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.