After getting swept in Baltimore, and ensuring that they are part of the franchise's first 90-loss team since 1966, at least the Red Sox left town in a good mood. Keeping with annual tradition, the club's rookies dressed up for the ride to New York, most dressing as the "Twin Peaks High School" cheerleading squad -- not sure if that's a real place, but it's certainly a double entendre -- and Will Middlebrooks playing the role of Dorothy from the "Wizard of Oz."
The Red Sox circulated the picture above, while Middlebrooks provided his own personal pic (pursed lips and all) and those below are courtesy of David Ortiz's Twitter account.
Oh my god..... K negra😃 twitter.com/davidortiz/sta…— David Ortiz (@davidortiz) September 30, 2012
Not way jose.... Make it rain papi ciriaco say in the train ride😵 demen mi dinero pa' tra... Spanglish twitter.com/davidortiz/sta…— David Ortiz (@davidortiz) September 30, 2012
Prior to Tuesday night's game against the Rays, the Red Sox used the penultimate game of Fenway Park's 100th anniversary season to honor the 2004 World Series champions. Then once their duckboat parade around the warning track was finished, Kevin Millar, Keith Foulke, and Pedro Martinez met the media.
In describing what made that team special, Millar talked about how well that team got along with each other, lauding its chemistry as a difference-maker -- and as the three ex-Sox cited a few examples of that, Martinez alluded to a jacuzzi story involving left fielder Manny Ramirez. He didn't tell it then. But the legendary righty sure seemed to be itching to share.
So when another opportunity arose later, he did.
"I'm gonna tell this story because it's hilarious," Martinez said with a laugh. "I'm in the jacuzzi and I'm trying to relax in the jacuzzi. I cleaned up my jacuzzi really clean before I got in and everything. I put new water and everything in there.
"All of a sudden Manny comes out of nowhere. Takes off his pants, but leaves his socks on, and his shirt. I'm not looking, and all of a sudden Manny jumps in the jacuzzi. Millar sees Manny, and all of a sudden, "Oh! What do we have here? Do we have a party here?' He jumped in. Then Johnny Damon broke the party because Johnny Damon wanted to take all of his clothes off.
"Manny came right out, took my clothes -- my underwear, my socks, and everything -- put it on, sprayed perfume on it, and put his uniform on and went to play. To see four guys, a couple of them half-naked, in the same jacuzzi -- you can't make it up. But that's the kind of group we had."
"Can you imagine Jeter, Posada, and Bernie buck naked jumping in?" Millar added, in reference to a trio of Yankees. "You just can't make it up."
A moment later, Martinez said he's never signed the inside of the Green Monster because he didn't feel as though he'd earned the right to do so "until (he) won it for Boston." He intends to stop inside the wall on this visit, and ink his signature in a certain spot.
"I'm gonna sign really high so Manny doesn't pee on it."
As the Patriots tight end laughed his way through the so-called "Summer of Gronk," ESPN's Jeremy Schaap spent some time with Rob Gronkowski -- the result of which was a feature that'll air on tonight's episode of E:60. The full version will be part of the 7 p.m. broadcast on the worldwide leader, but here's a preview of what you can expect to see.
Brandon Spikes certainly spouted the strongest -- and most hilarious -- reaction to the role replacement referees played in the Patriots' 31-30 loss at Baltimore. But he was hardly a lone voice in microblogging wilderness.
In addition to the "Tweet of the Year," as the Obnoxious Boston Fan so accurately described it, here are a few more from Spikes and a few of teammates -- some of which contain PG-13 language, and all of which you can be sure Roger Goodell's office is reading this morning:
Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr— brandon spikes (@BrandonSpikes55) September 24, 2012
Ref ?!?! I never said anything about the “Refs” y’all need to chill out !! #imTru— brandon spikes (@BrandonSpikes55) September 24, 2012
I thought after Noah’s Ark & the great flood, God said he wouldn’t punish us again..well how do u explain what happen 2nite ?! Ijs #PoWwWwW— brandon spikes (@BrandonSpikes55) September 24, 2012
Krazy krazy feeling right now #HEATED— Alfonzo Dennard (@FonzieDennard15) September 24, 2012
Not in a good mood— Alfonzo Dennard (@FonzieDennard15) September 24, 2012
Gotta keep it moving on to the Next— Alfonzo Dennard (@FonzieDennard15) September 24, 2012
Bleep, explicit, Bleep, explicit, Bleep, explicit, Bleep, explicit, Bleep, explicit, Bleep, explicit!!!!!!— Sterling Moore(@SterlingMoore) September 24, 2012
Even after the B. S. I still give the Glory to GOD #WinLoseOrDraw— Kyle Love (@KyleLove74) September 24, 2012
I got so much s*** I wanna say right now! But ima be quiet........— Kyle Love (@KyleLove74) September 24, 2012
Chip just grew bigger someone has to pay next week!!! Getting on the plane now so I'm out!— Kyle Love (@KyleLove74) September 24, 2012
All I can say is... Wow. #ontothenextone— Stevan Ridley (@StevanRidley) September 24, 2012
Tough loss but wtf was going on.....— Donta Hightower (@zeus30hightower) September 24, 2012
I kno I'm not the only one that saw that— Ron Brace (@Braceyoself97) September 24, 2012
And one from a player's wife, for good measure -- and for the way it embodies how most of the New England fan base probably went to bed Sunday night.
So glad to be home in my bed maybe I will fall asleep and realize this was all a bad dream -- wishful thinking— bianca wilfork (@mrs75) September 24, 2012
In addition to an internship at GQ, Rajon Rondo's busy summer also included a tour of Asia on behalf of Red Bull -- a sojourn during which the Celtics' point guard made stops in Taiwan, the Philippines, as well as Hong Kong, and also found time to jump off a yacht, "become one with a banana boat," and try water skiing. (The commentary in the video above strongly suggests it was his first time attempting the latter; Danny Ainge and Doc Rivers had to be thrilled.)
Saturday he'll make one more stop, heading to Alcatraz to host the finals of the "King of the Rock" tournament, which Red Bull promotes as the premier one-on-one hoops tournament in the world. Coming through qualifying rounds in 27 states, 64 finalists will compete for the crown.
Should the eventual winner choose to challenge the host, some coaching advice: Don't believe the video clip; play off him and dare him to shoot the jumper.
Exactly 45 years earlier, Jim Lonborg was on the mound at Cleveland Stadium, matching the Indians’ Sam McDowell for seven innings and leaving the Red Sox in a position to maintain their first-place tie with Minnesota after Reggie Smith delivered Carl Yastrzemski with a ninth-inning single. That win would become even bigger some 11 days later, when the eventual Cy Young Award winner tossed a complete game against the Twins to give Boston the American League pennant and propel the club to the World Series just a year after losing 90 games.
Thursday night, however, the pitching hero of that legendary 1967 team said he isn't optimistic about the chances of these modern-day Sox duplicating the feats of those Impossible Dreamers when they endeavor to recover from this disaster of a season next spring.
"No," Lonborg answered quickly when asked if he thought 2013 would be a turnaround year in the same mold. "I would like to have some hope, but I just don't see a real strong starting core."
According to the former right-hander, the seeds for that franchise-altering season were planted and sewn in the previous season, when the Sox ultimately finished with more losses than any Boston team since -- but were actually competitive in the latter part of the year. They had a winning record over their final 50 games of 1966, finishing with wins in eight of the last 13, and those achievements were made all the more important because they were accomplished even while a number of young players gained experience.
"It was home-grown players who had a chance to develop at the major-league level," said Lonborg, who made 23 starts among 45 appearances as a 24-year-old during the '66 season, when Tony Conigliaro (age 21), George Scott (22), Dalton Jones (22), Rico Petrocelli (23), and Joe Foy (23) all played at least 115 big-leagues games, and the 26-year-old Yastrzemski was among the senior members of the everyday lineup. Collectively they were allowed to establish themselves against the best competition, and when they succeeded in the midst of that process, Lonborg says it set the stage for the following spring.
"We still finished in ninth (place), but psychologically it's good to have that going into the winter," the righthander-turned-dentist said before speaking to the Saugus Business Partnership on Thursday night. "Ballplayers are very fragile human beings, and it is important to at least have some hope for spring training the next year."
That sort of hope is not something the 2012 have fostered as they've faltered toward the finish. Entering Friday's start of the season's final homestand they were 15-32 since Aug. 1, and it's not as though that woeful record can be blamed on the growing pains that can come with building for the future. Only recently have the Sox really started to present lineups seemingly penned with next year in mind -- and even then there have still been curious decisions like the one made last Sunday, when manager Bobby Valentine opted to pinch hit for supposed shortstop-of-the-future Jose Iglesias in the midst of a 2-2 count.
If the speculation proves true, and Valentine is not retained for next season, the Sox would find themselves in a similar place to where they were between the '66 and '67 campaigns. Back then, the club hired Dick Williams -- who had never before managed in the majors, and was just 37 years old at the start of his first season, but who had a knack for effectively communicating with his players. Lonborg said Thursday that Williams wasn't one of his favorite people for most of the summer, "but he knew how to get the best out of me."
"He had a harsh side to him, but he was focused on the fundamentals. He told us he expected us to make mistakes, but he didn't want us to make the same mistakes because that's not showing development," Lonborg said. "He'd say things in a way that made you not want to make the same mistake again."
In Williams' first year, Lonborg went 22-9 and posted an AL-best 246 strikeouts en route to his Cy Young, and a franchise that had lost 190 games over the two previous seasons flipped the script entirely to finish a league-best 92-70. The Red Sox can only hope for a reprisal of that dramatic turnaround next year, though speaking with the experience of 15 big-league seasons Lonborg suggested his former club may be best served by gearing its efforts toward 2014 instead.
Specifically citing Iglesias, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Pedro Ciriaco, he said he'd like to see the Sox try to build a faster, more athletic club. And he said that the flexibility gained by August's megadeal with the Dodgers presents the front office with a great opportunity to reshape the roster in a way that will reset things, and lift them out of the rut they've been in since last September.
"The timing is perfect to do it," he said.
Such an approach would certainly make it difficult to repeat what happened 46 years earlier, after the last season in which the Sox lost at least 90 games.
But as Lonborg knows full well, nothing is impossible.
It's early yet, but if your initial searches still have you wondering what you want to be for Halloween, NFL.com may have your solution.
A Gronk mask.
That's right, $12.99 will buy you the right to start spiking everything in sight, as long as you can follow it up with a little giggle. Whether you're Gronk-sized or more of a Woodhead-type, don't worry, either, because one size apparently fits all.
And you can have a teammate, too. There's also a Wes Welker mask available among the Bleacher Creature line that also enables fans to morph into Troy Polamalu (complete with cardboard hair), Brett Keisel (complete with cardboard beard), Tim Tebow (complete with requisite eyeblack) or either of the Manning brothers among a host of star quarterbacks.
Order now to ensure delivery before Halloween. And the guess here is that Halloween could well come as early as Sunday afternoon in Foxborough.
On May 29, 2007, Jon Lester and Joe Andruzzi didn't realize it, but they were at different stages of a similar fight.
Lester was pitching in Pawtucket, where he delivered five scoreless innings thanks in part to being allowed to use his cutter for the first time since returning to baseball after beginning his battle with lymphoma. It was the very next day that Andruzzi -- the former Patriots lineman -- was told he had a form of lymphoma, too.
Monday in Boston, each took up the fight again. Only this time, they did so at the same stage.
Six years removed from his initial diagnosis, Lester hosted patients from Boston Children's Hospital, The Jimmy Fund, and Massachusetts General Hospital at a baseball camp along the banks of the Charles River, then Andruzzi marked five years of remission by joining his Joe Andruzzi Foundation at an (Up)Beat Cancer event at a restaurant in the Seaport.
Lester talks, signs, and throws with the campers. (twitter.com/redsox)
Andruzzi and his wife, Jen. (Elevate Communications)
Lester will continue his awareness campaign when he and his wife host NVRQT Night with Jon and Farrah Lester to benefit his NVRQT -- as in "Never Quit" -- Foundation on Sept. 24. With proceeds going to the battle against pediatric cancer, Mike O'Malley will emcee the event, which will feature a "3 Up 3 Down" game featuring celebrities in what seems to be some sort of Hollywood Squares-esque competition. The squares are still to be named, but tickets are currently being sold to be in the audience at the House of Blues.
At his event, Andruzzi introduced his foundation's (Up)Beat Cancer campaign, which contends that laughter is the best medicine to overcome the hardships of cancer. Monday night Andruzzi spoke about how laughing with his kids and friends helped him get through his recovery, and how he's now trying to bring that message of positivity to the beneficiaries of his foundation. That push will include pediatric hospital visits, patient events, and outings.
For the better part of an hour after Jerod Mayo and his wife Chantel stepped down the stairs of a white coach bus, pockets of Patriots teammates – both past and present – followed their hosts down the red carpet and into Kings at Legacy Place in Dedham.
Some marked their entrance by flexing a biceps and flashing a goofy smile (Rob Gronkowski), while others carried their own bowling ball and looked accordingly ready for business (Stephen Gostkowski). Some were dressed for work, in khakis and a polo (Nate Solder), while others wore shorts and a T-shirt (Logan Mankins). Some were recently retired (Matt Light and Troy Brown), while others were recently released (Gerard Warren and Alex Silvestro). Some brought dates, while others went stag.
And when one arrived with the date of all dates – yes, Tom Brady brought his wife, Gisele – they ushered them in the backdoor.
They came in various forms, fashions, shapes and sizes, but the point is that they came. They came to the third annual Mayo Bowl to support the stated causes of Pitching in for Kids and the Boston Medical Center, both of which admirably endeavor to improve the lives of children in New England.
Though as they made their way into the event, several players made clear they came almost as much to support Mayo himself, not only for the purpose of backing his charitable mission, but simply as teammates and friends – and in this still-building stage of the football season there was a sense that in terms of chemistry and cohesion the players believed the night could ultimately benefit the benefactors almost as much as the beneficiaries.
“It’s a great thing for teammates to have stuff like this to support one another," said defensive lineman Vince Wilfork. "This organization has done a great job over the years. Any time someone has something, the support system is always there -- all you’ve got to do is put the word out and everybody comes flocking here. Just get away from our element a little bit and let the community know we care.”
A turnout like Monday’s suggests they care not only about the community, they also care about each other. And while a night of bowling isn’t exactly an arduous commitment, it was the day after their season opener, a precious off-night as the season begins to pick up its pace. It’s one thing to sign a pair of cleats and donate them to a silent auction, and it's another thing altogether to actually be there sharing a lane with people who paid big money for the chance to bowl with a Patriot.
And that more than half of New England’s roster deemed it important enough to pick the latter says a lot about the value of nights like these on a variety of levels.
“Giving back to the community, raising money for a great cause, giving back to everyone that’s supporting us. It’s also giving back to Mayo,” said Gronkowski, the tight end who tweeted afterward that he’d bowled a 169. “Coming to support him, coming to support a charity event, and also at the same time we’re having a great time bowling, having a good team get-together.”
“Any time you get to hang out with your teammates for a great cause, and be a part of something we all feel like is bigger than football,” said cornerback Devin McCourty, “it’s a good thing to do.”
Punter Zoltan Mesko joked that he had a different motivation, given his slender frame in relation to his sure-tackling host -- “He’ll stuff me in my locker and shut it for the night, so I might as well be out here instead of in my locker” – though the two Ron Burton Community Service Award winners have each supported the other’s charity in the past, so there was really no question whether he’d come. Or whether he’ll come in the future.
“Jerod’s one of the leaders of the team, not only on the field but in the community," the punter said, "and whenever we have an opportunity to help a teammate out we’re all for it."
Of course, rallying around a teammate's charity event doesn't guarantee success. The Red Sox showed up in droves for Josh Beckett's own bowling tournament last month, but the pitcher was traded five days later and the team (with karma working against it after most of the same players skipped Johnny Pesky's funeral earlier in the day) has since lost 15 of 19. And in the case of the Patriots, if Mayo didn't bring them together Monday night they'd likely still be one of the best teams in the AFC based on their collective talent -- and particularly the all-time talent of the guy in Lane 5 who showed up without a bandage on his nose, but with a supermodel on his arm.
But the fact that so many of them walked that red carpet and wore those gray bowling shirts on Monday night meant something. To the kids. To their captain. And, perhaps, to the club.
“We’re a family," Mayo said. "I’m truly grateful for them coming out and supporting this event, supporting a cause that we believe in.”
UPDATE: Between the bowling, the tickets, and the auction items, Mayo Bowl raised $140,000 for the two charities. (Last year's reported total was around $100,000.) As for the competition, Brandon Lloyd's team proved victorious.
After a 34-13 season-opening win over the Titans in Tennessee, the Patriots turn their attention to the Arizona Cardinals, who'll come to Foxborough next Sunday afternoon -- but before the focus shifts entirely to that next foe at practice on Wednesday, the Pats will spend their energy looking to make a difference away from the field.
Monday night a number of his teammates will join linebacker Jerod Mayo at Kings in Dedham for his third annual Mayo Bowl tournament, then the next afternoon tight end Rob Gronkowski will lead a cadre of players to Worcester to help in the construction of a playground, both of which are charitable endeavors aimed at improving the lives of kids.
Fresh off a 13-tackle afternoon in Nashville, Mayo will host his event to benefit Pitching in For Kids and the Boston Medical Center, the same charities for which his event raised more than $100,000 last year. And the defensive captain is hardly alone in his efforts. Each of the first two years his fellow Patriots have turned out by the dozen to support him and his cause, and this year is expected to be no different given the star-studded roster planning to attend. According to a publicist for Kings, Gronkowski, Tom Brady, Brandon Lloyd, Logan Mankins, Chandler Jones, Dont’a Hightower, Devin McCourty, Vince Wilfork, and soon-to-be Patriots hall of famer Troy Brown have all said they’ll be at the Legacy Place lanes for the tournament that starts at 7:15. The athletes and celebrities will start arriving on the red carpet at 6 p.m.
The next day a number of the same Patriots will join more than 200 volunteers at Plumley Village in Worcester to build a playground based on plans drawn by children. It’s one of 150 such constructions the non-profit KaBOOM! will lead nationally this year, and the eighth built in conjunction with UnitedHealthCare.
The construction begins just after 8:30, with the Patriots arriving to add their assistance in the early afternoon. In addition to Gronkowski, Julian Edelman, Nate Solder, Zoltan Mesko, and Kyle Arrington are also among those expected to lend a hand in assembling the equipment and helping to move 43,740 square feet of safety surfacing.
Then it’s back to the business of football, and figuring out how to beat the Cardinals.
If there is any downside to the start of real football, it's the end of another fantasy football draft season. It'll be another year before you can again rag on your friend for taking both Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III in the first five rounds, a year before you can again remind your buddy that he thought he had a steal in spending a third rounder on Peyton Manning last season, and a year before you can again wrestle with a decision like the one of whether to take Miles Austin or DeSean Jackson in the sixth round.
In these parts, naturally, many of those drafts tend to be tinted a Patriotic shade of red and blue. Provincialism tends to creep in, and people start picking guys they can root for on the field as well as their fantasy roster.
But what is the national opinion of New England's talent? Expert opinions are one thing, but the fantasy owners themselves are sometimes another, so we've compiled a Patriot-centric look at average draft results from four popular fantasy sites in the chart below. The numbers were accessed Wednesday night, with the first two categories concerning standard draft leagues, while the latter two categories are for auction drafts (for which data from cbssports.com wasn't readily available).
As you can see, the results weren't particularly surprising -- but they do suggest a lot of respect for what the Patriots offense could be capable of doing this season.
A few notes on the numbers:
- As you'd expect, Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers was the quarterback with an earlier average pick than Brady in every league. Drew Brees was the other who Yahoo! users paid more to acquire.
- In addition to teammate Rob Gronkowski, the tight ends taken ahead of Aaron Hernandez on average in the ESPN rankings are Jimmy Graham, Antonio Gates, Vernon Davis, and Jermichael Finley.
- Graham, of course, is the tight end ranked higher than Gronkowski in the Yahoo! and CBS leagues.
- By Thursday night, Stephen Gostkowski's average draft position in standard ESPN leagues had slid to 101.7. That was 12 spots -- essentially a full round -- sooner than the next-earliest kicker.
- The Pats' defense and special teams aren't highly regarded by fantasy owners. Its average rank ranging from 11-21 in standard leagues, that doesn't make it a "starter" in most cases.
- CBS provides the range in which each player was picked -- and, interestingly, as of Thursday night Brady hadn't been taken first in its leagues. Here are those high/low splits: Brady, 2/9; Stevan Ridley, 38/97; Wes Welker, 13/46; Brandon Lloyd, 31/84; Gronkowski, 11/36; Hernandez, 28/74; Gostkowski, 66/153; Defense and special teams, 97/187.
Fresh off a 2-0 victory, Benny Feilhaber, Matt Reis, A.J. Soares, and Chris Tierney will celebrate the end of New England's 10-game winless skid by joining former Revolution striker Taylor Twellman as celebrity bartenders Thursday night at GEM Restaurant and Lounge in Boston.
They'll mix and pour for Twellman's "Think Taylor" charity, which the former MLS MVP and 101-goal scorer founded shortly after a 2008 head injury prompted his retirement from the Revs in 2010. All tips earned by the soccer stars will go toward the non-profit, which supports education, fundraising, and awareness of concussions and sports-related brain injuries.
Now an ESPN soccer analyst and prolific Tweeter, Twellman and his helpers will go behind the bar from 6:30-8:30, with doors opening at 6 p.m. And if you needed any more incentive, know that the Rev Girls will be there, too, handing out team gear and prizes.
Oh, what a difference a year can make. On Aug. 15, 2011, with his team humming along at 73-46, and co-owners of the best record in the American League, here is the cover of Sports Illustrated, featuring Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia:
Fast forward some 392 days, and here is what one of SI's two covers will look like when the Sept. 10 edition reaches newsstands and mailboxes this week:
The background behind Bobby Valentine is full of phrases that have come to be associated with the franchise over the past 13 months -- dysfunctional, done, chicken and beer, unprepared, broken, fail, fiasco, liverpool, feud, overpaid, blame, disarray -- but, really, the thousand words evident in Valentine's visage tell the tale just fine.