THE NEWBERG REPORT — FEBRUARY 3, 2008

Montreal’s first-round draft pick in 1995, high school shortstop-turned-catcher Michael Barrett, is just 31 years old but finds himself likely on the soft side of a platoon, for the first time in years. But he’ll still make $3.5 million this year with the Padres.

The Expos’ fifth-round pick that year, high school catcher Brian Schneider, doesn’t hit much but his defensive chops are so good that the Mets traded young blue-chip outfielder Lastings Milledge in a deal to get him in December. He’ll be paid more than $10 million the next two years to catch Johan Santana and friends.

Montreal took yet another high school catcher in the 16th round of that 1995 draft, Quebec native Pete LaForest, who lasted one year in the Expos system before resurfacing with the Rays and developing into the club’s catcher of the future . . . until relinquishing that label with a lackluster debut in 2003 and a regression at AAA in 2004. Today the 30-year-old journeyman prepares to go to camp on a non-roster invite with the Phillies.

The Expos selected a fourth high school catcher in the 1995 draft, a big left-handed hitter from the same high school that had produced Barry Bonds and Gregg Jefferies (not to mention onetime Rangers Jim Fregosi and Scott Chiamparino). Montreal failed to sign him, however, losing the 18th-rounder to a commitment he’d made to play another sport at the University of Michigan.

As low as he must feel right now, Tom Brady probably doesn’t wish he were Barrett or Schneider or LaForest, and I’m guessing he’s not second-guessing the career path he chose.

Brady gave me and Barrett and Schneider and LaForest and what will probably turn out to be one of the biggest television audiences ever some amazing theater tonight.

I had no allegiance to the Patriots or Giants and yet, despite actually wanting to see New England finish running the table, I’m exhilarated by the result and what Brady and David Tyree and Wes Welker (football’s Steve Nash) and that Giants D-line gave us tonight.

And that reminds me of something I wrote on June 18, 2006:

“Which brings me to this point: When the Rangers have that season where they win a playoff series, and then a second, and get to the Fall Classic, I’m going to be in a lot of trouble.

“My death certificate will probably say: ‘Cause of Death: World Series.’”

You can read more from Jamey Newberg at www.NewbergReport.com.

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