Red Sox

Horton feels good on ice nearly year after concussion

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Horton feels good on ice nearly year after concussion

It was a welcomed sight to have Nathan Horton skating with his Bruins teammates last week when things moved to Ristuccia Arena. It was an encouraging sight when Horton mixed it up with his Bruins teammates in contact drills around the net during their first training camp practice at TD Garden on Sunday afternoon.

There was no hesitation or backing for the 27-year-old Horton, who is now almost a year removed from the Jan. 22 concussion that ended the 2011-12 season for him after Tom Sestito clipped him with a blindside hit. The Bruins right wing might have been a little rusty given that its been nearly a calendar year since hes played in a game, but he looked pretty comfortable skating with normal linemates David Krejci and Milan Lucic.

Both wingers acknowledged they have some work to do, however, as neither Lucic nor Horton played in any games during the 119-day lockout. So theyre essentially playing catch up with Krejci, who produced at a high offensive level for his Pardubice club in the Czech League.

I was really excited. I felt really good. Weve still got a lot of work to do, but you just keep pressing forward to get yourself in the best shape you can, said Horton, who missed the final 36 regular season games last year. Its a short week so you cant go out and kill yourself in practice. Once you drop the puck for the games you need to get it going. Every game is going to mean something.

Ive been waiting a long time to get into contact drills and I felt good out there. Its just nice to be back and be able to do that.

One of the few upsides to the NHL lockout was the rest time it gave to injured players working their way back. Though Horton would have been cleared to play in September had there been no work stoppage, the extra time gave the 6-foot-2, 229-pounder even more peace of mind that any concussion issues are in the rear view mirror.

So now the Bruins management team and coaching staff will be anxious to see what Horton can bring them as he approaches unrestricted free agency following the shortened 2013 season.

The lockout was a silver lining for Horton because hes had that much more time to recover, said Peter Chiarelli. Now weve had enough rest, so were no longer fatigued from a Stanley Cup win. I think it just speaks to motivation that these guys are in a short season, so anything can happen.

Its a sprint and lets get going. Its more that the longer theyve been out now, the more motivated they are going to be.

Its been quite the year for Horton. It started with a hellish concussion in January, but also included the birth of his second child over the summer that ostensibly kept him from potentially skating overseas like so many other NHL players. Now its a new year and Horton is again back on the ice, and hes looking for the happy hockey story this time around after working hard to get to this point.

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.