Red Sox

Seidenberg stepping up his game for postseason

578156.jpg

Seidenberg stepping up his game for postseason

WASHINGTON, D.C. The Stanley Cup playoffs are simply Dennis Seidenbergs time of year.

He was one of the key figures during last years Stanley Cup championship after he was paired with Zdeno Chara in the opening series of the playoffs against Montreal, and many spoke of Seidenberg as a dark horse candidate for the Conn Smythe Trophy because of it.

Well, he's is at it again.

The 30-year-old German defenseman is averaging 27 plus minutes of ice time per game, and they have been heavy, hard minutes. He is usually tangling with Russian wrecking ball Alex Ovechkin and whichever gritty forwards Dale Hunter tosses out there with him. But in the ultimate sign of courage, Seidenberg keeps going at Ovechkin even if he knows it takes an act of the hockey gods to knock him off his skates.

"Its a tough battle. Ovechkin is a very thick guy, but its fun," Seidenberg said. "Its playoff hockey and everything comes at you a little harder. Thats what its all about. Maybe its that you play a little more reckless. Maybe during the regular season I wouldnt try to hit as hard. I know that I just enjoy playing in the postseason and that makes me play that way.

Ovechkin is very strong on his skates, but Im going to keep trying to knock him off his skates maybe one of these times.

Its similar to when Seidenberg faced Milan Lucic and the Bruins when he was a member of the Carolina Hurricanes. The then-Carolina defenseman knew hed be on the losing end of things physically when he retrieved the puck, but that never stopped him from doing his job.

I dont think anybody likes playing against Looch. I experienced it in the playoffs a few years back, said Seidenberg. I knew I was going to get hammered by Lucic retrieving pucks, but I still did anyway. Some guys dont enjoy going back in there or going in as hard, and that gives Lucic a chance to get in there first to retrieve a puck.

Thats the kind of grit-your-teeth tough-guy courage that a player needs to be an effective defensemen in the playoffs, and Seidenberg has been far and above that.

The Bs defensemen even kicked in a little offense in Game 3 against the Washington Capitals when he carried the puck low into the offensive zone before finally getting it to Patrice Bergeron and Zdeno Chara for the game-winning blast.

Hes a guy thats always been good in the playoffs, even before he came to us. Hes a big game player and he continues to show that, said Claude Julien. Zdeno is as good as youll get for a defenseman, and but when it comes to the playoffs Seidenberg isnt that far behind him . . . if at all.

Hes been a really good player for us and a force. Hes loving these kinds of challenges and he thrives on it to succeed. Thats the thing with Dennis Seidenberg: his whole game just comes around. Hes one of those guys that can just elevate his game. Some players can do that, and some players cant.

Seidenberg and Chara were on the ice late in the third period of Game 3 when both defensemen paid too much attention to Alex Ovechkin and forgot about Brooks Laich on the other side of the ice. Other than that, though, they've allowed just one goal in three playoff games.

The Bruins continue to need that kind of lockdown playoff defense if theyre hoping to wrest ultimate control of their first round playoff series.

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.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

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

ex-pats-podcast17.png

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.