Sunday Items

Thoughts/Observations from throughout the day Sunday:

  • Michael Kay on the ESPN Sports Reporters “reminds” us this morning stated that the reason the Patriots always get to the Super Bowl is because they get to play home playoff games in the snow at Gillette Stadium.

    Yeah…guess those two AFC championship games IN Pittsburgh don’t count, huh?

  • Later on, Kay pushed A-Rod for MVP saying that David Ortiz ducked Randy Johnson a few weekends ago with a supposed back injury.
  • Tom Jackson on ESPN stated that if the Patriots lose today, their mystique and aura will be gone.
  • Michael Irvin then chimed in that if the Patriots lost today, losing could creep into their heads and be tough to shake. The season could be over.
  • John Tomase in the Eagle Tribune: “When all is said and done, Ramirez may well have authored the weakest 40-homer, 130-RBI season in big league history.”

    Based on…? A ludicrous statement. He goes on to talk again about how Manny is a devisive figure in the Red Sox clubhouse. Perhaps so, But is Manny more devisive than say, Curt Schilling? He’s had unnamed teammates sniping about him, just as Manny supposedly has. We know what Tomase’s horse in the race at this point is.

  • Tom Curran, laying the lumber on Ron Borges in his blog entry today.
  • Around 3:20, I was listening to the Yankee broadcast on WTSN-Dover (NH) in time to hear Mariano Rivera strike out Corey Koskie with two on and two out in the eighth with the score 4-3 Yankees. I switched over to the Red Sox radio broadcast and heard the dismay in Joe Castiglione’s voice as he reported the news and mused “How could he swing at that pitch?”
  • Yes, the implications are huge, but how many times did we need to see the Rodney Harrison injury re-played both during the game, but especially on the Fifth Quarter?
  • Always fun to hear the announcers sway back and forth from showering each team with praise as the momentum of the game swings in each direction.
  • Nice smackdown by Bill Belichick of Steve Burton during his press conference. Burton asked about the pass interference call. Belichick replies “Steve, you know where I’m standing. I mean, could I be any further away from the play?” Even better was Bob Lobel attempting to save Burton face by saying Belichick “rudely dismissed” Burton’s “legitimate question”.
  • Good start for Ted Johnson, but you could tell he felt a bit awkward…and who could blame him? He battled with these guys for years, and now has to be on the other side of the mic from them.
  • I lost count of how many times I heard the phrase “gut check win” on WBCN after 2,947.
  • …and yet, Gary Tanguay was STILL muckraking for controversy after the game…
  • Charlie Weis = Class Act
  • Michael Felger has nailed what would happen in each of the last two Patriots games. Bill Burt’s prediction in this morning’s paper: “New England 23, PITTSBURGH 20 Best game of the year”

Treading Water

The Red Sox managed to keep pace with the Yankees last night, coming back to beat the Orioles 6-3. Check out a collection of links from various papers and sites at the Red Sox Daily Links Page.

You can keep up with the Yankees, and coverage of Pedro Martinez “shutting it down” for the season on the New York Sports News page.

The Patriots continue their preparations for tomorrow afternoon’s AFC Championship game rematch with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Links can be found in the Patriots Daily Links page. The BSMW GameDay page also checks in with a preview from Scott A Benson. In other papers, Eric McHugh writes that the Patriots have shown a history of bouncing back after tough performances. Jeff Goldberg looks at Pittsburgh QB Ben Roethlisberger and his rise to fame. McHugh also notes that preventing the Steelers from getting off to a fast start is another key to the game. Ron Hobson makes his NFL picks. Check out the out of town coverage with the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Bob Ryan chronicles what it is like to visit Clemson for a football game, as BC preps to take on the Tigers. Steve Conroy and John R Johnson also look ahead to the game.

Joe McDonald has a piece on Andrew Raycroft, who looked pretty good in his preseason debut against the Islanders last night. Nancy Marrapese-Burrell looks at his backup, Hannu Toivonen. Stephen Harris looks at the game ending in the first shootout of the preseason for the Bruins, with the hometown team coming up on the short end of the score. McDonald’s notebook looks at Brian Leetch making his hometown debut in front of his new fans. Burrell’s notebook and Harris’ notebook each have more on Leetch as well.

Mark Murphy reports on Chris Wallace, who just returned from a trip to Africa, where he did some clinics and scouting.

UPN38 has BC/Clemson at Noon. NESN has Red Sox/Orioles at 4:30. ABC has Notre Dame/Washington at 3:30. ESPN2 has Michigan/Wisconsin at 6:00. The Tennessee/LSU game which ESPN was to show at 7:45 has been moved to Monday.

Frenetic Friday

Sean McAdam notes that even though the lead is gone, the Red Sox will be in a fight for the playoffs all the way to the end this season. Kevin Gray looks at the schedules of the three teams fighting for two playoffs spots, noting the difference in the difficulty of competition that each team faces. A Tale of the Tape page in the Herald also looks at the schedules. Dan Shaughnessy addresses his “Red Sox are going to run away with the Division” column from June. Garry Brown and Jeff Horrigan look at the Red Sox heading down the stretch with everything at stake.

Gerry Callahan (Subscription only) writes what he’s been saying on the radio the last few days – PLAY THE KIDS. He writes:

Unfortunately, the manager seems to be thinking like so many Sox managers of the past, like Grady Little and Jimy Williams not so long ago. He's worried about what might go wrong rather than what could go right.

Gordon Edes looks at how the season is shaping up to all come down to the final weekend at Fenway Park. David Heuschkel looks at Keith Foulke being shut down for the season and how the Red Sox have bigger things to worry about at this stage. Horrigan however, reports that the team didn’t shut Foulke down, he made the call himself, and the team doesn’t necessarily agree, still expecting him to be in Baltimore tonight. Edes and Chris Snow talk to Foulke’s agent who says his client isn’t healthy enough to continue the season. McAdam also has a report on Foulke returning to Boston. This situation seems a bit ugly under the surface. Jon Couture says that Sox should already be looking ahead to next year. Peter J Howe reports on discount airline Song naming a plane after Big Papi David Ortiz. Snow’s notebook looks at Terry Francona backing Ortiz for MVP, and also has the Devil Rays grousing over how Jason Varitek blocks the plate. Horrigan’s notebook reports that the Pittsburgh Pirates might be interested in Dale Sveum as a candidate to be their new manager.

Karen Guregian looks at the Patriots secondary, once again riddled with injuries, an area that has coach Bill Belichick concerned. Chris Kennedy also looks at the injuries in the secondary, which are once again a problem for the Patriots. Ian M Clark looks at the issues with Special Teams for the Patriots, who find themselves giving up big plays in that area. Glen Farley has more on the Special Teams. Jerome Solomon notes that the Patriots are doing their best to put last week out on their minds and put all their focus on the Steelers. Guregian has a sidebar on Rodney Harrison welcoming the noise of the Pittsburgh crowd. Kennedy also looks at Chad Brown returning the Pittsburgh, where his career began. Tom King says things don’t change often in Pittsburgh under Bill Cowher.

Eric McHugh says that Sunday could be a battle of top kickers in the NFL.Christopher Price looks at preparation for the Steelers…a team that doesn’t change all that much. Bill Burt says that we can expect Tom Brady to be at his best this Sunday. Tom Curran’s notebook looks at rookie Nick Kaczur, who has been seeing significant time at a couple positions on the offensive line. Michael Parente’s notebook looks at the injuries to the secondary, as well as a number of other items. Solomon’s notebook has Bill Belichick ignoring the past when it comes to Pittsburgh.

Tom E Curran examines which Ben Roethlisberger we’ll see, the nearly perfect QB from the first two games of the season, or the one that the Patriots rattled in the AFC Title game. Michael Parente looks at how Big Ben is out for revenge against the Pats. Ron Hobson has more on the Steelers QB. Jeff Goldberg looks at Steelers running back Willie Parker, who is leading the NFL in rushing after two games. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review each look at the Patriots/Steelers matchup this Sunday.

It’s a little interesting to me that the Herald has more articles on betting and picking the NFL (3) then it does on the Patriots themselves (1.5) Jim Lazar makes his bets around the NFL. Double D also makes his picks, and I.M. Bettor also looks at the numbers for this weekend. Jim McCabe makes his picks in the Globe. Patrick Hanrahan looks at the Fantasy Football scene this week in the Herald.

Steve Conroy has a look at Bruins rookie defenseman Andrew Alberts from B.C., who has made his presence felt during the preseason. Nancy Marrapese-Burrell notes that the Bruins have had trouble with penalties in their first two games this preseason. James Murphy looks at GM Mike O’Connell helping out with the younger players in camp. Win Bates has an article on young Bruins phenom Patrice Bergeron.

John Powers looks at the conditions at Clemson, where the Boston College football team will find itself tomorrow night. Steve Conroy says that the Eagles have not ruled out Quinton Porter for tomorrow. Mark Murphy looks at BC wide receiver Tony Gonzalez, who turned down the Red Sox, when they drafted him out of high school as a centerfielder. Mark Blaudschun reports on a couple voters in the Harris Poll, who go against the grain. Double D makes his college picks for the weekend. Michael Vega’s notebook looks at the progress of Porter.

Bill Griffith and Jim Baker report on CBS4 bringing former Patriots linebacker Ted Johnson on board for their Patriots pre and post game programming. John Howell reviews “Viva Baseball” a documentary on the history of Latino players in baseball. Scott’s Shots takes a look at the WEEI/Globe feud, as well as a sneak peek at an upcoming interview with Bill Simmons.

Glenn Ordway and WEEI did not take home awards for the categories they were entered in for last night’s Marconi Awards.

A few items that have been whispered to BSMW in the last few days:

  • Prior to Glenn Ordway’s diatribe on the Globe the other day, Jason Wolfe and WEEI management had gone to the Globe in an effort to work something out so that certain Globe writers could again appear on the station. They were rebuffed, and next thing you know, Ordway is going off on the Globe on the air.
  • Carolyn Hughes, who was caught in the infamous scandal with Derek Lowe out in Los Angeles, was a one-time intern at Channel 7 here in Boston back in the day. All evidence however, says that the two did not ever meet until Lowe went out and signed with the Dodgers this past offseason. In fact, I believe she was here and gone before Lowe came to the Red Sox.
  • The hue and outcry over the lack of Patriots coverage in the Globe prompted a little self-examination by the newspaper. They went back and examined inch for inch all the Patriots coverage since the Patriots rookies reported in July and according to their findings, came out with seven more pages of coverage than the Herald.

    If true, that still sets off my skeptic alert. Which stories counted as “Patriots” coverage? Did the stories about the Saints, Cowboys and Raiders count as “Patriots” coverage? What were the parameters of this measuring? It’s simply interesting enough for me that they went in and examined this issue themselves.

  • A few people have wanted to know what Richard Seymour was referring to when he got on with Dale & Holley on Patriots Monday this week. The Patriots lineman mentioned that he was disappointed to hear them making jokes about the evacuees from the south coast being sent to Cape Cod. They quickly moved on, but the original comments were not addressed. What happened was this, towards the end o the Dennis and Callahan show, Jon Meterparel brought up the topic of Laveranues Coles, who had talked over the weekend about this step father sexually abusing him and being sent to prison. Meterparel mentioned that while in prison, the step father was convicted of another crime and thus is still in prison for some time. Gerry Callahan’s answer to this was:

Welcome to Second Place

The Red Sox stay in first place is over. Leading the Devil Rays 4-2 in the bottom of the eight, with Tim Wakefield having allowed only two runs to that point, Wake put a couple guys on base in that inning, and Terry Francona summoned Mike Timlin from the bullpen. Before the smoke cleared, Tampa had put five runs on the board to go ahead 7-4. Jeff Horrigan says that the team may not enjoy the day off today as much as they had planned and looked forward to it. Sean McAdam recaps a devastating loss for the local nine, noting that once again Timlin allowed the inherited runners to score, a trait that has been there all season. Chris Snow examines the late collapse and how the Red Sox find themselves looking up at the Yankees in the standings today. David Heuschkel chronicles “arguably the worst loss of the season by the Red Sox.” David Borges notes that there were no ‘Cowboy up” like proclamations after this one, even from Kevin Millar, however, there was no panic, either.

Tony Massarotti says that if the Red Sox fail in the end, it is because they lack the pitching, even if they have the heart. Gordon Edes looks at Mike Timlin, who is undoubtedly tired right now, but the Red Sox keep turning to him because they really don’t have any other options at this point. I’ll admit, there’s a small, talk-show-caller part of me that’s screaming “Play the Kids!” (specifically Hansen or Papelbon) in that situation last night. I said a small part. The rest of me realizes it probably wouldn’t be a good idea. Bill Reynolds looks at how the Red Sox and Yankees have both been relying on newcomers and no-names down the stretch drive this season. Horrigan looks at Johnny Damon sitting out last night after receiving another cortisone shot in his shoulder. Edes also writes that the Red Sox are very lucky to have Alex Cora as an infield reserve. Massarotti looks at Lou Piniella, who is finished in Tampa after the season. The Tampa manager also believes a DH such as Ortiz can win MVP. Massarotti also has David Wells lending support for Ortiz’s case.

Snow’s notebook reports on Damon’s shoulder and taking the shot yesterday so he would have two days off to rest it. McAdam’s notebook says that last night was the right night to give Damon some time off. Horrigan’s notebook has Francona supporting Ortiz for MVP. Borges’ notebook has David Wells saying that Ortiz for MVP is a “no brainer”. Heuschkel’s notebook has Francona going with the numbers in deciding to bring in Mike Timlin last night. The numbers for inherited runners don’t count?

It’s all Corey Dillon this morning in the papers. Jackie MacMullan has Dillon talking about his slow start to the season. Karen Guregian talked to Dillon privately after everyone else, and he addressed the rumors by some that he is slowing down and nearing the end. Tom E Curran has Dillon preaching patience when it comes to the running game. Michael Parente says that Dillon is not at all concerned about his slow start. Christopher Price says Dillon is offering no excuses for his lack of productivity thus far this season. Jeff Goldberg says that the days of frustration are over for Dillon, who is just focusing on finding his stride again. Chris Kennedy writes that there is no panic from Dillon over the start of the season.

Articles on the Patriots other then Dillon? Jerome Solomon addresses the “no offensive coordinator” question and whether that had anything to do with Tom Brady’s struggles last night in Carolina. Albert Breer looks at the Patriots struggles on special team, which has them kicking themselves.

Eric McHugh looks ahead to the rubber match of the Patriots and Steelers in Pittsburgh this Sunday. Guregian reports on Ben Roethlisberger, who despite not carrying the team, still gets the headlines. She also has a very brief sidebar on Chad Brown returning to Pittsburgh. Glen Farley says that the Steelers have been hitting on all cylinders thus far this season. Get your view from the opposition in the sports pages of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

Parente’s notebook says there has been nothing special about special teams so far this season. Guregian’s notebook has Bill Belichick turning up the noise at practice. Curran’s notebook looks at the Steelers running game, led thus far by Willie Parker. Solomon’s notebook looks at the mutual admiration society going on between the Patriots and Steelers coaching staffs.

Dan Hickling looks at Patrice Bergeron outshining Sidney Crosby in the Bruins 5-4 win over the Penguins last night. Nancy Marrapese-Burrell looks at some Bruins training camp injuries which might be due to the long lockout layoff. Stephen Harris has Harry Sinden talking about what he feels slows the game down the most…incessant penalties. Burrell’s notebook and the Herald notebook recap the win in Pittsburgh last night.

Michael Vega looks at the BC Eagles confidence in their backup QB, Matt Ryan, should Quinton Porter be unable to go this weekend. Steve Conroy has more on Ryan, who if he gets the call, hopes his second career start is better than his first. Conroy has a sidebar on the Eagles making their first trip to “Death Valley” since 1982. Vega’s notebook says that Porter needs to get through a practice before he can be cleared to play. Conroy’s notebook says that there is no drop off in the ACC from week to week. Clemson is right up there with Florida State in terms of an opponent.

Someone from the Globe emailed me yesterday after I posted the WEEI stuff and told me that if I find myself agreeing with WEEI on something, perhaps it’s time I take stock of what’s happening in my life. That might be some good advice I’ll have to think about…

Jeff Sullivan recounts his early days in the Boston Globe sports department, describing his interaction with Will McDonough, Dan Shaughnessy and Bob Ryan.

The Red Sox are off today. ESPN has Utah/Air Force college football at 7:30.

Book Review – Juicing The Game

I’ll admit, I hadn’t followed this whole steroids scandal in baseball as much as others had. I might’ve been turned away from the topic because of the endless hours we were subjected to it locally on the Dennis and Callahan program on WEEI last winter.

When I heard the Howard Bryant was preparing a book on the topic of steroids, my interest was piqued a bit, as I had enjoyed Bryant’s debut book “Shut Out” very much. The book, entitled “Juicing the Game – Drugs, Powers, and the fight for the soul of Major League Baseball” has been out since July, but hasn’t caused the buzz that I had expected from it, at least locally.

I received the book and found it to be as informative as I expected. What’s interesting is that the title is something of a misnomer, as the book isn’t entirely about steroids. It tells the story of baseball in the post-1994 strike era and how the game regained its fan base from that disastrous strike which resulted in the World Series being canceled that year.

You see the rise to power of Bud Selig, as well as his reign and his legacy to the game, as well as his glaring lack of leadership during some critical times. Steroids are the main theme, and the book traces their use from the “Bash Brothers” A’s of the late 1980?s and through the 1990?s as home run totals rose, and players like Brady Anderson broke the 50 home run barrier. The game became more popular, reaching a crescendo with the magical season of 1998 and the home run race of Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa.

Around these events, questions as to the reasons for these numbers were few. A USA Today article in 1997 outlined Ken Caminiti’s “routine”, which included popping handfuls of different pills and supplements throughout the day. No one really thought twice about it. During the ’98 season, McGwire use of Androstenedione came out, and the AP writer who first reported the news was treated as a pariah, both by figures in the game, but also by his fellow media members. The game was enjoying its highest popularity in decades and all was well.

While steroids and supplements might’ve been a large factor in the rise of home runs, there were other reasons. Umpires and the way they called games, their strike zones changing over time, and also being inconsistent. Another is the introduction of QuesTec into the game, which is a fascinating story in itself. Ballparks, starting in the early 90’s became smaller and smaller. Even the baseball itself was different. The entire game was juiced?not just the players. All of these things are chronicled in the pages of the book.

A group dubbed “The Crusaders” plays a major role in bringing the dangers of steroid use into the public eye and getting the attention of congress. Their work on laboratory rats, though controversial, is amazing. (They even found cases of “roid rage” in some of them.) If there was a point though where the book did seem to drag a little for me, it was during this part of the book, when the drugs and steroids were being talked about in depth. The information was substantial, in depth and useful for background information, but slowed the book down a little at that point for me.

The roots of the investigation of BALCO and the Barry Bonds/Jason Giambi/Gary Sheffield connections are traced. A 21 year old rookie reporter for the Mateo Daily Journal breaks the story of the IRS raiding the BALCO labs in September, 2003. A can of worms is opened, which leads to a Grand Jury investigation and then to the congressional interest and hearings on the issue of steroids in baseball. All this happens under the watch of Bud Selig, who has tried to introduce steroid testing into the game since 1994, but comes off looking very weak and indecisive.

The book does a very nice job of pulling all these events together, and Bryant’s notes and bibliography in the back show the impressive amount of research done by him in putting this book together. Quotes from people all over Major League Baseball lend support to the conclusions drawn.

As far as local figures, Theo Epstein, Larry Lucchino, Terry Francona, David Ortiz, and Curt Schilling are among those from the Red Sox who are mentioned and talked to in the book. Gabe Kapler is mentioned on page 287: “Players ridiculed suspects, such a Gabe Kapler, a journeyman outfielder known for his chiseled physique and interest in bodybuilding.”

At first glance it might seem a bit curious that this book has not received more attention locally, especially on the Dennis & Callahan program which still spends quite a bit of time talking steroids, especially with the recent return to action of Barry Bonds. However, D&C and Bryant have not had a friendly relationship in the last few years, with the radio duo taking a number of shots at the Herald columnist and his comments on racial issues and other subjects. This prevents the book from even being mentioned on a program which has spent so much time on the very subject covered in the book. The program and the audience miss out on a great local source of information on a topic that is of national interest.

I was able to ask Howard Bryant a few questions about the book and his work on it. Here’s the exchange we had:

Looking back on your time as a beat writer covering the A?s (1998-2000) and Yankees, do you look back and kick yourself over things you saw and heard and didn’t think twice about at the time?

No, because I knew that the job never really entailed doing investigative work. Beat writing is extremely restricting and conflicting. If anything, not having the forum to examine the things I’d been hearing motivated me more to one day find a job that would allow me to do exactly that.

Did you get any cooperation from the commissioner’s office in this book? Bud Selig is shown to be weak and indecisive at several points of the book, yet at times it seems you may have had conversations with him, such as on page 53, where you write “Selig made a deal with himself: Baseball would never lose the public again. Not on his watch.” Was this something Selig confided to you, or someone else?

You’ll have to check the source notes in the back of the book, but I spoke with Bud at length, probably a dozen times. The narrative on page 53 came from a direct conversation with him.

In reading another review I saw a comment about the title that caught my interest. It appears that “Juicing the Game” contains a bit of irony. The book is far more than just about steroids as one might assume by the title. It’s more about the entire post-1994 strike era, and the challenges and issues baseball faced during that time. It is also apparent that by outlining all of the issues, that baseball is not just a game, but a business. So it’s not all about juicing, and it’s not just a game. Irony, or me reading too much into something?

The publisher was interested in the story because it was more than a steroid book, yet wanted something in the title that was clear that the book dealt with juicing. To me, the title of the book worked because the game was juiced on so many levels. The ballparks were juiced, the players were juiced, the ball was juiced, because everything was geared toward more offense.

During the course of researching and writing this book, what came as the biggest surprise to you? Who was the most helpful?

The biggest surprise, I think, was the number of opportunities baseball had to clean up the game and did not. The amount of data it had compiled, the government testimonies, the overwhelming proof of a problem and yet its response was so lukewarm.

The most helpful people were the medical people who were willing to come forward and educate me on a difficult subject.

What efforts did you make to talk to Barry Bonds for the book? How successful were you?

I’d asked Barry Bonds on four occasions over the past two years to talk to me and since he did not, I was completely unsuccessful.

The book finished up after the congressional hearings this spring. Since that point we’ve seen Rafael Palmeiro contradict his forceful testimony by testing positive for steroids. We’ve seen Jason Giambi’s career undergo a miraculous resurgence after he was nearly sent to the minors earlier this spring. We’ve also read about your source which mentioned a possible 50 more positive tests. Is what we’ve seen and heard just the tip of this iceberg? Is baseball headed for a cataclysmic downfall?

I don’t think baseball is near any type of cataclysmic downfall, mostly because like most complicated stories, few people care to assess the damage. The rest have blinders on and have come to accept a cheapening of the product as “progress.” I think the game has been reduced, certainly in the eyes of the younger generation, which does not hold the sport in any kind of high esteem. I think the lasting effect will be a slower ebb, much like the political world after Watergate. You still follow, you still vote, but you believe less and less in the institution. Over time, I think we’ll see the end of the sport as a “national pastime,” even as it continues to soar financially. It is a nuanced argument that requires real thought at a time when people don’t want to think. They don’t want to know, which is no different than how the baseball leadership responded. They just want to be entertained, at all cost, because they know what is behind the curtain. It is an attitude in of itself rife with cynicism.

Who do you think has lost the most from the whole post-1994 strike era? Bud Selig? Mark McGwire? The fans?

The biggest loser in all of this is anyone who wanted the truth.

One Night’s Reprieve

The Red Sox bats came alive and pounded the Devil Rays 15-2 last night, giving the Red Sox one more day in first place. Sean McAdam reports that the bats were so explosive for the Red Sox last night, that Curt Schilling’s strong performance became a mere footnote. Chris Snow says that the game got so out of hand that even quiet and serious John Olerud managed to get a dry quip in. Jeff Horrigan notes that the performance of the bats was able to ease the anxiety a bit from the Yankees hard charge towards the Sox. David Heuschkel says that despite the all the noise made by the offense, the clubhouse was still a pretty quiet place following the game. Except for Kevin Millar of course. David Borges notes that it was once again David Ortiz sparking and leading the offense for the Red Sox, and he notes some of Big Papi’s accomplishments thus far.

Gordon Edes
looks at the sensational September for David Ortiz, whom continues his assault on the Red Sox record books and is right now according to Edes “the single most compelling reason anywhere to watch a baseball game in September.” He’s drawing comparisons to Barry Bonds, even if he’s not quite on the 73 homer, 100+ intentional walk pace. Tony Massarotti also looks at Ortiz, and ponders the unthinkable…where would the Red Sox be without him? Bob Ryan looks at the 12 teams still alive in the MLB playoff hunt and assesses the chances of each team to win it all. Massarotti reports on Curt Schilling getting into a nice rhythm last night on the mound. Howard Bryant (subscription only) looks at how Curt Schilling gets a pass from all for his injury riddled season this year. The reason?

Here's why: Curt Schilling came to Boston with the embers of Aaron Boone still crackling. He came here to deliver a championship when no one else had and he did. And he did it by allowing doctors to stitch his ankle tendon to the top of his skin. No one would have faulted him had he said, "Hey, Skip, I can't go."

He maimed himself for them.

Schilling talked big and won big. Nobody else had. Mo Vaughn said Babe Ruth was dead. Pedro said he'd drill The Babe in the ass. Bill Buckner, well, he's suffered enough. Roger Clemens had a blister. They all lost.

People in Boston will never forget that.

He goes on to point out some of Schilling’s faults and the fact that he’s never been overly popular with teammates. One opposing manager however, wants to know why Keith Foulke doesn’t receive similar hands off treatment, for Foulke according to the manager, was the real reason the Red Sox won in the postseason last year. Bryant moves on to manager Terry Francona, and how it was conventional wisdom that suggested that the manager who led the Red Sox to the World Series Championship would never have to buy a drink in town again, yet Francona finds himself constantly under scrutiny. Bryant notes it’s a product of the times we live in, combined with a management that has “a voracious desire” to claim the credit that traditionally goes to the manager. Garry Brown says that the Red Sox and Yankees are headed for a historic showdown next weekend at Fenway Park. Joseph DeMartino has a mini-feature on Boston native Manny Delcarmen and how his family – especially his dad, put the love of the game into him, a love which stayed despite the injury and subsequent Tommy John surgery the young pitcher underwent in 2003. Borges reports that despite being injured the entire season, Rocco Baldelli could get a long term deal from the Devil Rays this winter. Horrigan reports on Kevin Youkilis trying to stay positive and be back sometime during the playoffs. Horrigan also reports on Jason Varitek breaking out his slump with four hits last night. Steven Krasner had a Red Sox chat on the Projo website yesterday.

Snow’s notebook looks at the myriad of injuries facing the Red Sox right now, and giving status updates on many of them. He also makes more comparisons between Craig Hansen and Francisco Rodriguez. Horrigan’s notebook looks at Trot Nixon climbing out of his sick bed to help pace the Red Sox offense last night. McAdam’s notebook looks at David Ortiz’s continued assault on the record books. Heuschkel’s notebook says that Ortiz is races for more than just the division and MVP. Borges’ notebook has more on Kevin Youkilis and his injury.

Michael Felger’s Patriots Insider leads off with a look at Tom Brady and how the Patriots QB is often at his best the week after he’s been at his worst. This bodes well for this Sunday in Pittsburgh. Felger also looks at Brady’s opposite number for the Steelers, their QB Ben Roethlisberger, who is off to a nearly perfect start this season, but has only thrown eight second half passes thus far. Nick Cafardo chimes in with a midweek report on the Patriots, leading off with Bill Belichick’s wish for goal-line cameras, more on Roethlisberger, some possible strategies for the Patriots against the Steelers and ending by noting that John Fox beat the Patriots because he is not afraid of them. Dan Pires says that even the smart kids fail a test once in a while, so the rest of the league shouldn’t be getting their hopes up that the Patriots are suddenly going to just fall apart. Michael Parente looks at the Patriots mental attitude heading into the rematch with the Steelers on Sunday, knowing its another stiff test. Eric McHugh analyzes the Patriots kick coverage, which has been a definite weak point for the club thus far.

Mike Reiss had his weekly mailbag for, which continues to amaze me as Reiss takes questions from the readers and brings them into the Patriots lockerroom. The Tim Dwight question/answer is an especially good example of this. Jerome Solomon also had a Patriots chat on yesterday. Glen Farley looks at a grim day on Sunday and probably another on tap for this coming Sunday. Jim Donaldson notes that Bill Belichick says that the Patriots just need to do a better job coaching and in all three areas of the game. Donaldson runs with that, attempting humor, trying to apply that type of logic to other situations and failing miserably. Been a little while since we’ve had a stinker of this multitude from Donaldson.

Kevin Paul Dupont has a short feature on new Bruins center Alexei Zhamnov, whose former GM says that “some people are going to be absolutely stunned by how good this guy is.” Stephen Harris reports that the new NHL rules favoring offense are going to be trouble for players such as Hal Gill. Dan Hickling reports on last night’s preseason opener for the Bruins, which resulted in a 5-0 Maple Leafs win. Harris’ notebook has more on the game. Nancy Marrapese-Burrell’s notebook has Joe Thornton happy to be out on the ice again for the Bruins.

Bill Griffith reports on a number of media moves and announcements yesterday, involving the Celtics radio and TV, and also that Ted Johnson will join the Patriots pre and post game shows on CBS4. David Scott has podcast version three ready for listening, and sounds off on the Globe (non)coverage of the Patriots and has a few leftovers from opening night at Gillette. The NY Times company will be slashing 500 jobs, 160 of them coming from the Boston Globe, and the Worcester Telegram & Gazette. 35 newsroom jobs will be cut at the Globe.

A few snippets from yesterday’s Big Show rant against the Boston Globe. (Making many of the points that BSMW has been making all along here. Glad to see we’re on the same page, guys.)

Ordway: Somebody

Tied in the Loss Column

The Red Sox suffered another disheartening loss last night, falling in Tampa to the Devil Rays 8-7. Sean McAdam feels it a fair question to ask just what this team has left. Errors, shoddy pitching at the wrong time, and injuries continue to bring this team down, and just may keep it out of the postseason. David Heuschkel notes that the clubhouse was a quiet place following the game, but the player who did speak, expressed a determination to keep fighting. Chris Snow notes that the best thing the Red Sox had going for them last night was 21 year-old Craig Hansen, who pitched a scoreless fifth in relief of David Wells, and struck out two. Jeff Horrigan states that despite the glory of last October New Englanders are not taking this slim remaining margin in the AL East with indifference any longer. David Borges focuses on Hansen as the only positive of the night.

Tony Massarotti feels that this team is cooked. He thinks that they know it, too. Gordon Edes looks at the tightening race, and how David Ortiz believes that the Sox should have a 10 game lead on the Yankees right now. Massarotti looks at the awful start turned in by David Wells last night. Conversely, Horrigan reports on the strong debut of Craig Hansen, who touched 97mph on the gun last night.

Snow’s notebook looks at Hansen getting his feet wet quickly with the big club. Hueschkel’s notebook has more on Hansen, who has converted his family from being Yankee fans to Red Sox fans. Borges’ notebook also looks at Hansen, and has a bit on Hanley Ramirez, who was also called up. McAdam’s notebook has more on the two prospects, and reports that Terry Francona had Ramirez take ground balls all over the infield, and also take fly balls in the outfield. Horrigan’s notebook says that Ramirez’s call came as a bit of a surprise to him, but he’s happy to be here.

The Patriots continue to lick their wounds from Sunday’s loss to the Panthers, while at the same time moving forward towards another stern test this week in Pittsburgh. Michael Felger has the Patriots report card in the Herald, and as you might imagine, it’s not a pretty collection of grades for the Pats. also has Steve Grogan’s Grade for the club this week, as the team legend weighs in on the current edition of the Patriots. Michael Parente also has his edition of the report card, and he says watching the film probably made things look even worse for the Patriots. He says there is really no good to be found from that game. Gerry Callahan (subscription only) writes that though the Patriots took a punch on Sunday, they’ll get up and move on, even if the NFL schedule maker is out to get them and prevent them from winning a third straight title. Tom E Curran has more on the upcoming schedule and the challenges that the Patriots face moving forward.

Once the film is reviewed and the mistakes addressed, Jerome Solomon says that Bill Belichick won’t allow his club to look back. That includes speculation on the Stephen Davis touchdown which some felt should have been challenged. Jeff Goldberg says that right now, the focus is on learning from mistakes and moving on to preparing for the Steelers. Bill Reynolds says that when Bill Belichick says that his team is going to get better and play better, you have to give him the benefit of the doubt and believe him. Chris Kennedy says that the Patriots know the mistakes that they need to address this week. Steve Buckley (subscription only) asserts that establishing Corey Dillon and the running game has to be the Patriots number one priority on offense. That includes eliminating penalties which prevent Dillon from getting good runs.

Jonathan Comey writes that the Steelers and their commitment to the run is going to pose a stiff challenge to the Patriots this week, which could result in the unthinkable – two straight losses for the Patriots. Karen Guregian says that the Steelers are going to bring many of the same things that the Panthers did, which gives the Patriots an immediate change to show their improvement in key areas. Check out the coverage from Pittsburgh in the pages of the Post-Gazette and the Tribune-Review.

Even the Inside Track is jumping on the Globe for their lack of Patriots coverage, and they report about Globe sports editor Joe Sullivan calling up the NFL to whine about access to the team during practice. As I mentioned in part II of my Globe Review last month, I thought that Sullivan had done some good things during his watch there, but lately he’s been taking a lot of hits over the paper’s Patriots coverage, and isn’t looking good for it. His adamant stand that the paper has the most Patriots coverage in the region rings false to anyone who reads through the papers on a daily basis. His failure to promise or even admit that they’ll try to do better continues to be a slap in the face to Patriots fans. Shalise Manza Young reports on how the Patriots are not placing any blame for their loss on the controversial TD from Stephen Davis. Guregian has a piece on Bill Belichick explaining why he didn’t feel he had enough evidence to be able to challenge the call successfully. Solomon’s notebook updates us on the injuries to Randall Gay and Josh Miller. Guregian’s notebook looks at the shaky special teams play from the Patriots. Young’s notebook has Bill Belichick stating where the Patriots need to improve the most: everywhere.

Steve Conroy looks at Brad Isbister, whom the Bruins will be looking to to hopefully fill some of the void left by the departure of Mike Knuble. Joe McDonald looks at young forward Brad Boyes, who has opened some eyes in camp. Kevin Paul Dupont looks at the suddenly crowded goalie slot for the Bruins in his notebook. Conroy’s notebook has more on Boyes. McDonald’s notebook looks at injuries starting to pile up for the Bruins.

Scott Souza has a quick profile on Ricky Davis, as the Celtics swingman continues to take a larger role with the franchise.

The Yankees continued their charge to the top of the AL East, thanks to a walk-off homer from Bubba Crosby in the ninth last night. Get the coverage of the Evil Empire at the New York Sports News page.

NESN has Red Sox/Devil Rays at 7:00.