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Skipping around the horn . . .

Posted by Tony Massarotti, Globe Staff  March 25, 2009 11:34 AM

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Josh McDaniels has been the coach Denver Broncos for fewer than three months, and already you cannot help but wonder what he has gotten himself into. McDaniels spoke with reporters yesterday amid what has become an uncomfortable situation with quarterback Jay Cutler, who wants the Broncos to trade him because, well, they considered trading him.

Are we missing something here? The quarterback is upset because the team considered trading him? As a result, he wants the team to trade him. This seems to go along the lines of, "You can’t fire me -- I quit!" Which seems like a terribly silly game in the world of professional sports.

Earth to Jay Cutler: You are not the first player to be involved in trade talks and you will not be the last. You really do need to get over it. Better players than you have been the subject of rumor and hearsay possessing far less legitimacy, and big trades became a greater reality in the world of sports the moment player salaries began escalating to absurd levels.

You take the bad with the good.

As for McDaniels, did he learn anything from Bill Belichick? There are guys who say too much and guys who don’t say enough, and Belichick clearly is the latter. McDaniels now looks like the former. How did these men ever work together? Answering questions and accepting blame is one thing, but at some point, McDaniels need to stop talking about Cutler publicly and do a lot more talking privately.

"I understand there are things we have to work on toward fixing our relationship, but I’m optimistic about those things and where it’s going to go," McDaniels told reporters. "As long as we are both committed to each other, then he will absolutely be our quarterback.’’

And if Cutler is not?

* * *

Interesting moment in last night’s spring game between the Red Sox and Yankees: With two on and two outs in the sixth inning of a 1-1 game, Tim Wakefield was due to face the lefthanded-hitting Hideki Matsui. Terry Francona visited the mound and had a brief discussion with Wakefield, who held lefties to a .228 average last year. Francona yanked Wakefield in favor of righthander Ramon Ramirez, against whom lefties batted a whopping .300.

The point? Spring training is a time to experiment and do things a manager might not do during the regular season. The Red Sox entered this spring hoping to learn more about Ramirez’s struggles against lefthanded batters, particularly because he has an excellent changeup that should make him more effective against lefties. The manager was willing to sacrifice a meaningless game now to learn whether he can count on Ramirez later.

For what it’s worth, Ramirez retired Matsui on a fly ball, but it was hardly a good pitch -- a fastball up in the strike zone and in the middle of the plate. Spring training stats mean nothing, but Ramirez has a 5.40 ERA in eight official outings, having allowed three home runs in 8.1 innings.

* * *

The Celtics are tied with the Magic in the loss column entering tonight’s game in Orlando, though the Celtics hold a one-game lead in the Eastern Conference standings as the result of two more wins. With a loss tonight, the Celtics run the risk of slipping to third in the conference and losing home court advantage in as many as three rounds of the playoffs, which seems an ominous sign.

Is it a big deal? Hard to say. Of the last five NBA champions, two have entered the postseason as the No. 3 seed in their respective conferences -- the 2006-07 San Antonio Spurs and the 2003-04 Detroit Pistons. In the case of the Spurs, it should be noted that they possessed home court advantage over the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Finals.

With games at Orlando (tonight) and Atlanta (Friday) in the coming days, the Celtics will play clubs with a combined home record of 55-14, one of whom they almost certainly would face in the second round. We all saw what kind of problems the Hawks presented the Celtics in the first round last year, which can’t help but make you wonder if Orlando is the better matchup.

Against the Celtics this year, Magic center Dwight Howard is shooting a mere 42.9 percent from the field – he is at 57.7 percent overall – while averaging just 14.3 points. The Celtics’ philosophy against Howard has centered on forcing Howard to shoot over the defense and rely on his skill, which has yet to catch up with his athletic ability. In Kendrick Perkins, in particular, the Celtics have the body to muscle Howard -- at least a little -- and keep him a little farther away from the basket.

* * *

No one ever could dispute that Boston is a pro sports town, but the final two games of the NCAA Regional at the TD Banknorth Garden this week could be keepers. After No. 1-seeded Pitt opens with Xavier tomorrow night, Duke will face Villanova, setting the stage for a probable tilt between Pitt and either Villanova or Duke for the right to go to the Final Four.

Guess that means we’re rooting against Xavier, eh?

* * *

Heard an interview with running back Fred Taylor on the radio recently and he sounds like a colorful, intelligent, quotable man. Clearly, he has yet to take the Patriots’ media training classes.

* * *

Former Phillies reliever Mitch Williams gave a rather entertaining interview this morning on sports radio WEEI, much of it centered on Curt Schilling’s retirement. Williams described his relationship with Schilling as being like "oil and water,’’ and went so far as to state quite bluntly that Schilling was not a good teammate because those who shared a clubhouse with him regarded him as selfish.

Just the same, said Williams, he loved seeing Schilling out there every five days.

Tony's Top 5

Favorite blog entries

The final chapter on Teixeira and How Red Sox pitchers work the strike zone Jan. 7, 2009 and July 17, 2009. Some actual reporting – an obsession with Mark Teixeira and the art of pitching.
For 2011 Red Sox, there was plenty of blame to go around Oct. 1, 2011. The disgraceful collapse of the Red Sox stoked the fire in all of us.
Behind Garnett and James, Celtics and Heat are digging in June 4, 2012. Improbably, the Celtics pushed the Heat to the limit.
Thrill is back for Patriots Jan. 30, 2012. Another Super Bowl has even Bill Belichick musing.
You’ve got to believe June 15, 2011. On the morning of Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals, we all had reason to believe.
Updated: Mar 1, 07:24 AM

About Mazz

Tony Massarotti is a Globe sportswriter and has been writing about sports in Boston for the last 19 years. A lifelong Bostonian, Massarotti graduated from Waltham High School and Tufts University. He was voted the Massachusetts Sportswriter of the Year by his peers in 2000 and 2008 and has been a finalist for the award on several other occasions. This blog won a 2008 EPpy award for "Best Sports Blog".

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