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Manny’s Return No Minor Event

06.22.09 at 2:58 pm ET
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“What a long, strange trip it’s been.”

The Grateful Dead lyric is certainly apropos when talking about Manny Ramirez and his antics. This week, the big Manny Ramirez news has been his impending minor league rehab stint at Triple-A Albuquerque, which  starts Tuesday night.

Looking at the Isotopes roster, there are a handful of players with major-league credentials, most notably outfielder Jason Repko, infielder Blake DeWitt, and knuckleballer Charlie Haeger. Isotopes fans certainly should be used to having a bona fide major league talent right in their midst.

Isotopes fans are overflowing with excitement. Albuquerque Journal columnist Rick Wright isn’t so excited for Manny’s arrival to Isotopes Park.

However, in an effort to combat all of the drama surrounding Manny’s minor-league stint, Los Angeles Times blogger Jon Weisman makes the case that Ramirez needs and even deserves this minor league stint. This isn’t a special case, as Weisman points out that another former Red Sox player found to have used PED’s, J.C. Romero, also had a short minor-league rehab before making his return to the Phillies.

While Ramirez’ first stop in the minors occurred without incident (other than his extraordinary accomplishments on the field), according to Madison Taylor, his most recent trip to the minors was a memorable one. This is Manny’s first return to the wonderful world of minor league baseball since a 2002 rehab stint in Pawtucket. That four-game rehab stint was infamously known for Manny losing a $15,000 earring while sliding headfirst into third base. According to accounts of the incident – including this compendium of infamous Manny Moments on boston.com – PawSox players and the Syracuse ground’s crew spent ample time after the game looking for the jewelry in question, to no avail. Nonetheless, Ramirez seemed unbothered by the lost bling: in fact, he showed every sign of wanting to stay in Pawtucket beyond a seemingly interminable 11-game stint.

For a complete look at Manny’s minor and major league stats, check this out.

Manny’s rehab stint begins tomorrow as he dons Isotopes red before wearing Dodger Blue on July 3. Let’s all just hope he doesn’t lose more expensive jewelery while he’s down in Triple-A this time.

Read More: Manny Ramirez,

A Tale of Two Pitchers

06.19.09 at 3:56 pm ET
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Friday night at Fenway will be a duel between two seemingly lackluster Japanese pitchers, as the Sox Daisuke Matsuzaka faces off against fellow countryman Kenshin Kawakami.

The Braves‘€™ 33-year-old rookie pitcher, who signed a three-year deal in January, hasn’€™t pitched quite as well as was anticipated at the beginning of the season (he was sporting a 3-6 record with a 4.54 ERA and 54 strikeouts coming into Friday night’€™s game). But the former Chunichi Dragon is well known as a crafty veteran with a slow curveball, a sharp cutter, and a pretty decent fastball.

Throughout his illustrious 10-year career in Japan, Kawakami established himself as one of the country’€™s most dominant pitchers and, above all else, a true leader with a desire to win. In 1998, Kawakami was named Nippon Professional Baseball‘€™s Rookie of the Year after going 14-6 with a 2.57 ERA, and only a year later led the Dragons to the Central League title. He was named league MVP in 2004 after going 17-7 with a 3.32 ERA, and also received the Eiji Sawamura Award as Japan’€™s best pitcher.

Though it took all of nine years and several failed attempts, Kawakami finally helped lead the 2007 Dragons to their first championship in 53 years, as they beat the Nippon Ham Fighters in five games. Also on the Dragons’€™ roster was current Chicago Cubs star centerfielder Kosuke Fukudome.

Finally in 2009, Kawakami made the jump to the MLB and has since been pitching for Atlanta. While his record may not indicate so, Kawakami has been a pretty reliable starter for the Braves this season. Since May 5, he has not given up more than 3 earned runs in a start, and has averaged a 3.51 ERA in the months of May and June. On May 22 in a game against Toronto, Kawakami outdueled Cy Young candidate Roy Halladay in an eight-inning effort that resulted in a 1-0 Braves win. Tonight we’€™ll see if he can do it again against his slumping Japanese counterpart, whose decline from last season has been drastic.

In seven starts this season, Matsuzaka has a 1-4 record with a bloated 7.55 ERA. 

Friday Afternoon LEEInks: Lowell Spinners Edition

06.19.09 at 11:21 am ET
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Good afternoon and welcome to the Friday afternoon LEEInks! Today, the LEEInks makes a special stop to LeLacheur Park in the All-American City of Lowell,

Tonight, the Spinners get their season off and running when the face off with the Vermont Lake Monsters for a three-game set. Yeiper Castillo gets the ball for Lowell in a 7:05 start time.

One of the biggest attractions to minor league baseball is game-night promotions. Keeping with traditon, this season, the Spinners have some awesome ones lined up for this year.

For starters, the Spinners have procured one of the most famous vehicles in cartoon history to be parked outside of the stadium. That’s right, LeLacheur Park will have the Mystery Machine parked outside its doors.

Also, The Spinners will have former Red Sox thirdbaseman and Hall-Of-Famer Wade Boggs will be making an appearance at the ballpark as guest bartender. Boggs will be slinging his favorite brew, Miller Lite at the park.

Now, some of you may be asking yourselves, why Miller Lite? Well, let PTI answer that question for you both here and here.

The Spinners have had an illustrious history of promotions in the past. Who can forget “Mike” Lowell night?

Just check out the third baseman in a “Mike” Lowell Spinners jersey. Not a bad look, eh?

However, the most famous Spinners promotion in recent years has to be Yankees Elimination. So famous in fact, SI’s Steve Rushin wrote about it in a 2006 issue of the magazine.

For a list of the family-friendly fare offered by the Spinners this season consult the Spinners Promotions site here. Hope to see you this summer at LeLacheur Park for a sweet summer of promotions!

The Power of One

06.18.09 at 10:38 am ET
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Bobby Orr’s guest appearance in the Green Monster was a great moment for Sox fans, but it meant more to Jason Bay.

Think the Sox gave the fellow Canadian and lifelong hockey fan this surprise (which was ruined by J.D. Drew, as Mike Petraglia documents) because they were in a sentimental mood? Or might it just have had something to do with the fact that the left fielder is having a career year in what could be his last in Boston? Given past negotiation tactics, I’m betting everything I’ve got on the latter.

After all, this wouldn’t be the first time the Sox used Orr to get a player to put the pen to the paper. Think back to the winter of 2003, when the Theo Epstein was pulling out all the stops to sign reigning AL Fireman of the Year and puckhead Keith Foulke. What was the selling point for No. 29? A telephone call from No. 4 (and $20.25 million, but what’s money got to do with it?).

 The Boston sports scene has seen how deals can be made or broken by just one person. Here are a few more examples.

KG to Celtics

Power of one: Ray Allen

Remember that whole “Kevin Garnett probably won’t get traded because the Lakers aren’t offering enough and KG doesn’t want to go to Boston” thing? That all changed on June 28, 2007. As everyone knows, the Celtics got hosed in the lottery and elected to flip the fifth pick, along with Wally Szczerbiak and Delonte West, for Ray Allen and a second-round pick on draft night. At the time it was a confusing move– nobody quite knew if a team based around Pierce, Allen, and Al Jefferson was good enough to win the East. But the deal proved to pave the way for Kevin Garnett, who embraced the trade to Boston and promptly signed an extension.

(For what it’s worth, the second-rounder the Green acquired in the deal was used to take some tub out of LSU named Glen Davis. Tommy point.)

Schilling to Red Sox

Power of one: Theo Epstein

The Phillies or Yankees, huh? Schilling was singing a different tune when the second-year GM did the unthinkable by spending Thanksgiving with the ace in an effort to get him to come to Boston. One day later, the hurler was loading up on Dunkins and learning a knew dialect.

 

Pavano to Yankees

Power of one: Curt Schilling

This one goes to Schilling on a technicality. Theo was behind the ploy to act like the Sox were all over Carl Pavano in an attempt to get the Bombers to overpay for him, but it was a meeting with Schilling that ultimately led to the $39.95 million deal from New York. There’s no way the Red Sox could have expected him to be as catastrophic (and unhealthy) as he was in his four years as a Yankee (9-8, 5.00 ERA in just 26 starts, missed entire 2006 season), but the bottom line is that the Red Sox never offered him a contract despite making every effort to be seen with the guy.

Randy Johnson not to Boston

Power of one: Curt Schilling

Yeah, No. 38 is a popular one on this list. Apparently he wasn’t so popular with former teammate Randy Johnson when the Red Sox were vying for his services at the All-Star break in 2004. Rumors began circulating that Johnson was annoyed by Schilling when the lefty made a comment about changing his phone number after Schilling’s trade to Boston. In the end it wasn’t a huge get for the Yankees and no, John Kruk, Johnson didn’t have a 30-win season in the Bronx.

Boston isn’t the only town that  sees a player’s decision being affected by just one person [see: Roger Clemens (Andy Pettitte), Paul Kariya (Teemu Selanne)]. In an age where “bromance” is an even more commonly used made-up word than “staycation,” it only makes sense for these guys to be so easily-impacted by one dude. Red Sox fans can only hope that Orr will come up big once again.

Read More: Bobby Orr, Jason Bay, Keith Foulke,

Tweet, Tweet

06.17.09 at 9:06 pm ET
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This morning we learned through Kevin Love’s Twitter that Timberwolves head coach Kevin McHale would not be returning. Last weekend Shaq tweeted congratulations to Kobe and Phil Jackson for the Lakers’ Championship win.

It was only a matter of time before the Twitter explosion made its way to the Boston sports scene. Now some of our favorite players, managers and even owners Tweet to keep you busy when you should be working. Let’s take a look at some of the most animated Boston Tweeters in the Boston sports world:

John Henry

You can always count on the Sox most vocal owner to add his two cents. Just a few weeks ago when the Sox were sweeping the Yanks at Fenway, he got a little too excited with his Tweets, causing a ruckus with Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira. Henry’s Twitter account revealed a post on June 11 with the words “the MT curse?”, an intimation the Yankees had been cursed since their acquistion of Teixeira — they’ve lost their first eight contests against the Sox this season. When Teixeira was informed of the Tweet, he said he didn’t want to become involved in a war of words with a “seventy-something-year-old-man,” referring to the 59-year-old Henry. Henry’s response the next day, “Hope I didn’t hurt Mark’s feelings!” May the drama continue…

Curt Schilling

Surprise, surprise — Did you really think Curt would pass up an opportunity to share his thoughts with everyone? This is Curt’s dream come true. The ever vocal Schilling mainly posts about the Sox, his own Fantasy baseball team and his family. Last Saturday he tweeted, “Don’t blink, or you’ll miss Lester rising into the top 3-4 pitchers in baseball in the next 30 days.” You can be sure he’ll have something to say about the recent steroid allegations laid on Sammy Sosa.

Vince Wilfork

Who would have thought the big man had so much to say? Wilfork updates his Twitter almost daily, even while skipping the Patriots’ organized team activities in the beginning of June because of a dispute over his contract situation. He took time to Tweet about the departure of former teammate Rodney Harrison, saying, “rodney is a great guy on and off the field he will be missed.” Wilfork recently posted about his BBQ raffle to raise awareness for diabetes and his early Father’s Day gift to watch the US Open at Bethpage Black this weekend.

Laurence Maroney

Still no Tom Brady Twitter as of yet — that would have been an interesting offseason to follow. But maybe one of his favorite running backs can persuade him to create an account. Maroney Tweeted about his excitement for camp at the end of May, “Just got done wit day 3 of camp…. I got a to keep working hard to get ready for the season.”

Paul Pierce

After updating his Twitter almost daily during the season about the Celtics playoff run, Kevin Garnett’s health (“Looks KG gonna b out another week or two but have no fear 34 is still here” on March 31) and Ray Allen’s play (“Man what a Game and Jesus Shuttleworth comes thru again” on April 1), Paul’s tweets have slowed up lately, but he unloaded with this gem during the NBA Finals — “Lakers vs orlando. Looked like a german sherperd vs a poodle that’s ok the rotwieler celtics will b back in 2o10.”

Read More: Curt Schilling, John Henry, Laurence Maroney, Paul Pierce

Hitting the LEEInks

06.17.09 at 10:01 am ET
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Good Wednesday morning to you New England!

Consider this morning’s LEEInks entry, your mid-morning tee time as we’re going to dive right into all things US Open. Tomorrow, our nation’s championship will get underway in Farmingdale, New York on the famed Bethpage Black course.

In recent years, the US Open has become the tournament to watch for golf fans. Last year’s tournament at Torrey Pines has already reached legendary status.

That tournament had everything you could possibly look for in a great sports film. You had the best golfer in the world battling a knee injury and an unheralded “people’s champion” in Rocco Mediate.

That very brief summary doesn’t even include the 18-hole playoff the next morning! Woods and Mediate were still deadlocked after 90 holes, they needed one more hole to play before someone went home with the hardware.

In case you don’t remember the scene, check out Tiger’s birdie putt on the 72nd hole to force the playoff. It certainly was one of the best sports moments of 2008.

This year’s open has as deep of a field as possible. From PGA course professionals to Tiger and Phil, this field is filled to the brim with some of the best golf money can buy.

Far and away the best threesome of the day tees off at 8:06 tomorrow morning on Bethpage Black’s first tee. Tiger Woods, Padraig Harrington, and Masters champion Angel Cabrera get the ball rolling on this year’s tournament.

Bethpage Black, a public course on Long Island, was the scene of another memorable US Open in 2002. Naturally, Tiger took home the Open.

Newsday has an awesome smattering of US Open material on their website including an interactive look at Bethpage’s layout. You can even find the betting odds on who will win the US Open on the internet as well this morning.

Speaking of which, who aside from the ovious Tiger Woods choice does the LEEInks think will take the cake at Bethpage Black? After his performance on final round sunday at Sawgrass earlier this spring, keep an eye on Henrik Stenson.

I think Stenson will be reliable like another Swedish product, a Volvo.

Hope you enjoy this gorgeous June morning across the region. Stay Classy, New England

Brady, McNabb, Manning — and Money

06.16.09 at 4:39 pm ET
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While football purists might believe that a love for the game is all that sustains the players they adore and admire, it’€™s wishful thinking to assume that money doesn’€™t play a significant role too. Once you get past the sentimentality ‘€“ Favre’€™s emotional retirement speech, T.O.’€™s tearful defense of Tony Romo, Rudy ‘€“ it’€™s safe to say that a considerable element of football revolves around dollars and cents.

Now money may not buy you or me happiness, but it seems in the NFL it can buy a quarterback’€™s happiness.

Donovan McNabb, the Eagles’€™ 33-year-old Pro Bowl quarterback, wasn’€™t too content at the end of last season with his $19 million contract that runs through 2010. So management gave him a raise upwards of $5 million, and all of a sudden their franchise player is all smiles. Colts quarterback Peyton Manning isn’€™t too displeased either with the $29 million he’€™ll be making over the next two years (hopefully his MasterCard bills will be set for life).

But one big name quarterback could soon change his typically team-first attitude when he takes a look at what his counterparts are raking in. In a recent edition of ‘€œMonday Morning Quarterback,’€ SI’€™s Peter King pointed out that New England’€™s golden boy Tom Brady is set to make $14.5 million over the next two years, far less than both McNabb and Manning, and even less than former Pats backup Matt Cassel, who’€™ll make nearly $15 million just next year as the second-highest paid NFL QB in 2009 (as of right now, of course). It’€™s not like Brady to make a fuss about financial issues, but after years of making sacrifices for the team, it’€™s not farfetched to imagine he’€™ll want a little compensation. So far, agent Don Yee has kept quiet.

Problem is, the Pats may not necessarily have the luxury of giving Brady a contract extension to match those of his pigskin-tossing colleagues. Following the 2009 season, the team will have 30 free agent players to negotiate with, according to patscap.com. The most notable of the free agents include Richard Seymour, Ben Watson, Stephen Gostkowski, Tedy Bruschi, and Vince Wilfork ‘€“ who has recently stipulated his desire for a long-term contract extension. Wilfork is likely looking for something in the neighborhood of the five-year $30 million contract Kris Jenkins received from the Jets last February, rather than the Albert Haynesworth approach of a salary increase for 2009 and a guarantee not to slap him with a franchise tag in 2010.

Bill Belichick and the Pats have always been savvy when it comes to financial matters, often promoting team unity by having one player restructure his contract in order to re-sign a teammate. Brady did it for Randy Moss in 2007, but will someone else return the favor in 2009 or beyond? If not, Brady might just finally become mad as hell and won’€™t take it anymore.

Ramirez Back at Fenway…Not THAT Ramirez

06.16.09 at 10:32 am ET
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Flashback to 2005.

Hanley Ramirez, Jonathon Papelbon, Manny Delcarmen and Craig Hansen were rookies. The Sox were defending World Series Champions. Theo was in contract limbo with management, and took a two-and-a-half month hiatus from the GM job.  Oh, and Sox also made a blockbuster Thanksgiving-eve trade to obtain Josh Beckett and Mike Lowell from the Florida Marlins for Ramirez, Anibal Sanchez, Jesus Delgado and Harvey Garcia.

Ramirez, a highly-touted prospect, made his MLB debut in the last few games of the 2005 season against the Yankees.  He was called up after batting .271 with 52 RBIs and six home runs with Double-A Portland, but struck out in his first pinch-hit at-bat against the Yankees. Ramirez hoped to play a bigger role with the club the following season, especially with then-incumbent shortstop Edgar Renteria not fulfilling post-Nomar expectations.

Yet, the trade changed that all. It might be hard to argue that the Sox would have been better off keeping Ramirez, especially with their shoddy shortstop situation the past few years. However; a 2007 World Series win would have hardly been possible without Beckett or Lowell. Both the Marlins and Sox benefited from this trade.

Tuesday night, Ramirez will make his first trip back to Fenway since his two-games stint with the Sox in 2005.  He will be in the other dugout, across from his former teammates.

Signed through 2014 by the Marlins, Ramirez has settled into Florida system nicely. He became the starting shortstop in 2006, winning NL Rookie of the Year honors while batting .292 with 17 homers, 59 RBI and 51 stolen bases at age 22. Last year, he made his first All-Star appearance at Yankee Stadium and also won the 2008 NL Silver Slugger award. He is currently leading the Marlins on at .330 clip, 34 RBIs, eight home runs and a .395 OBP.

While the Red Sox would not be where they are without Beckett and Lowell, it’s interesting to think about Ramirez in a Sox uniform. The trade took place during Theo’s absence (October 31, 2005 to January 16, 2006) from the front office, and as the Boston Herald pointed out, the decision was far from a unanimous one. Epstein might have done things a little differently if had not left for that short span.

Yet, we’ll never know what would have happened if Hanley might have stayed in Boston, including whether the Sox might have won that ’07 World Series. One thing is for certain — the Sox wouldn’t be in the shortstop mess they’re in now.

Read More: hanley ramirez, Josh Beckett, Mike Lowell,

Looking Back at a Wonderful Winter of Sports

06.15.09 at 11:02 am ET
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Now the NBA and NHL season are over, there is no sign of winter sports left. After an awesome stretch of sports like we experienced, there’s only one reaction that each sports fan should have: “Wow, what a winter that was!”

Sure, it was cold and snowy, but we certainly had a great time watching sports. If you’re glancing at your bank statement after what you spent in the last few months on the teams and games you love, you most likely aren’t  disappointed.

The Super Bowl somehow happened without the Patriots being involved, and provided a healthy helping of drama, courtesy of Santonio Holmes. Personally, that was a whole lot easier to watch than any of the ten million replays of the amazing, albeit, heartbreaking David Tyree catch.

However, fans at Gillette Stadium were treated to yet another afternoon in the white New England snow when the Patriots trounced the soon-to-be NFC Champion Arizona Cardinals on December 21. Wes Welker definitely had himself some winter fun, even if it did lighten his wallet a bit.

This year saw hockey come back in a big way here in the Hub, as the Bruins skated their way to the best record in the Eastern Conference. They didn’t hoist the Cup like Sidney Crosby did, but they brought the sport back to Boston for the first time in a long time. Who can forget the voice of the Bruins and Jack Edwards? His “enthusiasm” for the game added a new dimension to Bruins broadcasts.

The Celtics had themselves a bit of trouble in the first title defense since 1986. First, club cornerstone Kevin Garnett injured his knee, and then Leon Powe followed to injured reserve shortly therafter.

As revealed on WEEI by GM Danny Ainge, the Celtics were hampered by considerable injuries during the playoffs. However, banner No. 18 is never out of the question for a team that includes three surefire Hall-of-Famers.

After all, Garnett told us all a year ago that anything is possible.

To quote Charles Dickens, it was the best of times, it was the worst of times. But in all honesty, it was one awesome winter of sports.

WHAT A GAME!

06.12.09 at 10:17 pm ET
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The Stanley Cup is heading back to Pittsburgh!

Maxime Talbot’s were enough for Pittsburgh as the Penguins defeated the Red Wings 2-1. Talbot’s two goals came in the second period.

Detroit answered back midway through the 3rd as Jonathan Ericsson fired a shot from the point past Marc-Andre Fleury. It was the only murmur from last year’s champions.

This year’s Conn Smythe winner is a very deserved Evgeni Malkin. Malkin, quiet on the scoresheet in the last two nights, has been the offensive catalyst for the Pens all year long.

Sidney Crosby becomes the youngest Stanley Cup-winning champion in National Hockey League history. He was first to touch the Cup.

He then handed it off to Wilbraham, Mass., native and former Bruin Bill Guerin. This is Guerin’s second career Stanley Cup victory, his first since being a member of the 1995 New Jersey Devil squad who defeated the Red Wings in a four-game sweep.

Also interesting, Pens bench boss Dan Bylsma was a member of Detroit coach Mike Babcock’s Anaheim Mighty Duck squad which played to a Stanley Cup Final Game 7 in 2003. The Ducks lost that game 3-0 to Martin Brodeur and the New Jersey Devils.

If you’re Marian Hossa, how are you feeling right now? Just a year ago you were a member of the Penguins who lost to Detroit at home.

Now, you’re a member of the Detroit Red Wings, who are now on the losing end of the Stanley Cup Finals. Certainly makes your impending free agency a little bit more interesting, doesn’t it?

Pittsburgh battled from 10th in the Eastern Conference in  mid-February to Stanley Cup Champions. They took down Philadelphia, Washington, Carolina and now Detroit en route to the title.

Next, it’s off to Viva Las Vegas for the NHL Awards. Hopefully, our Black and Gold comes away with some hardware of their own.

Until then, have an awesome summer hockey fans! Stay classy, New England!