Former Merrimack WR Isaiah Voegeli signs with Eagles

Two days after the conclusion of the NFL Draft, Merrimack senior Wide Receiver Isaiah Voegeli signed a rookie contract with the Philadelphia Eagles on April 29th. Voegeli is the fourth player in Merrimack history to sign any type of NFL contract, all of which have come in the last two seasons.

Voegeli was a preseason first team Division 2 All-American for the Warriors this season, and followed up on the expectations with  a consensus All-American season last fall, as he broke multiple Northeast-10 Conference records as well as almost every Merrimack College receiving record.

Voegeli leaves Merrimack as the school’s all-time leader in multiple receiving categories including catches (211) and yards (3,554) and ranks second all-time with 34 touchdown receptions.

His senior season was one to remember as well, as he was named an All-American and NE-10  Most Valuable Player after leading the nation in receptions (10.8) and yards (150.0) per game. His 108 catches this season was an NE-10 record, as was his 269 yard game against St. Anselm.

He finished the season with 108 catches for 1,500 yards and 14 touchdowns in 10 games for the Warriors. His 1,500 receiving yards was second most in conference history, and his 14 receiving touchdowns were the most in program history. Voegeli also broke the 100 yard plateau in seven of 10 games as a senior hauled in a career-high 17 catches in a game against Pace.

In a statement to Merrimack Athletics, Voegeli said:

“I am still speechless. All I can say is to God be the glory. I am so grateful for this opportunity. I can’t thank head coach Dan Curran enough for his help and guidance and preparation to get me to this point. This is a dream come true that I’ve dreamt about since I was 7, to just have a shot and I’ve been blessed this opportunity”

New Merrimack head coach Dan Curran, who had been an assistant for the team and worked specifically with Voegeli and the team’s receivers, was recruited by Eagles coach Dan Curran when Curran was at the University of New Hampshire.

If you ever get the chance to meet Voegeli, sit down and have a conversation with him. The 6-foot (barely) receiver may be the nicest guy you’ll ever meet. Incredibly well spoken and composed, Voegeli even participated in the Merrimack Theatre group, Onstagers, in his spare time, as well as working for the college’s physical plant and volunteering at Lazarus House, a Lawrence, MA shelter. Isaiah is just someone you want to be around. Personally, I don’t think it could happen to a better kid. Congrats, Isaiah.

The Red Sox Aren’t Good

Nava high 5s

Daniel Nava has led the Red Sox’s surprise start this season, but can he and the Hometown Heroes keep it up?

…Yet.

If you’ve paid any attention to America’s Past Time in the first month of the season, you’ll know that the Red Sox not only lead the American League East, they also have the best record in the American League and, even further, all of baseball. At 18-7, the Red Sox have already tied their own club record for most wins in April. A 19th win today would produce the best start the team has ever had in over 100 years of existence. After the misery that has followed this team like a black cloud follows Eeyore, this is no small accomplishment.

In the past three Aprils, the Red Sox haven’t managed more than 11 wins in any season, going 11-11 (2012), 11-14 (2011), and 11-12 (2010)

It took the team until May 17th to get to 18 wins in 2012, May 13th to get there in 2011, and May 11th in 2010.

This season is a bit different. Pitching, shaky at best for the past several seasons – especially in the early going – has been much better overall. A solid bullpen has formed in former uber prospect turned Tommy John recoveree Junichi Tazawa, journeyman set-up guy in Koji Uehara, and the rejuvenated and finally healthy Andrew Bailey closing games for the Red Sox.

The starting pitchers have been even better, as Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz have both re-found their inner ace in April, going 9-0 in 10 starts and giving up only 13 runs collectively. Ryan Dempster has been a nice surprise, as many considered him maybe a 4th starter as the 35-year-old has historically struggled in the American League. He owns a 3.30 era through 30 innings and five starts this season, while also striking out 43 batters. The only Red Sox pitcher to ever strike out more batters through 5 games to start the season was Pedro Martinez in 1998. He finished second in Cy Young Award voting that year. Red Sox pitchers as a whole have struck out 248 batters in April, a Major League record.

Further, the team has scored the third most runs in the American League, allowed the third fewest in the AL, have the third best era in the AL, and lead Major League Baseball with a +40 run differential.

They’ve led or tied the Division every single day in April. Again, a Red Sox record.

So how could I possibly sit here and say the team isn’t good? It’s easy: I’m a Red Sox fan.

I’ve seen the good. I was poisoned by 2003, 2004, 2007 and 2008. I was pseudo-shocked by 2009, convinced until the bitter end 2010 was “the year” again despite all the injuries derailing the season, I believed the 2011 Red Sox could be the best team ever, and that 2012 would leave them bouncing back into happiness. I supported Bobby Valentine for a solid 3 and a half months, roughly 31/4 months longer than anyone else. I know what it’s like to be over confident, absolutely sure of your team, full of Blind Obedience to a team you love so dearly.

What I’m saying is, it’s easy to be fooled, especially growing up in the era of Red Sox Lore that I did.

I love this Red Sox team. I think they could have the best personality since 2004, I’ve said it since Spring Training, and will hopefully carry us charismatically all summer long and well into October. But I won’t be fooled…yet.

Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, and Ryan Dempster have pitched well in the first month of the season. Lots of pitchers have pitched well for a month over the long history of this league, and lots of hitters struggle in the early going. These three in particular have a lot to prove.

The bull pen doesn’t have really anything to prove outside of Joel Hanrahan, but again, it’s a long season.

Jarrod Saltalamacchia has started roughly as many games as David Ross, which is probably bad for both. Ross thrives in limited action, but the 35-year-old will struggle as the season progresses. Salty is just an enigma no matter what happens – he slumps too much when playing every day, can’t hit a watermelon if he doesn’t, and is too lost inside his own head to figure either situation out.

Mike Napoli, while mashing 28 hits and driving in 27 runs in April ( more than his previous two Aprils combined 26 total – 12 in ’11, 14 in ’12), isn’t a sure thing. He’s got the ultimate Fenway Swing, but you’ve got to think a lot of his home runs were helped by the warm air in Texas and Los Angeles. And really, there’s a reason the team changed a 3-year, $39 million deal to a 1-year, $5 million deal. When is his hip going to break down?

David Ortiz has raked since rejoining the team, batting an even .500, slugging at .912, and sporting an overall otherwordly 1.425 OPS with 3 home runs, 8 extra base hits, and 2 walks. He’s also 37 years old, coming off a season in which he missed just under 50% of the games because he ruptured his achilles, and he and his wife are getting a divorce.

Mike Carp is leading the team in batting at .455 (outside of Ortiz in limited play), and Daniel Nava has 4 home runs and a .310 average, which is really, really awesome and has Dan Duquette writhing in jealousy in Baltimore, but does anyone think this will pan out over 162 games?

Stephen Drew has hardly hit the ball, although he’s been good in the games he has. He’s in a contract year, trying to re-establish himself with his 1-year, $9 million tender (think Adrian Beltre circa 2010). He could be an offensive juggernaut and a terrific signing that will inevitably leave via free agency. He’s also Stephen Drew, so he could spend 4 months on the D.L. and show everyone why he’s the kid brother of J.D. Nancy Drew.

Will Middlebrooks, hitting a measly .202, is a stubborn young kid currently not willing to change anything in his approach and only swinging for the fences.

Bottomline: there’s a lot of questions. These Red Sox look great right now. The team is guaranteed to finish April with the best record in baseball. But they were also projected to be better than the 1927 Yankees in 2011 and blew a ginormous lead in September in one of the most epic collapses in MLB history. They were also supposed to lose to the Yankees in the 2004 ALCS when they trailed 3 games to 0.

Confused? Me too. Think you know anything about this team yet? Think again. Only time will tell, and so far we’ve only had 30 days and 25 games to say anything, which is to say the Red Sox haven’t really said anything at all.

Stay tuned

 

Readers can follow Pat on Twitter at @PatBradleyUSCHO

Bruins Playoff Gear

Dont Puck With Us Banner

Playoffs Start Wednesday

The Bruins begin their Quest for the Cup Wednesday night at the Garden, as they host the fifth-seeded Toronto Maple Leafs. What better way to celebrate another hockey post season in Boston than by getting some awesome new playoff gear? All shirts are $18.99 or less (plus shipping).

Chara Spin O Rama 1899

Teach Me How 2 Dougie

On the left, the famous line exclaimed by NESN’s own Jack Edwards when captain Zdeno had the goal of the year against the Panthers dons an awesome new t shirt. Featuring the familiar Black and Gold colors and the Tazmanian Devil doing what he does best, this shirt is a collectible for all Bruins fans.

On the right, a T shirt commemorating Boston’s exciting rookie defenseman Dougie Hamilton, referencing the popular song.  Wouldn’t it be great to be wearing this T shirt and impress all your friends when the 19-year-old phenom scores a goal from the point on the power play (okay, we can dream) or makes a savvy defensive play?

Fuck The Habs 1899 299 shipping

Because we all hate Montreal

Dont Puck With Us Tshirt 1899

A cool design featuring Bruins Black and Gold. The “T” in Boston is symbolic in the city, and represents the MBTA, or “the T” where you can catch a train, the subway, or a bus.

And last but not least, The Jaromir Jagr selection. The newest member of the Bruins, hailing from Czech Republic, also happens to have a kick-ass last name that has Bruins fans everywhere tipping back a glass every time he scores. Check them out below.

Keep Calm And Jagr Bomb 1799

<—- For the ladies, featuring the classic “Keep Calm” motto. Dudes can wear it too because, frankly, it’s pretty sweet.

Jagr Bomb Mullet 1899

For the Bros, because we all know mullets are still cool even if the collective female population writhes in horror at the thought of it. Bring back some Jagr nostalgia and support the newest Bruin during their playoff run!

Moves Like Jagr T 1899

Because this is clever, and we’ve all got an over-excited hoser in our group of friends who has proclaimed that Jagr is their favorite Bruin, even though they couldn’t tell you anything else about him.

Montreal Turtles 18.99

Because those squids in Montreal ruin the game we love and retract into their stupid little shells when real confrontation begins, let em know what you think of them with this Montreal Turtles shirt.

Dear Celtics

Kevin Garnett

Dear Celtics,

in less than two hours, you play the New York Knicks in Game 4 of the First Round of the NBA Playoffs, at home, down 3 games to none.

You lost Friday night in Boston, the first game in Beantown since that punky kid from Cambridge decided he’d try and knock us down. What a fool. You can huff, you can puff, but you can’t knock Boston down.

Or can you?

Until Game 2 of this series, do you know how many times the Knicks had won consecutive playoff games since the turn of the century? Zero.

Until Game 2 of this series, do you know how many teams had scored 25 or less points in a half in consecutive  games EVER? Zero.

And do you know how many teams in NBA History have ever come back from a 3-0 deficit in any round of the Playoffs to win a series? You guessed it: Zero.

It’s time to make history, or be history. The choice is yours.

So before we begin, let’s take a stroll down memory lane to October 2004 and our friends over at Fenway Park. Specifically, move about 50 seconds in.

 

Dont. Let. Us. Win. Tonight.

No, you don’t have Pedey going in game 5 or Big Schill going in Game 6. You also don’t have your super-hustling rookie Jared Sullinger because of a season-ending back injury, or your superstar leader of the team in Rajon Rondo, who tore his ACL back in January. But you do have Kevin Garnett, maybe the Greatest Power Forward of All Time (with no apologies to Tim Duncan or Karl Malone – I mean it). You do have Paul Pierce, slowly cementing his legacy that will hang forever in the rafters with his number 34 jersey, already more or less retired and waiting for its owner to do the same. And, remember, anything can still happen in Game 7, should you get there.

Sure, you’re hurt. Paul is a shadow of his former self. Kevin, too. Bone spurs and ankle sprains and bad backs and years and years and miles and miles up and down a basketball court eventually catch up to you. Father Time never loses.

But the biggest injury of them all is mental; A hit to your Pride hurts the most, and that’s what you’re about to take.

Remember you’re playing for the name on the front of your jersey, and not the one on the back. Remember you’re playing the game because you love it and have since you could walk. Remember you’re playing the games for the fans, who pour out in droves to support you even on the brink of elimination in embarrassing fashion. Remember you play for this city, that needs you now more than ever. Remember you want to make history, and that this team knows more about history than any other team in the league.

Remember you are Paul Pierce. You are Kevin Garnett. You are Avery Bradley, Courtney Lee, Jeff Green, Brandon Bass, Jason Terry, Jordan Crawford, Chris Wilcox, Shavlik Randolph, Fab Melo, DJ White, and Terrence Williams.

You are the Boston Celtics.

Now get out there and play like it.

Tom Brady’s Ego

Tom Fuckin Brady

Hey, my name’s Tom Fuckin Brady. Nice to beat you.

So, I really don’t care about the NFL Draft. I might be the only person on the planet, but it’s just not overly exciting for me, especially when two offensive tackles go with the first two picks. However, easily the funniest moment of last night’s first round came when the Jets made their first pick.

With the 9th overall selection, the Jets selected Alabama cornerback Dee Milliner – shocker, I wonder why they needed one of those – when a parody Twitter account called “Tom Brady’s Ego” tweeted the following:

TB ego, condolences

Awesome.

In 8 words, he summed up what everybody in New England was thinking. If you’re not following this guy, you should. You won’t regret it.

Sometimes It’s Heaven That Freezes Over

Merrimack Hockey  to play at Fenway Park for  Frozen Fenway in January

"Frozen Fenway" at Fenway Park. Merrimack College is expected to play Providence in January, 2014

“Frozen Fenway” at Fenway Park. Merrimack College is expected to play Providence January 4, 2014

Hockey East officially announced today what has been speculation for the past several months: college hockey is returning to Fenway Park.

Hockey East Commissioner Joe Bertagna said the following in a statement released today:

“We are excited about the return of hockey to Fenway Park. We are particularly pleased that with these two doubleheaders, all of our men’s programs will have had the opportunity to experience Frozen Fenway, including the University of Notre Dame, our newest member.”

When Fenway Park last held its Frozen Fenway event in January 2012, Merrimack College was not one of the schools chosen to participate. This time, however, Merrimack will the opportunity to play against Providence College, a budding rivalry that has resulted in exciting, physical hockey games between the two programs who have become just as tough members of the Hockey East conference as any other school.

The news became official today when the City of Boston approved the necessary permits needed in order to make Frozen Fenway happen.

Merrimack will play Providence College in the first game of a double-header on January 4th, with Boston College taking on Notre Dame University – the newest addition to Hockey East in 2014 – in the later game. The Merrimack/Providence game will be a non-conference game, so the outcome will not affect the Hockey East standings.

“Even though this has been done before, playing at Fenway is still truly exciting for all involved,” Merrimack hockey head coach Mark Dennehy told College Hockey News’ Mike McMahon. “Merrimack is proud to be a part of this event.”

 

Why Avery Bradley Could Be Defensive Player of the Year

Avery Harden

Boston’s Avery Bradley harassing Houston All Star James Harden

The results for the NBA’s 2012-2013 Defensive Player of the Year Award came out yesterday, with Memphis Grizzlies 7-footer Marc Gasol winning the award. Gasol anchored the best defense in the NBA in Memphis, but he may not be fully deserving of the award. Don’t get me wrong, Gasol is a terrific player, but look at these numbers:

7.8 rebounds per game (ranked 23rd in the NBA), 5.5 defensive rebounds per game (27th in the NBA), 1.7 blocks per game (9th in the NBA), and 1.0 steals per game (57th in the NBA).

So, based on these statistics, the BEST Defensive player in the NBA only averages 7.8 rebounds, 2.3 of which are not categorized as “defensive”?

I’d just like to point out that Paul Pierce (dead knees and all) and Philadelphia’s Evan Turner, a shooting guard, BOTH averaged more defensive rebounds than Gasol.

PAUL PIERCE AND EVAN TURNER.

Paul Pierce can’t even jump anymore.

So, clearly, the award goes to the “best” defensive player on the best defensive team in the NBA. Cool, we knew that, sort of, although Tyson Chandler last season wouldn’t exactly fit that mold, either (although he was incredibly deserving of the award). So really I’m just confused.

My point to this, however, is not to bash Gasol – a terrific overall center who plays great defense and helped lead the Grizzlies to the Playoffs by anchoring that D.

Instead, I’d like to know how Avery Bradley, the Celtics’ overlooked combo guard, only received 5 total votes (15 points and two first place votes, overall)?

2013 DPOY Ballot

A look at the voting breakdown for Defensive Player of the Year, via ESPN Boston’s Chris Forsberg.

On the bright side, Bradley finished tied for 14th last year (also ridiculous), and this year finished directly ahead of Tyson Chandler (last year’s winner) and Dwight Howard (winner the previous three seasons). And, as ESPN Boston’s Chris Forsberg points out, the award “is a big man’s award…with Gary Payton the only real exception in the past two decades.”

Bradley, however, could very well wind up with the award some time in the next few years if he can stay healthy and his play continues the way it is now. Bradley and teammate Brandon Bass often switch off on playing an opposing team’s best player (Bass more so when it’s a much larger opponent, like a Carmelo Anthony or LeBron James, for example). Despite going head-to-head with some of the most elite players in the league, Synergy Sports, a revolutionary new sports data company, determined that Bradley’s defense was tops in the league.

With their new stat “PPP” or “Points Per Possession,” Synergy took every single play and analyzed the offensive and defensive matchups. PPP basically gives you the average number of points an opponent scores every time they touch the ball, including if they are fouled and the foul results in made free throws. After compiling all their data, they found that Avery Bradley only allowed 0.697 points per possession this season, Best in the LeagueThat means when Bradley’s collective opponents get the ball, they hardly ever score and aren’t even averaging even one point for their team. It also means that Bradley plays terrific, fundamental defense without fouling, or if he does foul it’s a good one on a player with a poor free throw percentage.

To put it in perspective, the next closest player was old friend Marquis Daniels (yes, that’s a bit surprising to me, too) at 0.707 PPP. So, yeah, Avery’s pretty good.

As the game evolves and the sports writers who vote on these prestigious awards increasingly fall into the stat-geek era, maybe we’ll see Avery Bradley get more votes. I mean, really, is Serge Ibaka really deserving of the title “third best defensive player in the NBA?” Of course not. He happens to make up for what he lacks in defensive prowess in an incredible leaping ability that somehow doesn’t help him rebound (he averaged less than Gasol) but did allow him to block 246 shots this season, good for a 3.0 blocks per game average. Anyone who doesn’t see that is an idiot.

In Avery’s corner, though, is another old friend: Tony Allen. The Grizzlies starting two guard/small forward thrives on defense and earns his paycheck because of it. He’s gotten a reputation as one of the baddest dudes in the league and finished  fifth in voting this season, just behind Chicago’s Joakim Noah.

Maybe Bradley will finally get the recognition he deserves. Or maybe, like Allen and many other great defensive guards before him, he’ll just quietly harass the league for his entire career and earn the love and respect of his hometown fans.

Either way, he’s got my vote.