Patriots

Wakefield announces retirement

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Wakefield announces retirement

One of the most remarkable, and historic, careers in Red Sox history came to an end Friday afternoon, when Tim Wakefield announced his retirement.

Wakefield, 45, who has played for the Sox for 17 years and holds the franchise records for innings pitched (3,095), appearances (590) and games started (442), held a press conference at JetBlue Park in Fort Myers. He retires with exactly 200 career victories, including 186 as a member of the Red Sox . . . trailing only Roger Clemens and Cy Young, each of whom won 192.

Ex-teammate Derek Lowe, who lives in Fort Myers, attended the press conference, along with current Sox players Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Clay Buchholz, Daniel Bard, Michael Bowden, Scott Atchison, Rich Hill, John Lackey, Josh Beckett, Jon Lester and Kevin Youkilis.

"This has been the hardest thing I've ever had to do. So, it is with a heavy heart that I say I have decided to retire from the game of baseball," said Wakefield, who later added: "Thank you to the Red Sox for giving me the best time of my life."

Wakefield also thanked the Red Sox fans:

"You are the greatest fans in the world. I have enjoyed every minute I have played for you. I appreciate every moment we have shared over the years and I will hold each one of you close to my heart."

A Dan Duquette free-agent pickup in 1995, after he'd been released by the Pirates, Wakefield burst onto the scene with 14 wins in first 15 decisions as a member of the Sox. He finished 18-6 with a 2.95 ERA in a performance that earned him the Comeback Player of the Year award, garnered him votes in both the Cy Young and MVP balloting, and helped Boston run away with the A.L. East crown.

That started the fourth-longest career in franchise history -- only Carl Yastrzemski (23 years), Ted Williams (19) and Dwight Evans (19) played longer in Boston -- that included more postseason appearances (eight) than any other Sox. Over the years he was a staff ace, a closer, and virtually everything in between, as he filled whatever role his managers assigned him.

Wakefield had two 17-win seasons (1998 and 2007) and one 16-win season (2005) after his '95 breakthrough, and is often cited as one of the unsung heroes of the greatest comeback in baseball history. In Game 3 of the 2004 ALCS, he pitched 3 13 innings in relief during the 19-8 loss to the Yankees and was credited by manager Terry Francona with saving the bullpen and setting up the four straight wins that followed. He was the winning pitcher in Boston's 14-inning, Game 5 victory, and -- with several of his teammates -- took a bottle of champagne to the Yankee Stadium mound after Game 7 to not only toast the victory, but erase the memory of the game- and series-losing home run he'd allowed to Aaron Boone in Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS.

More importantly, he contributed more time and money to charity than virtually any player in Red Sox history. He won MLB's Roberto Clemente Award, given to the player who "who best reflects the spirit of giving back to the community", in 2010.

His last winning season was 2009, when he went 11-5 with a 4.58 ERA and earned his only All-Star berth. He struggled over the last two years (4-10, 5.32, in 2010; 7-8, 5.12, in 2011) and the Sox only offered him a non-roster invitation to spring training this season. Rather than fight for a place on the team, he decided to retire.

"To be honest, I think this is what is best for the Red Sox, what is best for my family," said Wakefield, later adding: "For me, it was the right decision to make."

BOSTON SPORTS TONIGHT PODCAST: 'Incomprehensible' to expect same greatness from Patriots?

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BOSTON SPORTS TONIGHT PODCAST: 'Incomprehensible' to expect same greatness from Patriots?

0:43 - Tom Curran, Kayce Smith, and Michael Holley talk about Bill Belichick saying it’s “incomprehensible” that people expect the Patriots to be on the same level as last year at this point in the season.

11:55 - Tom Giles, Kayce Smith, and Michael Holley discuss J.R. Smith’s comments about the Celtics not being a threat to the Cavaliers.

15:38 - Abby Chin, Chris Mannix, and A. Sherrod Blakely join BST from Cleveland to talk about Marcus Smart and the Celtics failing to agree to a contract extension, making him a restricted free agent in July. They also preview Tuesday’s Celtics-Cavaliers season opener.

19:25 - Reports say Alex Cora is the frontrunner for the Red Sox managerial position, but Brad Ausmus interviewed for the position on Monday. Who is the right man for the job? Tom Giles and Michael Holley discuss.

Stevens knows hanging banners is ‘what it’s all about’ in Boston

Stevens knows hanging banners is ‘what it’s all about’ in Boston

BOSTON – When Brad Stevens took the Boston Celtics job in 2013, he knew what he was getting into.
 
Yes, the Celtics at that time were rebuilding which usually means years and years of slow but steady progress – if you’re lucky.
 
And then after maybe a few years of struggling to win games, a breakout season occurs and just like that – you’re back in the playoffs.

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 But here’s the thing with the Celtics.
 
While most rebuilding teams spend years working their way towards being competitive, Stevens hit the ground running and in just four years, he led the Celtics from being a 25-win team to one that was just three wins away from getting to the NBA Finals.
 
He has the kind of basketball resume that’s impressive on many levels.
 
But Stevens knows good isn’t good enough in this town.
 
“We’re here in Boston,” he said. “Winning is good, but hanging one of those (banners) up is what it’s all about. That’s what makes this such a special franchise.”
 
And for Stevens, a franchise where the expectations for success under his watch have never been greater than they are now.
 
Boston only returns one starter (Al Horford) from last year’s squad which advanced to the Eastern Conference finals after having won an East-best 53 games.
 
However, they added a pair of All-Stars in Gordon Hayward and Kyrie Irving to join Horford. In addition, they drafted Jayson Tatum with the third overall pick in last June’s NBA draft.
 
Boston also has a slimmed-down Marcus Smart (he lost 20 pounds from a year ago) as well Jaylen Brown and Terry Rozier who will both benefit from having another NBA season under their belts.
 
And while it’s a small sample size and consists of just two teams (Philadelphia and Charlotte), the Celtics breezed their way through the preseason with a flawless 4-0 record which included at least one game in which they did not play their usual starters which shows how impactful their depth may be this season.
 
That success can only help, especially with a challenging schedule that includes seven of their first 11 games being on the road. 
 
Still, the potential of this Celtics team has never been greater than it is right now since Stevens took over in 2013.
 
And just like the increased expectations of the team, the same can be said for Stevens who is considered one of the better coaches in the NBA.
 
Marcus Morris will begin his first season with the Celtics, but had a lot of respect for Stevens well before he was traded to Boston from Detroit this summer.
 
“You hear a lot of good things about him from other players,” Morris told NBC Sports Boston. “And once you get in here and start working with him and seeing what he does every day, you see what they’re talking about. He’s a good coach, man.”
 
This team’s success will hinge on how the players perform, but there’s an added element of pressure on Stevens to find the right combinations that will position the Celtics for success.
 
“We have a lot more guys who can do a lot more things on the court, so it will be a little more challenging for us to figure out how to best play with each other, and for Brad to figure out which combinations are the best ones,” Boston’s Al Horford told NBC Sports Boston. “But we’ll figure it out. Brad’s a really good coach, a really smart coach. And on our team, we have a lot of players who are smart, high basketball I.Q. guys. We’ll be OK.”
 
Basketball smarts aside, the Celtics’ success will hinge heavily on how quickly they can bring a roster with 10 new players up to speed quickly.
 
It’s still early, but players like what they’ve seen from the collective body in terms of team chemistry.
 
“I think that’s the beauty of a lot of guys on the team,” said Gordon Hayward. “It’ll be different each night with some of the different roles we play.”
 
Which is why the Celtics, while lacking experience as a team because of so many new faces, are still seen as capable of winning because they have a number of players who can impact the game in many ways.
 
But as good as they are, it still comes back to Stevens doing a good job of putting them in the best positions to find success individually as well as for the Celtics team.
 
When you look at how time with Stevens jumpstarted Isaiah Thomas and Jae Crowder’s careers, or how it helped revitalize the career of Evan Turner, it’s obvious that he has the Midas touch when it comes to getting the most out of players.
 
For Boston to have the kind of success they believe they are due for, it’s going to take the contributions of many.
 
And even that might not be enough.
 
But having the path being bumpier than expected is something Stevens embraces.
 
“Here in this league,” he said. “You have to love challenges.”

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