Terry Francona is in, and Manny for ARod is heating up. Oh yeah, the Patriots could clinch the division on Sunday with three weeks to go, but that’s almost an afterthought among the stories in the newspapers. We’ll start with the Sox. Gordon Edes looks at the hiring of Francona, and why the Sox brought in a manager who never had a winning record with the Phillies to replace a guy who won 188 games in two seasons. Tony Massarotti says he hopes the Sox give Francona time and room to grow into the job. Art Martone says that the Red Sox/Francona match was love at first sight. David Heuschkel says the situation and time is right for Francona. Lenny Megliola is already thinking that Francona is too nice to be the manager here in Boston. Kevin Gray says that Francona has got to maintain clubhouse chemistry — something Grady Little learned this year.

Dan Shaughnessy provides a few helpful tips for Francona in adjusting to his new job. I have to admit, I enjoyed the advice to “Read Bob Rodgers’s guide to managing high school baseball.” Jeff Horrigan says that the Sox are confident that Francona is tough enough to handle the job, the players and the media. Sean McAdam looks at the challenges facing the new Red Sox manager. Bob Hohler also looks at the question about Francona being too nice. Michael O’Connor looks at how Francona’s dad taught him to respect the game, and how that will be theme for the new manager. Jim Donaldson also beats on the respect drum. Jon Couture weighs on on the beginning of the Francona era. Karen Guregian looks at the differences between Grady and Terry. She also says his wife is up the challenge that being married to the manager of the Red Sox entails.

Bob Hohler looks at the Manny for Arod possibility and other pressing winter business the Sox have go in front of them. The Herald notebook says that cash may be a sang in the trade talks. The Rangers want the Sox to take ARod and still pay some of Manny’s salary. The Projo notebook looks at the deal and also the status of Keith Foulke, among other things. David Heuschkel also looks at the possibility of the trade, and other moves on the burner for the Sox.

With the cold weather upon us, it seems the emphasis on the ability to run the ball has increased as well. Tom Curran says the Patriots are not going to try to force themselves to run the ball, they will do whatever they feel gives them the best chance to win. Michael Felger looks at the importance of the running game. Michael Parente notes that the Patriots can stop the run, but can they run it themselves? Yesterday’s edition of Ask Nick noted the success Ricky Williams has had in the cold:

but if the conditions are what they say they are, having Ricky Williams has to be a tremendous advantage. We saw the damage Williams did to Buffalo last season in blizzard-like conditions at Orchard Park. We saw what Williams did to the Patriots last year when he ran for 185 yards in the season-finale which Dave Wannstedt and Norv Turner botched for the Dolphins by not giving Williams the ball. Therefore, in those conditions, I would guess it would favor the Dolphins.

Of course, that “tremendous advantage” led to the Dolphins losing both of those above mentioned games last year. Blame the coaching if you will, but Nick and his brethren are continually telling us that the players win or lose games, not the coaches. The Dolphins have essentially the same cast as last year. Joe Burris says the Patriots are only looking at beating the Dolphins Sunday, all other consequences of the game will be dealt with when they occur. Eric McHugh looks at a hot matchup in frozen Foxboro. Ian M. Clark looks at the importance of kickoff returns for the Patriots. Hector Longo looks at the effect the cold might have on the Dolphins. For those who want to blame Charlie Weis for the offensive play calling (no pun intended), Felger’s notebook tells us that Belichick is the one who ultimately approves the calls. Curran’s notebook looks at the Dolphins in the snow, Burris’ notebook has a look at the Dolphins’ success on third down. Parente’s notebook has more on Harrison/McMichael.

Bruins lose 6-0 to Toronto. At home. Stephen Harris, Nancy Marrapesse-Burrell, Douglas Flynn and Joe McDonald have the gruesome details. Joe Gordon looks at Pat Quinn delivering another knockout punch to Boston. Jim McCabe looks at a laugher for the Leafs. Marrapese-Burrell’s notebook looks at the contributions of Travis Green, last night notwithstanding. Harris’ notebook looks at Felix Potvin, who was in the Toronto goal the last time they shut out the Bruins in Boston. McDonald’s notebook looks at the injury rehab of Jonathan Girard.

Should Danny Ainge make a trade? Should Celtics fans have more patience with Ainge and this team? The Celtics links are at Fox Sports Net New England.

Bill Griffith looks ahead to a busy weekend on the TV/Radio sports scene.

FSNE has Celtics/Suns at 7:00. ESPN has Spurs/Magic at 8:00 and Timberwolves/Kings at 10:30.

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