Red Sox

Haggerty: No boos for Thomas a good thing for all

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Haggerty: No boos for Thomas a good thing for all

BOSTON -- Tim Thomas had braced for every possible reaction from his home fans.

Tuesday night marked his first game back in Boston following the controversial decision to skip out on the White House ceremony for the Bruins last week, and Thomas said he had mentally prepared for soul-crushing booing or goose bumps-inducing cheers.

He thought they would cheer given the hockey job that Thomas has helped provide Bruins fans with over his seven plus seasons in Black and Gold.

I was pretty certain it would be a good reaction, said Thomas. But having said all that I didnt take it for granted. I was mentally prepared either way.

Well, all that mental preparation along with the unavoidable media hue and cry for more than a week was much ado about nothing when the Bruins fandom clapped and cheered for their longtime Black and Gold goaltender in a moment of need.

Lucky for Thomas, the Bruins fan base cares a great deal more about stopping pucks than where the governments buck stops.

It was a respectful greeting from the sellout TD Garden crowd when Tim Thomas name was announced as the starting goaltender prior to puck-drop against the Ottawa Senators. There werent any standing ovations of support or soul-crushing waves of negativity; instead it was business as usual, with the kind of political apathy youd expect from a crowd of sports fans.

Thats why there wasnt a boo or hiss in the house even when Thomas seemed a bit off his game against an Ottawa Senators team hell-bent on making an impression on the Northeast Division-leading Bruins.

I didnt see an ovation; I just saw them cheering him, said coach Claude Julien. Everybody was probably waiting to see what the reaction was going to be, so it was pretty clear that they still respect him for his hockey skills. They certainly are not holding anything against him for his political beliefs.

The positive feedback for the Conn Smythe and Vezina Trophy winner should put the finishing touches on last weeks White House incident, and finally, mercifully allow the Bs goaltender to again focus on the business of minding his net.

Thomas said the warm reception from Bruins Nation made him want to win the game for them all the much more, and both the Bs goaltender and his teammates eventually came through with a 4-3 decision over the Ottawa Senators at TD Garden.

I was happy to hear the reception from the fans. It was just good to hear, you know? I wanted to get them a win real bad, said Thomas, who made a perfect seven saves in the third period to help shepherd his club to victory. When we got down there in the second I didnt know if wed be able to pull it off, but we found a way again.

The Bruins found a way by finally waking up in the third period with goals from Brad Marchand and Dennis Seidenberg while coming from behind against Ottawa, and the team appreciated the fan reaction to Thomas. The Bruins team to a man only cares whether Thomas is stopping pucks at a record pace as he was last season, and the fan base is much the same way.

Thomas is the best goaltender in the world, and that means he provides the difference between winning and losing. Thats why an overwhelming 38 percent of Hockey News readers tops in the survey -- picked Tim Thomas as their goaltender of choice for a Game 7 playoff start that absolutely had to be won.

Sure, he kicked up a rebound to Colin Greening that turned into an Ottawa goal, and Thomas wasnt able to stop a Kyle Turris hot-shot from the left face-off circle after a Daniel Alfredsson cross-ice pass had him sliding from left-to-right in a desperate attempt to smother it. The Glenn Beck-sized demons could have crept into Thomas head at that point, down by a couple of goals in his first game out of the All-Star break, but the Bs goaltender said the same thing that hes uttered many times over the years: Im not going out like that.

Instead Thomas locked things in and his fellow American goaltending counterpart on the other side of the ice, Craig Anderson, let a 90-foot Dennis Seidenberg shot from the center-ice circle trickle through his pads.

I was very glad. Our goal is to win hockey games. It doesnt matter what happened last week, said Seidenberg. Those are his views. Our goal is still the same as his, and thats winning hockey games. None of that White House stuff matters to us at all.

So now the trade rumors involving Thomas have been debunked and the team has moved on from the politically-motivated Obama incident. Thomas isnt going anywhere this season, and his team will need him to produce something special again down the stretch if the Bruins hope to win another Stanley Cup.

His owner is behind him. His teammates are behind him. Team management is behind him. An entire Bruins fan base is behind him. They certainly dont all agree with Thomas political beliefs, but they do all worship at the altar of wins and losses each and every week.

The positive TD Garden reception served as the final chapter of the Skipping out on the White House for Dummies book thats now been successfully written by Thomas, and its officially time for everybody not-named Obama to move on. Player and team both displayed just how easy that could be today.

As Red Sox manager, Cora must keep conviction, honesty that got him job

As Red Sox manager, Cora must keep conviction, honesty that got him job

BOSTON -- Just as a batter can subconsciously play to avoid losing, rather than to win, a manager can operate with a fear of failure. Such an unwitting approach may have contributed John Farrell’s downfall, and is an area where Alex Cora can set himself apart.

A lot has been written about the value of authenticity in leadership. It’s one thing to have the charisma and conviction needed to land a position of power. It’s another to take over a pressure-cooker job, like manager of the Red Sox, and carry the fortitude to stay true to yourself, continue to let those qualities shine.

Cora did not appear to pull any punches in his days with ESPN. The 42-year-old engaged in Twitter debates with media members and fans. And throughout his baseball life, he showed his colors.

Via Newsday’s Dave Lennon, here’s a scene from 2010 when Cora was with the Mets: 

Last year, Cora spoke out against the league office's rule requiring minorities always be interviewed.

Perhaps most interesting of all, when Chris Sale cut up White Sox jerseys, Cora was Dennis Eckersley-like in his assessment:

“What he did is not acceptable,” Cora said of Sale. “If I’m a veteran guy, I’m going to take exception. if I’m a young guy, I’m going to take exception. Because as a young guy on a team that is actually struggling right now, somebody has to show me the ropes of how to act as a big leaguer. And this is not the way you act as a big leaguer. Forget the trades, forget who you are.

“What you do in that clubhouse, you got to act like a professional. And that’s one thing my agent, Scott Boras, used to tell me when I got to the big leagues: act like a professional. Chris Sale didn’t do it. He’s not showing the veterans that you respect the game. He’s not showing the rookies how to be a big leaguer, and that’s what I take exception to.”

Take out Chris Sale’s name from the above quotation and insert David Price’s. Describes Price's incident with Eckersley perfectly, doesn't it? 

Now, no manager can say what they’re really thinking all the time. Cora’s not in the media anymore. His new job description is different. 

But when you consider the great success of Terry Francona -- and why he succeeded in this market beyond simply winning -- what stands out is how comfortable Francona appears in his own skin. How genuine he seems. 

There is a way to acknowledge, as a manager, when something is off. A way to do so gently but genuinely. A way to say what you feel -- and a way to say what you feel must be said -- while operating without fear of the players you manage. 

Ultimately, most every comment Francona makes is intended to shield his players. But Francona shows his personality as he goes (or if you want to be a bit cynical, he sells his personality marvelously). Those little self-deprecating jokes -- he charms the hell out of everyone. The media, the fans. The Cult of Tito has a real following, because he feels real. Because he is real. 

Farrell was not fake. But he did have a hard time letting his personality come across consistently, to his detriment. He was reserved, in part because that just appeared to be his nature. But the job must have, with time, forced him to withdraw even further. As everything Farrell said (and did) was picked apart in the market, it likely became easiest just to play it safe in every facet -- speaking to the media, speaking to players.

The Sox’ biggest undertaking in 2017 seemed to be a nothing-to-see-here campaign. It was all fine. No David Ortiz, no home runs, no problem. Manny Machado was loved. The media was the problem, not any attitude or attitudes inside the clubhouse. Base running was a net positive -- you name it, none of it was ever tabbed as a problem publicly by the manager, or anyone else.

A perpetually defensive stance was the public image. Issues were never addressed or poorly defused, so questions always lingered.

Maybe Cora cannot admonish Sale as he did a year ago now that he’s managing Sale. Not publicly, anyway. But even as a quote-unquote player's manager, the job still requires authority, which should be doled out just as it was earned: through authentic comments and actions.

"My job as the manager is to set the culture, the expectations, the standards, the baseball," Cora’s present boss, Astros manager A.J. Hinch, said the night the Astros clinched the pennant. "It's the players' job to develop the chemistry.

“And obviously good teams always say that, we want chemistry, and what comes first, the chemistry or the winning. But when you have it, you want to hold on to it as much as possible . . . We've got a good thing going because we have one common goal, we have one common standard, and that's to be your best every day."

Cora has to remain true to his best, too -- not what he thinks, and hears, and reads, people want his best to be.

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EX-PATS PODCAST: Why does it seem Patriots secondary is playing better without Gilmore?

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EX-PATS PODCAST: Why does it seem Patriots secondary is playing better without Gilmore?

On this episode of The Ex-Pats Podcast...

0:10 - Mike Giardi and Dan Koppen give their takeaways from the Patriots win over the Falcons including the defense coming up strong against Atlanta but New England still taking too many penalties.

2:00 - Why it felt like this game meant more to the Patriots, their sense of excitement after the win, and building chemistry off a good victory.

6:20 - Falcons losing their identity without Kyle Shanahan as offensive coordinator and their bad play calling and decisions on 4th downs.

10:00 -  A discussion about Matt Ryan not making the throws he needed against the Patriots and if he has falling off the MVP caliber-type player he was last season.

14:00 - How and why the Patriots secondary seems to be playing better without Stephon Gilmore and why Malcolm Butler has been able to turn up his play as of late.