Beckett Swings Delivery

Jeff Horrigan has Josh Beckett talking about his new delivery, in which he uses the principles of a golf swing to ensure balance and power. Sean McAdam has Beckett believing that his new delivery will result in his throwing more strikes. Jeff Goldberg has Beckett’s mechanical switch paying dividends this spring.

Terry Francona played his opening day starting lineup yesterday and Tony Massarotti says that this group shows the potential to be much more balanced and potent than last year’s edition. Lenny Megliola has a look at Jonathan Papelbon in the closer’s role and the best and worst case scenarios regarding his shoulder. Maureen Mullen says that the Red Sox fifth opening day shortstop in five years is fitting in nicely thus far.

It didn’t take long. Dan Shaughnessy mocks a Curt Schilling 38Pitches Q&A session. We’ll see how long it takes Schilling to fire back on his blog. Rob Bradford writes about Schilling serving as his own agent.

Horrigan reports on Devern Hansack and Mike Burns being sent to the minors yesterday. Alex Speier has Craig Hansen and Manny Delcarmen looking to stick with the Sox, but each facing an uphill battle. Massarotti has Mike Lowell talking about the fact that people often think he is older than he really is, just based on his appearance.

Horrigan’s notebook has Joel Pineiro now sitting as potential trade bait with Jonathan Papelbon taking back the closer’s role. Shaughnessy’s notebook has more on Beckett’s new delivery.

Patriots

John Tomase has Laurence Maroney undergoing shoulder surgery which revealed “fairly significant damage” to the Patriots running back. Mike Reiss has Matt Light backing a league motion to toughen the NFL’s personal conduct policy. Albert Breer has Light healthy and ready to go for 2007. Rich Garven has the Patriots offseason moves putting them back among the league’s elite. The BSMW Game Day page continues to crank out draft profiles.

Bruins

The death marched continued for the Bruins yesterday as they were blanked by the Penguins 5-0. Kevin Paul Dupont reports on a zombie-like performance from the Bruins. Steve Conroy says that the good news is that in less than two weeks, all this misery will be over.

Mick Colageo examines the uncertain future of fighting in hockey. Mike Dunshee on the BSMW Power Play has more on the Bruins playing out the string. Conroy’s notebook has Tim Thomas getting yanked in the loss. Dupont’s notebook has Hannu Toivonen staying put in Providence.

Celtics

Shira Springer has Celtics practices remaining upbeat and productive despite the rapidly approaching end of the season. Mark Murphy has Doc River and Paul Pierce noting the outcry in some circles over the Celtics choosing to go with young players down the stretch, which is ironic considering they did the same thing last year and no one said anything. The difference is the fact that the Celtics closer to the top pick this year. Tim Weisberg has more on the tanking issue as regards the Celtics.

NCAA

Bob Ryan has Georgetown moving onto the Final Four with an incredible spurt in overtime to defeat North Carolina. Jeff Goodman notes that there is no Cinderella this season in the Final Four. Jeff Jacobs says there is plenty to criticize the Tar Heels for in yesterday’s performance. Ryan’s notebook has Georgetown players paying tribute to the elder John Thompson.

Nancy Marrapese-Burrell and John Connolly have Boston College booking a trip to the Frozen Four for the second year in a row. Michael Vega and Steve Buckley look at BC hero Joe Rooney.

Weekend Wrap – Sweet 16 Edition

It’s another busy weekend for sports viewing. In addition to the NCAA men’s and women’s basketball tournaments, there is also the NCAA hockey tournament, which unlike the hoop version has plenty of local teams involved. (BC, BU, UMass, UNH, Maine)

There is also NBA and NHL action, as well as baseball exhibitions, NASCAR, and golf.

It was another busy week in Boston sports. To recap:

Monday: Gerry Callahan says he worked just as hard at basketball as John Stockton, he just didn’t have Stockton’s talent. Red Sox Annual reviewed.

Tuesday: We learn of the eBay auction for a grill that is supposed to belong to Manny Ramirez. Story dominates the afternoon and evening.

Wednesday: More Manny grill talk, John Dennis investigates as to whether Manny violated eBay rules. Gerry Callahan talks about his Asian neighbors. Karen Guregian and Amalie Benjamin get Manny to talk about the grill and his future in the papers.

Thursday: Guregian continues a good week by talking with Jonathan Papelbon about closing and Pedro Martinez about his time in Boston. Word comes on the ESPN telecast of the Red Sox game that the Red Sox will move Papelbon to the closers role. All hell breaks loose on WEEI.

Friday: More Papelbon talk. I should say almost ALL Papelbon talk. Oh, a little Fred&Steve’s Steakhouse talk as well. Glenn Ordway announced this afternoon that The Big Show will be traveling to Beijing, China this August when the Patriots tgo there to play the first NFL exhibition game in China on Aug. 8, 2007. He noted that the time difference is such that 2-6 PM here is 2-6 AM in Beijing.

——————————————————-
A little revisionist history from Nick Cafardo this morning in his article about Jonathan Papelbon being moved to closer, specifically this paragraph:

What the Red Sox didn't want was a return to the bullpen-by-committee days of 2003 that was taxing, to say the least, on Grady Little. That committee ultimately led to Little's decision to keep Pedro Martínez in Game 7 of the American League Championship Series against the Yankees. In modern-day baseball, it's imperative to have a reliable closer.

Where do I start here? “bullpen-by-committee?” All bullpens are committees. It was closer-by-committee. Second, the Red Sox had a closer by that point. It was Scott Williamson, who had saved all three games that the Red Sox had won in that ALCS. He had also pitched all five games of the Oakland series. The bullpen was solid, the closer by committee experiment was over by that point, and had nothing to do with Grady Little’s decision to stick with Pedro.

From Nick’s series wrap up after that 2003 ALCS:

The Sox bullpen, which had given up one run since the first game of the playoffs (21 2/3 innings) again was strong. Bronson Arroyo, Todd Jones, Alan Embree, Mike Timlin, and Williamson helped to slam the door on the win, setting the dramatic stage for last night's Pedro-Roger II.

——————————————
If you haven’t seen it yet, you need to check out the Patriots Draft Rumor Inventory chart put together on the BSMW Game Day page.

Chad Finn has 10 thoughts for the week.

Tom Casale of Patriots Football Weekly rates the Inside Linebackers available in next month’s NFL draft.

Deadspin.com has their Red Sox preview post.

WEEI has a newly re-designed website. This new version is much cleaner and easier to navigate than the old one was.

Curt Schilling talks blogging to SI.com’s Alex Belth.

Eric Wilbur hates the move of Papelbon back to the closer’s role.

If the Celtics get the number one pick AND both Greg Oden and Kevin Durant come out, who should the Celtics pick? Jessica Camerato looks at the options.

Kevin Gray has a look at some of the traditions of UNH hockey.

——————————————-
Media Columns

New England

Christopher L. Gasper has NESN throwing a curveball to the local TV stations with their now-infamous memo of last week. Bill Doyle has a look at NESN anchor Kathryn Tappen being able to follow her dream of being a sportscaster. David Scott says that NESN scored a 10 by naming Bob Ryan as host of their new Boston Globe sports show. Ron Brown says that decisions in the University of Maine sports broadcasting are confusing.

New York

Neil Best has Billy Packer creating a buzz in the NCAA tournament for the 33rd consecutive year. Phil Mushnick looks back at the best free throw shooting in NCAA tournament history, and has a number of other items. Bob Raissman has CBS and the NCAA dancing around the issue of money and who is making it from the tournament. Pat Reichart has Ron Darling set to sign a new deal at SportsNet New York.

More East Coast

Michael Hiestand has George Michael’s Sports Machine shutting down for the final time on Sunday night. Laura Nachman has former Phillies pitcher Mitch “Wild Thing” Williams is joining the WIP morning show as a regular contributor. Chris Zelkovich says CBC isn’t totally out of the baseball business just yet. Jim Williams has ESPN’s Mike Tirico cutting loose on PTI.

South

Barry Jackson looks at a big weekend for TV sports viewing. He does note, however, that South Florida has lagged in the TV ratings for the NCAA tournament. Dave Darling looks at HBO’s documentary on the John Wooden dynasty at UCLA, set to air next week. David Barron has Verne Lundquist returning to his San Antonio roots for this weekend’s NCAA tourney games.

Midwest

Dan Caesar looks at whether the coverage of Tony LaRussa’s arrest for suspected DUI is fact finding or media feeding frenzy. Bob Wolfley has more on the HBO documentary on UCLA basketball. Judd Zulgad has FSN North announcer Jeff Dubay coming back from being suspended for some off-the-microphone insults aimed toward a WCHA referee in late January. Teddy Greenstein has Southern Illinois fans upset that CBS cut away from the last few minutes of their school’s win over Virginia Tech in favor of a Kentucky/Kansas preview. He also has Dusty Baker ready to go in his new ESPN analyst role.

West Coast

John Maffei is breathing a sigh of relief that Bill Raftery was assigned to games in the South region. He also rates the CBS announcers with a quick note on each. Larry Stewart has Dick Enberg remembering his eight year run as announcer of UCLA basketball, and how popular the games were, despite being shown only on tape delay. Tom Hoffarth has an in-depth look at the HBO special which doesn’t leave out tales of booster Sam Gilbert, whose gifts of cars, clothes and other….services were apparently well known on campus. Jim Carlisle has more on the documentary, which the more I read about it, seems to be a can’t-miss show. Joe Davidson has ESPN Radio’s Dan Patrick feeling at home with putting family first in his life. Jay Posner looks at San Diego State likely changing radio stations for next season.

————————————————————
Weekend TV Highlights

Friday March 23rd

6:00pm, CN8 – NCAA Hockey Tournament – Maine vs. St. Cloud State
7:00pm, CBS – Florida/Butler (HD)
7:30pm, CBS – Georgetown/Vanderbilt (HD)
7:30pm, FSN – Mavericks @ Celtics (HD)
8:30pm, CN8 – NCAA Hockey Tournament – BU vs. Michigan State
9:40pm, CBS – UNLV/Oregon (HD)
10:00pm, CBS – UNC/USC (HD)

Saturday March 24th

1:00pm, NESN – Rangers @ Bruins (HD)
1:00pm, CN8 – NCAA Hockey Tournament – UNH/Miami
1:00pm, CBS – NCAA Div II Championship (HD)
2:00pm, NBC – Golf – WGC Championship (HD)
3:00pm, ABC – NASCAR – Sharpie Mini 300 (HD)
4:30pm, CBS – NCAA Regional Finals (HD)
4:30pm, CN8 – NCAA Hockey Tournament – BC vs. St. Lawrence
7:00pm, CBS – NCAA Regional Finals (HD)
7:00pm, CN8 – NCAA Hockey Tournament (TBA)
8:00pm, ESPN2 – Indy Car – XM Satellite Radio Indy 300 (HD)
8:30pm, CN8 – NCAA Hockey Tournament (TBA)

Sunday March 25th

12:30pm, NBC – Bruins @ Penguins (HD)
1:00pm, NESN – Red Sox/Marlins
1:30pm, FOX – NASCAR: Food City 500 (HD)
2:30pm, CBS – NCAA Regional Finals (HD)
3:00pm, NBC – Golf – WGC Championship (HD)
3:30pm, ABC – Suns @ Kings (HD)
3:30pm, CN8 – NCAA Hockey Northeast Final
5:00pm, CBS – NCAA Regional Finals (HD)
6:00pm, CN8 – NCAA Hockey West Final
8:00pm, ESPN – Nuggets @ Cavs (HD)

Case Closed

After watching closer candidates flounder all spring, Jonathan Papelbon couldn’t take it anymore. He loved being in that role last season, and while he was publicly supportive of his move to the rotation, he still harbored the desire to close. So much so that he was literally losing sleep over it. He went to his captain and then his manager with his feelings, and the result is yesterday’s surprising-but-not announcement that Papelbon will be the closer.

Gordon Edes has Papelbon hoping that this is his job for the next 10 years. Jeff Horrigan says that now the ones who will be losing sleep will be American League batters. Sean McAdam has more on Papelbon missing being the Red Sox go-to guy in the late innings. Jeff Goldberg has Papelbon himself as the proactive force towards this move being made. Jon Couture says that this move can only work if the other relievers ahead of Papelbon do their job.

Karen Guregian has Papelbon back where he wants to be and back where he belongs. Nick Cafardo says the decision was the logical one, and he gets reaction from the other teams in the AL East on the move. Alex Speier says that the Red Sox insist that this decision was made in a vacuum, with no influences from the outside.

After writing a column in which he said Duke Basketball was the only thing going on in Durham, North Carolina, Steve Buckley got invited by the Durham Bulls to attend a game there after some took offense to his remarks. He’s going to take them up on their offer. David Borges has Craig Breslow trying to come up with a formula to get better command on the mound and thus stay with the big club in the future. Speier has Curt Schilling still making adjustments on the mound as he hits 40.

Edes’ notebook has Tavarez getting a shot to pick up where he left off last season. Horrigan’s notebook has more on Tavarez’s move to the starting rotation, where he might just be keeping the seat warm for Jon Lester. McAdam’s notebook has more on Tavarez getting ready for his new role.

Bruins

The Bruins pretty sealed their playoff-less fate last night with a late collapse against the Montreal Canadiens at the Garden. Stephen Harris says that the Bruins have been a very easy team for opponents to play against this season. Kevin Paul Dupont has this one as just another example of an opportunity lost, which should be a theme of this year’s Bruins squad. Joe McDonald has more on the Bruins season fading fast. Douglas Flynn says that this one might’ve been an exclamation point to close out the season for the Bruins. Bud Barth has the Montreal power play coming alive in the third period to sink the Bruins. Mick Colageo says that it was fun while it lasted last night.

Harris’ Notebook has the Tim Thomas feeling that his teammates have needed to play a little looser all season. Flynn’s notebook says that the Bruins/Canadiens rivalry still has a little spark to it. Dupont’s notebook says that the club likely won’t be getting any of their injured players back before the end of the season. Barth’s notebook has the season coming to a sour end for the Bruins.

Celtics

Steve Bulpett has Paul Pierce OK with Doc Rivers leaving the reserves on the floor while Charlotte stormed back to win the game on Wednesday night. He says it as time to take the training wheels off the youngsters for a bit. Shira Springer has Rivers defending his actions on Wednesday night. Scott Souza has Rivers insisting that everything was on the level for the game.

Jackie MacMullan has a feature on the Dallas Mavericks being ready to take the next step towards becoming NBA champs.

Patriots/Misc

Benjamin Watson just returned from a NFL-USO tour of Iraq, and shared his experience with the media yesterday. Mike Reiss has Watson describing the situation as “real.” John Tomase has the Patriots tight end saying that it was a life-altering trip. Albert Breer also has a very good piece on Watson recounting his trip to the Middle East.

Christopher Price says that Adalius Thomas’ versatility can be traced back to his college days at Southern Miss.

Christopher L. Gasper has NESN throwing a curveball to the local TV stations with their now-infamous memo of last week. Bill Doyle has a look at NESN anchor Kathryn Tappen being able to follow her dream of being a sportscaster.

Bob Ryan looks at USC making a name for themselves in basketball.

Kevin Paul Dupont has UNH trying to shake its label of the University of No Hardware as they hit the NCAA tournament for the six straight year, a feat equaled only by Minnesota and Michigan. UNH is a number one seed and playing in Manchester.

Papelbon To Be The Closer, After All

Bangor, Maine native Gary Thorne (and Erin Andrews) apparently broke the news on the ESPN telecast of the Red Sox/Phillies game this afternoon that Jonathan Papelbon will in fact be named the Red Sox closer, with an official announcement coming soon. Curt Schilling “reports” it in a post on his blog today, which might be a first. A player reporting the news about another player and his team on his own website

Rob Bradford has a post about it on his blog, and the Extra Bases and Clubhouse Insider blogs are sure to follow.

Prepare yourself for the endless “Steve Burton called this months ago” tributes.

We also get Glenn Ordway yelling that “THE RED SOX LIED TO US!!!” The show spends weeks pounding the Red Sox to make Papelbon the closer, they finally do, and Ordway needs to find something else to scream about. He LOVES this move, but the team LIED. He accused the Red Sox of having a “chicken little” mentality. Back and forth. Back and forth.

Tony Massarotti and Rob Bradford tried to call Ordway for talking out of both sides of his mouth, but unfortunately several exchanges went exactly like this:

You’re talking out of both sides of your mouth!

No I’m not!

Yes you are!

No I’m not!

Yes you are!

No I’m not!

Yes you are!

Great radio. *click*

—————————————
Gary Tanguay cracked me up last night. It was on Sports Tonight, following the Celtics game, and Andy Gresh was with him on the show. Gresh was going off on how even if the Celtics get Durant or Oden, are all the other Celtics suddenly going to learn how to win, and are they going to suddenly play with “gumption.” This rant went on for about a minute or so, during which time Tanguay stood staring off into the distance, eyes slightly rolled. As Gresh went on, Tanguay threw his hands in the air and exasperated, exclaimed something about “contrived arguments.” Trust me, it was both ironic and hilarious at the same time. Having both of them standing side-by-side with Gresh looking twice as big as Tanguay in height and width only added to the hilarity.

—————————————-
Metro Boston sent over the following press release this afternoon:

Publishers of Metro Boston, the City of Boston’s largest circulated daily newspaper, announced today an innovative partnership with the Boston Red Sox to produce the official free game day publication of the Boston Red Sox – Metro GameDay.

Metro will manage content and production of this 12 page free tabloid paper that will be made up of fresh content every game. Metro GameDay will be distributed at all 81 home games and postseason home games for the Red Sox season. 15,000 copies will be distributed throughout the Kenmore Square and Fenway areas, including on Yawkey Way.

Metro GameDay provides a great opportunity for the team to communicate directly with its loyal fan base. Through the publication fans will learn about events of the day including game and player stats, who is throwing out the first pitch and singing the national anthem, Red Sox community activities and fan programs. Each Metro GameDay will also include a scorecard and Kcard for additional fan participation.

“As a child in Baltimore, I remember going to the ballpark with my dad and receiving a page of notes and stats that had been run off on a mimeograph machine,” said Dr. Charles Steinberg, Executive Vice President/Public Affairs. “It was included in the program. Metro GameDay will restore part of that experience for visitors and fans at Fenway Park. In addition, Red Sox Magazine will still be available inside the park with full color photos and more timeless literary features.”

Metro GameDay extends Metro’s reach within Boston by becoming the official game day publication of Red Sox Nation. Metro Boston is the fastest growing newspaper in the City of Boston and has a growing daily readership of more than 235,000.

“The Red Sox are the biggest brand in all of New England. We are honored to partner with them on Metro GameDay and excited to contribute to the fan experience at Fenway,” said Stuart Layne, publisher of Metro Boston. “Metro GameDay will be groundbreaking communication for major league baseball and all sports.”

————————————————–

The Metro Toronto is reporting that NESN Sports Desk anchor Hazel Mae is engaged to Kevin Barker, who is a non-roster infielder currently in the Blue Jays camp. (Glenn Ordway says his reliable sources say this is not true.)

Reid Laymance has a look at Bob Ryan being named host of the the new Globe/NESN show “The Globe 10.0,” presented by Verizon. David Scott also weighs in on the announcement.

The Media Circus notes that Peter King in baseball spring training means twice as much name dropping.

Bill Simmons has a Oden/Durant/Tanking update and some housecleaning.

Erik Scalavino has a look at the Patriots wide receivers.

Curt Schilling has another massive Q∓A session on 38Pitches. Some harsh words for Bob Tewksbury there. Does he know that Tewksbury is employed by the Red Sox?

Clark Booth endorses Bowie Kuhn for the Hall of Fame.

Jessica Camerato has Doc Rivers teaching his team a lesson last night.

Richard Sandomir looks at cable operators calling MLB’s bluff on the Extra Innings package, but MLB turning them down anyway.

Michael Hiestand looks at how you can watch each individual game of the women’s NCAA tournament, but that most of the men’s games overlap each other.

Bob Raissman looks at Rudy Giuliani getting free airtime from the YES network to promote his Presidential campaign.

Could the NHL go back to Hartford? The blog Too Much Sports examines the possibility.

————————————————–

ESPN will present all Major League Soccer matches in high definition beginning with the Saturday, April 7 season-opener – D.C. United at Colorado Rapids – on ABC HD at 3:30 p.m. ET; and the first telecast of ESPN2’s new MLS Primetime Thursday April 12 at 10 p.m. featuring FC Dallas at the Los Angeles Galaxy. This will mark the first season in ESPN’s Major League Soccer (MLS) history that all matches will be presented in high definition.

————————————————-
Tonight

Note: CBS has the NCAA tournament coverage, with games at 7:00 and 9:30. As they will likely switch back and forth between games, the early matchups are S. Illinois/Kansas and Memphis/Texas A&M. The late games are UCLA/Pitt and Ohio State/Tennessee.

7:00pm, ESPN2 – AFL – Colorado Crush @ Philadelphia Soul
7:30pm, NESN – Canadiens @ Bruins

Sox Aces Past and Future

Karen Guregian has a long piece with former Red Sox ace Pedro Martinez, who talks about his rehab from shoulder surgery, and of course, all things Red Sox.

Gordon Edes has Japanese pitcher Masumi Kuwata talking about Daisuke Matsuzaka. Kuwata was a long-time star back in his home country and his now in the Pirates camp on a minor league contract at the age of 39. Jeff Horrigan has Matsuzaka unsatisfied with his performance yesterday, despite giving up just one run and striking out seven in 5 2/3 innings. Sean McAdam has Matsuzaka saying that he struggled yesterday, even though the results didn’t reflect it. Dom Amore has the Pirates wowed with what they saw from Matsuzaka yesterday. Maureen Mullen has more on the “struggling” Dice-K.

Edes also examines the struggles of Jason Varitek this spring. The Sox catcher is hitting just .080 thus far. Guregian has Jonathan Papelbon ready to step into the closers role again this season if the circumstances call for it. Joe Haggerty has Matt Clement aiming for a return to the Red Sox rotation at some point. Guregian also has Mike Timlin accepting the wisdom of having him start the season on the DL. Horrigan has J.D. Drew putting together a very impressive spring thus far.

Edes’ notebook has more on Matsuzaka’s impressing performance against the Pirates. Horrigan’s notebook has Manny Ramirez making turning down an easy day of workouts to take a long bus ride to get some extra work in. McAdam’s notebook says that Julian Tavarez seems likely to start the season as the closer.

Celtics

The Celtics took a big step towards locking up the second-worst record in the NBA by blowing an 18 point lead to the Charlotte Bobcats and falling at home 92-84. Paul Pierce led the Celtics with 23 points while Al Jefferson put up his now customary 22 and 11 rebounds.

Shira Springer has coach Doc Rivers explaining why he let his bench in the game while and after the 18 point lead was being destroyed by Charlotte. Steve Bulpett has more from Rivers who insisted he wasn’t trying to tank the game. Desmond Connor has suspicions being raised by the Celtics just letting the lead slip away without seeming to do much about it. Bill Doyle looks at the Celtics reserves being left in the game to struggle their way to a loss.

Mark Murphy has Pierce’s teammates sympathetic to his various aches and pains. Robert Lee has a look a Ryan Gomes getting back out on to the court last night after having been out since March 7th with a sprained foot. Buddy Thomas thinks that the Celtics might be better off trading their draft pick, even if it turns out to be the top one. Adam Smartschan looks at the top picks, with Greg Oden leading the way. Mark Blaudschun notes that Oden has met the high expectations placed on him this season. Mike Petraglia has the Celtics looking to play the role of spoiler down the stretch.

Springer’s notebook has Ryan Gomes getting back into action last night. Bulpett’s notebook has Rivers insisting that Pierce will not and should not be shutting it down early this season.

Patriots

Interested in who the Patriots might be looking at in the draft? Like hunting for clues? Scott Benson has put together a rumor inventory chart on the BSMW Game Day page which lists out all college players that have been connected to the Patriots at some point this offseason, who reported the interest, and where it took place.

Mike Reiss has four Patriots reserves re-signing with the team for the 2007 season. Reiss also reports on the BC Pro Day workouts yesterday. Lenny Megliola has BC receiver Tony Gonzalez showing his stuff at a pro day workout yesterday. Eric Avidon has some BC offensive linemen opening some eyes at the pro day as well.

Wednesday Wrap – 03.22.07

Just a few quick afternoon links for today:

Peter King gives the Patriots a big wet kiss for their offseason transactions. Funny, it just seems like yesterday that King was on WEEI saying that the Ted Johnson story was “an extremely disturbing portrait of how the Patriots run their organization.”

ESPN’s “On the Clock” series looks today at the Patriots offseason thus far.

Sports Illustrated has their 2007 Red Sox season preview.

Tom Verducci has a magazine piece on Daisuke Matsuzaka.

Hmmm, there’s something just wrong about this ESPN.com Page2 banner of Kevin Durant.

Jared Puffer goes behind the scenes with Eric Alexander for Patriots.com.

Bill Simmons has had about enough of Billy Packer.

—————————————
Tonight

7:00, ESPN2 – NIT – Syracuse/Clemson
7:30, FSN – Bobcats @ Celtics
8:00pm, ESPN – Mavs @ Cavs
9:00pm, ESPN2 – NIT – DePaul/Air Force

Grill Talk from Manny

Manny Ramirez was everywhere last night, as his image and the story of the grill for sale on eBay circulated around the internet, and then the airwaves, as it was even a story on evening newscasts.

Naturally, reporters wanted to try and talk to Manny about it. To their surprise, he actually responded, and the result is a pair of stories in the paper this morning. Karen Guregian seems to have gotten a little more out of Manny for her story this morning, as Manny talks among other things about having two years left on his contract, and then perhaps going somewhere else, but being happy here in the meantime. Amalie Benjamin has the story in the Globe, with Manny taking some ribbing from his teammates for the grill.

Jeff Horrigan reports that Mike Timlin will start the season on the disabled list, which opens the door for Julian Tavarez to start the season as the Red Sox closer. Sean McAdam has more on Timlin, who has says could be activated right after the April 9th home opener, because the DL stint can be backdated for up to six days before the season.

Guregian also has David Ortiz talking about adjusting to a new hitting coach, and weighing in on a few other topics. Maureen Mullen has Julian Tavarez as a guy who is willing to take on any role for the Red Sox, starter, closer, or anything in between. Even though he feels silly writing about it, Jon Couture attempts to set the record straight regarding the gyroball of Daisuke Matsuzaka. Horrigan has Josh Beckett starting his outing against the Twins strong, but then falling apart in the fifth inning.

Horrigan’s notebook says that the depth in the starting rotation, not his performance, is what earned Kason Gabbard his ticket to Pawtucket to start the season. Benjamin’s notebook has Julio Lugo feeling that the work his done on his footwork at shortstop will pay off. McAdam’s notebook has Beckett taking a few lumps near the end of his outing last night.

Bruins

The end continues to loom for the Bruins, who dropped a 1-0 decision in Montreal last night. Fluto Shinzawa has the failing to muster any offense with Patrice Bergeron and Marc Savard both ailing. Steve Conroy says that the Bruins didn’t do anything to embarrass themselves last night, but they didn’t make any progress towards extending their season, either. Dan Hickling says the Bruins have lost the art of scoring at the wrong time.

Shinzawa’s notebook has Dennis Wideman still trying to adjust to his new team. Conroy’s notebook has Ben Walter feeling at home last night in the town in which he was born and his father played. Hickling’s notebook has several Bruins players looking forward to watching their schools play in the NCAA hockey tournament.

Celtics

Shira Springer has Danny Ainge making a scouting trip to China, where presumably he won’t be fined for sitting next to prospect’s mothers. Steve Bulpett has tonight’s matchup against the Bobcats one that the Celtics cannot afford to win. He also has Paul Pierce preparing to speak to the Doctors about shutting it down for the season.

Patriots/Misc

Albert Breer has Tedy Bruschi talking about meeting up with his new teammates and other topics while on WEEI’s Dale & Holley show yesterday. Mike Reiss has the team re-signing Bam Childress.

Mark Blaudschun has John Calipari not changing his frenetic manner of doing things.

Buy Manny’s Grill, Sports Guy to Save Holy Cross

More picking on the flash guys…

I heard it reported this morning – with the required twinge of urgency – that Asante Samuel did NOT report to the Patriots first day of their off season conditioning program. It was made to sound like there was a mini-holdout going on.

The problem with this is that Samuel has trained in Florida during the offseason in the past. The other problem is that while the Patriots have placed the franchise tag on Samuel, he is, as of this moment, still a free agent. He is not the property of the Patriots, as he has not signed the one year franchise deal. Why then, would he be a participant in the team’s conditioning program at this point?

It’s another example of trying to make a story out of nothing, which so many of them do.
——————————————————-
Speaking of the offseason workout programs:

Pete Prisco on March 6th:

Don’t look for Patriots defensive end Richard Seymour to take part in the team’s offseason workouts. Seymour said he has three kids and another on the way and prefers to be with them in South Carolina. “I need to do what’s best for my family,” Seymour said. If Bill Belichick has a problem with that, what can he do? Cut him? Please, he’s their best defensive player.

Mike Reiss today:

Defensive lineman Richard Seymour, who is coming off his fifth straight Pro Bowl appearance, was present this morning at Gillette Stadium for the team’s offseason program.

Seymour’s presence is notable based on a previous media report that indicated he would not take part in the program.

Reiss 1, Prisco 0.
————————————————————
Even the reporters are tired of spring training. Granted, yesterday was a rare off day during spring training, but there were only six…count’em…six stories on the Red Sox in all of the local morning papers. We’re pretty much at the point where all the stories have been written. Even the annual boilerplate stories that we see every spring.

————————————————————

Reiss also checks in with an offseason edition of the Ask Reiss Mailbag on Boston.com.

Paul Perillo also has a mailbag with Ask PFW posted at Patriots.com.

Can we say enough good things about Mike Reiss? He also provides a partial transcript of Tedy Bruschi’s appearance on WEEI’s Dale & Holley program today.

Manny Ramirez is selling his grill on eBay. (It can’t be real. Can it?) How fast can Shaughnessy write a column on this? How about the Larry Johnson cartoon?

Bill Simmons is going to save the Holy Cross basketball program.

Michael McCann of Sports Law Blog examines the NBA fining Danny Ainge $30,000 for unintentionally sitting next to Kevin Durant’s mother.

Neil Best urges sports announcers to quit yelling at him.

Leonard Shapiro has the good, the bad and the ugly from the CBS tournament coverage.

————————————————————
Tonight

7:00pm, NESN – Bruins @ Canadiens
7:00pm, ESPN – NIT – Florida St/Mississippi St.
7:15pm, TNT – Nuggets @ Nets
8:00pm, Versus – Coyotes @ Wild
9:00pm, ESPN – NIT – NC State/West Virginia
9:30pm, TNT – Pacers @ Rockets

Still on the Comeback Trail

Karen Guregian has a look at Jon Lester, as the young lefty continues to work his way back from cancer. Lester is just trying to get things back to normal for himself, but that’s not always easy with the prospect of getting retested every few months. Amalie Benjamin has Manny Delcarmen still hoping to achieve his goal of making the big club out of spring training, but one shaky outing may have derailed his plans.

Sean McAdam looks back on the first anniversary of the Wily Mo Pena/Bronson Arroyo deal, and notes the impact that the trade had on the Red Sox pitching staff the rest of the way. He says that the results of that trade are a big reason why the Sox will likely hang onto Kyle Snyder this spring. Jeff Horrigan has a look at closer-of-the-future Bryce Cox who has made a dramatic turnaround in his effectiveness since changing his delivery last May in college.

Horrigan’s notebook has Craig Hansen taking himself out of the running for the closer role with an inconsistent spring as he tries to adjust to a new delivery spot on the mound. Benjamin’s notebook has more on Cox’s shortened delivery making all the difference in the world for the young reliever.

Celtics

Two nights after a win in San Antonio that some felt might turn the fortunes of the Celtics around, the green went and scuffled to a 106-88 loss to the Hornets in Oklahoma City.

Steve Bulpett suggests that the Celtics were both a little tired and a little full of themselves after beating the Spurs on Saturday night. Peter May labels this one a flat-out stink bomb by the Celtics.

Tim Weisberg has a look at Danny Ainge’s costly chat with Kevin Durant’s mother. Bulpett’s notebook has Paul Piece not looking for ways to get out of practice, just the opposite in fact. He also notes that the team sent tapes of Al Jefferson to the league to show officials that he wasn’t traveling as much as the referees were calling it. It seems to have worked. May’s notebook has more on Jefferson, pointing out that avoiding foul trouble has been another reason that the third year big man has been able to pile up the double-doubles this season.

Bruins

Fluto Shinzawa has GM Peter Chiarelli not ready to throw in the towel on this season just yet, despite the horrific 7-0 loss to the Rangers over the weekend. Stephen Harris suggests that facing a charged up arena and team in Montreal tonight might be just what the Bruins need. Shinzawa’s notebook has an update on the health of Shean Donovan and P.J. Axelsson.

Patriots

Albert Breer has the Patriots getting started on their offseason workouts without Asante Samuel, but the cornerback usually works out on his own anyway. Mike Reiss has a quick bit on the signing of free agent cornerback/special teamer Eddie Jackson, who is coming off of a torn ACL, suffered on Christmas day.

College

Jackie MacMullan has a piece on former Duke lacrosse coach Mike Pressler, now coaching at Bryant, and viewed by some as a scapegoat for what went on at Duke.

Mark Blaudschun gives props to the NCAA selection committee for the matchups they made in this tournament. Bill Reynolds offers five notes on the NCAA tournament, starting off by saying that the Georgetown Hoyas have a long way to go to live up to the great Georgetown teams of the 1980′s. Marc Thaler looks at a couple of NH kids in the NCAA tournament. Zach Roca is happy about his brackets, and says good-bye to a number of college seniors who played their final games this past weekend. Mike Anthony looks at the lack of upsets in the tourney thus far. Michael Vega has UNC forward Tyler Hansbrough adjusting to playing with a facemask.

Weekend Wrap – 03.19.07

Yes, you did hear Gerry Callahan say this morning that he worked just as hard, played just as much pickup ball, went to as many camps as John Stockton, but just lacked Stockton’s talent.

D&C did have some interesting discussion on Al Skinner’s midseason decision to toss center Sean Williams off the team. Several different viewpoints on the matter were brought up both by the hosts as well as the callers. For instance, was it Skinner who made the decision, knowing it would likely mean more losses and a quicker end to the season for his team, and he is paid to win games, or was the decision made over his head?

John Dennis asked whether Williams watched the game on Saturday, and what was his attitude while watching…was he contrite and upset that he could’ve been the difference in the game, or was he arrogant, taking the attitude that BC was getting what it deserved by kicking him off the team?

Michael Holley said today that he is 75% sure that Greg Oden will not be declaring for the NBA draft this year.

The Big Show spent their time on expectations for Daisuke Matsuzaka.

———————————————————

If you missed the weekend notes columns, here they are:

Also from the weekend was the Boston Globe Magazine feature by Michael Paulson on Myra Kraft.

———————————————————-
Seth Mnookin says that the move by NESN and the Red Sox to limit the highlights shown elsewhere is selfish and stupid.

After a weekend of college hoop, Jeff Goodman breaks down the remaining teams in the Sweet 16

Globe Sports Editor Joe Sullivan also offers his observations on the Sweet 16.

Michael Hiestand notes that a pair of Saturday cliffhangers gave CBS a needed ratings boost.

David Barron says that CBS did pretty well despite having few upsets.

Barry Horn says that old school production values are the best part of the first two days of the NCAA tournament.

Neil Best looks at the first five years of the YES network.

Peter King wants that NFL OT system to be more fair, suggests that the Patriots trade the #28 pick to the Bears for Lance Briggs, and reveals that he just discovered Norah Jones in his latest Monday Morning Quarterback.

Kelly Dwyer places Al Jefferson #4 on his list of the 10 most improved players in the NBA.

Albert Breer and Mike Reiss each take a quick look at the first day of the Patriots offseason conditioning program.

Celtics Blog offers up Celtics Shakespeare.

————————————————————–
Some interesting numbers reported by ESPN on NCAA brackets filled in online through their ESPN.com’s Men’s Tournament Challenge

An analysis of the more than 3.3 million entries submitted reveals:

  • Zero “perfect brackets” (picked each game correctly) remain;
  • 45 brackets correctly picked all 16 of the remaining teams;
  • 29 brackets picked an Final Four of USC, Oregon, Southern Illinois and Texas A&M;
  • 1,514 brackets correctly picked 15 of the 16 remaining teams;
  • 5,404 brackets have 0 of 16 the remaining teams;
  • 1,484,063 brackets still have all four of their Final Four teams playing;
  • 332,987 brackets picked UNLV to advance to the Sweet 16;
  • 1,393,269 brackets picked Southern Illinois to advance to the Sweet 16;
  • 679,463 brackets picked Butler to advance to the Sweet 16;
  • 980,253 brackets picked Arkansas to defeat USC in the first round;
  • 1,310,380 brackets picked Winthrop to upset Notre Dame in the first round
  • 1,069,661 brackets picked George Washington to defeat Vanderbilt in the first round;
  • 64,562 brackets picked Xavier to upset Ohio State in the second round;
  • 141,633 brackets picked VCU to upset Pittsburgh in the second round;
  • 7,859 brackets picked E. Kentucky to make it to the Final Four;
  • 8,635 brackets picked Xavier to make it to the Final Four;
  • 71,764 brackets picked Wisconsin to win the National Championship;
  • 211 brackets picked Belmont to win the National Championship;
  • 568,712 brackets picked Ohio State to win the National Championship;
  • 312 brackets picked Weber State to win the National Championship
  • 255,205 brackets picked an Final Four of Ohio State, UNC, Florida and Kansas;
  • 1,124,622 brackets picked either Florida or Ohio State to win the National Championship;
  • 6,356 brackets picked either Butler or Southern Illinois to win the National Championship.

————————————————————
Tonight

7:00pm, ESPN – NIT – Mississippi/Clemson
7:00pm, Versus – Penguins @ Rangers
8:00pm, FSN – Celtics @ Hornets
9:00pm, ESPN – NIT – DePaul/Kansas St.