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Bills DT Marcell Dareus claims 4-game suspension is for missed drug test

08.18.16 at 10:38 am ET
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Marcell Dareus

Marcell Dareus

At Bills training camp on Wednesday, defensive tackle Marcell Dareus talked with reporters about his four-game suspension. According to Dareus, the suspension stems from a missed drug test — which contradicts reports Tuesday that it was for a positive marijuana test.

“I really don’t have much to say. Words really don’t mean anything now,” Dareus said after practice Wednesday. “It’s all action. And that’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to come back and do the best I can.”

Dareus missed the first game of last season because of a suspension for a violation of the NFL’s substance-abuse policy. The violation stemmed from May of 2014 when the Alabama State Police arrested Dareus for possession of a controlled substance and drug paraphernalia. Dareus also made headlines when he crashed his Jaguar into a tree near a busy suburban intersection in the spring of 2014. In April of 2015, the misdemeanor charges were dropped because he reached a plea agreement.

On the field, Dareus had only two sacks last season, but in September the Bills signed Dareus, who was the third overall pick in 2011, to a six-year contract extension worth a reported $104 million.

“We’re going to hold him accountable from here on out. And he’s going to hold himself accountable,” Bills general manager Doug Whaley said. “He’s got to take a step himself. And it’s got to be on him.”

Added coach Rex Ryan: “There’s going to be some people that are cynical of him. There’s going to be people that will never give him the benefit of the doubt anymore. But for the majority of people, it’s more of a show-me thing. And I believe that moving forward this young man will learn from this experience and become a better person for it.

“We all care a great deal for Marcell. We want to see this be a thing that’s behind him once and for all, that this never happens again to him.”

Dareus will miss games against the Ravens, Jets, Cardinals and Patriots. The Bills defense could desperately use Dareus because rookies Shaq Lawson and Reggie Ragland have suffered major injuries and veteran Manny Lawson reportedly faces a one-game suspension.

Corbin Bryant is expected to start in place of Dareus. Last season, Bryant started nine of the final 10 games because of a season-ending knee injury to Kyle Williams.

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Thursday’s Morning Mashup: Brazilian authorities take tough stance with U.S. swimmers; British organizers warn athletes after another alleged robbery at gunpoint

08.18.16 at 8:02 am ET
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Welcome to Thursday’s Morning Mashup. For the latest news, start at our home page or click here for the top stories from our news wire.

MLB: Red Sox at Tigers, 1:10 p.m. (NESN; WEEI-FM)
MLB: Brewers at Cubs, 2:15 p.m. (MLB Network)
MLB: White Sox at Indians, 7 p.m. (MLB Network)
MLB: Mets at Giants, 11 p.m. (MLB Network)
Little League Baseball World Series: Mid-Atlantic vs. New England, 3 p.m. (ESPN)
Little League Baseball World Series: Mexico vs. Latin America, 1 p.m. (ESPN)
Little League Baseball World Series: Australia vs. Europe-Africa, 5 p.m. (ESPN)
Little League Baseball World Series: Northwest vs. Southeast, 7 p.m. (ESPN)
NFL preseason: Eagles at Steelers, 7 p.m. (NFL Network)
NFL preseason: Vikings at Seahawks, 10 p.m. (NFL Network)
Olympics: Women’s volleyball semifinals, United States vs. Serbia, noon (NBC)
Olympics: Women’s basketball semifinals, United States vs. France, 6 p.m. (NBCSN)
Olympics: Track and field, 8 p.m. (NBC)


— Authorities in Rio de Janeiro continued their aggressive stance with the four U.S. swimmers who claimed to have been robbed at gunpoint Sunday while riding back to the Olympic village in a taxi, pulling two of them off a plane Wednesday evening and ordering them to provide testimony before they can leave the country.

According to ESPN, Jack Conger and Gunnar Bentz declined to speak with investigators upon advice from counsel, although the U.S. Olympic Committee released a statement saying the pair would “continue their discussions about the incident on Thursday.”

Ryan Lochte, who has been the only one of the four to go public with his accusations, told NBC that he has already returned to the United States as originally scheduled. Although Lochte previously interviewed with authorities, a Brazilian judge on Wednesday ordered his passport be held as well — a ruling that appeared to come too late.

The fourth swimmer, Jimmy Feigen, remained in Rio, telling USA Today Sports he was “just trying to give local authorities what they need or what they want and get out of here.”

“It’s a hassle,” Feigen said. “But I’m safe. Everything’s fine. Until this goes in a direction where I can see it, I can’t comment.”

Lochte’s attorney criticized Brazilian authorities for their handling of the incident.

“My opinion is they are trying to use Ryan’s situation to use as a scapegoat to show that things down there are not as bad as it looks,” Jeff Ostrow told ESPN. “These types of things have happened with other people … but they don’t take half the interest they do with Ryan.”

— Meanwhile, the British track and field team discouraged its athletes from leaving the Olympic village after a British Olympic Association member reportedly was robbed at gunpoint during a night out in Rio.

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Wednesday’s Morning Mashup: Frustrated Bills ‘disappointed’ with DT Marcell Dareus after another NFL suspension

08.17.16 at 8:08 am ET
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Welcome to Wednesday’s Morning Mashup. For the latest news, start at our home page or click here for the top stories from our news wire.

MLB: Red Sox at Orioles, 7:10 p.m. (NESN, ESPN; WEEI-FM)
MLB: Pirates at Giants, 3:30 p.m. (MLB Network)
Soccer: U.S. Open Cup semifinal, FC Dallas at Galaxy, 10 p.m. (ESPN2)
Olympics: Women’s volleyball, United States vs. Poland, 1 p.m. (NBC)
Olympics: Men’s basketball, United States vs. Argentina, 5:45 p.m. (NBCSN)
Olympics: Track and field, 8 p.m. (NBC)


Marcell Dareus

Marcell Dareus

— The bad news continued for Rex Ryan’s Bills on Tuesday, as veteran defensive tackle Marcell Dareus was suspended four games by the NFL, reportedly for a positive marijuana test. It’s the second year in a row Dareus was suspended, frustrating team ownership.

“We are very disappointed Marcell chose to put himself first, before his teammates, coaches, the rest of the organization, and fans through his recent actions,” the Bills said in a statement. “From ownership down we have made it clear his behavior is unacceptable. We will continue to take the necessary steps to work with him in order that he adheres to the policies set forth by our league.”

Dareus, a two-time Pro Bowler who signed a six-year, $100 million contract extension last September, previously was suspended for the first game of last season for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy, related to his 2014 arrest in Alabama for criminal possession of a controlled substance. According to Pro Football Talk, the 26-year-old will forfeit more than $3 million as part of his latest punishment.

Dareus apologized in an Instagram post, writing: With deepest regrets I want to apologize to the @BuffaloBills organization, my fans, my family and the entire NFL football community for the incident that led to me missing 4 games for the upcoming 2016-2017 season. I will not #makeexcuses for the events in question and will allow the process to proceed as is required by the @NFL; however, please know and understand I am committed to the game and am more committed to my #Billsorganization and fans. This temporary setback will only fuel my desire and commitment to bring #Buffalochampionships and the #SuperBowl. I ask at this time that you continue to #believe in me and I will continue to invest all that I have to bring honor and respect to the organization and my fans and ultimately bring #Buffalomafia what it deserves – a #SuperBowl! Thank you for continuing to support me – I will rise above this setback, as with every challenge brings an opportunity for growth and supreme #success!

The Bills defense also will be without starting outside linebacker Shaq Lawson (offseason shoulder surgery) for at least the first six weeks of the season, starting inside linebacker Reggie Ragland is done for the year after tearing his ACL in training camp, and veteran linebacker Manny Lawson reportedly is facing a one-game suspension under the league’s personal conduct policy. On the other side of the ball, running back Karlos Williams also was suspended four games for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy.

If Lawson’s suspension goes through, the Bills would have to pay a $250,000 fine for having three players suspended in the same year as per the NFL’s remittance policy.

— Police in Rio have been looking into claims by U.S. Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte that he and three teammates were robbed at gunpoint early Sunday morning while heading back to the athletes village in a taxi, but a police official told The Associated Press little evidence has been found and the swimmers — who Lochte acknowledged were intoxicated at the time — were unable to provide key details.

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Read More: Bruce Arians, Marcell Dareus, Ryan Lochte,

Broncos DE Vance Walker likely to miss season after tearing ACL

08.16.16 at 10:19 am ET
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Vance Walker

Vance Walker

One of the key cogs of the Broncos’ vaunted defense likely will be watching from the sidelines this year.

Defensive end Vance Walker is expected to miss the season after tearing his right ACL in practice Monday. He was carted off the field during 9-on-7 drills, unable to put weight on his right leg.

Walker, who tallied 33 total tackles and two sacks for the defending Super Bowl champions last season, was expected to become a starter after Malik Jackson left for Jacksonville in free agency.

“We think the world of Vance and he was having a great camp,” Broncos coach Gary Kubiak said (via a story on the team’s website). “We’ll support him through his recovery, and he’ll come back stronger than ever.”

The Broncos will look to replace Walker, 29, with new acquisitions Jared Crick or Billy Winn, or perhaps Kubiak will give rookie Adam Gostis some first-team reps as the season draws closer.

Walker was not the only defensive lineman to pick up an injury Monday, as Saints first-round draft pick Sheldon Rankins was diagnosed with a broken fibula after being carted off from practice. He was injured during a goal-line drill.

Rankins will undergo more tests but likely will need surgery. Fractured fibulas typically sideline athletes for about six weeks.

“Obviously you never want to see a player go down,” Saints coach Sean Payton said (via “Hopefully the news is good.”

The 6-foot-2, 305-pound Louisville product was drafted 12th overall after recording 58 total tackles and six sacks his senior year. He was one of many defensive acquisitions the Saints made this offseason to try to improve a defense that has been one of the worst in the NFL the past two seasons.

“You’re going to face adversity throughout the season and nobody knows when and in what form it’s going to happen,” defensive coordinator Dennis Allen said. “But if that’s the case, it’s next man up — next guy’s got to step up, rise up and play to that same level. So that’s our mindset.”

Read More: Denver Broncos, New Orleans Saints, sheldon rankins, vance walker

Tuesday’s Morning Mashup: Curt Schilling says he’s considering run for Elizabeth Warren’s U.S. Senate seat

08.16.16 at 8:44 am ET
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Welcome to Tuesday’s Morning Mashup. For the latest news, start at our home page or click here for the top stories from our news wire.

MLB: Red Sox at Orioles, 7:05 p.m. (NESN; WEEI-FM)
Soccer: Champions League, BSC Young Boys vs. Borussia Monchengladbach, 2:30 p.m. (FS2)
Soccer: Champions League, Dinamo Zagreb vs. Salzburg, 2:30 p.m. (FSN)
Soccer: Champions League, Steaua Bucuresti vs. Manchester City, 2:30 p.m. (FS1)
Olympics: Track and field, 7:30 p.m. (NBC)


Curt Schilling

Curt Schilling

— A week after indicating he was considering entering politics, former Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling said in an interview on WRKO radio that he might target Elizabeth Warren’s U.S. Senate seat.

“I’ve thought about it, and I think one of the things I would like to do is be one of the people responsible for getting Elizabeth Warren out of politics. I think she’s a nightmare,” the conservative Schilling told host Jeff Kuhner. “The left is holding her up as the second coming of Hillary Clinton, which Lord knows we don’t even need the first one.

“She’s a woman who has clearly and comfortably milked the system to her advantage and then, much like Hillary, is going to stand up on the highest surface and talk about people being oppressed and poverty and how she wants them to be helped. We all know that the liberal agenda is to keep poverty-stricken people in poverty because they need to rely on a government full of liberals.”

Like Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, whom he supports, the outspoken Schilling took a shot at the media for what he says is clear bias.

“It’s turned surreal, that’s the only way I can describe it, in that the liberal media is actively and not quietly advocating for Hillary Clinton,” said Schilling, who was fired from ESPN earlier this year after his conservative rants on social media despite a warning to all ESPN employees to avoid political commentary. “That once-sacred group of people who would do what they could do to the very best of their ability to be objective have thrown in the towel and basically they’re saying, ‘Listen, we’ll do anything we can do.’ And I think they’re doing it because I think finally we’re realizing that the left and the right are both bad.”

Schilling, who discussed his political ambitions last Wednesday during his weekly appearance on Dennis & Callahan with Minihane, said that his political future ultimately will be determined after he consults with his wife.

“At the end of the day, it comes down to a conversation with the boss. And the boss of my house, like most men, is my wife, Shonda,” he said. “If my family wasn’t comfortable and OK with it, then it would never happen. But it’s certainly something, if I was going to run, my first path, that would be the target.”

— Following a report Sunday that the Marlins were considering reaching out to Alex Rodriguez as a replacement for the injured Giancarlo Stanton, Rodriguez’s publicist released a statement saying the 41-year-old will not play again this season.

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Monday’s Morning Mashup: Marlins consider signing Alex Rodriguez after Giancarlo Stanton injury

08.15.16 at 7:28 am ET
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Welcome to Monday’s Morning Mashup. For the latest news, start at our home page or click here for the top stories from our news wire.

MLB: Red Sox at Indians, 1:10 p.m. (NESN; WEEI-FM)
MLB: Royals at Tigers, 7:10 p.m. (ESPN)
Soccer: Premier League, Chelsea vs. West Ham United, 3 p.m. (USA)
Olympics: Men’s volleyball, United States vs. Mexico, 10 a.m. (NBC)
Olympics: Track and field, 7:30 p.m. (NBC)


— The Marlins acknowledged having internal discussions about whether to put into a call to Alex Rodriguez after losing Giancarlo Stanton on Sunday with a strained groin that could sideline him the rest of the season.

Stanton, who leads the Marlins with 25 home runs and 70 RBIs, was injured trying to stretch a single into a double — in the process making the game’s final out — in an 8-7 loss to the White Sox. He was placed on the disabled list.

Even before the Stanton injury there was speculation that the Marlins would consider reaching out to Rodriguez, who grew up in South Florida and still lives there. Rodriguez, batting .200 with nine home runs and 31 RBIs in 225 at-bats, played his final game for the Yankees on Friday.

“We’re going to look at everything,” Marlins president of baseball operations Michael Hill said. “There has been information out there about his situation. I have no idea what his interest level is to continue playing. He has something set up to move into the Yankees front office; I don’t know where his head is on that.”

The Marlins, who have not been the postseason since winning the World Series in 2003, are a half-game behind the Cardinals, who hold the second wild card spot.

— U.S. swimmer Ryan Lochte confirmed that he and three teammates were robbed at gunpoint early Sunday morning in Rio De Janeiro, another embarrassment for Olympic organizers.

Lochte said thieves posed as police officers and stopped his taxi, which was taking the swimmers back to the athletes’ village after a night out at the French Olympic team’s hospitality house in an upscale area south of the city.

“We got pulled over, in the taxi, and these guys came out with a badge, a police badge, no lights, no nothing just a police badge and they pulled us over,” Lochte told NBC’s “Today” show . “They pulled out their guns, they told the other swimmers to get down on the ground — they got down on the ground. I refused, I was like, we didn’t do anything wrong, so — I’m not getting down on the ground.

“And then the guy pulled out his gun, he cocked it, put it to my forehead and he said, ‘Get down,’ and I put my hands up, I was like, ‘Whatever.’ He took our money, he took my wallet — he left my cellphone, he left my credentials.”

While there have been other issues surrounding the Games, Brazil’s sports minister, Leonardo Picciani, said there have been no problems at the venues or in the athletes’ village. Picciani said the swimmers were “outside their places of competition and outside the appropriate time.”

ON THIS DAY TRIVIA (answer below): On Aug. 15, 1971, the Patriots played their first game in Foxboro, a 20-14 preseason victory over the Giants. What was the name of the team’s original Foxboro home?

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “It’s pretty amazing, she’s an amazing woman, an amazing mother, and she represents the best of Brazil, as far as I’m concerned. It was a pretty amazing spectacle and she’s an amazing person.” — Tom Brady, on wife Gisele Bundchen’s appearance at the Rio Olympics opening ceremony

STAT OF THE DAY: 3 — Home runs for Red Sox outfielder Mookie Betts in Sunday’s 16-2 rout of the Diamondbacks, the second time this season he’s had a three-home run game

‘NET RESULTS: With the Marlins leading by a run and two outs in the ninth inning, left fielder Christian Yelich throws out White Sox baserunner Carlos Sanchez at home to close out the victory.

Blue Jays catcher Russell Martin reaches over the railing and makes an acrobatic catch against the Astros.

TRIVIA ANSWER: Schaefer Stadium

SOOTHING SOUNDS: Bobby Caldwell was born on this day in 1951.

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Solving ‘The Night Of': Both Naz and the case are beginning to unravel

08.15.16 at 1:47 am ET
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The defense on the defensive. Credit Craig Blankenhorn/HBO

The defense on the defensive. Credit Craig Blankenhorn/HBO

With 75 percent of the show of Summer ‘16 in the books, “Samson and Delilah” delivered some of those sweet, sweet procedural goods that we’ve missed thus far in “The Night Of.”  With only two episodes left, both the audience of the show and the characters within the show are no closer to pinpointing exactly what happened on October 24th while red herrings continue to pop up all over the place.  

Heading into Episode 6:

  • Is Freddy actually helping or hurting Naz?
  • What happened after John chased Duane Reed down the alley?
  • Whose funeral did we see in the previews?
  • At what point will we see some holes poked into the murder scene evidence?
  • Does Det. Box actually believe Naz is guilty? How much is his retiring weighing on his approach to this case?

Even when removing the vastness of the Dick Wolf cannon, the courtroom procedural is the backbone of television. Lawyers defending and prosecuting good guys and bad guys in gorgeous, aesthetically pleasing, and well-lit courtrooms is right up there with “situational comedies” as a staple of television. What the creators of “The Night Of” did with this classic aspect of the procedural in “Samson and Delilah” was one of the most engaging aspects of this series.  It was the least sexy courtroom I have ever seen on TV. Drab, dreary, and dark with only a few streams of light coming through the windows to illuminate a courtroom that has seen better days was just as telling about what we’re dealing with in this case as actual plot developments.  

Ask any lawyer and they’ll tell you that legal work is not the sizzle you see on TV; it is a plodding stomp through the dirt to find a shred of evidence or doubt to lay at the feet of the judge and jury.  “The Night Of” is at its best when its characters are digging around in the dirt where only a few shards of light are allowed to poke through.

Everything about this week’s episode was designed to crank the audience’s anxiety level up to 11. The introduction of flashbacks to the first episode, the music, Chandra and John’s bedroom eyes at each other, etc. While no episode has yet to match the anxious feeling we got when watching Naz get first brought into the precinct, the sixth episode’s presentation of just how far each character has come is a very close second. The shock of the situation has completely worn off and reality is setting in as each character is dealing with accepting where exactly they are now. Life is not going back to normal, and most likely never will. While this trial will be wrapped up shortly, they’ll be living with the aftershocks of this case for the rest of their lives.  

Hanging on to the idea that Naz is innocent is getting harder and harder every week. He is changing before our eyes, and while all credit goes to Riz Ahmed’s star-making performance, it really shines a spotlight on the question, “what comes next for Naz?” At this point, the verdict doesn’t matter; the Naz that stole his father’s cab to go to a party in Manhattan is dead and buried even if he is found innocent. Naz may get out of Rikers, but he is never getting out of prison, and I think that is what the show is trying to tell us. It’s not about who killed Andrea Cornish; it’s about how a seemingly small series of events can dictate the rest of one’s life. There is no going back for this character no matter what the jury decides. The damage is real and has already been done. 

“The Night Of” has been big on drawing parallels between its characters and the steps they are taking in the aftermath of Andrea’s murder. Last week, we saw John go off on his own to chase down Duane Reed and tonight we saw Chandra track down Mr. Day, the driver of the hearse in episode one. In both instances, our characters wound up chasing ghosts.  This device — John and Chandra willing to explore every possible theory — does two things specifically:

  • It establishes that this is not a story about the solving of a murder, it’s a story of redemption.
  • It allows the audience to vicariously pursue every red herring swimming down the premium cable river.

As menacing, creepy and misogynistic as Mr. Day is, he’s not the guy that killed Andrea Cornish. As easy as it would have been to have the murderer be the most likely suspect from the first episode, it wasn’t Duane Reed either. That theory literally got up and ran off-screen before we could accuse it of a crime.  What “The Night Of” is doing with exploring these theories (in addition to giving the people what they want), is reinforcing that the answers we’ve been looking for the entire time are right in front of us, and we’re too busy chasing ghosts in order to see them.  

The only lead that came up in “Samson and Delilah” that looks like it might pan out is super creep step-dad Don Taylor may be the culprit after all, or at the very least be closely involved. In the preview for next week’s episode, we see Det. Box on the witness stand stating that he’ll take evidence over a confession any day. While the evidence is lacking as of right now, Don Taylor is the only character we’ve met with the motive to commit this crime. At this point in the series, motive counts for something. By next week I’m sure we’ll see evidence to back it up.  


  • Stone finally found something that cured his ailing feet. He found it by chasing down every possible remedy for the problem and found success with least conventional means. What does say about the case? What non-traditional tactic is going to prove to be their best defense?
  • Naz’s two tattoos – “Sin” and “Bad” or “SINBAD” across his knuckles and a howling wolf on his arm; one tattoo about a protagonist of Middle Eastern origin that survives a number of trials and tribulations, and another of an animal answering the call of the wild. Two very appropriate tattoos for someone who is coming to grips with possibly being in prison for life.   
  • Det. Box is so focused on the evidence of the case, but no one has mentioned how Naz left the crime scene with no blood on him save for the cut on his hand.  How can that possibly be and why hasn’t anyone brought it up?
  • Where was Stone’s independent forensic scientist this week?
  • Is Don Taylor another red herring or is he actually a suspect in this murder case?  
  • My theory after six episodes is this: Naz is innocent, but winds up being convicted, or is guilty and winds up being found innocent. Either way, the final scenes of the series will be the audience finding out what truly happened.

Thinking Out Loud: Yankees made right move forcing out Alex Rodriguez

08.12.16 at 5:40 pm ET
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Rooke_JohnThinking out loud … and wishing every day was like Victory Day in Rhode Island.

— Curt Schilling wants to run for office, maybe even president? Just a guess, but I don’t think he’ll carry the three electoral votes from Rhode Island. You?

— A-Fraud’s forced retirement by the Yankees, even though they still have to pay him another $27 million, was the right thing to do. And I’m not a Yankees fan by any means. It’s also why baseball players have it all over their NFL brethren — guaranteed contracts.

— Still, Alex Rodriguez leaves the game with 29 career home runs at Fenway — only four players had more as a visitor. Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle, Harmon Killebrew and Al Kaline are serious company.

— Tweet of the Week, from @mooretosay: Someone explain to me why the playing/benching of a washed up guy who hasn’t played all year is all of a sudden interesting. He can’t play.

— Red Sox bats sleeping at inopportune moments is a real problem as the stretch run nears. The bullpen’s sudden urge to allow baserunners to score is another. But rookie Andrew Benintendi has so far proven to be a silver lining in the dark storm clouds gathering over Fenway. His fielding blunder(s) aside, let’s not retire his number to right field just yet, though, shall we?

— David Price makes me tired. And anxious, at the same time. That is all.

— The PC police were at work again this week, over the sudden ditching of David Ortiz bobblehead dolls. Were they racially insensitive? Perhaps, but just about everyone missed the bigger picture here — how did the Red Sox organization let this get as far as it did?

— Having worked for pro sports teams in my past, I can tell you there has always been a chain of command to follow, and someone in charge of quality control for things like this. That Sam Kennedy saw the dolls for the first time just hours before they were to be given away is a joke, really. Someone dropped the ball, or someone has poor judgment. Maybe both. Ortiz had an unprintable response to the dolls’ “look,” which is all anyone needs to know.

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Putting Metallica’s ‘Black Album’ in perspective 25 years later

08.12.16 at 9:07 am ET
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Metallica's self-titled album is celebrating its 25th anniversary. (Getty Images)

Metallica’s self-titled album is celebrating its 25th anniversary. (Getty Images)

In a 1991 interview, Lars Ulrich bemoaned the fact that critics called his group a “thrash” band. Asked by the interviewer if he preferred his band be called “power metal,” a term he’d used years earlier, Ulrich admitted he didn’t like that either.

“That sounds like it was a while ago,” Ulrich said, adding, “It doesn’t really seem like any of these labels matter much. That’s why we have a band name.”

The band name was, of course, Metallica, and Ulrich had good reason to not like the “thrash” or “power metal” labels, because he knew something the interviewer didn’t: Metallica was about to release a rock album.

As Metallica’s self-titled fifth album (better known as “The Black Album”) turns 25 Friday, its legacy holds a strange place with Metallica fans. Diehards lament the directional change the band took five years after releasing one of the greatest metal albums ever in “Master of Puppets.” A common narrative is that teaming with producer Bob Rock eventually derailed the band irreparably. Both arguments probably boil down to the fact that “The Black Album” is what turned Metallica “mainstream.” After all, no album by any artist has sold more copies in the United States than “The Black Album” since its release.

Yet to write off “The Black Album” as Metallica’s “Piano Man” (the song, not the album; man, did that album have some bangers) would be to pay a truly great album a disservice. It would also ignore the fact that the direction the band took helped them off a potentially worse path.

Consider where Metallica was as a band when they cut their self-titled album. They were coming off their first album since the death of Cliff Burton, and though “…And Justice For All” was an ambitious record that earned them their first Grammy, it was sonically dreadful. This wasn’t the fault of new bassist Jason Newsted, but rather the fact that frontman James Hetfield and drummer Lars Ulrich were producing albums without a true producer for too long.

As they had with 1984’s “Ride the Lightning” and 1986’s “Master of Puppets,” Metallica produced “…And Justice for All” alongside engineer Flemming Rasmussen. Yet unlike “Ride the Lightning” and “Master of Puppets,” Metallica used “…And Justice For All” to go for a different sound that favored Ulrich’s drums and Hetfield’s rhythm guitar over everything else (you know the payoff when you get to the double-kick in “One?” Well you pay for it for the rest of the album).

Newsted’s bass was inaudible, thinning the band’s sound away from the powerful boom of the play-everything-in-E sound that had become synonymous with Metallica and so many other bands in the 80s. Factor in that the band’s attempts to move away from the 4/4 time signature sounded forced, and you had an album that quite frankly sounded like it was made by people who didn’t know what they were doing.

Musically, the band needed rescuing in the worst way. Teaming up with a budding super-producer in Rock (best-known at that time for producing the “Dr. Feelgood” album) did that.

Consider the band’s aforementioned propensity to write all of their songs in the key of E (the lowest note on a standard-tuned guitar). Rock helped the band get away from writing a bunch of songs that sounded the same, and the results showed in “The Black Album.”

In Metallica’s two albums prior to their work with Rock, 15 of their 17 songs were at least partially in E. On “The Black Album,” four songs were recorded in other keys, including a pair of classics in “Sad But True” (detuned to D at Rock’s insistence) and “The Unforgiven.”

Of course, it wasn’t just key signature that Rock contributed. Bass was mercifully returned to Metallica’s sound, which was additionally rounded out with synthesizers (tastefully!), additional percussion and strings.

Furthermore, Rock served as the coach that Metallica never had on their previous albums. In addition to technical responsibilities, it’s on the producer to get strong performances out of his musicians. Hetfield’s vocals morphed from his mid-80s shriek to gigantic, complemented often by harmonies that were absent on earlier records.

Then there was Rock’s insistence upon making Kirk Hammett an actual lead guitarist, and his success in doing so ranks highly among his biggest contributions to Metallica. Hammett was already a guitar god by then, but he achieved the status by flying all over the neck with hit-or-miss results. The hits were borderline iconic (“Seek & Destroy,” “Master of Puppets,” “Blackened,” “One”), but it’s remarkable how many completely forgettable solos Hammett had on Metallica’s first four albums.

Most Metallica fans have seen the video of Rock dogging Hammett during the recording of “The Unforgiven,” as Hammett seemingly lazily attempted a lick that more appropriately landed in “The Struggle Within.” The solo that Rock eventually got out of Hammett saw the lead guitarist serve a song better than he had in any of Metallica’s previous work. Though not a difficult solo to play at all, “The Unforgiven” should be considered Hammett’s best solo and “The Black Album” should be considered his best overall album.

(Hammett playing an honest classic rock solo, as he also did on “Enter Sandman,” didn’t mean the end of his speedier displays. The aforementioned “The Struggle Within” solo is also an all-timer, as is his performance on “Wherever I May Roam.”)

As with the band’s previous albums, many of the songs were written around riffs. Rock did not get in the way in that regard, and the band moved away from breakneck downstrokes to bigger, sexier, bluesier riffs that were only thickened by Rock. The Hammett-written “Enter Sandman” riff is the album’s most iconic riff, but the sludginess of “Sad But True” and “Don’t Tread On Me” provide a much-needed departure from predictable “… And Justice For All” works like “Eye of the Beholder.”

Upon the album’s release, Metallica was shot into another stratosphere of success, one that led to year and years of touring and subsequent, inferior works with Rock before the sides eventually parted ways after the holy-cow-how-did-a-label-release-this “St. Anger.” Did the marathon recording of “The Black Album” perhaps damage the band long-term? Maybe, as the album is also well-known for the contention between the band and the producer throughout its nine months of recording and the fact that three of the band’s four members got divorced in the process.

Yet that doesn’t make the band’s most successful album a black eye. Look at the turmoil that followed The Pixies after the recording of “Doolittle.” Despite it destroying the band’s dynamic, it was worth it because the world got a classic album out of it.

Twenty-five years later, Metallica has never come close to being as good as they were with “The Black Album,” but there’s nothing wrong with that. Metallica mastered the genre of metal with “Master of Puppets,” but “…And Justice For All” showed major warning signs that they were regressing. They came back from that with one of the best — and most successful — rock albums ever.

Friday’s Morning Mashup: Alex Rodriguez’s request to play field in Yankees finale denied

08.12.16 at 8:04 am ET
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Welcome to Friday’s Morning Mashup. For the latest news, start at our home page or click here for the top stories from our news wire.

MLB: Diamondbacks at Red Sox, 7:10 p.m. (NESN; WEEI-FM)
MLB: Cardinals at Cubs, 2 p.m. (MLB Network)
MLB: Rays at Yankees, 7:05 p.m. (Fox)
MLB: Tigers at Rangers, 8 p.m. (MLB Network)
MLB: Orioles at Giants, 11 p.m. (MLB Network)
Little League Baseball: New England semifinals, 1 p.m. (ESPN)
NFL preseason: Lions at Steelers, 7 p.m. (NFL Network)
NFL preseason: Raiders at Cardinals, 10 p.m. (NFL Network)
Olympics: Men’s water polo, United States vs. Montenegro, 10:40 a.m. (USA Network)
Olympics: Women’s volleyball, United States vs. Italy, 1 p.m. (NBC)
Olympics: Women’s basketball, United States vs. Canada, 2:30 p.m. (NBCSN)
Olympics: Men’s basketball, United States vs. Serbia, 6 p.m. (NBCSN)
Olympics: Swimming, 9 p.m. (NBC)


— Alex Rodriguez will play his final game with the Yankees on Friday night — after going 0-for-4 with an RBI ground out in Thursday’s 4-2 victory over the Red Sox (while being lustily booed) — and he’ll be back at designated hitter, despite his request to play the field one last time.

Rodriguez told reporters at Fenway on Thursday that he was hoping to play third base in his finale at Yankee Stadium, but it won’t go down that way.

“Tuesday I came into [manager Joe Girardi’s] office and he told me what the plan was,” Rodriguez said. “And I said, ‘Any chance I can play third base on Friday?’ He just said, ‘No.’

“It would’ve been fun. It wasn’t a big request. I get that we’re still [trying to win] games. I totally get the answer.”

Rodriguez has started at third base only 29 times since 2012 and hasn’t taken many ground balls there lately.

“I mean, we thought about it, but he hasn’t done any work,” Girardi explained. “And we’re still in the business of trying to win games here. It’s not like I wouldn’t like to see it, but we’re still in that part of the season where we’re trying to win this.”

Rodriguez, who agreed to serve as an adviser to the Yankees after Friday, will become a free agent upon his release, which comes with a $27 million parting gift as his contract runs through next season. There has been speculation that he could sign with his hometown Marlins in an attempt to hit some milestones (he’s four home runs away from 700), but he said he hasn’t through about that possibility.

“At this point, I’ve been so focused on this week,” Rodriguez said. “I have plenty of emotion. I don’t have any time or energy to focus on anything else. I’m just really looking forward to my last seven or eight at-bats.”

Added Rodriguez: “I’m sure I’ll wake up in the morning and it will be very emotional. My family, my girls get in at mid-day. [Friday] is about me thanking the fans for putting up with me for such a long time. They’ve been with me through thick and thin.”

— Patrick Roy surprised the Avalanche on Thursday by announcing he is stepping down as coach and vice president of hockey operations due to disagreements within the organization.

In a statement released through a Quebec-based public relations agency, the Hall of Fame goalie said: “I have thought long and hard over the course of the summer about how I might improve this team to give it the depth it needs and bring it to a higher level. To achieve this, the vision of the coach and VP-Hockey Operations needs to be perfectly aligned with that of the organization. He must also have a say in the decisions that impact the team’s performance. These conditions are not currently met.”

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