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.
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.
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.
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.
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.