Felger: Things not what they used to be

Felger: Things not what they used to be
August 3, 2010, 4:29 am
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By Michael Felger
CSNNE.com

A handful of quickies for you on a summer Tuesday:

The two big quotes to come out of the Tom Brady contract discussion last week were Brady's statement that he didn't want to express his personal feelings "with anyone other than a few people'' because "it doesn't help this organization,'' and Robert Kraft's insistence that Brady is going to remain a Patriot "one way or the other.''

The Brady comment constitutes the high road.

The Kraft quote? Not so much.

In fact, it sounded more or less like a threat, since the only way Brady will remain under team control short of a contract extension is through the franchise tag. My buddy Tom E. Curran called the comment "unseemly," which is one way to put it.

I don't know exactly what the word is, but it didn't feel right.

I have no problem with the Sox not reaching for a deadline trade that would have required them giving up a real prospect. The Sox are rightly leery of such deals, and you need look no further than what you saw over the weekend for the reason. It was just a few years ago that the Texas Rangers were asking for Clay Buchholz in return for Jarrod Saltalamacchia. The Sox passed, of course, and now they have both after giving up lesser pieces for the caching prospect on Saturday. Buchholz, as we all know, was again stellar on Sunday and has been their best pitcher over the past year.

So the Sox didn't want to dip into the farm. No problem. What, then, was the excuse for passing on Kerry Wood? Do we need to give this guy credit for providing the answer three weeks ago?

Considering that Bill Belichick said late last season that Derrick Burgess was as good of a run-pass combination outside linebacker as hes had in New England (better, presumably, than Willie McGinest, Mike Vrabel and Rosevelt Colvin), the news that Burgess is pondering retirement should be treated as a major development, right?

Well, not exactly. It was obvious at the time that the Belichick comments were CYA in nature. The Pats had given up a third-rounder for the veteran end last August and he clearly didn't deliver on the investment. So Belichick was selling. Fine.

But here's the scary part: For all his faults, Burgess just may be the best the Pats have at this time. The top four players at outside linebacker currently listed on the depth chart are Tully Banta-Cain, Jermaine Cunningham, Rob Ninkovich and Pierre Woods. Yikes.

Its official. Jonathan Papelbon is no longer an elite closer. At least not this season. He may return to that status next year, but in 2010 hes no longer among the best. Thats just a fact.

The only closer stat that I believe matters, save percentage, tells the story. Of the 12 American League closers who have at least 20 save opportunities, Papelbon ranks 11th at 82.7 percent (24-of-29). The only guy he beats is the woeful David Aardsma in Seattle (18-of-22; 81.8 percent). Papelbon's five blown saves are the most in the American League.

For the first time in his career, Papelbon has become just another guy.

There are apparently folks in the Bruins hierarchy who like forward Blake Wheeler. I'm not sure why.

There are certain skills that are attainable in hockey and things you can improve on over time. But I dont know if toughness is one of them. Either you have a nose for the crease or you dont and Wheeler never has.

His 2.2 million arbitration award was hardly exorbitant, but it still means that Peter Chiarelli is either going to have to buy somebody out (Michael Ryder?), ship somebody down to Providence (Ryder?) or pull off another trade (Marc Savard?) to get under the salary cap. Call me crazy, but I would have gotten under the cap by moving on from Wheeler.

Email Felger HERE andstand by for the next installment of the mailbag on Aug. 12. Felgerwill post another column early next week. Listen to him on the radioweekdays, 2-6, p.m. on 98.5 The Sports Hub.