08.26.04 Afternoon

Mike Fine says that the Red Sox have turned the corner. Some interesting comments from Fine in this article. This paragraph was one:

This year is different. It does appear that they've righted themselves in the nick of time, and the reasons are apparent. Injuries have crippled this team from the opening day of the season. The Nomar issue has finally played itself out to a satisfactory conclusion. The perspicacity of GM Theo Epstein has restocked the roster with people who can actually play, witness shortstop Orlando Cabrera, who has twice the speed and twice the range of Garciaparra and who shook off post-trade jitters to hit safely in his last 10 games, batting well over .400 in the process.

High praise there. In the past, Fine has been hard on Manny Ramirez. Today, he writes:

Manny Ramirez has become a joy to watch, but, more importantly, he's become a clubhouse character who has had a way of bringing his teammates together. It's a great clubhouse, too, unshackled by a bit of a dark cloud that dissipated on July 31. Imagine your own workplace having to deal with one or two malcontents and cranks, and you can understand how the newfound pleasantness affects your workplace demeanor.

Manny, uniting the clubhouse. Who would’ve thunk it? Eric Wilbur handicaps the AL playoff contenders.

Eric McHugh looks at the thin options at safety for the Patriots, a possible area of concern. Glen Farley has a look at rookie tight end Benjamin Watson, who feels he might have been “destined” to play for the Patriots.

Bill Simmons has the controls of NBA TV this weekend, and has put together 59 hours of NBA games from the past 25 years. Included is a Larry Legend Marathon all day Sunday and into Monday.

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5-1 Road Trip

I guess this qualifies as a successful road trip, eh? Kevin Paul Dupont looks at a late summer display of the Northern Lights in Toronto as the Red Sox rocked the Blue Jays 11-5. Jeff Horrigan looks at the Red Sox continuing to beat the teams they’re supposed to beat. Steven Krasner looks at the incredible road trip performance of Manny Ramirez as reason for the Sox success. The numbers he put up in the six games are mind boggling. David Heuschkel looks at Curt Schilling and the Red Sox continuing their hot streak. David Borges looks at the impact of Ramirez and David Ortiz crushing Blue Jay pitching. Gordon Edes has a look at Johnny Damon, who continues to struggle with the effects of the concussion suffered in the playoffs last year, though you wouldn’t know it by his play on the field.

Michael Silverman might have the controversy that sports radio is thirsting for with his article on David Ortiz being unhappy hitting in the cleanup position. What else is there to complain about for the Sox these days? Horrigan has a brief sidebar on Doug Mientkiewicz straining his shoulder. Edes also takes a look at Curt Schilling as he gears up for the stretch run of September. Silverman suggests that Bronson Arroyo might be the Red Sox third best starter at this point. Horrigan’s notebook says that Gabe Kapler does not intend to drop his appeal of his suspension at this time. The rest of the notebooks focus on the injury to Mientkiewicz. Dupont’s notebook also has word of the Sox signing a very highly touted prospect. Krasner’s notebook has a few injury updates. Heuschkel’s notebook also looks at Mike Timlin, who recently reached a clause that kicks in his option for next year. Borges’ notebook has the amusing note that Pedro volunteered to serve as backup catcher with the injury to Mientkiewicz.

Veteran reporters Nick Cafardo and Kevin Mannix look at Dan Klecko’s transition from Nose Tackle to Middle Linebacker, this is a big move, and while progress has been slow, it has been steady. Alan Greenberg also looks at Klecko and the linebackers in general. Mike Reiss and Michael Parente both examine the situation at safety, where the injury to rookie Guss Scott has left the team rather thin at that position. Reiss compiles a list of possible additions and solutions to the problem, while Parente looks at the other rookie safety, Dexter Reid. Tom Curran looks at Adrian Klemm, who somehow manages to keep sticking around.

Christopher Price looks at the Carolina Panthers, taking the preseason game on Saturday very seriously. Glen Farley also looks at the Panthers getting fired up. Mark Farinella says the Patriots are questioning themselves after the loss in Cincinnati and says the coach may be to blame:

Belichick has already added himself to the list to those culpable for the loss, but you have to wonder how he could have been so wrong about the preparation level of his team. One possible answer may be arrogance -- the likelihood that five years into his "program,'' and with two Super Bowl championships to his credit, he is starting to believe the sycophantic national media when it calls him the man with all the answers.

It doesn’t take much to turn on the guy, does it? One preseason loss and he’s an arrogant Dr Evil clone bent on world domination. Eric McHugh looks at the release of fullback Fred McCrary. Cafardo’s notebook looks at Tom Brady and talks to him about Troy Brown working out and defensive back. Brady comments that he’d like to see Brown be at receiver full-time and Cafardo adds this comment:

Brady's sentiments seem in lockstep with those of a few other Patriots, who have rolled their eyes and bit their lips when asked about Brown's switch in position.

Gotta love Nick, getting the little jabs in whenever he can. Nick is a mystery to me. By all accounts a very nice man, I enjoy reading his Red Sox coverage. His Patriots coverage however always seems slanted and so very different from his coverage of the Red Sox. He’s always got to get the little jabs in at Belichick. Of course, maybe the players were rolling their eyes at the question. Mannix’s notebook looks at the Panthers getting fired up for Saturday. Curran’s notebook has more on Klecko. Reiss’ notebook looks at hard feelings between Tyrone Poole and Steve Smith. Parente’s notebook looks at concern over fumbles in the first two preseason games. McHugh’s notebook says that this year’s rookie class is far behind where last year’s was at this time.

Kevin Paul Dupont says there has been no movement in the NHL Labor talks.

Shira Springer has a brief note about the Celtics coming to terms with second round pick Justin Reed. It’s a bit of a curious signing, as Reed didn’t really impress with his play in the summer leagues, but when you consider he shares the same agent as Mark Blount, you gotta wonder if there were some favors being exchanged there between the Celtics and the agent…

NESN will have Red Sox/Tigers at 7:00. ESPN will have Steelers/Eagles preseason football at 8:00.

Relief

The bullpen did the job for the Sox last night, enabling them to hold on and beat the Blue Jays 5-4 at SkyDome. Jeff Horrigan looks at the efforts of the relievers and catcher Doug Mirabelli in the victory. Steven Krasner says that even though Tim Wakefield got the “W” and Keith Foulke the “S”, it was Mike Timlin that made both possible. David Heuschkel also looks at efforts of Timlin, Mirabelli and Ramiro Mendoza. David Borges and Kevin Paul Dupont round out the game stories. Gordon Edes looks at the Sox picking up another one-run victory, something that has been a rare occurrence this season, and it was helped in part by Ramiro Mendoza bridging the gap between Timlin and Foulke. Michael Silverman also has a look at the job done by Timlin.

Howard Bryant (subscription only) asserts this morning that the Red Sox should begin negotiations with Pedro Martinez now, even during a playoff chase. He says that if Pedro hits the open market, he’s going to get an offer from someone else (Yankees, Mets, Orioles, Angels) that he can’t refuse. But Bryant also warns against spending foolishly as the Yankees have done with Jason Giambi. He ends the section by saying the Sox can’t afford to let Pedro hit the market. Later in the column he wants to set something straight for all who can’t figure out “games over .500”:

It is inconvenient, yes, but could we once and for all cease with calling teams x-amount of games over .500? A team that is 24-16 is not eight games over .500, but actually has eight more wins than losses. After 40 games, the .500 mark would be 20-20, which means to be eight games over, a club would have to be 28-12. End of sermon.

I hope the on-air media brethren take notice of that. Christopher Young remembers the good ol’ days when the Yankees were laughingstocks. Michael Silverman has a look at Curtis Leskanic, ready to take a larger load down the stretch. Horrigan’s notebook looks at Pedro passing a Sandy Koufax mark on Monday night. Edes’ notebook has Doug Mientkiewicz recalling his Olympic experience. Krasner’s notebook has more on Leskanic. Heuschkel’s notebook has some good news on the knee of Ellis Burks. Borges’ notebook has more on Mike Timlin’s outing.

Michael Parente says that just because Saturday night was a preseason game doesn’t mean that the things that happened on the field were meaningless. Dan Shaughnessy lists out how the beating in Cincinnati was a good thing for Bill Belichick and the Patriots. He also says:

These world champion Patriots have taught us a new way of thinking about a local pro sports team. The competence and success of the Patriots has produced a fan base that expects good things to happen -- no small accomplishment in a region famous for another team with a nation of fans who've been trained to see a dark cloud on every horizon.

Ironic words from a guy who, as reader Kevin says, wrote the training manual on viewing the dark cloud. Michael Felger has the Patriots putting on pads and hitting each other in an effort to improve the run defense. Chris Kennedy also looks at the Patriots addressing their defensive issues. Shalise Manza Young has more on the Patriots getting back to business this week.

Adam Kilgore has an encouraging look at Rosevelt Colvin, who is back on the field and continuing to progress from his devastating injury of last year. Alan Greenberg looks at the release of fullback Fred McCrary, with comments from his former teammate on the Chargers, Rodney Harrison. Yesterday, Glen Farley said that the results thus far in the preseason have not all been encouraging for the Patriots. Sam Farmer of the LA Times had a look at Tom Brady. Felger’s notebook looks at the injury to rookie safety Guss Scott, which will cost him the season. Kilgore’s notebook also looks at the injury to Scott. Young’s notebook looks at the release of McCrary, who could be back at some point if he doesn’t hook on elsewhere. Kennedy’s notebook has more on McCrary.

Jonathan Comey looks at the new video game debate…Madden vs ESPN.

NESN has Red Sox/Blue Jays at 7:00. ESPN2 has Yankees/Indians at 7:00 and Orioles/A’s at 10:00. CN8’s Sports Pulse will have Shira Springer on at 10:00. Dan Shaughnessy and Nick Cafardo, along with John Valentin, will be on NESN’s SportsPlus and will discuss this week’s Jimmy Fund Radiothon at 11:00.

The Streak Ends

Sometimes you just have to tip your cap to the opposition and move on. Last might the Red Sox were shut out on a terrific performance by Ted Lilly. The game stories are served up by Kevin Paul DupontJeff HorriganSteven KrasnerDavid Heuschkel and David Borges. Lilly’s performance last night showed the promise that so many have seen in the lefthander, but which has not always be realized on the mound. Gordon Edes takes a look at the pitcher and inconsistency that has plagued his career thus far. Michael Silverman looks at Lilly outdueling Pedro last night. Gerry Callahan (subscription only) says that the trade of Nomar has made the Red Sox a better team, and as Johnny Damon says…in every way. Callahan goes on to say:

It seems silly to give Epstein so much credit for a move that makes so much sense, but this deal would not have been made three years ago, five years ago, 10 years ago. Probably not 20 or 30 or 50 years ago, either. It was almost an institutional thing. The stodgy old men in the Sox' front office didn't even consider trading their superstars - even if the situation begged for it - because they once sent a certain pug-nosed slugger to the Bronx and things have been a little uneven around here since. So they refused to pull the trigger and watched as Clemens walked, Mo Vaughn walked, Wade Boggs walked. The Sox had little or nothing to show in return, but at least the little men in the big offices didn't get burned in effigy.

Stan Grossfeld has a feature on a day in the life of Manny Ramirez. An entertaining read, and a glimpse of Manny that many have not seen before. Jon Couture looks at the hopes raised by the Red Sox six game winning streak. Jeff Sullivan has a number of baseball related thoughts, most prominent of which is his assertion that this isn’t the year for the Red Sox. Garry Brown says the Sox can never win when they have a great 1-2 punch at the plate. Gordon Edes looks at Dave Roberts, waiting for his chance to contribute. Michael Silverman looks at Doug Mirabelli, your starting catcher the new few nights while Jason Varitek serves his suspension. The notebooks are all about Varitek dropping his appeal. Dupont’s notebook doesn’t have much else, Horrigan’s notebook has the Sox providing encouragement to the Rhode Island Little League squad, Krasner’s notebook has a couple injury updates. Heuschkel’s notebook has some Pedro notes. Borges’ notebook looks at the Sox options at the backup catcher spot with Mirabelli starting.

Michael Felger says that what the Patriots went through Saturday night should just serve as a taste of things to come for the Patriots, who are going to play every game this season with a target on their backs. Alan Greenberg has a look at wide receiver/kick returner hopeful Michael Jennings, who has impressed some in camp, and hopes to at least turn it into a practice squad gig. Adam Kilgore has a look at Ted Johnson, still contributing and hoping to be in New England for some time to come. Tom Curran had a Patriots chat on ProJo.com last night. Felger’s notebook looks at the progress of Benjamin Watson.

From yesterday, Eric McHugh says the nose tackles have been a huge disappointment thus far. Chris Kennedy said the Patriots looked like chumps in Cincinnati. Glen Farley said the Patriots were “thoroughly humiliated by a franchise that has been an NFL version of the Los Angeles Clippers.” Hector Longo finds a lot of things to pick at from the loss. McHugh’s notebook says Rosevelt Colvin was the only bright spot from Saturday.

John Molori’s Media Blitz looks at the sports advertising agency of Duffy & Shanley and some Olympic items. Christopher Price says that even though athletes may deny it, they do read the papers and listen and watch sports programming.

NESN has Red Sox/Blue Jays at 7:00.

Chi-Town Sweep

A final reminder….if you wish to donate to The Jimmy Fund Radiothon through BSMW, please try to get your check in the mail today. I’m just trying to have them all in hand for Friday so I can make the pledge at that time. For the address and more details click on the Radiothon logo to the left.

The Red Sox finished off a sweep of the White Sox in Chicago in a nationally televised ESPN game. After the White Sox had rallied to take a 5-4 lead, Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz had back-to-back home runs to put the Red Sox back on top and the bullpen held the lead. David Heuschkel feels this could be the signature win of the season for the Red Sox. Bob Hohler looks at Manny and Ortiz picking up Derek Lowe. Jeff Horrigan looks at the lethal 1-2 punch that left Chicago KO’d and the Red Sox right in the thick of the division race. Steven Krasner focuses on Ortiz breaking out of his slump, and David Borges says Red Sox fans have visions of the Yankees. Michael Silverman looks at how much the standings have changed in just a week’s time. Gordon Edes looks at Mike Timlin coming through in a clutch situation for the Sox, overcoming a Manny slip in the outfield that put the tying and go-ahead runs in scoring position in the eighth inning. Alex Speier says there is no doubt, this Red Sox team is better than the one before the big trade. Silverman says we got to see both sides of Manny on display last night. Hohler’s notebook says Ortiz’s struggles have been in part to the change to the cleanup spot in the order, though he had little trouble there last night. Krasner’s notebook also looks at Ortiz. Horrigan’s notebook has more on Mike Timlin coming through in a tough spot. Heuschkel’s notebook has Jason Varitek likely dropping the appeal of his suspension, even though he is in the middle of a hot streak. Borges’ notebook says Alan Embree is ready for action again after getting a week off to rest his arm.

If you’re an on-air Boston sports media personality and at a loss for words and things to stir up and complain about regarding the Red Sox, take heart. You can spend this week ripping the Patriots. Then, if they should lose to a charged-up Panthers team in another meaningless preseason game next Saturday, you can keep the panic going another week and bring it to new heights. Nick Cafardo, voice of reason, says that no team deserves a mulligan more than the Patriots. Kevin Mannix though, disagrees.

If anything, the reality of seeing the defending Super Bowl champions being completely outclassed, outhustled, outperformed and outcoached by Cincinnati is even more disconcerting a day later. Particularly given what's on the horizon.

I’m not sure how it is possible to be outcoached in a preseason game, seeing as how no game plans are usually put in, but hey, Kevin is on a roll here. Let him have his moment. Tom Curran says that this debacle will hopefully serve as a wakeup call for the Patriots. Alan Greenberg says the loss signals a rough week of practice ahead for the lads of Bill Belichick. Michael Parente says the Patriots may not lose often, but when they do, they make it ugly. Joe Burris says that the problem with the Patriots Saturday night was simple fundamentals. Michael Felger says that the Patriots miss Ted Washington. Mike Reiss agrees that there are some serious holes in the Patriots run defense at this point. Felger’s notebook takes a look at Rosevelt Colvin’s performance on Saturday night as the linebacker took part in 33 snaps, had some struggles against the run (as did all the Patriots) but had some good moments in getting to the quarterback.

Bob Halloran says that no one dares question “super genius” Bill Belichick but we’ll rip a similar move by Terry Francona. Del Jones continues his AFC East preview and wonders if this is year Drew Bledsoe finally puts it all together. Funny moment from the Buffalo game this weekend as reported by the Buffalo News:

Referee Johnny Grier apparently was late in hearing Drew Bledsoe had been traded to the Bills two seasons ago. Bledsoe called a timeout on the Bills' second series, and Greer announced, "Timeout, New England," before realizing his mistake.

David Scott looks at the Sunday night shows, says the Pats people aren’t panicking and the Globe won’t have its Smith replacement until after the Olympic flame burns out.

NESN has Red Sox/Blue Jays at 7:00. ESPN will have Rangers/Twins at 8:00. ABC will have Rams/Chiefs at 8:00.