Archive for December, 2011

Top Stories of 2011, No. 3: Red Sox’ manager/GM turnover

Thursday, December 29th, 2011

For the final 10 days of 2011, WEEI.com will count down the top 10 stories of the year in Boston sports. Our next entry in the countdown is No. 3: The Red Sox’ manager/GM turnover.

Check out our previous entries:
No. 10: NBA lockout
No. 9: NFL lockout
No. 8: Celtics’ playoff loss to Heat
No. 7: Patriots’ acquisitions of Albert Haynesworth, Chad Ochocinco
No. 6: Jacoby Ellsbury’s MVP-caliber season
No. 5: Patriots’ playoff loss to Jets
No. 4: Celtics’ trade of Kendrick Perkins

Terry Francona and Theo Epstein faced the media following the Red Sox' September swoon, and shortly thereafter both were gone from Boston. (AP)

On Sept. 29, a visibly frustrated Terry Francona sat beside a similarly frustrated-looking Theo Epstein in the Fenway Park media room. Epstein wore a navy blue Red Sox zip-up. He sat hunched forward while Francona leaned back in his chair, his arms crossed across his chest and a glower on his face. The two men attempted to explain why the Red Sox — a team that had been in first place going into September and was the best team in baseball at times during the summer months — failed to make the playoffs due to a 7-20 September.

But neither man had a satisfying explanation for the club’s September swoon, and neither man was willing to address his status with the team going forward. Francona appeared to be in a more precarious position than Epstein. The manager had just completed the last year of a three-year, $12 million contract that had an option for the 2012 and 2013 seasons that ownership would have to decide to pick up.

Epstein had one year left on a four-year deal that would keep him in Boston until the end of the 2012 season.

It was Francona who addressed his contract status first, as he met with Red Sox brass behind closed doors the morning after his tense press conference with Epstein. There, Francona said he informed ownership that he felt it was time for a new managerial voice to help guide the team.

“I passed along my frustrations at my inability to effectively reach the players,” Francona said in a statement after the club announced he would not be returning. “After many conversations and much consideration, I ultimately felt that, out of respect to this team, it was time for me to move on. I’ve always maintained that it is not only the right, but the obligation, of ownership to have the right person doing this job. I told them that out of my enormous respect for this organization and the people in it, they may need to find a different voice to lead the team.”

After Francona’s departure, more details emerged about the troubled times over the course of the season that led to his desire to leave the organization. Francona said he felt like the team was not coming together over the course of the season the way teams typically do, and after leaving the Red Sox Francona said he did not always feel that ownership supported him.

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Kendrick Perkins tweets that he’s ‘tired of Chris Webber hatin’ on me’

Thursday, December 29th, 2011

Kendrick Perkins is tired of hearing Chris Webber's criticism. (AP)

Thunder center Kendrick Perkins came into the season in better shape, having lost a substantial amount of weight. But NBA TV analyst Chris Webber still is not impressed. Webber, who has not been very positive about Perkins’ fit with the Thunder since his trade from the Celtics last season, said during Wednesday night’s Thunder-Grizzlies game that Perkins is a poor one-on-one defender.

Responded Perkins via Twitter: im tired of chris webber hatin on me get a ring first and then i can respect ya comments other wise keep my name out of ya mouth.

Webber played 15 NBA seasons between 1993-94 and 2007-08 with the Warriors (twice), Wizards, Kings, 76ers and Pistons. A five-time All-Star, he averaged 20.7 points, 9.8 rebounds and 4.2 assists but never reached the NBA finals.

The year in Boston sports: Most memorable games of 2011

Thursday, December 29th, 2011

Game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals ended with Tim Thomas and the Bruins celebrating a championship. (AP)

Even though 2011 wasn’t the most successful year for all of Boston’s teams, it certainly was a memorable one. Playoff rivalries were renewed for the Celtics, Bruins and Patriots, while the Red Sox added another chapter to their legacy of heartbreak.

Picking out the 10 most memorable games of the year was not an easy task. The Bruins easily could have dominated this list, with all of their dramatic playoff victories en route to winning the Stanley Cup. But we’ve attempted to include fair representation from all four of Boston’s major pro sports squads, featuring games that were memorable for the local teams’ success or failure.

10. April 8: Red Sox 9, Yankees 6

The Red Sox’ season started much the way it ended, with a sense of impending doom around the corner. After the Sox started the season 0-6, swept by both Cleveland and Texas, the offense finally clicked when the Yankees paid a visit to Fenway for the home opener. Dustin Pedroia hit his first home run of the season and the Red Sox erupted for 12 hits, giving them — and John Lackey – their first win of the season.

9. April 17, Eastern Conference quarterfinals, Game 1: Celtics 87, Knicks 85

Ray Allen’s 3-pointer with 12 seconds left in the game made sure the Knicks’ return to the playoffs (their first appearance in seven years) was a painful one. The Knicks led for almost the entire game, but the Celtics came up big down the stretch (and yes, a questionable call went their way). “Down the stretch we found a way to win,” Paul Pierce said. “And that was because of our experience.” The Celtics went on to win the series in four straight.

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Thursday’s Morning Mashup: IRS sues Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner

Thursday, December 29th, 2011

Welcome to Thursday’s Morning Mashup. For the latest news, start at our WEEI.com home page or click here for the top stories from our news wire.

THURSDAY’S BROADCAST HIGHLIGHTS:
NBA: Mavericks at Thunder, 8 p.m. (TNT)
NBA: Knicks at Lakers, 10:30 p.m. (TNT)
College basketball: Harvard at Boston College, 7 p.m. (WEEI)
College basketball: Vanderbilt at Marquette, 9 p.m. (ESPN2)
College football: Champs Sports Bowl, Florida State vs. Notre Dame, 5:30 p.m. (ESPN)
College football: Alamo Bowl, Washington vs. Baylor, 9 p.m. (ESPN)

AROUND THE WEB:

Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner is in a dispute with the IRS. (AP)

♦ The Internal Revenue Service is suing Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner to recover $670,000 it paid to the family to settle a dispute over the family trust’s 2001 and 2002 tax bills. George Steinbrenner agreed to a settlement in 2007, but the IRS claims his son missed the deadline to receive the refund when he waited until August 2009 to file the necessary paperwork.

The suit, filed in Tampa federal court, indicates the filing was 5 1/2 months too late.

Stated a Steinbrenner spokeswoman: “We are reviewing and have no comment.”

♦ Thunder teammates Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook had an altercation during the second quarter of Wednesday night’s 98-95 road victory over the Grizzlies. After Westbrook yelled at teammate Thabo Sefolosha for not shooting an open 3-pointer, his teammates tried to calm him down. At the next timeout, Durant and Westbrook got into a shouting match on the bench and had to be separated. They appeared to patch things up when they returned to the floor and communicated well thereafter.

“We’re going to disagree sometimes, like I’ve always been saying,” Durant said. “But I’m behind him 110 percent, and he’s the same way with me. And you seen when we came on the floor we clicked and everything started to work from there.”

Westbrook, who finished the game shooting 0-for-13, left the arena without speaking to reporters.

♦ During a dinner for University of Oregon players at a Beverly Hills steak restaurant as part of the lead-up to the Rose Bowl, Ducks offensive lineman Mark Asper performed the Heimlich maneuver on a patron who was choking on his food. Asper, who stands 6-foot-7, 325 pounds, is an Eagle Scout who was prepared to step in after watching another individual be unsuccessful in dislodging the food.

“I stood up and patted him on the back and said, ‘If you don’t know what you’re doing, I do, because I’m an Eagle Scout,’ ” Asper said. “So I ripped in there.”

After a cautious first attempt, Asper used a little more force to get the job done.

“The guy seemed a little old,” Asper said. “I didn’t want to break his ribs or anything. Then he seemed like he could handle a full-force heave so I popped it out.”

♦ The mother of Shannon Stone, the Rangers fan who died after falling from the stands while reaching to catch a ball tossed his way by Josh Hamilton, asked Hamilton to continue to throw balls to fans.

Said SuZann Stone: “Shortly after the accident, there was some discussion about whether foul balls should be thrown into the stands to the fans. I wrote to Josh Hamilton, and I said: ‘Please, don’t stop throwing those balls. Because that’s so important. That’s why daddies bring their little boys to the ballgame is for memories like that. Please don’t stop.’ ”

ON THIS DAY TRIVIA: On. Dec. 29, 2007, the Patriots completed the first 16-0 regular season in NFL history with a 38-35 victory over the Giants. Tom Brady threw two touchdown passes to Randy Moss to break the NFL record for touchdown passes (50) and receptions (23) by an individual. Which other Patriot scored two touchdowns that day?

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Top Stories of 2011, No. 4: Celtics’ trade of Kendrick Perkins

Wednesday, December 28th, 2011

For the final 10 days of 2011, WEEI.com will count down the top 10 stories of the year in Boston sports. Our next entry in the countdown is No. 4: The Celtics’ trade of Kendrick Perkins.

Check out our previous entries:
No. 10: NBA lockout
No. 9: NFL lockout
No. 8: Celtics’ playoff loss to Heat
No. 7: Patriots’ acquisitions of Albert Haynesworth, Chad Ochocinco
No. 6: Jacoby Ellsbury’s MVP-caliber season
No. 5: Patriots’ playoff loss to Jets

When the Celtics traded Kendrick Perkins, they lost a physical presence down low. (AP)

It happened without warning, although the signs were clear enough. With minutes to go before the end of the NBA’s trading deadline on Feb. 24, Celtics team president Danny Ainge sent Kendrick Perkins and Nate Robinson to the Thunder for Jeff Green, Nenad Krstic and a first-round pick via the Clippers that carries a top-10 protection through the 2016 season.

While it was shocking at the time, the Celtics were concerned about their ability to retain Perkins long-term and the move allowed them to be significantly under the salary cap in the summer of 2012 when the contracts of Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen expire. The Celtics had offered Perkins a four-year extension worth $22 million, the most they could have offered under the terms of the collective bargaining agreement. With no such restrictions, the Thunder signed him to a four-year deal worth almost $35 million.

In his first interview following the trade, Ainge told WEEI that it was one of the hardest decisions he’s had to make.

“It’s not easy at all,” Ainge said. “We agonized over it. Both Doc [Rivers] and I agonized over it. We went back and forth. There were a few other types of things out there, and it was a very difficult decision to make, yet one that we thought was best for the team and where we’re headed.”

There were also questions about Perkins’ health after the center tore his ACL in Game 6 of the NBA finals against the Lakers and underwent knee surgery in the offseason. Perkins worked hard in his rehab and returned to the court ahead of schedule, but he suffered a setback before the trade deadline and missed almost a month of games before taking the court for Oklahoma City in mid-March. The Celtics were counting on the return of Shaquille O’Neal from an Achilles and calf injury, but he played only 18 minutes the rest of the season.

Without Perkins, the Celtics struggled down the stretch and lost in the second round of the playoffs to Miami. It was a bitter blow for a team that proudly stated it had never lost a playoff series when all five of its starters were healthy.

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Wednesday’s Morning Mashup: Alex Rodriguez reportedly undergoes experimental treatment in Germany

Wednesday, December 28th, 2011

Welcome to Wednesday’s Morning Mashup. For the latest news, start at our WEEI.com home page or click here for the top stories from our news wire.

WEDNESDAY’S BROADCAST HIGHLIGHTS:
NHL: Bruins at Coyotes, 9 p.m. (NESN)
NBA: Celtics at Hornets, 8 p.m. (CSNNE; WEEI)
NBA: Thunder at Grizzlies, 8 p.m. (NBA TV)
NBA: Knicks at Warriors, 10:30 p.m. (NBA TV)
College basketball: Georgetown at Louisville, 7 p.m. (ESPN2)
College basketball: Mississippi State at Baylor, 9 p.m. (ESPN2)
College football: Holiday Bowl, California vs. Texas, 8 p.m. (ESPN)

AROUND THE WEB:

Alex Rodriguez

♦ Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez recently traveled to Germany for experimental therapy on his right knee, according to a New York Post report. Rodriguez received a recommendation from Lakers star Kobe Bryant before getting Orthokine, which involves taking blood from a patient’s arm and spinning it in a centrifuge before injecting it into the injured area.

The Yankees checked with the league office before giving their approval for the procedure, which has yet to be proven as a long-term fix. Bryant reportedly had it done on his right knee last summer and again on his left ankle in October.

“These guys like it, they say it works and they are looking for any potential edge,” said Dr. Jonathan Glashow, co-chief of sports medicine at New York’s Mount Sinai Hospital. “It’s not an absolute thing. While it appears a lot of guys get relief from it, the jury is still out in terms of it really being critically studied.”

Rodriguez had surgery on his right knee in July to repair a torn meniscus and returned for the stretch run, although he hit just .191 with three home runs in 68 at-bats and then went .111 with no home runs in New York’s American League Division Series loss to the Tigers.

♦ Mets pitcher R.A. Dickey is preparing for a January trip to Tanzania to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, despite a letter from his team warning that it has the right to void the final year of his contract if he is injured. The 37-year-old knuckleballer, who is raising money for charity, said he doesn’t anticipate any issues.

“I don’t think there’s really any lethal risk to doing it,” Dickey said. “It’s not like it’s Everest.”

Said Mets general manager Sandy Alderson: “If we thought it was a good idea, we wouldn’t have sent the letter. Beyond that, have we tried to dissuade him from going? It seems to me that the letter is enough of an effort to dissuade him, and he intends to go on nonetheless.”

♦ Sixers guard Lou Williams offered more details about the Christmas Eve incident he tweeted about, when a would-be robber gave him a pass because of his community work. Williams said the man approached his car and flashed a gun before recognizing Williams.

“A guy tried to rob me but decided not to because of whatever I do in the community,” Williams explained. “He’s a Lou Williams fan so he didn’t rob me.”

Added Williams: “There’s crime everywhere. I was debating whether to pull off or help the guy. The gun was already out. He did all the talking and we came up with a solution before I could really say much. I treated him to McDonald’s.”

ON THIS DAY TRIVIA: On Dec. 28, 1963, which Red Sox infielder was named Comeback Player of the Year?

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Ex-Harvard star Jeremy Lin joins Knicks

Wednesday, December 28th, 2011

Harvard product Jeremy Lin is joining his third NBA team in two seasons. (AP)

Former Harvard standout Jeremy Lin was claimed on waivers by the Knicks Tuesday after being dropped by the Rockets. Lin, 23, averaged 2.6 points and 1.4 assists in 29 games with his hometown Warriors last season. He is the first Asian-American to play in the NBA since 1947-48 and the first Ivy Leaguer in almost a decade.

The Knicks were looking for depth at guard after rookie Iman Shumpert went down with an MCL sprain in Sunday’s opener against the Celtics. Baron Davis is out indefinitely with a back injury and Mike Bibby also has back issues.

“We’ve always liked him as a player, so we’ll see where we go with it,” Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni said. “Very quick. He defends pretty well. But he can really get in the lane and distribute the basketball. We haven’t seen him for a couple of years, but when we worked him out, we liked him.”

Top Stories of 2011, No. 5: Patriots’ playoff loss to Jets

Tuesday, December 27th, 2011

For the final 10 days of 2011, WEEI.com will count down the top 10 stories of the year in Boston sports. Our next entry in the countdown is No. 5: The Patriots’ playoff loss to the Jets.

Check out our previous entries:
No. 10: NBA lockout
No. 9: NFL lockout
No. 8: Celtics’ playoff loss to Heat
No. 7: Patriots’ acquisitions of Albert Haynesworth, Chad Ochocinco
No. 6: Jacoby Ellsbury’s MVP-caliber season

Tom Brady was not at his best during the Patriots' playoff loss to the Jets. (AP)

For the 2010-11 Patriots, the beginning of the postseason held a lot of promise. That’s because New England went a league-best 14-2 during the regular season, securing the No. 1 seed in the AFC in the process. For the Pats, it was Super Bowl or bust.

Leading the Patriots to their lofty standing was quarterback Tom Brady. He had perhaps the most efficient year of his career in 2010, passing for 36 touchdowns against just four interceptions, the best touchdown-to-interception ratio in NFL history. He also set an NFL record by recording 335 straight pass attempts without an interception. For his efforts, Brady was named NFL MVP for the second time of his career.

But in the way of the Patriots’ path to the Super Bowl was their brash AFC East rival, the Jets. New York had beaten the Colts in the first round of the playoffs and moved on to face the Patriots in the divisional round. It was as an enticing matchup as one could hope for in the second round of the postseason.

The teams split the season series. The Jets beat the Patriots, 28-14, in Week 2, in what was a mild early season upset. In Week 13, New England seemed set on revenge and defeated New York resoundingly, 45-3, in a Monday night game at Gillette Stadium. The embarrassing loss only strengthened the Jets’ resolve heading into their playoff rematch.

To no surprise, the week leading up to the game was almost as entertaining as the game itself, as the Jets fired shots at New England while the Patriots tried to remain composed, although they fired some subtle shots of their own.

It began on Monday, Jan. 10, when Jets coach Rex Ryan held a question-and-answer session with the media. He looked back to the 45-3 loss, saying he “was outcoached in that game.” Never one to hold back his true feelings, Ryan went on to say that the upcoming game was all about one thing.

“I recognize this week, this is about Bill Belichick vs. Rex Ryan,” he said. ”There’s no question. It’s personal. This is about him against myself, and that’s what it’s going to come down to.”

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Tuesday’s Morning Mashup: Jets coach Rex Ryan says he won’t change brash ways

Tuesday, December 27th, 2011

Welcome to Tuesday’s Morning Mashup. For the latest news, start at our WEEI.com home page or click here for the top stories from our news wire.

TUESDAY’S BROADCAST HIGHLIGHTS:
NBA: Celtics at Heat, 8 p.m. (TNT)
NBA: Jazz at Lakers, 10:30 p.m. (TNT)
College basketball: Pittsburgh at Notre Dame, 7 p.m. (ESPN2)
College basketball: Wisconsin at Nebraska, 9 p.m. (ESPN2)
NHL: Blues at Red Wings, 7:30 p.m. (Versus)

AROUND THE WEB:

♦ Jets coach Rex Ryan said Monday that he doesn’t plan to change his brash behavior, even after his boasting backfired with Saturday’s loss to the fired-up Giants.

“That’s who I am,” Ryan said on a conference call. “Do I regret it? No. Did it work out? Nope. It never worked out. I’m never going to say I regret anything that I believe in my heart, and I’ve always said from Day 1 I’m going to be true to myself. When I leave this job 10 or 15 years from now, I’m going to be true to myself. Maybe it’s not the traditional way of doing things. But for me, this is who I am. I made the statements and I’ll stand by everything I said.”

Ryan also spent some time defending quarterback Mark Sanchez and offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer, who have come under fire for the team’s struggling offense.

♦ Now that they’re done arguing with the Jets, the Giants have moved on to focusing their hatred on their next opponent, the Cowboys. “I do not like the Cowboys and they don’t like me,” defensive end Justin Tuck said Monday. “And that’s how it’s supposed to be.”

Meanwhile, Giants coach Tom Coughlin joked about the knee injury he suffered on the sideline Saturday when Jets linebacker Aaron Maybin hit running back D.J. Ware out of bounds and knocked him into Coughlin.

♦ Sixers guard Lou Williams tweeted Saturday about an incident in which he avoided being robbed because of his community service work. Tweeted Williams: Almost got robbed today. But homie said he recognized me and the good I’ve done for his hood so that made him change his mind… WOW.

ON THIS DAY TRIVIA: On Dec. 27, 1959, which Bruins player began a 22-game point-scoring streak in the B’s 6-1 loss to the Blackhawks in Chicago?

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Top Stories of 2011, No. 6: Jacoby Ellsbury’s MVP-caliber season

Monday, December 26th, 2011

For the final 10 days of 2011, WEEI.com will count down the top 10 stories of the year in Boston sports. Our next entry in the countdown is No. 6: Jacoby Ellsbury’s MVP-caliber season.

Check out our previous entries:
No. 10: NBA lockout
No. 9: NFL lockout
No. 8: Celtics’ playoff loss to Heat
No. 7: Patriots’ acquisitions of Albert Haynesworth, Chad Ochocinco

Jacoby Ellsbury was a force at the plate for the Red Sox in 2011. (AP)

Throughout Red Sox spring training in March, there was plenty of buzz surrounding center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury. After a 2010 season in which Ellsbury played in just 18 games due to five broken ribs, there were questions about whether Ellsbury could ever return to his pre-injury form, whether he was a capable leadoff hitter, and even whether he was fully devoted to the team.

But Ellsbury said he had no concerns about his ability to come back following an injury-truncated season.

“I’m not worried,” Ellsbury said of his health. “I’m not worried at all. It’s not like I’m coming off a major surgery or anything like that. If anything, [the ribs] should be stronger.

“Anytime you break something and let it heal, it will be stronger.”

And so, like his healed ribs, Ellsbury set about proving he too would heal from 2010 and come back stronger.

The 28-year-old had a strong spring training. He hit .355 with a .385 on-base percentage and a .565 slugging percentage. He also showed some pop, knocking out three home runs in his 20 spring training games.

But his Florida success did not translate into April triumphs. Ellsbury, like the Red Sox team in general, struggled at the beginning of the season. He was batting in the leadoff spot for the first six games of the year, when the Red Sox were winless and Ellsbury collected just four hits in 24 at-bats.

Then, Ellsbury dropped to the bottom of the order for the next few weeks. At first, he still struggled to get on base in the eighth or ninth spot in the order, but then the hits started coming.

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