Welcome to Second Place

The Red Sox stay in first place is over. Leading the Devil Rays 4-2 in the bottom of the eight, with Tim Wakefield having allowed only two runs to that point, Wake put a couple guys on base in that inning, and Terry Francona summoned Mike Timlin from the bullpen. Before the smoke cleared, Tampa had put five runs on the board to go ahead 7-4. Jeff Horrigan says that the team may not enjoy the day off today as much as they had planned and looked forward to it. Sean McAdam recaps a devastating loss for the local nine, noting that once again Timlin allowed the inherited runners to score, a trait that has been there all season. Chris Snow examines the late collapse and how the Red Sox find themselves looking up at the Yankees in the standings today. David Heuschkel chronicles “arguably the worst loss of the season by the Red Sox.” David Borges notes that there were no ‘Cowboy up” like proclamations after this one, even from Kevin Millar, however, there was no panic, either.

Tony Massarotti says that if the Red Sox fail in the end, it is because they lack the pitching, even if they have the heart. Gordon Edes looks at Mike Timlin, who is undoubtedly tired right now, but the Red Sox keep turning to him because they really don’t have any other options at this point. I’ll admit, there’s a small, talk-show-caller part of me that’s screaming “Play the Kids!” (specifically Hansen or Papelbon) in that situation last night. I said a small part. The rest of me realizes it probably wouldn’t be a good idea. Bill Reynolds looks at how the Red Sox and Yankees have both been relying on newcomers and no-names down the stretch drive this season. Horrigan looks at Johnny Damon sitting out last night after receiving another cortisone shot in his shoulder. Edes also writes that the Red Sox are very lucky to have Alex Cora as an infield reserve. Massarotti looks at Lou Piniella, who is finished in Tampa after the season. The Tampa manager also believes a DH such as Ortiz can win MVP. Massarotti also has David Wells lending support for Ortiz’s case.

Snow’s notebook reports on Damon’s shoulder and taking the shot yesterday so he would have two days off to rest it. McAdam’s notebook says that last night was the right night to give Damon some time off. Horrigan’s notebook has Francona supporting Ortiz for MVP. Borges’ notebook has David Wells saying that Ortiz for MVP is a “no brainer”. Heuschkel’s notebook has Francona going with the numbers in deciding to bring in Mike Timlin last night. The numbers for inherited runners don’t count?

It’s all Corey Dillon this morning in the papers. Jackie MacMullan has Dillon talking about his slow start to the season. Karen Guregian talked to Dillon privately after everyone else, and he addressed the rumors by some that he is slowing down and nearing the end. Tom E Curran has Dillon preaching patience when it comes to the running game. Michael Parente says that Dillon is not at all concerned about his slow start. Christopher Price says Dillon is offering no excuses for his lack of productivity thus far this season. Jeff Goldberg says that the days of frustration are over for Dillon, who is just focusing on finding his stride again. Chris Kennedy writes that there is no panic from Dillon over the start of the season.

Articles on the Patriots other then Dillon? Jerome Solomon addresses the “no offensive coordinator” question and whether that had anything to do with Tom Brady’s struggles last night in Carolina. Albert Breer looks at the Patriots struggles on special team, which has them kicking themselves.

Eric McHugh looks ahead to the rubber match of the Patriots and Steelers in Pittsburgh this Sunday. Guregian reports on Ben Roethlisberger, who despite not carrying the team, still gets the headlines. She also has a very brief sidebar on Chad Brown returning to Pittsburgh. Glen Farley says that the Steelers have been hitting on all cylinders thus far this season. Get your view from the opposition in the sports pages of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

Parente’s notebook says there has been nothing special about special teams so far this season. Guregian’s notebook has Bill Belichick turning up the noise at practice. Curran’s notebook looks at the Steelers running game, led thus far by Willie Parker. Solomon’s notebook looks at the mutual admiration society going on between the Patriots and Steelers coaching staffs.

Dan Hickling looks at Patrice Bergeron outshining Sidney Crosby in the Bruins 5-4 win over the Penguins last night. Nancy Marrapese-Burrell looks at some Bruins training camp injuries which might be due to the long lockout layoff. Stephen Harris has Harry Sinden talking about what he feels slows the game down the most…incessant penalties. Burrell’s notebook and the Herald notebook recap the win in Pittsburgh last night.

Michael Vega looks at the BC Eagles confidence in their backup QB, Matt Ryan, should Quinton Porter be unable to go this weekend. Steve Conroy has more on Ryan, who if he gets the call, hopes his second career start is better than his first. Conroy has a sidebar on the Eagles making their first trip to “Death Valley” since 1982. Vega’s notebook says that Porter needs to get through a practice before he can be cleared to play. Conroy’s notebook says that there is no drop off in the ACC from week to week. Clemson is right up there with Florida State in terms of an opponent.

Someone from the Globe emailed me yesterday after I posted the WEEI stuff and told me that if I find myself agreeing with WEEI on something, perhaps it’s time I take stock of what’s happening in my life. That might be some good advice I’ll have to think about…

Jeff Sullivan recounts his early days in the Boston Globe sports department, describing his interaction with Will McDonough, Dan Shaughnessy and Bob Ryan.

The Red Sox are off today. ESPN has Utah/Air Force college football at 7:30.

Book Review – Juicing The Game

I’ll admit, I hadn’t followed this whole steroids scandal in baseball as much as others had. I might’ve been turned away from the topic because of the endless hours we were subjected to it locally on the Dennis and Callahan program on WEEI last winter.

When I heard the Howard Bryant was preparing a book on the topic of steroids, my interest was piqued a bit, as I had enjoyed Bryant’s debut book “Shut Out” very much. The book, entitled “Juicing the Game – Drugs, Powers, and the fight for the soul of Major League Baseball” has been out since July, but hasn’t caused the buzz that I had expected from it, at least locally.

I received the book and found it to be as informative as I expected. What’s interesting is that the title is something of a misnomer, as the book isn’t entirely about steroids. It tells the story of baseball in the post-1994 strike era and how the game regained its fan base from that disastrous strike which resulted in the World Series being canceled that year.

You see the rise to power of Bud Selig, as well as his reign and his legacy to the game, as well as his glaring lack of leadership during some critical times. Steroids are the main theme, and the book traces their use from the “Bash Brothers” A’s of the late 1980?s and through the 1990?s as home run totals rose, and players like Brady Anderson broke the 50 home run barrier. The game became more popular, reaching a crescendo with the magical season of 1998 and the home run race of Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa.

Around these events, questions as to the reasons for these numbers were few. A USA Today article in 1997 outlined Ken Caminiti’s “routine”, which included popping handfuls of different pills and supplements throughout the day. No one really thought twice about it. During the ’98 season, McGwire use of Androstenedione came out, and the AP writer who first reported the news was treated as a pariah, both by figures in the game, but also by his fellow media members. The game was enjoying its highest popularity in decades and all was well.

While steroids and supplements might’ve been a large factor in the rise of home runs, there were other reasons. Umpires and the way they called games, their strike zones changing over time, and also being inconsistent. Another is the introduction of QuesTec into the game, which is a fascinating story in itself. Ballparks, starting in the early 90′s became smaller and smaller. Even the baseball itself was different. The entire game was juiced?not just the players. All of these things are chronicled in the pages of the book.

A group dubbed “The Crusaders” plays a major role in bringing the dangers of steroid use into the public eye and getting the attention of congress. Their work on laboratory rats, though controversial, is amazing. (They even found cases of “roid rage” in some of them.) If there was a point though where the book did seem to drag a little for me, it was during this part of the book, when the drugs and steroids were being talked about in depth. The information was substantial, in depth and useful for background information, but slowed the book down a little at that point for me.

The roots of the investigation of BALCO and the Barry Bonds/Jason Giambi/Gary Sheffield connections are traced. A 21 year old rookie reporter for the Mateo Daily Journal breaks the story of the IRS raiding the BALCO labs in September, 2003. A can of worms is opened, which leads to a Grand Jury investigation and then to the congressional interest and hearings on the issue of steroids in baseball. All this happens under the watch of Bud Selig, who has tried to introduce steroid testing into the game since 1994, but comes off looking very weak and indecisive.

The book does a very nice job of pulling all these events together, and Bryant’s notes and bibliography in the back show the impressive amount of research done by him in putting this book together. Quotes from people all over Major League Baseball lend support to the conclusions drawn.

As far as local figures, Theo Epstein, Larry Lucchino, Terry Francona, David Ortiz, and Curt Schilling are among those from the Red Sox who are mentioned and talked to in the book. Gabe Kapler is mentioned on page 287: “Players ridiculed suspects, such a Gabe Kapler, a journeyman outfielder known for his chiseled physique and interest in bodybuilding.”

At first glance it might seem a bit curious that this book has not received more attention locally, especially on the Dennis & Callahan program which still spends quite a bit of time talking steroids, especially with the recent return to action of Barry Bonds. However, D&C and Bryant have not had a friendly relationship in the last few years, with the radio duo taking a number of shots at the Herald columnist and his comments on racial issues and other subjects. This prevents the book from even being mentioned on a program which has spent so much time on the very subject covered in the book. The program and the audience miss out on a great local source of information on a topic that is of national interest.

I was able to ask Howard Bryant a few questions about the book and his work on it. Here’s the exchange we had:

Looking back on your time as a beat writer covering the A?s (1998-2000) and Yankees, do you look back and kick yourself over things you saw and heard and didn’t think twice about at the time?

No, because I knew that the job never really entailed doing investigative work. Beat writing is extremely restricting and conflicting. If anything, not having the forum to examine the things I’d been hearing motivated me more to one day find a job that would allow me to do exactly that.

Did you get any cooperation from the commissioner’s office in this book? Bud Selig is shown to be weak and indecisive at several points of the book, yet at times it seems you may have had conversations with him, such as on page 53, where you write “Selig made a deal with himself: Baseball would never lose the public again. Not on his watch.” Was this something Selig confided to you, or someone else?

You’ll have to check the source notes in the back of the book, but I spoke with Bud at length, probably a dozen times. The narrative on page 53 came from a direct conversation with him.

In reading another review I saw a comment about the title that caught my interest. It appears that “Juicing the Game” contains a bit of irony. The book is far more than just about steroids as one might assume by the title. It’s more about the entire post-1994 strike era, and the challenges and issues baseball faced during that time. It is also apparent that by outlining all of the issues, that baseball is not just a game, but a business. So it’s not all about juicing, and it’s not just a game. Irony, or me reading too much into something?

The publisher was interested in the story because it was more than a steroid book, yet wanted something in the title that was clear that the book dealt with juicing. To me, the title of the book worked because the game was juiced on so many levels. The ballparks were juiced, the players were juiced, the ball was juiced, because everything was geared toward more offense.

During the course of researching and writing this book, what came as the biggest surprise to you? Who was the most helpful?

The biggest surprise, I think, was the number of opportunities baseball had to clean up the game and did not. The amount of data it had compiled, the government testimonies, the overwhelming proof of a problem and yet its response was so lukewarm.

The most helpful people were the medical people who were willing to come forward and educate me on a difficult subject.

What efforts did you make to talk to Barry Bonds for the book? How successful were you?

I’d asked Barry Bonds on four occasions over the past two years to talk to me and since he did not, I was completely unsuccessful.

The book finished up after the congressional hearings this spring. Since that point we’ve seen Rafael Palmeiro contradict his forceful testimony by testing positive for steroids. We’ve seen Jason Giambi’s career undergo a miraculous resurgence after he was nearly sent to the minors earlier this spring. We’ve also read about your source which mentioned a possible 50 more positive tests. Is what we’ve seen and heard just the tip of this iceberg? Is baseball headed for a cataclysmic downfall?

I don’t think baseball is near any type of cataclysmic downfall, mostly because like most complicated stories, few people care to assess the damage. The rest have blinders on and have come to accept a cheapening of the product as “progress.” I think the game has been reduced, certainly in the eyes of the younger generation, which does not hold the sport in any kind of high esteem. I think the lasting effect will be a slower ebb, much like the political world after Watergate. You still follow, you still vote, but you believe less and less in the institution. Over time, I think we’ll see the end of the sport as a “national pastime,” even as it continues to soar financially. It is a nuanced argument that requires real thought at a time when people don’t want to think. They don’t want to know, which is no different than how the baseball leadership responded. They just want to be entertained, at all cost, because they know what is behind the curtain. It is an attitude in of itself rife with cynicism.

Who do you think has lost the most from the whole post-1994 strike era? Bud Selig? Mark McGwire? The fans?

The biggest loser in all of this is anyone who wanted the truth.

One Night’s Reprieve

The Red Sox bats came alive and pounded the Devil Rays 15-2 last night, giving the Red Sox one more day in first place. Sean McAdam reports that the bats were so explosive for the Red Sox last night, that Curt Schilling’s strong performance became a mere footnote. Chris Snow says that the game got so out of hand that even quiet and serious John Olerud managed to get a dry quip in. Jeff Horrigan notes that the performance of the bats was able to ease the anxiety a bit from the Yankees hard charge towards the Sox. David Heuschkel says that despite the all the noise made by the offense, the clubhouse was still a pretty quiet place following the game. Except for Kevin Millar of course. David Borges notes that it was once again David Ortiz sparking and leading the offense for the Red Sox, and he notes some of Big Papi’s accomplishments thus far.


Gordon Edes
looks at the sensational September for David Ortiz, whom continues his assault on the Red Sox record books and is right now according to Edes “the single most compelling reason anywhere to watch a baseball game in September.” He’s drawing comparisons to Barry Bonds, even if he’s not quite on the 73 homer, 100+ intentional walk pace. Tony Massarotti also looks at Ortiz, and ponders the unthinkable…where would the Red Sox be without him? Bob Ryan looks at the 12 teams still alive in the MLB playoff hunt and assesses the chances of each team to win it all. Massarotti reports on Curt Schilling getting into a nice rhythm last night on the mound. Howard Bryant (subscription only) looks at how Curt Schilling gets a pass from all for his injury riddled season this year. The reason?

Here's why: Curt Schilling came to Boston with the embers of Aaron Boone still crackling. He came here to deliver a championship when no one else had and he did. And he did it by allowing doctors to stitch his ankle tendon to the top of his skin. No one would have faulted him had he said, "Hey, Skip, I can't go."

He maimed himself for them.

Schilling talked big and won big. Nobody else had. Mo Vaughn said Babe Ruth was dead. Pedro said he'd drill The Babe in the ass. Bill Buckner, well, he's suffered enough. Roger Clemens had a blister. They all lost.

People in Boston will never forget that.

He goes on to point out some of Schilling’s faults and the fact that he’s never been overly popular with teammates. One opposing manager however, wants to know why Keith Foulke doesn’t receive similar hands off treatment, for Foulke according to the manager, was the real reason the Red Sox won in the postseason last year. Bryant moves on to manager Terry Francona, and how it was conventional wisdom that suggested that the manager who led the Red Sox to the World Series Championship would never have to buy a drink in town again, yet Francona finds himself constantly under scrutiny. Bryant notes it’s a product of the times we live in, combined with a management that has “a voracious desire” to claim the credit that traditionally goes to the manager. Garry Brown says that the Red Sox and Yankees are headed for a historic showdown next weekend at Fenway Park. Joseph DeMartino has a mini-feature on Boston native Manny Delcarmen and how his family – especially his dad, put the love of the game into him, a love which stayed despite the injury and subsequent Tommy John surgery the young pitcher underwent in 2003. Borges reports that despite being injured the entire season, Rocco Baldelli could get a long term deal from the Devil Rays this winter. Horrigan reports on Kevin Youkilis trying to stay positive and be back sometime during the playoffs. Horrigan also reports on Jason Varitek breaking out his slump with four hits last night. Steven Krasner had a Red Sox chat on the Projo website yesterday.

Snow’s notebook looks at the myriad of injuries facing the Red Sox right now, and giving status updates on many of them. He also makes more comparisons between Craig Hansen and Francisco Rodriguez. Horrigan’s notebook looks at Trot Nixon climbing out of his sick bed to help pace the Red Sox offense last night. McAdam’s notebook looks at David Ortiz’s continued assault on the record books. Heuschkel’s notebook says that Ortiz is races for more than just the division and MVP. Borges’ notebook has more on Kevin Youkilis and his injury.

Michael Felger’s Patriots Insider leads off with a look at Tom Brady and how the Patriots QB is often at his best the week after he’s been at his worst. This bodes well for this Sunday in Pittsburgh. Felger also looks at Brady’s opposite number for the Steelers, their QB Ben Roethlisberger, who is off to a nearly perfect start this season, but has only thrown eight second half passes thus far. Nick Cafardo chimes in with a midweek report on the Patriots, leading off with Bill Belichick’s wish for goal-line cameras, more on Roethlisberger, some possible strategies for the Patriots against the Steelers and ending by noting that John Fox beat the Patriots because he is not afraid of them. Dan Pires says that even the smart kids fail a test once in a while, so the rest of the league shouldn’t be getting their hopes up that the Patriots are suddenly going to just fall apart. Michael Parente looks at the Patriots mental attitude heading into the rematch with the Steelers on Sunday, knowing its another stiff test. Eric McHugh analyzes the Patriots kick coverage, which has been a definite weak point for the club thus far.

Mike Reiss had his weekly mailbag for Boston.com, which continues to amaze me as Reiss takes questions from the readers and brings them into the Patriots lockerroom. The Tim Dwight question/answer is an especially good example of this. Jerome Solomon also had a Patriots chat on Boston.com yesterday. Glen Farley looks at a grim day on Sunday and probably another on tap for this coming Sunday. Jim Donaldson notes that Bill Belichick says that the Patriots just need to do a better job coaching and in all three areas of the game. Donaldson runs with that, attempting humor, trying to apply that type of logic to other situations and failing miserably. Been a little while since we’ve had a stinker of this multitude from Donaldson.

Kevin Paul Dupont has a short feature on new Bruins center Alexei Zhamnov, whose former GM says that “some people are going to be absolutely stunned by how good this guy is.” Stephen Harris reports that the new NHL rules favoring offense are going to be trouble for players such as Hal Gill. Dan Hickling reports on last night’s preseason opener for the Bruins, which resulted in a 5-0 Maple Leafs win. Harris’ notebook has more on the game. Nancy Marrapese-Burrell’s notebook has Joe Thornton happy to be out on the ice again for the Bruins.

Bill Griffith reports on a number of media moves and announcements yesterday, involving the Celtics radio and TV, and also that Ted Johnson will join the Patriots pre and post game shows on CBS4. David Scott has podcast version three ready for listening, and sounds off on the Globe (non)coverage of the Patriots and has a few leftovers from opening night at Gillette. The NY Times company will be slashing 500 jobs, 160 of them coming from the Boston Globe, Boston.com and the Worcester Telegram & Gazette. 35 newsroom jobs will be cut at the Globe.

A few snippets from yesterday’s Big Show rant against the Boston Globe. (Making many of the points that BSMW has been making all along here. Glad to see we’re on the same page, guys.)

Ordway: Somebody

Tied in the Loss Column

The Red Sox suffered another disheartening loss last night, falling in Tampa to the Devil Rays 8-7. Sean McAdam feels it a fair question to ask just what this team has left. Errors, shoddy pitching at the wrong time, and injuries continue to bring this team down, and just may keep it out of the postseason. David Heuschkel notes that the clubhouse was a quiet place following the game, but the player who did speak, expressed a determination to keep fighting. Chris Snow notes that the best thing the Red Sox had going for them last night was 21 year-old Craig Hansen, who pitched a scoreless fifth in relief of David Wells, and struck out two. Jeff Horrigan states that despite the glory of last October New Englanders are not taking this slim remaining margin in the AL East with indifference any longer. David Borges focuses on Hansen as the only positive of the night.

Tony Massarotti feels that this team is cooked. He thinks that they know it, too. Gordon Edes looks at the tightening race, and how David Ortiz believes that the Sox should have a 10 game lead on the Yankees right now. Massarotti looks at the awful start turned in by David Wells last night. Conversely, Horrigan reports on the strong debut of Craig Hansen, who touched 97mph on the gun last night.

Snow’s notebook looks at Hansen getting his feet wet quickly with the big club. Hueschkel’s notebook has more on Hansen, who has converted his family from being Yankee fans to Red Sox fans. Borges’ notebook also looks at Hansen, and has a bit on Hanley Ramirez, who was also called up. McAdam’s notebook has more on the two prospects, and reports that Terry Francona had Ramirez take ground balls all over the infield, and also take fly balls in the outfield. Horrigan’s notebook says that Ramirez’s call came as a bit of a surprise to him, but he’s happy to be here.

The Patriots continue to lick their wounds from Sunday’s loss to the Panthers, while at the same time moving forward towards another stern test this week in Pittsburgh. Michael Felger has the Patriots report card in the Herald, and as you might imagine, it’s not a pretty collection of grades for the Pats. Patsfans.com also has Steve Grogan’s Grade for the club this week, as the team legend weighs in on the current edition of the Patriots. Michael Parente also has his edition of the report card, and he says watching the film probably made things look even worse for the Patriots. He says there is really no good to be found from that game. Gerry Callahan (subscription only) writes that though the Patriots took a punch on Sunday, they’ll get up and move on, even if the NFL schedule maker is out to get them and prevent them from winning a third straight title. Tom E Curran has more on the upcoming schedule and the challenges that the Patriots face moving forward.

Once the film is reviewed and the mistakes addressed, Jerome Solomon says that Bill Belichick won’t allow his club to look back. That includes speculation on the Stephen Davis touchdown which some felt should have been challenged. Jeff Goldberg says that right now, the focus is on learning from mistakes and moving on to preparing for the Steelers. Bill Reynolds says that when Bill Belichick says that his team is going to get better and play better, you have to give him the benefit of the doubt and believe him. Chris Kennedy says that the Patriots know the mistakes that they need to address this week. Steve Buckley (subscription only) asserts that establishing Corey Dillon and the running game has to be the Patriots number one priority on offense. That includes eliminating penalties which prevent Dillon from getting good runs.

Jonathan Comey writes that the Steelers and their commitment to the run is going to pose a stiff challenge to the Patriots this week, which could result in the unthinkable – two straight losses for the Patriots. Karen Guregian says that the Steelers are going to bring many of the same things that the Panthers did, which gives the Patriots an immediate change to show their improvement in key areas. Check out the coverage from Pittsburgh in the pages of the Post-Gazette and the Tribune-Review.

Even the Inside Track is jumping on the Globe for their lack of Patriots coverage, and they report about Globe sports editor Joe Sullivan calling up the NFL to whine about access to the team during practice. As I mentioned in part II of my Globe Review last month, I thought that Sullivan had done some good things during his watch there, but lately he’s been taking a lot of hits over the paper’s Patriots coverage, and isn’t looking good for it. His adamant stand that the paper has the most Patriots coverage in the region rings false to anyone who reads through the papers on a daily basis. His failure to promise or even admit that they’ll try to do better continues to be a slap in the face to Patriots fans. Shalise Manza Young reports on how the Patriots are not placing any blame for their loss on the controversial TD from Stephen Davis. Guregian has a piece on Bill Belichick explaining why he didn’t feel he had enough evidence to be able to challenge the call successfully. Solomon’s notebook updates us on the injuries to Randall Gay and Josh Miller. Guregian’s notebook looks at the shaky special teams play from the Patriots. Young’s notebook has Bill Belichick stating where the Patriots need to improve the most: everywhere.

Steve Conroy looks at Brad Isbister, whom the Bruins will be looking to to hopefully fill some of the void left by the departure of Mike Knuble. Joe McDonald looks at young forward Brad Boyes, who has opened some eyes in camp. Kevin Paul Dupont looks at the suddenly crowded goalie slot for the Bruins in his notebook. Conroy’s notebook has more on Boyes. McDonald’s notebook looks at injuries starting to pile up for the Bruins.

Scott Souza has a quick profile on Ricky Davis, as the Celtics swingman continues to take a larger role with the franchise.

The Yankees continued their charge to the top of the AL East, thanks to a walk-off homer from Bubba Crosby in the ninth last night. Get the coverage of the Evil Empire at the New York Sports News page.

NESN has Red Sox/Devil Rays at 7:00.

Misc Monday

How spoiled have we gotten?

Having championship teams in two different sports at the same time has created a unique mindset here in the region. Yesterday’s dual losses by the two title squads shocked some of so badly that we were reduced to quivering in a corner in the fetal position sucking our thumbs. Especially the loss by the Patriots. We’re just not used to seeing Tom Brady look like Payton Manning does when he plays the Patriots in the playoffs. We’re not used to seeing dumb penalty after dumb penalty by the Patriots.

Does Pete Sheppard deserve credit for predicting this loss? I think he does. He wasn’t bombastic about it on Friday, just said that he thought that they were going to have a really hard time with this one, and would lose. He was right.

Surprisingly, or perhaps not, Ron Borges is your voice of reason today. He reminds us that the Patriots are actually not superhuman figures, they are in fact human beings as well. Borges has done this in the past, writing the level-headed, reasoned column the day after a Patriots loss. Must be the contrarian in him, which wants to always swim against the current. Hector Longo wants to play a little game with us: panic…or patience.

Why in the world did CBS stick us with Dan Dierdorf yesterday? I thought being the two time champs would automatically mean we’d get the privilege of never hearing him on a Patriots broadcast this season? I’ve always liked Dick Enberg, even though he’s clearly lost most of his fastball by this point. Dierdorf though, just drives me insane. His most awkward line yesterday was after Randall Gay was injured, when he attempted to joke that Randall Gay was heading to the lockerroom for some Ben Gay.

I was also dismayed that we did not get a replay on the penalty on which Benjamin Watson was called for offensive pass interference, which was just another ill-timed penalty on a day of many, but was worthy because it was pretty much missed on the original live action.

Mike Reiss and Tom Casale has coverage of Bill Belichick’s press conference this morning, among the topics discussed was the decision not to challenge the first Stephen Davis touchdown.

John Tomase summons the vast power of retrosheet.org for his coverage of the Red Sox 12-3 loss to the A’s. Mike Fine looks at the state of the Red Sox as they embark on a six game trip to Tampa and Baltimore, which could make or break their season. According to Michael Silverman’s notebook this morning, Craig Hansen could be called up to the Red Sox as soon as this afternoon. Kevin Thomas recaps the season for the Portland Sea Dogs, who were eliminated from the AA playoffs on Saturday night.

Update: Gordon Edes reports that Hansen and Hanley Ramirez have both been called up.

Chad Finn checks in with six assorted points from the weekend. Peter King has his weekly edition of Monday Morning Quarterback.

If you own an HDTV and are always looking for what sports programming is going to be available, the HDSportsGuide website is invaluable.

Patriots, Red Sox Go Down

Patriots Daily Links

Patriots Game Day RearView

Red Sox Daily Links

Bay Area Sports Page

New York Sports News

John Molori’s Media Blitz

More Later…

Red Sox Escape in 10

In a bizarre game at Fenway Park, the Red Sox defeated the A’s 3-2 in 10 innings after Manny Ramirez was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded. The Red Sox scored their runs on a wild pitch, a home run from David Ortiz and the hit batsman. In the tenth inning, when the Red Sox scored the winning run, they loaded the bases on a Tony Graffanino double, Johnny Damon sacrificed him to third, then Edgar Renteria was hit by a pitch, Ortiz intentionally walked, and Ramirez hit by a pitch. The Red Sox offense is in a bit of slump right now, and only another great outing from Tim Wakefield saved them. Wake went nine inning again, with Timlin pitching the 10th and picking up the win. (Doesn’t that just seem wrong?)

Anyhow, here is boxscore from Red Sox.com.

You can get a number of the stories on the Red Sox Daily Links page.

Check out the stories on the game from the West coast on the Bay Area Sports page, former A Keith Foulke is the subject of at least one headline out there.

The Yankees won again, as they continue their hot streak. Get the news from Gotham City at the New York Sports News page. The Times has a reporter covering the Red Sox with a story, the Daily News has a piece on Foulke and Pedro Martinez is a major story after his complete-game shutout of the Braves.

I missed out on linking to Jim Baker in the Nashua Telegraph yesterday, and the old time media reporter had this tidbit on the John Dennis/Ryen Russillo feud:

The week's most juicy story has WWZN's Ryen Russillo huddling with a top Boston lawyer to contemplate a major lawsuit against WEEI's John Dennis, who left a very profane phone message, accusing Russillo of hitting on his Dennis' daughter, Emily, while allegedly drunk at a party. Russillo denies the allegation, but has the curses-loaded tape, which found its way onto the Internet.

Now a big question is: Who besides Dennis may be sued over possible serious damage to Russillo's career? He was suddenly dropped from WBCN-FM's Patriots postgame show and Dennis denies he had Patriots boss Bob Kraft or his son, Jonathan, sack him. Any suit may also involve WEEI officials who employ Dennis.

Stay tuned, this could be getting ugly.

The Patriots continue their preparations to face the Panthers tomorrow. Check the Patriots Daily Links page for the stories. Bill Simmons has his NFL picks for the weekend.

Michael Vega and Steve Conroy look ahead to tonight’s Boston College/Florida State matchup.

I thought that the Patriot Ledger had a very strong sports section today, with coverage of the Red Sox, Patriots, Bruins and Boston College.

A busy sports viewing day. Here are the highlights (Not the complete schedule) as TNT kicks off coverage from the New Hampshire International Speedway at Noon. FOX has Mets/Braves at 1:00. Channel 7 has Notre Dame/Michigan State at 3:30. NESN has Red Sox/A’s at 7:00. ESPN has Boston College/Florida State at 7:45. CBS as Tennessee/Florida at 8:00.

Book Review – Now I Can Die In Peace

Yet another Red Sox book about the team winning the World Series?

Released a full year after the team won it all?

Those are the two most commonly heard questions when the subject of Bill Simmons’ upcoming book, “Now I Can Die In Peace” is brought up. The market has been saturated with books on the topic, and there will still likely be a few more before all is said and done. This book however, is a little different from the others that have been put out there that only dealt with the 2004 season and what it meant to them to finally win it all.

What Simmons does is trace the roots of the 2004 Red Sox, by bringing back columns dating back to 1998 and tracking the genesis and evolution of the team until it arrived at the version that ended the 86 year World Series drought for Boston.

Some of these columns have not been seen since Bill closed the doors of his old Digital City site, and moved onto Page2 of ESPN.com.

So it’s just a book of rehashed columns then, huh?

Not quite. Simmons has selected columns from 1998 – 2005 (He includes the column from the ring ceremony in April, which in part explains the later release date) which reflect the state of the team and the mindset of the fans. He introduces each one with some background information, and has tweaked a few of them here and there, but never damages the integrity of the original writing, or engages in any revisionist history. His wrong predictions are all right there with the correct ones. The columns and book are divided into four time periods “Rejuvenation” (1998-99) “The Abyss” (2000 – 2003) “Hope is a good thing” (2004) and “The Great Escape” (The final seven games of the playoffs).

Here’s a sample of some of the columns that you find the book, with their original publishing date:

Why No-Mah is a Keep-Ah – October 5, 1998

Pedro Saves the Day – October 12, 1999

Escape from New York – October 13, 1999 (Great Yankees jokes)

The Buzz – April 18, 2000 (Carl Everett’s first few weeks with the Red Sox)

Pedro and the Pantheon – May 16, 2000

Here Comes Manny – December 12, 2000

The Other Side of Nomar – March 1, 2001

Is Roger the Anti-Christ? – May 29, 2001

Silence of the Rams – February 4, 2002

“They don’t have it this year” – September 24, 2002

Paradise Lost, Again – October 17, 2003

The Electric Fence – February 17, 2004

The Great Divorce – August 1, 2004

Game by Game columns for the 2004 playoffs.

Zihuatanejo – April 12, 2005

“Silence of the Rams” is the column written after the Patriots won their first Super Bowl. It is included in the book, because as he mentions later the Patriots victory in many ways “set up” Boston fans for the later success of the Red Sox finally breaking through. It took a little pressure off in some ways.

The real star of the book however, beyond the columns, is the margin notes. Over 500 of them, some quite lengthy. These are a running stream of consciousness as we go through the columns, re-living what was going on at that time, explaining some obscure references, background material, history and who is who. If you never read the old Sports Guy site, and wonder just who J-Bug, Gus and Stoner are, you find out. And by the way, Bill has never drank an Appletini in his life. Just so you know. I also enjoyed the shots at Joe Buck and Tim McCarver.

The prologue to the book runs about 15 pages and tells us a lot about Bill’s background, childhood and philosophy on sports. He outlines six rules of rooting for sports teams, tells us that he’s been reading the Globe sports section as long as he’s been able to read, which was the age of TWO. He outlines his history with the Red Sox, and his career path. He thus sets up how much the World Series victory meant to him, and by extension, all Red Sox fans. I enjoyed re-living all these moments from the past six years very much, and especially the day-to-day columns from the playoffs last fall. So yeah, I liked the book. Very much.

When the Yankees come to town to close out the 2005 regular season Simmons will have a couple of book signings in the city. On Friday September 30th, he’ll be at the BU Bookstore, and on Saturday Oct 1st, he’ll be at the Barnes&Noble in Kenmore Square two hours before the game.

Lead Slips to 1.5 Games

It would seem to me that should the Red Sox be fortunate enough to make the playoffs, that any team that they face would best be served by finding pitchers that have never faced the Red Sox before, and trot them out there for each game. This maddening trend continued last night as rookie Joe Blanton, (admittedly a step up from some of the stiffs that have shut down the Red Sox) took his turn at mystifying the Red Sox, and in the process, shrinking their AL East lead to 1.5 games. Chris Snow wants to give the Red Sox the benefit of the doubt, and I admire that. Not too often you see that in this city. He points to their late night trip from Toronto, number of days played in a row and their emotional fatigue after losing Gabe Kapler for the season as reasons for their sluggish performance. Jeff Horrigan points to another stumbling outing for Curt Schilling, who yielded 11 hits and four runs in 6 2/3 innings of work. Steven Krasner writes that the Red Sox looked like a team staggering towards the finish line last night. David Heuschkel reports from a frustrating night at Fenway as the team is tired, Schilling struggled, and the Yankees continue to march closer.

The panicmongers (© Mike Felger) are coming out of the woodwork as well. Jim Donaldson stirs it up, saying that Red Sox fans’ worst fears are coming true and that the season is going to all come down to the Yankees series the final weekend of the season. Lenny Megliola says feel free to start worrying and fretting over that final series. Steve Buckley (subscription only) writes that yes, the Red Sox have plenty of injuries right now, and yes, they still are on top and they team to beat. but he claims that: In that spirit, the Sox remain the team to beat.

But if they lose . . . to the Yankees . . . on the last day of the season . . . it won't be about injuries.
It'll be about assigning blame.
I've never bought the mulligan theory. Injuries or no injuries, it could get ugly around here.

Sounds like some are already preparing and looking forward to that ugliness. Wouldn’t WEEI love that? I’m just glad I didn’t have to read a Shaughnessy “The Curse is back” column today or something. Bob Ryan is the columnist of the day at the Globe, and he examines the performance of Schilling last night, who struggled with his location and ended his night ticked off at the home plate umpire and himself. Joe Haggerty also reports on a night to forget for Schilling and the Sox. Jay Payton made his return to Boston last night for the first time since shooting his way out of town earlier this year. Kevin McNamara writes that Payton is enjoying the last laugh in the matter for now anyway. Nick Cafardo has more from Payton, who says he didn’t want to come to Boston, and downplays the incident in Texas where things reached a breaking point. Alex Speier notes that Payton now happy that he is playing everyday. To me, the fact that the A’s are winning is irrelevant. It appears Payton just wanted to play everyday somewhere, so he could put up numbers and make more money next year. Howard Bryant (subscription only) also writes about Payton and how “miserable” he was here in Boston, and how the trade here was the “worst day of his life, at least this season.” The Standard Times engages in a on-line version of the MVP debate, with Jon Couture playing the devils advocate and promoting ARod, since he plays in the field, and Nick Tavares picks David Ortiz. Mike Fine also looks at the ARod/Ortiz MVP race.

Cafardo also writes about Oakland manager Ken Macha choosing to stick with his young guns last night in Blanton and closer Hudson Street. I’m still a bit mystified by this whole “pitcher they haven’t faced before” issue. Is there an explanation? Is it the Red Sox advance scouting that is poor? Or is the scouting good and the players don’t study it, choosing to go on their own instincts, skills and experience? Is this being completely overblown? Paging SoSH…we need numbers from around the league on how teams fare against pitchers they are facing for the first time. My gut would tell me this isn’t a league wide thing, otherwise you’d have more young pitchers having success as they first enter the league. Steve Buckley writes that the Red Sox rookies are going to be among those who miss Gabe Kapler’s presence the most, as the outfielder always treated them well, helped them out and set a good example for others. Ron Indrisano writes that the A’s aggressiveness against Schilling was a key for their early success against him. Horrigan provides an update on Johnny Damon as he tries to play through the pain. Horrigan also has a good Minor League Report, where he lists out the top 15 prospects in the Red Sox system and their potential.

Snow’s notebook reports on Johnny Damon’s return to the lineup last night. Horrigan’s notebook looks at the return of Adam Hyzdu. Krasner’s notebook has more on Damon as he manages his pain. Heuschkel’s notebook says that with the injury to Kapler, Damon couldn’t afford any more rest.

Alan Greenberg looks at the flexibility of Bill Belichick’s system, where he tailors the systems to his players and talent, not the other way around. It seems to be working. Ian M Clark notes that it will be important for the Patriots to be able to run the football this week better than they did against Oakland. Karen Guregian concurs that the ground game needs improvement over week one. Dan Pries suggests that this game with the Panthers will be a bit early season test for New England. Albert Breer submits a solid article outlining the challenges that Julius Peppers and the Panthers will provide for the Patriots. Chris Kennedy also reports on the Patriots and Panthers renewing acquaintances.

Jerome Solomon and Michael Felger each have articles on Troy Brown, who has persevered and remained with the Patriots for another season. Felger’s piece notes that the Patriots searched for a third receiver in the offseason, but that Brown just might be better for them than any of the other options that they had explored. Tom E Curran looks at the curious case of Kyle Eckel, who finds himself in a tug-of-war between the Dolphins, the Navy and your New England Patriots. Christopher Price notes that the Patriots might attempt to target rookie safety Thomas Davis with their offense on Sunday. Eric McHugh profiles rookie offensive lineman Nick Kaczur. Felger has a bit on Jarvis Green, while Guregian talks clutch with Adam Vinatieri, who is impressed by David Ortiz.

There was a segment from Tom Curran’s blog/mailbag yesterday that I thought was worth rehashing here. The first question and answer reads as follows:

QUESTION

Tom, long standing Pats fan from Warwick here (still have my '85 Craig James jersey from when I was 10). I was curious to know how you prepare for Coach Belichick's press conferences when you may get the chance to ask only 1 question (as opposed to a 1 on 1 interview). Obviously, you probably want to probably have several questions ready in case other reporter's ask the same thing, plus you want it to be thoughtful/valid as you don't want to end up like some poor soul in front of a Belichick firing squad.

Rob B.

ANSWER

Rob,

I like to go with a plan for the day, a thesis for what I'm writing about. For instance, yesterday (for today's paper) I wanted to highlight Jake Delhomme's passion and the versatility of the Panthers running game. I asked Belichick about their ground game, how intricate it is in terms of personnel and about Stephen Davis. He took Delhomme questions from some other writers so I didn't need to ask any on him.

He appreciates a question that shows at least a passing knowledge of the subject, that goes a little beyond the surface of, "Talk about Stephen Davis," for example.

In the press conference setting it's not hard to ask two or three consecutive questions and Belichick is very good about taking follow-ups and helping out by going into further detail anytime a reporter says he needs something explained to him.

I think that, because of his style, even people who cover the beat only part-time know far more about why things happen at game-time than they ever did.

T

To me, this outlines a point I have tried to make in the past. Time and again we hear from writers, and radio hosts about how boring Bill Belichick’s press conferences are and how he never says anything. That statement couldn’t be further from the truth, and I was glad to read Bob Ryan acknowledge it yesterday. The problem, it seems, stems with media persons who are not willing to do any work or preparation for the Q&A sessions with the coach. Belichick rewards those who show an interest in the game and who ask legit questions, as opposed to those who, as Curran points out, stand up at the conferences and order the coach to “Talk about Stephen Davis”. The transcripts of the conferences are amazing as Belichick always teaches you something, or stuns you with his recall of the 49ers seventh round pick in 1992.

The BSMW Patriots Game Day looks at the coverage of the Patriots this week, looks ahead to the Panthers and has a number of other worthy observations.

Solomon’s notebook says that Josh Miller is trying to put his blocked punt from the Oakland game behind him. Guregian’s notebook looks at Richard Seymour suiting up for practice yesterday. Curran’s notebook looks a little more at Julius Peppers.

Jim Lazar and Jim McCabe have the NFL picks against the spread for the Herald and Globe respectively. I.M. Bettor also looks at some of the numbers. Double D has more Herald money picks. Patrick Hanrahan looks at fantasy numbers and players for the week. The Globe also trots out a little fantasy football information.

David Scott looks at the Globe coverage of the Patriots and a number of other items in Scott’s Shots. Bill Griffith looks at ESPN Gameday coming to Boston College tomorrow and has a number of other media items. John Howell examines how ESPNU isn’t getting picked up on as many cable stations as the network giant had anticipated.

Catch the coverage on the Red Sox/A’s series from out west on the Bay Area Sports page. Get the stories on the hard charging Yankees (and some Red Sox coverage) on the New York Sports News page.

I ran out of time quickly today, despite starting earlier than usual. I didn’t get to Boston College and the Bruins. I apologize for that.

UPN38 has Red Sox/A’s at 7:00. (ESPN nationally) ESPN2 has Houston/UTEP college football at 8:00.

MVP…MVP…MVP

David Ortiz does it again. The Red Sox slugger hit a two run homer in the eight inning to snap at 3-3 tie and lead the Red Sox to victory over the Blue Jays. The victory picked up the spirits of his Red Sox teammates and fans, who had witnessed Gabe Kapler rupturing his Achilles tendon while running the bases on a Tony Graffanino home run in the fifth inning. Sean McAdam writes that Ortiz once again showed why he is the best hitter in baseball with the game on the line. David Heuschkel says that Ortiz put his teammates on his back and carried them home. Again. Chris Snow examines how Ortiz’s blast was so uplifting to a team that saw a popular teammate end his season with a devastating injury last night. Michael Silverman notes that Ortiz continues to push aside the conventional thinking that a DH cannot be the MVP. David Borges reports that Ortiz last night set a single season record for home runs by DH. What’s the record for game winning home runs?

Tony Massarotti examines the injury to Gabe Kapler in context to what he’s been through all season, and what he means to this club. Kapler may be the fourth outfielder on the team, but he means a lot more than that to all the guys in the clubhouse. I need to give Massarotti props for updating us on the injury using the Herald Clubhouse Insider blog during the game. That’s just the type of thing that a blog can be used by a reporter for. Good job by him and the Herald on this. Gordon Edes looks at the hole that Kapler’s absence will leave for the Red Sox outfield and clubhouse. David Borges has more on the bizarre injury that ended a rough year for Gabe Kapler. Ugh…I hate just thinking about Achilles tendon injuries.

Bill Reynolds feels that Jason Varitek should be recognized as the MVP of the Red Sox, over David Ortiz and Johnny Damon. Reynolds uses the argument that Massarotti and others have been tearing apart for the last couple days – that Ortiz doesn’t play a position in the field so that takes away from his value. Silverman talks briefly to Kevin Millar who hopes to be back in Boston next season. Massarotti talks to Mike Myers, who believes people misinterpreted his comments about the use of the bullpen from yesterday’s papers. The reliever has talked to Terry Francona, and things are fine. Silverman has a short report on the fine performance of the bullpen in last night’s win.

Snow’s notebook looks at Edgar Renteria getting a night off. Silverman’s notebook reports that Johnny Damon hopes to play tonight against the A’s. McAdam’s notebook and Heuschkel’s notebook both have more on the injury to Gabe Kapler. Borges’ notebook reports on the grumbling by the Red Sox relievers over their roles.

Michael Felger says that while the Panthers and their fans might view this Sunday’s game as a Super Bowl rematch, the two time champions do not take that view. They’re getting used to having other teams come at them with a score to settle. Tom E Curran looks at Panthers QB Jake Delhomme, whom he describes as a “Southern-fried offensive version of Rodney Harrison”. Michael Parente also has a story on the fiery Delhomme. Alan Greenberg says that Tom Ashworth is going to have all he can handle in Panthers DE Julius Peppers. Christopher Price says that the Panthers are a team of big plays, but has an interesting observation from Chad Brown, who played the Panthers with Seattle last season, he notes that they use a lot of formations, but only a few running plays.

Howard Bryant (subscription only) says that the Patriots do not present a “sexy” image on the national front. The don’t encourage that type of image, but are sure to keep track of all the slights. He notes:

It's a new year, but these perceived slights don't disappear, not with this team. They will fester and they will roil, constructively, until Saturday night. On Sunday, they will be refined from crude ingredients to efficient fuel. That's the only way this team knows how to operate.

Eric McHugh says that one of the Patriots biggest hopes this season is that they can keep both Deion Branch and Benjamin Watson healthy. Jerome Solomon profiles rookie tackle Nick Kaczur. Felger files a short report on Jason Sehorn’s comment that he would take Marc Bulger over Tom Brady. Glen Farley has a look at second year nose tackle Vince Wilfork who had his interception in the Raiders game changed to a fumble recovery.

The Globe notebook looks at Duane Starks, who is eager to get on the field and see some action. Towards the end of the notes, they also provide a contact point for those wishing to offer assistance to former Patriot Otis Smith who the piece reports is “hosting 30 evacuees at his home in Gaithersburg, Md” after the Hurricane devastated the area. The address is [email protected]. The notebook is credited to Solomon and Mike Reiss, but I hear that Ron Borges, who wrote the article on Sunday, is the one who got the email address. Parente’s notebook leads with more on Starks and has quite a few other items as well. Felger’s notebook examines the matchup problems caused by Julius Peppers. Curran’s notebook has Carolina safety Mike Minter praising Tom Brady.

Stephen Harris, Kevin Paul Dupont and Joe McDonald report on the Bruins signing goalie Tim Thomas as insurance should Andrew Raycroft’s holdout become extended. Paul Doyle reports on the retirement of long time Hartford Whaler Ron Francis. Matt Jenkins reports on the second stint with the Bruins for Shawn McEachern. Harris has a short report on surf bum Glen Murray. Harris’ notebook looks at defenseman Jay Leach, hoping to make the team that his uncle Steve Leach once played for.

Mark Murphy looks at Al Jefferson, whose family is putting things together after Katrina. Kevin Henkin also has a report on Jefferson and Justin Reed. Murphy’s notebook reports on knee surgery for Tony Allen, as first reported by Michael Holley yesterday morning on WEEI.

Michael Vega looks at the Boston College linebackers as they prepared to take on Florida State in BC’s ACC debut this Saturday. Steve Conroy looks at the BC offensive line. John R Johnson says that FSU certainly has the attention of Boston College. Conroy’s notebook says that this isn’t Bobby Bowden’s first trip into Alumni Stadium.

Fluto Shinzawa reports on how fuel prices are affecting NASCAR. Ron Borges has his Wednesday boxing notes, with a look at prospect John Duddy. Bill Griffith looks at ESPN landing a new baseball contract, which includes a weekly Monday night game.

The Yankees held on the defeat the Devil Rays last night, remaining 2.5 games behind the Red Sox. Catch that coverage and other stories at the New York Sports News page. With the A’s coming into town for a four game series against the Red Sox starting tonight, catch the coverage from their papers on the Bay Area Sports page.

NESN has Red Sox/A’s at 7:00. TBS has Braves/Phillies at 7:00. ESPN has college football with TCU/Utah at 7:30.