Losers All Around

As you’ve heard by now, Theo Epstein this afternoon resigned his position as Red Sox GM. This outcome was shocking to most, and leaves the Red Sox organization staggering. No matter what they say and do over the next few days, this day could go down in franchise history with other ownership/front office gaffes that have taken place over the years. Is Theo the next Carlton Fisk? Local guy with a spot on his home team, pushed out the door because of an extended negotiation that should have been taken care of much earlier? In these situations, when you’re negotiating with your own guy, the result you’re trying to achieve is a win-win.

Well, this situation is anything but. In fact, it leaves losers all around.

Loser: Larry Lucchino – For the rest of his tenure with the club, he will be viewed as the bad guy who forced Theo out. Can he recover from that? I really don’t think so, no matter how much PR he attempts in the pages of the Globe and on the airwaves of WEEI and various other outlets.

Loser: Dan Shaughnessy – Could Sunday’s column have been the beginning of the end for Shaughnessy in Boston? Already reviled by many Red Sox fans, fair or not, the impression is now out there that Shaughnessy allowed himself to be used as a mouthpiece and puppet by Lucchino in the “Let’s iron out some of this dirty laundry” column. Everyone that I have seen and heard thus far has agreed that the article was spoon-fed to Shaughnessy from Lucchino. I’m not just talking about the WEEI guys, but also the WFAN guys (Who are saying Theo is making a huge mistake), and Sean McAdam, who said on FSN that Shaughnessy may have to enter the witness protection program around here. It is clear though, if Shaughnessy didn’t write the article on Sunday, someone else would have.

The irony that Shaughnessy, who spent the better parts of two decades reveling in the failures of the Red Sox, should now be accused of being a mouthpiece for the club is steep indeed. Shaughnessy has made so many enemies over the years that it is hard to believe he would do this as merely out of the goodness of his heart. The article was so clearly pro-Lucchino that it is laughable. The talking points for the column were clearly outlined: Why would Theo rebel against those who brought him here? Larry is more of a “baseball guy” than Theo. There’s no smear campaign. All just as Larry would want them to be portrayed. Dan, the good “company man” went along with it.

Loser: John Henry – The Red Sox principal owner finds himself with a PR nightmare on his hands, something that I don’t think even guru Dr. Charles Steinberg can fix. For an ownership group that is said to be so “PR Savvy”, to paraphrase Kevin Mannix – they bollixed this up like amateurs.

Loser: Boston Globe – They’ve laughed off all rumors of the “cartel”. At the same time they’ve gladly continued to take the handouts of information the Red Sox feed them – but who can really blame them on that score when it gives them an advantage over their competition and is good for their bottom line and that of their parent company. (Noticed how many Red Sox articles were in the New York Times this season?) Good reporters such as Gordon Edes and Chris Snow are put in an impossible situation, and I don’t judge them as harshly as the management of the Globe and ones like Shaughnessy who have disgraced themselves and the reputation of the largest newspaper in the region by abandoning any semblance of integrity by eagerly snapping up the scraps of whatever information that Red Sox management will feed them and serving as their virtual mouthpiece.

Let’s remember something here. The Globe and its parent company own a portion of the Red Sox, not the other way around. I know it may seem like the latter is true.

Loser: Red Sox Fans – They embraced Theo as one of their own, and reveled with him as he was the GM of the team that finally won the World Series after an 86 year drought. They felt that the future of the franchise was secure with a young man at the helm that could develop the farm system and led the organization for the next 20 years if he chose to do so. Now after three short years, the reign is over, and Red Sox fans must learn to accept a new GM and begin the process of building faith in that position all over again.

Loser: Theo Epstein – He grew up dreaming of this job. He got it, and did the job. Now he doesn’t have it anymore. Was it by his own choice? Well, it appears it really wasn’t. He felt he could no longer work there. Is he going to be this big anywhere else? I don’t think so. He deserves a ton of credit for standing up for himself and letting go of all of this, but will it work out better for him elsewhere? That remains to be seen.

Links thus far: Michael Silverman’s piece which was the first put together once the news broke. (Was it a coincidence that the Herald got Theo’s news first after all this?) Eric Wilbur says Theo cared too much about putting a baseball team on the field in an organization that cares more about real estate development. Theo Leaves Club – credited to “Globe Staff” Decidedly anti-Theo.

Patriots Escape

It’s the only word that can really be used to describe last night’s 21-16 Patriots win over the Buffalo Bills at Foxboro. Escape. For much of the game the two time defending champs were thoroughly dominated by their division rival, yet made enough plays in a few minute span in the fourth quarter to score a pair of touchdowns to move from a 7-16 deficit to the eventual 21-16 winning score. Game stories are served up by Jerome Solomon, John Tomase, Tom E Curran, Alan Greenberg, Tim Weisberg, Mike Lowe and Michael Parente.

Michael Felger says that the Patriots still have quite a ways to go if they harbor championship ambitions. They’re going to need to fix a lot of things with unbeaten Indy coming in next Monday night. Christopher Price knocks out the 10 Things That We Learned Last Night. Bob Ryan says that the Patriots got the win, but that this remains “a flawed, highly human, and completely vulnerable team”, with a long way to go before facing the Colts next week. Albert Breer notes that while it was great to have Bruschi back on the field, his presence does nothing to mask the problems of the secondary, as we saw last night.

Ron Borges tells us that Tedy Bruschi “survived” (tough word choice there, don’t you think?) his comeback last night and that his team is likewise in the game. Borges tells fans to hold onto those two things, because they’re about all we have right now. Jim Donaldson says that Bruschi is right up there with Lazarus when it comes to comebacks. Karen Guregian says that no Boston sports comeback compares with what we saw from Bruschi last night. Rich Thompson gets a little fan reaction to the return of Bruschi. The night may have been all about Bruschi, but Lenny Megliola says that the Patriots linebacker did a great job of seamlessly blending in with his teammates in last nights win. Dan Pires notes that even though Bruschi was around the team all season, last night he finally became a Patriot once again. Steve Solloway looks at Bruschi back living life the only way he knows how.

Dan Ventura reports on Tom Brady, who was able to put together a fairly decent second half after hardly touching the ball in the first half. Breer looks at Deion Branch coming up big in the second half as well. Mike Reiss looks at the combo of Brady and Branch hooking up to get the job done in the second half. Nick Cafardo has Brady hoping that the Patriots can finally take off this season and string some wins together. If they’re going to do that, Brady says the team needs to have some of its younger players step up. Shalise Manza Young looks at how the injury to Patrick Pass forced Corey Dillon onto the field, where he managed to do the job quite well in the second half, rushing for 72 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Mike Lowe looks at Dillon being able to contribute at the right time last night. Young also looks at the play of Deion Branch, who helped lead the comeback and to finish off the Bills with a couple of acrobatic catches.

Fluto Shinzawa looks at the huge play from Rosevelt Colvin, who sacked Buffalo QB Kelly Holcomb at a critical junction of the game (and while ESPN was playing a Bob Kraft interview and had no live audio of the play) and stripping and recovering the ball. The Patriots defense finally forced a pair of turnovers last night, with Asante Samuel coming up with an interception in the third quarter. Steve Buckley (subscription only) has more on the big play from Colvin, who made a recovery of his own, both from his own major injury and of the ball he stripped out at a key juncture last night. Colvin was near the quarterback several times last night, and the Patriots could really use the speed and rush that he brought during his glory days with the Bears. Curran provides his weekly game analysis, looking at the play on both sides of the ball.

Reiss looks at the Patriots continued problems with giving up the big play. Reiss notes that it isn’t just the long plays that are killing the Patriots, it’s that they can’t stop the opposition once they’re in position after those big plays. Felger looks at the Patriots being able to put the clamps on the Bills exceptional kick returner Terrence McGee for most of the night. Shalize Manza Young notes that while the Bills came into the game ranked near the bottom in passing offense, they still pretty much had their way with the Patriots secondary. The ProJo lists out the noteworthy quotes from the postgame locker room sessions.

Tomase’s notebook looks at the inactives for last night, which included Richard Seymour once again. Solomon’s notebook examines what the Patriots addressed during the bye week as they improved to 4-2 coming off the bye under Bill Belichick. The Standard-Times notebook also reports on the absence of Seymour from the lineup, as well as Troy Brown.

Gotta give credit to the Boston Globe for their coverage today of the game last night. It is the most complete of any paper out there. They have several strong, complete articles, instead of the “quick hit” variety employed by the Herald. I expect a lot out of the Globe and do hold it to a higher standard than the other papers, and they did a good job with their coverage this morning. I wish I could say the same of ESPN’s coverage last night. It was in a word, awful. Twice the network went to extended interviews/sideline reports during the action, and ending up missing live play-by-play of a key turnover. During the Brady fumble, Suzy Kolber was reporting on Bruschi’s comeback, and kept right on talking through the play, through the replays of the play and up to the commercial break. Rosevelt Colvin’s sack and strip of Kelly Holcomb was shown in a split screen (though it was the bigger screen) while an interview with Bob Kraft was being played. Combine that with the usual inane analysis from Paul McGuire (When he said he was sure that the Branch catch would be overturned, my friend Tim said immediately that he now felt much better and knew that the catch would stand) and you had a frustrating night from the coverage as well. I’m usually not a basher of the ESPN Sunday night crew, as I like Mike Patrick, and think Joe Theismann has his moments as well, but last night too much emphasis was put on subplots (Bruschi)and outside news (Giants winning in memory of Mara) rather than on the game. There’s no doubt the Bruschi story is huge and deserves a ton of coverage, but not at the expense of the game coverage.

Get the view from the opposition with the stories in the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle, and the Buffalo News.

Chris Snow & Gordon Edes report that Theo Epstein has agreed to a three year contract extension with the Red Sox that will keep him with the club through the 2008 season. Michael Silverman on the other hand, reports that no deal is complete, and that Epstein was expected to sleep on the club’s latest offer and give his decision today.

Mark Murphy has a look at Kendrick Perkins, who had his option for next season pick up this weekend. Perkins is OK with continuing to learn behind Mark Blount and to grow and work on developing his game here in Boston. Shira Springer reports that legend Bill Russell is no longer serving with the team as a consultant, due to the increased demand on his time that the league is asking of him as part of their legends tour. In an article that is more than a bit tongue-in-cheek, Jeff Goldberg talks to world-renowned fashion designer and lifelong Celtics fan Joseph Abboud about the league’s new dress code. Murphy’s notebook has Ainge talking about the decision not to pick up Marcus Banks’ option for next year. Be sure to also check out a BSMW Full Court Press article on Paul Pierce posted last night.

Links from yesterday included Peter May’s NBA notes, which look at the Spurs and their quest to repeat. The Spurs are coming off a 1-7 preseason, but are still most people’s favorite to win the title again. Mark Murphy had more on Banks, who feels that he could still return here next season. Scott Souza listed out four main things you need to know about this years Celtics team.

Nancy Marrapese-Burrell looks at Sergei Samsonov rounding into form with nine points in his last seven games, including six goals. Steve Conroy looks at rookie defenseman Kevin Dallman receiving a vote of confidence from head coach Mike Sullivan. Be sure to check out some eye opening analysis from the weekend on the Bruins inability to hang onto the puck over at the BSMW Power Play blog.

Michael Vega says that Boston College still has plenty to play for despite their loss to Virginia Tech last Thursday night. Mark Blaudschun has a look back at the weekend of college football.

John Molori has a great Q&A session with David Halberstam, author of the new book on Bill Belichick. (Available for purchase below)

ABC has Ravens/Steelers at 9:00. OLN has Canadiens/Rangers at 7:00.

Fall Back?? I Can’t Wait Another Hour for the Pats Game

It is a tough morning for those, including myself, who have chosen to focus all criticism on the Sox for suggestions Manny Ramirez might be traded. According to a report from Chris Snow in today

Division Play Heating Up

The Bruins managed to hold on and win a 2-1 game last night, this time behind backup goalie Hannu Toivonen, who was pressed into duty after Andrew Raycroft was sidelined with a strained hamstring that could keep him out for a week. Jim McCabe, Douglas Flynn, and Joe McDonald have the game stories from the Garden. While the Bruins were able to break through and get their first division win last night, Kevin Paul Dupont says that this team is still seeking their identity and is very much a work in progress. Karen Guregian looks at the play of Toivonen who stole the show last night and provided a huge lift for the team. Joe Haggerty also has a look at the outstanding play of the rookie goaltender. Flynn has a piece on former Bruin Jason Allison, who is happy to be playing anywhere in the league right now. Guregian has a short bit on Patriots fan Eric Lindros, who is monitoring the Tedy Bruschi comeback closely. Flynn’s notebook and McDonald’s notebook each look at the injury to Raycroft, while McCabe’s notebook also looks at that subject, and the player called up to take his place on the roster for now, Jordan Sigalet.

Jerome Solomon says that the Patriots have spent their time during this bye period working on improving the defense. We’ll see on Sunday night whether that work has paid off. John Tomase says that the return of Richard Seymour this week should make things easier for everyone on that side of the ball. Ian M Clark notes that the Patriots are finally getting their first look at the AFC East this weekend. Check out the BSMW Game Day page for a preview of Sunday night’s matchup with the Bills. Michael Felger reports that despite his early struggles this season to fit in with the Patriots schemes, linebacker Chad Brown remains the ultimate pro, keeping his head up.

Tom E Curran writes that the 2005 Patriots offense is “more versatile, complete and explosive than they’ve ever been.” Tomase reports that things are looking good for a Tedy Bruschi return this weekend. Alan Greenberg reports that Tyrone Poole’s season is over, after the cornerback was placed on IR yesterday. Solomon’s notebook and Tomase’s notebook each have more on Poole’s season coming to an end. Curran’s notebook observes that that move opens up a roster spot for Tedy Bruschi to return.

Jim Lazar and Jim McCabe each make their weekly NFL picks for the Herald and Globe, respectively. I.M Bettor and Double D also weigh in on the weekend’s action for the Herald. Patrick Hanrahan has some fantasy football advice, while the Globe lets us know who’s hot and who’s not.

The Theo Watch continues on and the Globe (dubbed “The House Organ” by some cynics) has Chris Snow & Gordon Edes reporting that a new deal for the Red Sox GM could be announced as early as today. Sean McAdam looks at the peace talks held yesterday to try and improve the relationship of Theo Epstein and Larry Lucchino. Michael Silverman says that the current lame duck status of Epstein has prevented the team from getting business done that needs to be given attention to. However McAdam does report that the Red Sox have reached a tentative agreement with Mike Timlin. The Theo talks may have taken a turn yesterday when it was learned that assistant GM Josh Brynes had been hired by the Arizona Diamondbacks to be their new GM. David Heuschkel reports on the Theo situation and the Brynes defection. Tony Massarotti also reports on Brynes, the news of whose departure was first broken by Michael Holley on WEEI yesterday. Silverman says that one of the items of business being held up by the Epstein contract talks is negotiations with centerfielder Johnny Damon. Elsewhere, Chris Snow notes that Kevin Millar and Bill Mueller wasted no time in filing for free agency.

Bob Ryan looks at White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen, noting that he managed to be an original in a game that sometimes leads you to think you’ve already seen it all. Dom Amore notes that while the World Series was a yawner, baseball got what it wanted – a World Series with no major controversies. Buddy Thomas celebrates as a long time White Sox fan. Jeff Horrigan looks at how the White Sox dominated the World Series without much fanfare. Gordon Edes has more on the nearly perfect playoff run by the White Sox. Chris Snow wraps up the World Series with a few words from Alex Cora, whose brother Joey is the third base coach for the champs and a few other players and figures.

Michael Vega and Steve Conroy report on Boston College falling short night, losing to Marcus Vick and Virginia Tech 30-10. Mark Blaudschun says that the game showed that Boston College is just not quite ready to be considered among the nation’s elite teams. Conroy reports that Notre Dame has dropped Boston College from their schedule after the 2010 season, because of damage done to the field by celebrating Eagles three years ago. Vega’s notebook looks at the program that Frank Beamer has built at Virginia Tech. Conroy’s notebook looks at Quinton Porter, who had no time to throw last night.

Steve Bulpett looks at Doc Rivers crunching the numbers for his rotation as the regular season approaches next week. Shira Springer reports on the Celtics cutting center Curtis Borchardt yesterday to bring their roster to the 15 player maximum.

Bill Griffith has more on Sporting News Radio pulling the plug on local programming at WWZN. David Scott also looks at the situation and has a preview of an upcoming interview with departing Herald columnist Howard Bryant. Mark at Boston Radio Watch also has a report on the situation. Meanwhile, Griffith’s regular SporTView column this week examines the end of an era in thoroughbred horse racing on television as we know it. He also checks in with Bob Neumeier, and looks at the World Series numbers. Jim Baker also has a media column today, looking at the Celtics broadcasts, NFL viewing this weekend, and a few other items.

ESPN has Nets/Knicks at 7:30 and Kings/Lakers at 10:00. ESPN2 has Colorado State/New Mexico at 7:00.

1510 Closing the Doors?

It has been rumored almost from the beginning that WWZN, 1510 the Zone might not be long for the Boston airwaves. This week the rumors intensified, with industry sources telling me a few days ago that the station might not last the week.

Today, it appears the rumors came true. A WWZN staffer emailed to say that barring a last minute change of heart by ownership, the Diehards signed off for the final time this afternoon. Sporting News Radio is apparently pulling the plug on the local sports programming, meaning that the Eddie Andelman show is also no more. Could this be the end of the line for a local sports radio legend in Andelman? He wasn’t even here for the final week.

For the others, Ryen Russillo is sure to land on his feet. Anthony Pepe and Jon Anik have been holding down other jobs at the station, so it is unclear at this point where their futures might lay. It might not be on the airwaves.

Keep checking back here at BSMW as we continue to track this developing story and what it means for Boston sports fans.

BC in Prime Time

Michael Vega and Steve Conroy look at Boston College’s prime time matchup against unbeaten Virginia Tech tonight on ESPN. John Johnson has a scouting report of tonight’s game. You can get more stories and BC talk at EaglesAction.com. Former Herald writer Mike Shalin has some articles on that site. Vega’s notebook looks at BC’s road success over the last couple of season.

Mike Fine says that the Red Sox need to step up and reward Theo Epstein.

David Pevear says that the Patriots bye week wasn’t all rest and relaxation. Glen Farley looks at Tedy Bruschi as the Patriots linebacker tries to get back into his old routine. Steve Solloway and Tom King have more on Bruschi. Eric McHugh looks at “Old Man” Corey Dillon. Mike Lowe says that Chad Brown is a winner no matter what his role with the Patriots is.

Kirk Minihane checks in with his weekly Fantasy Football column.

Rob Bradford says that the Green Team will certainly be that this season. Jim Fenton writes that these Celtics will make a nice chemistry experience. Mike Fine observes that the Celtics veterans are starting to build some faith in their younger teammates.

Smear Campaign?

Tony Massarotti comes out swinging this morning, saying that since Theo Epstein has dared to stand up to the mighty Larry Lucchino, that the latter is using his influence with the media, namely the ownership stake of the Boston Globe and the broadcast rights negotiations with WEEI to conduct a “smear campaign” against the Red Sox GM. Dale and Holley did tackle this subject yesterday on their program, noting how the Globe worded their headlines (“Epstein rejects upgraded offer from Sox” vs “Epstein, Sox getting closer to middle ground” for the ProJo) and placed the stores on their pages. Massarotti however, notes that:

So, for an assortment of reasons, the two most powerful media outlets in New England are not about to challenge the words or methods of Lucchino and the Red Sox. (Not really.) And that is OK so long as we recognize there are conflicts of interest everywhere now and the truth will be distorted as a result of it.

I applaud Massarotti for writing this piece, not because he’s taking a few shots here at the Globe and WEEI, but because in a sense, he’s almost breaking ranks here. The media doesn’t generally talk in such detail about such things. While Dale and Holley’s focus yesterday was on the Globe, and their ownership stake and what they’re doing, they didn’t come right out and accuse Larry Lucchino of pulling all these strings, as Massarotti is doing. In the Globe today, Gordon Edes reports that Epstein is expected to make his decision today on the matter. David Heuschkel also has a report today on the situation, basing his piece on the reports of the Globe from yesterday. Heuschkel does make the claim that “Lucchino is despised by Red Sox players.” Bob Ryan also weighs in, noting that there has to be a power struggle going on between Epstein and Lucchino and that can be the only reason that Theo hasn’t signed the Red Sox offer. He says Theo is the perfect man for the job, but he doesn’t have a very good marriage with Lucchino.

Chris Snow got David Ortiz’s thoughts on the 2005 edition of the Red Sox, and the slugger says they he knew this team had some flaws, especially in the pitching area. Massarotti also has a bit on Ortiz weighing in on the Sox. Buddy Thomas claims to be besieged by questions from people wanting his opinion on what the Red Sox should do this winter. He addresses several of the issues facing the club this offseason. Kevin Gray looks at Butch Hobson taking steps to try and land a job with the NH Fisher Cats. Robert Carroll looks at Bronson Arroyo’s plans for an upcoming musical performance in Plymouth.

Two fake curses down, one to go. The Chicago White Sox won their first World Series since 1917 last night, finishing off a four game sweep of the Houston Astros with a 1-0 victory. Jeff Horrigan, Gordon Edes and Dom Amore have the game stories from Houston. Bob Ryan says that the White Sox are no longer second fiddle in Chicago. Amore looks at Jermaine Dye, who was voted series MVP. Massarotti looks at the Astros coming up empty, while Chris Snow says this one was a killer loss for the killer B’s Bagwell and Biggio. Edes’ notebook looks at a New Englander who had a lot to do with the White Sox finally winning it all. Horrigan’s notebook ponders what the future holds for Brad Lidge.

Tedy Bruschi took another step forward yesterday practicing with the team in full contract drills. John Tomase reports that things went well and signs are pointing towards the fact that we’ll be seeing the Patriots linebacker on Sunday night out on the field. Jerome Solomon has Bruschi leaving that final decision up to the coaches, who had him practicing with the first unit yesterday. Alan Greenberg says that Bruschi could very well be back in business. Chris Kennedy says that all eyes have certainly been on Bruschi this week. Michael Parente reports that there were no problems encountered by Bruschi in his work this week, both yesterday and in a Monday session that was closed to the media. Eric McHugh reports that the Patriots are pondering some changes on defense. Bruschi could be key among them.

Tom E Curran says that the Patriots could cure a lot of ills against the Bills this weekend. Karen Guregian explores why Eric Mangini has escaped blame when the Patriots defensive woes are discussed. Albert Breer says that the Patriots saving grace might be the weak division they play in. Christopher Price looks at the Patriots facing old friend Lawyer Milloy this weekend. Bill Burt says there is no quit in Rodney Harrison, as the Patriots safety wants to return to the field for the fans of New England. Dan Pires says there have been plenty of old jokes surrounding Corey Dillon, but the guy can still play.

Breer looks at the return of Hank Poteat. Guregian has Monty Beisel clarifying some of his earlier remarks which had caused a stir. Tomase has Tom Brady taking comfort in finally facing a familiar division foe. Guregian has more on Old Man Corey Dillon. Solomon’s notebook has more on Dillon. Curran’s notebook has still more on the Patriots running back, as does Parente’s notebook. In a bit of a surprise, Tomase’s notebook has Tyrone Poole suiting up for practice yesterday.

The Celtics finished off their preseason schedule with a 101-100 win over the Cavaliers at the Garden. Paul Kenyon and Steve Bulpett have brief recaps of the game. Mark Murphy looks at Justin Reed showing some offense last night for the second string Celtics. Peter May has Doc Rivers saying that he has his roster all figured out. Lenny Megliola feels he can make a pretty good guess as to what the roster will look like as well, along with who is going to play and how much. Bulpett notes that the Celtics could have five second round picks on their opening night roster. The trend seems to fit as Doc Rivers was himself a second round pick. (As was Danny Ainge)

Mike Fine says that Gerald Green (Who hit the game winning shot last night) is going to play somewhere. Whether that is with Boston, or down with a NBDL team remains to be seen. Murphy reports on a November 15th hearing date for Tony Allen. Bulpett looks at the continued struggles of Dan Dickau on the defensive end, a weakness that is going to cost the guard playing time. Bulpett’s notebook reports that the team’s decision on whether to use the NBDL is still up in the air.

David Scott reports on the FSN Celtics Media lunch, an event which I also attended.

Nancy Marrapese-Burrell and Stephen Harris look at the Bruins once again losing in overtime. This time it was 4-3 to the Carolina Hurricanes. Burrell’s notebook looks at how P.J. Axelsson is showing much more of his offensive skills under this new system of play. Harris’ notebook looks Peter Laviolette having to split his attention somewhat as coach of both the Hurricanes and the US Olympic team.

With BC playing tonight on ESPN, I’ll try to get you links as soon as I can. Running a little behind this morning.

NESN has Bruins/Maple Leafs at 7:00. ESPN has Boston College/Virginia Tech at 7:30. TNT has Heat/Magic at 7:30 and Warriors/Suns at 10:00.

The Theo Watch, T-Minus 5 Days

The Theo Epstein watch continues. Sean McAdam seems to have perhaps the best sources in this situation, as he has another report this morning on the situation, saying that there was some progress made in the talks yesterday. (McAdam had a report in yesterday’s ProJo, but due to a publishing oversight, it did not appear on the Projo website until about 4:00 PM.) McAdam’s report today deems it “moderate” progress that was made towards getting the Red Sox GM a new deal. Meanwhile, the Globe combo of Gordon Edes & Chris Snow reports that Epstein yesterday rejected an offer of three years at 1.2 million from the Red Sox. The Herald doesn’t have a report on Epstein, but Jeff Horrigan does have the tidbit that Assistant GM Josh Brynes is a top candidate to become GM of the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Gordon Edes, Jeff Horrigan and Dom Amore report on the White Sox taking a 3-0 World Series lead with a 7-5 win over the Astros in 13 innings last night. Bob Ryan writes that this game may have been long, hard work, but it made for great baseball. Tony Massarotti notes that the game went so late that many in New England likely did not see the conclusion. Chris Snow has a piece on Scott Podsednik, who is leading the White Sox to a World Series victory.

Horrigan reports on Major League Baseball’s decision to keep the roof in Houston open for the games played there. This was after the Astros played almost the entire season with the roof closed. Now while the decision isn’t such a big deal, I’m getting uncomfortable with how much Bud Selig and his regime need to have control over everything. If Sean McAdam’s source is correct that Selig also weighed in and urged the Red Sox not to give Theo Epstein a larger deal because he wants to keep executive salaries down, then the commissioner is not just a control freak, he is also flirting with collusion. Bob Ryan has a second piece today, this one an opinion bit urging baseball to take a second look at instant replay. Events of this postseason have shown the need for a new way to review controversial calls. Kevin Gray reports that Nashua Pride manager and former Red Sox player and manager Butch Hobson would like a shot at managing the NH Fisher Cats. Massarotti has a brief look at the pitching matchups for game four. Horrigan’s notebook reports that if the Astros make it to a game five, they’re still hoping Roger Clemens will be able to go. Edes’ notebook has more on the roof situation.

The Celtics, despite letting a 20 point lead get away in a 118-116 OT loss to New Jersey last night, still had a pretty good night. Their regulars were strong and outplayed the regulars of their division rivals. Steve Bulpett has a short report on the game, noting that the OT experience was good for the young players.

One area which is becoming more clear is the point guard spot, where it seems that Delonte West and Orien Greene will get most of the minutes. Shira Springer has a piece on West, who appears to have won the starting position with Greene being the first guard off the bench. Mark Murphy has a mini-feature on Paul Pierce, who is successfully working at repairing his image after his playoff performance and is growing into the role model that this young Celtics squad really needs. Bulpett also has an article on Brian Scalabrine, who went back to his old haunts last night, and played pretty well. The article gets Nets President Rod Thorn’s thoughts on the forward, and how he’ll do in Boston. Jackie MacMullan reports on NBA deputy commissioner Russ Granik announcing his retirement effective at the end of the season after 30 years with the league. Inside Hoops has a question and answer session with rookie Gerald Green. Bulpett’s notebook has more on the point guard situation, and has Doc Rivers giving his players a lesson on Rosa Parks.

Michael Felger has Tyrone Poole responding to his article from last week in which the Herald writer suggested that football was not a priority for Poole and that he was taking his time in coming back from his injury. The Patriots cornerback strongly speaks out about that article and that claim by Felger. Nick Cafardo looks at the Patriots situation coming out of the bye week and preparing to face Buffalo this Sunday night. Overall, it’s a fairly positive article, but in both this one and in Cafardo’s notebook, Nick makes sure to point out that Bill Belichick and Nick Saban share a disdain for the media. Way to work those both in there, Nick. The notebook otherwise is a look at what Tedy Bruschi’s status and role might be for Sunday, as well as more on Poole, and a number of other items. Chris Kennedy says that the Patriots need to find a way to stop the big play. Christopher Price notes that other than Tom Brady, the AFC East is not the place where quarterbacks develop and thrive. John Altavilla reports on the death of Wellington Mara.

Nancy Marrapese-Burrell and Stephen Harris report on the Bruins narrowly escaping tragedy yesterday as the drive of their team bus just managed to avoid a high speed accident in Toronto. Mick Colageo believes that the introduction of the shootout in hockey could just be the start down a slippery path that could ruin the sport as we now know it. Harris notes that the Bruins still have plenty of work to do on getting their defense up to par. Harris’ notebook says that Nick Boynton appears to be finding his legs and timing after coming back from his holdout.

BC wide receivers are in focus today as Steve Conroy has a piece on Kevin Challenger, while Michael Vega profiles Tony Gonzalez. Both notebooks look at the status of Mathias Kiwanuka. Conroy’s notebook reports mixed signals, while Vega’s notebook says that the team is being cautious bringing the defensive end back to play.

NESN has Bruins/Hurricanes at 7:00. FSN has Celtics/Cavs at 7:30. FOX has White Sox/Astros at 8:40.

Adams in, Bryant out…

Three entries in one day here?

John Molori has sources telling him Mike Adams is in as the new WEEI nighttime host, taking over the slot formerly held by Ted Sarandis.

David Scott reports that Howard Bryant is officially going to the Washington Post, and has the internal email to prove it.

Things that have ruined sports coverage in Boston for me

There are times in which I go into a sports funk. Well, I guess it really isn’t a sports funk, because I always enjoy watching the games. I’m just as excited about each game that my favorite teams play as I have ever been. However, I’m not enjoying what surrounds those games. Programming and reporting that should enhance my knowledge and enjoyment of the games are instead taking away from them. After thinking things over, I’ve come up with a list of media related developments and trends which are actually taking away from my enjoyment of sports coverage here in Boston. I repeat myself a few times in this list, I’m sure, and some of the items are perhaps connected with other items in the list, but I think each point deserved its own listing. Without further ado, here is my list of…

Things that have ruined sports coverage in Boston for me:

1) Contrarians simply out to make a name for themselves.

Otherwise known as the Let me say something so incredibly stupid that people can’t help but take notice and have me on their shows so I can defend my position, and get more attention and make money and then be a regular guest on those shows while I continue to say dumb things just for the sake of standing out and being different. This is probably the biggest problem in the sports media right now. You get rewarded for being a contrarian, no matter how stupid what you say really is. It allows people with no talent to keep in the spotlight and get their names talked about.

2) Arguing and controversy over everything.

I blame ESPN for a lot of this, though it can likely be traced back to the news world of FOX News and other roundtable discussions where a lot of shouting and back and forth is going on.

It seems every conversation this day on radio and television must have two strongly divided sides. Each side has to vigorously defend their stance, under no circumstance admitting defeat or even the merits of the other side. While the outlets will strongly deny that they choose up sides prior to a show, what are they supposed to say? That it is all contrived? The fact is, this “choosing up sides” does happen. I was talking to a media type recently who had appeared on an ESPN program. He told me that he was told the subject matter they would be discussing, and then that “It would be great if you could just shoot down everything this other guy says.”

Is this supposed to be entertaining? The shows then become nothing more than two egos battling it out and trying to get the upper hand, no matter how ridiculous and weak their stand might be. It’s not informative, in fact, if you have a convincing person arguing for the “wrong” side, the shows can even be misleading. There?s a misguided thought among the media that the public wants and craves “opinions?. Not so. We have our own. We don’t need to hear ALL of yours.

3) Talk Radio

It started out with such promise. Sports fans could have a station dedicated to talking about their local sports teams. They would hear analysis and discussions of last night’s game or listen to interviews by players, executives and reporters. This didn’t last long, because this “reading the boxscores” over the air approach was deemed to be too boring. What the station needed was a “hook”- as if sports fans weren’t loyal enough to come back and listen each day – the station decided that creating a daily “soap opera” would be the way to go. They would create cartoonish characters for themselves, invent plots and subplots, all filled with controversy and negative talk, to keep the listener coming back each day. Actual sports talk is replaced with endless debates filled with fake passion about the same subjects over and over again. Apparently it works for them, but I’ve got to wonder – are the ratings really that much higher as a result of these changes? With the incredible success of the local teams as of late, wouldn’t there be just as many people tuning in?

On the recent edition of WCVB’s Chronicle which featured WEEI, Glenn Ordway said that the station gets criticized because the hosts often are talking and yelling over each other during the course of a show. He said this is actually something they try to do, because, Ordway claimed, the average fan when he gets together with his friends be it at a bar or in their living room, is going to shout and yell over their friends to get their point heard.

I’m sorry, but is this true? When you get together with your friends, are you constantly talking over them, yelling at them, making fun of their weight, and saying outrageous things to bait them? It may happen occasionally that you have a heated discussion over a topic, but it’s certainly the exception to the rule, and not really something that is enjoyable. But for some reason, this is now the standard for talking sports on radio and TV in Boston.

4) Baseball games treated like football games

I think this is purely a Boston thing. Every Red Sox game is analyzed and dissected on talk radio and in the papers as if it were 1/16th of the season as NFL games are, instead of the 1/160th of the season that baseball games really are. This results in each and every game, and each and every decision by the manager being second guessed and placed in a vacuum apart from the “big picture” that is the 162 game season. There’s no perspective there. As the games, weeks and months go by, the intensity builds, it reaches a boiling point so that every single game, every single hit and error is LIFE OR DEATH. No enjoyment of the games here when a bunt single in he first week of June is debated to death on the airwaves for three whole weeks.

5) The Haters

Being “objective” or not “in the pocket” of the local team apparently means for some media types around Boston that you must display maniacal hatred for those teams. You must work hard to find every fault and point out every possible bad angle and negative spin you can put on a situation. Otherwise, you are nothing but a “homer.” God forbid.

6) Media relationships and rivalries (Globe vs WEEI)

The listeners and viewers suffer because of these petty “rivalries.” Wouldn’t you like to hear Bob Ryan or Jackie MacMullan on the Big Show? While I mentioned above that I dislike contrived controversies it would be interesting to see a guy like Ron Borges, who truly despises the Patriots go at it on the Big Show against Ordway, Sheppard, Smerlas and DeOssie. While neither side would make many coherent points, currently Borges only appears on outlets where his outlandish claims and venom go largely unchecked. This isn’t fake or contrived controversy. If Borges really has issues with the way the Patriots and Bill Belichick do things, I’d like to see him have to explain and defend his views against someone who is going to challenge him, not give him a pulpit to spout his “Bill Belichick was the 2nd gunman” theories.

The same thing applies to television. You’re not going to see any of the Globe writers on FSN, or any of the WEEI or Herald guys on NESN. You thus get an incomplete view of the Boston sports scene.

7) The Internet

What? Isn’t this an Internet site? In many ways, the internet has been a boon for the sports world. Fans can look up information, statistics and get together with fellow fans on message boards dedicated to their favorite team. Sounds great, huh? Unfortunately, whenever you get people together on-line, you get trolls. Whether they be people who delight in baiting others and causing chaos on message boards (even ones operated by media outlets), or people who create their own inflammatory “fan” websites for the sole purpose of posting negative, sometimes hateful opinion and stirring up trouble with “rumors” that they create themselves, these ones can take the joy out of following sports for many.

8) Panicmongers

I heard Michael Felger use this term on FSN one night to describe another person on the show. It fits perfectly. With some media types, the sky is always falling, even after the first preseason game for any sport. What could go wrong? What if (superstar) gets injured? Is (draft choice, free agent, trade) a total bust? Is (superstar) done? Could (coach, executive) be in danger of losing his job should (unlikely catastrophic event) happen?

9) “Throwing it out there”

I don’t have any basis for this, but I’m going to bring it up anyway. – That’s the essence of the I’m just going to throw this out there for discussion style. It may include accusing a player of using performance enhancing substances, or whether a coach or executive is in danger of losing his job should a certain (usually far-fetched) situation arise. Perhaps it’s even done on a positive accomplishment: “Let’s say David Ortiz breaks the franchise record for home runs, will he then demand another contract extension this offseason?”

10) Rooting “for the story”

When did this start? Has it always been this way? Instead of enjoying an outcome that will result in happiness for their audience, media types now root for whatever is likely to result in “the best story.” Usually “the best story” is whatever is going to cause the most heartache for the local fans and be the most negative outcome possible. A devastating loss is somehow easier to write about then an exhilarating win.

11) The need to be “edgy”

WBCN had a perfectly good Patriots pregame show in years past. However, they started tweaking it with the express purpose of making it more “edgy” and “combative.” A new host was brought in last year, one who was good at creating “problems” and “issues” that had to be addressed and fought over. This year, competent analysts Pete Brock and Tim Fox were dismissed in favor of guys who are going to yell at each other and be combative. The producer encourages this format, saying that it was their goal to bring this “edge” to the program. NECN has changed their Sports Late Night program, both during the week and on the weekends to be more “edgy” and more opinionated.

12) “Celebrity” Callers

You know the names. “Frank from Gloucester,” “Alison from Cambridge,” “Mike from Canton,” “John from Medford,” “Angry Bill,” “Al from Everett” “Dakota from Braintree”. The list goes on. Sometimes I’m hard pressed to figure out if they’re calling the station, or if the station is calling them. They make regular appearances, seemingly on cue, and usually take the discussion on the air into a totally different direction. Always for the worse. They’re usually some sort of “Superfan” – the worst type of fan. These so-called “fans” usually call up to rip the local teams or question the decisions of the coaches and managers. In the case of “Frank” and “Mike” they’re Yankees fans who appear on the air to do nothing more than taunt Red Sox fans and stir up reaction. Sometimes they’re just on the air to do nothing more than say incredibly stupid things and be the butt of jokes from hosts. (“John”) Incredibly, some of these callers have even either been offered time on local radio stations, or have gone out and tried to get their own show. We had “Danny from Quincy” and another guy whose name I forget (Jack?) get segments hosting with Eddie Andelman on 1510. We had “Dakota” doing a short-lived morning show on the same station. Whenever a piece is done on Red Sox fans or WEEI callers, “Angry Bill” is trotted out before the cameras. What is the appeal?

13) I was right all along!

A proclamation is made. Usually there is very little evidence to prove this proclamation, the basis for the proclamation may even be disputed or proven to be out-and-out wrong. Weeks, months go by, and then by coincidence, the scenario described in the original proclamation actually comes about. That original statement is still dead wrong, but now the leap is made that the speaker was correct all along and now has been proven as such. He seeks vindication from any and all that will listen to him. One to look to for the future, and perhaps it is even happening now, is Borges proclaiming the Patriots championship run as a house of cards, ready to fall apart at any time. At some point, the Patriots are not going to win the Super Bowl, and Ron will be right there, telling us he was right all along. Even if that date turns out to be 2008. Glenn Ordway is another one who has perfected this tactic.

14) Politics

While Dennis and Callahan make no bones about the fact that their show is not strictly sports talk?a good deal of it is news, politics and entertainment, other shows which claim to be sports often work in their political views and get them out there to a huge audience. If a World event is happening, or even a local scandal, you can be sure that the sports experts are also going to bless us with their keen political insights and opinions. I use sports to get away from the news and politics of the world. I don?t need to hear the opinions of these guys on things that actually matter.

So what’s the solution? Is there any? I have friends on the West coast, who are transplanted from here, and they’ve told me it has actually improved their enjoyment of rooting for their teams. They watch the games on the dish, or at a local bar that is full of fellow transplants. They might see some pre or post game shows, and go check out a newspaper or two online. Perhaps the forced cutback has increased their enjoyment of what they can get.

There is no doubt that Boston sports fans have an insatiable demand for information and talk about their teams. The local media has attempted to fill that demand with shows of all types and formats. Unfortunately, they’re shows that for the most part, I don’t enjoy. I listen and watch regardless, but it just could be so much better. I wish I could sit in these meetings where these plans are thought up and implemented. Who thinks that these elements are a good idea and add to the sports experience here in Boston?

It’s not all bad. Perhaps next I’ll come up with a list of the good things in the Boston sports media.