Capitals

Cherington says Red Sox have much to prove

Cherington says Red Sox have much to prove

BOSTON (AP) Boston Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington is heading to baseball's winter meetings in Nashville with his pockets bulging from the $250 million he saved in the deal that sent Josh Beckett, Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford to the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Spending all that money might be the hard part.

In an off-year for big-ticket free agents, the Red Sox will probably not be able to rebuild last year's 93-loss fiasco into a contender just from the players on this year's market. Right-hander Zack Greinke and outfielder Josh Hamilton are expected to be the biggest prizes when baseball's annual winter bazaar opens in Nashville on Monday.

``It's not difficult to find things to spend it on. It's difficult to find the right things to spend it on,'' Cherington said at the Red Sox holiday festival at Fenway Park on Saturday. ``Maybe there are fewer of those (high-profile free agents) than in other years. Maybe it doesn't feel like last offseason. But there will still be headlines; there will still be deals.''

Snowflakes sprinkled down on Fenway as Red Sox fans streamed into the ballpark to see the Christmas tree, listen to carolers and buy tickets for the 2013 season. There were magicians and balloon animals and even a choo-choo train for the kiddies, while inside the team's two World Series trophies were available for photographs and to remind all the children in Boston of the time not too long ago when the Red Sox were good.

And likeable, too.

Cherington said he was paying even more attention this winter to signing the right kind of player, the ones who have an attitude - and not just a swing - tailored for Fenway Park. Beckett, Gonzalez and Crawford are gone from the clubhouse that blew an unprecedented September lead in 2011 and then finished last in'12.

``I think our fans want a winning team, and they want a winning team year after year. They want a team they can root for and get behind,'' Cherington said. ``It's always been a focus. Coming off a 93-loss season, we've got a lot to prove. We're trying to build something.''

New manager John Farrell and his coaching staff should smooth out some of the problems that arose under Bobby Valentine's 10-month reign, Cherington said, but ``the player in the clubhouse have a bigger impact on that than anyone else.''

That's one of the things that attracted him to outfielder Jonny Gomes, who agreed to a two-year deal around Thanksgiving that was announced on Saturday.

``He'll have an opportunity to play a lot,'' Cherington said. ``I see him playing a lot of left field. I think his bat fits well in the lineup, in the ballpark. He's developed a really good reputation in the clubhouse. He's used to the AL East. So just a good fit all the way around.''

Gomes said in a conference call with reporters later Saturday that he is certain the Red Sox won't put together another disastrous season.

``Unless you've been under a rock, you know what happened last year,'' he said. ``Right away, without even signing, I knew the Red Sox would be playing with the biggest chip on their shoulders. There's no way they're going to play like that two straight seasons. I would be honored and love to bring back the fire to the nation.''

Gomes, who's played more than 120 games just once in his 10-year career, said he doesn't know what his role will be with the team, but he's prepared to earn his playing time.

``This is a results-driven industry,'' he said. ``If the results are there, you'll play.''

And even when he's not playing, he feels he can contribute.

``How does a big machine run? A big machine runs with a lot of grease,'' he said. ``I represent the grease that runs the machine, not the machine.''

After signing Gomes, the Red Sox still need another outfielder, a first baseman, at least one starting pitcher and a closer.

``There's still a lot of work to be done this offseason,'' Cherington said. ``I still see the week before the winter meetings as pretty early in the offseason. The water's headed down the river, but hasn't gotten to the waterfall yet.''

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Possible playoff opponents for the Capitals are starting to come into focus

Possible playoff opponents for the Capitals are starting to come into focus

With their 3-1 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday, the Capitals' playoff future is starting to come into focus. Washington has only one game remaining and can finish in either third or fourth in the round robin standings. That limits the number of possible playoff opponents for the Caps when the games really start to matter.

First, before talking about who the Caps may play, it is important to remember why. Under the NHL's regular format, a normal year would see teams advance in a bracket, meaning each team knows going in they will be playing the winner of a specific matchup if they advance. This year, the NHL is going back to its old format of re-seeding after each round. This makes determining matchups a bit harder to figure out.

Here's what we know. The Caps are going to finish in the bottom half of the round robin meaning they will play one of the highest two seeded teams coming out of the qualifying round. The Carolina Hurricanes swept their qualifying round series against the New York Rangers. As the No. 6 seed coming in, Carolina is going to be one of the top two qualifying round teams.

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Washington's final seed will be determined by Sunday's game against the Boston Bruins. A win in regulation, overtime or a shootout will mean the Caps are No. 3, while a loss in any fashion will bump them down to No. 4.

The simplest scenario for Washington is that If the Pittsburgh Penguins rally to win their series against the Montreal Canadiens, the Caps are guaranteed to play either Pittsburgh or Carolina as the No. 5 and 6 seeds, respectively. It gets a little trickier if the Penguins lose. If that happens, the Hurricanes become the top qualifying team and will play No. 4. The top team behind them then becomes No. 6 which, as of now, could be the New York Islanders, Toronto Maple Leafs or the Columbus Blue Jackets.

So a rematch with the Hurricanes is a definite possibility for the Caps, as is a matchup with the rival Penguins.

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Pelicans' star rookie Zion Williamson out vs. Wizards

Pelicans' star rookie Zion Williamson out vs. Wizards

The Wizards will have to wait until next year to face Zion Williamson for the first time.

The Pelicans' star rookie will sit out on Friday night as the Wizards face New Orleans at 8 p.m. on NBC Sports Washington. Williamson is resting on the second night of a back-to-back. The Pelicans played the Kings on Thursday night.

The Wizards also missed Williamson last July in the Summer League after he suffered a knee injury in his first game in Las Vegas. They also had one of their games this season against the Pelicans cancelled due to the NBA's long hiatus because of the coronavirus outbreak.

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Someday, the Wizards will see Williamson and when they do, it will be interesting to watch him match up with Rui Hachimura, who was in the same draft class and plays the same position. Williamson was the No. 1 overall pick and Hachimura was picked ninth.

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For now, the Wizards will battle a Pelicans team headlined by Brandon Ingram, Jrue Holiday and Lonzo Ball.

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