon over the next four years (and at two-fifths the price). I loved the fact that he turned it up a notch last September when the Indians were trying to catch Chicago. I really love the fact that he's 26 years old, with three full major league seasons under his belt ... and everyone who plays fantasy baseball knows that hitters usually make The Leap in their fourth full season. I really, REALLY love the fact that the Sports Gal heard me talking on the phone about him, tapped me on the shoulder and said, "Wait, his name is Coco Crisp? Coco Crisp? That's really his name?" And considering the other available options, I was delighted that the Sox acquired a first-rate centerfielder.

One problem: They overpaid for him. Crisp was worth more to the Red Sox than he was for the Indians, the Indians knew it ... and they squeezed the Sox in the process. Cleveland's GM Mark Shapiro, (not the same Mark Shapiro who once greenlighted "ESPN Hollywood") even said as much, explaining that they knew Crisp has the most value as a centerfielder, but since they already had Grady Sizemore there, Crisp was stuck in left field (diminishing his intrinsic value as a player). But since the Sox desperately needed a centerfielder, and since the organization didn't want to look bad after the whole Theo-leaves-Theo-waffles-Theo-returns soap opera, they wanted to get this trade done so everyone back home would stop complaining, "It's almost February, we don't have a centerfielder or shortstop yet!" So they overpaid for a guy Cleveland didn't really need. Shapiro even said as much, telling reporters this weekend, "It was too much to turn down."

Here's the problem: To obtain Crisp, the Sox gave up a package including young third baseman Andy Marte, who's considered one of the best prospects in the league and someone with Scott Rolen's ceiling. Trading Marte straight-up for Crisp would have been slightly overpaying the Indians -- Crisp has a B-plus/A-minus celing, while Marte has an A/A-plus ceiling. But because the Indians were holding them hostage, the Sox had to sweeten the deal even beyond Marte (it turned out to be a 7-player trade). Everyone in Boston seems to be okay with this. In fact, I was okay with it ... until I read Shapiro's "it was too much to turn down" quote.

That got me thinking. The reason I wasn't attached to Marte was because the Sox only had him for seven weeks (when they acquired him from Atlanta in the bizarre Renteria trade). Unlike any other Hot Boston Prospect, I didn't have a history with him. Usually with these things, you start hearing about Hot Boston Prospect early on, either after they draft him or Gammons drops his first "the Red Sox think that Andy Marte has a chance to become the next Mike Schmidt" comment. Then the process begins. You start checking his minor league stats, checking out the various Top 100 lists to see if he made any of them, getting excited every time someone mentions him on a message board. It's almost like a courtship process. You need a few dates before you're hooked. And by the time Hot Boston Prospect is ready for the majors, you feel like YOU'RE ready for him.

The Marte thing unfolded differently -- when he randomly landed on the Sox mid-December, it was almost like getting a $10,000 plasma TV accidentally delivered to your house. Wait, are you sure? That's mine? Nobody had a chance to digest the fact that, "Hold on a second, we have one of the top prospects in baseball on our team right now." We didn't get to see him play, read any of those "Holy crap these guy's good!" quotes from spring training, ogle his minor league stats or anything else. So when the Sox traded him, most fans found this perfectly acceptable. Like never opening the box with the $10,000 plasma TV, then trading it for $7,500 worth of stereo equipment. After all, we needed the stereo equipment (in this case, Crisp). We didn't need the plasma. So the trade was done and that's that.

I just wonder if, at some point down the line, it's going to sink in that the Great Andy Marte belonged to the Red Sox for seven weeks ... and then they traded him away in a package for Coco Crisp that was so loaded, it resulted in the other GM saying, "It was too much to turn down."

Because that would suck.

January 2006