Thursday Topics

Day Four of Manny talk continued today, along with discussion of this weekend’s TRAP GAME with the Detroit Lions. Mixed in was some talk about whether J.D. Drew is “tough enough” to play IN THIS TOWN.

* Bob Ryan’s little skirmish with Theo Epstein during yesterday’s conference call was another topic brought up many times today. Curt Schilling’s phone call to Dennis & Callahan was also rehashed a few times throughout the course of the day, with Tom E Curran knocking Schilling for coming on the air to knock Ryan. And so the circle turns…

* Looking back through the Celtics game stories from this morning, it’s amazing that none of them really focused too much on the play of the Nets’ rookie guard Hassan Adams. The Arizona product doubled his previous season highs in both points (16) and rebounds (8). In fact, coming into the game, Adams had only scored points in two of the Nets first 14 games. Yet, Adams changed the game, as his coach told the Newark Star-Ledger after the game. Watching last night from my seat in the Garden, I had to grab the free game program that I usually don’t look at and find out where he was from.

* What WEEI Hosts Are Obsessing About Today:

Gerry Callahan: Delonte West’s tattoos, especially on his neck.
John Dennis: Bryant Gumbel
Dale Arnold: Michael Strahan
Michael Holley: Manny doesn’t want to be here. Why do the fans love him?
Glenn Ordway: J.D. Drew – IN THIS TOWN
Tony Massarotti: Scott Boras would “shoot the hostage.”
Tom E Curran: Curt in the car

* The difference between Mike Reiss and the other bloggers in town comes down to Mike’s ability to get information down to the smallest detail. Check out this example today. Here’s a portion of an entry in The Point After:

– As a side note, P Ken Walter, for one reason or another, has a ton of candy in his locker. And I mean, a ton. Slim Jims, Tootsie Rolls, Junior Mints … everything.

And here’s a portion of Reiss’ Pieces today:

… P Ken Walter continued a tradition by stocking his locker with candy, which he first started doing in Carolina and brought to New England from 2001-2003. Walter recently explained that the tradition started in Carolina because his locker was located in an area that his teammates would walk by regularly, and it gave them a reason to stop by and build camaraderie.

Well, I guess we can give credit to the Herald guys for telling us what kind of candy was in the locker…

* Checking out the new edition of Patriots Football Weekly, there’s a nice article from Erik Scalavino on the broadcasting team of Gil Santos and Gino Cappelletti. The piece looks at the background of the duo, how they came into the business and how much they both enjoy working together. In fact, both state that it is their wish that when the time comes, they retire together.

* Bill Barnwell of BSMW Game Day has an interesting study today as he examines wide receivers and how the conference in which they play in college can actually help determine what kind of player they’re going to be in the NFL.

* If you’re one of the lucky few to have scored a Verizon FiOS TV/Internet connection, you’ll be soon be able to watch NFL games and programming from the NFL Network in an agreement announced today by the two sides. The programming will begin with next Thursday’s game between the Steelers and Browns.

* Lowell Spinners owner Joann Weber has died after a three-year battle with pancreatic cancer.

Celtics Fade Down the Stretch

The Celtics looked like they had New Jersey right where they wanted them, as they built a double-digit lead in the second half, thanks to some hot shooting. However Jason Kidd and Vince Carter soon took control of the game, leading the Nets back and beating Boston 106-103 at the Garden.

Shira Springer says it was only a matter of time before the Nets showed up and “took advantage of the Celtics’ defensive miscues and other on-court indiscretions.” Steve Bulpett admits that the Celtics had some good stretches last night, but that they were “still young and fragile enough to let the advantage, and the game, slip through their grasp like a handful of sand.” Scott Souza looks at the Celtics playing “arguably their best game of the season for long stretches of the night,” but letting it slip away from them in the end. Bill Doyle says that the Celtics don’t have to be embarrassed about being in first place with a losing record anymore.

Peter May looks at the Nets early struggles, noting that they’ve been unable to get off the ground this season…and sometimes that has literally been the case, such as yesterday when they had to fly into Boston on game day. Tony Massarotti can’t figure out if he should praise the Celtics for playing well much of the night, or bury them for blowing the game in the end. Gary Fitz says there is a lot not to like about this Celtics squad. Mike Fine looks at how Rajon Rondo’s minutes have been limited, and that his playing time will likely depend on the opposition.

Check the coverage from the New York area on the New York Sports Pages.

Springer’s notebook looks at a disagreement between Doc Rivers and Wally Szczerbiak, which was ironed out at halftime. Bulpett’s notebook has Rivers seeming to finally come up with a rotation. Souza’s notebook has an injury update on center Theo Ratliff, who remains out with a herniated disc. Doyle’s notebook has Rajon Rondo nailed to the bench while the man selected a pick after him, Marcus Williams, plays a large role for the New Jersey Nets.

Patriots

Mike Reiss looks at how the Patriots linebacker corps will be reshuffled now with the season ending injury to Junior Seau. Chris Ryan has more on the Patriots adjusting to life without Junior. Chris Kennedy notes that making adjustments is nothing new or out of the ordinary for Patriots players. Dan Pires says that the shuffling of positions isn’t something that concerns the players, who look at themselves as interchangeable parts. Rich Garven says that the Patriots defense has been stout for the most part this season, but still needs to improve on third down.

John Tomase attempts to call out Bill Belichick for his statements on the Lions, saying that the Patriots coach is hyping up a squad that is not worthy of what he attributes to them. What would Tomase like Belichick to say about the Lions, exactly? Trash them? Damned if you do, Damned if you don’t. Granted, Tomase isn’t exactly ripping Belichick in this piece, but some have in this area, and you get the idea of the point I’m making. Joe McDonald has Belichick and the Patriots stressing the importance of taking the Lions seriously, which McDonald points out, obviously works for them. Albert Breer looks at the challenge that a Mike Martz coached offense brings to an opposing defense. Michael Parente has the Patriots on guard against the unpredictability of a Martz offense.

Steve Buckley looks at Ken Walter, who is taking a totally business-like approach to his return to the Patriots. Alan Greenberg says that the distance on Walter’s punts Sunday may not have been that impressive, but his hangtime held the Bears without a return. Eric McHugh has a thorough Patriots report card for their game against the Bears. Ian Clark has Kevin Faulk as a reliable, quiet weapon for the Patriots. Mark Farinella notes that Faulk has once again been on a bit of a roll with the Patriots offense as of late. Christopher Price examines Faulk and the rest of the Patriots running backs and their ability to pick up blitzes and block. Glen Farley says that Richard Seymour made a huge statement – more like a paragraph – with his play against the Bears.

Jeff Howe looks at Lions receiver Roy Williams and his “Friday Night Lights” background in Texas high school football. Check the coverage from the Motor City in the pages of the Detroit Free Press and the Detroit News. The latter has a mini-feature on Tom Brady, as it says that the former Michigan quarterback is motivated only by championships.

Reiss’ notebook has Bill Belichick working his squad hard in practice yesterday in an effort to avoid any post-Bears letdown. Tomase’s notebook says that the calendar with turn to December tomorrow, which mean it is Tom Brady’s time. McDonald’s notebook has Asante Samuel garnering the AFC Defensive player of the week award. Parente’s notebook has Mike Vrabel having no problems with making the move to inside linebacker. Garven’s notebook has more on Vrabel making the move inside. Farinella’s notebook has the Patriots aiming to stay focused and take care of business this week against the Lions.

Red Sox

Gordon Edes has a look at a tight-lipped Theo Epstein on a conference call yesterday. The Red Sox did announce that Lowell Spinners manager Luis Alicea has been named as their new first base coach. The conference call was noteworthy for an exchange that Bob Ryan had with the GM, which has been played several times on WEEI yesterday and today. The Globe columnist first asked what the fascination with J.D. Drew was, Epstein declined to answer, Ryan then asked why they were there, to which Epstein replied that Ryan’s colleagues had requested that Epstein be made available periodically in the offseason, and then Ryan closed things up by saying on behalf of the fans that he hoped the Drew rumors were not true. It was a humorous exchange, but at the same time Ryan could be criticized for the approach. “Curt in the Car” called Dennis and Callahan this morning to criticize Ryan for the exchange that he had with Epstein. Jeff Goldberg has more on the call.

Rob Bradford says that the offseason is starting to get a little crazy for the Red Sox, and he looks at the top issues facing the club heading into the Winter meetings. Sean McAdam has a look at the Red Sox latest target, Japanese lefty reliever Hideki Okajima. Michael Silverman and Tony Massarotti team up to report that the Red Sox could announce the signing of Okajima as soon as today. Alex Speier notes that in recent years, the Red Sox have seemed to have been “on the wrong side of market analysis.” Noting that they’ve seemingly misjudged the market on a number of occasions. David Borges has a Red Sox notebook, where he looks at Mark Loretta, who appears to have had a one-and-done stay in Boston.

Bruins

Steve Conroy notes that the Bruins have turned to an old mantra – teamwork – in order to make improvements on the ice. Bob Duffy looks at Paul Mara sitting out practice after an encounter with the glass in Toronto. He also reports that coach Dave Lewis just finished “Patriot Reign.” Douglas Flynn examines how much the Bruins have changed in the year that has passed since they traded Joe Thornton. Bud Barth looks at Tim Thomas answering all questions in net.

College/Misc

Michael Vega and Jeff Goodman report on BC’s 65-58 win over Michigan State last night. Lenny Megliola has more on the effort put forth by the Eagles last night. Bob Ryan says that BC’s Jared Dudley is the best forward in the country right now. Ryan also has a look at Spartan coach Tom Izzo, who he describes as college basketball coaching royalty.

Karen Guregian has a mini-feature on Ayla Brown the Boston College womens basketball freshman, who finished 13th in the most recent “American Idol” competition.

NESN has Bruins/Lightning at 7:00. NFL Network has Ravens/Bengals at 8:00. TNT has Pistons/Heat at 8:15 and Jazz/Lakers at 10:30.

Wednesday Wrap

Pondering on Michael Felger’s interesting Patriots Insider column this morning, I wondered about the last item, where he talks about why Bill Parcells and the Cowboys didn’t pursue Adam Vinatieri this past offseason. He cites John Czarnecki of Fox television and Foxsports.com as having reported that

Parcells had a nod-and-wink agreement with Belichick and Pats personnel director Scott Pioli not to make the first offer for Vinatieri in free agency.

The problem with this statement is that this story originated in Czarnecki’s blog on Foxsports.com, and is not sourced at all. It’s more of a musing rather than a “report.” The actual bit from Czarnecki: reads:

You have to wonder why Adam Vinatieri, the best clutch playoff kicker in the past five seasons, ended up in Indianapolis and not in Dallas?

The best story is that Colts GM Bill Polian gave Vinatieri a contract offer and told him if he left the building and visited the Cowboys the offer was off the table. Vinatieri took the deal and the Cowboys had to settle for Vanderjagt, the kicker the Colts discarded.

Another version is that Parcells told Bill Belichick and Scott Pioli, New England’s brain trust, that he wouldn’t pursue Vinatieri as a free-agent unless another team spoke to him first. Believe me, the Patriots probably wish they didn’t make any verbal deal with Parcells.

So are these “stories” considered actual “reports” or what? Czarnecki doesn’t mention any sourcing or how these anecdotes came to him. (My own inquiries into this matter say that this “story” is entirely false.) Despite his use of the phrase “If this is true” a couple times regarding these claims, Felger sure treats them like they are real.

I’m not really trying to be overly critical here, but this is incredibly misleading. He’s treating them as fact and then building on them with further speculation. He makes it seem like Pioli called Parcells up and told that if the Cowboys made the first offer to Vinatieri that he’d never see his grandchildren again…

Felger mentioned that these were more examples of the Patriots “hardball tactics” that they employ during contract negotiations. I think (and Czarnecki seems to as well) that the Polian story, if true seems to be more “hardball.”

In any event, I’m not saying that Felger should not have included these in his column today. I do wish he had been a little less misleading and bit more forthcoming about the veracity of the stories.

* Chad Finn weighs on on the possible (probable?) departure of Manny Ramirez. My favorite part:

It seems most of the Trade Manny advocates blame him solely for the gruesome demise of the 2006 Sox, ignoring the indisputable fact that virtually everyone else on the roster either got hurt or, pardon my French, royally sucked down the stretch. Oh, the anti-Manny brigade will yelp and yowl and wait on hold for 45 minutes just to agree with that third-rate lounge act Mike Adams that they deserve someone reliable, a DIRT DAWGGG, A GAME-AH, not a QUITTAH like Manny.

Gerry Callahan was at his outraged, indignant, miserable best (worst?) this morning when talking about Manny and how his contract has been an “Albatross” and shouting at callers (Why the need to shout?) that “Manny has not lived up to his contract!!” It seems Finn would like a word with the Callahans of the world:

Well, guess what, ya basement-dwelling dope? He's one of the most reliable players in the history of the sport. During his six seasons with the Red Sox, he's batted .316, with an average of 39 homers and 116 RBIs. He has been the Gehrig to Papi's Babe, or vice versa, and you can check the numbers, adjust them for their era, and you'll realize that's not at all hyperbolic. Even with the headaches and midsummer vacations, he's been worth every goddamn Benjamin of his $160 million contract. You want reliable? Despite missing 42 games with a busted finger in 2001, he's averaged 142 games per season with Sox, a number his supposed successor in the cleanup spot, the infamously indifferent Drew, has surpassed twice in his nine-year career.

* Bill Simmons says that the NBA Eastern Conference is the worst in sports.

* Can you imagine the reaction among the Boston media if Bill Belichick and the Patriots did this? (Indy Star)

And we wonder why the organization is so careful about what is said? Does it make more sense that they’re intentionally trying to be difficult with the press, or that they understand the nature of the beast that is the media and try to avoid these types of situations? And where is our Dallas Clark injury update? The fans deserve to know!

Or how about this? (Denver Post)

The writers in town who seem to have the league offices on their cell phone speed dial would be on the phone in about two minutes to lodge a complaint.

I’m off to the Garden to witness the first place battle between the Celtics and Nets…

Midweek Reports

John Molori’s Media Blitz features a wide-ranging interview with NESN President Sean McGrail, who talks about the direction of the station, the programs, the competition and the team approach.

Patriots

Michael Felger’s Patriots Insider covers a number of topics this week, beginning with the assertion that he league protects quarterbacks too much, and that allowed Tom Brady to fake out Brian Urlacher this past Sunday. He moves on to Junior Seau’s impact on the Patriots this season, to Pepper Johnson’s fiery personality, and closes with some speculation from FOX sports’ John Czarnecki, who asserts that Bill Parcells had a wink-wink agreement with the Bill Belichick and Scott Pioli not to make the first free agent offer on Adam Vinatieri this offseason. Mike Reiss chimes in with his midweek report, and he features Bill Belichick talking about the art of kick blocking. Christopher Price has Belichick hoping that his club has learned their lesson when it comes to taking care of the ball.

Eric McHugh notes that the injury to Junior Seau will force the Patriots to circle the wagons on defense as they try to fill his spot. Glen Farley also examines the impact that the loss of Seau will have on the Patriots defense.

Michael Parente looks at the sad state of this weekend’s opponent, the Detroit Lions, since Matt Millen became president of the club. Farley says that Millen has turned the Lions into an absolute joke.

Reiss’ notebook observes that the Patriots have a chance to set a franchise record this season for fewest points allowed.

Bruins

The Bruins made it a two game sweep of the Toronto Maple Leafs with a 4-1 victory at the Air Canada Centre. Fluto Shinzawa points to a killed five-on-three power play by the Bruins as the key to win for Boston. Stephen Harris points to the defense as the key to this win as the Bend-Don’t-Break style works once again.

Shinzawa’s notebook observes that when healthy, Brad Stuart has been very handy to have around for Dave Lewis’ club. Harris’ notebook looks at Zdeno Chara’s immense presence in the defensive end making things much easier for Tim Thomas.

Red Sox

Gordon Edes reports that the Red Sox and J.D. Drew are very close on a deal for the free agent outfielder. It could be a potential five year deal worth up to $70 million. He also updates the Manny trade talks and the Matsuzaka negotiations. Tony Massarotti, turning more and more into a shrieking panic monger with each column he writes, regardless of sport, says that he feels the Red Sox are “very very worried” about the Matsuzaka talks. Jeff Goldberg reports on Larry Lucchino’s trip to the far east.

Michael Silverman says that the Manny trade talks are a very complication, many sided affair. Jon Couture says that this time, the Manny trade talk feels real. Jeff Horrigan has Jonathan Papelbon coming out and saying that he hopes the club does not trade Manny Ramirez.

David Borges has a look at Jim Rice’s great 1974 season with the Pawtucket Red Sox, where he won the Triple Crown despite being called up to the majors in August.

Celtics

Peter May looks at the early struggles of the New Jersey Nets and has Doc Rivers hoping that they take awhile to sort themselves out, especially since they’re in town to face the Celtics tonight. Mark Murphy looks at why Rajon Rondo has found himself on the bench, and why he’s likely to stay there for the near future as Delonte West takes over the backup point guard duties. Mike Fine has a look at Brian Scalabrine, who is only concerned with having his teammates’ respect – which he does – and tries not to be affected by the boos he hears when he steps on the court. Murphy’s notebook has more on the Nets, and has a couple of Celtics having to postpone a showdown with a pair of Patriots.

FSN has Celtics/Nets at 7:30. ESPN has Michigan St./Boston College hoops at 7:00 and Ohio State/North Carolina at 9:00. Versus has Sharks/Wild at 8:00.

Tuesday Wrapup

A few thoughts, observations and items from today:

* There was Manny talk much of the day today on the airwaves. Ken Rosenthal was on with D&C, talking both about Manny, but also about Mark McGwire’s Hall of Fame chances. Rosenthal won’t vote for him on the first ballot, but is noncommittal beyond that. Buster Olney was on with Dale and Holley, talking mostly about Manny. He did add that he thinks Eric Gagne is a legit candidate to be the Red Sox closer in 2007. Olney did a doubleheader today, also appearing on ESPN Boston with Mike Felger. He also reports the following on ESPN.com:

Hideki Okajima is in serious discussions with the Red Sox about a two-year deal, ESPN The Magazine's Buster Olney reports. The 30-year-old left-handed reliever, who was 2-2 with a 2.14 ERA and four saves last season for the Nippon Ham Fighters, is a free agent.

Olney says he hasn’t seen him pitch, but compares him to Mike Myers. Olney had a source that tells him on a scale of 1-10, the odds of Manny being traded this week were at 9.

* On the Big Show, Glenn Ordway says that when Manny is traded, the Red Sox will leak stories to the media about how awful he was during his stay here and why they really needed to trade him. He said all the fans and websites out there who have been blaming the media for Manny bashing will then be amazed at the “hair raising”, “off the chart” stories that will come out after he is traded. (Sounds like the leaking has already begun.)

* Sunday’s Patriots game brought FOX some great national numbers. From the network’s release:

Sunday’s (11/26/06) NFL on FOX presentation, featuring a potential Super Bowl preview between the NFC-leading Chicago Bears and perennial AFC power New England Patriots, posted an astounding 15.4/28 (24.1 million viewers) national rating/share, according to Nielsen Media Research figures released today. The 15.4/28 posted by Sunday’s NFL on FOX National Game ranks as the highest-rated and most-watched NFL telecast on any network this season. Sunday’s broadcast is FOX Sports’ highest-rated NFL regular season game since Week 17 of 2002 (15.6/30) and stands as the highest-rated sporting event on all of television since the most recent Olympic Games.

For the week, FOX Sports’ National Game was the top-rated and most-watched program in all dayparts across all key male and adult demos, including: M18-34 (10.5); M18-49 (12.4), M25-54 13.7); and A18-49 (9.0).

Locally, the numbers were even more impressive. FOX25 garnered a 34.6 rating / 58 share.

* Boston Globe Sports Editor Joe Sullivan was quoted in New York Newsday over the weekend in a piece on whether sports reporters should vote on postseason awards. Sullivan was strongly in favor of the rights of reporters: “

This is a franchise we shouldn't surrender," he said. "Our expertise produces the best results. I think we would do a disservice by not voting. The argument is made that somehow it is a conflict of interest in the sense we're voting on the people we cover and we shouldn't make the news ... If The Boston Globe started giving out a most valuable player award, then we would be making news."

I’ll forego the snide comment about the expertise of certain Globe writers…

* From the Email bag:

Will you please call out Mark Murphy for his complete disregard for research? Since the season has started, he has already incorrectly stated the Mike Brown is the head coach of the Indiana Pacers and that the Celtics reached the 2001 Eastern Conference Finals. Now today, in his article about where the Celtics are in the standings, he mentions their west coast trip that kicks off in Seattle on December 24th. I found it odd that the Celtics would have a game in the evening on Christmas Eve, so I checked their schedule. Their road trips starts December 26th in Denver. They do have a game in Seattle on the trip, but it's on December 31st. There are 5 Sundays (which is when the 24th & 31st fall on) in December, so the 4th & 5th Sundays are split on the Celtics official schedule/calendar on their website. Murphy must've looked at that and assumed it was the 24th. If things like this didn't happen all the time with him, I wouldn't care, but he does this all the time. I figured you might want to make a note of this since you just made mention of mistakes Hector Longo made yesterday.

I think I vaguely remember that first two incidents that the emailer mentions, but I checked today’s and sure enough, its just as described.

* Seems Tony Massarotti was guilty of jumping to conclusions this weekend when he interpreted Paul Pierce’s lack of reaction to a question about the fans booing the coach to mean that Pierce wanted a coaching change. Massarotti even said “it makes you wonder, too, whether the captain of the ship is actually trying to lead a mutiny.” Pierce was asked about the article and Celtics Blog has the response from Pierce, who says that was not his intention at all.

* The more I think about it, the more I have to laugh at the absurdity of Jim Donaldson’s column this morning. It’s silly on so many levels. I don’t even know where to begin. It’s an instant classic – but in the bad sense. Every time I think about Donaldson describing himself as “stoically” bearing abuse from people at the Dunkin Donuts center I can’t help but snicker.

So Long, Seau

A busy Tuesday in local sports, despite not one of the local teams being in action last night…

Christopher L Gasper has a look at the Patriots placing Junior Seau on IR, ending his season and leaving them with a large hole to fill in the defense. Gasper cites an SI report from Michael Silver that says Seau had an altercation with Pepper Johnson a few weeks ago after Seau had deviated from a scripted defensive play. Albert Breer looks at the loss of Seau for the season, and what the options are for the Patriots to fill his position on the field. Alan Greenberg has more on how the loss of Seau will impact the Patriots going forward. David Brown says that Seau’s loss will mean some shuffling with need to be done at linebacker for the Patriots. Michael Parente examines how the roles of many will need to be adjusted in order to compensate for what Seau brought to the field. Christopher Price has more on Seau being placed on IR and has Tully Banta Cain ready to step up and play a bigger role.

Michael Felger has his Patriots Report Card for this week, the running backs and receivers get the lowest grades because Felger takes turnovers “seriously.” Thank God for that. Ian Clark is even harder on the running backs, but his version of the report card reminds us that winning ugly is still winning.

John Tomase takes a look at the AFC playoff picture and what would need to happen for the Patriots to earn a bye. He breaks out the remaining schedules, noting that the Patriots have an easier stretch run than do the Ravens and Chargers.

Albert Breer examines how important it is for teams to really put it together after Thanksgiving. Tony Massarotti observes that the Patriots defense has been pretty good this season. Shalise Manza Young agrees with that assessment, turning to statistics to back it up.

We should have a Patriots Second Look posted sometime this morning on the Game Day page. Chad Finn offers up a First and 10 on Patriots/Bears.

Tomase’s notebook has more on the Patriots placing Seau on IR, ending his season and opening a roster spot. Gasper’s notebook has Bill Belichick praising his kicking game for their performance on Sunday. Young’s notebook has more on Seau’s season coming to an end. Parente’s notebook provides some good analysis on how Asante Samuel’s move to the left side on Sunday for the first time since last season yielded great results for him and the Patriots.

Jim Donaldson feels he is in a position to lecture Michael Vick about his “gesture” to the fans this weekend because he says he’s been in a similar situation many times, having to deal with abuse from “so-called fans.” Donaldson actually says at one point:

Unlike Vick, I bore substantial amounts of abuse stoically, never turning to look at whatever fool happened to be shouting obscene inanities. Consequently, I never had to apologize to those yahoos as Vick did yesterday in Atlanta. In a better world, the offensive fans also would apologize to him, but we know that'll never happen.

This has got to be a joke, right? The self-importance of some media members never fails to amaze me.

Celtics

Last Friday night Doc Rivers and the Celtics were booed by the fans. A look at the Atlantic Division standings show that Boston is tied for first place in the division. Is this possible? Yes, the once-proud Atlantic is that bad. The Celtics 5-8 record leaves them in a tie with Wednesday’s opponent, the New Jersey Nets for the top slot. Peter May observes that it just isn’t the Atlantic however, he notes that the whole Eastern conference seems to have gone south. Mark Murphy says that the Celtics are paying no attention to the standings, however. They realize that it is just plain silly to do so. While the standings may not be important at this phase of the season, Mike Petraglia notes that division and conference games still have meaning, as the Celtics look to improve on their shoddy record in the East from a year ago.

Bill Reynolds says that the Celtics problems go beyond Doc Rivers, and that things are going to get worse before they get better. Scott Souza reports that the sweat was flowing at Celtics practice yesterday as Rivers took advantage of the day off to work his club hard. May’s notebook looks at Kendrick Perkins getting a break from practice yesterday to rest a sore foot. Murphy’s notebook has Rivers talking about a growing disconnect between NBA players and coaches and the fans.

Red Sox

Gerry Callahan doesn’t understand the Red Sox fascination with J.D. Drew, who he tabs as a player not “suited” to play in Boston, someone not tough enough to handle the scrutiny of playing here and someone who will coast by with less then his best effort. He labels the potential signing a “big big mistake.” David Borges says that the Red Sox should instead be making a push to acquire Andruw Jones from Atlanta.

The signing of Drew could be a precursor to a trade of Manny Ramirez, Michael Silverman says. Gordon Edes adds that National League teams are getting into the bidding for Ramirez, as the Giants, Padres and Dodgers have all been interested parties. Jeff Goldberg also has a look at the speculation.

Silverman reports that Larry Lucchino has gone to Japan to talk to the Seibu Lions to see if some sort of “working agreement” can be arranged in order to get Daisuke Matsuzaka signed. Kevin Thomas looks at the waiting game on the Matsuzaka negotiations.

Get ready for plenty of these columns in the coming weeks. Bob Ryan says he will not be voting for Mark McGwire to make the Baseball Hall of Fame. However Ryan goes further than many reporters might as he explains that he was duped by the slugger:

I had read about Associated Press writer Steve Wilstein seeing the bottle of androstenedione in McGwire's locker, but I paid that story little attention. I just didn't follow up on it. Sorry. I do recall being struck by the size of McGwire's biceps and forearms during one of his news conferences, but I attributed that to weight training and went onto other matters.

Call that approach to the issue naive, and I won't argue. Call it ignorant, and I won't argue. Call it inexcusable and what am I supposed to say? It probably was. I'm neither cynical nor suspicious by nature, except when it comes to things people say. My long years of experience in this business have taught me that owners, administrators, coaches, and players far too frequently either lie or find nothing wrong with being laughably disingenuous. I must report to you that in the world of sport, honesty and candor are not exactly valued traits.

Bruins/Misc

Stephen Harris says that the Bruins rematch with the Maple Leafs tonight could be feisty. Fluto Shinzawa looks at the B’s recalling goaltender Hannu Toivonen from Providence. The stint in the minors is said to have been a positive thing for the young goalie. Harris’ notebook has more on the return of Toivonen.

The Globe has the obituary of Browns announcer Casey Coleman, the son of legendary Red Sox announcer Ken Coleman. He was one of the few in the Cleveland media who was friendly with Bill Belichick during his tenure there.

NESN has Bruins/Maple Leafs at 7:30.

Evening Recap

I’d like to try and include more evening posts of thoughts collected during the day and observations made after having time to digest some of the morning’s offerings.

I don’t know how regular I’ll be able to do this, as my evenings are generally booked. I’d like to try for earlier than this in general, and the length may vary:

Scott’s Shots set records today in terms of readership for that blog with the account of the gentle back-and-forth between Bob Ryan and Bill Simmons. A Simmons response to the topic has pushed the readership even higher this evening.

Easily the best hour on Dennis & Callahan each week is the Monday Quarterback hour with Boomer Esiason and Tom Brady. While Brady sometimes has a shaky connection and is at times clearly foggy from a late night traveling from a road game, Boomer always sounds smooth, polished and professional – no matter the hour. This morning was a great example as he appeared right at the top of the 8:00 hour Eastern Time, from the West coast, where it was a little after 5:00 AM. Boomer delivers the goods each week.

Ron Borges had the best take on the Patriots game this morning with his column in the Globe. Borges was even-handed and accurate in his assessment that yesterday’s game was not simply a sloppy affair as many of the other media types around town have written and stated. Borges correctly pointed out that this was a slugfest and the two teams stood toe-to-toe and traded blows, which resulted in several of the turnovers in evidence. Others in town have chosen to go the easier route of just assuming that the turnovers were the result of careless and sloppy play, which gives them the opportunity to find fault.

The Big Show talked very little about the actual game this afternoon. They instead filled a lot of time talking about the incredibly stupid statements made by Michael Irvin on ESPN radio last week. While this is a topic that needs more exposure, these weren’t the guys to do it. They clumsily worked their way around a topic that they were ill prepared to address. Smerlas and DeOssie are not the most articulate or thoughtful analysts on the air, and the way the station handled the METCO incident (The claim has been made on the air that the tapes from the incident were lost) as compared to Entercom’s handling of the John DePetro matter makes any discussion of other analysts comments, be it Steve Lyons or Michael Irvin just seem very awkward.

Manny to the Giants? Provided the Red Sox got something in return, I’m actually not adverse to dealing Manny at this point. I don’t know how much his knees are damaged, and I’m sick of the media dogpile on everything the guy does. The Giants are my favorite NL club, so that would reluctantly work ok with me – again, provided the package received is decent.

The Patriots and Redskins conduct business in very different ways. Kevin Hassett looks at who does it right and who does it wrong. He points out that “Belichick keeps winning because so many others in the league behave so strangely.”

“Jacked Up” on Monday Night Countdown might possibily be the most annoying segment on broadcast television. Seeing and hearing men in their 40’s and 50’s giggle and scream that player X “GOT JACKED UP!!!” is beyond stupid.

Hector Lingo

I’m sorry. I don’t normally pick on stuff like this, but this was just too much…

I’m admittedly bad at times with grammar and proper sentence construction. But then again, I’m not a professional writer with an editor to proof my work and correct errors before they make it to the site.

So what is Hector Longo’s excuse? In one of his articles today, “Two Minute Drill” (this one is currently in the “Plus Edition” of the Lawrence Eagle-Tribune website, so I can’t link to it) Longo uses the following line:

Corey Dillon added a fumble, so didn’t Laurence Maroney.

Are you kidding me? Was he speaking his story out loud as he typed it? How did the editors let that one go by? This is a professional writer covering an NFL team.

Another head scratcher is in the article entitled “Despite turnovers, Pats grab quality win” where the following line appears:

“Brady and the Pats were on their way to killing the final three minutes until Corey Dillon coughed up a fumble, spreading life through Cowboy Country.”

Cowboy Country? Huh?

Patriots Bear Down

In a game that was alternatively exasperating and entertaining, the Patriots out-muscled the NFC leading Chicago Bears yesterday at Gillette, forcing four turnovers, but overcoming five of their own in a character building 17-13 win.

Mike Reiss notes that the emotional roller coaster wasn’t limited to the fans, as the players went through the ups and downs of the afternoon as well, with “tremendous highs, then sudden lows, and plays that simply don’t take place in many football games.” Shalise Manza Young works in an LL Cool J reference in the first line of her game story, as the Patriots shook off their errors to pull out a victory which none of them wanted to label a “statement.” The BSMW view is over on the Game Day Rear View column from Scott Benson as he looks at the Patriots becoming the first team to roll up 300 yard on the Bears, but still needed to save themselves from their own turnovers. John Tomase is glad that the Patriots finally beat someone good. Alan Greenberg looks at the Patriots making a stand at home and re-establishing themselves as an elite team in the AFC. Ben Rohrbach reminds us that an ugly win is still a win. Rich Garven reports on the Patriots handing the Bears their first road loss of the season despite turning the ball over way too often. Michael Parente says Asante Samuel saved the sloppy Patriots from themselves. Dan Pires takes another view and notes that “Turnovers and a few questionable officiating calls aside, this is what football should be like every Sunday.” Mark Farinella asserts that this game tells us nothing about whether the Patriots are true contenders or mere pretenders.

Ron Borges says this was a football game, noting that: “The offenses weren’t sloppy. They were slapped silly.” Michael Felger says that the Patriots were lucky, tried their best to give this one away, and won’t be able to win this way down the line. Christopher Price trots out another fine edition of 10 Things We Learned Yesterday. Ian Clark notes that the better quarterback was the difference in this battle between two great defenses. Albert Breer has a look at the Patriots defense coming up big and making plays when they were most needed yesterday. Jeff Jacobs looks at Benjamin Watson being ready – and grateful – when Tom Brady came back to him after the tight end had made some mistakes earlier in the game. Farinella has more on the ugly win, which is still a win. Lenny Megliola looks at the Patriots surviving against the NFC’s best and still feeling their best football is ahead of them.

Jackie MacMullan focuses on the fourth quarter run by Tom Brady in which he faked out all-world linebacker Brian Urlacher – a play that MacMullan tells us will be remembered for the balance of the season. Listening to the post-game press conferences on “Fifth Quarter” you could tell that MacMullan and Jim Donaldson were prepping columns on Brady’s run. Donaldson asked questions of both Brady and Belichick about the run, trying to draw the coach into making a humorous statement about the play, but Belichick wasn’t going along with it. Donaldson got enough for his column anyway, as he apparently went around the Patriots locker room asking about it as well. Karen Guregian also writes about the play. Tom King notes the irony of the fact that Tom Brady’s lead feet actually set the pace for the Patriots yesterday.

Tony Massarotti looks at the huge game from Asante Samuel, who had three interceptions on the afternoon. Christopher L Gasper has more on the big day for the Patriots cornerback, who has now set a career high with six picks on the season. Greenberg has more on Samuel’s hat trick on the afternoon. Tim Weisberg looks at Samuel making a name for himself with his play. Joe McDonald has a look at Richard Seymour stepping up his game to the inspired level as the Patriots All Pro lineman made several huge plays in the win yesterday. Jennifer Toland has more on Seymour’s big afternoon. Amalie Benjamin acknowledges the individual performances from Seymour and Ty Warren, but notes that this game was about the defensive line as a unit for the Patriots. Steve Buckley asserts that Laurence Maroney holds the key to the Patriots success this season.

McDonald has more on Faulk becoming the Patriots all time leading receiver among running backs yesterday with his 261st career reception. Massarotti also looks at the mark for Faulk, noting that he and Troy Brown aren’t exactly the biggest guys in the Patriots locker room, but they’ve gotten the job done over the years. Breer has more on Benjamin Watson atoning for earlier mistakes by making the big catches when needed. David Brown and Steve Solloway each also look at Watson making the most of second chances later in the game. Toland has a closer look at Stephen Gostkowski’s 52 yard field goal just before the half, in which the rookie got two chances to make the kick. Bob Duffy notes that the Bears defense might’ve been too good yesterday…it meant their offense had to keep coming back out onto the field. Farinella says that Rex Grossman is no Tom Brady and that that fact could hurt the Bears down the line. Breer has Brian Urlacher hoping for another shot against the Patriots this season – which would mean both teams were in the Super Bowl.

Art Martone tabs Asante Samuel as the Player of the Game. Buckley appoints the best and worst from the game. McDonald’s Game Analysis looks at the keys on both sides of the ball. Greenberg’s Turning Point provides a similar breakdown. Martone says the Play of the Game was the Timeout called by the Bears that allowed Stephen Gostkowski to have a second attempt at a 52 yard field goal just prior to the end of the first half. Felger follows up on his Game Within A Game preview from yesterday, noting that the Patriots did indeed go down the middle of the field against the Bears linebackers. Pires serves up a quick report card on the afternoon’s play by the Patriots.

Check the stories from the Windy City as well on the pages of the Chicago Tribune and the Chicago Sun-Times.

Tomase’s notebook says that Junior Seau’s season and career are likely over following a broken arm suffered in yesterday’s win. Young’s Talking Points notes that Seau will likely be a coach and mentor on the sidelines for the the foreseeable future for the Patriots. Reiss’ notebook, which is quite extensive, leads off with more on Seau. Garven’s notebook also reports on the injury to the future Hall of Famer. Weisberg’s notebook wonders if this is the end of the line for Seau. Parente’s notebook looks at the Patriots winning despite poor ball security for the second week in a row. Farinella’s notebook looks at how the new FieldTurf held up under game conditions.

With the Giants blowing a 21 point fourth quarter lead to the lowly Titans yesterday, the New York Sports Pages are a fun place to be this morning.

Celtics

David Scott examines a difference of opinion between Bob Ryan and Bill Simmons when it comes to Doc Rivers and how much he should be blamed for the Celtics early season struggles.

Tim Weisberg examines a Peter Vecsey report in the NY Post yesterday which said that Danny “Ainge has been trying to pry power forward Pau Gasol from the Memphis Grizzlies.” Weisberg notes that should the Grizzlies be sold to the ownership group led by Brian Davis and Christian Laettner, the new owners would want to cut costs and acquire cheap young talent. The Celtics seem a natural fit.

Shira Springer has Paul Pierce and the Celtics hoping to sustain their stretches of good basketball, such as was on display in the second half Saturday night, while reducing the bad stretches as was in evidence the entire night on Friday. Steve Bulpett takes encouragement from Sebastian Telfair stepping up and leading the team to victory in the fourth quarter against the Bucks.

Bruins

Stephen Harris looks at the Bruins as they come off perhaps their finest 60 minute performance of the season Saturday night in Toronto. Kevin Paul Dupont has the Bruins defense allowing Tim Thomas to get a better view of the puck, which allows him to more easily stop it. Mick Colageo ponders the extinction of the goon in the new NHL.

Red Sox/College

Tony Massarotti reports that the Red Sox and Scott Boras are an ocean apart in their early negotiations for getting Japanese star Daisuke Matsuzaka signed and delivered to Boston, and that this could affect their other moves until they can resolve the contract.

Mark Blaudschun looks at the job facing Bowl matchmakers this season, and tabs Boston College as taking on South Carolina in the Music City Bowl. Zach Rocha has a few college basketball thoughts in the early going. John Connolly has an early look at this coming weekend’s Division 1-AA playoff game between UMass and UNH. Allen Lessels has more on the rematch.

ESPN has Packers/Seahawks at 8:30. ESPN2 has Michigan/N.C. State at 7:30. Versus has Stars/Red Wings at 7:00 and Devils/Kings at 10:00.

Sunday Patriots Links

Just back from out West and getting ready to climb back into the grind.

Be sure to check out Scott Benson’s version of the morning links over at the BSMW Game Day Page – he’s got a nice overview of the pregame coverage of today’s huge Patriots/Bears matchup.

There is plenty of coverage from the Windy City as well on the pages of the Chicago Tribune and the Chicago Sun-Times.

Your NFL Coverage Maps for Today:

CBS Single Game

FOX Game 1

FOX Game 2

Celtics/NBA

The Celtics showed something last night after being humiliated in their last two outings. They came from 16 points down to winning going away in Milwaukee last night as they took out the Bucks, 111-98.

Shira Springer and Steve Bulpett have coverage of the game. Bulpett also has Danny Ainge saying the recent struggles lay with the players, not the coach. Springer’s notebook has more from Ainge on his sticking by Doc Rivers, who has been the object of wrath from many fans of the club. Bulpett’s notebook has Rivers not enjoying the heat.

Peter May’s NBA notes has Yao Ming finally feeling comfortable with life in the NBA.

Red Sox/Baseball

Stan Grossfeld has a feature on embattled former MLB saves leader Jeff Reardon. Tony Massarotti says that the Red Sox options for dealing Manny Ramirez are very few. Nick Cafardo’s Baseball Notes leads off by telling us why the Red Sox investment in Daisuke Matsuzaka is a sound one.

Bruins/Hockey

The Bruins also won last night, posting a 3-1 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs. Kevin Paul Dupont and Stephen Harris have the recaps. Dupont’s notebook has Paul Mara laying down the law last night after a hit from a Maple Leaf on Zdeno Chara. Harris’ notebook has Brad Boyes happy to get on the scoreboard last night after a rough start to the season. Dupont’s Hockey Notes has him begging the league to bring back the fighting.