Editor's Choice

Why did Malcolm Butler retweet this graphic about Jay Cutler carving up the Patriots?

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Why did Malcolm Butler retweet this graphic about Jay Cutler carving up the Patriots?

This makes me feel like Felger, so apologies.

Malcolm Butler might not love Bill Belichick the GM, and there’s a chance he’s made some light commentary on Belichick the coach. 

After Monday night’s Patriots loss to the Dolphins, a Pro Football Focus graphic was posted detailing how well Jay Cutler did when the Patriots blitzed him. It was retweeted from Butler’s account. 

Though Butler un-retweeted it by Tuesday morning, the retweet was an interesting act. Twenty blitzes (by how PFF measures blitzes) is a high number. Was Butler just pointing out that Cutler had a good game or suggesting that maybe the Pats shouldn’t have kept blitzing when Cutler was responding to them so well. Might be a shot at Belichick or Matt Patricia. Might be something else. Might have misread "Cutler" for "Butler" and thought he was retweeting a compliment. Reading into social media is a gas. 

From the meetings: Relief may not be around the corner for Red Sox

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From the meetings: Relief may not be around the corner for Red Sox

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- There could be some team groupthink going on with a relatively slow-moving market. And it just may work to teams’ advantage, and to the players’ chagrin.

Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski said Monday that the Giancarlo Stanton trade and Shohei Ohtani’s decision to go to the Angels had opened up the landscape “tremendously.” A lot more calls were coming in.

But when it comes to the Red Sox' pursuit of a relief pitcher, for example, Dombrowski alluded to the possibility it could take a while to land someone.

“There are a lot of guys out there still. There's not as many left-handed relievers,” Dombrowski said. “There are more right-handed relievers. You see movement when it takes place. But I would not say getting a right-handed reliever today is our driving force, and there are not that many left-handed relievers out there. I would not be surprised if that lasted a while, too.”

One agent Tuesday surmised the teams might well win if they just wait out players more than they have in the past -- and that's what people anticipate will happen.

Guys will start to get nervous, start to crumble. Not everyone, but some. This is one reason the union might want to fight to shorten free agency.

One trickle-down effect? Minor-league free agency has been a crawl as well.

There is risk involved for teams too, though. If most everyone waits, demand doesn’t simply disappear.

NO RIGHTY?

On the matter of that righty reliever Dombrowski referred to, the Sox run the risk of overestimating their right-handed relief corps. 

Craig Kimbrel is a given. Carson Smith, if healthy, is a great asset, but there should be a little sense of discomfort given the Sox haven’t seen him really healthy in their uniform.

But Addison Reed is gone, and even if a strong lefty setup man is brought in -- think Jake McGee or Tony Watson among free agents -- the Red Sox might be tricking themselves into thinking they have enough depth.

The Red Sox were approached by Pat Neshek’s camp before the reliever signed a two-year deal worth about $16 million with the Phillies, and declined to get involved, a baseball source with knowledge of the negotiations said.

Why? 

Depth is the key word here, and reliable depth. Matt Barnes, Heath Hembree and Joe Kelly all have upside and were significant contributors to the 2017 Red Sox. But what about creating a fearsome bullpen for the postseason? Injuries do happen, as the Red Sox know as well as anyone when it comes to setup men. 

You can argue too that the Sox need some different looks now with the Yankees carrying Stanton, Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez. Barnes, Hembree and Kelly are all primarily fastball pitchers.

"Well, Carson Smith's not like that,” Dombrowski said. “He’s a main guy. He's not like that. He's a different motion, a lot of sliders, sinkers. So we do have somebody that is like that too that's really effective versus right-handed hitters.”

Okay. That’s one. What if he's hurt? What if he's not pitching well?

Compared to other free agents, relievers are still relatively inexpensive. Better to sign an “extra” piece now than make a trade midseason. They should do everything possible to hold on to their prospects. Some remarks at this year’s winter meetings about the state of the Sox farm system, the talent that remains, have not been kind.

DISCIPLINED DAVE

There is an element of discipline at play when the Red Sox don’t go all in for a guy like Stanton and his mega contract. Even if you thought Stanton was totally worth it, you have to appreciate that Dealer Dave and the Sox are showing discipline. Eventually, they were going to need it. And they'll continue to need it to make up for past contracts (including those given by the previous administration).

PRICE ON PACE

David Price is on a regular offseason throwing program, and has no restrictions thus far. 

Price hurt his elbow in spring training last year.

“His offseason program was good, his throwing program was good, he just got hurt when he was throwing,” Dombrowski said. “The doctors haven't asked us to change anything about that, about his preparation, our training people have not.”

The Sox don’t yet have a sense of how they’ll handle Price’s workload going forward. 

Also, Eduardo Rodriguez is doing well in his recovery from knee surgery and the Red Sox are optimistic he can return in April. 

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Let's try to talk ourselves into thinking the Patriots might not get a first-round bye

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Let's try to talk ourselves into thinking the Patriots might not get a first-round bye

I'm not worried about the Patriots. Not one drop. They’re so much better than everybody else. Holy cow. 

But the Patriots just lost and I'm a native New Englander so I can't act like there isn't a group of people who wants to worry after Monday’s loss. So fine; let’s worry a little bit. Just know we’re all being stupid. 

In short, here’s what we’ve got. 

WHAT WE’RE WORRYING ABOUT: The Pats missing out on a first-round bye. 

WHY WE’RE WORRYING ABOUT IT: Because we’re idiots. 

WHY THERE’S TECHNICALLY REASON TO WORRY: The Jaguars. 

YOU SAID WHAT: That this worry about the Patriots involves the Jaguars. 

WHAT WE’RE BEING: Idiots. 

I actually like the Jaguars, so this isn’t a knock on them. Rather, it’s a knock on the idea that the Patriots won’t handle their business. 

At any rate, Monday’s loss to the Dolphins does present the possibility that the Pats would have to play during Wild Card weekend like the peasants. It’s something they don’t do often — since Bill Belichick took over as head coach, the Patriots have played in four more Super Bowls (seven) than they have played Wild Card round games (three). 

Right now, the Patriots remain the No. 2 seed in the AFC. They sit at 10-3, a game behind the Steelers team they’ll face Sunday in Pittsburgh. They’ll win that game, but let’s say they don’t. 

The Jaguars, fresh off a big win over the Seahawks, are 9-4. If they win out with a manageable schedule (Texans, at 49ers and an interesting finale against what might be a desperate Titans team in Tennessee), they would not only sew up the AFC South, but also potentially challenge the Patriots for the No. 2 seed in the conference. But again, they won’t. 

Should New England lose to the Steelers, they might be tied with the Jaguars in record with two games to go apiece. The Pats will play the Bills and Jets at home to finish the season, so it’s conceivable that both the Patriots and Jaguars finish 12-4. 

In such a scenario, head to head would be the first tiebreaker to determine who gets the No. 2 seed. That wouldn’t apply since the Pats and Jaguars haven’t and will not meet this regular season, so it would go to record in conference games. The Pats would be 9-3, while the Jaguars would be 10-2. Jacksonville would get the tiebreaker and the No. 2 seed. 

But again, that’s not going to happen. The Patriots will beat the Steelers Sunday, which will put the No. 1 seed back in play for the Pats. Both teams will be 11-3 overall and 8-2 against the AFC. With beatable opponents the rest of the way (the Bills and Jets for the Pats; the Texans and Browns for the Steelers), there’s a good shot both teams would finish 13-3 overall and 10-2 against the AFC. 

But hey, that AFC record wouldn’t matter! The first tiebreaker is head-to-head, remember? So, yeah, you have reason to worry about the Pats being the No. 3 seed. It’s just more likely that the Pats end up the No. 1. 

BUT, if you really want to worry about the Jaguars, feast your eyes on this heap of garbage that Handsome Phil Perry passed along: If all three teams finish 11-4, which can happen, the Jaguars could get the No. 1 seed given their head-to-head with the Steelers and the aforementioned conference advantage over the Pats. Look out for the Jaguars! 

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