Back to the Fens?

(Afternoon Links provided by Guest Blogger: David Vidinha. Dave can be reached at [email protected])

Nine innings, two hits, one walk, eleven strikeouts, and zero runs. That was the line Josh Beckett posted on October 11th 2003, which just happened to be Game 5 of the NLCS. The Marlins who were facing a 3-1 deficit to the Cubs, handed the ball to Beckett and he delivered. As far as the rest of the series goes, well you can ask Steve Bartman how it turned out. The Red Sox are hoping that their ace can do the same again. With the Sox in the hole 3-1 to these crafty Indians, Beckett will look to send the series back to Boston.

In Beckett’s last start, this past Friday in Game 1 of the series, he allowed only two runs on four hits while striking out seven. Beckett had no problem commanding any of his pitches, which ultimately spelled disaster for Indians hitters. Tonight, he will be facing an Indians lineup in which six of the nine starters are sporting averages above .294. Most importantly for the Sox will be Beckett’s ability to pitch late into tonight’s game. With the past three starters’ inability to pitch beyond the 5th, the vulnerability of the Sox pen has showed. The Sox bullpen has not been overly effective surrendering 11 runs in 15.2 innings of work.

Looking to keep the rally pies flying for the Indians will be their Cy Young hopeful C.C. Sabathia. Sabathia who looked dreadful in his Game 1 start will look to improve on his 4.1 inning, 8 run, 5 walk stinker. According to some of the Red Sox hitters Sabathia was “wild” in his Game 1 start and he’ll look to control his emotions in tonight’s start. Indians manager Eric Wedge says that “all he (C.C.) needs to do is go out there and be himself”. On the positive side for the Indians is the fact that they are not facing a “must win” game, so the pressure will rest solely on the shoulders of the Red Sox. Supporting Sabathia will be an Indians bullpen who since surrendering back-to-back homers in Game 3, have surrendered a measly 3 runs in 16.2 innings pitched, a 1.62 ERA.

Around the Web

Shookman_Guest: Why do you feel that the Boston Media is making what Manny said yesterday a big deal? I feel as though if you listen to the WHOLE interview that what Manny said about waiting until next year isn’t what the Media is making of it.

Dan_Shaughnessy: i agree. i think it looks worse in print than it sounds on audio. and i think this might be a care where a guy working in his second language isn’t represented clearly. his Cadillac moment offends me far more than those words yesterday

That’s just one of the questions Shaughnessy answered in his chat today.

Joe Haggerty asks Manny Being Manny…or misunderstood genius?

Ken Rosenthal says that the old C.C. will need to show up tonight if the Indians are to be successful.

Tonight’s lineup will remain pretty much the same.

Stan McNeal of The Sporting News gives us a few reasons why we shouldn’t worry about tonight’s game. Specifically, Josh Beckett.

The guys over at The Big Lead give the nation a few reasons to root for the Red Sox tonight.

Josh Beckett is pretty familiar with the special guest the Indians will trot out to sing tonight’s National Anthem.

Within Tom Verducci’s “Five Cuts” we learn the origin of Red Sox menace Astrubal Cabrera’s name, and who Tom believes will win the ALCS MVP.

Darren Rovell has a conversation with baseball super agent Scott Boras.

SI’s John Donovan takes a look at the business behind the baseball playoffs’ pesky 8:21PM start times.

NFL

Jason Whitlock takes on the hip-hop culture in the NFL.

The Pats even dominated the Red Sox this past weekend.

Jimmy Kimmel had some things to say about him being banned from MNF. He also has a few suggestions of who may be possibilities to replace him.

Laurence Maroney addresses the perception that he’s “injury prone”.

Football Outsiders is back with its Week in Quotes.

The NFL Czar tells us that the Colts deserve to be mentioned in the same breath as the “darling” Patriots.

In his weekly Inside the NFL piece for Sports Illustrated, Dr. Z looks at the current running back situation in the NFL, as well as, a major shift in FOX TV’s football game coverage. Well, its not that major, I’ll let you be the judge.

Mike Tanier of Football Outsiders has his Week 7 NFL rundown.

ESPN’s Len Pasquarelli looks at pass coverage and where that fits in with today’s NFL linebackers. A New England Patriot is one of the few who Len says excels at pass coverage.

I would have to agree with Peter King this week with his picks. There really isn’t anything that surprised me, other than the score of the Bengals-Jets game.

Dan Patrick has found himself a new home.

Here’s a look at some of the story lines heading into Week #7.

Tonight on TV

While a majority of the area’s sports lovers will be focused on tonight’s Game 5 of the ALCS, the Bruins will host their home opener tonight at TD BankNorth Garden. Contrary to what I told you yesterday, tonight’s game will be played here in Boston. The game can be seen on NESN beginning at 7PM. BC Eagles fans will have a rooting interest in tonight’s college football matchup, when #2 ranked South Florida travels to New Jersey to take on 4-2 Rutgers. The game will be televised beginning at 7:30PM on ESPN. For the rest of tonight’s listings check here.

Media Morons Misrepresent Manny

Yesterday in Cleveland Manny Ramirez talked to the media for the second time this postseason, and as usual, a few boneheads in the media decided that some comments made by Ramirez were worthy of uprising and rioting amongst Red Sox Nation.

During the media session, Ramirez stated that if the Red Sox don’t win the series, that “it’s not the end of the world.”

That sparked a storm of articles and commentary among those in the media (more news media than sports media this time) who have an inflated sense of the importance of baseball in the real world. An example of that is this one on WBZ.com, which opens by stating:

Red Sox slugger Manny Ramirez is going to be taking some serious heat from Red Sox fans who refuse to lose the faith, for some comments he made Wednesday to reporters.

To back up a little, yesterday Manny Ramirez gave an interview to the media, his second of the postseason. He was asked about the situation that the Red Sox find themselves in and provided a number of quotes on the topic, such as these noted on RedSox.com:

(On setting the postseason home run record)
“It’s good, but if I would have known that I was going to be in the World Series and not have those records, I’d trade them in a heartbeat,” Ramirez said. “Who cares about the records, man? We just want to go out, have fun and win.”

(On whether his teammates can pick things up at the plate.)
“It’s going to happen. It’s going to happen,” vowed Ramirez. “We’ve got a lot of confidence in our teammates. They’ve been good all year round. Now, because we’re down, three games to one … that’s what we have to do. We have to keep grinding it out and see what’s going to happen.”

(On what has happened thus far in the series.)
“We’ve got a great team over here and the other side is playing great,” Ramirez said. “They’re pitching the way they should and they’re coming through with big hits. What can you do? You just think about Thursday and you just try to come and play hard and have fun. It’s not over yet.”

“We’ve been in this situation before,” Ramirez said. “We don’t have nothing to lose. Everybody’s playing great. We just have to go out and play the game and see what happens.”

Pretty standard stuff, saying the right things about trading individual awards for team victories, about keeping confidence in his teammates, about working hard, grinding it out, etc.

Yet, if you go to WBZ.com, or go to ESPN.com the video clips there show only the following bit from the media session:

They’re not trying to paint a certain perspective, are they?

They’ve managed to make it a hot-button topic over at ESPN Conversation, where, at 9:00am this morning, there were already nearly 700 comments from readers on this subject.

Locally, the sports guys have managed to pretty much keep it in perspective, with a few obvious exceptions. Dan Shaughnessy of course, only mentions the “who cares” bit. Michael Felger was screaming like a banshee last night on Comcast SportsNet that we only not killing Manny over this because he’s been the Red Sox hottest hitter in the postseason.

However, it’s more the non-sports people who are blowing this up. In my car this morning, I heard a news guy saying that this “isn’t Manny being Manny, it’s Manny being stupid. But of course, that IS Manny being Manny.”

Over at FOX25, the lead in to a segment on this story by former sports guy Mark Ockerbloom stated: “If the Sox are going to make it to the World Series, they need to win at the Jake. But are some of them already thinking about next year instead of the next game? Some questionable comments tonight from Manny Ramirez.” He then throws it to Butch Stearns, who actually plays the voice of reason on this one, urging the viewers to listen to all that Manny has to say.

This morning’s FOX25 newscast went back to the outrage theme, demanding to know what message this would send to the younger players on the team. How about to stay calm and not panic…Pedroia could use that message, no?

Last night on WHDH, the theme was also “outrage in The Nation” over Manny’s comments.

Scan the sports sections this morning, however, and you don’t find many feature articles on the topic, and none really “outraged” over the comments.

Bill Burt, also a voice of reason? For the most part.

Rob Bradford says that Manny’s comments spoke volumes for the whole clubhouse.

Joe McDonald simply says Manny isn’t worried.

David Brown has Manny putting things in perspective.

The lesson the Manny should be clear. Just don’t talk to the media ever again. It only leads to trouble. The front page of the Herald (news section) makes that clear:

manny_herald.jpg

To The Brink…

(Afternoon Links provided by Guest Blogger David Vidinha. Dave can be reached at [email protected])

After much discussion and debate about who the Red Sox should have started in yesterday’s Game Four, it ultimately didn’t matter because the Sox offense again failed to provide any help, and the starting pitching could not make it past the 5th inning. The fact of the matter is, the Red Sox now face a must win game tomorrow night. While the Red Sox will hand the ball to their ace Josh Beckett, the Indians will let their hopes ride on the big shoulders of C.C. Sabathia. Despite Sabathia’s poor showing thus far in the playoffs, he’ll be pitching with not much to lose, and in front of those towel waving masses at the Jake.

Before we get into this afternoon’s “Around the Web” links, here’s a look at some of the goods from this morning’s headlines.

Bob Ryan discusses how quickly things can turn around in baseball. Tony Massarotti asks the question “could the Red Sox get their own hitters out?” Jackie MacMullan discusses the ineptitude that is the Red Sox offense, well of course with the exception of Ortiz, Manny, and Lowell. Rob Bradford makes the case for Jacoby Ellsbury.

As I watched last night’s game I felt as if the offense was going to find itself, I mean they were facing Paul Byrd, right? Wrong. Enter Jhonny Peralta. Mr. Old Time Baseball says “bring back the Yankees”. Rockies owner Dick Monfort is rooting for the Red Sox. Within this Denver Post article, we relive the “Trade-No Trade” that caused controversy between the two organizations a few years back. Jerry Remy proves once again that when he shells all the website plugs, t-shirt giveaways, and Wally talk, the man knows his Red Sox. Remy speaking with WEEI’s Dennis and Callahan discusses his thoughts on last nights non-moves by Francona. Massarotti also has Beckett defending Francona’s decision to start Wakefield, and he looks ahead to the Sox do-or-die Game 5.

Well, the fact remains that the Sox will need to win three straight if they hope to sniff the World Series. I wonder if Kevin Millar is available for a pre-game pep talk? This years slogan will be “Score more than 6, Pitch past the 5th!!” I can see the t-shirts in my mind right now.

Around the Web

Here’s a story in today’s Washington Times about Larry Lucchino. The title is what really caught my attention. According to this article in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette, one of the Red Sox coaches may be in line for the Pirates managerial position. Dayn Perry at Fox Sports discusses how the Indians have managed to lead the series 3-1, even though their two “aces” have given up a combined 12 runs.

Baseball Musings David Pinto discusses the Indians knack for turning two.

Nick Cafardo had the duty of performing today’s chat.

Tom Verducci has some disturbing statistics about Tim Wakefield.

Dan Wetzel of Yahoo! Sports says that the Red Sox are either clueless or crazy.

Ken Rosenthal says the Red Sox rotation is in transition.

Verducci is back with his “Five Cuts”. In his cuts he gives his thoughts on the depth of the Red Sox bullpen and the TBS’ ratings for the NLCS.

Tim Brown has C.C. Sabathia discussing his next start.

SI’s John Donovan says the Red Sox have a history of comebacks, but not much else.

I think Jonathan Papelbon is dangerously morphing into Kevin Millar.

Dr. Z is back with his weekly power rankings. He also has a theory about Tom Brady. Also, the Jets have remained steadfast at 29th, well at least that’s second place in the bottom five. J-E-T-S, Jets, Jets, Jets!

Geez, I guess ESPN doesn’t like it when there’s actually someone who’s funny in the booth.

Ian O’Connor takes a look at the phenomenon of NFL head coaches being called “geniuses”.

The guys over at Cold Hard Football Facts have their power rankings.

Tom Brady was fined by the league.

Micheal Silver marvels at the Patriots reaction to T.O’s “Getcha popcorn ready” comment.

Uh oh, Patrick Crayton (he’s a Dallas Cowboy receiver in case you were wondering) missed the memo on providing the Patriots with bulletin board material.

Joe Sports Fan is back with the Media Circus.

Tonight on TV

With the Sox off tonight, we have one more night for Red Sox fans to lower their collective blood pressures before tomorrow’s Game 5. In the meantime we can check out the new look Celtics as they play their first “game” at home tonight. The C’s will take on the New York Knicks tonight live from the TD BankNorth Garden. The game can be seen locally on CSNE starting at 7:30PM. For all the rest of tonight’s action check here.

More Patriots Ratings Numbers

Sunday’s Patriots/Cowboys game garnered the following numbers on the local CBS affiliate, WBZ-TV:

HHs = 36 rating / 60 share

P25-54 = 23.6 R / 61 S
F25-54 = 16.7 R / 49 S
M25-54 = 30.8 R / 70 S

P18-49 = 20.4 R / 60 S
F18-49 = 14.6 R / 50 S
M18-49 = 26.4 R / 68 S

P18-34 = 15.7 R / 59 S
F18-34 = 11.6 R / 48 S
M18-34 = 19.7 R / 67 S

Nationally, the game set records for CBS, which achieved a rating/share of 18.5/35, the highest rating in the metered markets for a regular-season NFL ON CBS game since CBS re-acquired the NFL in 1998. The previous high for a regular-season NFL ON CBS game was a 16.9/33 on December 6, 1998 when Denver extended its unbeaten record to 13-0, defeating Kansas City by a score 35-31.

The game Patriots/Cowboys game attracted 29.1 million viewers nationally, making it the most-watched NFL regular-season game on a Sunday since November 10, 1996 when 29.7 million viewers watched the Dallas Cowboys-San Francisco 49ers game (FOX).

THE NFL ON CBS’s rating/share of 18.5/35 also is the highest-rated NFL regular-season game-to-date in the 2007 season on any network and the highest overall for a regular- season NFL game since a 19.1/35 (FOX; 12/3/06) when Dallas beat the New York Giants 23-20 on a last-second field goal.

The rating/share for the Patriots-Cowboys game peaked with a 21.0/36 between 7:30-7:45 PM, ET and also delivered a rating/share of 20.3/36 between 7:00-7:30 PM, ET.

The New England-Dallas game is the most-watched program so far for the 2007-08 television season and attracted the most viewers of any program since the finale of “American Idol” (31.2 million; May 23, 2007; 8:00-10:09 PM).

You knew this was coming this week:

SICover_102207_Brady.jpg

This issue of SI also looks at the Red Sox/Indians series, with the follow observation from writer Tom Verducci:

Indeed, a major shift in the outlook of Red Sox Nation was evident at the start of the American League Championship Series against Cleveland, when Boston found itself in a position unknown to the franchise since Babe Ruth last wore the uniform in 1918: the clear-cut team to beat. After winning a division title for the first time in 12 years, racking up the most wins in baseball (96, tied with Cleveland) for the first time in 61 years and rolling to three straight postseason wins over the Los Angeles Angels by a combined score of 19-4, with sluggers David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez basically kicking sand in the face of any pitcher who dared get in their way (they would reach base 33 times in their first 44 tries this October), Boston looked every bit the heavy.

But just when the Nation looked to be swimming in milk and honey last Saturday night — having won Game 1 10-3, Boston was 12 outs away from another victory as it pursued its second pennant in four seasons — the Indians restored some old-time angst to Boston and some much-needed tension to a too-placid postseason. Cleveland scratched out the tying run in the sixth inning and later, with seven runs in the 11th, turned an extra-inning game into a blowout win, 13-6. For the first time in six series tries this postseason a team would not jump out to a two-games-to-none lead. That momentum carried over to Monday’s Game 3 in Cleveland, where the Indians held off Boston 4-2.

Beckett-Beckett-Beckett!!!

(Afternoon Links provided by Guest Blogger David Vidinha. Dave can be reached at [email protected])

The Red Sox will look to even their series with the Indians tonight under the lights at Jacobs Field. With yesterday’s win the Indians are now 3-0 in this year’s postseason at the towel haven that is the Jake. Despite the ground swell from certain contingents of Red Sox nation, as well as the media to start Josh Beckett, manager Terry Francona will hand the ball to the veteran knuckleballer “Bill Wakefield”, err – Tim Wakefield.

Wakefield who has not pitched in this year’s postseason due to back problems, will make his first start since September 29th. Wakefield who sports an impressive 4-0 2.61 ERA in four career LCS starts will look to silence Cleveland’s bats. Also a win tonight will serve to take the momentum back in the Sox direction and guarantee a return to the friendly confines of the Fens.

Opposing Wakefield will be grizzled veteran Paul Byrd. Byrd who’s coming off of the ALDS clinching victory against the Yankees last Monday, steps to the mound with a career 4-2 record vs the Sox. Included in that 4-2 record is a victory over the Sox on May 30th in which Byrd yielded two runs over six innings.

The game will begin one hour later than last night’s start time, with Fox’s coverage scheduled to begin at 8PM. Fox sideline reporter and baseball writer Ken Rosenthal says the Sox babying of Beckett now may cost them the playoffs, saying that “pitchers are all but sealed in bubble wrap”.

Despite the statistics of pitchers pitching on three days rest, Rosenthal is not a man alone on an island. Yahoo! Sports Dan Wetzel feels the same way, making his case to Terry Francona about pitching Beckett in Game Four. Stan McNeal over at the Sporting News gives his three reasons for Beckett over Wake. Even the NY Post’s Mike “Dropi Papi” Vaccaro gives us his take. Dan Lamothe pleads his case to Tito.

Sports Illustrated’s Tom Verducci says that pitching coaches should look away as tonight’s two starters both “non-conformists” and employ rather awkward styles of pitching. Tom also says Dice-K has hit a wall. Howard Bryant picks up where Verducci left off saying that while Dice-K didn’t exactly melt down, a la Wang, he managed to exhaust himself and his manager. Check out this Insider Edge “Pitcher Command Report”, in it we see that our eyes weren’t fooling us watching Dice-K pitch last night. Pay attention to how many “major miss spots” he had last night.

Jackie MacMullan had a chat today, you can guess what a majority of the questions were.

Around the Web

Somehow in Peter Schrager’s Power Rankings, the Patriots demolition of Dallas does not warrant a #1 ranking.

Charley Rosen over at Fox Sports has his Atlantic Division preview.

Peter King has his MMQB Tuesday Edition. Peter actually defends the Patriots from a disgruntled Cowboy fan who alleged the Pats ran up the score. Speaking of Peter, he tried and failed to defend himself over the SpyGate/Wade Philips he said/she said drama on his weekly appearance on WEEI this past week. Not only did Peter not really defend himself but he managed to answer every question posed to him, with a question. For as talented of a football insider Peter is, he sounded horrible in that interview.

Bill Simmons gives his take on the Pats running up the score, as well as other thoughts.

Mike Reiss has his weekly mailbag.

Since his season is now over, Derek Jeter is using his clout to fix parking tickets.

The Inside Track was all over Paul Pierce’s 30th B-Day.

Vic Carucci has his rankings set.

Cold Hard Football Facts re-examines their findings regarding “establishing the run”.

Raise your hand if you took the Rockies odds at the beginning of the year……well if you did, your a happy man.

Johnny Ludden of Yahoo! Sports has his Atlantic Division preview.

“Going from a day of Patriots on Sunday to a day of the Rockies on Monday is like stepping off of death row in a rotting Kentucky prison, and into an open grassy meadow with fresh air, dandelions, a clear blue sky, and 37 young, beautiful Brazilian females in the midst of an anything-goes orgy.” That is an actual quote from a “column” on AOL’s Fanhouse. The author is listed as none other than Gregg Easterbrook. I kid, I kid!!

Joe Sports Fan has a memo from God regarding Bill Simmons’ favorite comedian.

Sabernomics has a look at the crazy contract Joel Piñeiro just signed.

Aaron Schatz over at Football Outsiders has this week’s DVOA Rankings.

On TV Tonight

All of the Boston sports world will be focused on tonight’s ALCS Game Four. The game which will begin at 8PM is being broadcast on Fox. For the seven hockey fans left in the Boston area, there is a NHL game between Atlanta and Philadelphia at 7PM on Versus. For the rest of tonight’s action check here.

Dice-K Disappoints, Sox Trail ALCS 2-1

How quickly things change.

After game one of the ALCS, many of the national (and local) experts declared that the Red Sox were the team to beat in the postseason. Now, after last night’s 4-2 loss in Cleveland, the Red Sox find themselves trailing in the series 2-1, and send Tim Wakefield to the mound tonight, separately trying to even the series. With the Colorado Rockies now having swept the first two rounds of the playoffs while winning 21 of 22 overall, the World Series seems to be up for grabs at this point.

Dan Shaughnessy has the Globe cover story on the game, as Jake Westbrook shut down the Red Sox lineup last night. Michael Silverman says that if the Red Sox win this series, they’ll have to get it back to Boston first. Gordon Edes has the Globe sports section game story, which focuses on the struggles of Daisuke Matsuzaka, who once again couldn’t provide the quality start the team needed. Joe McDonald has Dice-K once again unable to come up with a big performance for the Sox. Jeff Goldberg has Matsuzaka disconsolate after another disappointing outing. Ron Chimelis has the Red Sox unable to get out of their own way last night. Paul Jarvey has more on the offense being unable to break through last night. Joe Haggerty has the thumbnail version of the game in the Metro.

Jackie MacMullan says that Boston’s $100 million baseball investment needs to prove that he deserves the role of a leading man. Steve Buckley says that while the Red Sox have asked a lot of Matsuzaka, he has given them nothing. McDonald has Terry Francona and Jason Varitek trying to stay positive despite Dice-K’s latest struggle last night. Bill Ballou says that we shouldn’t “send Theo Epstein out to buy citrus fruit any time soon. It looks like he got a $100 million lemon last winter.” Matsuzaka’s most vocal critic here in New England adds that Dice-K’s postgame statement “demonstrated all the insight of a Bart Simpson monologue.” David Brown has more on another less than stellar outing from Matsuzaka.

Sean McAdam says that the Red Sox have made their bed with the decision to go with Wakefield tonight and Beckett in game, but they may come to regret that decision. Jeff Jacobs says that Francona needs to alter his rotation and go with Beckett tonight. Alex Speier says that the Sox will stand firm with Wakefield tonight, and not be tempted to go to Beckett. Tony Massarotti says that the Red Sox need to show some guts now that they’ve fallen behind in the series. Nick Cafardo says that while the ALCS is certainly not over, the Red Sox sure look shaky. Jon Couture says that the Red Sox need to go back to controlling the strike zone. Jeff Howe says that the Indians have stolen momentum in the series.

Amalie Benjamin has Tim Wakefield getting the call to save the Red Sox in tonight’s crucial game four. Massarotti has more on Wakefield starting tonight on 16 days of rest. Massarotti also says that Francona will continue to maintain order with his bullpen and not shuffle things around based on game two. McDonald looks at the continued postseason struggles of Dustin Pedroia, who was 0-4 again last night. McAdam has the entire Red Sox offense going back in time to their midseason struggles. Goldberg notes that the Sox struggled to score all night, without success. Haggerty has Jacoby Ellsbury hoping for the chance to make an impact on the series.

Cafardo has a piece on Javier Lopez. who is hoping to put game two behind him. Buckley has David Ortiz‘s knee hurting again last night. Benjamin has Ortiz disputing an ESPN Deportes report that said he might have to sit out a game during this series. McAdam has a short note on the fact that the Red Sox weren’t thrilled with the work of home plate umpire Brian Gorman last night. Couture says that tonight’s game will be a battle of slow against slower.

Edes’s notebook says that the last regular season series of 2008 for the Red Sox will be in Fenway Park against the Yankees. Silverman’s notebook has Terry Francona insisting that Wakefield, not Josh Beckett, will get the start tonight. Couture’s notebook says that Bobby Kielty could get another start tonight, as he is 10-30 off Byrd with four home runs. Goldberg’s notebook reflects that tonight could be the last start in a Red Sox uniform for Wakefield. Chimelis’ notebook has Wakefield ready to contribute tonight. Jarvey’s notebook has Paul Byrd’s double-pump delivery a key to his success.

Jim McCabe looks at Cleveland fan favorite Kenny Lofton, who had the big blow last night, a two run homer off Matsuzaka to start the scoring for the Indians. Alex Speier has Jake Westbrook able to do what staff aces C.C. Sabathia and Fausto Carmona were unable to do – dominate the Red Sox lineup. Michael Vega has a look at tonight’s Indians starter, the rejuvenated Paul Byrd. Rob Bradford has a piece on how Terry Francona gave Byrd his first real shot. Vega also has a piece on former Boston farmhand Rafael Betancourt, who shut down the Red Sox once again last night. David Brown has more on the performance of Jake Westbrook last night.

McCabe’s notebook has Westbrook’s sinker working well last night.

Patriots

On Patriots Daily, Christopher Price looks at some of the top six game stretches of Tom Brady’s career, and how they stack up to his current blistering start to the season. He also has five things to watch for this week.

Michael Felger has his Patriots Report Card, and while he notes a few things that could be of concern, he isn’t really worried about them. Ian M. Clark also puts together his version of the report card. Rich Garven says that the Patriots didn’t come out of Dallas completely unscathed. Hector Longo says that the Patriots proved that it is a long step down to number 3.

Gerry Callahan says that the Red Sox could take a lesson from the Patriots, who set a great example in never taking a play off. Christopher L. Gasper looks at the Patriots putting pressure on the opposing team’s offense with their own ability to put points up on the board. David Heuschkel also focuses on the Patriots ability to keep the offense moving. Robert Lee has a look at Wes Welker’s best day as a pro on Sunday. Karen Guregian examines the quick evolution of Randy Moss into a Belichick-style Patriot. Jeff Horrigan says that the Patriots shouldn’t be hard press for motivation against the 0-6 Dolphins this week.

Gasper’s notebook says that Wes Welker could continue in the role of kick returner. Horrigan has Belichick beaming over the success of Vinny Testaverde this past weekend. Glen Farley dares to look ahead to Patriots/Colts in three weeks. Lee’s notebook has Donte’ Stallworth proving his value to the team on Sunday as well. Bob Halloran demands that we find a nickname for Tom Brady.

John Molori says that ESPN’s Keyshawn Johnson is no expert when it comes to team leadership.

Other

Celticslinks.com and BruinsLinks.com are going to have to bring you rest of your news today…

Monday Morning Roundup

The Patriots moved to 6-0 on the season with a 48-27 win over Dallas Cowboys at Texas Stadium.

Check out Patriots Daily for a complete wrap-up of the game, and your thoughts are welcome in the comments section.

If you missed the press corps clown who managed to ask questions of both Bill Belichick and Tom Brady yesterday following the game, David Scott has the audio of the attention grabbing questioning.

In Morning Rush, Michael Silver examines the transformation of Tom Brady into Peyton Manning. (but not in a bad way.) Tom Curran says that Brady deserves all the praise he gets, and more. John Clayton has Randy Moss gushing over Brady. Pete Prisco says Brady has never looked better. Don Banks says that Brady has already won the 2007 NFL MVP award. Rich Cimini says that Brady has been great, but the Patriots don’t have a running game, and “one-dimensional teams don’t win titles.”

Right. While the Patriots are first in passing yards in the NFL, they’re also 7th in rushing yards. They’ve had 412 offensive plays and ran on 202 of them for 4.2 yards per carry. They’ve had three games with a 100 yard rusher. One-dimensional, indeed.

Peter King’s Monday Morning Quarterback opens with a look at 43-year-old Vinny Testaverde’s whirlwind week, which culminated in the QB leading the Panthers to victory yesterday. King feeds his Brett Favre obsession this week by plugging a self-help book by Favre’s wife.

He also attempts to defend himself against Wade Phillips’ charges that King made up his quote about SpyGate being a “black mark” against the Patriots success. King uses the “you are going to have to decide who you trust — Phillips or me” line to defend himself.

I think this allegation taints King’s entire body of work as a reporter. The public deserves more of an explanation! They need to know whether King has been making up quotes for 20 years, and that all those great MMQB anecdotes really happened or not! The integrity of MMQB is at question here, and all he can offer is “you are going to have to decide who you trust?” The public deserves a full explanation of this! This isn’t going away anytime soon. – satire

Actually, I have no freakin’ clue WHO to believe in that situation. A larger point is, that even if Phillips did use the term “black mark,: King cherry-picked the quote for sensationalistic purposes for the HBO show, and didn’t give the rest of the spirit of Phillips’ remarks. Classy Mr King, Classy.

John Czarnecki wonders why Bill Belichick and the Patriots were “piling it on poor Wade Phillips and the Cowboys” yesterday at the end of the game.

“Poor Wade Phillips?” Please.

Here are the thoughts from the ESPN Sunday NFL Countdown crew yesterday, which included former Cowboys and Patriots coach Bill Parcells:

Patriots at Dallas – Who needs the game more?

Tom Jackson: “I think that Dallas Cowboys, because of the recent history of the Patriots, need it more. But let’s set the emotional tone for this football game. The New England Patriots are not coming to beat the Dallas Cowboys, they are coming to beat them up. They are coming to make a statement that they couldn’t make against the Cleveland Browns, the New York Jets, the Cincinnati Bengals, the Buffalo Bills. They are looking at this 5-0 team and thinking about blowing them out in Dallas, and making a statement about a lot of things that concern the New England Patriots.”

Keyshawn Johnson: “The Patriots need this victory. They obviously want to go 16-0. They want to send a message to the rest of the league that ‘we don’t need to cheat to win despite what coaches are saying across the league about our tainted three Super Bowls.’”

Emmitt Smith: “The Pats are walking around with this air of invincibility. And everybody is talking about how great, how focused and how prepared they are. This team is playing great football. They are setting an emotional tone today for the rest of the season. That tone is: If they lose, they lose that air of invincibility. If they win, they send a message to the entire National Football League that they are for real and that the AFC will continue to have dominance over the NFC.”

Mike Ditka: “The Cowboys really need this game. If you look at these two divisions, there are only two teams that have one win-a-piece in the Patriots division. There are seven wins in there and New England has five of them. It is not a very good division. They are gong to win that division. Dallas, they’ve got a tough division. You’ve got the Redskins, you’ve got the Giants and I think the Eagles are going to come on. They have to win the game.”

Bill Parcells: “The Cowboys need it more. The competition in the divisions is much stronger in the NFC East … Every win that Dallas can put up right now will serve them well. I don’t see anybody, currently, that looks like they can compete with the Patriots.”

Getting Inside The Mind Of A Great Coach:

Bill Parcells on his and Bill Belichick’s approach to facing a quarterback for the first time:

“Find out what the guy is doing best and who is he doing it with? Who are their main guys? Another thing will be – Does he have a security blanket? Does he go to a certain guy when the pressure gets on? Another thing you have to decide is: Do you want him in the pocket throwing and is he accurate enough to beat you when he’s in the pocket? Or, do you want him out of the pocket? Sometimes, when a quarterback is out of the pocket, that’s when all the trouble starts for the defense. These are all decisions that Bill Belichick has to make about Tony Romo.”

Parcells on what Belichick has to do against Romo:

“What Bill will try to do is disrupt the rhythm of the timing. I don’t think he’ll want him to get a whole lot of time. I think he’ll want him to pull the ball down and have to go to a second and third receiver.”

Randy Moss vs. Terrell Owens: Who do you want?

Johnson: “Randy Moss. I say this because you have to do too many things in your scheme to get Terrell Owens open. He’s dropping way too many footballs. His natural athletic ability does not take over games at the end of games. If you look, Randy Moss makes big catches at the end of the football game. I need that from my wide receiver. Third down, I need that. In the red zone at the end of the game, I need that. In all of Terrell Owens career, I’ve seen him make one big catch against the Green Bay Packers at the end of the game.”

Jackson: “If you look at it by the numbers, it is Randy Moss. If you look at it any other way, it is Randy Moss. Whether it is route running – intermediate, red zone. I’ve always said this: ‘Questionable hands, if you sell dictionary, that’s not an issue. But if you’re a professional wide receiver and you have questionable hands, then I can’t deal with you.’ That’s what T.O. is. He’s got great natural talent but he doesn’t catch the ball well.”

Smith: “Tom (Jackson), I’m with Keyshawn (Johnson) on Randy Moss. T.O. does not draw the double team. Teams do not fear T.O. as much as they fear Randy Moss. Last Monday night against the Bills, I saw the Bills playing man-to-man against T.O. and you will not see that today. Unless the Cowboys plan on bringing a young, 25-year-old Deion Sanders back to play man-to-man against Randy Moss today, you will not see that happen at all.”

Ditka: “This is the case of the lesser of two evils and that will be Moss. I tell you why, T.O. has proven it. He’s an expert in killing coaches and quarterbacks and he’s got the corpses to prove it. He’ll go off soon. I don’t know when, but he’ll go off.”

Reacting to the impact of Terrell Owen’s note to media in his locker room:

Johnson: “When you look at this and you go into the clubhouse, coach Ditka said it best – ‘Terrell is a fool when it comes to that.’ He loves the attention. He’s starving for the attention. Everything is about him. I’ve never once seen Randy Moss say – ‘Oh, it’s about me. I want to go to the Pro Bowl. I want to do this here.’ He’s (Moss) talking about winning championships. He went to the New England Patriots to try to win a championship. Terrell didn’t go to the Dallas Cowboys to win a championship. He went there to get money. It is all about him. You cannot do that.”

Jackson: “I call this the headache factor. I thought we came very close on Monday night to seeing it – a guy who can turn on you depending on how the game is going. Terrell Owen believes he is in charge of Tony Romo, he’s bringing him along and that he’s going to make him the kind of quarterback that he needs to be. I don’t believe they have that problem in the locker room in New England. I don’t believe that Randy Moss walks around thinking he’s in charge of Tom Brady.”

Smith: “There are two differences in these locker rooms. Randy Moss has a bunch of leaders around him and he’s doing a very good job of fitting in with the system that New England Patriots have in that locker room. They have a lot of veterans that can police themselves. Down in Dallas, it is a different story. You’ve got a lot of young players who look at T.O. as a legend because he’s been in the league for a while. They are looking at him as an experienced guy to lead them. They are looking at the wrong guy. The leadership definitely has to come from guys like Roy Williams and others like Greg Ellis who’ve been in that locker room for a long time. The Cowboys do not have enough leadership.”

CBS’ The NFL Today quotes:

Jim Nantz talked with Tony Romo about facing Bill Belichick:

Nantz: I’ve got some Hall of Fame quarterbacks for you: Montana, Marino, Manning and Elway. Those four, the first time they went against a Bill Belichick team, sometimes Belichick as a coordinator, 0-4, no touchdown passes, seven interceptions.

Romo: You’re obviously not making me feel any better going into the game.

Nantz: Did you prepare for this by reading some of his (Belichick) books?

Romo: I didn’t go out and get them this week or anything. But just in the past, I wanted to read about great coaches. I think he tries to think like the quarterback thinks. I think he wants to say, what does this quarterback do to allow himself to have success? If this quarterback has tendencies to do this or this, he’ll try to take those away.

FOX NFL Sunday Notes on the Patriots/Cowboys game:

Jimmy Johnson: “This is a bad matchup for Dallas. And as far as T.O. and the popcorn, he’ll have popcorn all over the field because he’ll be dropping it. New England is going to go into the shotgun and they’ll spread them out. Dallas cannot cover Benjamin Watson, Wes Welker, and Randy Moss and so it is a mis-match.”

Terry Bradshaw: “Even though all we hear about are the stars, most times it comes down to the guys who aren’t the stars. The teams that have beaten New England in the last two years have run the football and created turnovers and that’s how Dallas has to create a win today.”

Red Sox

There’s a little baseball game tonight as well. The Red Sox turn to Daisuke Matsuzaka in Cleveland tonight to try and bounce back from Saturday night/Sunday morning’s extra innings debacle. Seriously, how many TV sets turned off as soon as Gagne entered the game? Mine did, with 100% certainly that the game was over. Easiest sports call I’ve made all season.

Tonight’s game starts at 7:00 on FOX, which hopefully means it will be over before midnight. One note about FOX…did anyone keep track of how many times they cut out in the middle of a commercial to just barely get back to the action before the first pitch of the next half-inning. They did it constantly. The advertisers can’t be pleased with the

Sample coverage from the local papers and blogs at RedSoxLinks.com

Howard Bryant says that the Indians plan to show the Red Sox how Cleveland rocks in game three. John Donovan says that the heat is on Dice-K tonight in Cleveland. Scott Miller says that Matsuzaka’s first season with the Red Sox wasn’t as bad as some would have you believe. Bob Nightengale looks at Manny Ramirez returning to his Cleveland roots tonight.

FOX broadcaster Joe Buck weighs in on the series thus far:

“Cleveland simply had to win Game 2,” said Buck, who at age 38 is working his 12th MLB postseason on FOX. “By doing so they proved what many people thought coming in—that this is anyone’s series. The Indians had very good at-bats against one of the best ‘big game’ pitchers of all-time in Curt Schilling.”

The Red Sox roster may feature more household names, but as Buck pointed out, “The country is seeing how great some of the young Indians are. Grady Sizemore is off to a great start in this series, Jhonny Peralta has had some big at-bats, especially last night, and Victor Martinez clearly has Boston’s attention with his two intentional walks. And for Trot Nixon to get the game-winning RBI against his old team, it tells me that this one could have that special feeling of a dramatic series that goes a full seven games.”

Other

The Boston College Eagles football team is now ranked #3 in the country and BCS standings this week. Mark Blaudschun asks how long this can continue. Steve Conroy looks at the Eagles in elite company.

The Bruins will finally make their home debut this week (Thursday night) after a 3-2 road trip to start the season. Stephen Harris has the Bruins calling the trip a success. Fluto Shinzawa also has the Bruins pleased with being able to come home with 6 points in the standings. Get more Bruins coverage at BruinsLinks.com.

Steve Bulpett says that the Celtics did some valuable bonding on their recent trip to Europe. Julian Benbow checks in on second year forward Leon Powe. Mark Murphy says that this season Brian Scalabrine might actually get to play the role he was signed for. Jessica Camerato has a training camp update and also checks in with Eddie House. Check in at CelticsLinks.com for more.

Sox Lose In Extra Innings

The Cleveland Indians scored a postseason record seven runs in the 11th inning to win game two and draw level with the Red Sox at Fenway Park in a five-hour marathon game last night.

This was one for the bullpens as neither team’s starters made it through the fifth inning before being yanked from the contest. Schilling went the furthest, going four and two thirds before Francona called time on his performance.

Carmona only managed 12 outs, himself, before Cleveland went to their bullpen last night. The Sox threatened several times but the Indians’ bullpen held up long enough for their offense to come around though, and the offensive spurt in extra innings was more than enough to give Cleveland the win.

Red Sox

Jeff Horrigan has Gagne, Lester, and Javier Lopez completely collapsing in the eleventh. Steve Buckley says the Sox need to take the hint, and but Gagne on ice. Tony Massarotti says Nixon is a veteran leader for the Indians, and has been through nights like that before in October.

Gordon Edes has the curtain calls for Manny Ramirez and Mike Lowell after their back-to-backs might’ve been premature. Jackie MacMullan says the Red Sox offense just ran out of time as the bullpen let home field advantage slip through their fingers last night. Dan Shaughnessy has more on the loss last night. Nick Cafardo talks about Trot Nixon knocking in the winning run last night in extra innings. Kevin Paul Dupont has Schilling failing to step up and secure a win in game two. Bill Burt at the eagle tribune has Manny being better than he’s ever been.

Jon Couture says Francona’s postseason managerial record now has a blemish. David Brown has the Indians handing the ball to the veteran Borowski in the eleventh inning last night.


Joe McDonald
has more on the blowout eleventh inning from last night. Sean McAdam has Tony Mastny retiring the heart of the Red Sox order in the bottom of the tenth last night. Steven Krasner has Francona turning to Gagne, Lopez, and Lester after going through the mainstays early last night. Bill Reynolds talks about Gagne’s disaster of a performance last night. McAdam says it wasn’t supposed to be like this.

Horrigan’s notebook has Francona making it clear pulling Beckett after 80 pitches does not mean we’ll see the ace in game four on short rest. Edes’s notebook talks about the historic offseason Manny and Ortiz are having. Cafardo’s notebook talks about Scott Boras and the claims he’s been making regarding Alex Rodriguez’s value. Brown’s notebook has the Sox cracking pocket aces in two games. Couture’s notebook has more on the Sox offense.

Patriots

Head to Patriots Daily for all of your morning links, along with commentary

Jim Donaldson talks about the “Original 81,” Terrell Owens. Shalise Manza Young says the Pats will let their play do the talking. John Tomase says today’s game is viewed differently in Dallas and New England. PatriotsDaily has some Sunday links and a little rant on Shaughnessy.

Bob Hohler talks about the “boy wonder,” Tony Romo. Christopher Gasper talks about the differences between Moss and Owens. Eric Wilbur and boston.com has a roundup of how the pundits think the game will go. David Brown talks about the tight-end matchup in today’s game. Dan Pires says you can add Warren and Brady to the list of Patriots who have been fined: for not wearing their chinstraps. John Clayton discusses the Pats and Dallas in his “First and 10″ column.

Young’s notebook has pre-game analysis of the game today. Tomase’s notebook talks about the atmosphere in the Patriot locker room. Guregian’s notebook has Maroney still out against Dallas. Gasper’s notebook talks about safety Eugene Wilson. Reiss’s notebook talks about owner Robert Kraft.

Don’t really have time to get to the celtics and bruins links this morning so I’ll have to direct you to Celtics links and Bruins links for the day’s news.

Have a good one and enjoy the game this afternoon.

Aces Wild: Sox Take Game One

(Guest blogging by T.J Donegan; contact him at [email protected])

The Red Sox took a giant step toward claiming their second world series title in the last oh-so-many years last night, knocking Cleveland ace, and likely Cy Young winner, C.C. Sabathia all over town en route to a 10-3 victory.

On the first really chilly night-game of the year, the Boston bats stayed hot, delivering up 12 hits and 10 runs to land a pretty telling blow on the chin of the Indians’ World Series dreams. They were driven by the stellar work of Ortiz and Ramirez, who both reached base every time up. When your two best hitters do that to the other club’s ace, you’re not doing half bad.

Josh Beckett came into the game with a rather mind-blowing streak under his belt. Two playoff games. 63 batters up, 63 back to the dugout, none crossing home plate in the process. He’d add two more before Travis Hafner took him yard as Cleveland drew first blood in the opening frame.

Forget the streaks, the records, the shutouts, the burgeoning legend, all of it. You want to know what a young pitcher’s made of? You won’t figure it out when he’s got his fastball nipping the heels of triple-digits, when his curve looks like something out of Dante’s inferno, or when he racks up strikeouts like they’re going out of style. You’ll see it immediately after he gives up a homerun after having his you-know-what kissed for a week by the national media; when numero 66 puts one in the bullpen and the strikezone keeps shrinking, when things go wrong. Last night, things went wrong, and Beckett got even better.

Beckett was good. Damn good. He had all his pitches working and his curve was a living nightmare for Cleveland, letting him use it anywhere in the count. But what was really impressive about this outing was that everything didn’t fall his way, as it did against the Angels, and he didn’t let it get to him at all. On his last two post-season appearances–you may have heard something about them–he made almost no mistakes. Out of the 22 batters faced last night, he led 10 with first-pitch balls. Ready for the impressive part? Walks? Zero. Zilch. Goose-Egg.

He spotted 10 batters a free one and only Ryan Garko got a pass to first when Beckett pegged him.

Make no mistake, this is not the same Josh Beckett that walked into Yankee Stadium and broke 60 thousand hearts—he’s better. More mature, more refined, more controlled. Just better. Most importantly for us, though, is that on a night when Beckett was a B+ by his standards, he out-aced the Indians, the biggest obstacle left in the Red Sox’s path to another ring.

Curt Schilling takes the mound tonight to really try and put the Indians in a hole against Fausto Carmona, Fox has the game.

Still a ton of ball to be played this weekend, though, so let’s get right to it.

Here’s your coverage maps for the weekend:

College Football
CBS Early game
CBS Late game (Good news for you expat Pats fans, Dallas/New England have practically the entire country except the San Diego/Oakland markets.)
Fox Single
NBC’s night game will be New Orleans at Seattle.

Red Sox

Jimmy Golen of the AP has the game story from last night for Boston.com. Tony Massarotti has Beckett telling the Indians one thing with his pitching: not tonight. Dan Shaughnessy says the Red Sox have assumed their place as America’s team.

Jeff Horrigan is thankful at least one pitcher remembered there was a duel last night. Michael Silverman talks about the combined OBP of Manny and Ortiz this postseason, a mind-boggling .806. Steve Buckley says the Indians were simply outclassed on both sides of the ball. Gorden Edes talks about the Sox’s onslaught last night. Nick Cafardo also talks about the Sox’s approach to hitting Sabathia last night. Kevin Paul Dupont adds that Ramirez and Ortiz were great, but Lowell and Youkilis finished the job. Paul Jarvey has more on last night’s game.

Joe McDonald says it was complete and utter domination. Sean McAdam has Beckett giving the Red Sox more of the same: fantastic pitching. Jim Donaldson has more on Manny and David’s big night. Amalie Benjamin has Curt Schilling preparing to face Fausto Carmona tonight.

Bradford’s Blog has some quick statistical notes from the win last night. Bob Ryan’s Blog has his ALCS prediction (prior to last night’s game), in which he says Indians in 6…sort of.

Friday’s podcast of ESPN’s Baseball Today has Peter Gammons talking baseball and the ALCS (from about 5:00 onward) with Peter saying the Sox are at “the best level that they’ve been all year.” (Most of it concerns more than just Beckett/Sabathia, which we already know ended pretty well for us, but gives good insight on the whole series.)

Patriots

Jim Trotter over at Sports Illustrated says the Cowboys might be the team with the best chance to trip up the Patriot offense. Karen Guregian has Belichick being coy about whether Maroney will play against Dallas.

Judy Battista
at the New York Times seems to just be figuring out that Tom Brady’s having a good year. All the news that’s fit to print! (two weeks late) Christopher Gasper talks about the role the scout teams have on the Patriots’ preparation.

Guregian’s notebook has an update on Vrabel’s fine and some comments Wade Phillips made about Cameragate. Mike Reiss had a chat on Boston.com yesterday. Gasper’s Notebook has updates on the progress of Brandon Meriweather, Junior Seau reinventing his ancient self as a coverage linebacker, as well as the Patriots injury report.


ESPN Football Today
’s podcast from Friday has a preview of this weekend’s NFL matchups, with a good in-depth look at the Pats game. (Dallas/Pats preview is from around 9:30, if you want to just cut to that)

Celtics

Paul Pierce turns 30 today as the Celtics continue preparing to chase a 17th title, they’re 2-0 in preseason with an off day today. Their next game is this Wednesday against the Knicks.

Marc Spears has Kendrick Perkins eschewing stats to try and help the Celtics win a ring. Julian Benbow talks about Pierce injuring his leg in the Celtics’ first real practice at HealthPoint.

Murphy’s Notebook has some quick tidbits about injuries to Pierce, Perkins, and Pollard. Steve Bulpett’s Celtics Insider Blog has a wrap up of what he’s seen during his trip overseas with the team.

Boston College

The Eagles (6-0) will take on a woeful 1-5 Notre Dame squad this afternoon. This has all the makings of a trap game for the BC and their Heisman-hopeful quarterback, who head into the game ranked fourth in the nation and are expected to pile on an Irish program that has played pariah for much of the season. It’s always amazing to me how much pundits will trash a college team for not living up to the ranking that those same pundits handed out before even a single down was played. They really don’t like to be wrong, do they?

Regardless, Mark Blaudschun has a spotlight piece on starting quarterback Matt Ryan heading into this weekend’s game. Blaudschun also has an article this morning from South Bend about the Eagles and Notre Dame reversing roles heading into their game this afternoon.

ESPN has Scouts, Inc. giving their opinion on the matchup, which leans heavily in BC’s favor. (Insider Only)

That should do it for this morning, another big sports night on tap and the big game on Sunday still to come. It’s a good weekend to be a sports fan.

What a Weekend

(This morning’s links are from guest blogger Brian Beaupre. You can email him at [email protected])

Well, if you’re a Boston sports fan, this is about as good as it gets, with the Sox kicking off the ALCS against the Indians tonight in what should be an excellent, evenly matched series. The Patriots head to Big D on Sunday to face the Cowboys in a matchup of undefeated teams, and Boston College, fresh off their highest national ranking in over 20 years, squares off against Notre Dame on Saturday.

Red Sox

Tonight’s matchup between Josh Beckett and CC Sabathia has all the makings for a classic playoff pitching duel, writes Howard Ulman. Jeff Horrigan has more on the matchup between the top two AL Cy Young candidates tonight at Fenway, one of the best pitching duels in Fenway since Pedro vs. Roger in 2003 (aka Zimmer toss). Kevin McNamara takes a look at a different Josh Beckett in 2007 than the one we saw in 2006. Jeff Goldberg brings us back to July, when the Sox faced Sabathia and Carmona on consecutive days, where the Sox split 1-0 pitchers’ duels. Jon Couture has the Sox and Indians talking strategy about their approaches to facing the opposing aces. Bill Ballou hopes the middle of the Sox lineup hoping to come through in a game where runs will be at a premium. Kevin Paul Dupont also has the 3-4 punch of Ramirez and Ortiz being the key in October against good pitching. Tony Massarotti has former manager Mike Hargrove and (gulp) Dan Duquette touching on the effect Ramirez has on the rest of the lineup, especially when he is hitting on all cylinders. Jeff Goldberg has Manny turning things up a notch at the perfect time for the Red Sox.

Steve Buckley , who got his wish with Schilling in game 2, hopes the Sox sign Mike Lowell beyond this year, with Lowell wanting to stay, yet keeping an eye on the A-Rod sweepstakes. Krasner has Sabathia trying to calm himself down and locate his pitches better than in his first start against the Yankees, and touches on Trot Nixon’s return to playoff baseball at Fenway, albeit in a different role. Jeff Goldberg and Paul Doyle also touch on Nixon’s return to Boston, as well as the decision to start Bobby Kielty in right field against Sabathia. David Brown has more on the decision to start Kielty over Drew on Friday. Rob Bradford has Trot Nixon embracing his role as a bench player with Cleveland, and using his playoff experiences with Boston to motivate his current club. Nixon also evaluates the differences between his current and former catchers in this series.

Gordon Edes takes a look John Farrell’s childhood as the son of a commercial fisherman and brick layer, and how the lessons he learned from his father helped shape his success in baseball. Jon Couture discusses Farrell’s imprint on both the Sox and Indians’ pitching staff, and the transition he made from front office to field level. Mark Murphy discusses Eric Wedge, as the perfect fit for the manager of a young, talented player base for the Indians in 2003. Steve Krasner has more on Wedge’s evolution as a manager, and the adjustments he had to make along the way. Rob Bradford has Indians GM Mark Shapiro seeking playoff advice from close friend Scott Pioli.

Jackie MacMullan has an excellent, and long overdue piece about David Ortiz fighting through injuries and criticism to become the unquestioned leader of the team. Dan Shaughnessy has Jacoby Ellsbury, a native American of Navajo descent, downplaying any insensitivity regarding the “Chief Wahoo” mascot of the Indians.

Patriots

The gang at Patriots Daily weighs in on this weekend’s battle of the unbeatens in the weekly roundtable.

Karen Guregian has Wade Phillips foolishly issuing his game plan to try and neutralize Randy Moss, much like Crennel and the Browns last week, with Pats players embracing the challenge to step up. Let’s hope the results are the same. Shalise Manza Young has the Patriots prepared to face an aggressive, pressure-focused defense in the Cowboys. Felger’s Patriots Insider takes a look at the genesis of a friendship between the Kraft and Jones family, but how their management styles could not be on further ends of the spectrum. Felger also has interesting nuggets from Mark Schlereth on Tony Romo. While he prefaces his comments by saying he thinks Romo will emerge into a big-time QB in the NFL, Schlereth says prior to the Buffalo game, Romo was not focused;

“Too many opportunities to do a commercial. Too many opportunities to do a ‘SportsCenter’ bump. Too many opportunities to be ‘The Sunday Conversation.’ A few too many distractions pulling your attention and focus away from the task at hand. Peyton Manning does a lot of commercials during the offseason, but you don’t see him doing squat during the season, because that guy is completely focused on breaking down 15 games a week. There were a couple of real easy looks from a coverage standpoint, from a read standpoint, that Tony Romo just either ignored, wasn’t prepared for or whatever the case may be. He did not look as though he put in the proper amount of time to get ready for that game.” Strong stuff. You’re not going to get away with that this weekend.

Guregian has Wade Phillips digging his own grave taking swipes at Belichick, during the WEEK BEFORE THE GAME, both with comments to the media during his session, and to newly-appointed spygate detective Peter King. Shalise Manza Young has Gostkowski unfazed by the recent trend of timeouts called to “ice” kickers at the end of the game. David Heuschkel has both the Patriots and Cowboys gushing over Tom Brady’s work ethic as he starts his 100th game in the NFL on Sunday.

Sorry I didn’t have a chance to get to the Celtics and Bruins articles again, please visit celticslinks.com and bruinslinks.com for all of today’s links. Enjoy what should be a great sports weekend.