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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Beckett Stumbles But Still Manages To Beat Yankees

Josh Beckett couldn't keep up his dominant form (3-0, 1.00 ERA) against the Yankees this season but he still found a way to win as the Red Sox triumphed 9-5 tonight at Fenway Park.

One of my childhood favorites Mo Vaughn was also in the building for the second day of the Jimmy Fund telethon.

Boston (83-52) evened the series (1-1) and moved to 11-3 vs. New York (81-53) this season while going back to a 1.5 game lead in the AL East.

Just as CC Sabathia finally found a way to beat the Red Sox yesterday, Beckett (12-5) got it done despite having far from his best outing. He gave Boston seven innings, allowing five runs (four earned) on six hits with three walks and eight strikeouts.

Yankees starter Phil Hughes (4-5) continued his mostly forgettable 2011. He went 5.2 innings, allowing six earned runs on eight hits with two walks and four strikeouts. Remind me again who will start Game 2 of the ALDS for the Yanks?

Boston used the longball-three two-run homers-to rough up Hughes and a pair of relievers: Boone Logan and Luis Ayala.

Derek Jeter (2 hits, stolen base) gave New York a 1-0 lead with an RBI single in the third. Boston answered in the bottom of the inning as Marco Scutaro scored on Dustin Pedroia's (2 hits) ground out and Jed Lowrie knocked in Jacoby Ellsbury (2 hits, 2 runs) with an RBI single.

David Ortiz's two-run bomb (28th of the season) put the Red Sox up 4-1 in the fifth but New York countered with four runs in the sixth. Robinson Cano and Eric Chavez had RBI doubles (two runs scored on Chavez's since Josh Reddick had an error in the right field corner) and Eduardo Nunez's sacrifice fly gave the Yankees a 5-4 advantage.

Jason Varitek's hit and run lucky swing resulted in an RBI double which tied it at five in the sixth and Ellsbury put Boston ahead for good with a two-run shot (his 24th of the season; 1st career opposite field homer) off Logan and over the Monster.

Varitek wrapped it up with his two-run blast (his 10th of the season; 11th time he's had 10+ homers). Daniel Bard got his 31st hold with a 1-2-3 hold (on 13 pitches) and Jonathan Papelbon got a 1-2-3 ninth in the non-save situation. Pap struck out a batter and all seven of his pitches were strikes. The good news is they should both be available tomorrow night too since they didn't appear on Tuesday.

Tomorrow in the series finale, Jon Lester faces Yankees train wreck A.J. Burnett in another matchup that clearly favors the home team.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

CC Sabathia Finally Solves The Red Sox In 2011

It's almost impossible to win at any level of baseball when you leave 16 runners on base. Even more so when you face CC Sabathia and your team counters with John Lackey.

Sabathia (18-7) finally got over his funk against Boston (0-4) coming into tonight as the Yankees (81-52) climbed within half a game of the Red Sox (82-52) with a 5-2 win at Fenway Park.

The series opening win gave New York some early momentum heading into the last series at Fenway in the regular season between the rivals while also cutting the season series to 10-3 in favor of Boston.

It made sense that after struggling so much against the Red Sox that Sabathia would eventually pitch as well against them as he does vs. the rest of MLB. It took a season-high 128 pitches just to get through six innings. He allowed two earned runs on 10 hits with two walks and 10 strikeouts (including Adrian Gonzalez three times) in a bizarre outing.

Lackey (12-10) threw nearly as many pitches (119) in one more inning of work. That amount of pitches from the starters alone is the main reason why this contest took place at the standard glacial pace for Red Sox-Yankees (3:59). Lackey allowed five runs (four earned) on seven hits with four walks and three strikeouts.

Eric Chavez and Francisco Cervelli were unlikely heroes that turned in nice performances in the win. Chavez had RBI singles in the second and fourth (sandwiched around an RBI double by Robinson Cano) for a 3-0 Yankees lead.

Two equally unexpected guys cut it to 3-2 for the Red Sox in the fourth. Carl Crawford (2 hits, walk) hit a solo homer (his 10th of the season) and Marco Scutaro (2 hits) had an RBI double.

Cervelli hit a solo bomb in the fifth (his second career home run) and was going crazy around the bases which led to Lackey plunking him to start the seventh. Yankees pitching coach Larry Rothschild was tossed after the benches cleared (but nothing happened) and manager Joe Girardi was ejected in the ninth for arguing about Jarrod Saltalamacchia swinging when he got hit by a Mariano Rivera pitch.

It was a testy night as Jacoby Ellsbury was hit by Sabathia and Matt Albers plunked Jorge Posada.

Jed Lowrie had three hits and David Ortiz had two hits in the loss.

Cory Wade got an out in the seventh and Boone Logan had the last two outs in the frame, paving the way for Rafael Soriano (scoreless eighth) and Rivera who got his 35th save thanks in part to a bogus strikeout of Lowrie (two ultra shaky called strikes).

Albers was a bright spot as he got the last two outs of the eighth to keep Boston within three runs. He needed a positive outing like that since he's gone off a cliff in August. Alfredo Aceves also had a 1-2-3 ninth in four pitches.

Phil Hughes faces Josh Beckett tomorrow night in a matchup that clearly favors the Red Sox. Beckett has owned the Yankees this year although as Sabathia showed, things can change when you face a team so much.

Monday, August 29, 2011

James Sanders Is The Latest Surprise Cut By The Patriots, Who Will Be Next?

With the Patriots under the gun to cut their roster down from 90 to 80 by 4 p.m. tomorrow and to the final 53-man roster by this Saturday, it makes sense that more well-known veterans will be released.

Today's first batch of cuts was filled with guys you don't know (undrafted free agent defensive end Clay Nurse), players that had no chance to make the roster (kicker Chris Koepplin), guys whose time here had run out (cornerback Jonathan Wilhite) and one notable surprise (safety James Sanders).

From Mike Reiss of
"It was a shock. It wasn't one of the things I was expecting to hear today. It didn't cross my mind," Sanders said Monday afternoon.

Sanders wasn't given a reason for the team's decision, and said he was disappointed in not having a chance to compete for a roster spot. He injured his left hamstring while doing conditioning work before training camp began, and had only been on the field for four practices before playing in the preseason for the first time Saturday night. He started and played 19 snaps against the Lions.

"I wish I would have had a fair shot this camp. I came in hurt and obviously that weighed into it," Sanders said. "But stuff happens and you have to move on."

He was due to make $2.8 million this season and likely was stuck behind Brandon Meriweather and Patrick Chung.

A fourth-round draft pick out of Fresno State in 2005, Sanders has been a solid pro that has seen a significant amount of playing time despite not usually being the projected starter out of the preseason. In 94 games with New England, he started 57 times (including the playoffs).

Also released were long-snapper Matt Katula, 2011 seventh-round draft choice Malcolm Williams (mostly a special teams linebacker), tight end Garrett Mills, guard Mark Wetterer, defensive lineman Kade Weston and wide receivers Darnell Jenkins and Tyree Barnes.

They'll have to release one more player before tomorrow's deadline (right now they have 81 players). Finally, the Patriots signed safety Ross Ventrone (on last season's practice squad not to be confused with his brother Ray, also a practice squad hero) and wide receiver Tiquan Underwood.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Well This Has Certainly Become Painful, Wakefield Goes Sixth Straight Start Without Picking Up Win No. 200

At what point do we agree that the novelty of reaching a milestone in baseball has worn off and it's time to pull the plug on a player's seemingly futile quest?

In the case of Tim Wakefield and the Boston Red Sox, that day gets closer and closer as he started his sixth straight game on the cusp of 200 career wins and once again he couldn't get it done.

This would be one thing if Dr. Creepy and Co. were trying to milk some more money out of Red Sox Nation but this team is in the middle of a pennant race (that means so much for determining playoff opponents).

This one was over early tonight as the Oakland A's (60-71) put a damper on what should be a long couple days with a 15-5 win over the Red Sox (80-51).

Boston got a run in the first as Adrian Gonzalez drove in Jacoby Ellsbury (2 runs, 2 hits, stolen base) for a 1-0 lead.

Unfortunately, Oakland didn't let yesterday's ridiculous loss to the Yankees affect them as they scored twice in the second inning and six times in the fourth. David DeJesus (3 RBIs, 2 runs, 2 hits) and Cliff Pennington (3 hits, 2 RBIs) had RBI singles in the second before the roof completely caved in on Wake and the Red Sox.

Scott Sizemore and Josh Willingham had two-run homers, sandwiched around a two-run single by Hideki Matsui.

That was it for Wakefield (6-6) as he departed after four depressing innings. He allowed eight runs (four earned) on eight hits with four walks and three strikeouts.

Dustin Pedroia (17th of the season) and David Ortiz (3 hits; 26th of the season) went back-to-back in the fourth, giving Boston some hope that they could comeback on Gio Gonzalez (11-11) and the A's but it wasn't to be.

Gonzalez wasn't particularly good but compared to Wakefield, he looked like Cliff Lee. In 5.2 innings, he allowed four earned runs on seven hits with three walks and five strikeouts.

Things got even more embarrassing in the late innings as Oakland piled up insurance runs (1 in the seventh, 4 in the eighth) on Scott Atchison (recalled from Pawtucket) and Matt Albers (4 earned runs). It was so bad that Darnell McDonald was summoned to pitch in the ninth and Willingham greeted him with a two-run double.

Josh Reddick got a two-run double of his own in the ninth, maybe that will get him going at the plate again. He's been lifeless lately.

Tomorrow promises to be a long day at Fenway, weather permitting. Jon Lester faces Guillermo Moscoso at high noon while Erik Bedard and rookie Graham Godfrey will try to conclude the shortened series at 5 p.m. before Hurricane Irene wreeks havoc on Massachusetts.

The Yankees similarly got smoked tonight, at Baltimore, so the Red Sox are still up a game on their main rivals in the AL East.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Maybe We Shouldn't Fear The Big Bad Rangers After All

Odds are that the Boston Red Sox have had a better week than you, no matter who you are. Polishing off a 3-1 series in Kansas City is one thing but also winning three of four in Texas (after getting shut out in the first game) is really impressive.

Andrew Miller (6-1) and the Red Sox (80-50) put a bow on an awesome road trip (6-2) with a 6-0 win tonight at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington vs. the Rangers (74-58).

I still want no part of Texas in the playoffs, especially the ALDS, but this series has to give Boston and its fans confidence that they can beat the reigning AL champs in their own ballpark.

Watching the Red Sox pile up 11, 13 and six runs in the last three wins respectively, you couldn't help but notice that the Rangers are sorely lacking a No. 2 starter behind C.J. Wilson. Cliff Lee is in Philadelphia which changes everything; with him, Texas would probably be the AL team to beat. Without him, I think they're slightly behind Boston along with New York.

Oddly enough for the second straight time after not starting for a while, Miller was great. He went 6.1 innings, allowing only three hits with two walks and six strikeouts.

Like Colby Lewis and Matt Harrison before him, Alexi Ogando (12-6) simply didn't show up for Texas. In four innings, he allowed six earned runs on six hits with a walk and five strikeouts. Boston hit four homers against him in Williamsport South.

Red-hot Adrian Gonzalez added two more home runs (his 22nd and 23rd of the year), giving him five in the last three contests. What power outage?

David Ortiz had a solo shot (his 25th of the season) while former Ranger Jarrod Saltalamacchia hit a two-run blast (his 13th).

Before the world ends thanks to Hurricane Irene this weekend, can Tim Wakefield please get his 200th win? I think it's all of our last dying wish. Really though, he faces Gio Gonzalez tomorrow night back at Fenway Park (the start of a nine-game homestand) as the Oakland A's come to Boston for what promises to be a wet, miserable weekend. Sunday's game has already been moved to Saturday at 5 p.m. making for the strange doubleheader at 12 p.m. and 5 p.m.

The Red Sox still lead the Yankees by one game in the AL East. New York trailed Oakland 7-1 this afternoon but used three grand slams (first team ever to do that, speaking of Williamsport and joke parks) to win 22-7.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Every Thing Goes Boston's Way As They Leave Kansas City With A Series Win

I'm going to venture a prediction that all these things never happen again in the same Major League baseball contest: Darnell McDonald collected three hits (including a homer), Jason Varitek hit a triple, Ryan Lavarnway had two hits and Carl Crawford hit a homer.

The reason that we watch a Red Sox-Royals game in late August is that crazy stuff like that can all transpire in the span of nine innings.

Boston (77-49) beat Kansas City (52-76) 6-1 this afternoon at Kaufmann Stadium, taking the series 3-1 thanks to Jon Lester's brilliance and all the aforementioned unlikely events.

Lester (13-6) posted his second straight excellent outing. He went six innings, allowing one earned run on three hits with four walks and three strikeouts. A pitch count of 113 with runners on first and second and no outs forced Terry Francona's hand but Daniel Bard (2 scoreless innings, 3 strikeouts) responded like the best set-up man in baseball (him) usually does.

A subplot worth filing away is the fact that Dan Wheeler is suddenly more effective than Matt Albers. That means that Wheeler should be used in more important situations than he has been all season. The former Rays reliever and Warwick, RI native pitched a scoreless ninth today with two strikeouts. Albers seems to have remembered who he was lately (a middling reliever that had only played on bad teams) so it's nice insurance to have a battle-tested veteran like Wheeler.

Royals starter Danny Duffy (3-8) actually had a very nice outing but like a true Royal, he didn't come out on top. In six innings, he allowed two earned runs on five hits with two walks and three strikeouts.

No Jacoby Ellsbury, David Ortiz and Kevin Youkilis for the second straight game wasn't as big a deal. Varitek gave Boston a 1-0 lead with his RBI triple in the fifth, scoring Jed Lowrie. McDonald added a solo shot (his fifth of the season) in the sixth and Crawford (eighth of the season) showed signs of life with a solo shot of his own in the eighth.

Mike Moustakas hit an RBI single for Kansas City in the seventh-one of only three hits for the home team-but the Red Sox piled on three more in the eighth. Adrian Gonzalez had an RBI single, Lowrie hit a sacrifice fly and Lavarnway just missed his first career homer (it hit off the top of the wall) but settled for an RBI double.

From here, things start to get real for Boston (still a half game behind New York in the AL East) as they face the Texas Rangers four times in hot as hell Arlington. Erik Bedard goes up against C.J. Wilson tomorrow night in the series opener. The only times these teams met in 2011 was to start the season and that did not go so well from my slanted opinion (three-game sweep for the Rangers). A lock in the AL West, Texas will visit Fenway three times Labor Day weekend.

It could be a playoff preview if the Red Sox don't take care of the AL East division crown. Texas is way better than Detroit or Cleveland and even a slight notch over the Yankees since they have a solid rotation, great bullpen and good lineup. I'll take the AL Central shitbums please.

At This Point, You Have To Wonder If 200 Wins Will Ever Happen For Tim Wakefield

Honestly, since he's the oldest player in MLB (45), you have to wonder at this point if Tim Wakefield will ever get his 200th career win.

It looked like it might finally happen last night as the Red Sox (76-49) led the Royals (52-75) 4-1 heading into the bottom of the sixth at Kaufmann Stadium but that's when Kansas City became only the second team this season (the Cubs being the other) that put up eight runs in one frame against Boston.

The Royals won 9-4 as Matt Albers (0.1 innings, 5 earned runs, 3 hits, 2 walks) ensured that Wakefield (5.1 innings, 4 earned runs, 9 hits, 0 walks, 3 strikeouts) would spend another empty night sitting in the Red Sox dugout looking like a depressed puppy.

Albers has coming back to Earth lately which means that Dan Wheeler is waiting in the wings to handle his late-inning duties for a while.

It's been five chances now that Wake has come into a game stuck on 199 wins and either by his own average performance, the bullpen blowing up behind him or just plain shit luck, it hasn't materialized. You couldn't ask for much more favorable matchups either since the last three outings have come against the Twins, Mariners and Royals, not exactly world-beaters.

Without three All-Stars (Jacoby Ellsbury, David Ortiz and Kevin Youkilis), Boston managed to get 10 hits but Kansas City trumped that with 14 of its own.

Alex Gordon led the Royals with three hits, two RBIs and a run while Eric Hosmer had two hits, two RBIs and a run with Billy Butler, Jeff Francoeur and Mike Moustakas all put up two hits, an RBI and a run.

Boston was led by rookie Ryan Lavarnway (2 hits, RBI, run, walk), Carl Crawford (2 hits, RBI) and Dustin Pedroia (2 hits, run).

Felipe Paulino (2-5) went six innings for the win, improving his career win-loss record to 8-30. Ugh. He allowed four earned runs on eight hits with three walks and three strikeouts.

Two lefties go at it in the series finale this afternoon as Jon Lester (12-6) faces Danny Duffy (3-7). The Red Sox need this game, particularly since they won't get to use Lester in their next extremely tough stop: four in Texas.

Former Boston College Eagle Looking To Stick Around With The Patriots

Coming a day after the Patriots signed Massachusetts native and UMass-Amherst alum James Ihedigbo, New England brought back another player that went to college in the area: Boston College's Ricky Brown.

He played linebacker for BC from 2002-05 and had been with the Oakland Raiders since 2006 after hanging on as an undrafted free agent. In five seasons, he's appeared in 55 games and started in 13 games. He's made 102 combined tackles, had four passes defensed and forced three fumbles.

From ESPNBoston's Mike Reiss
“Oakland will always have a special place in my heart. It’s where I started my career,” he said. “I made some really good friends there. I have a lot of respect for Mr. Davis and the organization he has set up, but here’s a new chapter in my life and I’m ready to attack it.”

If Brown is to stick, he knows special teams will be crucial. He’s been down this road before.

“Coming in as an undrafted free agent in ’06 with Oakland, you basically have to make your name playing on special teams,” he said. “The first two years, besides playing in goal-line packages and one start here, one start there, it was basically special teams.”

As for his first day with the Patriots, Brown said, “This is a first-class organization through and through. I’m honored just to be on the team and I’m ready to go to work.”

Much like the defensive backfield, where Ihedigbo was added at safety, the linebacker corps of the Patriots is dangerously thin heading into the regular season. Brown is a long-shot to make the roster but as he rightly noted, special teams are where he'll make himself valuable to the Bill Belichick.

I hate Boston College more than any other school around but it would still be cool to see an underdog type guy like this make the team. You always need players in his mold to fill in the holes between all the stars and high draft picks.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Andrew Miller Returns From Nowhere And Submits His Best Performance Of The Season

Andrew Miller hadn't made a start since July 31. He had only come out of the bullpen twice since then so it would be easy to excuse him for having a poor start tonight against the Kansas City Royals.

Instead, Miller (5-1) put up his best effort of the season as the Boston Red Sox won 7-1 at Kaufman Stadium (home of the 2012 MLB All-Star Game), their second victory in as many nights in Missouri.

Terry Francona wanted to hold Miller to a Little League World Series style 85 pitches and thankfully, the lefty was efficient with his pitches for once (departing after 83). He went 5.1 innings, allowing one earned run on three hits with two walks and three strikeouts.

The Red Sox (76-48) were able to get to Royals (51-75) starter Jeff Francis (4-14), like seemingly everyone else in MLB that has faced the former Colorado Rockie this year.

In five innings, the soft-throwing Canadian allowed five earned runs on 11 hits with two walks (both intentional to Dustin Pedroia) and a strikeout. What are the odds Francis and Bruce Chen's lockers are next to each other in the Royals clubhouse? They have so much in common, namely throwing junk and looking out of place at the highest level of baseball.

Despite a lineup that was without David Ortiz (heel) and Kevin Youkilis (on the DL with a back injury), Boston was able to churn out 13 hits led by Adrian Gonzalez (3 for 4, RBI), who snapped an 0-for-14 slump in style (are you listening Carl Crawford?) and Jed Lowrie (3 hits, run, walk).

Former Royal Mike Aviles added two hits, a run and a stolen base while rookie Ryan Lavarnway-a Yale product-got his first MLB hit with his family in the crowd.

Alex Gordon's sacrifice fly in the third gave Kansas City a 1-0 lead but Boston went ahead once and for all with two in the fourth. Darnell McDonald hit an RBI triple which scored Crawford and Jacoby Ellsbury knocked in McDonald with a sacrifice fly.

Jarrod Saltalamacchia put it in the win column with a three-run homer (his 12th of the season) in the fifth off Francis.

The Red Sox pushed across two more runs in the eighth on Gonzalez's sacrifice fly and a Royals error.

Alfredo Aceves picked up his second save of the season after going 3.2 innings, allowing only one hit and one walk with three strikeouts. His 45 pitches means he's probably done for a few days but as always he did yeoman's work by saving the rest of Boston's bullpen in what turned out to be a lopsided win.

The Yankees smoked the Twins 8-1, meaning the Red Sox remain .5 games behind New York for first-place in the AL East and that all important division crown.

For the fifth time, Tim Wakefield goes for career win number 200 tomorrow night. Kansas City will start Felipe Paulino (1-9) but I'm not going to jinx it, just going to post his awesome win-loss record and let you draw your own conclusions.

A True Masshole Leaves The Jets To Join The Patriots

The Patriots picked up some local talent today, something that doesn't happen every day since New England is not exactly akin to California, Florida or Texas in terms of producing NFL players.

None of the details have come out yet but former Jets safety James Ihedigbo tweeted tonight that "Thanks to #jetsfans for all the love an support greatly appreciate it's on to a new chapter.....I'm Officially a New England Patriot!!!!!!"

He graduated from Amherst Regional High School and attended college right down the road at the UMass-Amherst (class of 2008). He was an unrestricted free agent after spending the first four seasons of his NFL career with the Jets.

Over the last two seasons he has played in 29 games, accumulating 41 tackles and five sacks.

With injuries to Bret Lockett and James Sanders, the Pats needed more healthy bodies to join safeties Brandon Meriweather, Patrick Chung and Sergio Brown.

Off the top of my head on a Friday night, I believe Ihedigbo is the first local product on New England since Doug Flutie (Natick, MA) a few years ago and all he contributed was that stupid drop kick in that meaningless win over Miami. Jermaine Wiggins (East Boston, MA) had a big impact on the 2001-02 Super Bowl team as well.

Needless to say, it's been too long since a true Masshole suited up for the Patriots. I'm going to assume that Ihedigbo has been a fan since birth (like us all) so he must be pumped to switch sides on the Patriots-Jets rivalry and join former teammates Shaun Ellis and Danny Woodhead.

I Know It's The Preseason...But

The Pats looked pretty damn good last night didn't they? By the time I got home it was already 14-0, thanks to two Tom Brady touchdown passes to Ochocinco and the old Ochocinco, Aaron Hernandez. The Patriots did whatever they wanted last night, en route to a 31-14 victory.

The first team looked like they had not missed a step from last season, as they moved down the field at will and scored a TD on four of their first five possessions.

The usual stars were impressive last night in a rainy game. Brady was 11 of 19 for 118 yards and two scores in one half of action. Wes Welker looked to be in midseason form, catching five passes for 56 yards while BenJarvis Green-Ellis led the first teamers in rushing with 11 carries for 51 bruising yards, including two scores.

While you know what you're going to get with the offense (for the most part), most of the concern lies in the defense. If last night was any indication, I am fired up for the front new-look seven. The defensive backfield was a little shaky at times last night and were bailed out by a couple of drops by Tampa Bay wideouts.

Overall the Patriots looked great, save for a few instances, but Pats fans should be satisfied with their progress, especially given the shortened offseason.

Game Notes

*Andre Carter was an absolute MONSTER last night. He was just abusing the Bucs left tackles over and over again on each play. The pressure he created helped collapse the pocket, as well as helped draw a few holding penalties. This type of consistent pressure is something that the Patriots have missed in the last few seasons. I don't expect Carter to play this way each week, but its refreshing to see him play his ass off especially with the absence of his former teammte Albert Haynesworth.

*BenJarvis Green-Ellis is quickly becoming my favorite Patriot, the spot that has been vacated since Vrabel was traded. I just love the way he attacks the holes, puts his head down and keeps his feet churning. He looks much different than what's his name. You know, number 39 with the dreadlocks, the guy who couldn't hit holes. Yeah, him. Ellis is unquestionably the number one back and will rush for over 1000 yards this year.

*You gotta love Kevin Faulk pumping up the team from the sidelines. I learned last night from Randy Cross that Belichick doesn't normally allow injured players on the sidelines, but Faulk is pretty much an assistant coach/player at this point. You can tell he still has love for the game and I can't wait to see him back in uniform.

*Quick question for Randy Cross and whoever the play by play guy Don Criqui. Can you at least familiarize yourself with the players on the team before you get behind a live microphone? Last night, they referenced "Gerard" Mayo, Brandon "Mayweather" and pronounced Ninkovich "NinKOvich". Jesus Christ, clean it up. Or at least let Zolak in the booth.

*There was a scary moment in the third quarter when Danny Woodhead was on the punt coverage unit. In pursuit of the returner, he was absolutely clobbered on a crackback hit. He was shaken up but left the field and remained on the sideline.

*Ryan Mallett impressed in the first preseason game against the Jaguars but fell back to earth a bit last night. His interception in the second quarter was just a terrible throw. He tried to lob a pass to the middle of the field where there was absolutely no one. QBs like Mallett need to use their arm to make big time throw, rather than put needless touch on the ball.

*Lastly, Stevan Ridley had another nice game, rushing for 84 yards on 14 carries. He could be a good third-down option if Faulk misses any significant time in the regular season.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Rays Hold Red Sox To Three Hits For Third Straight Game At Fenway Park

Well it's a good thing that the Tampa Bay Rays will likely miss the playoffs this season. I can say with a straight face that they pose a much bigger threat to the Boston Red Sox than the New York Yankees because of their stellar top of the rotation.

Buoyed by the third consecutive outstanding start by their pitchers, the Rays (66-56) blanked the Red Sox (74-48) 4-0 this afternoon at Fenway Park. It helped them take the series 2-1 and move to 6-5 against Boston so far this season (seven more meetings remain).

Boston was held to three hits in each of the three games against Tampa Bay yesterday (doubleheader) and today. That's the first time since 1974 that the Red Sox have been held to three hits three games in a row.

Following James Shields and Jeff Niemann's lead, David Price (11-10) completely shutdown Boston's lineup that is without David Ortiz (heel) for the next 10 days. Price went eight innings with three walks and six strikeouts.

It was a perfect day weather wise and a rare afternoon start but the fans that were lucky enough to get a ticket had to pay their debt by sitting through the usual torture of a John Lackey (11-9) start. By his terrible standards, he wasn't bad at all but Price vs. Lackey is a matchup Boston will never win.

In 6.2 innings, Lackey allowed four runs (three earned) on six hits with three walks and seven strikeouts.

Ben Zobrist's (2 hits, 2 RBIs) ground out in the first scored Johnny Damon (2 hits) with Tampa Bay's first run. B.J. Upton hit a solo homer in the fourth, Evan Longoria followed suit with a solo bomb in the fifth and Zobrist rounded it out with an RBI double in the seventh.

The Royals did the Red Sox a favor by somehow beating the Yankees tonight in a game which Bruce Chen started. New York still leads Boston for first-place in the AL East by half a game.

After three days at home (three games in two days) including the off-day, the Red Sox go back on the road for one of their most difficult trips of the season: four in Kansas City followed by four in Texas.

Josh Beckett faces Luke Hochevar tomorrow night in a rematch of a game the Royals won 4-3 back on July 28 at Fenway, the finale of a four-game series split. After losing five of its last seven games and dropping out of first-place in the AL East while its offense has went missing, the Red Sox need to wake up. They want no part of the AL Wild Card and a trip to Texas in the ALDS.

Miami Football Players Took Money From Boosters Yet Ohio State Still Public Enemy No. 1 In College Football


Claiming he paid for nightclub outings, sex parties, cars and other gifts, former Miami booster and convicted Ponzi schemer Nevin Shapiro has told Yahoo! Sports he provided extra benefits to 72 of the university's football players and other athletes between 2002 and 2010.

His claims involve several current football players and threaten to bring down a program with a legacy dotted by scandals —but none quite like this. Yahoo! Sports published its story Tuesday afternoon, hours after Miami coach Al Golden said he was certain that his team would "stay focused" amid an NCAA investigation into claims Shapiro first began making about a year ago.

Shapiro said he gave money, cars, yacht trips, jewelry, televisions and other gifts to a list of players including Vince Wilfork, Jon Beason, Antrel Rolle, Devin Hester, Willis McGahee and the late Sean Taylor. Shapiro also claimed he paid for restaurant meals and in one case, an abortion for a woman impregnated by a player.

One former Miami player, running back Tyrone Moss, told Yahoo! Sports he accepted $1,000 from Shapiro around the time he was entering college.

"Hell yeah, I recruited a lot of kids for Miami," Shapiro told Yahoo! Sports. "With access to the clubs, access to the strip joints. My house. My boat. We're talking about high school football players. Not anybody can just get into the clubs or strip joints. Who is going to pay for it and make it happen? That was me."

In the past 18 months, the football teams at Southern California, Ohio State, Auburn, Oregon, Michigan, North Carolina, Georgia Tech and LSU all have either been investigated or sanctioned by the NCAA.

Wait, so let me get this straight. The University of Miami football team accepted money from a booster while they were student-athletes? I'm stunned.

Really, I thought Ohio State was the only football team that was reprimanded for this kind of stuff. Trading autographs for merchandise and tattoos is clearly the most diabolical, underhanded, illegal practice that has ever occurred in Division 1 sports and Jim Tressel had his career ruined for this inexcusable transgression.

Listen, Division 1 athletes are, for the most part, hardly students, regardless of what any Athletic Director has to say. That crap about "student-athletes are students first, athletes second" is among the most laughable statements one could make. I've seen assistant coaches peer into classroom windows at Providence College to ensure that members of the basketball team were even present in class. And if they were actually there, nine times out of 10, they were playing on their sidekicks instead of taking notes. So spare me that bullshit.

Secondly, I have always believed that these kids deserve some sort of compensation for the millions and millions that they bring in to every college or university. The "education" that they get for free is bullshit. The least they can do is give these kids the equivalent of a part-time job. I'm not saying these kids deserve Mercedes and hookers, but Jesus, give them some spending money.

That is the difference with the Ohio State "scandal" and other recruiting violations. The Buckeyes players were already in the program and simply traded their own merchandise to some random tattoo artist, not accepting gifts and money from actual boosters of the program. But let's have a Sports Illustrated cover story about Jim Tressel and how he is the worst person alive for trying to help his players, who in my opinion, did nothing wrong. The Cam Newton controversy was much worse and ZERO was done about it.

It remains to be seen what actions the NCAA will take in regards to the Miami booster, but this report magnifies just how absurd the whole Ohio State scandal actually is. Jim Tressel and The Ohio State University was made an example of, giving Buckeye haters the opportunity to throw the "cheater" label around. Not to mention the Michigan fans who are so jealous that their team sucks that they will search for the most absurd reasons to discredit the Buckeyes.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Red Sox Split Day-Night Doubleheader With Rays, Record First Triple Play In 17 Years

They might not have the same talent level with Carlos Pena, Carl Crawford, Rafael Soriano, Grant Balfour, Joaquin Benoit, etc. all gone but the Tampa Bay Rays are still a tough matchup for the Boston Red Sox.

There are few if any teams in MLB that draft and develop players as well as the Rays so Crawford has already been replaced by Desmond Jennings. Most importantly, they have a deep and young pitching staff: James Shields, David Price, Jeff Niemann, Jeremy Hellickson and Wade Davis.

The Red Sox (74-46) were able to beat the Rays (64-56) 3-1 this afternoon in the first tidy game of a day-night doubleheader but Tampa Bay bounced back to take the nightcap 6-2 at Fenway Park. The Yankees beat the Royals tonight as well meaning New York takes a half game lead for first-place in the AL East.

Boston's win was the direct result of the brilliance of five players: Jacoby Ellsbury, Jon Lester, Daniel Bard, Jonathan Papelbon and Dustin Pedroia. It's rare that a baseball game can be boiled down to that few elements but keep in mind, there were only six hits combined in that one and it only took two hours and 24 minutes.

Shields (11-10) went the distance in the loss, his MLB-best ninth complete game of the season. He allowed three earned runs on three hits with one walk and six strikeouts.

Lester (12-6) went one less inning but he was just a smidge more effective. The lefty went seven innings, allowing one earned run on three hits with a walk and eight strikeouts.

Tampa Bay took a 1-0 lead on the first as Jennings led off the game with a double, stole third and scored on Evan Longoria's ground out.

Boston got all of its runs in the third as Ellsbury drilled a three-run bomb over the Rays bullpen, scoring Josh Reddick and Mike Aviles.

Daniel Bard got a 1-2-3 with two strikeouts for his 28th hold of the season while Jonathan Papelbon continued his incredible stretch of work with a clean ninth for his 28th save of the season.

Pedroia ended the game with authority by snagging a B.J. Upton liner up the middle that seemed destined to be a base hit.

Game two was not so kind to the home team as Niemann (8-4) had one of the most impressive starts by an opposing pitcher that Boston will see all season.

Like Shields, he also threw a complete game (nine innings), allowing two earned runs on three hits with a walk and 10 strikeouts. I don't usually give out Fantasy Baseball tips but pick this guy up, I'm pretty sure he'll be available on most waiver wires.

Erik Bedard (4-8) is still looking for his first win in a Red Sox uniform after three starts. He went six innings, allowing three runs (one earned) on seven hits with no walks and six strikeouts. Tampa Bay got to his pitch count early-in the second-by fouling off the most amount of pitches I can ever remember (29 in his outing) by one pitcher.

Luck was not on his side even though Boston turned its first triple play since 1994 (John Valentin!). The Rays scored twice in the second on a throwing error by Jed Lowrie and a ground out by Matt Joyce.

Jason Varitek's (his eighth of the season) in the third cut it to 2-1 and Sean Rodriguez was the poor sap who grounded into the triple play in the fourth (Lowrie to Pedroia to Gonzalez: 5-4-3). That was only the 30th triple play in franchise history.

You figure that momentum could carry over but Jennings (2 hits) hit a solo homer over the Monster in the fifth and Boston had to play catch up once again. Ellsbury hit another homer (his 22nd) in the sixth but the Rays pushed across three in the eighth against Matt Albers featuring some more sloppy defense by the Red Sox (even if they weren't called errors).

B.J. Upton (3 hits, 2 runs, stolen base) had an RBI single-his first clutch hit in years-while Ben Zobrist (3 hits, 2 runs, 2 stolen bases) "stole home" on another bad throw by Lowrie. Casey Kotchman (2 hits) added an RBI single for even more of a cushion.

David Ortiz missed both games and will reportedly be in a boot for the next few days, but not go on the disabled list with a bruised heel.

The rubber match is tomorrow afternoon, yes another day game (today was a rain makeup date). John Lackey goes against David Price. The Red Sox could benefit from the win since they would take the series from the Rays and more importantly, head out on the long road trip (eight games) with renewed confidence.

Delonte West's First Music Video Is Just As Terrible As You'd Imagine It To Be

Like most rappers these days, Boston Celtics guard Delonte West appears to be better on freestyle rhymes than in actual music videos.

This surfaced on today with West aka Charlee Redz rapping with KayeM on a song called "Livin Life Fast."

True to it's crappy cliche-ridden title, most of the video takes place in some sort of arcade (Chuck E Cheese?) while the guys are shown playing some Cruisin' USA knockoff. West's rhyme is actually pretty decent, from what I can comprehend, but it's too short and who cares about KayeM?

I'm dying to know if West owns that car or if he just got to use it for the video and what the deal is with his do rag/hat apparatus?

My advice to D. West is to get aligned with a more popular hip hop artist and then watch the millions stack up even if the NBA is still in a lockout.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Patriots Set To Work Out Sharper And Houshmandzadeh Today

In an offseason where the Patriots have taken a chance on Chad Ochocinco and Albert Haynesworth, anything is possible at this point when it comes to player personnel.

They have worked out players seemingly every day and that continues today as veteran wideout TJ Houshmandzadeh and safety Darren Sharper visit Gillette Stadium.

Houshmandzadeh of course was a teammate of Chad Ochocinco in Cincinnati for the better part of his career (not to mention at Oregon State) but spent the last two seasons in Seattle and Baltimore. In his prime, Houshmandzadeh was one of the most effective wideouts in the AFC, especially when Carson Palmer was 100%. However he was ineffective in the last two seasons, starting only two games for the Ravens last year.

Sharper is a 14-year veteran who played the majority of his career in Green Bay and most recently was a huge part of the Saints 2009 championship team. The five-time Pro Bowler is coming off an injury plagued 2010, undergoing knee surgery and missing eight games.

So what does this mean for the Patriots going forward? Their wide receiver corps is currently pretty strong (Welker, Ochocinco, Branch, Price, Edelman and Tate) so if they were to bring in someone like Houshmandzadeh, it would most likely mean releasing Tate. His history of injuries would make him the first person that Belichick would look to when it comes time to make cuts.

Sharper is an interesting prospect though. The Patriots are fairly deep at safety with Meriweather, Chung and Sanders as the regulars and it will be interesting to see what kind of role Sharper would have if he was brought into the mix. Some reports out of training camp have said that Meriweather does not look sharp or in shape, which is certainly concerning given that it is a contract year. Perhaps this is to motivate the Big Bang Clock but maybe it's something more.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Mariners Take Two Out Of Three From The Red Sox (Jumps Off Tobin Bridge)

If you're enough of a degenerate to wager on regular season MLB games, I've got a hot tip for you: bet the house against the Red Sox every time Tim Wakefield makes a start.

That might sound like crazy talk but it's hard to explain how the best team in the American League continues to find ways not to give the old guy his 200th career win. It also marked the first series since June 28-30 (at Philadelphia) that the Red Sox had lost.

This afternoon marked the fourth straight start that Wakefield (6-5) has pitched ok but has received a loss or no-decision. He pitched a complete game (eight innings) which saved Boston's taxed bullpen. Wake allowed five runs (four earned) on nine hits with two walks and four strikeouts.

Likewise, I'd love to hear a non-homer explanation for why Boston (73-46) can consistently do well against MLB's best pitchers like CC Sabathia, Jered Weaver, Felix Hernandez, etc. but time and again they get shut down by mediocre bums.

However, if the Red Sox are going to get completely embarrassed by a nobody, I'm happy it's one from South Portland, ME and with as cool a name as Charlie Furbush.

An LSU product (he has to be the only person in the history of Maine to attend LSU), Furbush (3-4) went seven strong innings, allowing one earned run on four hits with two walks and six strikeouts.

Kevin Youkilis made it exciting for about as long as it took him to round the bases when his two-run homer (his 17th of the season) in the eighth cut Seattle's lead to 5-3. However, Mariners closer Brandon League got his second straight 1-2-3 inning and save (his 28th of the season) in the span of about 17 hours and change.

The best part about this forgettable game was that it clocked in at two hours and 14 minutes, sure to be one of the fastest of Boston's season. In other words, as long as a Dice-K first inning or two innings of Yankees-Red Sox.

Seattle got three runs in the third as Jack Wilson (infield single), Franklin Gutierrez and Mike Carp (RBI single) all produced runs.

Jed Lowrie's sacrifice fly in the fourth got Boston on the board at 3-1 but the M's got one in the fifth (on Dustin Ackley's RBI single) and Casper Wells took Wakefield deep with a solo shot in the sixth.

Adrian Gonzalez had two hits and a run in the loss while Ichiro had two hits and a run in the win.

The Red Sox have tomorrow off as they return to the East Coast. They host a three-game series with the Tampa Bay Rays starting with a day-night doubleheader (Lester vs. Shields and Bedard vs. Niemann) on Tuesday at Fenway Park. Then it's back on the road with four in Kansas City and four in Texas, two miserable places to play in well always but especially during the August heat.

Let's all spend the time between now and then wisely, by washing off the stink of from awful series in Seattle.

Patriots Special Teams Get A Greek Infusion

Bruins head coach Claude Julien is renown for his love of the fourth line scrubs (the Fribble Crew as dubbed by Michael Felger) but I would also submit that Patriots head coach Bill Belichick has a similar love for special teams guys in the NFL. Like Julien, he can't get enough of them but like everything that Coach Hoodie does, there's logic and reason behind it.

Most people on the outside overlook the work of special teams players; it's a position filled with many injuries and little glory but as the Patriots showed in 2001-02 and during their other Super Bowl wins in 2002-03 and 2003-04, having coverage units and return teams you can count on (not to mention a reliable kicker and punter) are a key part of the close contests that litter the NFL playoffs.

When I heard last week that the Pats had worked out linebacker Niko Koutouvides, I didn't bother mentioning it since I had honestly never heard of him so I didn't think it was relevant. My apologies to Mr. Koutouvides and his extended family as he signed with New England today and it turns out that he's been in the NFL for seven seasons (who knew?). Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Koutouvides is 6-2, 238 pounds and he has played with the Seattle Seahawks (2004-07), Denver Broncos (2008) and Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2010). He originally entered the NFL as a fourth-round draft pick (116th overall) of Seattle in 2004 out of Purdue University. After four seasons with the Seahawks, he signed with Denver as an unrestricted free agent in 2008. He was released by Denver after the season and signed with Tampa Bay in the 2009 offseason.

Koutouvides has played in 103 games with two starts and registered 101 special teams tackles and 54 total tackles on defense. He has also played in eight postseason games, including Super Bowl XL while with Seattle (when they got screwed by the shady refs against the Steelers).

So yeah, if you're Greek and you like the Patriots, it's fair to say that you have a new favorite player. Just make sure that if you get his jersey that you don't go to the bathroom or get food or drinks during kickoffs and punt returns since you'll most likely miss your guy doing his thing on the field.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

King Felix & Mariners Beat Beckett & Red Sox On A Weird Night In Emerald City

Anytime the Seattle Mariners score five runs in an inning, let alone against one of the American League's best pitchers (Josh Beckett), it is cause for national headlines.

Ironically enough, that one random inning allowed the M's (51-67) and Felix Hernandez (11-10) to hold off the Red Sox (73-45) and Beckett (9-5) tonight 5-4 at Safeco Field.

Weird doesn't begin to describe a game that featured a homer by Ichiro Suzuki on the first pitch Beckett threw, a two-run home run by something called Casper Wells, Terry Francona's ejection after a call at home plate and a balk that happened but I guess didn't officially occur.

After Ichiro's homer, rookie Mike Carp added a two-run single and Wells put the exclamation point on the five-spot with a two-run homer.

Beckett (5 innings, 5 earned runs, 8 hits, 1 walk, 6 strikeouts) was able to settle down after that (3 hits in the last 4 innings) but the damage had been done. It's too bad that Boston lost for the simple fact that Matt Albers (1.2 innings, 3 strikeouts), Franklin Morales (0.2 innings, 1 strikeout) and Alfredo Aceves (0.2 innings, 2 strikeouts) combined to give up one hit in some of their best collective work of the season.

It shouldn't be a surprise that the Mariners were blanked after the first inning as they had Wily Mo Pena of all people hitting fifth as the designated hitter. The former Red Sox great was 0 for 4 with two strikeouts.

When Jacoby Ellsbury and Dustin Pedroia each hit a pair of two-run bombs in the sixth inning, it looked like the Red Sox were brewing up yet another comeback but Felix Hernandez, Jamey Wright and Brandon League didn't let it get any closer.

Ellsbury's homer was his 20th of the season, making him the sixth player in Boston history to have 20 homers and 20 steals in the same season. Get used to seeing that often from him. Likewise, Pedroia's 16th homer (to go with 23 stolen bases) means that he could join his teammate in that select company within the next month or so.

Felix didn't have his best stuff either but the big lead that Seattle staked him to proved to be just enough. He went seven innings, allowing four earned runs on nine hits with two walks and two strikeouts.

Wright threw a scoreless eighth for his 14th hold while League struck out two in a 1-2-3 ninth for his 28th save of the season.

The two wacky plays happened in the fourth and eighth when the Red Sox were batting. In the fourth, Jacoby Ellsbury tried to score on a shallow fly ball to right field by Pedroia. Ichiro delivered a perfect throw to the plate and catcher Josh Bard held on despite getting kneed in the head by Ellsbury. At first, the home plate umpire called him safe but then after a long wait he reversed the call. Incensed, Terry Francona came out and got his money's worth before he was ejected. It was the right call as Bard held onto the ball on his stomach but who knows how or why the umpire suddenly changed his mind?

In the eighth, Wright appeared to balk with pinch runner Darnell McDonald at first. After that didn't transpire, McDonald tried to steal second but would you believe he was thrown out on a close play. The replay made it seem like again the second-base umpire got it right but I'd like to know how the balk was reversed.

Tim Wakefield tries to win No. 300 for the fourth time tomorrow afternoon as Boston closes out its six game road trip (3-2 so far) against Portland, ME native Charlie Furbush of the Mariners.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Three Red Sox Homers Help Them Survive John Lackey's Usual Mediocrity

The Seattle Mariners might have the worst offense in the American League but don't tell that to John Lackey.

Nope, it took everything he had to hold off the M's (50-67) as the Red Sox (73-44) won 6-4 tonight at Safeco Field in the series opener in the Pacific Northwest.

It was Lackey's (11-8) sixth straight win in seven decisions which is probably the most misleading statistic in the history of sports. Every player in Boston's lineup had a hit as they continue to dominate the woeful Mariners.

In six plus innings, Lackey allowed four earned runs on 10 hits with two walks and three strikeouts.

Seattle rookie starter Blake Beaven (3-3) was shelled. In 6.1 innings, he allowed six earned runs on 11 hits with a walk and a strikeout.

Nine Mariners have made their MLB debuts this season, the highest total of any team, so clearly this is a team that's building for the future. With hitters like Dustin Ackley (2 hits, RBI, walk) and Mike Carp (3 hits, 3 RBIs), Seattle has two studs to build around. Justin Smoak will also probably be good but he caught a tough break-no pun intended-when Jarrod Saltalamacchia's (2 hits, run) grounder took a wicked hop and broke his nose in the second inning.

Carp gave the M's a 2-0 lead in the first with a two-run single which scored Ichiro and Franklin Gutierrez.

David Ortiz's 24th homer of the season cut it to 2-1 in the second and Mike Aviles tied it later in the frame with a sacrifice fly (scoring Carl Crawford).

Ackley put Seattle ahead again with an RBI single in the second and Carp increased it to 4-2 in the fourth with an RBI double.

Jed Lowrie's fourth homer of the season (his first left-handed and first since April 20) brought Boston within 4-3 in the fifth and Josh Reddick provided the night's biggest hit with a two-run bomb off a window in right during the sixth.

Ortiz added an insurance run with an RBI single in the seventh that plated Adrian Gonzalez (2 hits; MLB-leading 52nd multi-hit game).

As it became a battle of the bullpens, predictably the Red Sox held on as Daniel Bard and Jonathan Papelbon both had solid outings. Bard got four outs including three strikeouts (his 27th hold of the season) while Papelbon recorded his 27th save.

The Muddy Chicken himself-Dustin Pedroia-had two hits and a stolen base in the win as well. Great story about him in this week's Sports Illustrated, haha it explains the hilarious origin of his latest nickname.

Josh Beckett faces Felix Herandez tomorrow night in what promises to be a low-scoring pitcher's duel, in other words the exact opposite of tonight's proceedings.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Five Questions For Pariots-Jaguars

The NFL opens up its preseason schedule tonight with five games on the schedule but fans of Boston Bias know that only one game matters, Patriots-Jaguars tonight at Gillette Stadium (7:30 p.m).

The Pats have many questions headed into the 2011 season and the first game in the preseason is a great chance to see what changes they have made so far in the abbreviated offseason. So without further ado, here are five questions as we look forward to the first game of the preseason.

1. Will Tom Brady Play?

Ordinarily, the answer to this would be an emphatic NO, as the icon does not need the extra reps this early in the preseason. However, thanks to the lockout, Brady and Co. have not had the usual amount of training and playbook installation that they have had in years past. His health notwithstanding, I wouldn't be surprised to see Brady play the first series to finally get some game speed action. Look for Brian Hoyer to get the majority of the playing time, as well as rookie QB Ryan Mallett.

2. 4-3 or 3-4?

With the addition of Albert Haynesworth, Shawn Ellis and others, the Patriots addressed one of their most pressing needs; the defensive line. Last year, their base 3-4 had a hard time getting off the field and the bend but don't break philosophy came back to haunt them on many occasions. The revamped defensive line corps has raised questions about whether or not head coach Bill Belichick has considered switching to the 4-3 defense. In classic Belichickian form, he responded to these questions by saying that it doesn't matter where the players line up, just that they do their job. Still, tonight will give us the first glimpse into Belichick's plans for the much-improved front seven.

3. What about OchoCinco?

Word came out of camp that Ocho had a tough tine catching passes and didn't look as sharp as he normally does. Probably because he thought that he was returning to Cincinnati for another season. Regardless, Ocho will most certainly be with the first unit and it will be interesting to see how he plays alongside Welker, Gronkowski and Hernandez. Will he be that Randy Moss "stretch the field" type wideout or evolve into more of a possession role? I am assuming the latter but we will see tonight.

4. Is Nate Solder ready?

Matt Light will not play today, so for most of us, it will be the first chance to see the Patriots' 2011 first-round draft pick, tackle Nate Solder. With Light locked up for two more years, Solder will be the left tackle of the future. Seeing him play tonight, hopefully with the first unit should give us an early glimpse into the next few years, especially next to Mankins.

5. Who's who in the secondary?

Last season, the Patriots were really hurt by the loss of CB Leigh Bidden but had an amazing rookie campaign from Devin McCourty as well as an impressive showing from Patrick Chung. We still need to see more from Darius Butler and Kyle Arrington however. James Sanders and Brandon Meriweather will be there when the season starts, so look for the secondary to improve with age.

Logan Mankins Signs 6-Year Deal, Becoming A Patriot 4 Life

After multiple seasons of back and forth bickering, the Patriots and Logan Mankins have agreed to a six-year contract extension, keeping the 29-year old Pro Bowl guard in New England for the balance of his career.

Mankins was a first-round pick in 2005 and has been one of the best linemen in the NFL since arriving in the league.

Like most Patriots players in their first contract, Mankins played until the end of his deal and rather than allowing him to test free agency, the Patriots franchised him last offseason. That sparked a contract dispute that usually is reserved for teams like the Redskins and Raiders.

Mankins held out of camp last season and called the Patriots liars for not letting him test the market. The Patriots allegedly tried to make Mankins issue a public apology. Mankins lawyer called the negotiations a travesty. This was getting ugly.

Mankins then sat out the first six weeks of the 2010 season before coming back and dominating. Although playing in a shortened season, Mankins made the Pro Bowl and earned All-Pro honors last season.

Mankins was one of the many players who filed an antitrust lawsuit against the NFL near the beginning of the lockout and was one of the few individual players who could have held up negotiations as both sides came closer to reaching an agreement.

Once the lockout was ended, Mankins signed his franchise tender and ensured that he would be a Patriot for at least the 2011 season.

It all changed yesterday.

Patriots owner Robert Kraft spoke with the media yesterday for the first time since the passing of his wife Myra, saying that they were close to a deal with Mankins, saying "Probably you’ll see our good friend Logan Mankins will be signed up soon, hopefully to be a Patriot for life."

Later in the afternoon it was announced that Mankins would indeed be a Patriot for life, signing the six-year deal that will keep him as the anchor of the Patriots' offensive line.

First and foremost this was the right thing to do from the Patriots standpoint. They have a reputation for being notoriously stingy with their players near the end of their first contracts, namely Deion Branch, Asante Samuel, and most recently Vince Wilfork. With each passing year, the Patriots looked more and more like a team that "didn't take care of their own" as some put it.

Recently, the Patriots have started to move away from that philosophy, locking up Mankins, Wilfork and Brady to long term deals. It remains to be seen what they will do with guys like Mayo, McCourty and Spikes though. Will they extend their contracts before the final year of their deals or will they continue down this path of having guys play out their first contracts?

Whatever the case may be, they are lucky that they have guys like Mankins, who has a good head on his shoulders and plays the game at a high level regardless of his contract situation. Now that they've buried the hatchet, Mankins will be playing his ass off for years to come.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Albert Haynesworth, What The Fuck?!

Albert Haynesworth missed practice again yesterday, making it four days in a row that the malcontent defensive lineman has not participated. Naturally, this is a little concerning.

Last season, Haynesworth famously took ten days to pass the Redskins' conditioning test, which made some Patriots' writers and fans nervous about his motivation. Clearly those concerns were justified as Haynesworth has not given any reason to believe that he is a changed man.

So what gives? Belichick said that Haynesworth passed the initial conditioning test here in Foxboro but that may just be a little bit of gamesmanship on his part. Even if Haynesworth didn't pass the test, I find it hard to believe that Belichick would throw him under the bus the way that Mike Shanahan did last season.

There has been no reports if Haynesworth has suffered any significant injury thus far in training camp, only that he is "day to day" according to Belichick and the Patriots' secretive medical staff. Early word out of camp was that he was disruptive on the field, dominating lineman and breaking up plays, according to Ian Rapoport of the Boston Herald.

Haynesworth does look extremely out of shape but if Belichick says he passed the test, than that shouldn't be the issue. Is it a locker room problem? Unlikely. Maybe he is actually injured, one of the many casualties of a shortened training camp.

Whatever the case may be, this is shaping up to be a problem for the Patriots. If Haynesworth makes the Patriots' opening day roster, he is guaranteed a $5-million dollar salary, even if he doesn't play a down. The Pats currently have something like 36284 defensive linemen on the roster, so losing Haynesworth wouldn't be the end of the world, just a major disappointment.

No matter how the rest of the preseason goes, the number one story has to be Haynesworth, which is not neccessarily a good thing for the team.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Red Sox Win Fourth Straight, Send Twins To Sixth Consecutive Defeat

Neither impossibly small strike zones nor early 2-0 deficits could hinder the Boston Red Sox tonight as they rallied for their third straight come-from-behind victory.

They survived home plate umpire Tim McClelland's early squeezing of Erik Bedard and the Twins' two runs in the first inning to come out on top 4-3 at Target Field.

In his second start for the Red Sox (72-43), Bedard (5 innings, 2 earned runs, 3 hits, 4 walks, 6 strikeouts) was much more impressive as he got to throw 90 pitches. If not for Michael Cuddyer's sacrifice fly and a completely bullshit bases-loaded walk by Delmon Young (two strikes were called balls), the lefty wouldn't have given up any runs at all.

Minnesota (51-65) starter Francisco Liriano wasn't the victim of Mcclelland's insanity but he still managed to walk seven batters. In six innings, the erratic lefty allowed three earned runs on four hits with four strikeouts.

It was a strange one and the easiest way to prove that is to tell you how Boston got all their runs. Darnell McDonald tied it at two with a two-run homer (his fourth of the season) in the fifth inning. Jason Varitek put the Red Sox up 3-2 in the sixth with an RBI single. After a Ysuyoshi Nishioka RBI double off Matt Albers (4-3) in the sixth, David Ortiz had the winning RBI with a gift infield single in the seventh. His easy comebacker was stabbed by Twins reliever Phil Dumatrait who promptly slipped on the non-wet infield grass.

After Franklin Morales go the first two outs of the sixth, he handed the ball over to Daniel Bard who got four more outs. Finally, Jonathan Papelbon recorded a 1-2-3 ninth (in seven pitches!) to get his 26th save of the season.

With the Yankees' loss to the Angels, Boston moved to 2.5 games ahead of New York in the AL East. They'll look to keep their winning streak (and Minnesota's losing streak) going tomorrow night as Jon Lester goes against Nick Blackburn in the series finale.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Wakefield Remains Stuck On 199 Career Victories But Red Sox Still Rally For Another Win

Just like the 16-inning game in Tampa Bay three weeks ago didn't seem to affect the Boston Red Sox too much (as they pummeled the Orioles the next night), they pushed on through their fatigue again tonight with a 8-6 win at Target Field over the Minnesota Twins.

For the second game in a row, the Red Sox (71-43) rallied for a win. This one lacked the Hall of Fame closer (Mariano Rivera) but Boston trailed 5-1 before tying it in the sixth.

For the third straight time, Tim Wakefield sat on the brink of 200 career wins going into a start and he couldn't get it done. Terry Francona left Wake in as long as he could handle tonight, in an attempt to get that mark out of the way. He went seven innings, allowing five runs (three earned) on eight hits with no walks and four strikeouts.

Twins (51-64) starter Scott Baker's performance was about as uneven as his team's this entire season. For once, I think you can stick a fork in Minnesota in August. The injuries have been too much to overcome. Baker couldn't protect the 5-1 lead; in six innings, he allowed five earned runs on nine hits with no walks and five strikeouts.

David Ortiz and Jarrod Saltalamacchia-hitting fifth and sixth with Kevin Youkilis having the night off-provided the power with a combined four runs, six hits and five RBIs. Ortiz had four hits (a triple shy of the cycle), three runs and three RBIs. Saltalamacchia had two hits, two RBIs and a run.

Big Papi's three-run homer (22nd of the season) in the sixth cut it to 5-4 while Salty tied it up with a solo shot of his own (11th of the season).

Marco Scutaro put together probably the best two-game stretch of his life with three more hits and an RBI (after four hits on Sunday night). Scutaro's RBI single in the second scored Ortiz and gave Boston a 1-0 lead.

Minnesota put up three runs of their own in the second. Jason Kubel (3 hits, 2 runs, 2 RBIs) had an RBI single, Jim Thome had an RBI double and Thome came around on Salty's passed ball.

This one seemed to get away as Kubel hit a solo homer in the fourth and Joe Mauer made it 5-1 with an RBI double in the fifth.

Adrian Gonzalez (2 hits) got the Red Sox rally started in the sixth with a sacrifice fly which scored Carl Crawford-hitting second for one night.

Ortiz scored the go-ahead run in the eighth on an error by Mauer. The All-World catcher dropped a routine throw at the plate, Papi would have been out by a good distance.

Kubel took away the possibility of a win for Wakefield with another RBI single in the eighth off Alfredo Aceves (8-1) but Ortiz (RBI double) and Saltalamacchia (RBI single) got to Twins closer Joe Nathan in the ninth when he came on in a 6-6 game to start the frame.

Dustin Pedroia added two hits and two runs while Jed Lowrie had a hit in his return from the DL (shoulder injury). In total, the Red Sox pounded 17 hits and yet this game was exactly three hours long, go figure.

Trevor Plouffe had two hits and two runs for the Twins while Matt Tolbert notched two hits in the loss as well.

Aceves got out of the eighth allowing just the one run and he ended up snaking away another win (22-2 career record). Jonathan Papelbon got a 1-2-3 ninth with two strikeouts for his 25th save of the season.

A pair of lefties go tomorrow night as Erik Bedard makes his second start for Boston against Minnesota's Francisco Liriano (who is either great or terrible, nothing in between).

Patriots Re-Sign Gerard Warren, Release Brandon McGowan

Tying up some loose ends at Patriots training camp, they officially released safety Brandon McGowan and re-signed defensive lineman Gerard Warren.

Warren, 6-4, 325 pounds, originally joined the Patriots as a free agent on April 24, 2010. Warren entered the NFL as a first round draft choice (3rd overall) of the Cleveland Browns in the 2001 NFL Draft out of Florida. Warren has played for the Browns (2001-04), Denver Broncos (2005-06) and the Oakland Raiders (2007-09). During his 10 NFL seasons, he has played in 151 games with 137 starts and has registered 303 total tackles, 35.5 sacks, 18 passes defensed, seven forced fumbles and four fumble recoveries.

Last season with the Patriots, Warren played in 16 games with 10 starts and finished with 36 total tackles and 3.5 sacks.

McGowan, 5-11 210 pounds, joined the Patriots in 2009 as a veteran of four NFL seasons, all with the Chicago Bears (2005-2008). He was re-signed by the Patriots on July 30, 2011. Originally signed by the Bears as a rookie free agent in 2005 out of Maine, McGowan missed all of the 2010 season with a chest injury.

In his first season with the Patriots in 2009, McGowan saw action in a career-high 16 games with 11 starting assignments at free safety and set career-highs with 66 total tackles, 10 passes defensed, three forced fumbles and one fumble recovery.

As I said last night, it was expected that McGowan would be shown the door. Likewise, it's not surprising that Gerard Warren was invited back. He had a decent season last year and most importantly, with a year in the fold he's good insurance should one of the newer defensive linemen get hurt or not play well.

Also, some information on Shaun Ellis' contract came out today as New England announced his signing along with Andre Carter. It's a one-year deal and he'll make $4 million this season with another $1 million in performance incentives. Terms of Carter's were not yet disclosed.

An interesting tidbit is that the Patriots now have 22 defensive lineman on the team and they've reached the limit for their roster (90 players). In other words, expect a million more moves in the next few weeks.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Josh Reddick's First Career Walk-Off Hit Sparks Red Sox' First Season Series Win Over Yankees Since 2004

Something about Sunday Night Baseball seems to bring out the drama for the Boston Red Sox.

While it's hard to top their 16-inning win over the Rays three weeks ago on July 17 (1-0 in Tampa Bay), tonight's 10-inning victory over the New York Yankees carried some extra significance for a couple reasons.

For starters, the 3-2 win at Fenway Park by the Red Sox (70-43) not only clinched the weekend series (2-1) and season series over New York (69-44)-it stands at 10-2 right now-but it put Boston back on top of the AL East by a game.

I'm not going to use the cliched term of magic but there was something in the foggy air as the Red Sox rallied for a run against the greatest closer in MLB history (Mariano Rivera) in the ninth to tie it 2-2 on Dustin Pedroia's sacrifice fly (scoring Marco Scutaro).

Then Josh Reddick picked a fine time for his first MLB walk-off hit as his RBI single drove in pinch runner Darnell McDonald in the tenth against Yankees pitcher Phil Hughes (2-4). David Ortiz (2 hits) had started the sequence with a ground-rule double to right, McDonald pinch ran for him and then Hughes intentionally walked Carl Crawford (3 hits) to get to Reddick.

The loss would have been particularly tough to take since Josh Beckett pitched well but Boston kept leaving runners on base (12) against Freddy Garcia and four other Yankees relievers before finally getting to Rivera and Hughes.

Beckett got a no-decision but it's safe to say that he still has New York locked down this season. As useless as CC Sabathia is against the Red Sox in 2011, Beckett is the opposite against the Yankees. Tonight, he went six innings, allowing one earned run on six hits with two walks and five strikeouts.

Similar to Bartolo Colon on Friday, New York manager Joe Girardi didn't hesitate to get his overachieving starter out at the first sign of trouble. That sketchy strategy worked the first time but not the second time. It's hard to see it being successful in the playoffs either as the Yankees presumably will be relying heavily on their bullpen since outside of Sabathia who can they count on to go 6+ innings?

Garcia went five innings, allowing one earned run on five hits with three walks and a strikeout.

Marco Scutaro (4 for 4) drove in Kevin Youkilis with an RBI single in the second, making it 1-0 Boston.

Beckett was dealing until Eduardo Nunez lost one just over the Monster in the fifth. Another very unlikely Yankee went deep as Brett Gardner (3 hits, 2 stolen bases) hit a solo homer off Matt Albers in the seventh.

That measly run figured to stand up as Rafael Soriano got a 1-2-3 seventh for New York and David Robertson likewise got a hold with a scoreless eighth.

Scutaro led off the ninth with a wall ball double that just miss being a homer to right against Rivera. Jacoby Ellsbury got him over to third despite a terrible bunt. Pedroia's sac fly tied it and the Red Sox were on their way.

After Albers and Franklin Morales (9 of his 12 pitches were balls; 2 walks but somehow no runs allowed) shaky relief, Dan Wheeler struck out the side in the seventh, Jonathan Papelbon pitched a scoreless ninth and Daniel Bard (2-5) got a 1-2-3 10th with two strikeouts for the eventual win.

There's only six more regular season games between these teams (3 in Boston Aug. 30-Sept. 1 and 3 in New York Sept. 23-25) but this latest marathon (4 hours, 15 minutes) proved that the Red Sox have the Yankees' number. As I alluded to in the headline, it's the first time since 2004 that Boston has won the season series against New York and who knows how long it's been since they clinched it so early on.

Boston heads out for three games in Minnesota followed by three in Seattle. They return for only two against Tampa Bay then hit the road again for four in Kansas City and four in Texas. Without a doubt, this is the toughest stretch of the season travel-wise for the Red Sox.

Tim Wakefield gets his third crack at 200 wins as he opposes Scott Baker of the Twins tomorrow night at Target Field. It's Boston's only visit to Minnesota this season, the Red Sox won three of four against the Twins on May 6-9 at Fenway.