We’re hearing a lot of talk these days about the Patriots being in a bridge year as they break in a new generation of defender, ideally under the cloak of a machine-like offense that was supposed to cover up the growing pains. Now, in case you missed it yesterday, Tony Massarotti had the Sox in a “developmental gap” and braced us for no 2010 postseason in favor of the greener pastures of 2011.

So don’t get too excited about baseball’s winter meetings, which wrap up – or is it fizzle out? – today, nor the Hot Stove in general. Just take out that credit card because ticket prices are going up and your cable bill probably will, too. See, the Sox are also in bridge mode, but Dan Shaughnessy says theirs is more like a bridge over troubled waters. Let’s look at what little we can expect this week and beyond.

Hot Stove / Red Sox

Don Orsillo blames the economy and a weak free agent class and says the winter meetings are about laying groundwork rather than actually executing. Not so with Mike Lowell, whom Nick Cafardo calls the classiest player to ever don a Sox uniform as he awaits a yet unconfirmed trade to Texas for C/1B prospect Max Ramirez. Rob Bradford examines why each side would want to do this deal, which he points out could still blow up. John Tomase says the Lowell deal clears the way for Adrian Beltre – and, yes, Scott Boras – to come to Boston. Alex Speier considers the appeal of Beltre, which is predominantly an issue of leather. Lou Merloni catches up with Boras during his annual winter solstice court. Tomase and Michael Silverman have Sox pitching coach John Farrell intimately familiar with another Boras client, Matt Holliday.

Amalie Benjamin says that the Sox look to have read the market correctly on Jason Bay, which sounds a bit like Theo is once again whistling past the Bronx. Speier says a fifth year could get it done in re-signing Jason. But with the Mets expressing interest in Bay, Michael Silverman has Jacoby Ellsbury as a backup plan in left, putting the Sox in the market for a centerfielder. Joe McDonald has Theo interested in Ex-Brewer CF Mike Cameron, who in turn is not interested in a bench role. Daniel Rathman plays a little moneyball in defending Theo’s decision not to pursue CF Curtis Granderson, instead letting him go to the Bronx. Is anybody else out there not overly bothered by the sight of Granderson in pinstripes next year?

What’s next after the winter meetings? Peter Abraham says it’s Aroldis Chapman, as the Cuban leftie will (not) be airing it out next week. And it might have been a bait-in-switch with Casey Kelly as Paul Jarvey reminds us the chance to both pitch and play shortstop was a sweetener in luring him away from football. Dan Barbarisi has Kelly following his heart in deciding to become a full-time pitcher.

Patriots

The week’s preparations for the Carolina Panthers got started yesterday . . . for most of us. Shalise Manza Young calls Coach Bill Belichick’s decision to discipline four tardy players interesting and rare as the Pats sit on the brink of turmoil. Albert R. Breer calls it a risky move on Belicheck’s part, as the luster is wearing off his three Super Bowl rings. The fact that the Misisng Four have been among the missing all season makes Bill Burt wonder. Eric Ortiz says Belichick at times has about as much compassion as a hand grenade. Karen Guregian suggests this over-the-top move is symtomatic of deeper-cutting problems. Ron Borges has Richard Seymour saying he would have been in to work on time. Ian R. Rapoport says Tom Brady’s punctuality didn’t help the Tardy Four’s cause.

Monique Walker has Brady with a short night of sleep between the birth of his son and leaving for Foxborough early enough to actually get there on time. Glen Farley has Brady trading yesterday’s practice for a child to be named later. Rich Garven is concerned that Brady’s ailments, which caused a rare missed practice, may be more than typical discomfort.

Young’s Patriots Journal finds Belichick still in denial over opponents’ ability to shut down Randy Moss.

Celtics

The Celtics kick off a three-game road trip tonight in Washington, and Jim Fenton points out the C’s are 67-25 away from Boston over the last two-plus seasons. Gary Washburn says Ray Allen could reach a big milestone during tonight’s game against the Wizards in D.C.

Mark Murphy says Marquis Daniels’ thumb injury will subject the C’s depth to its biggest test of the season. Speaking of thumbs, remember Big Baby Davis? Well, he’s behind in his return, but Jeff Howe says he has a new dog to help in the recovery process. Bill Doyle says Daniels’ injury was not a factor in Tony Allen’s return to the floor on Tuesday against the Bucks.

Robert Lee has KG back in full form on offense but not quite there yet on D. Murphy traces the roots of Rajon Rondo’s leadership back to his high school days. Eight straight wins is good, but Evans Clinchy is impressed with Rasheed Wallace’s non-tech streak, which now stands at three. And A. Sherrod Blakely has Sheed’s shot regaining its “flow-matic” qualities.

Bruins

Mike Loftus doesn’t expect a repeat of Saturday’s easy win when the B’s take on Phil Kessel and the Maple Leafs at the TD tonight. Steve Conroy agrees there will be no perfect storm brewing for another B’s blowout tonight.

John Beattie says there’s a light at the end of the tunnel for Milan Lucic, who could be back in time for the Winter Classic. Speaking of which, Fluto Shinzawa has the Ice Man coming to Fenway Park, while Boston.com brings us this cool how-to manual for building a hockey rink on a baseball diamond. If you’re going on New Year’s Day, Shinzawa hopes it doesn’t rain on your parade.

Loftus calls Johnny Boychuk’s first NHL goal one of the best moments of one of the best games of the season in the win over the Leafs last Saturday.

Thanks for letting me update you this week. Ken Fang will be covering the action tomorrow, Bruce will be back in on Monday, and I’ll be klogging again next Thursday. Until then, follow me on Twitter for any breaking links.

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16 thoughts on “Sox and Pats: Bridging To Nowhere?

  1. If you read anything today, make it Dan Shaughnessy’s column in today’s Globe on the blatant mismanagement of the Red Sox.

    Brilliantly written and brutally accurate.

    1. Brilliantly written? Brutally accurate? CHB’s column is idiotic — just another steaming pile of muckraking gibberish designed to appeal to the EEI morons who think the Sox absolutely should have traded Lugo straight up for Halladay.

      (1) All it does is say “The Sox aren’t doing enough.” But there’s no commentary on what the Sox SHOULD be doing in contrast to what they ARE doing. Should they give Bay $60M a year for 15 years? Would that refusal to “stand pat” be a daring, aggressive move that fans should appreciate? Asinine.

      (2) Yes, the Yankees developed Jeter, et al.; some of the pieces they used to acquire Granderson. This purportedly shows that the Yankees monetary advantage isn’t the deciding factor. But that’s patently ridiculous — some of those players only became Yankee farmhands BECAUSE the Yankees had money to pay them the ridiculous signing bonuses that players demand today. They also have the money to shrug off epic losses like Brien Taylor. If Steve Strassberg blows up his arm tomorrow, can the Nationals just go out and pay Strassberg money to next year’s top prospect? Of course not — they’d be f-ed for half a decade if he turns out to be a failure. The Yankees would just cut another check. Shaughnessy’s piece just flat-out ignores the aspects of the Yankees’ financial superiority that don’t fit his thesis.

      (3) “We’ve already blown enough on the likes of Matt Clement, Edgar Renteria, Julio Lugo, J.D. Drew, Daisuke Matsuzaka, John Smoltz, and Brad Penny.”

      So his solution is apparently to blow more money on the likes of this year’s Matt Clement, Edgar Renteria, Julio Lugo, JD Drew, etc. Because NOT spending money if the talent isn’t there in the free market arena — i.e. what Henry and Epstein said — apparently isn’t the answer. Shaughnessy basically makes the argument against himself here. Remember — he’s not saying the Sox have chosen their targets poorly in the past. He’s saying that the “mismanagement” is not being willing to spend money TODAY on TODAY’s crop of free agents. So basically, he’s arguing that willy-nilly spending on whomever is available without any concrete long-run plan of attack is the way to go. And uses failed or not-up-to-expectations free agent signings as the thing you want to avoid by taking this path. To quote FJM — F–K THE WHAT????

      And I could go on. But I second your recommendation — everyone should read this column to see how easy it is to make nonsense sound sensible in an effort to gin up readership.

      1. I agree with most of your rant. I’m not thrilled with the prospect of Mike Cameron, Adrian Beltre, and/or Matt Holliday been paid millions to suck for this team. It does seem like the Red Sox are headed to a very 2009 Patriots-like season…but you never know.

    2. CHB… “brilliantly written” … hahahahahahahaaaaaaa.

      Definitely my go-to guy for concise, intelligent baseball analysis.

      Hahahahaahahahahahahaa.

    3. Can’t say I’d call it brilliantly written or brutally accurate – instead it sounds like ranting for the sake of ranting and once again recycling a lot of his old beefs (Kraft, the “bag job” sale to John Henry etc.) I love how he complains about the team wringing every possible dollar out of it’s “trendy” ballpark yet he has written two books solely about Fenway itself that have been glowing tributes, but now since he’s in a pissy mood today it is “trendy”. I thought his piece this morning was laughable at best.

      I also agree with DaveR’s observation that Shank is essentially refuting his own argument on spending, and I’ll add that where he points to the homegrown talent that has played a role in the Yankees success, he fails to mention that some huge pieces of the puzzle when the Sox won two years ago (Youk, Pedroia, Ellsbury, Pap to name a few) were homegrown as well.

  2. Man, the bloodthirsty media sharks smell Belichick blood in the water this week, don’t they? You know they’re just loving this “turmoil” right now.

    Do any of them still realize that the Pats are still in first place? Sure, we’re all disappointed at how this season has played out, but they’re still in first place, aren’t they?

    1. More days in first place…more days in first place. The problem for the Coach is that his team doesnt hang Adams division banners. The only goal and expectation is Super Bowls and when this team will struggle to equal last year’s record when you didnt have a HOF QB, it doesnt look good and its fair game to point out the issues. And I think more of the criticism is towards GM Belichick, rather than Coach Bill.

      1. I don’t disagree that he deserves criticism, however, the expectations of Super Bowl championships only exist BECAUSE of Bill Belichick. Before he came here, we would be viewing a season like this one (probably around 10-6 with a division crown) as a good season for the “old” Patriots. At some point fans and the media have to realize that the team can’t be 14-2 and a Super Bowl contender every year. I notice how none of these media slams at Belichick mention that he’s also set up with three second round picks in the 2010 draft, and an extra #1 (potentially a Top 10 pick) in the 2011 draft…he’s always got one eye on the future, while the media is always stuck in the past or present. They can afford to be like that; Belichick can’t.

        1. I should also mention that the reason they have a worse record (probably) this year than last is because their 2008 schedule was a JOKE: Seattle, San Francisco, St. Louis, Oakland, Kansas City, a mediocre Denver team, etc. They lost to the only high-quality teams they played last season, too (Indy, Pittsburgh, et al).

          This year’s schedule, on balance, has been much harder than 2008.

        2. Considering Belichick’s recent draft record, I wouldn’t be so sure that all those picks are a good thing.

          1. Nothing is guaranteed, but he also could “flip” some of those picks, potentially, into acquiring a badly-needed pass rusher like Julius Peppers.

            One thing that often gets overlooked in all the media frenzy is that Belichick’s entire organization has been pillaged by other teams for the last five years. Just as he found a suitable replacement for Weis, that guy was hired away after just two years on the job. Mangini bagged on him after just 1 year as Crennel’s replacement. Losing Dimitroff and Pioli from the front office also has put more on BB’s shoulders the past couple of years. It takes time to replace people like that.

            If you want to know the main reason why the Colts are always 10-2 or 11-1 or 12-0 after 12 games every year, while the Pats sit at 7-5 this season, look no further than the fact that Dungy’s retirement is the ONLY major organizational change that’s occurred since 2002 (the other two long-time assistants who “retired” during training camp over “benefits” issues last summer eventually came back, first as consultants and then again as full-fledged assistants). That kind of continuity is key, and it’s been lacking in the Pats’ organization since Super Bowl 39 because everyone’s been moving on to greener pastures.

  3. That’s an excellent point about the comparative organizations turnover the past 5 years and one that, as you mention, has been underreported. Its much easier just to blame Belichick now just as it was lazy to give him all the credit during the title years. Im looking forward to how the entire organization – players and staff – is built back up as I think this season will be wake up call for all, similiar to when 2002 showed that more work was needed.

  4. I can’t speak for the other three players who were ‘sent home,’ but Moss ought to be cut some slack. He may just pack it in now; who’s to say? Several times I’d blame Brady for over-throwing Moss (and others). I don’t like this ‘sent home’ thing…at all. This is a tipping point, and there’s no guarantee that BB tipped things in the right direction with his move.

  5. I agree and disagree with the Shaughnessy article. I have no idea why anyone would be all up in arms over the Red Sox when it is December 10th. If March 3rd comes around and the only pick-up is Scuttaro and Hermida than the media has every reason to attack. Shaughnessy and others have no clue as to what the Red Sox are going to do and can’t criticize until spring training begins.

    That being said, John Henry needs to put a bear trap on that giant pie-hole of his. He needs to stop with his stupid tweets tweaking the Yankees, his dumb comments about the salary system and the comments about the team not being as good. My guess is that every time John Henry opens his mouth Theo Epstein cringes.

    I actually enjoyed Borges’ piece on Seymour. I usually could care less what athletes say because they are usually programmed. Seymour though was not a robot. He spoke his mind which I think is partly the reason why he was sent on his way. The other of course, was no hometown discount. I do agree with him when he says a coach, in any sport, is only as good as his players. There are a lot of young players on this Patriots team that may still be developing but there are some vets and young talent who do (did) not get it, like Thomas, Galloway, Springs and Wilhite, those mistakes and some others who are struggling lay right on the lap of Bill Belichick.

    1. I honestly believe that Theo plans to avoid any major, costly moves this offseason so that the team’s budget is properly primed for the free agent bonanza class of 2010-2011. Lowell, Lugo, Ortiz and Beckett all come off the books next winter, and Drew’s contract will become tradeable with only 1 year left on it.

      Personally, I have no problem with that approach because I’m a “take the long-term view” type of fan, and also, the 2010 Sox will still have enough quality starting pitching to be a playoff contender.

      But I know “Red Sox Nation” won’t be happy with this approach because of the Yankees’ success last year, and the media needs a storyline to pound, and so Theo not making any major offseason moves is that storyline.

      I totally agree about Henry….that Tweet he sent about Texeira last summer after the Sox won their eighth straight over the NYY really came back to bite him in the butt, didn’t it? Bob Kraft learned his lesson about being too “public” of an owner during the Parcells and Pete Carroll Eras; let’s hope Henry learns that lesson too, and soon.

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