In the middle of the

In the middle of the baseball playoffs, a couple of football items. First the weekly Thoughts from Kent Thaler. Second, is Week Four Team Efficiency Ratings from Football Outsiders.


Kevin Mannix hands out A’s,

Kevin Mannix hands out A’s, B’s and C’s in his Patriots report card this week, but also one F, to the quarterback. Ron Borges says Bill Belichick and the Patriots made the right call by not going for the 55 yard field goal at the end of the game Sunday. Kevin McNamara looks at Mike Cloud’s return to practice yesterday, and whether the running back can help out this team. Alan Greenberg says Sunday’s loss could come back to haunt the Patriots down the road. Mike Reiss looks at the struggles of Tom Brady, noting the correlation between his play and the team record. Michael Smith looks in detail at what could be wrong with Brady. Michael Parente says that in the end, all it came down to was that the Patriots didn’t get the job done. Rich Thompson looks at the Patriots still having the personnel to play the defensive fronts that they want to this season. Christopher Price looks at Belichick defending Tom Brady’s interceptions, noting that they were not all the QB’s fault. Tom Curran notes that Sunday was similar to the loss in the fourth game of last season. Ed Gray looks at Cloud, eager to play after coming back from his suspension and injury. Thompson’s notebook has Adam Vinatieri agreeing with the decision to go for it on fourth and three. McNamara’s notebook says it was the execution, not the play calling that did in the Pats on Sunday. Smith’s notebook looks has more on Cloud.

Tony Massarotti turns in the Red Sox report card. The only F’s are earned by Mendoza and Sauerbeck. Bob Ryan has a look at Manny Ramirez and his amazing abilities that draw praise from teammates and foes alike. His work ethic is also lauded here. Sean McAdam looks at Billy Beane and Theo Epstein, how their thinking is similar and how it differs. Jeff Horrigan says the trade of Shea Hillenbrand saved the season for the Sox, and not just by acquiring Byung-Hyun Kim. From a huge list, Bob Hohler narrows it down to display the Sox top 10 moments from this season. Keeping with the list theme, Bill Reynolds gives us 10 reasons why the Sox are going to win the World Series. David Heuschkel looks at the preparation the Sox have made and are making for the playoffs. Christopher Young previews the AL playoffs. Steven Krasner says that despite all of Pedro’s other baggage, he’s still the best in the game. Gerry Callahan has a pay column today complaining about network TV’s decision to put the Sox on at 10:00 tomorrow night. It’s the usual…little kids can’t watch any of the game, people who work won’t see the end, baseball is run by TV, and the networks only love the Cubs and Yankees. Dan Shaughnessy looks at former Sox Scott Hatteberg. Gordon Edes has Grady Little praising Jerry Narron for his role as bench coach, and also citing Damian Jackson as having had just as big of a clubhouse impact as David Ortiz and Kevin Millar. Howard Bryant has a pay column looking at the A’s and the lessons they’ve learned from this season and from past playoff failures. Someone at the Herald web site was still a little asleep this morning as the link to Bryant’s article on the Red Sox page read: “Manly: A’s hope for happy ending.” Howard Manly, as many of you know used to do the job that Bill Griffith currently does at the Globe. McAdam looks at the networks to blame for the Sox late TV start. Jon Wallach also weighs in on the late show. Ryan also has a look at the Yankees and their nine year postseason run, which began with a wild card berth in 1995, the first year of the expanded playoffs. Horrigan’s notebook looks at Dave McCarty trying to provide some inside info on his former team. Out in Oakland, Dave Albee and Bruce Jenkins are talking about the Red Sox “cursed” history. Susan Slusser has a little more balanced look at the matchup, but even she is compelled to bring up the curse.

Shira Springer notes the one year anniversary of the new Celtics owners taking over and what they’ve learned in the first year. Mark Murphy looks at the expectations that will be placed on rookie point guard Marcus Banks.

Bill Griffith looks at the broadcast times and channels for the Sox playoffs, (Tomorrow’s game will be carried by channel 68 locally.) and the myriad of options Sox fans for pre and post game coverage. He also has the finalists for the Celtics PA job, a group that does not include longtime voice Andy Jick. Jon Meterparel is among the contestants. I had some correspondence with Jick over the past year and when the position was open a year ago, he was interested, but they wouldn’t even return his calls. He also expressed interest this year, and it seems the Celtics weren’t interested this time around either. That baffles me. Jim Baker’s pay column also looks at the Sox coverage.

Elsewhere, Herald sports writer Ed Gray has decided to come out of the closet. He wasn’t forced out, he says: “I’m out, and I am exercising my right to walk around proud.”

No Sunday night recaps. These

No Sunday night recaps. These shows are becoming more and more irrelevant, in my opinion, as they’re just the same guys saying the same things they’ve already said on a couple other shows elsewhere. I’ll continue to tape them, and perhaps watch them while doing the links on Monday morning, but it’s getting too much to stay up and transcribe the shows until 1:00 AM and then get up at 5:30 AM to do the links. If while watching the tapes, anything of note happens, I’ll mention it. If anyone wants to take on the task of reviewing and transcribing the shows, you’re welcome to do it. Last night, Sports Final did have a nice video tribute to the Red Sox amazing up and down regular season.

Sometime this week this site will have its one millionth visitor. This will likely happen Wednesday or Thursday. Thanks again to all who have made that mark possible.

Turnovers will almost always kill a team’s chances. Yesterday was no exception. Tom Curran looks at a game that the Patriots should have won, despite having nine starters out due to injury. Nick Cafardo looks at frustrating results by the offense, especially on the final drive of the game. Alan Greenberg lauds the Patriots effort, even if the “bloodless Bill Belichick” wasn’t happy with losing the game. Michael Felger says this one was gift wrapped for the Pats, but they couldn’t get the wrapping off. He also has four points of question on the final drive. Ian M. Clark notes that the defense did its job, the offense was what let the team down in Washington. Michael Parente looks at the Patriots just not having quite enough to pull out the win. Ron Borges is full of admiration for the way that the Patriots played yesterday, saying:

Because they refused to acknowledge the difficult circumstances they were in, the Patriots rose to the occasion. They didn't win, but they were not losers. They just didn't score enough points.

Kevin Mannix says the Patriots defense did the job it was supposed to on the Redskins passing game. Jeff Jacobs writes about Tedy Bruschi and the Pats having nothing to do with any injury excuses. Jim Donaldson has a decent column expressing the conflict that fans might have in trying to deal with a loss that was likely to be expected, but was frustrating nonetheless. Michael Smith looks at Tom Brady, taking the loss characteristically hard. George Kimball looks at the turnovers yesterday, but especially at the Patriots inability to jump on the loose ball. Joe Burris looks at things from the Washington perspective, happy to be at 3-1. Donaldson looks at the Redskins, happy knowing that they dodged a bullet. Karen Guregian looks at the non-catch by Laveranues Coles which allowed the Pats to get the ball back one more time. Michael Gee looks at a decent outing from David Givens, who could’ve had a much bigger afternoon with a couple sharper passes. Parente shows that it was mistakes not injuries that did the Patriots in yesterday. Smith looks at the decision not to have Adam Vinatieri try the 55 yard field goal at the end…a decision the kicker agreed with. Greenberg has a look at Tom Brady, toughing it out. In the Herald pay columns, Michael Gee looks at the Patriots taking the shorthanded loss pretty hard, not taking comfort in coming close. George Kimball writes about Tom Brady being hard on himself for the loss yesterday, knowing it was a game they should’ve won. Donaldson questions Brady’s decision making in the loss. Curran looks at the three makeshift starters on the offensive line, who more than held their own yesterday. Guregian looks at the mild uproar over a hit laid by Patriots fullback Larry Centers. Felger’s notebook looks at Mike Cloud being eligible to join the Patriots starting today. Cafardo’s notebook looks at Centers being in the middle of a few things yesterday. Curran’s notebook also looks at Centers.

David Heuschkel looks at the fourth consecutive meaningless regular season finale in Tampa for the Sox. Jeff Horrigan says the loss in the finale of the regular season just gives the team another thing to bounce back from. Steven Krasner looks at Bill Mueller winning the batting title. Bob Hohler looks at a record breaking season for the Sox. Gordon Edes has a feature-like article looking at the job Grady Little has done for the Red Sox. Dan Shaughnessy looks at the opposing manager in the first round of the playoffs, Ken Macha. Perhaps it was the influence of Eddie Andelman, but at the beginning of the season, Tony Massarotti was one of the harshest critics of Theo Epstein, today, he has a glowing article on the Sox GM. Howard Bryant looks at the opposing GM, Billy Beane, the object of the Red Sox pursuit prior to giving Epstein the job. Sean McAdam looks at a very different postseason fate for Tim Wakefield this time around. Massarotti looks at Mueller winning the batting title yesterday. Bob Halloran knocks those who criticized the Sox for the “over the top” celebration on Thursday night. John Tomase looks at how Boston has changed but not beaten Grady Little. The Globe continues to shove Bucky Dent down our throats. C’mon, today isn’t even the official anniversary. Bill Burt examines what Carl Yastrzemski and Jeremy Fuller have in common. Krasner’s notebook looks at Wakefield getting the game two start. Horrigan’s notebook also looks at Wakefield. Hohler’s notebook looks at batting champion Mueller.

Shira Springer looks at Celtics training camp starting today…well sort of. Only players with less than four years of experience are allowed to start camp today. All others cannot report until Thursday. Non-roster invitees to camp include Mateen Cleaves. Mark Murphy reports on the Celtics annual season ticket holder barbecue.

ABC has Packers/Bears at 9:00. Curse devotees can watch the 1978 Sox/Yankees playoff game on ESPN Classic at 9:00.

We’re in! Jeff Horrigan has

We’re in! Jeff Horrigan has the details of last night’s 14-3 rout of the Orioles that clinched a the Wild Card playoff berth for the Red Sox. Bob Hohler says “Oh, happy day.” in regards to last night. Steven Krasner looks at the Sox clinching in style. Paul Doyle looks at the celebration from Fenway. Bob Ryan looks at this remarkable team, how they were built by their General Manager, and whether this could be the year. Reading Lenny Megliola today, I think my allergies started getting a little worked up this morning. Wait, I don’t have any allergies… Kevin Gray has more on the playoff clinching effort. Sean McAdam looks at the special night from an extraordinary team. Alex Speier reports on Derek Lowe’s starting effort propelling the Sox into the playoffs. Rich Thompson says Lowe’s sinker really lifted the Sox last night. Gordon Edes gets a sampling of the excitement from every corner of the ballpark last night. Paul Harber looks at Lowe’s effort, and season. Ed Gray looks at the player saluting the fans after the game. Shira Springer looks at Nomar, who provided a big blast last night to essentially put the game away last night. Megliola also sought out the quiet man in the Sox clubhouse, Bill Mueller. Gerry Callahan on WEEI this morning feels that the Sox celebration went too far last night. His observation from watching it all was that the Sox feel that they’ve accomplished their goal for the season, and should’ve been a bit more subdued and focused on what is ahead. They should’ve held something in reserve, he asserts. He urges all to “be careful” and not get too caught up in what this team has accomplished, the season is not a success yet. Callahan has a pay column today in the form of a letter to HBO regarding why his clips didn’t make it into the final version of their “Curse” documentary. He says:

You cut me out of your last documentary, and I admit I wasn't happy about it at first. You guys came up to the Ritz in Boston with an agenda, and you didn't like me because I didn't follow the script. I told you that the curse was a load of crap, and I assured you that Boston fans don't spend five minutes a season bemoaning ghosts of Red Sox past. That is the truth, but let's face it: You weren't looking for the truth. You just wanted to remake an old fairy tale.

Edes looks ahead to the Oakland A’s, the first round opponent for the Sox. Gray also has Theo Epstein speaking on the A’s. Steve Buckley’s pay column says Grady Little might not want the Sox to pick up his option, he may be looking for a long term deal, and Buckley says he deserves it. Art Davidson says Lou Merloni has been working at catcher to try to increase his chances of landing on the postseason roster. Krasner looks at Trot Nixon, who is unsure of when he’ll be able to play again. Thomas Keane Jr. looks at the scalping business in and around Fenway. Speier has a piece in the Eagle-Tribune looking at David Ortiz as an MVP candidate. Somehow I missed this abomination of a column from Jim Donaldson the other day. It’s the usual drivel about the Sox always being second best to the Yankees. He says he’s “about objectivity and reality” and later in the article says that it is “Boston’s stock in trade” to fade in September, as if by curse. He chides fellow media people for their optimism, and doesn’t feel this team is anything special:

"Don't you," Red Sox owner John Henry said in July, "get the feel that this is a special team?" Um, well, no. Not really.

Didn't then. Don't now.

He concludes by saying that should the Sox meet the Yankees in the playoffs, they will lose, just as they always do. Hohler’s notebook looks at Sox players with and without postseason experience. The Courant notebook has Mike Hargrove saying Pedro is a difference maker in the playoffs. Krasner’s notebook looks at Grady’s contract situation.

Tom Curran looks at Lavar Arrington and havoc he can wreak upon opposing offenses. Michael Felger looks at Joe Andruzzi, who surprisingly is one of the seemingly few healthy Patriots. Nick Cafardo says all the injuries are allowing for the development of younger players, out of necessity. Ian M. Clark has a similar view, noting that the development of the young players could pay off huge in the future. Hector Longo says Ty Warren is a disappointment. Christopher Price also looks at Warren and his development. Michael Parente looks at Bruce Smith, still a QB terror at age 39. Rich Thompson looks at Deion Branch, who will be a bigger part of the game plan this week and in coming weeks. Jim McCabe makes his NFL picks. Michael Gee has a pay column looking at the challenges facing Bill Belichick with all the injuries. Felger’s notebook has more on Warren. Curran’s notebook looks at the versatility on the Patriots which will help them whether the storm of injuries. Cafardo’s notebook says the injuries even cut into the Special Teams depth.

Bill Griffith looks at the Speed Channel, and no local TV for the Sox in the playoffs.

UPN38 has Sox/Devil Rays at 7:00. ESPN has Braves/Phillies at 7:00.

Playoff spot is not quite

Playoff spot is not quite in hand yet. Paul Doyle looks at a clunker last night by Burkett and the Sox. Jeff Horrigan looks at a rough outing by Burkett. Bob Hohler says there was no magic on the mound for Burkett last night. Kevin McNamara notes Burkett wasn’t “over keyed” for the game. Funny line by Burkett who says: “What am I going to do? Throw 86 or 87 (mph)?” (As opposed to 83) Kevin Gray looks at a clincher put on hold. Lenny Megliola looks at the Orioles playing spoiler, at least for a night. Michael Silverman looks at the case for David Ortiz, AL MVP. Dan Shaughnessy says the champagne is on ice, ready to be opened. Peter May looks at a very short night for Burkett. Kevin McNamara looks at David Ortiz’s Yaz-circa-1967-like streak. Shira Springer also looks at Ortiz. Horrigan has an interesting Ghost Story, as told by Scott Williamson, who had the experience at the hotel the Sox will be staying at in St. Petersburg. Jim Fennell has a mini-feature on Lou Gorman, with a look inside his Fenway office. Megliola writes about Johnny Pesky speaking up about Grady Little returning next year. Silverman looks at a strong effort by the bullpen last night. Howard Bryant says in his pay column today that the missed chance is no big deal, and actually pretty typical of this team, which has had so many big losses and then even bigger wins. Michael Gee also has a pay column and attempts to talk reason. He says:

Superstition is what the ignorant use to explain events they can't or won't understand. The Dead Fat Outfielder Theory has no bearing on this or any other postseason.

The Sox haven't won a title since 1918 for one reason. They were never good enough. Boston's lost nine playoff series since then. In all but one (the 1946 World Series), the Sox were underdogs, often prohibitive underdogs.

He notes the Sox won’t be prohibitive underdogs this year, their only problems might be the bullpen and not having homefield advantage until the World Series. But those have nothing to do with “foreordained doom.” Springer also looks at the Sox propensity for late inning heroics. Peter May asks some of the Orioles about the Red Sox/A’s first round playoff matchup. Hohler’s notebook looks at the batting race. Horrigan’s notebook looks at Trot Nixon and his calf muscle needing some more time to heal. Krasner’s notebook also looks at Trot. Doyle’s notebook looks at Ortiz.

Nick Cafardo says that Tom Brady measures high on the GTM. (Grogan Toughness Meter) Michael Felger looks at a prideful group of Patriots who want to get back onto the field and play, despite any pain they may be in from injuries. Tom Curran looks at Ty Law as one of those who will be play through his injury. Alan Greenberg also looks at Law, trying to get back up to speed to take on Laveranues Coles. Christopher Price says that the Redskins have a pretty good defense of their own. Mike Reiss says the says point to the Patriots switching back to a 4-3 defense. Hector Longo says the time has come for the Patriots to open up the playbook, score in bunches, time for Tom Brady to “prove” his worth. Ed Gray looks at Brady and his elbow. George Kimball has a pay column trying to figure out why Troy Brown isn’t getting the ball and is off to a slow start. Cafardo’s notebook looks at the lengthy injury report. Felger’s notebook looks at whether Wilbert Brown will spill all he knows about the Redskins offense. Curran’s notebook looks at what base defense the Patriots will play on Sunday, and for the rest of the season.

NESN has Red Sox/Orioles at 7:00. ESPN has Nebraska/Southern Miss. College football at 7:30.

Questions that spring to mind:

Questions that spring to mind: Has any athlete ever made one reporter look as foolish as David Ortiz has made Shaughnessy look this year? With all the grief that he takes at times for his defense, do we all realize that Todd Walker has 83 RBI on the year? From your second baseball that has hit #2 in the lineup much of the year. Amazing. The Sox have eight players with 80+ RBI. As Gerry Callahan said this morning, Walker is playing in his last regular season week with the Red Sox, but thanks to last night, we’re never going to forget the guy. Gordon Edes has the story of another incredible win at Fenway for the Sox. Jeff Horrigan details the enthralling late show that transpired last night. Kevin McNamara looks at the late inning heroics. Paul Doyle says this could be the type of game that carries the team through the playoffs. Christopher Price looks at just another dramatic victory by the 2003 Sox. Tony Massarotti says that the Big O has to receive serious MVP consideration. Sean McAdam says this team just continues to find ways to surprise us, even 157 games into the season. Lenny Megliola looks at how much the players enjoyed that win last night and how they love playing together as well. Dan Shaughnessy sucks us into thinking he’s fully on the bandwagon, but then drops this line in the middle of his column today:

Ah, the A's. How sweet is this matchup? Do you know that the A's have won eight consecutive playoff games against the Sox, sweeping in 1988 and again in 1990? Do you also know that the A's have not won a playoff series since Roger Clemens -- wearing eyeblack on his face and Ninja Turtle laces in his shoes -- imploded on the mound at the Oakland Coliseum in Game 4 in '90?

We knew we could count on you to do your best to sour things and bring up past failures, Dan. Continuing his single minded determination to make life as miserable as possible for Red Sox fans, Dan produces a column about Bucky Dent today, of all days. Peter May looks at Todd Walker’s huge home run, which he went up to the plate trying to hit…and did it. Tony Chamberlain looks at Tim Wakefield, grateful to be picked up by teammates. Edes has a segment of a one-on-one interview with David Ortiz for the Globe SportsPlus tonight. Michael Silverman looks at the two homeruns, trying to figure out which one was bigger. Kevin Gray looks at the September reign by the Sox pushing ahead. Silverman has a second article looking at baseball’s lack of a 50 homer guy this year. Unlike Shaughnessy, Steve Buckley delivers a feel-good column today, looking at Ortiz and his favorite song, which his Sox teammates attempted to chant to him in that pile at home plate. The song, which translates to “Jump Around” in English, might just be the perfect theme for the 2003 Sox, according to Buckley. Joseph P. Kahn looks at the origins of the Sox rally cry of “Cowboy Up”. Christopher Young already has his ticket to the seventh game of the World Series at Fenway. Chamberlain also looks at tonight’s starter, John Burkett. Horrigan’s notebook has a couple Sox pushing for the signing of Barry Larkin in the offseason. The Globe notebook looks at Grady’s decision to pinch run for Manny in the eighth inning. McNamara’s notebook looks at the move of Walker to the #3 spot, which continues to pay off. Doyle’s notebook looks at another attendance record at Fenway.

Michael Felger, in his Patriots Insider, talks with Bo Jackson about Rosevelt Colvin’s hip. He also has an interesting note about the Pats giving players written tests a couple days prior to games to see how well they’re picking up the game plan. Tom Curran looks at Colvin and his agent saying the player will be fully recovered and ready to go for next year. Alan Greenberg also looks at the injury and its effects for the long term. Felger has a second article on Colvin, who still isn’t sure exactly when the injury actually occurred. Michael Smith, Dan Pires and Christopher Price wrap up the Colvin stories. Nick Cafardo has a look at the situation of Maurice Clarett, who yesterday sued for the right to enter the 2004 NFL Draft. Jim Baker writes briefly about Adam Vinatieri. Michael Gee writes in his pay column today that while the Patriots might be able to overcome the injuries in the short term, over the course of the season, they’re going to catch up with them. Howard Bryant has his Boston Uncommon pay column in which he looks at Belichick’s right to not divulge injury details to the press, the Sox closer situation and the WNBA. Mike Giardi wonders if the boys in Foxboro can overcome this horrific September string of injuries. Jonathan Comey looks at the NFL 10 years ago and a few other league items.

Steve Conroy looks at Dan McGillis, who looks to be a force for the Bruins this year. Nancy Marrapese-Burrell also looks at McGillis. Conroy’s notebook looks at Martin Lapointe, who will miss a month after undergoing knee surgery. Marrapese-Burrell’s notebook also looks at the surgery for Lapointe.

Jon Meterparel is the focus of John Molori’s Media Blitz this week. Meterparel reveals his ambitions in this piece, including his five year plan to become the Red Sox play-by-play announcer and possible plans for a Meterparel 5:30 AM D&C warmup show. On the Big Show, naturally Pete Sheppard was critical of Meterparel’s ambition and the fact that he was the focus of the article. Two years ago, Pete had his own Media Blitz profile, and in that one, he revealed he’d like to take over for Ted Sarandis should WEEI management move to cancel Ted Nation.

Ron Borges looks at the fall from the top by John Ruiz.

NESN has Red Sox/Orioles at 7:00. ESPN has Phillies/Marlins at 7:00 and Dodgers/Padres at 10:00. ESPN2 has Reds/Cubs at 7:00.