Could Lightning Strike Twice?

Ron Borges has a pretty reasonable look at the Patriots playoff chances, (Although he does say that they have a better chance of having their plane struck by lightning for the second time this season than they do of winning a Super Bowl.) he says we should especially hope that the Patriots do not face the Bengals, Jets or Broncos in the first round. Michael Felger has his Patriots report card, which has solid grades across for the board, the “C-” handed to the receivers is the low mark of the bunch. Ian Clark also grades the receivers a “C”, but the rest of the marks are strong across the board in his report card. Rich Garven says that the Patriots much build on this win with tough tests against the Jags and Titans on tap next.

Alan Greenberg says that the health of playmakers Kevin Faulk, Benjamin Watson and Laurence Maroney is vitally important to the Patriots chances of success. Tony Massarotti can’t figure out the NFL. Michael Parente says that the Patriots accomplished their goal of winning a cleanly played game.

Christopher L Gasper has Jabar Gaffney not letting his first quarter drop on Sunday get to him, as he bounced back to catch a touchdown against his former team later in the game. John Tomase has Ellis Hobbs bouncing back to be a big contributor whatever he’s asked to do. Shalise Manza Young has a similar piece on Hobbs. Eric McHugh says that Bill Belichick and Tom Brady should be in better moods this week after the team’s performance on Sunday.

Gasper’s notebook has high praise from Bill Belichick to Mike Wright, who stepped in for Vince Wilfork on Sunday. Tomase’s notebook has Belichick dismissing claims made by Charley Casserly on CBS Sunday. I don’t know about you, but I find Casserly to be incredibly annoying on that show. Young’s notebook looks at the Patriots struggling a bit in the red zone on Sunday. Parente’s notebook says that the Patriots could be without Kevin Faulk this weekend in Jacksonville. McHugh’s notebook has Mike Wright and the defense passing their test of playing without Vince Wilfork.

Red Sox

Gerry Callahan effuses praise for the Red Sox in today’s column about the team’s pursuit and signing of Daisuke Matsuzaka. He has Tom Verducci calling Matsuzaka “the best pitcher in the world this year,” and manages a shot a Pedro Martinez in the process. Michael Silverman and Gordon Edes each look at Matsuzaka’s return to Japan, where he talks about his experience in Boston.

Gordon Edes has a look at the hangup in the J.D. Drew signing, which appears to be the condition of his right shoulder, as apparently doctors found something in the shoulder they weren’t expecting as a result of a previous surgery. Silverman’s notebook has the Red Sox and the Drew camp working towards resolving the situation.

Celtics

Peter May reports on the stiff suspensions handed out to Knicks and Nuggets players following the ugly brawl at Madison Square Garden on Saturday night. Jeff Jacobs wonders how Isiah Thomas escaped punishment in all of this, while the Nuggets may have ruined their season. You can get more coverage on the New York Sports Pages.

Mark Murphy has Sebastian Telfair playing unselfishly during the Celtics winning streak, being more concerned with taking care of the ball and setting up his teammates than he is with scoring. Mike Petraglia has a look at the emergence of Al Jefferson as a key to the Celtics winning streak. May’s notebook reports that Michael Olowokandi might be ready to go tomorrow night against the Warriors, while Wally Szczerbiak is likely to miss the entire upcoming west coast trip for the Celtics. Murphy’s notebook has more on the fines from the brawl and the Celtics injuries.

Bruins

Steve Conroy has Zdeno Chara all business on his return to Ottawa for the first time since leaving the Senators and signing with the Bruins. His current and former teammates talk about the reception he is likely to receive from the fans there. Fluto Shinzawa has more on Chara treating the trip as just “business as usual.” Conroy’s notebook looks at how the Bruins have had little margin for error this season.

College/Misc

Michael Vega reports on Green Bay Packers offensive coordinator (and former BC offensive coordinator) Jeff Jagodzinski being set to be named as the next head football coach at Boston College, as soon as tomorrow. Steve Conroy says this move was surprising, not shocking, as Jagodzinski will probably keep at least a few members of the current staff on board, which was appealing to A.D. Gene DeFilippo. Lenny Megliola looks at Jagodzinski moving from Brett Favre to Matt Ryan.

Mark Blaudschun says that BC didn’t want too much change, so Jagodzinski was a safe choice as a replacement for Tom O’Brien. He notes that the new coach is something of an unknown, “Which is why there will be as many question marks as exclamation points this morning.”

Joe Sullivan of the Union Leader offers up his version of the “thoughts” column.

NESN has Bruins/Senators at 7:30. Versus has Blues/Penguins at 7:00. ESPN has Kent St/Duke at 7:00 and Missouri/Illinois at 9:00.

Wrapping the Weekend

A few items and thoughts leftover from this weekend and this morning…

I thought that the CBS team of Kevin Harlan and Rich Gannon wasn’t horrible yesterday. I was prepared for Gannon to be annoying, but he actually was better than I thought he’d be. In any event, the pair was certainly better than the Dick Enberg/Randy Cross and Matt Vasgersian/JC Pearson teams that we’ve had the last couple of weeks. I guess I’ve become spoiled on HDTV, because watching the Patriots on a regular broadcast just wasn’t the same.

The Patriots offense was by no means great yesterday, they didn’t look as smooth as you would like at this time of the year, but to judge them solely on how many total yards the offense had (Hi Peter King!) isn’t totally fair. When you’re starting out at midfield most of the day, you’re not going to have many 75 yard drives on the afternoon.

Peter King has his Monday Morning Quarterback column, but if you want less pop culture and more actual football notes from yesterday, then ESPN.com’s The Last Call might be more your speed. Jim Williams has a look at the best lines on the NFL pregame shows from yesterday.

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Peter Gammons was on ESPN Radio (MP3 file) with Dan Patrick last week during the Daisuke Matsuzaka talks and had these interesting comments:

Peter Gammons: …Boston is such a mean-spirited city, that you get…the media is praying for him to be hit hard – or a lot of it, and I think that there are fans, that just, they want to prove that boy it’s tough to play …we’re really tough – it’s tough to play in Boston.

Dan Patrick: You think the Boston media wants him to get roughed up?

Gammons: Oh, I think a lot of it does, yeah.

Patrick: It’s just a better story?

Gammons: Yeah, it’s a better story, I just think there’s a Les Misérables cult in Boston, moreso than any city in the United States. Moreso than Philadelphia moreso than any other city…

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A few noteworthy links from the weekend:

  • Gordon Edes had a terrific behind-the-scenes look at the wooing and signing of Daisuke Matsuzaka.
  • Rob Bradford has his own look at how the Red Sox bluffed Scott Boras.
  • Mike Fine had a look at Tommy Heinsohn’s 50 year association with the Celtics, and notes that the 72 year old Hall of Famer is “having a blast living and dying with his Celtics.”
  • Doug Most thinks that Tom Brady and David Ortiz’s teammates should be furious with them for helping out the enemy during the season. Is he serious? He compares it to Bill Gates helping out Steve Jobs. This piece struck me as being written by someone who has no idea about the relationships between pro athletes.
  • Chad Finn weighs in on the Nuggets/Knicks brawl on Saturday night and a number of other items.
  • Richard Sandomir analyzes the Knicks announcing team’s performance during the fight.
  • Seth Mnookin has an interesting post title today: “Murray Chass and the shaky ethics of the sports section.”

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I liked this letter to the editor in Saturday’s Globe:

Advice to a young pitcher

December 16, 2006

IF DAN Shaughnessy were really interested in giving Daisuke Matsuzaka useful advice (Sports, Dec. 14), his first pointer would have been to avoid talking to or thinking about Dan Shaughnessy.

DEVIN COLE
Charlestown

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The way the Patriots handle the injury report has been a source of criticism from frustrated media types and opponents such as Bill Polian. For this reason, Gary Kubiak’s comments on the Patriots use of the list are worth noting here:

Kubiak said Friday that the Patriots’ methods make them one of the tougher teams to prepare for in the National Football League.

“I’ll tell you one thing about them. You’re not going to know a lot heading into the game,” Kubiak said. “They don’t tell you much. It makes them difficult to prepare for. They have some guys banged up, but you don’t when they’re coming back.

“You don’t know when Rodney is coming back, or the nose (tackle Vince Wilfork), or the running back (Laurence Maroney). None of them could be back or all of them could be back. There have been a few times I’ve played them when you didn’t what they were going to do. I think that’s one reason why they’ve been so successful.”

Some have called the Patriots’ ways tricky, others go as far as cheating, but few in the NFL have a problem with how Belichick and Co. handles their business.

No, I think they do it exactly the way it should be done,” Kubiak said when asked if the Patriots stretch the rules with their injury report. “They do it fine, very smart on their part. It makes it difficult on your part, but that’s the way the game is.”

Patriots Mess With Texans

After several lackluster performances in recent weeks, the Patriots showed signs of improvement yesterday as they beat up on the lackluster Houston Texans, 40-7 in the regular season home finale at Gillette Stadium.

Scott Benson notes on the BSMW Game Day page that the Patriots “showed some incremental gain” in their effort to right their ship as the season winds down. Ian Clark looks at the Patriots getting some redemption after the debacle in Miami last week. Mike Reiss notes the mood in the locker room was happy, though not “over-the-top” elation, as the team feels they have much still to prove and accomplish. Shalise Manza Young notes “what a difference seven days can make.” Albert Breer says this was the first complete game that the Patriots have played all season. Alan Greenberg says that the 40 points on the scoreboard for the Patriots is misleading as the offense struggled all day. John Tomase says that the Patriots can awake this morning feeling much better about themselves than they did last Monday. Michael Parente has the playoff express steaming through Gillette yesterday with the Texans left standing on the tracks. Rich Garven says that regardless of the score, there are still plenty of questions about the Patriots’ offense. Mike Lowe writes that despite the dominance, “the road to the playoffs is still lined with yellow “Caution” signs.” Tom King says yesterday was equal to having a second bye week for the Patriots.

Christopher Price lists out his 10 Things We Learned Yesterday. Ron Borges says that yesterday’s win was not as important for what the Patriots did during the game, as much as it was for what they did NOT do. Michael Felger says that this was not merely a worthless win over a hapless opponent, this performance was needed and encouraging in some key aspects. On the other hand, Tony Massarotti continues his season-long quest to find the worst in any situation involving the Patriots. Jackie MacMullan says that the Patriots came into this one hell bent on winning and winning big, and the Texans were the perfect opponent for that outcome. Jim Donaldson says that sure, the Patriots looked good today, but we have no idea how they’ll look next week. Karen Guregian observes that for this game anyway, the Patriots listened to their quarterback and coach, and everyone was on the same page. Lenny Megliola notes that only one team really showed up yesterday, as the Patriots absolutely dominated the mistake prone Texans. Dan Pires notes that this was a dominating effort on defense and special teams, but the margin of victory should’ve been much bigger.

Amalie Benjamin has Tully Banta-Cain growing nicely into his role as a starting linebacker for the Patriots, as evidenced by his two sacks yesterday. While the fourth year pro still needs to work on consistency, he has made strides towards becoming a playmaker for the defense. Paul Kenyon has Kevin Faulk being unable to enjoy his two touchdown game because of an injury to his right leg that had him limping heavily and required medical treatment right after the game. Christopher L Gasper has more on Faulk, whom he says began the game with a bang, and ended it as a limper. Dan Ventura has more on Faulk, who seems to have paid a heavy price for his big day. Breer has the offensive line giving Brady plenty of time, and keeping to their vow not to talk afterwards.

Bob Duffy looks at a big day for Ellis Hobbs yesterday, giving him a day to enjoy in what has been a long season. Kenyon also has Hobbs turning things around for himself with a couple of huge plays yesterday – an interception and a kickoff return for a touchdown. Jennifer Toland writes about Hobbs having a big day a week after losing his starting cornerback job to Chad Scott in the Miami game. Tim Weisberg looks at Hobbs killing whatever momentum Houston had gained after their first score with his kickoff return for a TD. Ventura had more on Hobbs, who had plenty of reasons to talk yesterday. Greenberg looks at the Patriots youngsters stepping in and having quite a day for themselves. Steve Solloway looks at Patriots going down all season, and others stepping up to fill their place. Chris Ryan says that the Patriots got the big plays they were looking for, but the division title still has to wait at least another week.

Joe McDonald offers up his game analysis, taking a look at the action on all sides of the football. Greenberg has his Patriots sidelines report, which looks at the same areas. McDonald also has a look the first quarter interceptions, which he labels as the key plays of the game in the victory. The Herald puts the screen pass to Faulk that resulted in a TD as their play of the game. Massarotti lists the best and worst from the afternoon. McDonald tabs Tully Banta-Cain as the player of the game yesterday. Following up on his things to watch from Sunday, Felger notes that the Patriots didn’t need to worry about the Carr bootlegs yesterday afternoon after all.

Check the Texans side of the ledger in the Houston Chronicle.

Tomase’s notebook reports on a few injuries for the Patriots, with Faulk, Mike Vrabel and Ken Walter among the nicked up veterans in the locker room. Reiss’ notebook has Brady pleased with his club’s effort and response to his strong statements earlier in the week. Parente’s notebook has Ellis Hobbs making plays for the Patriots, just as he had vowed to do. Garven’s notebook chronicles a special day for the Patriots special teams. Weisberg’s notebook says that the injury to Faulk will result in an even heavier load for Corey Dillon next week against Jacksonville. Lowe’s notebook says that the huge margin of victory yesterday was due to the little things. King’s notebook has Ellis Hobbs fighting back from a reduced role.

Elsewhere

Nick Cafardo has a quick Red Sox notebook, looking at the club getting a second opinion on the J.D. Drew physical. More noteworthy is the fact that Nick gets through the piece without typing the words “Roger Clemens.” Michael Silverman also has a quick update on the Drew deal.

Steve Bulpett examines the Celtics transformation from the Greg Oden sweepstakes to possible playoff team. Shira Springer notes that defense and chemistry have been responsible for the Celtics turnaround. Over on the FSN Nothing But Net blog, we have a look at possible reasons why the Celtics youngsters seem to have suddenly “got it.” Tim Weisberg says that Saturday night’s fight at Madison Square Garden is another black eye for the NBA.

Stephen Harris talks to Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli about the many empty seats at the club’s home games and what it is going to take to get the fans back. Fluto Shinzawa notes that the Bruins still need work on killing penalties. Mick Colageo has a roundup of Bruins and Hockey-related books which might make good gifts for fans.

David Scott wasn’t impressed with the NFL Network’s broadcast of the Cowboys/Falcons game on Saturday night, calling it the “all-time worst, American, professional TV broadcast.”

ESPN has Colts/Bengals at 8:30. Versus has Red Wings/Blue Jackets at 7:00.

Weekend Watch – Resting Up From a Crazy Week

One of the busiest, most insane weeks in recent Boston sports media history wraps up as we head into the weekend. I have a hard time remembering week in which so many different things were happening and being speculated about all at once.

From the Matsuzaka talks and signing, the Allen Iverson trade rumors, Tom Brady speaking out about his teammates, and smaller stories like the Lugo press conference, Phil Kessel undergoing surgery for cancer, Mirabelli re-signing, Patrick Pass going to IR, OJ Santiago being signed, OJ Santiago being released, the Red Sox acquiring Brendan Donnelly on Friday, or the Red Sox naming their radio broadcast team, this week had it all.

  • The Patriots take on the Texans on Sunday afternoon. The Patriots Game Day page has our weekly roundtable discussion on the team and our fearless predictions. Check in this weekend for links on the Game Day page and you can also get your news on the Patriots News Mashup.
  • The Celtics have a pair of games this weekend, Friday night against the Nuggets and Saturday in Charlotte against the Bobcats. The Iverson talk seems to have cooled, but you can keep up with the news on the team on the Celtics News Mashup page.
  • Theo Epstein was on WEEI’s Dale & Holley on Friday, and he seemed to indicate that the club has signed two relief pitchers, but were not ready to announce them yet. The club did trade for Angels reliever Brendan Donnelly on Friday. Keep up with the Red Sox coverage on the Red Sox News Mashup page.
  • Rob Bradford has a look at little-known Red Sox scout Jon Deeble, who played a big role in getting Daisuke Matsuzaka to Boston.
  • Bill Simmons checks in with a mailbag and his weekly NFL picks.
  • A quick look at the radio ratings for the second half of the fall period shows WEEI down a bit (this week should give them a boost though) and WAMG (ESPN Boston) registering on the ratings chart. I’m told that the Mike Felger Show picked up a 1.1 rating in that period.
  • The Red Sox Radio team was announced today as ESPN’s Dave O’Brien and former Sox PR guy Glenn Geffner were named to work alongside Joe Castiglione in the booth next season. David Scott has the details, as WRKO plans to have Geffner and O’Brien rotate alongside Uncle Joe during the course of the season.
  • Good job by Boston.com in getting an actual translation of Daisuke Matsuzaka’s press conference from yesterday. Compare it with the version provided by the Red Sox and you walk away just shaking your head at how different they are.
  • The Patriots game on Sunday will be the first one in a long time that will not be available in HD. The Patriots/Texans game was not deemed one of the top two games for the time slot, and thus will not be shown in the high definition format. For the record, the HD games at 1:00 will be the Jets/Vikings and Steelers/Panthers.

NFL Coverage Maps for the Weekend:

CBS Single Game

FOX Game One

FOX Game Two

This Weekend’s TV Highlights

Friday
7:00pm FSN – Nuggets @ Celtics (HD)
8:00pm ESPN2 – UMass vs. Appalachian St (HD) (NCAA 1-AA Championship)
8:00pm ESPN – Sixers @ Mavericks (HD)
10:30m ESPN – Rockets @ Lakers (HD)

Saturday
1:30pm CBS – Kentucky @ Louisville
7:00pm FSN – Celtics @ Bobcats
7:00pm NESN – Panthers @ Bruins (HD)
8:00pm NFN – Cowboys @ Falcons (HD)

Sunday
1:00pm CBS – Texans @ Patriots
4:15pm FOX – Eagles @ Giants (HD)
8:15pm NBC – Chiefs @ Chargers

Sports Media Columns From Around the Country

New England

Bill Doyle looks at WLVI sports anchor Mike Ratte, who is losing his job next Monday, (along with most of the other station staff) but remains professional, upbeat and positive. Susan Bickelhaupt has FOX defending their sixth listed (out of six) broadcast team of Matt Vasgersian and J.C. Pearson, who called the Patriots/Lions game two weeks ago. John Molori had a good interview with Boston Globe columnist Jackie MacMullan. David Scott has a recap of a crazy week of Matsuzaka coverage by the Boston sports media. He also looks at the Red Sox naming ESPN’s Dave O’Brien to join Joe Castiglione in the Red Sox radio booth this season.

Andrew Marchand reports on a directive handed down by ESPN management forbidding any of its talent from appearing on non-ESPN radio stations. On the surface, this would appear to mean that the days of Peter Gammons, Buster Olney and Ron Jaworski appearing on WEEI would seem to be over. (Reader BK sends the following note: I think that rule that guys can’t appear on non stations doesn’t apply in Boston. I think it’s only for Owned and Operated ESPN Radio stations. 890 is owned independent of ESPN.) Richard Sandomir has a look at the controversial new book 7: The Mickey Mantle Novel, which already has some fans upset over the premise. Neil Best has a look at the new TBS sitcom “My Boys” which is supposed to be about a female beat writer covering the Cubs for the Chicago Sun-Times, and still actually has a life! Phil Mushnick takes on Mike and the Mad Dog for giving Knicks owner James Dolan nothing but softballs in a recent interview on WFAN. Marchand’s Memo of the Week is towards TV Viewers regarding MSG censorship. Sandomir has Cablevision and Time Warner refusing to carry the NFL Network even on a free preview that would’ve allowed NY fans to watch Rutgers’ Bowl game. Bob Raissman wonders if there is such a thing as too much publicity when it comes to Tiki Barber. Marchand wraps things up with Five Questions for Cris Collinsworth.

More East Coast

Laura Nachman says that Comcast SportsNet has had the best coverage of the Allen Iverson trade saga this week. Michael Hiestand says that the NFL TV shuffle that took place prior to this season has pretty much worked out for everyone involved. Aaron Bracy has a look at the year in review of sports media, and gives NBC and NFL Network high marks for the year. Bracy’s blog has more on the NFL Network’s free preview. Chris Zelkovich looks at a number of sports events and leagues changing stations. Jim Williams looks at the yearly college football playoff debate.

South

Jim Sarni says that WQAM’s decision to cancel Ed Kaplan’s show after two decades on the air is “outrageous and ridiculous.” Dave Darling offers up a sample of the “useless drivel that flows from the mouths of announcers, reporters and the athletes and coaches they cover.” Barry Jackson has a look at the best and worst of 2006 sports media. Barry Horn looks at how NBC has benefited from the flex schedule so far. David Barron has Merril Hoge saying that Vince Young made the wrong move when he ran for the game winning touchdown in OT against the Texans last week.

Midwest

Jeffrey Flanagan has Kansas State fans also wondering if they’ll get to see the Bowl game against Rutgers on NFL Network. Bob Wolfley reports that next season all Milwaukee Bucks games will be carried on cable television for the first time in franchise history. Ed Sherman says that poor competition has kept the Bears off the national TV schedule.

West Coast

Larry Stewart has Keith Jackson talking the need for an NCAA football playoff system. He also looks at a big weekend in the NFL. Jay Posner has the NFL on NBC crew coming back to San Diego for another prime time Chargers game. John Maffei has more on Al Michaels and John Madden bringing their unique style to Southern California once more. Jim Carlisle looks at FSN Prime Ticket and FSN Bay Area carrying California high school football championships this weekend. Tom Hoffarth talks to FOX’s Frank Caliendo about how much longer he can keep coming up with the two minute comedy bits for the network’s NFL pregame show. Joe Davidson looks at the rush to be the first to post trade rumors and has Jim Gray getting embarrassed again.

Red Sox Radio Announcement

The Red Sox have announced a 2:00 p.m. Conference Call to announce the team’s new radio broadcast team. It is expected that ESPN’s Dave O’Brien will be introduced at that time, as the partner for Joe Castiglione.

Scott’s Shots will live-blog the call, which will feature Entercom’s Jason Wolfe and Sox COO, Mike Dee

Signed, Sealed and Delivered

Gordon Edes has a good look into the final 48 hours of the negotiations, including the point on Wednesday when Epstein and Lucchino were getting ready to head to the airport, seemingly without Matsuzaka. Edes also looks at some of the details of the contract, which includes a number of side benefits. Michael Silverman concurs that these negotiations really did go right down to the wire, with the Red Sox ready to leave California without the star pitcher. One of the incentives included in the contract was a no-trade clause, something that the Red Sox have said they do not give out, but created a special conditional clause for future contracts to meet if they are seeking a no-trade.

Jeff Goldberg describes yesterday’s press conference as an event befitting a pop icon. Jeff Horrigan has a look at the press conference/coronation yesterday at Fenway Park. Joe McDonald has more on the phenom touring Fenway Park for the first time. Jeff Jacobs says that if the press conference is any indication, then we’re in for a wild year at Fenway. Lenny Megliola had a few dilemmas facing him as he prepared to cover the Matsuzaka welcome. Jon Couture has a look at the Red Sox rolling out the welcome “mat.”

John Powers gives us a profile of Matsuzaka, how he is viewed in Japan and what is in store for him here in the US. Art Martone looks at Red Sox nation expanding into Japan. Jackie MacMullan notes that the biggest adjustment for Matsuzaka is likely to be cultural. She also notes the struggles that the interpreter seemed to have yesterday in correctly translating between the pitcher and the media. David Borges reports on the “Monster” reaching his long time goal of being a Major League pitcher. Paul Jarvey has more on the signing of a “National Treasure.” Joe Haggerty has more on Daisuke’s Day.

Alex Speier looks at the $103 million gamble the Red Sox have just taken. Karen Guregian examines what Matsuzaka is going to add to an already good looking Red Sox starting rotation. Jon Couture says that D-Mat has all the makings of an ace for the Red Sox. Guregian has a look at Craig Shipley, who really kick-started the Red Sox pursuit of Matsuzaka. Speier has more on the changes in store for Matsuzaka.

Jesse Noyes notes that the Red Sox are going to need to make room for the swarm of Japanese media this summer at Fenway Park. Raja Mishra looks at some of the Japanese media who will be staying in Boston to cover Matsuzaka full time.

Even before the Red Sox gave Matsuzaka number 18, (which he had always worn in Japan) Johnny Damon had something to say about the Red Sox and how happy he is in New York.

Horrigan’s notebook says that this is the start of a big relationship between the Red Sox and Japanese baseball.

Patriots

John Tomase talks to Tedy Bruschi on a number of topics, as the Patriots linebacker weighs in on Tom Brady’s comments from the other day, his wrist, Terry Francona, and a number of other items.

Amalie Benjamin has Mike Wright ready to fill the gap left by Vince Wilfork this weekend. Shalise Manza Young has more on Wright as the undrafted second year lineman from Cincinnati prepares for an increased role. Alan Greenberg has more on the Patriots preparing to play without Wilfork for the first time since he became the starter. Rich Garven has James Sanders making improvements in his play since stepping in as a starter at safety.

Albert Breer has a quick look at the Denver-style offense that Gary Kubiak and the Texans bring to town. Michael Parente looks at David Carr finally getting some love…but from the Patriots. Bill Barnwell has a look at Carr on the Patriots Game Day. Ian Clark looks at the Patriots hoping to bounce back strong this weekend against Houston. Dan Pires has Brady’s message getting through to his teammates.

Susan Bickelhaupt has FOX defending their sixth listed (out of six) broadcast team of Matt Vasgersian and J.C. Pearson, who called the Patriots/Lions game two weeks ago.

Tomase’s notebook has Bill Belichick standing by Brady’s comments from the other day. Benjamin’s notebook has Bruschi speaking about his wrist and the adjustments he’s had to make this season playing with it. Garven’s notebook has more on Wright prepping to step in for Wilfork. Eric McHugh’s notebook has Rodney Harrison inching closer to duty. Parente’s notebook has Jabar Gaffney getting a different view of things with the Patriots after four seasons with the Texans. Young’s notebook has Belichick backing the comments made by his quarterback earlier in the week.

Other

Mark Murphy and Steve Bulpett report that the Celtics are falling out of the Allen Iverson sweepstakes and may have never really been in them. Shira Springer says that you can attribute the Celtics three game winning streak to defense.

Fluto Shinzawa and Stephen Harris report on the Bruins 5-3 win over the Devils last night.

All Matsuzaka…All The Time

Daisuke Matsuzaka is still the dominant topic on sports radio today.

While most pundits felt sure that since the brilliant Scott Boras is a genius, he had the upper hand on the Red Sox in these negotiations (as evidenced by this “cartoon“) it turned out that the Red Sox seemed to have come out just fine in the end.

Dennis & Callahan did a turnabout this morning, saying that Larry Lucchino must’ve taken control of these negotiations and taught Boras a thing or two. There were stories and speculation that Lucchino had made an arrangement with the Seibu Lions that he could tell Boras and Matsuzaka that if they didn’t agree to a deal that the Lions would send Matsuzaka to the minors, where he would lose service time and that they would not post him next year.

That’s the great thing about sports radio, what you say today is forgotten tomorrow.

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The crossover between Dale & Holley and the Big Show was marked by a confrontation between Steve Burton and Dale Arnold. Apparently this had to be done on air and not in private. In any event the anger seemed to be real with Burton upset that Dale had been critical of him for reporting that Phil Kessel had testicular cancer when the family had reportedly asked that the matter be kept private.

Burton kept saying it was his job to report the news. When asked he said he would’ve understood if someone had been reporting that his dad was dying of cancer even though he asked them not to.

What I think Burton is missing here is this: Perhaps he had the “right” to report the news, even against the wishes of the family. But it doesn’t mean he had an “obligation” to do so or that he’s less of a jerk if he did it against the wishes of the family. He seemed to imply that even though the family publicly stated that they wanted privacy, that “maybe” they gave him the ok to report the story so that it would clear up any misconceptions out there. Dale tried to press him on it, but Burton wouldn’t confirm.

Neither guy covered himself in glory in this episode which was just another example of the media making themselves the story – something that WEEI does all the time. More time was spent on Gerry Callahan’s conduct in his interview with Julio Lugo than on what Lugo said or his press conference.

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David Scott is going to be doing a live blog of the Matsuzaka press conference and coverage. Sounds like the event has the potential to be a full fledged circus.

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Nothing new on the Allen Iverson front. The latest rumors have the Nuggets (who are in town here tomorrow night) as the latest favorites. Of course that is after the Magic, Pacers, Clippers, Celtics, Warriors and Trail Blazers had all been rumored to have been favorites at one point or another in the past few days.

Sox Get It Done

I confess.

I got caught up in the whole “last minute negotiations” and “track the plane” hype from yesterday. I don’t feel good about it, especially when I realize that no matter how the negotiations went early THIS was the ending that was scripted. It’s the Red Sox. It’s also Scott Boras. Both parties love the drama. The down-to-wire contract talks followed by a cross country flight and race to Mass General for the physical and eventual contract signing were just all too predictable. Yup, quite a number of people said this was going to go right down to the last minute, and they were right. We shouldn’t have expected anything less.

David Scott has a roundup of all the Daisuke Matsuzaka coverage from yesterday, a day he says changed the way that the Boston sports media reports news and how they will do so going forward. Scott also reported yesterday that ESPN’s Dave O’Brien is the favorite to replace Jerry Trupiano in the Red Sox radio booth.

Gordon Edes says that the sides are just awaiting the results of the physical. Jeff Horrigan and Michael Silverman report however, that the contract was signed at the hospital after Matsuzaka passed the physical. Jeff Goldberg says that with no leverage, Boras was forced to take a deal much more in line with what the Red Sox initially offered. Alex Speier takes a look at a busy day around the Red Sox yesterday. David Borges says that the Red Sox won this round with Boras.

Nick Cafardo says that the Red Sox won this round with Boras, and talks to former major leaguer Mike Pagliarulo, who runs an international scouting service these days. Gotta laugh though, Nick simply cannot make it through an article without bringing up the subject of a possible Roger Clemens return to Boston. Tony Massarotti is pleased that the Red Sox front office is no longer fighting each other, but is instead taking on the baseball world and knocking out the likes of Scott Boras. He too works in a possible Clemens return. Joe McDonald says that the deal could be a watershed moment for the Sox. Paul Doyle says that this deal will give the Red Sox much greater exposure in the far East which could pay dividends down the road. Jon Couture looks at the Sox getting their man. In the end it boiled down to two things…the Red Sox wanted Matsuzaka to pitch for them, and he really wanted to pitch in America. Joe Haggerty looks at the legend of Matsuzaka in Japan.

How long ago do you think Dan Shaughnessy typed up this “Open letter to Daisuke Matsuzaka” advising him on what to do and not do in Boston? It’s actually not as bad as I feared, but this is Shaughnessy we’re talking about. Steve Buckley says that we won’t know is Matsuzaka is worth it until we see if the guy can actually pitch. Old man Bill Reynolds is sick of hearing about money all the time with modern day athletes such as Matsuzaka. Lenny Megliola says now we get to see if Matsuzaka can live up to all the hype that has been generated around him the last two months. Karen Guregian has a look at the stakeout that members of the Japanese media were on yesterday awaiting the news of a deal. At least one of them says that the people of Japan were not pleased with Scott Boras.

Bob Duffy has a look at Julio Lugo, who was introduced at Fenway Park yesterday. He received, I trust, a kinder reception than he got on WEEI yesterday morning. Guregian says David Ortiz is a big fan of Lugo and showed it by crashing the press conference yesterday. Joe McDonald has Lugo overjoyed to be playing in front of the Boston fans this season. Mike Fine has Gabe Kapler convinced he made the right choice in retiring as a player and becoming a minor league manager.

There’s plenty of coverage of the Matsuzaka deal in the New York Sports Pages as well.

The Herald notebook reports on Doug Mirabelli returning to the Red Sox for another season as Tim Wakefield’s catcher. Goldberg’s notebook has more on Lugo and Mirabelli.

Patriots

Amidst the Matsuzaka insanity, the Patriots continue to get ready for this weekend’s matchup with the Texans. Yesterday Tom Brady called out his teammates, saying that they need to listen to the coaches more and work harder. John Tomase has a looks at the measures taken by Brady and the rest of the team in an effort to turn things around. Mike Reiss has more on Brady calling for his team to have better focus on what they’re being told to do. Mark Farinella also reports on the quarterback calling out his teammates. Shalise Manza Young says that depending on how the rest of the season goes, yesterday could prove to be a big day in the 2006 season for the Patriots. Alan Greenberg has the team needing to be more consistent on offense. Tom King has more on Brady’s message to his team.

Albert Breer says that covert ops, such as stealing calls at the line, is nothing new in the NFL. Rich Garven has Brady rebutting the claim that the Dolphins’ stealing signals resulted in the loss for the Patriots. Christopher Price has Brady calling the notion a “crock of you-know-what.” Michael Parente has Bill Belichick sending the message that no one’s job is safe at this time of the year. Eric McHugh has a report card from the Miami game. Glen Farley writes that it is time for the Patriots to be making up their playoff plans.

Reiss’ notebook reports on the Patriots bringing in veteran tight end OJ Santiago with the uncertain status of Benjamin Watson. Tomase’s notebook says that Vince Wilfork is unlikely to play this Sunday. Young’s notebook has more on the Patriots tweaking the end of their roster. Garven’s notebook has more on Brady’s comments aimed at his teammates. Parente’s notebook has the Patriots dismissing the notion that Miami had an edge in last weeks game gained by the play calls. Farinella’s notebook has more on that same topic.

Celtics

The Celtics finished off a three game road sweep of Atlantic Division foes New Jersey, New York and Philadelphia last night with a 101-81 win over the Iverson-less Sixers.

Shira Springer looks at the Celtics extending their winning streak to three with the 20 point over the 76ers. Mark Murphy notes that only Iverson in a Celtics uniform could’ve filled the Wachovia Center last night, as the small crowd was quiet and the Celtics took control.

Jackie MacMullan is no fan of the Celtics acquiring Allen Iverson, but she admits that the possibility is still there and alive, mostly because the Celtics possess the three things the Sixers are seeking – an expiring contract, young talent and a first round draft pick. Murphy says that the Celtics and other clubs are still seeking an Answer to Iverson’s trade demand.

You can get coverage of the game and keep up with the Iverson rumors on the Philly.com sports page.

Springer’s notebook has Danny Ainge saying that a deal would be unlikely. Murphy’s notebook has Tony Allen and Gerald Green doing a good job defensively on Kyle Korver.

Bruins/Misc

Fluto Shinzawa looks at the Devils top checking line, which presents problems for the Bruins. Stephen Harris says that the Bruins are preaching patience against the Devils. Harris also has Phil Kessel’s youth hockey coach, former US Olympian Bob Suter offer support to the Bruins rookie and his family.

Buddy Thomas says there are just a lot of things about sports that just don’t make any sense. It’s perhaps one of Buddy’s better efforts.

NESN has Bruins/Devils at 7:00. TNT has Magic/Bobcats at 7:15 and Spurs/Hornets at 9:30. NFL Network has Seahawks/49ers at 8:00.

Deal…or No Deal….?

Glenn Ordway is adamant that no deal has been stuck between the Red Sox and Scott Boras, but Jon Heyman of Sports Illustrated is reporting that that the sides have come to a 6 year, $52 million deal with incentives that can bring it to $60 million.

Even acknowledging that article, Ordway says there is no agreement in place.

3:12 PM John Henry on WEEI says they are close, but no deal yet.

There has also been a lot of talk about D&C’s interview with Julio Lugo this morning (MP3 File- You may want to right-click the link and save it) where Gerry Callahan treated the new Red Sox shortstop pretty harshly, telling him he’ll never be as good defensively as Alex Gonzalez and pushing the issue regarding Lugo’s departure from the Astros after his then wife had accused him of hitting her.

No doubt about it, Gerry was a jerk in this interview. Even before it came to the incident with his ex-wife. Remember, she recanted shortly afterwards and he was found innocent at trial. The stuff about Gonzalez was just over the top.

Doug Mirabelli is back for another year with the Sox.

In the middle of all the Matsuzaka talk, David Scott reports that ESPN’s Dave O’Brien seems to be the likely choice to replace Jerry Trupiano in the Red Sox radio booth.

Tom Brady had some pretty harsh words for his teammates today. Albert Breer on The Point After has a link to former Globie Jerome Solomon’s blog (“King Solomon’s Mind“) in Houston, where he quotes an unidentified Patriot as having some tough words for the Texans.

The Media Circus has a look at at another distinguished week in the world of sports media.

Still nothing on anything Iverson-related…

D-Mat Flying to Boston

Michael Silverman in the Clubhouse Insider blog says that a day has not yet been struck, but that the sides are close enough that Scott Boras and Matsuzaka are flying to Boston on John Henry’s private jet along with the Red Sox brain trust.

The traffic to the Herald website seems to have pretty much crushed the server. Getting to the Red Sox blog is either incredibly slow or impossible right now.

12:36 PM – Gordon Edes also has the news on the Extra Bases blog. His source says “You can assume that a deal is done or close.”

If you’re really bored and want to track the flight, you can do it at that link.

In other news, Allen Iverson has not been traded yet and Generalissimo Francisco Franco is still dead.

Bill Simmons weighs in on Iverson.