Bruins

Do the Red Sox need to apologize?

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Do the Red Sox need to apologize?

Pitcher and catchers report to Ft. Myers on Sunday, marking the unofficial start to the 2012 Red Sox season. But, five months after the fact, it seems a lot of people in this city aren't ready to say goodbye to 2011.

Yesterday on the radio, Tony Massarotti screamed about the need for Red Sox players to still address and take responsibility for what happened in September: "My gripe is with the players, and players exclusively at this point, he said. I dont feel like the players have faced the music. This is not about Lucchino or Henry or Cherington or anyone who is gone. It is soley, 100 about the players on the field. That is what this is about now for me.

Later in the show, one of Felger and Mazz's callers added: "We should keep the pedal on the metal and not let these guys even think about 2012 until they answer the leftover questions from 2011!"

And he wasn't alone. Over the course their four hours on the air, an unbelievable number of people called in to say that "the Red Sox", or "these players" or "those guys" need to be held accountable for their actions down the stretch. That this team is a disgrace and shouldn't be forgiven until they accept responsibility for everything that happened!

I disagree, and offer the following question:

Which Red Sox still need to apologize?

Who still hasn't "faced the music"?

Is it Jacoby Ellsbury?

He hit .358 in September, and led the majors with eight homers. He has nothing to apologize for.

Carl Crawford?

I'd say Carl needs to apologize for the entire season, except he already did.

Dustin Pedroia?

Obviously not. Pedroia hit .304 in September. He hit four homers knocked in 19 runs and scored 18 of his own. Outside of July, September was Pedroias most dominant month.
McAdam: Sox must address 2011 before starting 2012

For another indicator of how hard he was trying: Between April and August, Pedroia averaged 104 at-bats and 16 walks a month. In September, he had 112 at-bats and six walks. Pedey wasn't sitting back and letting the season slip away, he was out there trying to make things happen. Was he trying too hard? Maybe, but considering all that was going on around him, it's understandable.

David Ortiz?

Ortiz hit .287 with one homer, and eight RBI in September, which was ugly. Even uglier compared to his August output of .411 with eight homers and 20 RBI.

Yeah, he could have been better. And yeah, maybe if he was a little less concerned with RBI and contracts and whatever else had his stirrups in a bunch, Ortiz could have been a more unifying force behind the scenes. But so could have everyone, and at least he spoke to the media after. He didn't have the most glowing words about the season or the Sox in general, but at least he addressed the drama:

"We had that when we won the World Series in 2004," he said. "We had that when we won the World Series in 2007. Beer in the clubhouse, it's always been there. Video games, that's always been there; guys eating fried chicken, that's always been there."

So there you go. Maybe not the "Oh my God, I'm so sorry. Can you guys ever forgive me?" apology everyone was looking for. But then again, from what we know, Ortiz wasn't the one of the main culprits. Still, he faced the music and stated his case. Even if you don't respect Ortiz the same way you did in 2003 and 2004 or even 2007, is he really worthy of all that anger?

What about Kevin Youkilis?

Youk appeared in only 10 games in managed only 36 at bats in September. Maybe he wasnt the most popular guy in the clubhouse, but has he ever been? Plus, I think we should take it easy on Kevin. It's already been a rough month for the Brady family.

Clay Buchholz?

He didn't even pitch.

Daniel Bard?

He didn't pitch either!

OK, he did. But his case breeds more sadness than anger. The kid choked down the stretch, and can hopefully find comfort in his new role in the rotation.

Adrian Gonzalez?

Certainly September wasn't Gonzalez's best month, as he played through a calf injury of which we still don't really know the severity. But unless you expect him to apologize for loving God, Im not sure what he has to say.

One knock on Gonzalez is that he was a little too complacent down the stretch. He drew 21 walks in September, compared to seven walks in May (when he was tearing up the league) and an average of 10.6 walks over the first five months. On one hand, maybe teams were pitching around him. The guy spent most of the month hitting in front of a struggling David Ortiz, and over the last six games of the season, Gonzalez hit in front of Mike Aviles, Conor Jackson, Jed Lowrie, Jed Lowrie, Ryan Lavarnway and Ryan Lavarnway, respectively. Still, you would have loved to see Gonzalez press a little harder, and I guess that gets back to a bigger problem.

Gonzalez approaches baseball with a mentality that not everyone can relate to. The fact that he would prepare for a game in the midst of the pennant race with the same aggression and intensity that he does a Thursday afternoon in May is confusing and frustrating, and will never sit well in Boston. But on the list of problems in the Sox clubhouse, Adrian Gonzalez's lack of intensity is hardly worth losing sleep over. The guy hit .338! And while he didn't exactly excel in some of the bigger games, I don't think his faith, and "Nothing I do matters, it's all up to God" mentality means that he can't come through when it matters most. After all:

It doesnt matter if I hit a home run. It doesnt matter if we win a game. It doesnt matter if I go four for four. Whatever happens at the end of the day, as long as I glorify His name, thats what its all about. Albert Pujols

Jon Lester?

Lester was 1-3 over six September starts, and boasted a 5.40 ERA and 1.61 WHIP. He was awful. But on October 18, he called around to numerous media outlets (must have lost my number) and set the record straight.

"You know what? We didn't play good baseball," he said. "People are making us out to be a bunch of drunk, fried-chicken eating SOBs, playing video games. You can ask my wife, for the last 10 years I don't think I've played a single video game, and Josh (Beckett) and Lack (John Lackey) are the same way. But one person writes an article, and things have gotten blown way out of proportion, almost to another planet. We're getting crushed."

Again, maybe he wasn't as apologetic as everyone would have liked, but come on. Do we really even know what happened? Do we know how much Lester was actually involved? Sure, maybe he wasn't as focused as he needed to be, and he definitely wasn't as effective, but how many details does anyone know after that?

Lester stood up and answered questions, faced the music and admitted that the Sox didn't play well enough. Given his track record, isn't that enough?

OK so who's left who else from last year's team could anyone possibly still want to speak up and take responsibility for his role in the collapse

Oh, right. Josh Beckett. And honestly, I can't argue with that.

While the rest of his teammates have, for the most part, gone out of their way to stand up and address what happened, it's almost like Beckett has taken pride in avoiding it. And considering that he's one of the perceived ring leaders, it makes the situation that much worse. But here's the thing with Beckett he clearly doesn't care.

If he was really sorry for anything that happened, he would have come out and said it already. It wouldn't have been that hard for him to get out some sort of apologetic message. But he didn't do it, and again, that's because he doesn't care. So tell me: Is a fake apology from Josh Beckett really going to make anyone feel that much better?

Is that really the deciding factor in whether or not your willing to move on from last year's disaster and look forward to 2012?

I'm not saying that Beckett should be forgiven. I'm not saying you have to think he's a great person. After all, have you ever really liked the person Josh Beckett is off the field?

Even when he was winning 20 games and a World Series, did you ever think to yourself: "Wow, that Beckett, he's a great guy!" No way. And you shouldn't this year either. But let's say it's June, and Beckett's sitting with a 7-2 record and 2.23 ERA. Will you still care so much about September. Will the rallying cry be: "He still hasn't owned up to last year BOO THIS MAN!"

I don't think so. It will be the same as always, meaning that everyone will overlook the fact that Beckett is kind of a jerk, and just appreciate him for the dominant pitcher that he can be.

And if you don't think that will be the case this year. If, in your mind, Beckett was so deplorable that you'll never root for him or respect him again, then I ask you again: What is a fake apology going to do?? How does this make you feel better?

It doesn't and it won't.

So let's just move on.

I'm not saying we should forget what happened last year. I'm not saying that we should unconditionally love every guy in that clubhouse, because frankly, this isn't the most likable team. I just don't understand what good it does to keep harping on last year when at the end of the day, there's nothing you, me, Josh Beckett or Tony Massarotti can do to change what happened.

Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrich_levine

Even in their struggles, Bruins have reason(s) to be thankful

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Even in their struggles, Bruins have reason(s) to be thankful

Thanksgiving in the United States has become an important holiday in NHL circles because it provides a regular-season marker that allows teams to gauge their playoff viability. Roughly 75 percent of teams in a playoff spot at Turkey Day end up qualifying for the postseason, and teams within a handful of points of a playoff spot retain a pretty decent chance of pushing their way in. 

But Thanksgiving is also a great time for teams like the Bruins to also give thanks, just like everybody else, while they’re passing the turkey, the stuffing and the mashed potatoes.

Given that it’s the time of being thankful ahead of the holiday season, here is this humble hockey writer’s annual list of things that each member of the Bruins has to be thankful for as they sit down to enjoy a tryptophan-induced nap:
 
David Pastrnak – The 21-year-old is still thankful for the big bucks he signed for this fall . . . $40 million, to be exact. That should keep him in $8 sushi meals at the mall food court for as long as he wants them.
 
Brad Marchand –Marchand is thankful he finally got bumped up to the top power-play unit over the last couple of seasons, after Claude Julien really dragged his feet putting him there. Eleven power-play goals and 29 power-play points in his last 94 games certainly tell the story.
 
Patrice Bergeron – Bergeron is happy and thankful that he’s regained his health after missing the start this season, and that he’s been able to adequately handle the 21:01 of ice time he’s averaging per game.
 
Torey Krug – Krug is thankful he can again eat a nice steak dinner after being forced to have his food come out of a blender for months after fracturing his jaw during the preseason. Of course, that goes for a nice turkey dinner on Thanksgiving as well.
 
Danton Heinen – The 22-year-old is thankful for second chances after he whiffed during an eight-game audition last season in his first year of pro hockey. He’s making up for it by cementing a role with the Bruins this season now that he’s stronger, faster and a little more confident with the puck.
 
Charlie McAvoy – The 19-year-old defenseman is thankful he decided to leave BU after his sophomore season, making the very correct deduction that he was way more than ready for the NHL. If he plays his cards right, he may be thankful at the end of the season for a Calder Trophy.
 
Anders Bjork – The rookie is thankful that the B’s will be playing the Chicago Blackhawks in the Winter Classic at his alma mater, Notre Dame, next season. He may get to live out a lifelong dream of playing a hockey game on that iconic football field.
 
Jake DeBrusk – The rookie left winger is thankful that he got to score his first NHL goal in front of his family and his teary-eyed dad, Louie, during a pretty cool opening-night win over the Nashville Predators.
 
Tim Schaller – The New Hampshire native is thankful to be playing for his hometown hockey team, of course, but he’s more than just a local boy made good. Tim Schaller has been a positive factor for the bottom-6 with his size, speed and intermittent offense.
 
Zdeno Chara – The captain is thankful that both he and his employer agree that the 40-year-old D-man should continue playing for the Bruins beyond this season. Now it’s just a matter of agreeing on a contract at some point.
 
David Krejci – The playmaking center is thankful his cranky back has loosened up enough for him to get back in the lineup. Now the Bruins and their fans would be thankful if the points would start to follow now that he’s healthy enough to play.
 
Riley Nash – The forward is thankful that the B's thought enough of him to protect him in the expansion draft last summer, a show of commitment to a versatile, smart player who does a lot of little things well.
 
Sean Kuraly – The young center is thankful that he hasn’t yet hurt himself taking the jumping, flying and leaping goal celebrations that he’s quickly becoming known for.
 
Kevan Miller – The defenseman is thankful he’s back playing his natural right side for the most part after being pushed into left-side duty for much of the first couple of months this season.
 
Brandon Carlo – The second-year defenseman is thankful to still be on the Bruins, and not used as possible trade collateral in a possible Matt Duchene deal that was discussed quite a bit last year and through the summer.
 
Jordan Szwarz – The 26-year-old forward is thankful for another NHL opportunity in Boston after he’d gone a couple of years without a sniff during his time in the Arizona Coyotes organization after some early games with them.
 
Frank Vatrano – The Bruins forward and East Longmeadow native should frankly be happy that he’s still in the NHL given the training camp and early season he had with the Bruins. He’s scored a couple of goals and played well lately, so he has to hope that he’s pushed through the bad times.
 
Noel Acciari – The Providence College alum is happy to be healthy again after missing a month with a broken finger, and he’s proven that by going right back to the heavy hitting, shot-blocking tough kid that he’s always been.
 
Ryan Spooner – The speedy playmaker is thankful to be over his torn groin. He needs a strong season in order to once, and for all, show exactly what he could be to the Bruins, or some other team, at the NHL level.
 
Adam McQuaid – The veteran defenseman is thankful that he wasn’t selected by the Vegas Golden Knights in the expansion draft last summer, and instead continues to be a strong, robust presence in the D-zone when healthy.
 
David Backes – The 33-year-old forward is thankful to be back skating again after a couple of painful  bouts with diverticulitis that left him in surgery with 10 inches of his colon being removed. I'm still amazed that he returned to practice as quickly as he did, but he is a hockey player after all.
 
Paul Postma – The  D-man is thankful to be getting a second chance with another organization after spending his entire career with the Atlanta Thrashers/Winnipeg Jets.
 
Matt Beleskey – The winger is thankful that he’s getting a chance to bounce back from last year’s down season, but so far the zero points and minus-7 rating in 13 games leave lots of room for improvement.
 
Tuukka Rask – The No. 1 goaltender is thankful for all the rest he’s getting in the first half of the season, which should presumably make him healthy, fresh and strong down the stretch this season. That is, if he can actually get back in touch with a game that sees him with a turkey-like .897 save percentage right now.  
 
Anton Khudobin – The backup netminder is thankful he’s been given a chance to run with things this season as he’s already twice had a chance to start three games in a row after struggling to gain regular playing time last season.
 
Bruce Cassidy – The coach is thankful for another shot behind an NHL bench 13 years after the first one, and he’s making the most of it with a rag-tag group beset by injuries and youth right now.
 
Don Sweeney – The general manager is thankful the team is still within a handful of points of a playoff spot after everything that went wrong in the first couple of months.
 
Cam Neely – The tean president is thankful for the overwhelming talent within their youth movement and the strong, loyal fan base that backs this team no matter what. But it could be a bit of a rough ride ahead, as the B's rank fourth among the big four Boston sports teams, given how good, deep and close to championship-caliber the others are right now. 

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Celtics' cup has runneth over so far this season

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Celtics' cup has runneth over so far this season

BOSTON -- The Boston Celtics are no different than the rest of us. They have a lot to be thankful for.
 
There’s the usual good health, family and friends. But they have a few more things to be thankful for, as well.
 
So as you take a brief time-out today from the turkey, stuffing and cranberry sauce, here’s a look at five things the Celtics are thankful for this season.


 
KYRIE IRVING
 
The Celtics have had some solid players in recent years, but the addition of Kyrie Irving was a game-changer. He provides Boston with an unmistakable superstar who has a proven track record of success on all levels -- he's won an NBA championship and an Olympic Gold medal, and is also a four-time All-Star. Did I mention he’s just 25 years old?


 
AL HORFORD
 
His numbers will never adequately measure the impact Horford has had on the Celtics. The big plus with Horford was him simply agreeing to be a Celtic. For years this franchise has been built on the success of developing draft picks or trading for talented players. But rarely have they had the financial flexibility or, to be frank, the kind of appeal to free agents to go out and acquire a proven All-Star like Al Horford. His arrival has enhanced an already-established winning culture, one that has become a player on the free agency market ever since.


 
DANNY AINGE
 
Other than Oklahoma City’s Sam Presti, it’s hard to imagine another front office executive having as good an offseason as Ainge. He rolled the dice to go down two spots in last June’s NBA draft, and wound up with arguably the most NBA-ready player (Jayson Tatum) among those selected in last June’s NBA draft. (Remember, the likely rookie-of-the-year Ben Simmons did not play last year after Philadelphia drafted him with the top overall pick in 2016.) The free-agent pickups of Aron Baynes, Daniel Theis and Shane Larkin have all had moments where they carried the team to victory. Even second-round picks like Semi Ojeleye and two-way players like Jabari Bird have contributed to wins this season. Fans may not like some of Ainge’s decisions in the moment but he deserves a lot of credit for the team we see today, one that has played at a level few envisioned they'd reach this quickly.


 
BRAD STEVENS
 
And to think, the Big Three (Kyrie Irving, Gordon Hayward and Al Horford) Boston was planning to build around this season has played less than five minutes together. Stevens has been pushing all the right buttons, putting guys in unexpected positions to succeed with a cast that’s long on talent and well, well short on experience. Boston’s first win of the season came at Philadelphia, a game in which the Celtics played six different rookies. It’s not unusual for teams to use first-year players frequently, but for a team that was built to contend for a championship? That’s highly unusual. The biggest thing is despite the lack of experience on the floor, Stevens hasn’t allowed them to use that as a reason to fail. Instead, Stevens has had them lean heavily on film study and the wisdom of veterans, as well as empowered them to have a “next-man-up” mindset with one goal regardless of what they are tasked with doing: Get it done. No excuses.


 
ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT
 
Boston has spent most of this season atop the NBA standings, fueled in large part by a 15-game winning streak -- the longest of the Brad Stevens era and the fifth-longest ever by a Celtics team. But within that winning streak, there have been some noticeable areas of concern (i.e., bench scoring) that have made games more challenging. And that's what makes these Celtics so scary to the rest of the league. If they’re beating teams consistently now, how much better will they be when the offense catches up or, at a minimum, gains some ground on what has been an impressive stretch of play defensively? That’s why as good as this first full month of the season has been, there's reason to believe they’ll only get better. The Celtiheircs have seen  share of adversity. They've played without their All-Stars. They have fought back from double-digit deficits to emerge victorious. This is a young squad, but battle-tested already. Because of all that, they have a certain level of confidence that regardless of the situation, regardless of the score, they feel they will find a pathway to success. And that, Celtics Nation, is something to be thankful for.

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