Fun Never Sets On The Boston Empire

(Keeping you current on all the sports news this busy Monday is guest blogger Bob Ekstrom, finishing what he started earlier this morning.)

Wow! When you’ve got home teams like ours, there is no limit to the quality of writers or writing that one can come across simply by sitting at a computer monitor. It is nearly impossible to catch every good piece, and that’s why BSMW is here with some more for you to peruse over a sandwich and a bag of chips.

Patriots

Dave Goldberg says yesterday’s conditions offered the perfect dress rehearsal for the post-season. Chris Price has neither rain nor snow nor any other slop doled by Mother Nature standing in the way of a 14-0 start. Tom King says that even though Mangini and the Jets left with their dignity intact, it was still a successful day in New England. Ian Clark is thanking the defense for this one. Russ Charpentier has Belichick setting aside his test tube of high-octane offense to win one in the trenches. And what would a NYJ loss be without the perspectives of Mr. Jet himself, Mark Cannizaro, who is as entertaining a voice as any emanating from the Empire.

In his weekly 10 Things We Learned Yesterday, Chris Price alleviates any fears over the Patriots’ non-existent running game and red zone defense, to name just two. Dan Shaughnessy relates the some tribulations of the do-it-yourself fan attending yesterday’s game. The Globe also has a nice gallery of the many records still in New England’s grasp over the next two weeks.

Odds & Sods

In case you spent the night catching up on household chores that didn’t get done during the game, you probably missed CBS’s 60 Minutes and may not know that the honeymoon is over between A-Rod and Scott Boras.

No matter. As Mike Lupica tells it, Dr. Boras is spending too much time on Mitchell Report damage control to be mailing Christmas cards to the Rodriguez residence.

Bob can be reached at [email protected]

The Handshake Seals The Contract

(This morning’s links are brought to you by guest blogger Bob Ekstrom.)

In addition to grounding Bruce from his return trip home, yesterday’s weather paired with an energized Jets secondary to foil Tom Brady’s own flight plans. No. 12 posted his worst stats this season, but the Patriots still became only the second team in NFL history to reach 14-0 with their 20-10 rain-swept victory yesterday at Gillette Stadium. Of greater importance to all of America was the handshake between coaches that followed, and Steve Buckley tells us not to deny it: we cared just as much! Lenny Megliola is bored and says it’s time to seal this case shut.

Anyway, there’s a lot of reaction to this one, so we better get started. And what better place than over on Patriots Daily where Scott Benson takes a Dylanesque rear view of yesterday’s twists, from a Jets team looking for respect to the enamel of Bill Belichick’s teeth looking for the light of day.

Christopher L. Gaspar says that, while the means were somewhat unexpected, the end was another ho-hum victory. Douglas Flynn notes that this victory came without its requisite pound of flesh. Over at the Herald, John Tomase offers all the slips and slides of an anemic offensive attack and wonders about the running game’s ability to pick it up should Mother Nature stay grumpy throughout the playoffs. His more-appreciative officemate Jeff Horrigan celebrates Lawrence Maroney’s effort in bad weather.

Armed with the best 12th man in football, Bob Ryan says the Jets really blew their opportunity. Dan Ventura has Jets players saying yesterday’s loss was no different than the rest of their miserable season.

Despite wrapping up home field advantage throughout the playoffs, Bill Reynolds says these Patriots won’t be letting up. Killjoy Tony Massarotti focuses on the cons of playing starters the next two games. Mike Reiss looks at his ups and downs yesterday, while Massarotti offers his best and worst. Not to spoil things, but seldom-mentioned punter Chris Hanson made both writers’ lists.

On the missing persons front, Robert Lee has the forgotten Kelley Washington coming up with his best game as a Patriot. Gaspar also applauds Washington’s contribution, which was good enough to earn him Ventura’s Play of the Game. Turning to defense, Michael Felger is glad to have Richard Seymour showing signs of his pre-contract extension hunger. Jennifer Toland welcomes Eugene Wilson back into the line-up in place of the injured James Sanders. Lee also has Wilson re-emerging with two big plays.

Shalise Manza Young has another NFL record tied when Wilson became the 21st Patriot to find the end zone this season. Rich Garvin leads off with Wilson’s feat in his weekly update on key milestones.

Celtics

Only in Boston does a 20-2 team have to settle for second billing, but that’s where the Celtics find themselves this morning after beating the Raptors, 90-77, in Toronto yesterday afternoon. Boston came out strong, grabbing a 10-point first quarter lead and never looking back. Steve Bulpett has Doc Rivers’ game plan executed to perfection with yesterday’s quick start. Marc J. Spears cites Boston’s top-ranked defense as the real key to victory.

While the C’s played their second game without the Big Three intact, Mike Fine talks about the other Allen filling in admirably. Bulpett’s Celtics Notebook updates us on Pollard’s rib, the Toronto nightlife, a leaky roof, and Ray Allen’s ankle. Spears’ Celtics Notebook has Allen projected to return to the line-up Wednesday night. Isn’t Boston big enough to find two original names for our beat writers’ features?

MLB / Red Sox

Anyone thinking that Andy Pettitte’s confession to George Mitchell’s charges would force Roger Clemens to cross over should probably think again, especially after reading Nick Cafardo’s caution that honor is not necessarily contagious, even among these joined-at-the-hip friends.

Another indictee taking the Clemens path over the weekend is old friend Brendan Donnelly. Rob Bradford has the former Sox pitcher denying steroids usage and that his non-tender by the Red Sox was linked to his inclusion in the Mitchell Report. At least Donnelly didn’t spend last winter preaching steroids abstinence to college kids.

Odds & Sods

It wasn’t all good on the football front this weekend. As the Pats climbed to 14-0, their draft position next April plummeted when Ocho Stinco dropped this game-tying touchdown on a fourth-down play with just over two minutes remaining Saturday night, preserving the now 4-10 San Francisco 49ers’ win. True to form, the three other 3-win teams proceeded to lose, along with all three 4-9 teams. Depending on tie-breakers, the Pats’ selection slot dropped faster than the pigskin through Ocho’s fingers.

Eric McHugh talks to a man caught in the crossfire of the modern-day Hatfields and McCoys feud between Foxborough and Hempstead.

Karen Guregian scolds us for throwing snowballs, conduct that led officials to the rare action of delaying yesterday’s game during the fourth quarter.

As always, I thank you for dropping in to start your week off on BSMW. Send thoughts, comments, insults – really, anything but snowballs – to me at [email protected] Have a great day.

The Artful Roger

(This morning’s links brought to you by our guest blogger, Bob Ekstrom)

Yes, it’s Saturday morning, that sliver of a window in which our sports media take respite from Hub-centric matters to engage in some Yankee talk. You won’t need to tune into WEEI’s Mustard & Johnson show today because we’ve got all there is to know about The Empire right here on BSMW. Like 22 former and current Yankees among the 86 players listed in this week’s Mitchell Report. However, at least one of them is trying to dodge Mitchell’s finger of justice. That would be Roger Clemens. As Don Amore points out, the Rocket has the most to lose with his entry into the Hall of Fame a potential toll. Beyond that, there’s his place in every discussion about the most dominant right-handed pitcher of all time, to say nothing of the purity of his only World Series ring received as a member of the 2000 Yankees team that has placed nine players onto Mitchell’s report, making them the Miami Hurricanes of this new era in Major League Baseball. While Clemens’ lawyer is on the same page, it looks like agent Randy Hendricks is already doing some damage control, pulling Rocket’s ‘don’t do drugs’ speech off the air. Hmmmm.

In the report’s aftermath, we have Jose Canseco saying the biggest name of all was omitted. Whether the beneficiary of a clean bill or oversight, Amore has A-Rod glad to be an unmentionable. As Stan Grossfeld tells us, George Mitchell admits to incomplete data. What do you want for $20 million, anyway? Nor are the Red Sox above reproach. Rob Bradford has Sox GM Theo Epstein lowering his bar with the signings of Donnelly and Gagne.

Elsewhere along the Mitchell front, Tony Massarotti reports on some collateral damage to Jason Varitek, while Steve Buckley has Mo Vaughn’s family caught in the crossfire.

Celtics

Over on the BSMW Full Court Press, Kevin Henkin has a “Celtics Christmas Carol”.

The Celtics improved to 19-2 with a 104-82 win over the Milwaukee Bucks last night at the TD Banknorth Garden. Once again, as Mark Murphy notes, a strong third quarter put this one away. Mark J. Spears recounts the action as this edition becomes only the fourth in franchise history to win 19 of its first 21 games.

Steve Bulpett has Tony Allen turning in a great performance starting in place of the injured Ray Allen. Scott Souza had things a little touch-and-go for awhile last night in the C’s first game without the Big Three intact. Bill Doyle has more on Allen’s injury in his Celtics Notes column. Murphy’s Celtics Notebook takes a look at The Green’s record-tying homecourt success this year, among other things. Lenny Megliola is sounding a little superstitious in looking ahead to Wednesday’s bid for No. 13 and the history books.

Patriots

Over at Patriots Daily the gang checks in with their weekly “Patriots Roundtable”. In Bill Barnwell’s Outside Foxborough he looks at the curious Ravens trade for Willis McGahee.

Don’t slam the gavel on Spygate II quite yet. The New York Daily News has Bill Belichick calling former protege and all-around scoundrel Eric Mangini a liar.

As for on-the-field action, the New Haven Register offers a collaboration contrasting tomorrow’s starting QBs. Robert Lee suggests the Pats are well-advised to stay grounded, given the forecast of nasty weather. David Heuschkel has fullback Heath Evans saying the weather won’t affect New England’s uncanny ability to hold onto the ball.

Odds & Sods

Curt Schilling gives NECN’s Mont Fennel a glimpse of how he’ll be spending his golden years. I don’t know about you, but Schilling in a Roethlisberger jersey seems more obscene to me than seeing LeBron James wearing his Yankees cap to an Indians playoff game.

Judging by Kevin Gray’s On Baseball poll of Granite Staters, George Mitchell could well take next month’s New Hampshire primary if he threw his name in.

At last check, 25% of New York respondents think the Jets will beat the Patriots tomorrow. One has to wonder about the composition of that white stuff covering their front yards.

Thanks for having me back again this weekend. Be sure to wish Bruce a happy return on Monday morning, when he brings you all the latest on Sunday’s Patriots game. Until then, drop me a line at [email protected]

A Look Back and Ahead

(AM Links provided by Guest Blogger Brian Beaupre. Brian can be reached here.)

The big news from yesterday is obviously the long-anticipated Mitchell Report, which named names (had to slip that one in there). Personally, the report itself doesn’t reveal anything to me that I couldn’t already figure out with my own eyes. Take my favorite victim of the report yesterday, Roger Clemens, for example; what athlete over the course of time gets stronger, throws the ball harder, and has the energy/recovery time to pitch well into your 40’s? You can throw Barry Bonds in the mix here, but you get my point. I was convinced Clemens and Bonds were doing something, not just because their necks were the size of a basketball, but because they achieved success at a time in their careers when that just doesn’t happen; nobody gets physically stronger and develops a quicker recovery time as they get older, let alone as they inch toward their 40’s and 50’s. I hate to throw blanket assumptions or “I told you so’s” out there, but did these guys showing up in this report really surprise you as someone who has watched baseball for years?

I think if this report had more current major league players involved, it would strike a stronger chord with some, including myself, as ~80% of the players referenced are retired, or approaching retirement, and can step away from the shadows of these details. One other thing that stands out to me is the recurring time frame for usage we see in the report, where, as we suspected, 2000-2003 is where the heavy activity falls. Not only is this the time frame, but you’re able to see the network of how these things happen, as it truly is just a bunch of buddies on the same team, who travel the same circles, passing on the information of a guy, who knows a guy, etc. Moving forward, I can only hope the present day major leaguers involved in this report don’t refute these claims and just admit to their usage, apologize, and move on. Any lame vitamin/supplement/I don’t understand how to read ingredients on a bottle excuses will just magnify the already tarnished image of players who will take the field in April with this hanging over them.

I really wanted to hype Sunday’s Pats game too, but as I open the links, this seems to be the top story. For me, the Pats pursuit of perfection and home field throughout the playoffs is more exciting than a 409 page snoozer, but as is becoming customary, I digress…

Mitchell Report

Bob Hohler recaps a crazy day for baseball, and highlights the past and no longer present Red Sox that appear in the report. Jeff Goldberg recaps the damning evidence that these players left behind, like checks, personalized post-its, etc. I guess I never understood why any of these guys would be so dumb as to leave a paper trail, let alone personal thank-you notes. Steve Buckley has an excellent piece on the perception of Roger Clemens moving forward, and the whether yesterday’s events will tarnish his legacy the way it has with Barry Bonds. I, for one, hope he gets the same backlash that Bonds has received, and hope that the same writers, media members, etc. who claim Bonds doesn’t deserve the Hall of Fame, asterisk, whatever, come to the same conclusions for Clemens. Sean McAdam also details the now permanent link between Clemens and Bonds, as both were driven to be the best and want more than they already had. Steven Krasner focuses on Clemens’ inclusion in the report, highlighting the evidence against him. Michael Silverman has more on Clemens being the most notable name in the report. Gordon Edes has Clemens’ lawyer somehow issuing a statement refuting the facts of the Mitchell Report, claiming Clemens now has “no meaningful way to combat what he strongly contends are totally false allegations.” Sure.

Dan Shaughnessy doesn’t see yesterday as a particularly good day for baseball, and wonders what good, if any, will come from this report when we look back on December 13, 2007. David Sandora has a brief recap of yesterday’s events and public comments. Tony Massarotti wonders what we really got out of this report, and digs deeper into the question of whether the general public (outside of the “keepers of the game”) actually cares about performance enhancing drugs, in any sport. Don Amore has another recap of the report and what Bud plans to do with it. Paul Doyle wonders what effect the report will have on teenagers’ decision to use performance enhancing drugs.

Now on to the Old Towne Team’s involvement in the report yesterday, which was minimal. Given the obvious conflict of interest questions raised about George Mitchell, one wondered whether no Red Sox would appear at all, or if they would be referenced as frequently as any other team to avoid speculation that there was bias involved. Yesterday’s findings sure didn’t do anything to subdue the criticism. Amalie Benjamin has the details on all of the former Red Sox mentioned in the report, including the email correspondence between Epstein and his scouts during the offseason last year, when they were looking into Gagne and Donnelly. Makes you wonder why they still signed both of them, right? Jim Donaldson asks that very same question in light of the email communication revealed in the report. Jeff Goldberg has more on the communication between the Sox baseball ops department mentioned in the report, and has the Sox denying they were leaked Donnelly’s details before hearing about the report. Joe McDonald runs down the complete list of players with Red Sox ties mentioned in the report. Rob Bradford details the emails and focuses on the presence of Gagne and Donnelly in the report.

Jose Canseco, the man who was on the soap box for years about steroids, was denied entry into Sen. Mitchell’s press conference. Duke Castiglione caught up with Jose for a little Q & A.

Ok, enough.

Patriots

Karen Guregian has Rodney Harrison stepping up his game at the perfect time for the Patriots. Jennifer Toland also has Harrison bringing his game to another level as of late. David Heuschkel has the Patriots practicing outside in preparation for this weekend’s weather, and addresses what makes me most nervous about this game, in that poor weather becomes the great equalizer in a football game. Remember the Steelers/Dolphins game a few weeks ago? Christopher Price has more on the Pats preparing to play in some rough conditions this weekend. Guregian checks back in with a piece on what I think was the biggest injury we have suffered this year, Sammy Morris. Although Kevin Faulk has done a fantastic job in getting tough yards, and more importantly, blitz pickup, Morris was not only able to spell Maroney (as humorous as that sounds), but he exceeded our expectations as a downfield runner.

Michael Felger’s Patriots Insider discusses the good health the Pats have been blessed with this season, generally speaking, and highlights the importance of the defensive line with an aging linebacker group. Right on cue, Shalize Manza Young has the Pats placing backup NT Mike Wright on IR. Guregian’s notebook has more on Wright’s injury and what it means for the team moving forward.

Check out Patriots Daily, where Scott Benson takes a look at the rich getting richer with Pats holding on to the 49er’s pick in the draft.

Bruins

Yes, they actually played last night, I even got offered $19 loge box tickets. Not enough to drag me out to the Garden in that weather. Kevin Paul Dupont has a weary Bruins team falling to the Devils last night, as they played their third game in four nights. Steve Conroy has more on the Bruins unable to continue their hot streak with a win at home. Conroy’s notebook has Auld losing his home debut as did Tuukka Rask last week. Dupont’s notebook has the Bruins engaged in trade talks to improve their depth on the forward and defensive lines. Barbara Matson has a piece on Mike Mottau, a BC alum and Quincy resident, returning home with the enemy last night.

Celtics

Steve Bulpett’s notebook has KG leading the NBA in All-Star votes. Jeff Howe has a piece on Ray Allen discussing his stint with the Bucks, as they come to the Garden for tonight’s game. Marc Spears checks in with KC Jones, who believes the C’s and the Garden are back, claiming Wednesday night he was watching “beautiful basketball. I remember the good old days with the Larry [Bird] and Bill Russell teams and it’s back.”

Thanks for checking in with us today, this weekend’s action includes, but not limited to; Bucks at Celtics tonight, 7:30pm, Blue Jackets at Bruins tomorrow night @ 7pm, and Sunday the Pats take on the Jets at Gillette @ 1pm (finally), and the Celtics visit the Raptors at 1pm as well. Can’t imagine the ratings for that one will be through the roof. Feel free to shoot me any comments at [email protected], and have a great weekend.

Mitchell Madness; Big Baby Lends a Hand

(Morning links provided by guest blogger T.J. Donegan. Comments/Criticisms/Loving Admiration can be sent here.)

MLB is going to dump blood in the collective water when Senator George Mitchell’s report on the use of performance enhancing drugs in baseball is finally released this afternoon.

Speculation has run amok in the last few days about what will and won’t be in the report, but you can see for yourself (if you want to crank through the 400 pages) at MLB.com this afternoon, where it should be made available shortly after the start of Sen. Mitchell’s 2 PM EST news conference, with Selig and MLB responding with a news conference themselves later in the afternoon.

More and more, this report is looking like it has been a stop-gap measure by MLB, paying lip service to Congress. The fact is that this does not have a positive spin for baseball, with the general feel that this was an investigation done by the league, by a person who has deep ties to more than one club’s ownership, deep ties to Commissioner Bud Selig, and will not have the far-reaching effects some hoped it would 20 months ago. Without the windfall of Mets clubhouse attendant Kirk Radomski being forced as part of a plea agreement to talk to Mitchell, this report could just be 400 pictures of a brick wall.

One aspect that will certainly continue to get play in the coming days will be Mitchell’s ties to the Red Sox. Mitchell was a paid director for the Red Sox for years prior to the investigation and should resume that position in the coming months. This is clearly a conflict of interest, with many baseball executives expressing exactly that concern, and should have precluded him from being appointed for this job.

But quite simply, who in baseball circles doesn’t have long-standing ties to the league or the union? In a world where the World Wide Leader is owned by the same company that owns the Angels, where the same company owns the Boston Globe and part of the Red Sox, conflicts of interests are everywhere. Congress is the only group that can step in with the least prejudice and, with the full power of the law behind them, get at the whole truth. Yes, that’s a worst-case-scenario, but that’s exactly what’s at baseball’s doorstep.

Obviously it’s almost all speculation this morning but here’s a quick roundup of the opinion on what the report will contain:

Lester Munson has a Q&A (with himself, I guess?) about the investigation and its legal consequences. T.J. Quinn and Mark Fainaru-Wada have sources that state the blame will be “shared” by both the players’ union and the league office. For ESPN Insider, Buster Olney’s blog talks about the lack of closure of the Mitchell investigation.

Phil Rodgers of the Chicago Tribune adds that the union is likely to appeal any suspensions that come as a result of the report. Michael Petraglia sought out Curt Schilling of all people to get his opinion on what might be in the report. Gerry Fraley at the Sporting News thinks the report’s consequences will be minimal.

Jon Heyman files his opinion on the Mitchell Report for SI.com, saying he believes it could be a bombshell, although I don’t think he knows what the word “painstaking” means. Steve Silva’s Extra Bases for boston.com talks about Schilling’s belief that more than one big name will be revealed in the report, and wouldn’t be surprised if Red Sox players were named. Michael Silverman goes deeper into that possibility. Amalie Benjamin files her own report on the Mitchell investigation. The Big Lead wonders if we’ll see some extra names from the “1994 Amazin’ Squad” that Radomski worked as a clubhouse attendant for.

The only hard news about the report so far is the APs report that it will include the names of MVPs and All-Stars. All-Stars? MVPs?! Those couldn’t be Ken Caminiti, Jason Giambi and Barry Bonds, could they? The AP has gotten so sensationalist with their leads lately. I hope it’s someone nobody expects though, like Rollie Fingers. Him and his crazy ‘stache. Mitchell needs to bring him down a peg or two.

In other news, Theo Epstein’s wife gave birth to a healthy baby boy last night. Congratulations to the Epsteins on their first child, let’s hope he’s a five-tool shortstop, we could really use one of those.

Also, the Sox declined to tender reliever Brendan Donnelly, making the 36-year old a free agent. Amalie Benjamin files a short report.

Not much about the team itself today, with little grist for the rumor mill and most of the local talent focused on this afternoon’s festivities.

Patriots

Well what do you know? Spygate has life after all. Or as the immortal John Clayton said last night “[this issue] won’t go away because we won’t let it go away…it’s too good of a drama.” Nothing but the facts from the WWL, as always. It turns out that last season the Jets were caught videotaping at Gillette as far back as 2006. The Pats expelled the cameraman and didn’t report the offense to the league (which would certainly explain why Belichick has gone Ahab on the league this year).

Different circumstances, and it doesn’t mitigate what the Patriots were doing this year, but the team could still have reported the incident to the league and didn’t. I think the line in Vegas jumped 10 points when Belichick was told about that one.

The AP copy out of New York has been the only one run on the most sites, it sums things up pretty well.
John Tomase offers a little extra insight, however. Mike Reiss has the Jets not being punished by the league. So we just had to film from the stands, then? It should be noted that this rule is included in the NFL Game Operations Manual. That’d be the same Manual that also has rules regarding how much coffee and sliced oranges the home team must provide to the visitors.

Head on over to Patriots Daily where Dan Snapp looks at the Patriot passing game so far this season.

John Tomase stirs the controversy by examining Mangini’s comments about offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. Tomase then gives us five things to keep an eye on for the game on Sunday. Karen Guregian has teams actively avoiding throwing at Asante Samuel, when possible.

Jeff Jacobs at the Courant questions whether the Patriots should be all-day or all class against the hapless Jets. David Heuschkel tracks Brady as the reigns in several single-season passing records.
Karen Guregian says the Patriots shouldn’t concern themselves with the weather report for Sunday’s game.
The Herald also offers a quick rundown of how Tom Terrific has performed in snow games so far in his career.
Ian M. Clark has the Patriots ignoring the media circus. Jim Donaldson says it’s almost time for the Patriots to get their revenge on the Jets. Robert Lee has Belichick wary of the Jets and their firepower going into Sunday’s game, even though the scores shouldn’t be close.

Guregian’s notebook has the Patriots players mum on the revenge talk.

Celtics

The Celtics cruised to a 90-78 win over the Kings last night on the back of Glen Davis, who picked up 16 points and nine rebounds to take their overall record to 18-2. Three Boston Celtics teams have started 18-2 previously, with all three making the NBA Finals.

Davis got some extra press this week as well, as John Hollinger over at ESPN has him as tops in his Player Efficiency rankings of rookies. David Thorpe at Scouts, Inc has Davis as the #5 rookie so far this season, including the relatively ancient minor-league veteran Jamario Moon. For a guy who fell as far as Davis did, it’s been great to see him get even that high, although you have to wonder if he’d get higher if he was getting 30 minutes a game like some guys on that list.

Rajon Rondo also got some national media love with Sports Illustrated’s Ian Thomsen dedicating his Inside the NBA piece to the second-year point guard and how his game has developed so far.

Gary Dzen’s blog at the Globe has some good stuff on Big Baby’s impact last night in his first career start. Mark Murphy also talks about Davis’ reaction to his first NBA start. Jeff Howe talks about the win last night, as well. Steve Bulpett also adds a roundup of last night’s game.


Lenny Magliola
has more on the win and the reversal of the Celtics’ fortunes as of late.
The fourth installment of A Celtics Blogger Christmas Carol is also up at BSMW full-court press.

Bruins

The Bruins pulled out a 5-3 win over the Atlanta Thrashers last night. Head on over to Bruins Links to get your roundup of the day’s media reaction.

That’ll wrap it up for me today. Expect a lot of afternoon activity on your favorite blogs from around the web as the report drops later today. Have a good one.

Is it Sunday yet?

(Morning Links provided by Guest Blogger, Brian Beaupre. Brian can be reached here)

Well, it’s Wednesday and already the Spygate, handshake, student/teacher talk is at it’s most nauseating. Need proof? Listen to WEEI today for hours of riveting semantics about whether the Pats actually cheated or just “misinterpreted” the rules. I thought that 5-6 weeks of discussing Camera-gate was enough to draw some conclusions, and it would be nice to discuss the actual game this weekend, given we have higher goals than just beating Mangini. Does the impending bad weather serve as the great equalizer in a game that would be dominated by the Pats on a clean track? Does the Jet’s successful defensive game plan from last year come into play this year? Would be nice to talk about these things…but I’ve been around here long enough to know that’s not how it works. I digress…

Patriots

Mike Reiss discusses the transformation the Pats’ offense has undergone since the days of playing against the Rams in the Super Bowl back in 2001, where the Pats were a grind-it-out team, especially when the weather got worse, and now Brady operates almost exclusively out of the shotgun. John Tomase statistically breaks down Brady’s soon-to-be record setting season. Shalize Manza Young reflects back on the camera circumstances from September, and the ramifications Mangini’s actions have had on both past and future Patriots performances. Jeff Goldberg takes things a bit further into the past, and gives us a brief history lesson about the Jets/Patriots rivalry. Speaking of blasts from the past, Tony Massarotti has a great piece on Drew Bledsoe, and his appreciation for what the Pats and Tom Brady have accomplished thus far. Say what you will about old Drew, but he is a class act and won’t be forgotten by this Pats fan. Although it sounds like Tony didn’t even want to touch his relationship with Belichick. Maybe Ron Borges could chime in with some off-the-record nuggets for us? Dan Shaughnessy also takes a look at the bitter past between Belichick and Mangini, and tells us not to believe the downplaying of the past by BB and Co.

Mike Reiss’ notebook discusses Richard Seymour’s health (remember him?), another Patriots record of turnover differential in sight, Pro Bowl voting, and what seems to be going overlooked in this game on Sunday; that the Pats can clinch the #1 seed and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs with a win this weekend. I remember last season when guys like Reiss and Mike Felger made great points about how important home field and a bye were in the playoffs for the Pats during their Super Bowl runs. Funny how they have achieved this goal again, only to be overshadowed by the pursuit of a perfect season…which I’m clearly ok with, but let’s give credit where credit is due for preventing a travel schedule like the one they had last year.

Over at Patriots Daily, Dan Snapp takes a look at the Patriots inclination to pass more, and whether this pass happy approach can remain effective.

Celtics

Peter May has an interesting look at Doc Rivers sharing the same passion for a championship as his players, never having won one as a player or coach. Mark Murphy has players and coaches reflecting that this season’s crowd at the Garden reminds some people of the old days. Peter May has a look at the Celtics one game away from tying the 1984-1985 franchise record for consecutive home victories to open the season, 12-0. Jeff Horrigan discusses assistant coach Clifford Ray’s influence on the young big men, Glen Davis and Kendrick Perkins.

Speaking of Kendrick Perkins, Murphy’s notebook details how he injured his foot assembling his bed at home. May’s notebook has more on the bizarre injury.

Bruins

Fluto Sinzawa has a piece on backup goalie Alex Auld and his strong performance against the Sabres on Monday. Stephen Harris has the Bruins talking about their confidence in each other to start the season, and they expected to be as good as their second-best record in the Eastern Conference suggests. That was not a misprint; your Boston Bruins have the second best record in the Eastern Conference. Shinzawa’s notebook discusses the improvement of young Milan Lucic. Harris’ notebook details the struggles of Manny Fernandez, as well as the potential absences and returns for tonight’s game against the Thrashers.

Red Sox

Well when was the last time you saw the Sox this far down on the sports radar in Boston? The Johan Santana talks continue, and amidst reports that the Twins and Sox revived their conversations this weekend, Michael Silverman reiterates, well, that not much has happened since the end of the winter meetings. Gotta love this hot stove stuff, eh? As much as the Twins want to posture about the deals for Santana as insufficient, you would have to believe they will move him somewhere, as I’d like to think the delay is more a product of a brand new GM, who got a lot of difficult decisions put on his plate early in his tenure. I am glad, however, to hear the Sox holding the line with their offer, as much as it hurts to hear the Twins have now shifted their focus to Ellsbury. By the way, $125 for an autograph from Ellsbury? The same week he signs with Scott Boras? Na, can’t be any correlation between the two.

Joe Haggerty over at the Metro caught up with former Sox outfielder Gabe Kapler.

Thanks for checking us out this morning, check out the Celtics tonight at home hosting the Sacramento Kings at 7:30 pm, and the Bruins take on the Thrashers in Atlanta at 7pm. Feel free to shoot me any comments at [email protected]

A Full Week For Smith

(Afternoon links are again brought to you by today’s guest blogger, Bob Ekstrom)

Turns out that Steelers’ safety Anthony Smith didn’t get his fill of making a fool of himself during the week. Earlier this morning, Tom Brady told WEEI’s Dennis & Callahan that Smith was jawing at him throughout yesterday’s pre-game warm-ups.

Getting to some new business, Scott Benson shares some thoughts on the Patriots’ convincing win against the Pittsburgh Steelers, who didn’t measure up to all their yapping. Ron Hobson has more on the Patriots’ defense rising to the occasion. Ian Clark seems to enjoy the fact that Smith was the game’s big goat, while Tom King hopes Smith is out of the prophecy business.

Michael Felger has Randy Moss bouncing back after getting muscled around for the last two games. Rich Garven shares his take on Moss playing instead of talking. In her notebook, Karen Guregian has Wes Welker reacting to his ball-hogging five consecutive catches to ice this one. She also has Logan Mankins getting to know Steelers’ LB James Harrison during some down time, while Felger awards Mankins’ wrestling match his best scrap of the day. John Tomase recounts the Gaffney TD, which he awards as his best play of the day. Glen Farley leads off his Patriots Notebook with another angle on the double-lateral pass to Gaffney.

One of my favorite stats each week is Mike Reiss’s rundown on offensive participation. Conspicuous by his absence yesterday is – you guessed it – Lawrence Maroney, who was on the field for a mere 18 snaps. I’ve said this before, but that 49ers pick looks bigger by the week.

Celtics

Steve Bulpett’s notebook takes note of the C’s success in back-to-back games this season.

Odds & Sods

It’s nice to have you back from lunch but tell me, was it as good as Will McDonough’s?

Michael Vick won’t be enjoying lunch anytime in the next 23 months. His sentence was handed down a little while ago, and consider the book duly thrown.

Again, thank you for tuning in. Drop me a line sometime at [email protected]

Hey Mercury, Spare A Cup Of Sugar?

(Morning Links provided by Guest Blogger, Bob Ekstrom. Send Bob feedback here)

We took that turnpike exit ramp miles back. We’ve driven up and down the streets of town and, with yesterday’s impressive 34-13 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers and the top defense in football, we bought the place next door, even if we don’t like the neighbors much. We’re just waiting for closing day so we were wondering: can we can come knocking now?

As the Patriots’ passing attack and bend-but-don’t-break defense pushed Mercury Morris and Don Shula one step closer to forgotten, Tom Brady’s 399-yard, 4 TD performance did the same to the statistical legacy of Dan Marino and Peyton Manning. Brady is now 989 yards and five TDs short of single-season passing yardage and TD pass records, respectively. In a day where negatives are hard to find, Randy Moss let his chance to eradicate Jerry Rice’s single-season TD reception record slide through his hands with a fourth quarter end zone drop, his second in two games.

Let’s open with some nice game accounts by Christopher L. Gaspar and Karen Guregian, who have the Patriots putting their money where the Steelers’ mouths are. Did Karen just call me a worrywort? Jennifer Toland says Bill Belichick’s 100th win in New England was a significant one. David Heuschkel has the Patriots less than intimidated by Pittsburgh’s shredded curtain defense. Christopher Price says it’s good to have the old Pats back. He also offers us ten things we learned in the blow-out win. Mike Reiss gives us an accounting of the game’s ups and downs. From the other sideline, the Steel City says Tom Brady is as good as gold. Perhaps they’re learning that a little silence can be as well.

The never superstitious Lenny Megliola puts the Pats’ regular season at 16-0 now that they’ve gotten by No. 13. Dan Shaughnessy also fast-forwards to 16-0 and warns of a heavy dose of Morris to come. Jeff Horrigan notes the continued improvement of Jabar Gaffney. Robert Lee was impressed with the Patriots’ red zone defense, while Horrigan says Rodney Harrison was in the red all day. Toland has more on Harrison’s big play.

With the Patriots now one of only five NFL teams to see 13-0, it seems almost sacrilegious to elevate a fool like Steelers’ safety Anthony Smith from sideshow to main act but it’s the sidebar de jour, especially when he tells Jackie MacMullan that yes, he’d do it again! John Tomase sure isn’t feeling too sorry for him this morning. Douglas Flynn says Smith’s shoddy play took over where his guarantee fell short. Jim Donaldson captures some less than remorseful post-game damage control, while Shalise Manza Young has Smith a little short in the sausage department.

Flynn has Brady admitting that his third quarter gadget play TD pass to Jabar Gaffney doesn’t work against the scout team, but then again, Moss never sold it with a drop. Heuschkel says that one was put in to send the Steelers’ mouthy defense a message.

Celtics / Bruins

A quiet day on the winter front, as both teams enjoyed off-days following Saturday night victories.

Jim Fenton reminds us that, despite The Green’s 17-2 start, it’s too early to think about spring before most of us have begun Christmas shopping.

Marc J. Spears catches up with Paul Pierce’s boyhood idol, Earvin “Magic” Johnson, who thinks the C’s have what it takes this year.

Red Sox

You’d have to go back to 1626 when the Dutch picked up Manhattan for $24 to find a better deal than the weekend signing of Eric Gagne by the Brewers for one year and $10 million. After all, as Michael Silverman points out, the Sox actually got a draft pick out of it.

Gordon Edes offers an interview out of Japan in which Hideki Okajima found his transition a time of anxiety and discomfort. I can hardly wait for 2008 when he’s more comfortable.

Odds & Sods

In case you missed it, have a listen for yourself as Mercury spends 19 excruciating minutes on Boston airwaves Friday with WEEI’s Dennis & Callahan show. If you listen to nothing else, you have to hear Morris’s distinction between “unbeaten” and “undefeated”, which starts at the 2:30 mark.

Bill Reynolds checks in on the kid next door, BC’s Jamie Silva.

Thanks for letting me get your busy week started here on BSMW. I’m Eks and, as always, you’re welcome to share your thoughts with me here. See you this afternoon.

Passing Up The Oranges

After taking an early 10-0 lead yesterday in Jacksonville against the No. 6 Hokies of Virginia Tech, No. 11 Boston College went on to lose the ACC Championship, 30-16, and a trip to the Orange Bowl in the process. The complexion of this game may have been radically different if not for blocks of two first-half BC kick attempts – a 32-yard field goal and an extra point returned for a two-point conversion by the Hokies – that resulted in an unfavorable six-point swing. Despite holding the ball for 70% of the first half and gaining 14 more first downs than the Hokies at one point, the Eagles went to the locker room tied, but not before Coach Jagodzinski threw long snapper Mike McLaughlin under the bus in front of a national television audience on his way. Oucccch!

An eye for an eye. That’s how Steve Conroy sums up Virginia Tech’s theft of this one in a reversal of the Eagles’ last-minute victory in Blacksburg earlier this season. Bob Ryan prefers to think of it as a market correction.

Steve Buckley has the Eagles as Boston’s quintessential under-achievers who missed an opportunity to alter their image with an Orange Bowl appearance. Mark Blaudschun has the Eagles dissappointed with what could have been.

Michael Vega recalls previous games in which the Matt Ryan Magic came up short. Buckley talks with senior safety Jamie Silva, who was involved with seemingly every play on the field, not to mention every pan of ABC’s cameras. Conroy’s notebook says that BC’s poor traveling reputation may well land them in the Champs Bowl in Orlando.

UMass Minutemen

In the other big collegiate gridiron contest of local interest yesterday, No. 7 Massachusetts fell to No. 4 Southern Illinois, 34-27, in their Football Championship Subdivision quarterfinal matchup. From our western-most reaches, Mike Marzelli says it was a matter of too little, too late for the Minutemen.

Bruins

With B.C. Eagles action on hold until the New Year, the decreased supply may vault the Bruins back into the limelight. If so, yesterday’s 4-1 loss in Tampa Bay is an inauspicious start. Fluto Shinzawa has the Lightning’s Vincent Lecavalier a one-man wrecking ball, figuring in on all four Tampa Bay goals. Stephen Harris grades the B’s effort last night as an ‘L’ in more ways than one.

Sinzawa recounts the infusion of energy from Providence. Harris also admires the efforts of the Nokelainen line in a losing effort.

Patriots

One of the costs of fame is never seeing your team play on Sunday afternoons. As the Patriots sleep in late at a hotel overlooking the Inner Harbor, head on over to Patriots Daily for your complete Sunday Links.

Red Sox

When no news is news, you know this is still a baseball town. In true Seinfeld fashion, Michael Silverman reports nothing to report on the potential acquisition of Johan Santana, but does offer a nice rundown of other Red Sox transactions consummated yesterday. However, Sean McAdam says a deal could be struck before winter meetings begin on Monday.

News out of The Empire has the Twins less than wowed by the Yankees’ inclusion of Philip Hughes in a deal for Santana. When Hughes’ inclusion was announced, many in Red Sox Nation – including myself – justifiably thought that was in addition to Ian Kennedy, but not so say the Yankees, bringing arrogance to a new level in the process. And, while Epstein & Co. remain calm and collected, Don Amore has the Bombers in a full press panic for Santana’s services. Silverman compares the Santana sweepstakes to a similar battle for Pedro Martinez a decade earlier. Look how that changed the dynamic between Boston and New York.

Nick Carfado gives us a rundown of what to expect in Nashville, while Gordon Edes recounts some winters of past contentment.

Odds and Sods

Thirteen high school football champions were crowned throughout the Bay State yesterday. Here are the results for the seven Eastern Massachusetts and six Central / Western Massachusets Super Bowls. Congrats to all, both winners and losers.

Now that arrests have been made, Shalise Manza Young says there may have been a rush to judgment concerning Redskins’ safety Sean Taylor’s past in some way contributing to his murder.

And just when we thought there wasn’t anyone more deserving of The Nation’s contempt than George Steinbrenner, Bill Madden introduces us to young Hank.

As always, send your thoughts and comments to me at [email protected]

This Is Our December

There’s no better place to break in the new month than right here in New England, and no better way than making BSMW your first stop. I’m Bob, but you can call me Eks. Since this is my debut, let me lead off with a thanks to Bruce and each of you for making me your alarm clock on a busy weekend of Hub sports. With big games on tap every day, this is truly our time of the year.

The Green

If you’re waking to a headache, no, you didn’t drink too much last night. You just watched the fourth quarter of the Celtics’ 95-85 win in Miami, when PGA went MIA. Pierce, Garnett, and Allen shot a frigid 20 of 55 on the night and watched a 28-point lead wither to seven with just under four minutes to play. Steve Bulpett says the C’s may have left the gym a bit too early, much like in their earlier game against the Heat in Boston. Marc J. Spears has the back-to-back games nearly taking their toll despite Thursday night’s cakewalk. Tim Reynolds sees Doc Rivers happy for a win against a determined Heat squad, while the Miami Herald’s Michael Wallace says Boston doesn’t need all that extra help the Heat have been providing this season.

Bulpett’s notebook has Heat coach Pat Riley not at all surprised over the Celtics’ 13-2 start this year. Changing direction a bit, rookie guard Gabe Pruitt relates in Spears’ notebook that he is all too familiar with what the Washington Redskins family is going through.

B.C. Eagles

From the rants of Ted Sarandis to the flush of Meterparel, The Heights’ cries for recognition have largely been drowned by the noise of pro sports in this region. Well today, Boston College will have its 15 minutes when a hush falls over all New England as the Eagles take on the No. 6 Virginia Tech Hokies for the ACC title and an Orange Bowl berth. Eric Avidon has QB Matt Ryan ready to vindicate himself after playing poorly for 56 minutes in his first effort against the Hokies’ defense. Steve Conroy has Eagles’ coach Jeff Jagodzinski relishing his team’s role as underdogs. Mark Long says the Hokies are up for the rematch.

Red Sox

The Santana pendulum may be shifting toward the Bronx yet again. ESPN’s Buster Olney reports that the Yankees are willing to throw Philip Hughes into the deal, a move that may just land them the 28-year old lefty. Michael Silverman has Theo Epstein doubtful anything will happen over the weeekend. Paul Jarvey agrees that Santana’s new address won’t be set until the winter meetings begin in Nashville on Monday.

Gordon Edes and Amalie Benjamin say the Twins have been insisting on Hughes all along. And, while Boston might have to up the ante yet again, Joe McDonald won’t be sorry to see at least one Sox player go.

Patriots

Even as T.O. spends his days dropping passes and taking popcorn showers, all the world’s microscope is still focused on Randy Moss’ effort, or alleged lack thereof. Karen Guregian has both Tom Brady and Coach Belichick taking time out of preparations for the Baltimore Ravens this Monday night to defend their beleagered receiver.

Robert Lee has Jaws Jaworski using that ‘B’ word again, expecting the Ravens to copy Philly’s success against the Pats’ secondary. Well, Kyle Boller, we’ve met A.J. Feeley, and you, sir, are no A.J. Feeley. Guregian’s notebook has defensive coordinator Dean Pees admitting to some breakdowns on Sunday night, while avoiding any hint as to how he’ll fill in for the injured Roosevelt Colvin. Lee has fullback Heath Evans grateful for another day in New England.

Odds and Sods

In case you missed it, check out Buckshot Bobby Knight’s cameo in his neighbor’s back yard. You just have to laugh at cameraman-victim James Simpson’s contemptuous pronunciation of ‘cee-lebrity’.

In Miami, the Herald is reporting that police have multiple confessions among the four men arrested in connection with the murder of Redskins’ safety Sean Taylor.

And finally, you put off that Christmas shopping until now, so what’s another day? It’s Super Saturday in high schools across New England, with seven Eastern Massachusetts Super Bowls hosted at Gillette Stadium and Stonehill College, and another six Central / Western Massachusetts championships at Worcester State and Westfield State. Dan Ventura previews the match-ups at Gillette. There’s plenty of good action at a venue near you and remember: the malls will be open all day Sunday.

If you’ve got thoughts or comments, or are just upset that the UMass Minutemen didn’t get any billing, please let me know here.