Monday Afternoon Links

Jayson Stark has the Red Sox radically shifting the face of baseball with their recent success.

Ken Fang has his usual thorough collection of Monday morning sports media columns and coverage.

Richard Deitsch of SI.com has a look at NCAA Tournament coverage, with a focus on Billy Packer.

Pete Prisco has a look at the needs of AFC East teams this offseason.

Peter King in his Monday Morning QB column has the Patriots among those teams he expects to make a trade on draft day.

He makes reference to an appearance that the ubiquitous Sen. Arlen Spector made on the Rush Limbaugh show last week, which included the following exchange:

RUSH: Lot of football fans in this audience. Since the Super Bowl we’ve heard very little about this guy in Hawaii, Matt Walsh, that claims to have videotape of the New England Patriots and the St. Louis Rams walk-through the Saturday before their Super Bowl. What’s the status of that?

SEN. SPECTER: Well, the status of it is that there has been an exchange of correspondence between Walsh’s lawyers and the NFL lawyers. I’ve seen the letters. Walsh’s lawyer let me see them on a promise of confidentiality, and I believe an objective and fair reading of those letters is that the NFL is discouraging Walsh from coming forward.

RUSH: Really? Because their statements are just exact opposite.

SEN. SPECTER: Well, the NFL says they’re trying to encourage them, and I issued the challenge to the commissioner a couple of Saturdays ago, and they put out a Sunday release that they were making substantial progress. Well, we’ve had almost two weeks since that Sunday release, and nothing has happened. I believe those… Listen, I think the NFL has a duty of integrity. They have an anti-trust exemption, which gives them a preferred position. They are role models. If you can cheat in the NFL, you can cheat in college or high school or sixth grade math test. I think ultimately, Rush, if we get enough fire under it, they’re going to have to show those letters — and when they do, they’re going to have to change their tune and let Walsh testify, because those reports are looking pretty strong, but there was filming for the 2002 Super Bowl.

I’d like to think that the United States Senate also has a “duty of integrity,” Senator.

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Boston Sports Media Approval Ratings

Starting today, I’m going to try to run a quick noontime opinion question each day regarding a member of the Boston sports media. This idea is “borrowed” from the great Deadspin.com, so I want to make sure credit is given there…

The concept is simple. Each day I name a Boston sports media member, and you vote – either Approve or Disapprove. You can then add your thoughts on the person in the comments section.

Today’s subject is WEEI’s Michael Holley.

Holley started out in Boston with the Boston Globe, then left for Chicago, only to come back a few months later. He rejoined the Globe, and then left again. He has been the midday co-host on WEEI’s Dale and Holley show for the last several years. He is the author of three books on the Boston sports scene, profiles of Bill Belichick, Tedy Bruschi and Terry Francona.

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{democracy:3}

Sox Get Ready For Opener in Japan

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Rob Bradford has Tim Wakefield and Clay Buchholz happy to have gone on the trip to Japan, even if they’re not scheduled to pitch in the big league games this week. Amalie Benjamin has the ex-Yomiuri Giant, Hideki Okajima being cheered wildly in his return to his former home stadium. Jeff Goldberg has the Red Sox ready to start the season with the A’s.

Sean McAdam has a preview of the Red Sox as they get set to open the regular season tomorrow morning. (ET) Bill Burt also offers up a season preview for Boston’s favorite nine. Jon Couture says that all the parts are in place, but repeating won’t be easy for the Red Sox.

Dan Shaughnessy has some scenes and observations with the Red Sox in Japan. Michael Silverman says that jet lag is still an issue with the players. Joe McDonald has Josh Beckett proceeding with caution in his rehab. Joe Haggerty has Dice-K and Okajima excited about their return to Japan. Couture says that the Red Sox present a good mix of youth and veterans.

McAdam has J.D. Drew wishing that the regular season had already started. Bradford has Drew swinging a hot bat so far this spring. Bradford also has Jon Lester arriving in Japan, and ready to take his spot as the #2 starter to begin the season.

Silverman reports that 2009 will see a new and improved World Baseball Classic.

Silverman’s notebook has more on Hideki Okajima getting a huge welcome in his return to the Tokyo dome. Benjamin’s notebook has J.D. Drew continuing his hot spring with a grand slam.

Silverman also posted a Web Exclusive feature on Daisuke Matsuzaka’s high school years.

The Boston Herald has their Red Sox preview this morning. With an addition 10 articles in this section, there’s certainly a lot of material in there. We’ll try to get to all of it.

Tony Massarotti looks at whether the 2008 Red Sox will have a better chance of repeating than did the 2005 Red Sox. Michael Silverman takes a look at the Sox at each position and notes whether they have what it takes to make another October run. Steve Buckley says that the Red Sox possess a rock-solid foundation which gives them an excellent shot at repeating.

Jeff Horrigan has a look at the double play combination of Julio Lugo and Dustin Pedroia, the first time the Sox will have had the same combination to start the season in consecutive seasons in the middle of the infield since 1990. Silverman has a piece on newcomer Sean Casey, who is happy with his role as a backup with the World Champs. Bradford writes about how Josh Beckett has become a leader with the Red Sox.

Steve Buckley looks at the meteoric rise to stardom of Jonathan Papelbon. Silverman has a piece on Jacoby Ellsbury, who could be the next Red Sox prospect to shine in the majors. Bradford has J.D. Drew hoping that he’ll settle in and have a big year in his second season with the Red Sox. Horrigan has a look at the supporting cast in the bullpen which is always the key to a good team.

Celtics/Bruins

With the Celtics reminding us of the glory days, I thought it would be fun to compare the 2008 Celtics with the 1986 Celtics and try to see who would come out on top.

Kevin Henkin posts an open letter to the Celtics’ front-runners. Marc J. Spears has a look at Rajon Rondo and his passion outside of basketball…roller skating. Steve Bulpett says that Sam Cassell has already had an impact on the Celtics.

Fluto Shinzawa notes that none of the recent moves made by coach Claude Julien have been able to snap the Bruins out of their slump. Steve Conroy looks at what needs to happen in the next two weeks for the Bruins to make the playoffs.

It’s a Media Link Friday

Update: Head over to Scott’s Shots for a quick interview with Tina Cervasio on her new job with MSG.

It’s Ken from Fang’s Bites. Time for your Friday media links once again. The NCAA Tournament will be the subject of discussion in most of the media columns today.

First round action will conclude Friday night, then 2nd round action will start with a quadruple header on Saturday on CBS and a triple decker jones on Easter Sunday. All action can be accessed through March Madness on Demand at NCAA.com or through Mega March Madness on DirecTV.

The NCAA Women’s Tournament gets underway on the ESPN family of networks on Saturday. If your internet service provider has an agreement with the Alleged Worldwide Leader, you can watch all of the Women’s Tournament on your computer through ESPN360.

If you’re not a college basketball fan, there’s Tiger Woods going for his 6th straight PGA Tour win at the Blue Monster at Doral in Miami as the Florida Swing continues. The Golf Channel has 2nd round coverage of the CA Championship today at 2 p.m. then NBC Sports picks up the tournament on Saturday with four hours of coverage.

For tennis fans, there’s the Pacific Life Tournament which heads to the men’s and women’s finals on FSN.

And the NASCAR Sprint Cup takes the Easter holiday off, but the Nationwide Series will be in Nashville on Saturday on ESPN2.

Let’s get to your links.

Michael Hiestand of USA Today looks into the anti-ESPN Power Point presentation that’s been making the rounds at league offices and ad agencies. Earlier this week, John Ourand of the Sports Business Journal broke the story about the slide show that had been created by ESPN’s competitors. Hiestand notes that the author is “Fox Network Groups”. Michael has now started a blog for USA Today and I say it’s about time. Welcome to the blogosphere, Michael. And here’s the Nation Newspaper’s complete listing of sports on TV this weekend.

David Scott has an interview with the always lovely Tina Cervasio who signed with MSG Network earlier this week.

Now let’s start out West and move eastward.

West

John Ryan of the San Jose Mercury News writes in his Morning Buzz blog that the NCAA Tournament is a true Made-for-TiVO event.

Lance Pugmire of the Los Angeles Times writes about CBS’ first Mixed Martial Arts primetime telecast in May. Christine Daniels talks about the NCAA Tournament being the viewing pick of the weekend.

The Los Angeles Daily News’ Tom Hoffarth talks with the General Manager of CBSSports.com about March Madness on Demand which had some technical glitches on Thursday. Hoffarth has his extensive media notes in his Farther Off the Wall blog. And Ramona Shelburne of the Daily News has a story on Carter Blackburn who made his NCAA Tournament debut yesterday and did rather well in my opinion.

Jim Carlisle of the Ventura County Star enjoyed having games to choose from in the NCAA Tournament either through his computer or on DirecTV.

From the North County Times, John Maffei says Padres announcer Andy Masur is now more comfortable in his second year in the radio booth and gets to call tonight’s UConn-San Diego NCAA Tournament game as a bonus.

Jay Posner of the San Diego Union-Tribune talks with CBS Sports analyst Mike Gminski who will call the UConn-San Diego game tonight. Jay has last weekend’s TV ratings from the always classy San Diego.

Scott D. Pierce from the Deseret (UT) Morning News has a bone to pick with the Mountain West Conference’s TV coverage.

Midwest

Paul Christian of the Rochester Post-Bulletin talks about a whole range of topics including the number of entries in ESPN.com’s Tournament Challenge.

Judd Zulgad of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune talks with NCAA Tournament host Greg Gumbel.

In today’s Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Bob Wolfley feels interest going into this year’s NCAA Tournament is at an all-time low.

The Chicago Tribune’s Teddy Greenstein has his viewing picks for the weekend.

South

Mel Bracht of the Oklahoman talks with CBS Sports’ Bill Raftery who will call the St. Joseph’s-Oklahoma game tonight. In his media notebook, Bracht incorrectly says March Madness on Demand is offering Westwood One radio broadcasts of the NCAA Tournament for the first time. They were offered last year as well. And Mel says there’s plenty of college action to watch this weekend.

David Barron of the Houston Chronicle says a local sports radio talk host is back doing what he does best.

Ray Buck from the Fort Worth Star-Telegram says ESPN’s baseball analysts have had little to say about the Texas Rangers’ chances this season.

The Orlando Sentinel’s Dave Darling gives his top 10 favorite Yankee Stadium moments.

In the Miami Herald, Barry Jackson says there’s a method to CBS Sports’ madness in choosing which NCAA Tournament games go where. And Jackson has Bob Costas trying to backtrack on his anti-blogging comments from last week.

Let’s head to South Carolina where Doug Nye of The State says the NCAA Tournament won’t have the sporting weekend to itself.

East and Mid-Atlantic

Jim Williams in the Baltimore edition of the Examiner talks with CBS’ Billy Packer who says Georgetown could be upset today by Maryland-Baltimore County. And for the Washington edition, Williams has Packer saying Georgetown can reach the Final Four. What? And in his Watch This! blog, Williams says the NCAA Tournament can be accessed by all types of media, via TV, radio, computer, satellite TV, On Demand, etc.

Ray Frager of the Baltimore Sun has the ESPN MLB analysts talking about the Orioles’ chances this year.

Heading to New York now, the Post’s Phil Mushnick speculates that ESPN’s Chris Berman won’t be at The Masters because Augusta National told the network not to send him. That’s a stretch. Justin Terranova has five questions for NBC Sports golf analyst Johnny Miller. And Terranova talks with ESPN’s Steve Phillips about Breakfast and Baseball as the Red Sox take on the A’s next Tuesday and Wednesday mornings.

The increasingly bitter Bob Raissman of the New York Daily News lashes out at CBS for not allowing the players to be paid in the NCAA Tournament.

Neil Best of Newsday who’s not bitter, talks with CBS News and Sports President Sean McManus about his double role in leading two network divisions. From his blog, Neil has some things that didn’t make his column including comments from CBS News investigative reporter Armen Keteyian about his boss. Neil also has comments from McManus about the CBS Sports properties and trying to increase the ratings for Katie Couric. And Neil has a blurb on how WFAN’s morning and afternoon shows are playing nicey-nice for now.

Canada

The Toronto Globe and Mail’s William Houston says Jim Hughson and Craig Simpson will have a rare hockey doubleheader Saturday as they’ll call two games in two different cities for Hockey Night in Canada.

The Toronto Star’s Chris Zelkovich talks about a potential all-baseball channel in Canada. This is not to be confused with the MLB Network which launches next year.

Blogs

A couple of things from the Sports Media Watch. First, some ratings notes including TNT scoring for the Rockets-Celtics game on Tuesday. And the SMW feels CBS is entering this year’s NCAA Tournament on a low note.

The Sports Media Journal is now in the quarterfinals of the Sports Radio Madness host tournament.

Maury Brown of the Biz of Baseball blog says Comcast will not offer the MLB Extra Innings package in HD while DirecTV will increase the number of MLB games in High Def this season.

Christopher Byrne of the Eye on Sports Media blog looks at the silly live blogging rules for the NCAA Tournament.

Joe Favorito’s Sports Marketing and Public Relations blog says the Yankees did the right PR move going to Virginia Tech this week, while the Red Sox did not in its pay protest for its coaches.

CNBC’s Darren Rovell is now in Day Ten of his Minor League Baseball Logo Contest. And Darren has some March Madness business notes.

Those are your links for today. Enjoy your weekend and I hope your brackets will be mostly intact after Sunday. I’ll be back next Friday.

As Seen And Heard During Celtics/Mavs on TNT

Some items from last night’s TNT coverage of Celtics/Mavericks:

Reggie Miller on Craig Sager’s report on an argument between Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban and head coach Avery Johnson: “Where there’s smoke there’s fire, so if both guys are downplaying it then something went on. The biggest complaint from Mark Cuban was about Brandon Bass and his play the other night against the Lakers, he only played 13 minutes. It was a high energy game and he’s one of their high energy players.”

Kevin Garnett on the recent comments made by Minnesota Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor that Garnett tanked games last season: “Sam Mitchell told me this a long time ago, he said, ‘You take care of yourself and you do what you can do and at the end of the night you look at yourself in the mirror and you ask yourself truthfully, did I do everything I can do?’ and if you can live with that, then so be it.’ People are going to say what they got to say, people are going to say what they want to say. But just because you’re a billionaire doesn’t make you full of taste and class, so it’s cool with me.”

Craig Sager reporting on the NBA reprimanding Glen Taylor for his comments about Kevin Garnett: “(Glen) Taylor was summoned by the (NBA) league office and he has been reprimanded for comments detrimental to the game.”

Miller on Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor’s comments about Kevin Garnett: “The comments were personal and, in my opinion, way out of bounds. (Kevin Garnett) was an 11-time All-Star for the Timberwolves, league MVP in 2004 and outstanding in the community. I agree with Kevin, for Glen Taylor to make those comments it let’s you know that sometimes money can’t buy class. This is a guy that I’ve known for the past 10-plus years and he’s always given 100 percent…It’s just out-of-bounds for those comments.”

Miller on aging Boston Celtics guard Sam Cassell: “Jason Terry is taking the right approach with Sam Cassell guarding him. He knows (to) continue to move, because Sam’s not the same Sam Cassell of old. He’s a little bit older and it’s tougher for him to cover a guy like Jason Terry when he’s running off the picks.”

Miller on the Celtics sweeping the ‘Texas Triangle:’ “This was a measuring stick for the Celtics. Everyone was wondering (what would happen) when they went out West and had to go through the Texas Triangle and they came up 3-0 on them.”

Charles Barkley on his MVP selection: “You’ve got two guys who are legit MVP candidates in the East, and that’s Kevin Garnett and LeBron (James). They are contenders, but I can’t give it to LeBron. If I was going to give it to somebody in the East, I would give it to Kevin Garnett because they’ve got the best record. But the West is much tougher, much better competition. I’ve got to give (Hornets’) Chris Paul, Byron Scott and Tyson Chandler a lot of credit. Chris Paul has been a one man wrecking crew. But Kobe Bryant it the best player we’ve got in the NBA. You’ve got an injured (Andrew) Bynum, working (Pau) Gasol in and now Gasol is out, and to still have the best record in the NBA, that’s why I would give the MVP to Kobe Bryant. I’m going it to give guys with a better record facing better competition.”

Barkley on a locker room confrontation between Mavericks owner Mark Cuban and coach Avery Johnson: “The little dust up between Mark Cuban and Avery Johnson, confrontation is a part of sports. As long as you keep it in the locker room it can bring the team together. I think it’s going to help Dallas. Mark Cuban is my favorite owner and Avery’s got to take some criticism, that’s part of it. Now they’ve got to circle the wagons, and say, ‘you know what, this is our team and we’ve got tot stick together’ because a lot of people are trying to pull them apart.”

Barkley on assumptions that the Celtics will be the NBA Champions because they’ve gone 23-4 against Western Conference teams: “It’s not the same as playing a team four out of seven times. You’ve got to factor that in some teams might have played the night before and have been on the road or played four games in five nights. You can’t jump to that conclusion when you say they are 23-4 against the West. They are going to have a tough time with Cleveland in the second round of the playoffs and against the Detroit Pistons in the Eastern Conference Finals. Under that theory they should trade Ray Allen because they’ve played better without Ray Allen, they beat the Champs (San Antonio Spurs) and the Houston Rockets.”

C’s Mess With Texas

The Celtics finished off an impressive three game sweep in four days of the very tough Texas NBA contingent with a 94-90 win over the Dallas Mavericks. The Big Three led the way in this one, each of them scoring over 20 points, including Ray Allen, who was playing for the first time on this trip after hurting his ankle last Friday night.

Steve Bulpett has Allen coming back just in time to give the Celtics a big lift in big D. Marc J. Spears has more on the Celtics accomplishing a rare feat with the three game sweep of Texas. Check the coverage from Dallas in the Dallas Morning News and the Fort Worth Star Telegram.

Scott Souza says that perhaps soon the Celtics might actually be viewed as championship favorites. Tim Weisberg says that the Celtics have enjoyed almost a spiritual success on this trip. Bulpett’s notebook examines how the Celtics keep winning even when they’re suffering through injuries. Spears’ notebook has an NBA official chastising Minnesota owner Glen Taylor for his comments about Kevin Garnett earlier this week.

Red Sox

Michael Silverman offers a detailed account of the trip to Japan which lost the Red Sox an entire day of existence. Sean McAdam also offers a travelogue from Fort Myers to Tokyo.

Rob Bradford has Mike Lowell recounting the story of his first trip to Japan – as a nine year old with the South Florida Little League All-Star team. Joe McDonald has Sean Casey talking about when he first knew he wanted to play for the Red Sox. Tony Massarotti notes that David Ortiz is already a big deal in Japan, as his 514 foot home run in a 2004 trip with other MLB stars is still remembered to this day. Silverman also notes that there won’t be much relaxation on this trip, as the Sox have a busy schedule ahead.

Jackie MacMullan has a piece on Red Sox pitching phenom Clay Buchholz, in which she calls the Red Sox decision to shut him down at the end of September “one of the truly bizarre twists of the 2007 championship season.” Really? Bob Stern says that a trio of homegrown positional starters is a key to the Red Sox success. Mike Fine says that the middle of the Red Sox lineup will need to be devastating again in order for the Sox to be successful. Terry Nau says that the Red Sox need to give Jason Varitek a new contract. Joe Haggerty looks at a new Jon Lester in 2008.

Bill Nowlin writes that games in exotic foreign locales are nothing new for the Red Sox franchise, which has played games in Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Mexico, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands before this trip to Japan.

Nick Cafardo’s notebook says that the Red Sox won’t face punishment for delaying the game on Wednesday because of the situation with the coaches payments for the Japan trip. McDonald’s notebook has Jon Lester getting ready for his start in the second game of the regular season with a minor league tuneup yesterday.

Bruins

It’s like old times for the Bruins these days. And not the good old days, either. The B’s have been thoroughly owned by the Montreal Canadiens as of late, and this includes a 4-2 loss at the Garden last night.

Fluto Shinzawa has the Canadiens scoring their 7th straight win over the Bruins this season. Steve Conroy says that these losses to Montreal could derail the B’s playoff hopes. Tony Lee has Montreal continuing their dominance over the Bruins. Bud Barth and Douglas Flynn have the Bruins futility against Montreal reaching an all time low.

Stephen Harris says that once again, the Boston problem comes down to a lack of scoring. Matt Porter reports on Zdeno Chara getting back on the ice after missing the last five games. Mike Loftus has Patrice Bergeron planning on going with the team on their return trip to Montreal tomorrow night.

Conroy’s notebook says that it was a disappointing return to action for Chara. Shinzawa’s notebook has Tim Thomas’ best efforts not enough to stop Alex Kovalev and the Canadiens. Barth’s notebook has more on the return of Chara.

Patriots

The Patriots added to their secondary yesterday by signing free agent cornerback Fernando Bryant to a one-year contract. Christopher L. Gasper says that this signing is a “Filene’s Basement” approach to free agency for the Patriots. Shalise Manza Young says that whether or not Bryant can help on the field remains to be seen, though he’ll surely help in the community. John Tomase has the lawyer for suspended cornerback Pacman Jones saying that his client would be a good fit for the Patriots, and vice-versa.

Check back a little later for Ken Fang’s media links…

Sox Hit Japan

A few observations on sports radio topics from the last few days:

Could there be just a little less griping about the trip to Japan? Even the media people who didn’t make the trip have been complaining and whining non-stop about the whole thing. (That’s what makes it the most annoying. I can understand any grousing from those actually making the trip.) Long flight! No power outlets on the plane! Body clocks messed up! It’s going to ruin the season for the Red Sox! We get it. Enough already. Business people go to the Far East all the time. (Rob Bradford seems to be having a good time so far.)

No really. The “Does Manny know they’re going to Japan?” jokes have been predictable and old since the start. Manny jokes in general are so 5 years ago, guys.  It’s time to laugh with Manny, rather than at him…right?

Michael Holley is much more entertaining when Dale is away. That’s not a knock against Dale Arnold, but Holley just seems much more energetic and fun to listen on the days he works with someone else.

 Some PM Links:

Ken Fang, who will be here with his Friday mega-links tomorrow, has a Thursday collection of media links.

If the Patriots have reached an agreement on a one year deal with cornerback Fernando Bryant, John Tomase says that the Pats couldn’t have signed a better guy.

Dan Shaughnessy has a report on the Red Sox first few hours in Japan.

If you haven’t seen it already, earlier this week Sports Business Journal had a huge article on a PowerPoint Presentation that has been making the rounds of the league offices and ad buyers. The presentation is entitled The Emperor’s New Clothes: How ESPN’s Multi-Platform Strategy Hasn’t Improved Ratings, and was apparently put together by TV networks trying to compete with ESPN.

SI.com has launched the SI Vault, which is a completely free and digitized history of Sports Illustrated since 1954. It contains 150,000 stories, 500,000 photographs and 2,800 covers as well as a Wikipedia search engine and links to related online video content.

Johnny Ludden says that if anyone in Minnesota tanked last season, it was Glen Taylor. Kelly Dwyer also comes to the defense of KG.

Bill Simmons has his NCAA picks.

Bob Ryan looks through the reaction to his March 9th column in which he wrote about being “Favred out.”

Ross Tucker has five noteworthy realities about NFL offseason conditioning programs that you should know.

FOXSports.com has their 2008 Red Sox Preview.

Mike Celizic applauds the Red Sox for their stand yesterday. Steve Henson also weighs in on the situation.

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{democracy:2}