Mile High Compliments

The Patriots continue preparations for the Broncos, while the baseball playoffs continue, with a very controversial call being the difference for the White Sox. The Celtics continue preparation for their second preseason game tomorrow night, while the Bruins will be without Joe Thornton tonight, who is back in Boston.

Karen Guregian and Tom E Curran each look at the mutual admiration society that Bill Belichick and Mike Shanahan have going. Alan Greenberg has a nice mini-feature on Patriots tight end Daniel Graham, coming off his best offensive game of the season, and going back this weekend to play in front of his home town of Denver. Albert Breer also has a short bit on Graham and offensive tackle Tom Ashworth, who also played college ball at Colorado. Jerome Solomon has a look at Patrick Pass, who has grown into the ultimate team player down in Foxboro. Christopher Price has a look at the reputation of the Denver offensive line as dirty players who utilize the controversial cut block technique.

The injury report was a big topic yesterday, especially after last week when it appeared that Atlanta coach Jim Mora Jr messed around with the report to make it seem all week that Michael Vick had a good chance of playing against the Patriots. Eric McHugh has a look at that situation as well as more from the game on Sunday. Guregian has a look at the Patriots injury report from yesterday, which listed 15 Patriots as probable. Mike Reiss also has the injury report, and a look at new Patriot Arturo Freeman. Buddy Thomas launches a tirade against Keyshawn Johnson in his column today. One note Buddy, Johnson is 33, not 35. Get the stories from the Mile High city in the Denver Post and Rocky Mountain News. The Post has a look at the elite coaches and kickers that will be involved in this game, while the News has a piece on Graham.

Solomon’s notebook reports on the injury report as well as a couple of roster moves for the Patriots. Guregians notebook also looks at the injuries and reports on Tom Brady being named AFC player of the week. Curran’s notebook has Denver linebacker Al Wilson speaking about Brady.

Gordon Edes and Jeff Horrigan report on a controversial call in the ninth inning last night which gave the Chicago White Sox new life and allowed the winning run to score and tie the series at a game apiece. Dan Shaughnessy says that the call was as bad as it gets, and now there is a cloud over the whole series. Howard Bryant (subscription only) also looks at the horrendous call, noting that the umpiring crew remains in denial about messing it up. Horrigan has a brief article that has Ozzie Guillen wanting Paul Konerko to return to the White Sox next season. Edes’s notebook has more on A.J. Pierzynski, who took advantage of the blown call by the home player umpire. Horrigan’s notebook has Mike Scioscia saying that his offense didn’t get the job done last night, and explaining how he uses the DH.

Nick Cafardo looks at Chris Carpenter and the Cardinals getting a game one win over the Astros in the NLCS. Cafardo’s notebook looks at the rough outing for Andy Pettitte.

Steve Bulpett assesses the Celtics a week into training camp, with a preseason game under their belt, and has several observations, including wondering what Ricky Davis’ role will be. Starter or Sixth man? Shira Springer looks at Doc Rivers giving his team a day off yesterday, and looks back at the game on Tuesday and ahead to tomorrow night’s game in Manchester, NH. Scott Souza talks to Celtics radio play-by-play man Sean Grande about broadcasting on a station that people will be able to hear at night around the region. You get the feeling that Grande has a bit of wanderlust in him, and might not be a long term guy for the position, talking about new challenges, having almost left the job twice already. Maybe I’m just old fashioned, knowing that Johnny Most called the games for 40 years, but you’d think this might be the top of the mountain for a guy like Grande.

Nancy Marrapese-Burrell reports on Joe Thornton returning to Boston for treatment on his ailing back. Steve Conroy reports on Center Dave Scatchard, who is set to make his Bruins debut tonight. Burrell’s notebook says that Scatchard is excited about suiting up for the Bruins for the first time. Conroy’s notebook has more on Thornton returning home.

Rich Thompson reports that BC Defense End Mathias Kiwanuka will likely miss this Saturday’s game with Wake Forest due to a knee injury. Ron Chimelis looks at UMass forward Rashaun Freeman, who is a likely NBA candidate. In the Globe’s Suburban Diary, one Red Sox fan tells of how she is planning on getting through the offseason.

The New York Sports News page has plenty on the baseball playoffs and on Mel Stottlemyre resigning as Yankees pitching coach. The Bay Area Sports page also has plenty of baseball and football stories from the West coast.

Bill Griffith reports on the Patriots building their own television network…without a TV station. They have a number of programs that will be available from Comcast On Demand. on ESPN.com Ombudsman George Solomon wants to draw a stronger line between reporting and commentary.

NESN has Bruins/Panthers at 7:00. FOX has Astros/Cardinals at 8:30. ESPN has Clemson/N.C. State at 7:30.

Midweek Reports

Not much happening on the local scene yesterday, yet still a wealth of day-to-day articles and stories in the papers this morning.

Michael Felger’s Patriots Insider this week looks at rookie Nick Kaczur, who is filling in for Matt Light, and has the support of the injured left tackle. He also reports that Kevin Faulk’s injury could be potentially career threatening, and notes the line of former Broncos who have come in and out of Foxboro this week, as well as the fact that the Patriots defense is in trouble these days. Mike Reiss has the Patriots midweek report for the Globe, and he examines the team’s quest to force more turnovers. Right now they’ve only gotten one this season, an interception from Mike Vrabel in week two. Eric McHugh writes that as stunning as it might sound, a weak defense could mean the end of the Patriots Super Bowl reign. Chris Kennedy says that there are plenty of positives to take from Sunday’s win. Christopher Price says that the Patriots have been a roller coaster of inconsistency thus far.

With the Patriots heading the Denver to take on the Broncos this Sunday, there are stories on the Champs in the local papers out there. The Denver Post has a look at the Patriots one step at a time approach, while the Rocky Mountain News has a look at Tom Brady carrying a bigger load for the Pats this year. Reiss filed his weekly mailbag yesterday, which is again filled with interesting items and tidbits. Reiss’ notebook, which is quite extensive today, has John Lynch talking about almost becoming a Patriot, as well as injury updates on Light, and Tyrone Poole, how rookie Mike Wright has been adopted by the veterans and a list of defensive backs worked out by the Patriots, which includes Hank Poteat and Terrell Buckley. McHugh’s notebook has Bill Belichick showing a little humor during a press conference earlier this week.

The Celtics had their first exhibition game last night in Pittsburgh, coming up short against the Cavs, who were without LeBron James. Steve Bulpett has a short recap of the game, while Shira Springer looks at Delonte West getting the start at point guard for the Celtics in the opener. Mike Fine reports that with so many youngsters out there, Coach Doc Rivers only worry is the leadership gap. The game was played in Pittsburgh, so Phil Axelrod of the Post-Gazette has a game story, and out in Cleveland, Branson Wright looks at the Cavs getting along fine without LeBron. Speaking of LeBron, Bulpett reports on Paul Pierce making peace with the Cavs star after a preseason scuffle last year. Springer’s notebook looks at James sitting out last night with a strained chest muscle, while Bulpett’s notebook has James speaking on how much easier Celtics rookie Gerald Green has it coming into the league without the spotlight on him.

Michael Silverman has an interesting report which has someone close to Manny Ramirez, and authorized to speak for him, saying that the Red Sox slugger is happy here, would like to remain here, but would like to sit down and meet with Red Sox officials next month to see what the future of the club is, where he fits in, and perhaps even give his input on a few things. Howard Bryant, (subscription only) has two columns this morning, the first is his Boston Uncommon byline which looks at Keith Foulke, and whether he “checked out” on his teammates late in the season, not even watching their game and going to the Bruins game instead. He goes on to look at players that are booed and criticized around here, and how Curt Schilling gets a free pass because he gave everything he had last fall. Bryant points out that lesser talented players give their all to the team too, but don’t escape the wrath, while some players get by on cosmetic personas. He points to Trot Nixon.

The problem is that so much of a player's persona is cosmetic. Trot Nixon quietly produced nothing in the crucial month of September, and he earns twice as much as Millar, is a platoon player, hit .223 with five homers and 30 RBI at Fenway, and .233 with a home run in September. Yet he is perceived as the consummate competitor and has never faced the anger of the nation. But does Nixon play the game any harder than Millar, Renteria or Bellhorn? When Nixon hits a two-hop, automatic out to second base, he jogs to first in the exact same manner as Ramirez and 99 percent of baseball players at the major league level.
And nobody says a word.

Bryant’s second article of the day looks at the ALCS going on with no trace of the Superpowers. John Tomase looks at the Red Sox and Yankees stepping aside for now. Jon Couture says that he is still going to root for the Sox…the White Sox now that is. Paul Doyle says that the Red Sox/Yankees absence leaves a void for fans in the Northeast. Dan Shaughnessy says that the Red Sox and Yankees might be missing from this ALCS, but for writers and fans around the country, they aren’t missed. They’re glad for some new blood.

Gordon Edes and Jeff Horrigan have the game stories of the Angels shaking off their jet lag and defeating the White Sox 3-2 in Chicago last night. Shaughnessy looks at Angels starter Paul Byrd coming up big last night on three days rest. Horrigan looks at Jarrod Washburn getting the start tonight for the Angels, recovering from his bout with strep throat. Edes’ notebook looks at Bartolo Colon being left off the ALCS roster by the Angels. Horrigan’s notebook also looks at this topic.

Nick Cafardo catches up with Roger Clemens, who engages in a little Boston talk, looking forward to day in the future when he can come up to Fenway and catch a few games. He also talks about some of his former teammates on the Red Sox. Clemens is enjoying his team’s run this year, coming off the longest postseason game in history Sunday, having played a key part in that win. This is the type of story that Cafardo does best. I enjoyed it. Cafardo’s notebook looks a couple of pitchers getting a second chance in the NLCS.

Nancy Marrapese-Burrell reports that Joe Thornton could be heading back to Boston for some treatment on his ailing back. Steve Conroy looks at the continued injuries to the Bruins top three centermen. Joe McDonald looks at young center Brad Boyes, who many feel is way ahead of his time at the age of 23. Burrell’s notebook has more on the center injuries, while Conroy’s notebook reports on Thornton.

Jim Donaldson has a thoughts column this morning, and he still believes David Ortiz should be the MVP of the AL. Jim McCabe has a feature on newly minted pro Michelle Wie.

David Scott spent a day doing nothing but listening to Sports Talk Radio. He chronicles the day on a special Wednesday edition of Scott’s Shots’ (With a new page design as well.)

FOX has Angels/White Sox at 8:00. FX will carry Cardinals/Astros at 8:00.

Grading Day

The Patriots’ professors have handed out their grades for Sunday’s win in Atlanta, and while there were some aspects for the Patriots, there are still some areas needing improvement. Michael Felger gives the secondary an “F” in his report card this week, making the note that in no way is this a Super Bowl caliber defense…at this point. Michael Parente is a little more generous in his grading, though the defensive backs still receive the low mark of a “D”. Former Pats great Steve Grogan checks in with an “A” for offense and a “B” for the defense. Alan Greenberg looks at the Patriots defense, which thus far this year could be given a “D”…as in deficient. Jerome Solomon looks at Adam Vinatieri once again coming through with a clutch kick for the Patriots. Check out the Patriots Game Day Rear View for a look back at how New England was able to defeat the Falcons on Sunday.

Karen Guregian writes about the Patriots offense, which was able to be productive enough to take the heat off the defense. Tom E Curran looks at how Tom Brady has been shouldering the load for the Pats offense in the early going. Christopher Price looks at how viewing the Hagler/Hearns fight fired up the Patriots for Sunday. Shalize Manza Young also looks at how the fight film gave the Patriots some inspiration. Guregian also has Bill Belichick admiring the Daniel Graham touchdown catch and run which was one of those rare plays which worked exactly as they drew it up. Bill Burt writes that this was not just another win for the Patriots. It was a Mary Tyler Moore special for Bill Belichick and his team. Jonathan Comey looks at the Patriots winning the Colts way, and vice versa.

Solomon’s notebook says that showing boxing films to his team each week will not become a Belichick staple. Guregian’s notebook looks at how the secondary still needs some serious work after getting torched on Sunday. Curran’s notebook looks at the Patriots managing to muster an effective running attack against the Falcons.

The Bruins managed a 4-2 win in Tampa last night over the defending Stanley Cup champions. Brian Leetch scored his first goal as a Bruin, and Andrew Raycroft was solid in net. However, the victory was marred somewhat by the fact that Captain Joe Thornton had to leave the game with five minutes remaining, due to back spasms. Nancy Marrapese-Burrell and Steve Conroy have the game stories. Conroy looks at former Bruin John Grahame, who has gotten his chance to play with the Lightning. Check out the BSMW Boston Bruins Blog for a look at the team after the first four games this year. Burrell’s notebook looks at Dave Scatchard, who is getting closer to returning to the ice for the Bruins. Conroy’s notebook also looks at the forward getting closer to a return.

Michael Silverman takes a looks at the Red Sox bullpen, perhaps the area of the team that is in most desperate need of an overhaul during the offseason. Mike Fine says that things are pretty much in shambles for the Red Sox right now, beginning with Curt Schilling. Gerry Callahan (subscription only) says that Pedro Martinez has pretty much ordered the Mets to go out and do what it takes to acquire Manny Ramirez in the offseason. Callahan says “Not only did Manny finish strong and come up big in the playoffs, a bunch of his teammates did not. There are holes to fill on this team, and left field/cleanup does not appear to be one of them.” But adds that if Manny demands a trade, they may not have much choice but to honor his request. My question would be who holds a greater influence over Manny, Pedro or David Ortiz… Silverman also looks at the relievers available this winter, noting that the choices are likely going to be few. Brian McGrory writes that with the Red Sox now out of the playoffs, it’s time to get a life. Steve Buckley (subscription only) says that with all the changes being made to Fenway Park, it is important to keep preserve the feel of the park, and not change it beyond recognition.

Gordon Edes has the game story of the Angels defeating the Yankees last night and knocking them out of the playoffs. Jeff Horrigan says that the White Sox will have no sympathy for the plight of the Angels, who had to fly out following the game in time for tonight’s ALCS game one in Chicago. Check out the New York Sports Pages for more reports on the Yankees loss and the upcoming ALCS. Edes’ notebook says that the Angels will turn to Paul Byrd as their game one starter. Horrigan’s notebook looks at El Duque making it an easy decision to add him to the White Sox ALCS roster.

The Celtics open up their preseason schedule tonight with a game against the Cavs in Pittsburgh. Tim Weisberg looks at the progress made thus far in camp and has five questions that need to be answered before the start of the season. Peter May has a piece on Mark Blount, who has vowed to turn things around after last season, and who has looked very good in camp thus far. May also has Ainge shooting down the latest Paul Pierce trade rumor, the details of which can be found all over Celtics Blog. Marcus Banks continues to find it difficult to please his coach, as is evidenced in Mark Murphy’s notebook this morning.

Dan Shaughnessy trots out a thoughts column, right off the bat pulling a Boston Dirt Dogs and ignoring the fact that Keith Foulke was in town to visit the Doctors last week when he also went to the Bruins game. Bill Reynolds tries to figure out when and why fans boo and cheer different players and teams. The Inside Track contains the following blind item:

Then there's the hot-to-trot media gal who has a penchant for getting a little too close to the story. So when the cops pulled over her car for weaving all over the road the other night, it was no surprise to find that, seated right next to her, was one of the married jocks about whom she is paid to report. Which makes her the real story

The Reign is Over

My first reactions following the loss tonight…

The 12 month reign of the Boston Red Sox as World Champions came to a close tonight, (Yes, I know the Red Sox are still technically the champs until the next team wins the World Series.) and strangely enough, while I’m frustrated at how the season came to an end, I’m ok with it at the same time.

I believe that this team went as far as it could as presently constituted. Further even. Terry Francona has been getting ripped by talk show callers all year, and yet the guy tied for the division lead, winning 95 games, without having Curt Schilling and Keith Foulke for most of the season. Take the number one starter and closer off of any team, and they’re going to be worse for it. Somehow, and with the help of the guys hitting third and fourth in the lineup, he managed to win just three fewer games in the regular season than the club did last year.

It seems somehow appropriate that the runs scored tonight were all the work of two men. David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez accounted for all the scoring on solo home runs. Appropriate given that this 3-4 combination was what carried the team into the postseason. Johnny Damon was injured much of the season and still had an incredibly productive season, but who else was consistent this year? Those three guys were pretty much your offense all year.

I’m looking forward to the offseason. I’m very interested to see what happens with this team. (Assuming Theo Epstein gets his contract situation worked out.) Are we going to see a bunch of new kids on the field next year? Will Kevin Youkilis and Dustin Pedroia step into starting roles in the infield? Jonathan Papelbon seems a lock for a position in the starting rotation, so who does that knock out? Will Craig Hansen be with the big club from the start next year? How about Manny Delcarmen? Where is Hanley Ramirez going to end up in the field? How soon before we see Jon Lester? Is David Murphy getting close?

It appears we’ve seen the last of Kevin Millar, Bill Mueller and perhaps John Olerud and Tony Graffanino, (Though I could see both those guys coming back as role players.) and how about Johnny Damon? However, for me the biggest offseason question is what becomes of Manny Ramirez.

The Red Sox scored nine runs in the entire series and Manny drove in four of them. He had two home runs in the final game…perhaps his final game at Fenway as a member of the Red Sox. He’s not a clutch performer? I’m sorry, but I still don’t see how the Red Sox are better by getting rid of him. For the perhaps 10 days during the season in which he is a distraction,he makes up for it a hundredfold with his production the other 152. He also protects Ortiz in the lineup.

I expect a lot of talk this offseason from talk show hosts, especially two on the morning show of WEEI, who will be overwhelming in voicing their opinions that Manny needs to be driven out of town. I don’t get it. The media as a whole is obsessed with Manny’s effort, becoming fixated with every trip out of the batters box that the guy makes. This bit from Chad Finn the other day captured things very well:

John Dennis and his 'EEI partner, Gerry Callahan (who used to be one of my favorite columnists until I realized he's either a wretched lout of a human being or plays one all too well on the radio), spent the morning absolving Graffanino of any wrongdoing while trying to pin blame for the loss on Manny Ramirez (who drove in the first two runs but, in their eyes if no one else's, dogged it and turned double into a single) and Edgar Renteria (no legit explanation why, though if you know D&C's history, you have your suspicions.) Before I could slam my car into the nearest telephone poll in a desperate attempt to make the noise stop, Karl Ravech of "Baseball Tonight" came on and shut them the hell up, noting that Albert Pujols - yes, the sainted Albert Pujols, Gammo's Exhibit A on how The Game Should Be Played during his anti-Manny rants - lollygagged to first himself recently. Ravech added that Manny had no better than a 50-50 shot of getting to second anyway, and that it seemed they were hassling Manny for the sake of hassling Manny. Dennis was, perhaps for the first time since he was hatched, silent. Callahan responded with a witty "Right," then changed the subject. Karl Ravech, we salute you.

No matter what people like these two say, Manny has to stay. A tiny part of me actually would want Manny to be moved somewhere else so he can get away from people such as those two. However, I know that even if Manny is gone, they’ll still rip him almost daily. (See Martinez, Pedro) If he’s going to get ripped by them, I’d rather have him him hitting his 45 homers and 140 RBI. With all the potential kids in the lineup next year plus whoever is acquired to play first base and centerfield if needed, it is critical to keep the Ortiz/Ramirez 3-4 combination in the lineup and build around them.

It’s possible that both Johnny Damon and Manny Ramirez could be gone by next spring. I say you’ve got to keep at least one of them, given the lack of outfielders on the market. If I had my pick of only one, give me Manny. Damon’s leadoff skills can’t be duplicated, but neither can Manny’s pure ability to hit the ball and carry it for a week at a time by himself. A first baseman, outfielder or two, (depending on what happens with Manny and Damon) and bullpen help appear to be what the Red Sox most need to obtain this winter.

This promises to be a memorable offseason for the Red Sox, but in a different way than the last two. In some ways, perhaps now the pressure might even be less on the team, the last few years it was always about breaking through and winning the World Series, this year it was if they could repeat that feat. All the while, Theo Epstein and the front office has been building the minor league system, something he swore to do the day he took the job. He was so committed to this that he didn’t part with any of the prospects at the trading deadline this season. It was a gamble, but not, it sure doesn’t appear that there was anyone out there that would’ve helped the Red Sox beat the White Sox this week. Now, we’ll see if the prospects are good enough to start building the foundation of a team that can be a contender year after year without having to pay such a high price, yet still able to go and spend whatever it needs to acquire the pieces that they are not able to develop. Expectations will still be high coming into next year, but there is a recent championship still to admire, and tangible results from the investment in the farm system there for us to see coming up before our eyes. I’m confident that with the right moves, the team will be able to break in the youngsters while still being a contending club.

Yeah, I’m bummed that the season is over. I’m not angry about it though. You won’t hear me calling WEEI and demanding that Francona be fired and that Manny and Renteria be run out of town on a rail. I’m excited to see what this team is going to do in the offseason, and will be looking forward with anticipation to see what the 2006 Red Sox look like.

Another issue:

I don’t get the anger that I’ve heard and read in recent weeks and that we will see for the foreseeable future in some quarters. I enjoyed this team, and they brought me far more pleasure than frustration. I’ve been trying to figure out where all the anger comes from. Talk show callers and hosts, internet sites, newspaper columns, they’re full of it. Why?

The only thing I can think of is that it is a way for these people to try to prove what a “fan” they are. “Wow, look at them, they’re so angry that the Red Sox lost, they live and die with the team, they’re a real fan.” Red Sox fans are constantly told that they are the best and most knowledgeable in the country. Does that lead to a sense of entitlement? This whole “Red Sox Nation” concept. I don’t think I’m down with it, simply because it seems to me that many members of the “Nation” don’t enjoy anything about the team and games and only live to find fault and an outlet for their anger. To me, not all members of “Red Sox Nation” are actually Red Sox fans. There is a difference. To me, one of the worst developments of the last few years was the emergence of the “Superfan”. Example number one: “Angry Bill”. Just go away, please.

Now, I can already hear it. The people claiming that I’m lecturing that you shouldn’t and can’t criticize the team and manager, and that we should just be positive all the time. That’s not what I’m saying. A caller to WEEI on Thursday stated that since the fans invest so much of their time into the team, and financially support the club by buying the tickets and purchasing club merchandise that they have a right to second guess and criticize the team. I can’t say that I find fault with that argument, but isn’t following baseball supposed to be fun and recreation? Sure, the team you follow (any team) is going to break your heart at the end of the year more often than not. Frustration is going to ensue. But anger? I feel heartsick after a loss. The day after a loss has me dragging. But anger? Am I ever motivated to pick up the phone, call a radio station and scream and yell about the manager and the players? No.

Maybe I’m just not an angry person. But there seem to be plenty of others out there. Hopefully it’s just that the angry ones are the ones that we’re hearing the most because they’re the loudest. I (hope) believe that the silent majority is more like myself.

I’m away all day Saturday, but the links below should get you access to the stories and opinions you want to read.

Do or Die Tonight for Sox

Some computer issues this morning have prevented me from getting the full links done. Here’s some “mini links”:

Red Sox Daily Links – Stories from the Globe, Herald, Projo, Red Sox.com and others.

New York Sports News – coverage from the New York area papers.

Newspaper/Media Red Sox blogs:

Boston Herald Clubhouse Insider

Boston Globe Extra Bases

Boston Phoenix Sox Blog

Providence Journal Sox Blog

Out of Left Field – from MassLive.com

Dan Roche’s Hit and Run blog.

Patriots:

Patriots Daily Links

Patriots Game Day – Falcons preview.

Reiss’s Pieces

Bruins/Celtics:

Bruins- BSMW Power Play

Celtics – BSMW Full Court Press

Celtics Blog (With Celtics Links)

Media:

Scott’s Shots and Bill Griffith

In The Hole

The Red Sox are in a familiar postseason position: facing elimination. Last night they were able to get four early runs off White Sox starter Mark Buehrle, and David Wells seemed to be on his game until the fifth inning, when an error by Tony Graffanino on a potential double-play ball gave the White Sox extra life. Two batters later, second baseman Tadahito Iguchi hit a three run homer which gave Chicago a lead it would never give up. Game stories: Chris Snow, Globe. Jeff Horrigan, Herald. Steven Krasner, ProJo. David Heuschkel, Courant. David Borges, Pawtucket Times. Jon Couture, Standard Times. Dan Shaughnessy, front page of the Globe. Lenny Megliola says that the Red Sox have put themselves into a familiar hole. Sean McAdam writes that maybe this is the only way these Red Sox know how to do things. Howard Bryant (subscription only) writes that the Red Sox are going to have to rely on their comeback magic once again.

Gordon Edes looks at Wells, who wouldn’t place the blame for the game on Graffanino. Steve Buckley, (Subscription only) says that Graffanino’s error isn’t the end of the world, and calls those in the media “idiots” who try to compare it to Bill Buckner’s error in 1986. Jackie MacMullan says that Graffanino isn’t going to let the memory of that painfully slow ground ball to him break his spirit. Heuschkel also looks at how the Red Sox second baseman is dealing with the fallout of committing that error on such a big stage. Bill Reynolds says that last night’s game hurt much more than the game one blowout. Krasner reports on David Wells, who once again didn’t want to come out of the game last night.

Tony Massarotti says that the Red Sox have lost their patience at the plate, and makes the interesting observation that Ozzie Guillen went to his closer in the eighth inning because he knows the Red Sox are hopeless if they do not score runs in bulk. Edes writes that the Red Sox are aware that their pitching problems do not begin and end with Matt Clement, who could see further work in the series. Steve Buckley says that Clement will be available in the bullpen starting with tomorrow’s game three. Alex Speier also looks at what the future holds for Clement in this series. Massarotti has a lighthearted look at Terry Francona’s banter with the media, where he seems comfortable enough to say almost anything. Rob Duca says that backs against the wall is nothing at all new for these Red Sox.

Chris Snow has a bit in the Globe where Bud Selig seems to feel that the Red Sox are within their rights to proclaim themselves AL East cochampions with the Yankees. Horrigan looks at new Texas GM Jon Daniels, who has replaced Theo Epstein as the youngest ever GM in baseball. Daniels got his start in baseball under Red Sox assistant GM Josh Brynes while in Colorado. Lenny Megliola says that the Red Sox roster is sure to change next season as a lot of familiar names with likely be gone. Jon Couture says that Wrigley Field and Comiskey Park may both be in Chicago, but they are worlds apart in other ways.

Snow’s notebook looks at potential game five starters for the Red Sox. If we come to that. Heuschkel’s notebook also reports on Clement as a candidate for a start on Sunday. Horrigan’s notebook has Theo Epstein expressing faith in his club’s ability to come back. He also reports on the Red Sox showing interest in Ken Macha as a possible addition to Terry Francona’s coaching staff next season. Borges’ notebook has Well forgiving Graffanino for the error, but steamed at Francona for taking him out of the game.

Nick Cafardo says that Red Sox fans can probably cross Paul Konerko off their free agent shopping list this winter, as the White Sox first baseman doesn’t show much interest in Boston. Reid Laymance looks at rookie closer Bobby Jenks coming in and slamming the door on the Red Sox with heat in a two inning save. Cafardo notes that Tadahito Iguchi’s work on the “curveball machine” prior to the game last night paid dividends for him and the White Sox. McAdam says that the White Sox second baseman has really been the difference in this series. Buddy Thomas says that Ozzie Guillen is actually managing in this series, while Terry Francona sits back and coasts along. You can read the coverage in the Chicago papers at the websites of the Sun Times and Tribune, as Chicago prepares to sweep the Red Sox tomorrow afternoon in Boston. Cafardo’s notebook looks at Mark Buehrle finishing strong after the shaky beginning to the evening.

John Powers looks at Orlando Cabrera coming up big for the Angels as they even up their series with the Yankees with a 5-3 win. Bob Ryan contrasts the formulas that the Yankees and Angels use to win games, each has their own style. Get the coverage from New York on the New York Sports News page. Powers’ notebook looks at the Yankees finally returning home, after 10 days on the road.

It was opening night for the Bruins, and their fans left disappointed as well, after a penalty call on Tom Fitzgerald with just under 26 seconds left in the third period gave the Canadiens a power play, which they cashed in on 15 second later, giving the Habs a 2-1 opening night victory. Nancy Marrapese Burrell looks at the new season opening the same way the last one ended. Douglas Flynn says that the opening night loss to the Canadiens is nothing new for the Bruins. Joe McDonald and Jerry Trecker also have game stories on last night’s loss.

Bruins

Kevin Paul Dupont declare that though the Bruins might’ve lost last night, the fact that the game is back and in business once again is a victory for everyone. Joe Haggerty welcomes the NHL back to Boston. Mick Colageo notes that Jeremy Jacobs has very high hopes for his team and league this season. Stephen Harris looks at the kinder, gentler, NHL. Tim Bresnahan says that this is a season of no excuses for hockey. Dupont also says that with the Canadiens in town, the old, familiar buzz could be felt in the building as well.

Fluto Shinzawa looks at Andrew Alberts making his NHL debt with the Bruins last night. Marvin Pave looks at Michael Ryder, who netted the game winner for Montreal last night. James Murphy says that these Bruins are still learning as they go. Shinzawa also has a look at Tom Fitzgerald, who places blame for the loss clearly on his own shoulders. Steve Conroy also reports on Fitzgerald. Harris looks at 37 year old Brian Leetch, who still gets fired up for opening night.

Burrell’s notebook looks at a frustrating night for Andrew Raycroft. McDonald’s notebook looks at the continuing challenge of getting Nick Boynton signed and with the club. Flynn’s notebook also has Jacob’s talking a good game on opening night.

Patriots

Michael Felger and Alan Greenberg report on Tom Brady showing a little bit of Rodney Harrison as he got a bit feisty with the press and talking about Marty Schottenheimer. Jerome Solomon examines the Patriots problems wrapping up and finishing off tackles. That will be a key this week, as Tom E Curran says that Atlanta might have an even better running game than San Diego showed. Michael Parente says that the Falcons enjoy running over the other team.

Karen Guregian looks at Deion Branch attracting the attention of opposing defenses. Albert Breer looks at one of the men who will be spending time on Branch, DeAngelo Hall, who patterns himself after another Deion. Eric McHugh examines the Patriots efforts to find some answers to turning their team around. Christopher Price looks at how the Patriots backup quarterbacks are helping the defense prepare for Michael Vick this Sunday. Guregian also looks at this angle, noting that Doug Flutie is playing the role of Michael Vick much of the time. Felger says that the Patriots defense will be attempting to guard against the cut block style of the Atlanta offensive line.

Felger’s notebook looks at Richard Seymour sitting out at least the first portion of practice yesterday, apparently having hurt his knee while playing fullback on Sunday. Solomon’s notebook has Brady warning the press not to write off the Patriots just yet. Curran’s notebook has more on Brady’s session with the media yesterday. Parente’s notebook has Branch hoping for a bounce back game this week.

Celtics

Steve Bulpett reports on the Celtics brass bringing in some legends to help show the young squad what the right way to do things is, so they can keep in step with the new “code of conduct” the team is trying to enforce. Peter May has a look at Curtis Borchardt, who was obtained for salary cap reasons in the Antoine Walker trade, but who could possibly become a contributor to the club. Bulpett reports on Al Jefferson’s ankle sprain, the second year forward is expected to miss about 10 days or so. May’s notebook has more on Jefferson, and Bulpett’s notebook has Kendrick Perkins singled out as the “most dominant big on the floor” so far this week at camp.

ESPN2 has Padres/Cardinals at 4:00. FOX has Astros/Braves at 8:00. ESPN has college football will NC State/Georgia Tech at 7:30.

Game One Nightmare

Those of you who were a little worried about Matt Clement taking the hill as your game one playoff starter…well, I guess your worst fears were realized as Clement and the Red Sox were stomped en route to a 14-2 game one loss to the White Sox. Game stories are provided by Chris Snow, Boston Globe, Jeff Horrigan, Boston Herald. Steven Krasner, Providence Journal. David Heuschkel, Hartford Courant. David Borges, Pawtucket Times, and a second game story from the Globe, this one on the front page, from Dan Shaughnessy. There’s a lot to explain about this one, Sean McAdam feels that this blowout was a result of the all the late season scrambling the Red Sox had to do just to clinch a playoff spot. Jackie MacMullan looks at Matt Clement melting in the spotlight of a playoff start. Steve Buckley (subscription only) says that there is something wrong with Clement, either with his arm or with his head, that needs to be corrected by next April.

Jon Couture says believe it not, this one could’ve turned out a lot differently. Massarotti says that the Red Sox are paying the price now for their uninspired baseball in September. Horrigan notes that recent history has shown that the Red Sox bounce back nicely from defeats such as yesterday. However, Steve Buckley has Trot Nixon urging all to remember that the past comebacks have nothing to do with tonight’s game. Heuschkel has the Red Sox taking yesterday’s loss in stride, knowing they can even things up tonight. Alex Speier says that Clement’s poor outing could have repercussions on the rest of the pitching staff. Rob Duca looks at Matt Clement getting turned into a punching bag for the White Sox. Borges says that Clement has no excuses for his bad performance.

Tony Massarotti and Chris Snow look at tonight’s starters, former teammates David Wells and Mark Buehrle. During their time together on the White Sox, Wells took Buerhrle under his wing as a fellow lefthanded pitcher and would teach him about the game. McAdam says that the Red Sox obtained Wells for nights like tonight. Heuschkel says that the Red Sox need Wells to live up to his reputation as a big game performer, especially in the postseason. Nick Tavares looks at the two lefties locking horns tonight. Rob Duca also has a look at David Wells, who isn’t going to be rattled tonight. Bill Reynolds looks at Jeremi Gonzalez and says that if you find yourself turning to him in the fifth inning of a playoff game, you know you’re in trouble, no offense to Gonzalez intended.

Reid Laymance looks at the Red Sox only rally of the afternoon coming up short after Kevin Millar made the first out of the inning at third base. Joe and Jerry on the radio immediately jumped on Millar for going to third, but Tony Massarotti in a brief sidebar says that White Sox second baseman Tadahito Iguchi made the real mistake of throwing to third in the first place, but it just happened to have worked out for him and the White Sox. Krasner also says it was a mistake from the White Sox second baseman, but worked out for his club. Bob Halloran, surprise, surprise, gives his MVP vote to ARod and says it won’t even be close. Kevin Henkin looks at the Red Sox being the Red Sox and what it all means.

Snow’s notebook observes that despite the lopsidedness of the scoreboard, it still only counts as one loss. The Red Sox history after such defeats serves as some comfort to their fans. Horrigan’s notebook looks at Manny Ramirez going hitless yesterday, ending his record tying postseason hitting streak at 17 games. Couture’s notebook takes a final look at the first round playoff roster for the Red Sox.

Nick Cafardo looks at the strong outing from Jose Contreras, who held the Red Sox bats down for most of the afternoon. Howard Bryant (subscription only) also looks at the great outing from Contreras. Johnny Damon says it was the best pitched game against the Red Sox the whole season. Sean McAdam also looks at the new Contreras, who is unlike the pitcher they used to beat up with the Yankees. Gordon Edes has a look at White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski, who led the offensive charge from the White Sox with two home runs and double. Jeff Jacobs also has a bit on the White Sox catcher. Barabra Polichetti looks at the grandparents of Paul Konerko in Rhode Island cheering on their grandson and the White Sox. Get the stories out of Chicago from the Sun Times and Tribune websites. Cafardo’s notebook looks at White Sox leadoff man Scott Podsednik getting things started right away off Matt Clement.

John Powers looks at the Yankees taking game one of their series out in Anaheim over the Angels, 4-2. Bob Ryan says it was a good day for the Yankees, who were able to use their vast postseason experience to an advantage and got a good outing from Mike Mussina, who was passed over on Sunday against the Red Sox to get ready for last night. Ryan also gives a little history on the name-challenged Angels and their ever-changing quest for an identity. Check the coverage from New York on the New York Sports News page. Power’s notebook looks at tonight’s Angels starter, John Lackey, who finds himself in the role of stopper against the Yankees.

Thomas C. Palmer Jr (In the Globe, do we have to put that caveat?) looks at the latest proposal for Fenway area development, which is drawing praise and includes additional parking garages to be added.

Michael Felger’s Patriots Insider touches on a number of subjects, including the next two offensive lines that the Patriots will face, both like to use the cut block technique. He also looks at Tyrone Poole’s slow return from a turn ankle, Kevin Faulk getting surgery on a broken bone in his foot, and Doug Flutie taking former teammates from the Chargers into Fenway over the weekend…without tickets. Mike Reiss looks at the Patriots joining the rest of the crowd in the injury-riddled AFC East. Michael Parente looks at the Patriots next challenge, which will be containing Michael Vick. Eric McHugh looks at the Patriots as a team in search of an identity right now. Christopher Price looks at negative plays on offense, which has held the team back. Yesterday Reiss had his weekly edition of the Ask Reiss Mailbag, where he addresses the loss of Rodney Harrison and if the Patriots great run is finally over. Reiss’ notebook looks at the tight ends, who have been used more for blocking in the first few games of the season instead of in the passing game. Parente’s notebook looks at the continued troubles of the ground game for the Patriots.

Douglas Flynn looks at the Bruins, as the real season finally starts up tonight at the Garden against the Canadiens. Kevin Paul Dupont looks at the return of regular season hockey to Boston and the NHL. Steve Conroy outlines a half a dozen questions facing the Bruins as the season begins. Joe McDonald says that the Bruins young stars are thinking big. Tommy Hine looks at veteran Brian Leetch, leading a very young crew of defensemen. Stephen Harris has a piece on Joe Thornton, as Jumbo Joe sits on the brink of greatness, looking to push his team over the top and into a championship. Check out the BSMW Power Play for more on the Bruins roster and new forwards. Harris’ notebook reports that second line center Alexei Zhamnov is doubtful for tonight’s game. Dupont’s notebook says that there is still nothing new with Nick Boynton.

Peter May seems to be taken with new Celtics point guard Dan Dickau, believing that Danny Ainge might’ve gotten himself a steal for a second round pick. Steve Bulpett looks at Ricky Davis, who continues to grow up and grow with the Celtics. Michael Muldoon looks at Mark Blount, who promises to make up for last year and show that he is worth every penny of his contract. Nate Crossman has a piece on Paul Pierce, who addresses how he felt about all the trade rumors and what a leader really is. Bulpett has coach Doc Rivers cheering for the Sox. White Sox, that is. Shira Springer’s notebook looks at Al Jefferson suffering an ankle sprain at practice and reports on first round pick Gerald Green. Bulpett’s notebook has a Red Auerbach health update.

A special edition of Scott’s Shots looks at reaction to the Bill Simmons interview from last week and at Mike Winn’s departure from 1510 in favor of ESPN Boston. John Molori also has the news of Winn switching work addresses.

Channel 5 (WCVB) and ESPN have Red Sox/White Sox at 7:00. NESN has Bruins/Canadiens at 7:00. ESPN has Astros/Braves at 4:00 and Yankees/Angels at 10:00. OLN has Rangers/Flyers at 7:00.

Red Sox Gear up for Playoff Opener

Bob Hohler notes that this postseason begins a clean slate for the Red Sox. For the first time, they can go into the playoffs without the mention of a curse, or 1918, or any of that nonsense. Jeff Horrigan cites last years postseason experience as a strong advantage for the Red Sox. Sean McAdam notes that this time instead of “Is this the year” we’re asking “Can they do it again?” David Heuschkel says that the Red Sox will be able to put their gain experiences from last year to the test this month, starting this afternoon. Garry Brown looks at whether home field for the White Sox or the experience of the Red Sox will make a difference. Mike Fine says that this series will be a battle of sheer power.

This matchup is being billed in some circles as the White Sox pitching and defense against the Red Sox slugging lineup. Gordon Edes examines whether an offense-oriented team can slug its way to a World Series title. (One note Gordon…the Braves weren’t defending World Series champs in 1992.) Steven Krasner says game one should be a toss up. Edes also outlines the battle of the Soxes, comparing the pitching, lineups, managers, etc. Tony Massarotti also has a position by position matchup preview, as does Jeff Goldberg. Tony Mazz also trots out a season ending report card for the Red Sox, leading off with his own quote from September 20, where he said he thought the Red Sox were cooked. Michael Silverman has five ways the Red Sox can beat the White Sox and also five ways the White Sox can beat the Red Sox.

Chris Snow talks to David Ortiz about what allows him to be so great. One huge factor is concentration and recall of a pitcher and his stuff. Ortiz is able to recall some of his greatest hits in a Red Sox uniform and many of the details about them. Steve Buckley has a piece on Matt Clement, who feels at home back in Chicago. Amalie Benjamin talks to rookie Jonathan Papelbon, who is poised to have a huge role in the postseason for the Red Sox. Alex Speier says that John Henry learned after last year that you really can’t put odds or numbers on the chances of a team winning in the postseason. Jon Couture looks at the offensive duo of Ortiz and Manny Ramirez, which is the best in the game right now. Steve Buckley (subscription only) notes that the Red Sox are using their third different double play combo in three postseasons. A sign he says, of the ever-changing face of baseball.

Dan Shaughnessy pours over the history of Red Sox/White Sox trying to find some sort of rivalry or shared battles, and really can’t come up with any…this is a new matchup. Massarotti muses over which is more important, the pitching, or the slugging and battle scars. He says we may have a whole new set of heroes and fall guys when the month is over. Bill Reynolds says that because of their payroll, the Red Sox do not deserve a free pass for whatever happens this postseason. John Tomase (more on him later) says that the Red Sox are a Wild Card in every sense of the word.

Snow notes that unlike years past, this Red Sox team does not have a theme or rallying cry. Instead, they just want to be called repeat champs. Sounds good to me. Gerry Callahan (subscription only) says that the Idiot Era is almost over. Many of these characters are in their last days with the Red Sox. Horrigan looks at the Red Sox reserves, and Adam Hyzdu getting the call as the reserve outfielder. David Borges notes that Theo Epstein and Jose Contreras will always be linked in Red Sox lore. Howard Bryant (subscription only) says that in this case, he thinks that the Red Sox hitting will overcome the White Sox pitching.

Snow’s notebook has a looking at starting pitcher Matt Clement, who is starting the playoffs back in Chicago, where he spent the last three years with the Cubs. The notebook also looks at the playoff roster, umpiring crew and broadcasters. Horrigan’s notebook looks at a new style for Jose Contreras, who might be a different pitcher than the one the Red Sox have clubbed around in the past. Heuschkel’s notebook has Ozzie Guillen saying he won’t let David Ortiz beat them, he’ll take his chances with Manny. The Union Leader notebook looks at Clement returning to Chicago. Borges’ notebook looks at the playoff roster. Couture’s notebook has more on the roster.

Peter May has a look at White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen. Sean McAdam provides an inside look at the White Sox, with a roster breakdown. White Sox fan Buddy Thomas checks in on whether his team can beat the Red Sox. (Wait a minute, he’s a Colts fan and a White Sox fan? What else, a Milwaukee Bucks fan?) May also looks at whether the White Sox are ready for the prime time of the playoffs. Nick Tavares looks at the futile history of the “other” Sox. Get your news from the Windy city from the Chicago Sun Times and the Chicago Tribune. Nick Cafardo’s notebook looks at tonight’s starter for the White Sox, Jose Contreras. Tavares’ notebook looks at the White Sox lineup.

Bob Ryan has Yankees/Angels duty and notes the uncertainty that followed all the playoff teams this season. We still don’t know how the Yankees and Angels are going to perform in the postseason. John Powers says that the Yankees are in for a rough road out in Anaheim. Get your news on the Yankees and their whining about the Texas Rangers on the New York Sports News page.

Patriots

Michael Felger hands out his Patriots report card, and as you might imagine, some of the grades are not pretty. Patsfans.com has their weekly Grogan’s Grade feature. Jerome Solomon reports on the Patriots regrouping, and Bill Belichick stating that his club is in a bit of a flux right now. Tom E Curran says it might be a bit of a bumpy ride for the Patriots for a little while here. Chris Kennedy reports on the Patriots search for what can be corrected. Karen Guregian says that the Patriots don’t want pity from anyone. Michael Parente extends that, noting that they don’t have any pity for themselves, either. Jonathan Comey looks at what the Patriots loss really means in the long run. Eric McHugh notes that the Patriots looked totally defenseless in this loss on Sunday. Christopher Price gives the Pats performance two thumbs down. Ron Hobson says that Rodney Harrison is not coming through that door, fans. Guregian says that the running game has been a lost cause thus far for the Patriots. Patriots Game Day Rear View has a look back at the Patriots/Chargers game and what the implications are for the future.

Ron Borges got a national audience for his rantings last night, getting to say things to the nation that he usually only gets to say to the limited 1510 Eddie Andelman audience. He was on “Quite Frankly” with Stephen A Smith, and the subject was the Patriots fall. The subject of the Patriots offensive coordinator position came up, and Borges made the claim that after the Patriots two wins, the coordinator was Belichick, after the losses, it was someone else…that’s just they way they do things up there.

Curran’s notebook says that the lack of productivity in the running game is due to the offensive line. Solomons’ notebook has Corey Dillon making the announcement that he’s not talking to the media for the rest of the season. Guregian’s notebook has the Patriots defense starting preparation for Michael Vick.

Celtics

Shira Springer looks at the first day of training camp for the Celtics and the battles for rosters spots and playing time, which began over the summer. Steve Bulpett has a smiling, optimistic Paul Pierce declaring his happiness here and excitement over the start of the season. If you saw a clip of Pierce on FSN last night, you might have be struck as I was by how thin Pierce’s face seemed. He looked to have trimmed down nicely in the offseason. Mark Murphy and Shalize Manza Young look at the expectations that Doc Rivers and Danny Ainge have for their young roster. Murphy gets the thoughts of Tony Allen, who is sitting out the start of camp after knee surgery. Bulpett has a short sidebar with Kendrick Perkins, whose family felt the effects of Hurricane Rita. Mike Anthony has a look at rookie forward Ryan Gomes, who hopes to make a big impact with the Celtics this season. The BSMW Full Court Press previews the Small Forward position on the roster. Springer’s notebook has Celtics brass meeting with the agent for Mark Blount, to clear the air prior to camp. Bulpett’s notebook says that Blount is determined to redeem himself this season.

Bruins

Kevin Paul Dupont looks at the NHL hoping to start with a clean sheet of ice tomorrow night. Steve Conroy looks at at a new day dawning for the NHL and provides previews and predictions around the league. Nancy Marrapese-Burrell says that much of the Bruins hopes rest on young stars Andrew Raycroft and Patrice Bergeron. Stephen Harris looks at Hannu Toivonen making the opening night roster as backup to Raycroft. Joe McDonald also reports on the final roster moves. Dupont also previews the Eastern Conference and Western Conference. Bill Griffith looks at Hockey coverage set to begin at OLN. Check out the BSMW Power Play for a look at the new Bruins forwards. Burrell’s notebook looks at some minor shuffling for the opening night roster. Harris’ notebook looks at Ben Walter getting sent down to the Baby B’s.

Media

David Scott reports on John Tomase leaving the Lawrence Eagle Tribune and moving onto the Boston Herald, where initially at least, he’ll be working on the Patriots beat. I was critical of Tomase’s Manny article earlier this summer, but have always thought that he was a talented writer and good reporter. The Manny article just seemed too out of character for him. I think he’ll do a really solid job covering the Patriots. John Molori’s Media Blitz examines the departure of Ted Sarandis from WEEI and the guy who might take his place in Mike Adams.

ESPN has Padres/Cardinals at 1:00 and Red Sox/White Sox at 4:00. FOX has Yankees/Angels at 8:00.

Sox Are In, Pats Are Knocked Out Cold.

The Red Sox clinched their third straight postseason appearance yesterday, technically by virtue of Cleveland’s loss to the White Sox, though the Red Sox did take care of business on their own end, routing the Yankees, 10-1 at Fenway Park. Game Stories: Chris Snow, Boston Globe, Jeff Horrigan, Boston Herald. Steven Krasner, Providence Journal. David Heuschkel, Hartford Courant. David Borges, Pawtucket Times. Jon Couture, New Bedford Standard Times, and Joe Haggerty, Boston Press Box and Metro staff. Dan Shaughnessy reports on the Red Sox making their third straight post-season appearance, this time heading to Chicago to take on the White Sox. (How soon before we get the “Sox & Sox on Fox” promo spots?) Michael Silverman takes a look at the post game celebration in the Red Sox clubhouse. A strange weekend to be sure, with both the Yankees and Red Sox celebrating at Fenway on consecutive days. Joe McDonald looks at the rookies and first-timers in the Red Sox clubhouse, experiencing their first champagne celebration. Jeff Goldberg looks at one of those rookies, Jonathan Papelbon, who has earned his taste of the bubbly for his work with the big club the last two months.

Tony Massarotti notes that unlike Red Sox editions of the past, which possessed talent and little heart, the biggest strength of this Red Sox club remains their character. Sean McAdam says that the Red Sox clinched this playoff berth in an unorthodox fashion with an Indians losing while the Red Sox were stilling playing, they kept plowing on to the end. Rob Duca looks at a weird finish to a wild weekend at Fenway. Lenny Megliola examines the reactions of several Red Sox players as they enjoyed their first celebration of a postseason berth. Howard Bryant (subscription only) notes that yesterday’s game lacked a certain amount of drama because the Wild Card took the steam out of the Division race. Gordon Edes looks at how the Wild Card took a division playoff away from the Red Sox.

Bob Ryan has an article all Manny Ramirez detractors (and supporters) need to read. He acknowledges his flaws and occasional lack of hustle. He also gives credit to his prodigious talent and just how important he is to the Red Sox lineup. I just don’t see how the Red Sox can deal this guy in the offseason. No way you can replace his bat. Jim Donaldson agrees, noting that “if he drives you crazy occasionally, it’s worth it in the long run”. Steve Buckley (subscription only) writes that when Manny gets on one of the tears that he is currently in the middle off, the results can be terrifying for the opposition. He had nine home runs in his last 12 games. Art Davidson looks at Manny’s bat as a key component of the Red Sox success coming down the stretch. Tom Yantz looks at Manny being the Man once again. Alex Speier reports on two of the Red Sox biggest stars from last years postseason, Schilling and Ramirez coming through once again yesterday. John Powers and Steve Buckley look at the outing from Schilling, who was strong through six innings, before being lifted with the playoff berth secure. Jon Couture has more on Schilling delivering the Wild Card for the Red Sox yesterday. Gene Wojciechowski for ESPN.com looks at Schilling putting his game where his mouth is.

Silverman reports on the Red Sox preparations for tomorrow’s playoff opener in Chicago against the White Sox. Buckley reports that Alex Cora’s mom will be rooting for the Red Sox, despite the fact that her other son Joey is a coach with the White Sox. Massarotti and McAdam each report that the Red Sox will likely be using 10 pitchers on the first round playoff roster, but those 10 will not include youngsters Craig Hansen or Manny Delcarmen. Amalie Benjamin looks at Chicago game one starter, Jose Contreras, whom the Red Sox are very familiar with. Nick Cafardo reports on the Yankees having to fly out to California for the opener of their first round series, with some speculation out there, including from members of the NY Media that Texas manager Buck Showalter laid down against the Angels yesterday to stick it to his old employer. Peter May reports on the White Sox beating the Indians yesterday and thus helping out to determine their first round opponent.

Borges’ notebook looks at Schilling ending the regular season on a strong note, a good sign for the postseason. Krasner’s notebook looks at Mike Timlin setting a record for most appearances in a season with his 81st game yesterday. Couture’s notebook reports on the clincher coming early, thanks to the White Sox. Snow’s notebook looks at Matt Clement getting the game one start against the White Sox on Tuesday. Heuschkel’s notebook has more on Clement getting the start. Horrigan’s notebook report that David Ortiz will be named Player of the Month for September, which could be a positive sign for his MVP hopes.

Get all the coverage from the New York papers, which includes tons of Red Sox/Yankees, as well as some Patriots coverage on the New York Sports News page. Keep up with what they’re saying in Chicago by looking at the sports pages of the Chicago Sun-Times and Chicago Tribune.

The Patriots suffered their worst and ugliest defeat since the 2003 season opener in Buffalo, as the San Diego Chargers came into Gillette Stadium and absolutely manhandled the two time defending champions. The first half 17 all tie was a bit misleading, and the Chargers proved it by scoring 24 unanswered points in the second half.

Jerome Solomon reports on the crushing loss, which left the fans and players alike with sickened feeling. Karen Guregian says that Bill Belichick may have no answers for the loss of Rodney Harrison, if yesterday’s game is any indication. (I think it’s a bit early for that.) Tom E Curran looks at the Chargers feeling good about themselves following the game, and why shouldn’t they…they dominated. Alan Greenberg notes that the Patriots go nowhere near Drew Brees all day, and in the end were nowhere near San Diego on the scoreboard. Albert Breer says that the Patriots problems were clearly exposed in this one. Dan Pires examines a giant step back for the Patriots yesterday.

Michael Felger examines the talk, both from the Chargers and from around the league that the Patriots are finished as a champion and contender with the loss of Rodney Harrison. Ron Borges looks at how the Chargers exploited the holes in the Patriots that have been left by injury and not filled adequately as of yet. Jackie MacMullan says that this role-reversal stung, and the Patriots are need of someone stepping up to set the tone for them. Bill Reynolds chronicles a day of so much going wrong for New England. Rich Thompson and Tony Chamberlain look at the rough day for Tom Brady, who couldn’t get it going in the second half, and felt that the failure to mount a scoring drive just before the half set the tone for the rest of the game. Greenberg also examines the struggles of the passing game, which felt the pressure of the San Diego pass rush. Mike Reiss and Felger look at the lackluster play of the secondary, which uncharacteristically gave up several big plays and lacked the enforcer presence of Harrison. Shalize Manza Young looks at the second half woes for the Pats.

Christopher Price submits his weekly feature of 10 things we learned from yesterday’s Patriots game. Ian M Clark looks at how the Patriots defense just could not match up with the high powered San Diego offense. Breer talks to Mike Vrabel, who saw no positives in the blowout loss. Fluto Shinzawa looks at LaDainian Tomlinson totally dominating the Patriots, a subject also explored by Paul Kenyon and in a sidebar from Felger. Curran and Greenberg offer analysis of the turning point and what went right and wrong in the game. Guregian has Richard Seymour accepting blame on behalf of the defensive line for their inability to stop the run and get pressure on Brees. Dan Ventura and Kenyon report on Drew Brees making the Patriots pay for their failure to press him.

Guregian’s notebook looks at Tedy Bruschi, who was once again on the sidelines, cheering on his teammates, while rumors of his comeback continue to swirl. The Standard-Times notebook says that 21 is not a lucky number for the New England Patriots. Solomon’s notebook looks at the rookies on the left side of the offensive line learning on a baptism by fire basis.

Celtics media day is today, kicking off the beginning of training camp for the defending Atlantic Division Champions. Mark Murphy checks in with five questions facing the Celtics as they start a new year. Steve Bulpett also has a piece on the Green, with a look at coach Doc Rivers, who now has a year under his belt with the club, and needs to focus more on developing his team and keeping Paul Pierce in line with the master plan. Be sure to check out the BSMW Full Court Press for continuing position-by-position training camp previews. Celtics Blog has owner Wyc Grousbeck answering questions from fans and including the nugget that the C’s made a strong push to acquire Baron Davis at the trading deadline last season.

Kevin Paul Dupont has the daily Nick Boynton update. This past weekend saw the launch of a new blog devoted to the Boston Bruins…go over and check out the BSMW Power Play when you get a chance. Yesterday’s Globe saw a feature by Keith O’Brien, who looked at Charlie Jacobs, who has been dispatched by his father Jeremy, in an effort to make Boston a hockey town once again.

Yesterday, John Craig had a piece on Sean McDonough, who is still upset over not being brought back to do Red Sox telecasts after 17 years with the club.

ABC has Packers/Panthers at 9:00.

Shots Weekend Update

Scott’s Shots has a special weekend edition dealing with the monstrosity that was the FOX split-screen broadcast of the Red Sox/Yankees game yesterday.

Also included is a follow-up on the Ted Sarandis exit from WEEI, as well as word that Bill Simmons will be appearing on “The Drive” with Mike Felger this week, an appearance that could be interesting given some of the digs taken at Felger by Simmons in his book.

Was it my imagination or did most of the local media drop the ball when laying out the various potential playoff scenarios for this weekend. Now I’m sure one or two of them must have made mention of the fact that the Yankees could clinch the Division with just a single win this weekend. If someone did mention it, I’m sure I’ll hear about it via email…but at this moment, I can’t remember anyone who mentioned that.

Once again FOX showed an annoying inability to get back from commercial breaks on time for the first pitch of the next half inning. It’s been a problem for them in the past, and they show no effort to correct it.

Despite losing out on the Division, Sunday still looms as a huge day for Boston sports, with the Red Sox needing a win (or another Cleveland loss) to clinch the Wildcard spot. That plus the Patriots taking on the high powered offense of the San Diego Chargers will have the attention of sports fan all around the region…enjoy!