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Sunday, July 31, 2011

Patriots Pledge Two More Seasons Of Matt Light In Foxborough

Good news for Patriots quarterback Tom Brady as his left tackle Matt Light has reportedly agreed to a 2-year deal to stay in New England.

There were rumors that Light (a 10-year veteran of the Pats) was heading to the Seahawks, Steelers or Chiefs but New England made the right decision by keeping him rather than forcing rookie first-round pick Nate Solder to have to take that coveted spot. With the lockout and hyper speed training camp, it would have been taking a huge risk to assume Solder could handle the most important task on the offensive line.

Light, a three-time Pro Bowler (including 2010), started all 16 games last season for the Patriots at left tackle. During a 10-year career, Light has played in 140 games (starting all but two). He was picked by the Patriots in the second round of the 2001 draft.

This is the best of both worlds as Light rightfully keeps his job while serving as a mentor for Solder, who is the left tackle of the future. The Purdue product is a true pro, a respected member of the community and the leader of the offensive line; Brady has to be a happy man (even a little more than usual) with this firmed up.

With Rich Harden Legally Dead, The Red Sox Turn To His Left-Handed Equivalent (Erik Bedard)

After the deal for A's pitcher Rich Harden fell threw last night (praise Jesus!), Red Sox GM Theo Epstein might be Ivy League educated (Yale) but he clearly has a pants tent for injury prone starting pitchers who have never really put it all together.

Today, Boston was involved in a three-team trade and they ended up with Seattle Mariners pitcher Erik Bedard and minor league righty Josh Fields (who was a first-round pick in 2008).

The Red Sox sent Double-A catcher Tim Federowicz and right-handers Juan Rodriguez and Stephen Fife to the Los Angeles Dodgers, who dealt OF Trayvon Robinson to the Red Sox. Finally, the Red Sox sent Robinson and Double-A OF Chih-Hsien Chiang to Seattle.

Much like Harden, who I wrote about last night but deleted after he failed his medical check, I can't get too excited about Bedard since he gets hurt all the time and has failed to live up to the potential he showed with the Baltimore Orioles in 2006 and 2007.

He's 4-7 in 16 starts this season with a 3.45 ERA and he just came off the DL on Friday from a sprained knee (and promptly got lit up). Bedard was 15-14 with a 3.31 ERA in 46 career appearances with the Mariners. He missed most of the 2009 season and all of 2010 after left shoulder surgery.

He was 40-34 in five seasons with the Orioles, going 15-11 with a 3.76 ERA in 2006 and 13-5 with a 3.16 ERA the following season.

Fields, 25, the 20th player taken in the 2008 draft out of Georgia, was 2-1 with a 2.77 ERA for Double-A Jackson and 0-0 with a 6.23 ERA in nine games for Triple-A Tacoma.

From what everyone has said, Bedard is tough to deal with and a bit of a headcase. Let's also not overlook the fact that he's never played in a pressure-packed environment (Baltimore, Seattle) so basically we're getting a left-handed John Lackey, who has done less in his career.

Ugh. The truth is that he'll only have to be a fourth or fifth starter going forward as the Red Sox come down the stretch with a little over two months left in the regular season.

Federowicz is nothing special, I've never heard of Rodriguez or Fife but I will say that people who pay attention to prospects say that Chiang is a good one. His numbers this season for the Sea Dogs (.338 with 36 doubles, 18 home runs and 76 RBIs in 87 games) attest to that. Also, Robinson is hitting .293 with 26 home runs and 71 RBIs in Triple-A so he seems like a decent prospect too.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Theo Epstein Goes Dumpster Diving Ahead Of The 2011 MLB Trade Deadline

I'm sorry I have to be the one to tell you this but the Yamaico Navarro era is over in Boston.

The 23-year old infielder was flipped to the Kansas City Royals today along with minor league pitcher Kendal Volz for infielder Mike Aviles in return.

By no means is this is a headline deal but I'm confident that the Red Sox got the best player in the trade (which is what you always want to say). Navarro has shown absolutely nothing in his short time up in the big leagues and I've never heard of Volz so I'm going to assume he's not exactly a stud prospect.

Aviles finished fourth in the AL Rookie of the Year voting in 2008 when he batted .325. He missed much of 2009 following Tommy John surgery but rebounded to hit .304 in 110 games last season. He was expendable as he lost a significant amount of playing time to younger players this season. He should provide depth to the Red Sox infield, a better Drew Sutton if you will.

Kevin Faulk Re-Signs With Patriots Along With Brandon McGowan & Tracy White

When Kevin Faulk tore his ACL in last year's annual Week 2 Super Bowl against the Jets, many thought that his career would be over. Losing Faulk was devastating at the time, as Lawrence Maroney had just been traded and Danny Woodhead had not yet joined the club.

After an extended off-season, it appears as if Faulk will be back with the team for his 12th season, adding to the Patriots depth at the running back position while maintaining his position as a leader in the locker room.

Faulk gives the Patriots more options both in the running game as well as the kicking game but we will see how his knee injury affects his playing time.

He is part of a backfield that features BenJarvis Green-Ellis (who is a RFA), Woodhead, Sammy Morris, Shane Vereen and Stevan Ridley. Faulk will still have to prove that he is in playing shape and will fight for a roster spot. Like Tedy Bruschi in 2009, if Faulk can't go, I think he retires as a Patriot. However if Faulk can be what he was before the knee injury, I think that Sammy Morris may be the odd man out. He's only good for six games a year anyway.

More importantly, with the release of Ty Warren and Tully Banta-Cain, Faulk is one of the few remaining Patriots that has been with the organization since the Super Bowl days. His veteran presence in the locker room can not be overstated, especially with the addition of Albert Haynesworth and Chad Ochocinco.

It should be an interesting camp for Faulk. He is a fan favorite and one of the most clutch performers in franchise history. Let's hope that he has one more run left in him.

Also, late tonight the Patriots resigned safety Brandon McGowan and linebacker Tracy White while releasing rookie linebacker Anthony Leonard.

McGowan missed all of 2010 with a chest injury but he came out of nowhere in 2009 to appear in all 16 games (starting 11) as he made a career-high 66 tackles, 10 passes defensed, three forced fumbles and one fumble recovery. If he's healthy, he has some value as a backup safety and on special teams.

Speaking of special teams, that's where you'll find White. Last season was his first in Foxborough and he finished second on the team with 18 special teams tackles (tying his career-high). With a full season under his belt, he should be a key part of the special teams this season but then again, those guys come and go like nothing else so he could be out of a job in a few weeks. We shall see.

Friday, July 29, 2011

White Sox Still Own The Red Sox For Whatever Unknown Reason

Sure Chicago is a great city but let's be honest, the White Sox are nothing more than an average team in a bad division (AL Central).

Still that doesn't stop them from completely owning the Boston Red Sox in 2011, carrying on the tradition from the last few seasons as well.

The teams renewed acquaintances tonight in the Windy City and yet again, the White Sox (52-52) came out on top of the Red Sox (64-40) 3-1 at U.S. Cellular Field.

That marks seven straight wins for Ozzie Guillen's boys and 14 of their last 16 overall against Boston.

One streak was stopped for the Red Sox while another milestone had to wait for another day. Dustin Pedroia's 25-game hit streak (longest of his career and ever for a Boston second basemen) was ended along with his 37-game streak of getting on base after he went 0 for 4.

Likewise Tim Wakefield's (6-4) quest for his 200th win in a Red Sox uniform didn't happen despite a very solid start. He went seven innings, allowing three earned runs on three hits with two walks and five strikeouts. As is the case with most starts by Wakefield-precisely why he can't be counted on in the playoffs-he was great for most of his outing but out of nowhere he gave up a home run.

White Sox pitcher Gavin Floyd (9-9) improved to 6-0 in seven career starts against Boston. He went seven innings, allowing one earned run on three hits with two walks and six strikeouts.

Jarrod Saltalamacchia gave his team a 1-0 lead with a solo homer, his ninth of the season, in the third. Unfortunately that's all the Red Sox would get as they couldn't put anything together after that. Their best chance came in the sixth when Kevin Youkilis struck out looking (at a ball) with the bases loaded.

Paul Konerko's sacrifice fly drove in Juan Pierre in the sixth to tie it at 1-1 and A.J. Pierzynski hit a two-run blast in the seventh (driving in Carlos Quentin).

White Sox former closer and now setup man Matt Thornton got a 1-2-3 eighth with a strikeout for his 14th hold of the season. Closer Sergio Santos recorded a 1-2-3 ninth for his 22nd save of the season.

This rapidly paced game was over in a tidy two hours and ten minutes as both teams only had three hits apiece. Luckily, the Orioles beat the Yankees so the Red Sox hang on to a 2.5 game lead in the AL East.

Tomorrow night, Jon Lester (10-4, 3.23 ERA) takes on Philip Humber (8-6. 3.27 ERA) who is quietly having a good season.

Patriots Say Goodbye To Ty Warren, Alge Crumpler, Nick Kaczur And Others

It is basically impossible to keep up with all the moves the New England Patriots are making this week. I realize that's how it is with all NFL teams right now but it's hard to compare the last 36 hours in Pats history to any other time.

Yesterday, they added Albert Haynesworth and Chad Ochocinco. Today, they cut seven players including Ty Warren, Alge Crumpler and Nick Kazcur. CB Tony Carter, DL Marcus Stroud, undrafted rookie LB Ryan Coulson and LB Tully Banta-Cain (which we already knew) were also given their pink slips.

Warren is the most shocking loss since he missed all of the 2010 season with a hip injury but he was back in camp yesterday ready to go. I guess visions of a 4-3 with him, Vince Wilfork, Haynesworth and Mike Wright will never materialize.

Warren was a first-round pick in 2003 who played a key role on both the 2003 and 2004 Super Bowl teams. He started 92 of 105 games. A consummate pro, he was well respected on and off the field and he should have a few more good seasons left in him.

Kaczur spent six seasons with the Pats after being drafted in the third round of the 2005 draft. After starting 62 of 68 games, he also missed the bulk of last season with injuries. He's most famous for getting busted for drugs a few years ago.

A Pro Bowler from 2003-06 with Atlanta, Crumpler played one season with the Patriots and even served as a captain, making six catches for 52 yards and two touchdowns although he caught a possible touchdown in the playoff loss against the Jets. He was a great veteran leader for rookies Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski to follow last season. My guess is they'll pick up another older tight end since those aren't too hard to come by especially at this time of year.

Stroud was signed in March after playing in Buffalo so never played with the Patriots. He was a Pro Bowler from 2003-05 with the Jaguars.

Carter played in two games last season, while Coulson was an undrafted free agent rookie out of Nevada.

In addition to those subtractions, the Patriots signed rookie quarterback Ryan Mallett (third-round pick) and rookie offensive lineman Marcus Cannon (fifth-round pick). Terms were not disclosed for both who are intriguing prospects long-term. If nothing else, the Pats can build up their value and eventually trade them away to a needy team.

Mallett set a school record with 3,869 passing yards in 2010 for Arkansas. He had 69 TD passes and 24 interception in a college career split between Michigan and Arkansas.

Cannon played left tackle as a senior at TCU after playing on the right side. He didn't allow a sack in his final two seasons in college.

Finally, Kyle Arrington agreed to a 2-year deal worth up to $3.275 million. A minor deal for a guy that's decent depth help for the Patriots secondary.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Chad Ochocinco & Bill Belichick's Man Crush Gets Taken To The Next Level

I'll leave the tired Christmas morning cliches for my friends in the print media but honestly, today was a pretty special day to be a fan of the New England Patriots.

When I woke up, they had acquired Albert Haynesworth. A move that I hadn't heard one whisper about, which is saying something with the proliferation of Twitter.

This afternoon, they made a much less surprising but I think better overall move as the Pats shipped two late-round picks (1 in 2012, 1 in 2013) to the Cincinnati Bengals for Chad Ochocinco.

I say this wasn't a surprise since Chad and Patriots head coach Bill Belichick have had an almost disturbing mutual affection for each other since the Pro Bowl a couple seasons ago. Before a preseason game two years ago, mics caught them verbally smooching each other and then they gave each other tongue baths before their teams met for real last season.

"It became a relationship beyond a football player and coach," Ochocinco said last September before the Bengals faced the Patriots. "He became a friend of mine.

"He's one that I look up to tremendously. One who I've never played for but who I share the same respect for as if he was my own head coach."

Belichick returned the compliment.

"It's an odd couple," Belichick said at the time, drawing some laughter from media members. "But in the end, I think we have a lot of things in common.

"I like Chad. I like him as a player, I like him as a person. I like his enthusiasm and the fun he has in football, and how he competes on the football field."

Ochocinco (please go back to Johnson) has never been my favorite player by any means since he has always been a cartoon character. When the Bengals were on Hard Knocks a few years ago, that sealed it. He tried way too hard to be funny and different. However, the main difference between him and Haynesworth is that Chad loves football when it gets down to it. He's very durable (16 games in 7 out of 10 years), he goes hard and most importantly, he makes big plays.

His talent went mostly wasted with a terrible franchise but he's going to have a huge impact immediately this season for Tom Brady and the Patriots already vaunted passing game. He adds the deep threat that they lacked after they kicked Randy Moss out of town last season after four games.

Chad signed a three-year deal with the Patriots; he was due to make $6.35 million for the Bengals this season but the Patriots want him to restructure that.

Bottom line is that this is a very low risk for New England. Ochocinco always dreamed of playing for a winning franchise and one of the greatest coaches in NFL history. At 33, he should still have something left in the tank. This is a six-time Pro Bowler who had seven 1000-yard seasons (the Pats didn't have any last year). He has over 10,000 career yards (10,783) and 66 touchdowns but he's never made a deep playoff run.

What better place to come than New England? Besides Belichick, he will line up with the best quarterback in the NFL and a team that has serious Super Bowl aspirations. I'd say pick him up for your fantasy team this season but Pats homers will be all over him way too early. Regardless, Chad Ochocinco is a nearly perfect fit for this team at this point in time.

Royals Earn The Split At Fenway, Say What?

This four-game series that just wrapped up this afternoon with the Kansas City Royals at Fenway Park boggles the mind.

Not only did the Royals (44-61) earn a split with a 4-3 win but they also beat Josh Beckett (9-4) in the finale.

So if you're scoring at home, the Red Sox (64-39) lost the two games started by Jon Lester and Beckett while Andrew Miller and John Lackey started games that Boston eventually won (Miller got a no-decision, Lackey got his fourth straight win). Weird.

Luke Hochevar (7-8) outdueled Beckett which isn't something you can say pretty much ever. The former first-round pick went seven solid innings, allowing two earned runs on six hits with a walk and six strikeouts.

Beckett wasn't bad by any means and with Boston's offense, they'll almost always win a game at home where the opposition scores four runs (especially when it's a team like the Royals). He also went seven innings, allowing four runs (three earned) on five hits with three walks and eight strikeouts.

In an equally shocking development, the Red Sox were held to less than ten hits (eight). Jacoby Ellsbury gave Boston its only lead of the game as he hit a two-run single in the third scoring Yamaico Navarro and Jason Varitek.

Billy Butler put Kansas City ahead for good with a three-run bomb in the fourth. Rookie Mike Moustakas added an RBI double which turned out to be key.

Dustin Pedroia built up the drama and extended his hit streak to 25 games with a solo homer to lead off the eighth. His 15th homer of the season gave him the longest hit streak ever for a Red Sox second baseman.

Carl Crawford, sat for the second game in a row, but he nearly provided his fourth walk-off hit of his so far underachieving season. He hit a deep fly ball to the warning track in right with a runner aboard in the ninth but Jeff Francoeur managed to basket catch it.

Royals closer Joakim Soria recorded the final three outs for his 19th save of the season.

The Red Sox hit the road for a short trip-three games in Chicago. Tomorrow night, Gavin Floyd opposes Tim Wakefield. The most interesting aspect of the weekend series is that Boston will experience the trade deadline (Sunday at 4pm) away from Fenway which always makes for an awkward day.

With Carlos Beltran going to the Giants and Hunter Pence likely staying in the National League, bank on Boston picking up a fifth starter for its shaky rotation (who knows when Buchholz will return). Erik Bedard and Hiroki Kuroda appear to be the most likely options.

David Ortiz Gets His 1000th Career RBI In A Red Sox Uniform As Boston Deals Kansas City Another Beating

David Ortiz recorded his 1000th career RBI in a Red Sox uniform in about the greatest way possible (other than the opponent): by hitting a grand slam.

Yet again Boston's (64-38) offense was working overtime as it cranked out 16 hits in a 12-5 laugher over the Kansas City Royals (43-61) last night at Fenway Park.

The Royals are so bad that they let John Lackey (9-8) climb over the .500 mark for the season. In 5.2 workman like innings, he allowed four runs (three earned) on 11 hits with a walk and three strikeouts. They'll be talking about that start when he's inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

And speaking of Cooperstown, it takes a lot to make Lackey look like Roy Halladay but that's what happens when he opposes Bruce Chen (5-4). Don't ask me how Chen has been in MLB for 13 seasons (albeit on 10 teams) or has a 53-54 career record with last night's loss since every time I see him, I think he's the worst starting pitcher I've ever seen in MLB.

To say he throws meatballs is being kind. He's a lefty and he throws straight junk with no velocity. In four innings (haha 114 pitches!) Chen allowed ten earned runs on ten hits with three walks and three strikeouts.

Eric Hosmer (4 RBIs, 2 hits) actually gave Kansas City a 3-0 lead in the first with a three-run bomb. He's such a stud.

Didn't matter one bit though as Boston's juggernaut of an offense scored two in the first, three in the second and four in the fourth to send Chen back to the visitors dressing room.

Jacoby Ellsbury (3 runs, 3 hits, 2 RBIs, walk, stolen base) and Dustin Pedroia (3 hits, 2 runs, 2 RBIs) went back-to-back to start the game. For Ellsbury, it was his 17th homer of the season (off Pesky's Pole) while Pedroia extended his hitting streak to 24 games with his 14th.

Fitting, Ellsbury tied it up in the second with his bases-loaded walk and Pedroia made it 4-3 with a sacrifice fly. Adrian Gonzalez's groundout (3 hits, 3 RBIs, run) pushed it to 5-3.

Yamaico Navarro's (2 hits) RBI single in the fourth gave the Red Sox a 6-3 lead before Ortiz's bomb over the bullpen in right field.

Lackey tried his best to give the seven-run lead back as Billy Butler (3 hits) crushed a solo homer over the Monster in the fifth but Kansas City is too inept to comeback even against Lackey.

Gonzalez added an RBI single in the sixth and eighth, sandwiched around an RBI single by Hosmer in the eighth.

Not for nothing but 1-4 with Alex Gordon (3 hits, 2 runs), Melky Cabrera, Butler and Hosmer, the Royals have some serious pop. It's too bad with all their bats on the team and in their farm system, they don't seem to have any arms to match.

Boston ace Josh Beckett takes the mound in just a matter of minutes as the Red Sox look to finish off a successful home stand by taking three of four from Kansas City. The Royals counter with Luke Hochevar.

E'Twaun Moore, Coming To An Italian Basketball Court Near You

Well it's finally happened. One of the Boston Celtics has committed to playing overseas during the NBA lockout.

Haha but fear not folks since it's not Rajon Rondo or any of the Big 3 taking their talents to Europe. Rather, it's rookie guard E'Twaun Moore, who probably has a much better chance of building a respectable career in Italy than bouncing around between the NBA and D-League stateside.

The deal that he signed with Benetton Treviso, a team in Italy's Lega Serie A, has an opt-out clause that would allow him to return to the Celts should the lockout end during his time abroad.

A young man's gotta eat and make a living so I applaud him (or his agent) for having the ingenuity to pack up and get out of town since the NBA appears nowhere close to a settlement.

From's Chris Forsberg
"It's a great situation for E'Twaun," Moore's agent, Mark Bartelstein, said. "Treviso is a terrific team that plays top European competition and, if the lockout ends, there's an option to terminate the contract -- a small window of time -- so we'll just see what happens.

"It's an exciting chance for him to play -- play at a high level -- and make some money in a great environment."

The former Purdue star is expected to go to Italy by Aug. 15, before the team starts training camp for its 2011-12 season. In a perfect world, he'll play well and the NBA will get back to business on schedule. However, as everyone should know by now this world is far from perfect so likely one or both of those things won't happen.

Patriots Rehab Program Continues, Albert Haynesworth Checks In

In a move that seems more Rex-like than Belichickian, ESPN is reporting that the Patriots have sent a 2013 fifth-round draft pick to the Washington Redskins for malcontent defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth.

Haynesworth played for Washington the last two seasons but was a distraction on and off of the field for the bulk of his time there. He signed a 7-year, 100-million dollar contract with the Skins two years ago and since then has had conditioning issues as well as very public media battles with former head coach Mike Shanahan. A lot of his frustration stemmed from the fact that they played in a 3-4 scheme, which he didn't fully buy into. Uh oh.

Guess what team also plays the 3-4? That's right, your New England Patriots. Anchored by Big Vince Wilfork in the middle, the Patriots 3-4 is effective because it draws double teams towards Number 75, giving other linemen or linebackers the opportunity to create mismatches in the trenches.

Patriots insiders (give me a couple more seasons) have said that Belichick intends on using the 6'6", 330 pound Haynesworth as a "nickel rusher" meaning that he wouldn't start but would instead provide a pass rush from the interior, as well as be a run stopper alongside Wilfork.

Will he be happy here though?

I don't think he has a choice, for several reasons. First, the Patriots gave up next to nothing to acquire Haynesworth from the Redskins. At the first sign of insubordination, Belichick wouldn't hesitate to put him back on the street. Also, this could be Haynesworth's last chance to make good money in the NFL and if he got cut, it would be hard to imagine any other team bringing him in, even in a low risk situation.

If there is anyone who can straighten Haynesworth's head out, it is Belichick and defensive line coach Pepper Johnson, two of the most respected coaches in the game. I have a feeling that Belichick commands much more respect than Shanahan and Haynesworth knows that he has to shape up.

He is certainly not without baggage; he has made his grievances very public, given up on plays and is facing trial for sexual assault. Depending on the results of that trial, Albert will come in and instantly contribute.

The Patriots have succeeded with Corey Dillon and Randy Moss for a few seasons each, so there is reason to believe that they can do the same with Haynesworth and assemble what could be one of the most dominant defensive lines in the NFL in the process.

Ian Rapoport of the Boston Herald just reported that the Patriots have released Marcus Stroud, apparently his shoulder hasn't recovered enough yet from off-season surgery. So even though Haynesworth's deal isn't set in stone yet, now it makes even more sense on the depth chart.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Patriots Sign Two Draft Picks You Forgot About/Never Heard Of

In case you're heading out to the start of Patriots training camp tomorrow morning at Gillette Stadium or just watching the highlights on TV, here's a primer on two of the more obscure players that you'll see wearing Patriots uniforms.

The Patriots signed their first two rookies from the 2011 draft class. Fifth-round pick Lee Smith, a tight end from Marshall and sixth-round pick Markell Carter, a outside linebacker/defensive end from Central Arkansas.

Selected 159th overall, Smith was given an allocation of $2.29 million. He's primarily known for his blocking abilities which means he could spell greybeard Alge Crumpler (New England's blocking tight end) while he gets in shape during training camp and the preseason.

Crumpler, Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski are three offensive leaders for the Pats but they also carry lesser known tight ends like Carson Butler, fellow rookie Will Yeatman (signed on Monday) and Smith. Barring a terrible camp or an injury, Smith seems to have the inside track should Belichick choose to go with four tight ends (they carried mostly three last season).

Interestingly enough, Carter agreed to a four-year deal though terms weren't disclosed. His slot where he was drafted possesses a $2.19 million allocation.

With Tully Banta-Cain gone and the team's lack of a pass rush, Carter was the only front seven draft pick for the Patriots in 2011. He has to make the transition from a 4-3 defensive end to a 3-4 linebacker but you can't say the position is exactly loaded.

Rob Ninkovich, Jermaine Cunningham, Eric Moore and Marques Murrell are the only four guys that play that vital position. Hopefully the Patriots can strike gold with Carter. It's a success if he makes the roster, let alone does anything notable in his career here.

Sammy Morris Coming Back For Another Year With The Patriots

Still waiting for the New England Patriots to make some kind of splash (not that they ever do) in this shortened and chaotic free agency period in the NFL.

The first veteran to officially return is running back Sammy Morris. The 34-year old signed a one-year deal with terms not disclosed.

"Sammy has such respect for Bill Belichick, Robert Kraft and that organization, he's excited to be back," Slough said. "He's enjoyed his time there over the last four years, he likes being part of the community, his kids are in school, and that is where he wanted to be."

With (restricted free agent) BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Danny Woodhead along with rookies Shane Vereen (2nd round) and Steven Ridley (3rd round) ahead of him on the Pats depth chart, Morris obviously has his work cut out for him. Let's not forget that practice squad hero Thomas Clayton will also be around and Kevin Faulk might come back depending on how well his rehab has gone.

However, if healthy (which is a big if for him given his age and injury history) Morris has a spot on the team given his-say it with me-versatility. He can catch passes, he can run the ball in spots and most importantly for Bill Belichick, he can play special teams.

The former Texas A&M star appeared in all 16 games last season, totaling 20 carries for 56 yards and had seven catches for 77 yards, essentially serving as a backup fullback/running back while seeing time on special teams.

Morris enters his 12th NFL season, having played for three of the four AFC East teams: the Bills (2000-2003), Dolphins (2004-2006) and Patriots (2007-present).

Red Sox Pound Royals Behind the World's Smallest Cleanup Hitter

After a disappointing 14 inning loss (aren't they all?), the Boston Red Sox responded last night by pounding out 16 hits in a 13-9 win over the Kansas City Royals at Fenway Park.

Despite the fact that Jacoby Ellsbury (rest) and Kevin Youkilis (sore foot) started the game on the bench, Boston (63-38) had no problem putting up 10+ hits for the tenth straight game-an MLB high. They also have scored double-digit runs for an MLB-leading 15th time so far this season.

Dustin Pedroia was put in the cleanup spot and he responded as he always does, going 4 for 5 with three runs, an RBI and a walk. In his career, he's hit fourth seven times and gone 17 for 31 (.548) with seven extra-base hits and nine RBIs. Oh by the way, his career-best hit streak was extended to 23 games. Ho hum.

His bid for the cycle came up just short (no pun intended) in the eighth as his fairly deep fly ball fell a few feet shy of the Green Monster. Credit to NESN though as they sold it about as hard as they could with Don Orsillo going bananas and the cameraman shooting straight up in the sky.

David Ortiz was the other Red Sox player that the Royals (43-60) simply couldn't get out. Big Papi was 4 for 5 with five RBIs and a career-high three doubles.

Adrian Gonzalez added three runs, two hits, two RBIs and a walk while Ellsbury (who pinch hit in the fifth) ended up with two hits and a run.

As you can guess by the score, it was anything but a pitcher's duel between Boston's Andrew Miller (3.2 innings, 9 hits, 7 runs, 5 earned runs, 2 walks, 1 strikeout) and Kansas City's wannabe Southie transplant Danny Duffy (3.2 innings, 6 hits, 6 earned runs, 3 walks, 5 strikeouts).

Billy Butler, fantasy baseball geeks' perennial wet dream provider, led the Royals with three hits, three RBIs and two runs. Mike Aviles had three hits and a run while Alex Gordon (2 hits, 2 RBIs, run, walk) and Eric Hosmer (2 hits, run, RBI) are some of Kansas City's solid prospects and youngsters that prove the Royals might be actually competitive someday if they stumble upon a few pitchers and a manager not named Ned Yost.

If Miller has proven anything in his seven starts in Boston (5.45 ERA overall; 7.94 ERA, 2.29 WHIP, 4 Ks in 17 IP against 4 AL teams), it's that he's unreliable. The Red Sox' biggest hole right now is in the back end of their rotation where John Lackey, Tim Wakefield and Miller at best give them a 60-40 chance to win every time they're out there. That's not good enough but with Clay Buchholz returning in August, the best plan might be to to just wait it out rather than trade anybody (namely Josh Reddick) for some fifth starter (Rich Harden, pukes).

Hosmer gave Kansas City a 1-0 lead in the first with an RBI double, followed by Jeff Francoeur's sacrifice fly (another guy I want no part of).

The Red Sox tied it up with two runs during their first at bats. Gonzalez had a sacrifice fly and Ortiz knocked in Pedroia with an RBI double.

Butler's two-run double in the second once again put the Royals up by two but it didn't matter. Pedroia cut it to 4-3 with an RBI double in the third and Ortiz drove in two with his RBI double to give Boston a 5-4 advantage.

A pair of homers: two-run by Gordon and a solo shot by Butler in the fourth sent Miller to a very early exit.

Carl Crawford drove in run with a bases-loaded walk in the fourth before Boston erupted for their accustomed big inning. This time it was six runs in the fifth. Drew Sutton had a sacrifice that turned into a pair of runs as the Royals made two errors on the same play (haha classic). Gonzalez had an RBI single, Ortiz had a two-run single and Reddick had a sacrifice fly.

Jason Varitek hit his sixth homer of the season-solo-off Worcester's Tim Collins in the seventh.

Mike Moustakas and Matt Treanor (say hi to Misty May for me!) both had RBI singles in the ninth off a fatigued Franklin Morales (who pitched 1.2 innings) but he was able to close it out.

Alfredo Aceves (6-1) improved to a ridiculous 20-2 in his career with another superb outing out of the bullpen. He went 3.1 innings, allowing three hits but no runs with no walks and three strikeouts. Aceves has won 15 straight relief decisions, the longest streak in MLB since 1967. The best part about him, outside of his versatility, is that he's a character on a team that doesn't have too many big personalities.

Bruce Chen faces John Lackey tonight in a battle of mediocre veteran starters. Woo, catch the excitement.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Royals Beat Red Sox in 14 Innings While Most of New England Sleeps

I can't lie and say I was riveted by every pitch of last night's 14 inning contest between the Boston Red Sox and Kansas City Royals at Fenway Park.

For one thing, the game had a rain delay that lasted 2:21 meaning that the first pitch didn't happen until 9:30 p.m. Also, unlike the instant classic 16 inning game against the Rays on Sunday Night Baseball a few weeks ago, this one had little appeal outside of seeing how Jon Lester would do in his first start back from the DL.

So yes, I was one of the poor schmoes that was still tuned in when the Royals (43-59) wrapped up a 3-1 win over the Red Sox (62-38) right before 2 a.m. but it won't be some life-changing event I'll tell anybody about. Nope, it was just something to do before I went to bed late as usual.

All things considered, Lester was fine in his return. He went 5.1 innings, allowing one earned run on seven hits with two walks and six strikeouts. Red Sox manager Terry Francona wanted to limit him to 80 pitches but Lester's night was over after 89, no big deal.

Kyle Davies had a great performance (by his poor standards), going 6.1 innings, allowing one earned run on five hits with a walk and six strikeouts.

J.D. Drew was supposed to go on the DL last night (with Lester getting activated) with some fake shoulder injury but for some reason that was delayed for a day while rookie Kyle Weiland went back to Pawtucket. I mention this only because Josh Reddick (3 hits, 2 doubles, 1 awesome diving catch) continues to do everything in his power to lock the job down for 2011.

Reddick gave Boston a 1-0 lead with an RBI double in the second which scored Carl Crawford (0 for 6 with 4 strikeouts).

Billy Butler tied it up at one for Kansas City with his RBI double in the sixth which scored ex-Yankee Melky Cabrera (4 hits).

Despite 13 hits, the Red Sox looked like the team in the early part of 2011 that couldn't come through with the clutch hit (11 left on base). Marco Scutaro was the goat as he came up with Reddick at third with one out in the 12th but a bungled sign led to him not bunting and Reddick getting caught in a rundown. If that wasn't enough, Scutaro promptly singled but tried to stretch it into a double and got thrown out at second by a few feet. Yeesh, rough inning.

Matt Albers (1.2 innings), Daniel Bard (1 inning), Jonathan Papelbon (1 inning), Franklin Morales (1.2 innings) and Dan Wheeler (1.1 innings) all had scoreless outings but once Randy Williams-the last man in the bullpen and on the roster-was summoned, you know it was probably over.

Williams went two innings but Mike Aviles plated Eric Hosmer (3 hits) with a sacrifice in the 14th and Alex Escobar knocked in Jeff Francoeur with a sacrifice fly. Somehow the Royals still had closer Joakim Soria available and he came on to strikeout the side for his 18th save of the season.

Worcester native Tim Collins threw a 1-2-3 seventh on 10 pitches for the Royals. Great improbable story (look it up) about a local guy that has made it.

Rookie Danny Duffy faces Andrew Miller tonight as the Red Sox look to bounce back from an unexpected loss to one of MLB's worst teams. Making matters worse, the Yankees beat the A's last night meaning they're now two games back in the AL East.

Should Have Got That Surgery Done Earlier Boss

Just days after having abdominal surgery, Tully Banta-Cain has been informed that he will be released by the Patriots on Thursday. Adam Schefter of ESPN broke the news on Twitter earlier this morning.

The move is not surprising, especially when you consider that Banta-Cain is due to miss training camp, the preseason and perhaps the season opener. This release is clearly due to Banta-Cain's negligence in dealing with his abdominal injury.

As I detailed yesterday on this blog, Banta-Cain and the team doctors agreed that the injury would not require surgery. However, Banta-Cain apparently reinjured his abdomen recently which tells me that he wasn't working out early on in his off-season.

Banta-Cain is currently under contract for both this year and next, so the release has to be because of the surgery. However, the Patriots are now even more desperate for an outside linebacker, as Tully had 15 sacks in the last two seasons. I think Banta-Cain had some sort of commitment issues, which may have led to his departure the first time around.

Of course there's always the chance that he comes back for less money (something the Patriots love to do) but right now, he appears to be done in Foxborough.

Patriots Acquire TE Will Yeatman

The Patriots have come to terms with tight end Will Yeatman, a graduate of the University of Maryland, according to reports. And by reports, I mean his own Twitter account.

The 6-foot-6, 270 pound Yeatman was a transfer from Notre Dame who overcame a broken finger last year. He played in just four games last year with 13 receptions for 103 yards and a touchdown. He also played lacrosse at both Notes Dame and Maryland (two of the better programs in the country).

He is not without baggage however, as he got a DUI at Notre Dame for driving his car on a sidewalk. He was later arrested for minor consumption of alcohol, which led to his transfer.

Making the 53-man roster is a stretch at this point, but I would guess Yeatman has a chance to make the practice squad and get some valuable NFL experience.

You can follow him on Twitter at @WYeatman88.

Patriots Sign Tarpinian, Other UFA'S

As expected, teams are not waiting long to sign players now that the NFL lockout is over.

In a period that some have dubbed "the 8th Round of the Draft", teams could negotiate with Undrafted Free Agents (UFA) but had to wait until today at 10 am to make the signings official.

Last night, the Patriots reached an agreement with former Iowa linebacker Jeff Tarpinian. The terms of the deal will be made official today.

Hampered by hand and neck injuries throughout the 2010 season, the 6'3" 238 pound Tarpinian is an inside linebacker who could fit in nicely with the Patriots 3-4 defensive scheme. Tarpinian was moved from defensive back to linebacker in 2007, after he redshirted during his freshman year.

Last year, he was limited to just eight games but recorded 47 tackles over the course of the season while earning Academic All-Big Ten Honors.

Most scouting reports have Tarpinian projected to be a special teams contributor to start, which is where he would most likely get the bulk of his playing time with the Pats. He could also be called upon in nickel packages, using his speed and prior experience as a defensive back to make life difficult for opposing quarterbacks.

Like every other rookie this year, Tarpinian wont have long to learn the playbook, so he will have to use his head to separate himself from the other rookies trying to make the opening day roster. Considering his academic honors it shouldn't be too hard.

The Patriots also signed offensive tackle Corey Woods out of Akron and WR/KR Jeremy Ross from Cal. Woods was a four-year starter who played both sides of the line and could possibly shift to guard. The 6-foot-3, 303 pounder has a shot to make the club but probably will have to move to guard to make that happen.

Ross is 6-feet, 209 pounds and started here and there for Cal but is most dangerous in the return game. He will have a lot of competition in that regard and will have to earn his spot with the club.

He's on Twitter: @J_Ross_3

FYI check out @NEPatriotsDraft on Twitter. They had all the scoops on these signings last night, in fact many well known Patriots writers were retweeting their valuable info.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Wakefield Records A Milestone, Mariners Hit New Low In Red Sox' Sweep

Tim Wakefield and the Boston Red Sox sent the Seattle Mariners out of town with basically the Scarlet Letter for their inept team.

With Boston's (62-37) 12-8 win yesterday afternoon at Fenway Park, Seattle (43-58) was not only swept in the three-game series but they set a new low for the franchise with its record 15th straight loss.

It's basically impossible to see a pitcher get two standing ovations after getting knocked around for seven earned runs on 10 hits in 6.1 innings (with a walk and four strikeouts) but that was the strange scene at Pink Hat Central.

Wakefield (6-3) got the extra dose of love since he became just the second pitcher in Red Sox history, joining Roger Clemens, to put up 2000+ strikeouts.

The win also gave Wake 199 in his Boston career, putting him on the cusp of even more history the next time he starts (Friday in Chicago against the White Sox).

Mariners rookie Michael Pineda (8-7) was a surprise All-Star this season but he was anything but in that type of form yesterday. In 4.1 innings, he allowed seven earned runs on eight hits with a walk and four strikeouts.

The conveyor belt (somewhere Claude Julien smiles) that is the Red Sox lineup continued to churn out double-digits with 17 hits in the game.

Jarrod Saltlamacchia led Boston with three hits and four RBIs. Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez each had three hits, two runs and two RBIs. Josh Reddick had two hits, two runs and an RBI, David Ortiz had two hits and two runs while Jacoby Ellsbury had two hits, a run and an RBI.

Kevin Youkilis smacked a two-run homer and scored two runs while Dustin Pedroia's double extended his hit streak to a career-high 21 games (an AL high this season) and he's reached base in 32 consecutive games (tops in the majors).

Brendan Ryan led Seattle with two hits and five RBIs. Franklin Gutierrez had two hits and three runs while Ichiro (run), Dustin Ackley (RBI) and Mike Carp all had two hits apiece.

Miguel Olivo gave the Mariners a 2-0 lead with a two-run bomb in the first.

No surprise, the lead was short-lived as the Red Sox put up a five-spot in the home half of the inning. Gonzalez drove in Ellsbury with an RBI single and Youk put Boston up 3-2 with a two-run shot (his 14th of the season). Salty's two-run single made it 5-2.

Ryan's RBI double in the fifth cut it to 5-3 in favor of the Red Sox.

Once again, Boston put up five runs, this time in the fifth inning. Crawford hit a two-run single to left (all three of his hits were to the opposite field, a good sign), Reddick had an RBI double and Saltalamacchia had another two-run single.

Gonzalez's RBI single in the sixth made the lead balloon to 11-3 for Boston.

Ryan's grand slam in the seventh cut it to 11-7, not that you had to worry since it was the M's. It also signaled the end of Wakefield's outing. Alfredo Aceves got the last eight outs of the contest.

Ellsbury added an RBI single in the seventh before Ackley closed out the scoring with an RBI double in the ninth.

The Kansas City Royals, a team that has an even worse record than Seattle, comes to Boston for their first meeting with the Red Sox this season. Jon Lester gets his first start since July 5 when he left a game early with the injury to his left latissimus muscle.

Facing Kyle Davies (1-9) and a team that he's 4-1 against all-time (including a no-hitter) with a 1.22 ERA seems like the perfect matchup for Lester to get back on his feet. Needless to say, he's a huge piece of the Red Sox' playoff hopes in this season which gets brighter as each day passes by. Boston remains three games ahead of New York for first-place in the AL East.

Yes Hank Williams Jr., I AM Ready For Some Football!

After months of negotiations, it appears as if the NFL will be back for the 2011 season and I couldn't be happier.

Not because football is back, because let's face it, we all knew there would be football this fall. No, I'm happy because the relentless coverage of courtroom meetings, 11th hour negotiations and footage of Kevin Mawae entering a building is finally over. The millionaires and billionaires have agreed and there will be football.

This offseason has sucked so badly for fans of the NFL. I realize that guys like Albert Breer and Adam Schefter busted their asses all offseason long covering these negotiations but after a while these lockout articles started to turn into reader repellent. I mean, picture one of the Oakland Raiders' nutbag fans sifting through all the legalese in each of these articles and reports. After a while, many fans (including myself) tuned out coverage of the lockout. I'd rather hear about it when the deal is actually done. Call me when training camp starts.

In New England, most fans survived the spring and summer thanks to the Bruins' historic Stanley Cup run and the Red Sox' pursuit of another World Series title. But can you imagine living in a place like Jacksonville, where football is literally the only thing going on? Jeez, at least we have three other pro sports teams to divert our attention.

Since the draft, there has been nothing of importance other than the negotiations. I for one am ready to start talking about rookie contracts, free agent signings, trades and QB controversies. Shit, I'll even settle for a few Rex Ryan quotes if it means football is going to be on my television every Sunday and Monday. It just feels good to have this sort of normalcy return to my fall and winter weekends.

The worst part about the lockout is just how needless it was. The league was not in financial trouble, in fact last year was the NFL's most profitable year ever. Darren Rovell from CNBC even estimated that the league could financially survive a three year lockout under their current CBA. In many ways, it seemed like a faux crisis that was designed by the owners, whose failure to show their complete financial records near the beginning of the lockout reeked of shadiness.

No matter anymore, as business will pick up quickly this week. Teams can sign UFAS and their own draft picks starting tomorrow morning, with free agency following on Wednesday. Training Camps will open up on Thursday for many teams.

Just take a deep breath and be happy that America's Game is back, not that it technically went anywhere.

Banta-Cain Undergoes Surgery, Out 4-5 Weeks

Patriots outside linebacker Tully Banta-Cain underwent surgery on Friday to repair an abdominal injury. A source confirmed this to ESPN last night and estimated that it would be 4-5 weeks before the veteran pass rusher would be ready to play.

Banta-Cain will most likely miss training camp and the preseason and may miss the Patriots' season opener on September 12th at Miami.

The injury and subsequent surgery could not have come at a worse time for both Banta-Cain and the Patriots, as the NFL Lockout is reportedly ending today. If the league and the NFLPA can reach an agreement today, training camps could open as early as this Wednesday with the Pats reportedly being one of the 10 teams to start on the first day.

Some have wondered why Banta-Cain waited so long to get the surgery done. I personally believe that the lockout is partly to blame. After suffering the injury late last season, team doctors said that surgery was not required. Apparently, Banta-Cain reinjured his abdomen during recent workouts. One can't help but wonder if this injury would have came back had the NFL offseason schedule proceeded as usual, with mandatory OTAs and offical team workouts. I would imagine that this conditioning issue will manifest itself with many teams as camp opens up.

Banta-Cain played in 15 games last season and recorded six sacks, mostly coming off the bench in special packages.

If Banta-Cain is to miss any significant time past the initial 4-5 week estimation, the Patriots will look into acquiring a veteran OLB who can get to the QB and mentor some of the Pats' younger pass fishers like Rob Ninkovich and Jermaine Cunningham, who will fill in while Banta-Cain is out.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Terry Francona Records His 1000th Win As The Seattle Mariners Continue To Lose Like It's Their Job

Two milestones occurred last night at Fenway Park as the Boston Red Sox beat the Seattle Mariners 3-1 in another hot game in Boston.

Red Sox (61-37) manager Terry Francona notched his 1000th career win (715 with Boston) while the Mariners (43-57) tied a franchise record with their 14th straight loss.

If you were lucky enough to be in Vegas or some underground gambling ring, having Josh Beckett (9-3) face MLB's worst lineup was one of the biggest layups of the season. The big Texan delivered of course, going seven innings and allowing one earned run on seven hits with a walk and seven strikeouts. He lowered his ERA to a sick 2.07.

Seattle rookie pitcher Blake Beaven gave his team a chance to win (6.2 innings, 3 earned runs, 9 hits, 0 walks, 4 strikeouts) but what can you expect from a batting order that has Brendan Ryan hitting second and Adam Kennedy in the five spot?

It was scoreless until the seventh when Mariners left fielder Mike Carp hit a homer (this time a solo shot) for a 1-0 Seattle lead.

The Red Sox quickly responded in the home half of the frame as Jacoby Ellsbury (2 hits) hit a two-run single and then later scored on a wild pitch by Aaron Laffey.

Daniel Bard loaded the bases with no outs in the eighth but then he remembered who he was facing and he wiggled out of it without allowing a run. It was his 24th hold of the season and extended his scoreless streak to two months (last time he gave up an earned run was May 23-the night Tim Thomas robbed Tampa Bay's Steve Downie with the paddle of his stick).

Jonathan Papelbon gave up a hit but also got a strikeout in the ninth for his 23rd save in 24 chances.

Tim Wakefield faces Mariners star rookie Michael Pineda this afternoon as Boston looks to keep the good times rolling (up 3 games now on the Yankees in the AL East) and also kick Seattle out of town with an unsightly 15-game losing streak.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

The AL West Is And Has Always Been A Complete Joke, Just Ask John Lackey

I think I solved a riddle last night: how John Lackey was a successful MLB pitcher before coming to the Boston Red Sox last season.

Answer: he played in the AL West with the likes of the A's, the Mariners and the Rangers (before they were good). With only four teams, the AL West is the worst division in baseball without question. If you needed more empirical evidence, Lackey (8-8) got back to the .500 mark last night as the Red Sox (60-37) beat the Mariners (43-56) 7-4 at the sauna known as Fenway Park.

Last night was the start of a long homestand: 14 of Boston's next 17 games are at home and almost all of them are against bad teams so it's an opportune time for them to create some more distance between themselves, the Yankees and the Rays.

Seattle crawled into town on a 12-game losing streak and now they're just one loss away from tying the franchise mark for futility.

Lackey went seven solid innings, allowing one earned run on eight hits with no walks and four strikeouts. As I always say with a good start from Lackey, let's see him do it consistently and against good teams before I start buying stock in him.

Poor Felix Hernandez (8-9) must hate his life in Seattle. You know the world isn't fair when you're one of the best pitchers in MLB-albeit having a down year-and Lackey has a better record than you.

Sporting a Fe-Hawk (haha the Mariners official Twitter told me that last night after I made a remark about it; guess they have some time on their hands), King Felix was roughed up in 6.1 innings to the tune of six earned runs on 11 hits with four walks and two strikeouts.

The Mariners actually grabbed an early 1-0 lead in the first as Ichiro (2 hits) singled on the first pitch, then stole second and third base before rookie stud Dustin Ackley drove him in with a single.

Kevin Youkilis tied it in the bottom of the first as his RBI single scored Dustin Pedroia (who extended his hit streak to 19 games). Youkilis had two hits, two RBIs and a walk before leaving in the seventh with a right hand injury (not serious). Pedroia was 3 for 3 with two runs, a walk and a stolen base (his 19th!).

Jacoby Ellsbury (2 hits, 2 runs) gave Boston a lead it wouldn't give back with his 16th homer of the season, a solo shot in the third to right field.

The Red Sox poured it on with five runs in the seventh. Adrian Gonzalez had a two-run single, Youk had a two-run double and David Ortiz made an impact in his first game back from his three-game suspension with an RBI single.

Seattle made it sort of interesting as Mike Carp hit a three-run bomb off Franklin Morales in the eighth but Daniel Bard got the last out in the eighth and Jonathan Papelbon recorded his 22nd save with a 1-2-3 ninth (including a strikeout).

Miguel Olivo and Jack Cust each had two hits in the loss for the Mariners.

M's rookie Blake Beaven has the unenviable task of taking on Red Sox ace Josh Beckett tonight at Fenway and trying to snap Seattle's lengthy losing streak. Good luck guy.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Larry Bird To Be One Of Three Legends Featured On NBA 2K12 Covers This Fall

Last year, Michael Jordan was on the cover of the video game NBA 2K11. Not surprisingly, that proved to be wildly successful for 2K Sports.

This time around they've decided to feature NBA Hall of Famers MJ, Magic Johnson and Larry Bird on three separate covers.

From the Associated Press
Last year, Jordan was the cover athlete for 2K's NBA game, which sold more than 5 million units. Jordan also worked closely with the game's developers for last year's game, providing his input on details such as a player's shot technique.

For the upcoming "NBA 2K12," which is expected to go on sale Oct. 4, the company didn't specify how each of the three basketball legends will be incorporated into the game.

Gotta say I love it. In the last few years, the NBA2K franchise has jumped over EA Sports' NBA Live as the best-selling NBA video game. Assuming I buy a Playstation 3 (fingers crossed that I do since I've wanted to for years) this fall/winter, there is no doubt I will purchase this game, most likely while experiencing a serious pants tent.

I would have bought the game anyway but having Bird-the Boston Celtics legend-on the cover makes it impossible to overlook.

Jacoby Ellsbury Has Become The Player We All Dreamed About

It was all too easy to make fun of Jacoby Ellsbury last season as he suffered through a variety of injuries and only played 18 games in the entire season (somewhere J.D. Drew nods his approval).

That all seems like ancient history as Ellsbury has become an absolute beast and the undisputed best leadoff hitter in MLB this year. He's playing his typical Gold Glove defense, a terror on the base paths, getting on base and he's added completely unexpected power.

Yesterday afternoon, he had a pair of solo homers (No. 14 and 15-six over his career-high) as the Red Sox (59-37) concluded their six-game road trip 4-2 with a 4-0 shutout of the Orioles (39-56).

Andrew Miller (4-1) submitted an erratic performance-walking a career-high six in 5.2 innings-but he limited Baltimore to only two hits. He added three strikeouts as Boston won two out of three at Camden Yards, just like they won two of three at the Trop.

Matt Albers (1.1 innings), Daniel Bard (1 inning) and Jonathan Papelbon (1 inning) teamed up for the last 10 outs of the contest and most impressively, none of them allowed a hit or walk. It was Bard's club-record 21st scoreless outing, he hasn't given up an earned run since May 24.

After his post All-Star game slump, it was nice to see Adrian Gonzalez get back to his usual results of crushing the ball. He went 4 for 5 in the win while Josh Reddick (run, walk) and Carl Crawford (RBI, walk, stolen base) both notched two hits.

O's starter Jake Arrieta (9-7) wasn't that bad but his teammates couldn't pick him up on this day. He went seven innings, allowing three earned runs on nine hits with no walks and four strikeouts.

After Miller walked three straight in the second yet escaped unscathed thanks to a double play ball by Craig Tatum, Ellsbury hit his first bomb in the third for a 1-0 Red Sox lead.

Jason Varitek's ground out in the fourth scored Reddick in the fourth then Ellsbury crushed his second homer to right in the seventh.

Crawford's bases loaded walk in the eighth provided the last run for Boston.

The Red Sox returned to Boston today for an off day and then they play three games against the Seattle Mariners and four against the Kansas City Royals. Honestly, if someone offered me free tickets the next few days with this brutal heat and these shitbums in town, I would probably say no. That's how unappealing it is to sit in Fenway this weekend.

John Lackey faces Felix Hernandez tomorrow night in the series opener. With any luck, Lackey will melt into a puddle and Boston can hold King Felix hostage before Seattle makes a deal for him to the Red Sox.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Time Stands Still As The Orioles Beat The Red Sox

In MLB, you play teams in your division approximately a million times each season so it was only a matter of time before the Baltimore Orioles found a way to knock off the Boston Red Sox.

The O's (39-55) snapped a seven-game losing streak to the Red Sox (58-37) with a 6-2 win last night at Camden Yards.

Rookie Kyle Weiland (0-1) made his second start for Boston (both have been against the Orioles) and while he had better results this time, the former Notre Dame closer still didn't come out on top. In his MLB debut, he was lit up and ejected after hitting Vlad Guerriero but the Red Sox rallied to win. This time around, he went six innings, allowing three earned runs on six hits with three walks and two strikeouts.

Normally reliable Alfredo Aceves was also touched up for three earned runs in two innings, including back-to-back homers by Derrek Lee (two-run) and Mark Reynolds (3 hits) in the eighth that extended Baltimore's lead from a measly 3-2 to an insurmountable 6-2.

Orioles starter Jeremy Guthrie (4-13), who entered with the most losses in MLB, had one of his better outings of a terrible season. He went seven innings, allowing two earned runs on eight hits with a walk and four strikeouts.

Jim Johnson went the last two innings, picking up the save (his first of the season) by not allowing any hits or runs.

Reynolds gave the O's a 1-0 lead in the second with an RBI double which scored Adam Jones (2 hits). Nolan Reimold's ground out brought home Matt Wieters (2 runs, 2 hits) to make it 2-0 Baltimore in the second.

Wieters upped the margin to 3-0 with an RBI single in the third which scored Nick Markakis.

Jarrod Saltalamacchia provided the Red Sox' only runs with a two-run bomb (his second in as many games) in the fifth. The eighth of the season, it scored Josh Reddick (3 hits), who continues to tear the cover off the ball.

Boston's six-game road trip wraps up this afternoon as Andrew Miller takes on Jake Arrieta. The Red Sox are currently 3-2 on the trip and 1.5 games up on the Yankees in the AL East so one more win would be nice. 4-2 looks a lot better than 3-3 plus you can't lose two out of three to the Orioles, ever.

Providence Bruins Sign Former Friar Captain Kyle MacKinnon

The Providence Bruins have signed former Friars captain Kyle MacKinnon to a one-year contract according to the Providence Journal.

The 23-year-old player from Walnut, California finished his senior year on a high note, scoring 14 goals and 9 assists in 34 games. He was invited to skate with the Providence Bruins last year after the Friars' season had ended, scoring a goal and assisting on three others in five games with the baby B's.

MacKinnon is a center who is listed at 5'11" and 185 pounds and he has a left handed shot. The former captain will step in to the Bruins' system with a chance to immediately contribute.

With the Boston Bruins winning the Cup, there will undoubtedly be a trickle down effect that will increase attendance in Providence this season at the Dunkin' Donuts Center and it will be great to see if a fellow Friar can take advantage of this opportunity.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The 2011-12 Boston Celtics Schedule That Most Likely Won't Happen

I'll never be confused with ESPN's Chris Broussard (LeBRONNNNNNNNNNN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) or Adam Schefter so that's my excuse for why I couldn't care less about NBA or NFL Lockout talk. Still, sources close to the situations seem to think the NFL will come to an agreement any day now while the NBA will likely miss some if not all of the 2011-12 season.

The fact that PTI's Michael Wilbon scoffed at the NBA releasing its entire schedule today during a lockout, makes me less than enthused about seeing who the Boston Celtics will "play." After all, who's more dialed in than Wilbon?

Without further ado, here's the 2011-12 Celtics schedule that probably won't happen.

Boston opens up against the Cleveland Cavaliers on November 2 at TD Garden. Not exactly the marquee opening night matchup, even with Cleveland's top picks (Kyrie Irving, Tristan Thompson) in the 2011 Draft.

12 of the Celtics' first 19 games are on the road and they'll have 24 nationally televised games (ABC, ESPN and TNT) with six more on NBA TV.

Boston's longest homestand is six games: January 16-27 vs. OKC, Denver, Phoenix, Orlando, Minnesota and Indiana. Their longest road trip is five games and as usual, it's after the All-Star break. From March 11-17 they'll visit the Lakers, Suns, Warriors, Kings and Nuggets.

Some other games that standout above the rest: November 16 is Boston's first meeting with the Miami Heat (in Miami) followed by a game in Orlando the next night. December 1 is the first home game against the Heat. The C's have a home and home with the Knicks on December 22 in Boston and on Christmas afternoon in NYC (because nothing says Christmas spirit like Spike Lee).

Boston hosts the World Champion Dallas Mavericks on January 11. Kendrick Perkins returns to town with the Oklahoma City Thunder on January 16. The first Celtics-Lakers game is February 9 at TD Garden. The Celts host Tom Thibodeau and the Bulls on February 12. The Celtics have a brutal four-game road trip in mid-February: Bulls (February 16), Rockets (February. 19), Dallas (February 20) and Oklahoma City (February 22).

The Celts visit the Staples Center on March 11 and San Antonio on March 25. April starts with three tough games in five days: vs. Miami (April 1), vs. Spurs (April 4) and at Bulls (April 5). According to Donald Sterns-thanks Mumbles Menino-Boston's regular season will end with games in New York (April 17) and the finale April 18 at TD Garden vs. the Magic but we'll believe it when we see it.

Even On No Sleep, The Red Sox Pummel The Orioles

Just as I've exhausted all ways of bashing John Lackey and J.D. Drew, I've come to a similar crossroads with the Baltimore Orioles.

The Boston Red Sox arrived in Baltimore at 6 a.m. yesterday but that didn't seem to matter for their offense as they won a slugfest 15-10 over the Orioles at Camden Yards.

Boston (58-36) has now won seven straight over Baltimore (38-55). The O's are completely hopeless against the Red Sox, no matter what big talk they provide to the media.

Even though David Ortiz (and Kevin Gregg) started their three-game suspensions, the Red Sox offense came one run away from a season-high along with 16 hits.

Jacoby Ellsbury paced them with three hits, three runs, a walk and a run. Dustin Pedroia and Kevin Youkilis had three RBIs, two hits and a run. Carl Crawford returned and added two hits, two runs and an RBI while Josh Reddick (4th) and Jarrod Saltalamacchia (7th) notched home runs.

Marco Scutaro had two runs and two hits while Darnell McDonald cleared the bases with a three-run double.

Neither Tim Wakefield (4.2 innings, 9 hits, 7 runs, 3 earned, 2 walks, 3 strikeouts) nor O's starter Brad Bergesen (5 innings, 8 hits, 6 runs, 4 earned, 3 strikeouts) stuck around long.

Baltimore put up 12 hits, including three RBIs and two hits by JJ Hardy (including his 14th homer) and two hits, two runs and an RBI (his 16th homer by Adam Jones). Matt Wieters (two runs) and Derrek Lee (two RBIs) had two hits while Nolan Reimold added two RBIs.

Dan Wheeler (2-1) got the win with 2.1 scoreless innings. The Warwick, RI native had a brutal start to the season but since returning from an injury he seems to have found the form he had with the Tampa Bay Rays all those years. He walked one and struck out three.

Tonight figures to be another shootout as Jeremy Guthrie (3-13) takes on Red Sox rookie Kyle Weiland (0-0) in his second MLB start.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Red Sox Beat Rays 1-0 In Epic 16 Inning Affair

It's rare that a mid-season baseball game earns the instant classic label but last night's Sunday Night Baseball contest between the Boston Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays immediately joined that elite status (even while it was still going on into the wee hours of the morning).

After 480 combined pitches over five hours and 44 minutes, the Red Sox (57-36) ended up winning 1-0 in 16 innings at Tropicana Field. In the process, Boston took two of three from Tampa Bay (50-43) which put them seven games ahead of the Rays in the AL East and dealt them some psychological damage by taking the longest game in Tampa Bay franchise history.

In a ridiculous performance that featured once-in-a-lifetime stat lines (Jacoby Ellsbury 0-for-8, Adrian Gonzalez 1-for-7, BJ Upton 0-for-6, etc), Dustin Pedroia (3 for 7 with a walk, stolen base) was the only hitter for either team to notch more than one hit.

Pedroia's RBI single through the hole between first and second base scored Josh Reddick in the 16th gave the Red Sox the only run they would need. Pedroia also had two great plays in the field to get close outs at first while Reddick sent the game to the 11th with a remarkable leaping catch at the left field wall.

Tampa Bay's Adam Russell (1-2) was the hard-luck loser in a game that featured nine pitchers for the Rays and six for the Red Sox.

Josh Beckett and Jeff Niemann each went eight scoreless innings as neither offense could get anything going. The Red Sox left 17 men on base and they didn't score in the ninth or 11th after loading the bases. The Rays only left six men on base, showing how much they struggle offensively when Evan Longoria is hitting .233 and Casey Kotchman is batting fifth in their lineup.

Coming off his shutout against his one-hit shutout against the Rays on the night the Bruins won the Stanley Cup, Beckett picked up where he left off. He allowed one hit with no walks and six strikeouts.

Niemann gave up just two hits with two walks and 10 strikeouts.

Alfredo Aceves (5-1) earned the win with three perfect innings, including two strikeouts. Jonathan Papelbon put the exclamation point on the win with a 1-2-3 inning (with a strikeout) in the 16th for his 21st save.

With Daniel Bard (1 inning), Matt Albers (1.2 innings), Franklin Morales (1.1 innings), Aceves and Papelbon all pitching last night, expect Tim Wakefield to be pushed more than usual to go deep into tonight's game in Baltimore. The Red Sox open a three-game series at Camden Yards with Carl Crawford expected back in the lineup this evening. In addition, David Ortiz and Orioles closer Kevin Gregg will reportedly begin serving their suspensions tonight. Baltimore's Brad Bergesen gets the nod in the series opener.

Normally I would be worried about the fatigue factor after a game like last night but luckily for the Red Sox, they're playing the Sisters of the Poor of the AL East. The Orioles are a complete joke and they'll probably get swept again, just like they were before the All-Star break at Fenway.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Bruins Extend McQuaid Through 2014-15

If there is one thing that the Bruins preach, it is consistency. The Chiarelli-Julien regime has stressed this over and over and have jettisonned players like Blake Wheeler and let others like Michael Ryder leave. Steadier players like David Krejci, Patrice Bergeron and Milan Lucic have all been rewarded for their efforts even before the Stanley Cup run of this past season.

The latest Bruin to get paid is defenseman Adam McQuaid, who was resigned by the Bruins to a three-year contract extension. The deal keeps the hard-nosed D man from Prince Edward Island in a B's sweater through the 2014-15 season.

McQuaid was a key cog on the blueline in his first full season in Boston, scoring 15 points and amassing a +30 rating, good for fifth best in the NHL and first among rookies.

He was also a dangerous fighter when the Bruins needed him to be this year, as he was second on the team in fighting majors, behind only Shawn Thornton. Many will remember Christian Erhoff turtling once McQuaid challenged him in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Finals. He also had two great bouts against Matt Bradley and Paul Gaustad in the regular season. Not to mention the mullet. His haircut and tough persona has made him a fan favorite here in Boston in a reasonably short time span.

McQuaid's extension will add stability to a Bruins roster that will see a vast majority of its championship team return next year. Locking him up now was a brilliant move because he will only improve and will not have to test the free agent market for quite some time. I know many fans want to see Chiarelli spend to the cap but I would rather reward solid players and maintain team chemistry than throw money around at average players like the rest of the NHL is doing this summer.

Now let's resign Marchand.