Felger: Things not what they used to be

197881.jpg

Felger: Things not what they used to be

By Michael Felger
CSNNE.com

A handful of quickies for you on a summer Tuesday:

The two big quotes to come out of the Tom Brady contract discussion last week were Brady's statement that he didn't want to express his personal feelings "with anyone other than a few people'' because "it doesn't help this organization,'' and Robert Kraft's insistence that Brady is going to remain a Patriot "one way or the other.''

The Brady comment constitutes the high road.

The Kraft quote? Not so much.

In fact, it sounded more or less like a threat, since the only way Brady will remain under team control short of a contract extension is through the franchise tag. My buddy Tom E. Curran called the comment "unseemly," which is one way to put it.

I don't know exactly what the word is, but it didn't feel right.

I have no problem with the Sox not reaching for a deadline trade that would have required them giving up a real prospect. The Sox are rightly leery of such deals, and you need look no further than what you saw over the weekend for the reason. It was just a few years ago that the Texas Rangers were asking for Clay Buchholz in return for Jarrod Saltalamacchia. The Sox passed, of course, and now they have both after giving up lesser pieces for the caching prospect on Saturday. Buchholz, as we all know, was again stellar on Sunday and has been their best pitcher over the past year.

So the Sox didn't want to dip into the farm. No problem. What, then, was the excuse for passing on Kerry Wood? Do we need to give this guy credit for providing the answer three weeks ago?

Considering that Bill Belichick said late last season that Derrick Burgess was as good of a run-pass combination outside linebacker as hes had in New England (better, presumably, than Willie McGinest, Mike Vrabel and Rosevelt Colvin), the news that Burgess is pondering retirement should be treated as a major development, right?

Well, not exactly. It was obvious at the time that the Belichick comments were CYA in nature. The Pats had given up a third-rounder for the veteran end last August and he clearly didn't deliver on the investment. So Belichick was selling. Fine.

But here's the scary part: For all his faults, Burgess just may be the best the Pats have at this time. The top four players at outside linebacker currently listed on the depth chart are Tully Banta-Cain, Jermaine Cunningham, Rob Ninkovich and Pierre Woods. Yikes.

Its official. Jonathan Papelbon is no longer an elite closer. At least not this season. He may return to that status next year, but in 2010 hes no longer among the best. Thats just a fact.

The only closer stat that I believe matters, save percentage, tells the story. Of the 12 American League closers who have at least 20 save opportunities, Papelbon ranks 11th at 82.7 percent (24-of-29). The only guy he beats is the woeful David Aardsma in Seattle (18-of-22; 81.8 percent). Papelbon's five blown saves are the most in the American League.

For the first time in his career, Papelbon has become just another guy.

There are apparently folks in the Bruins hierarchy who like forward Blake Wheeler. I'm not sure why.

There are certain skills that are attainable in hockey and things you can improve on over time. But I dont know if toughness is one of them. Either you have a nose for the crease or you dont and Wheeler never has.

His 2.2 million arbitration award was hardly exorbitant, but it still means that Peter Chiarelli is either going to have to buy somebody out (Michael Ryder?), ship somebody down to Providence (Ryder?) or pull off another trade (Marc Savard?) to get under the salary cap. Call me crazy, but I would have gotten under the cap by moving on from Wheeler.

Email Felger HERE andstand by for the next installment of the mailbag on Aug. 12. Felgerwill post another column early next week. Listen to him on the radioweekdays, 2-6, p.m. on 98.5 The Sports Hub.

Dominique Wilkins reflects on his rivalry with Larry Bird

86pod-opp-dl.png

Dominique Wilkins reflects on his rivalry with Larry Bird

During our series discussing the 1986 Boston Celtics, we have sat down with many players from that championship, along with members of the media that were close to the team.

This week features a few of the opponents that were very familiar with the 1980’s Celtics  - Atlanta Hawks legend Dominique Wilkins, former Celtics coach (and Hawk) Doc Rivers, and Lakers great James Worthy.

Bogaerts continues to battle through struggles with bat

red-sox-xander-bogaerts.jpg

Bogaerts continues to battle through struggles with bat

BOSTON -- Early in 2016 praises were sung around the league that Xander Bogaerts was the best hitter in baseball.

Rightfully so. For a good portion of the season he led the league in both batting average and hits. But between Mookie Betts’ ascension and Bogaerts’ drop in average from .331 on 7/29 to .306 after Monday night’s game, he’s taken a back seat.

But the Red Sox shortstop’s month-long dry spell hasn’t been a straight decline. Although he was held hitless Monday, Bogaerts went 6-for-13 (.462) against Kansas City.

In fact, the 23-year-old doesn’t even consider the recent month of struggles the worst stretch of his career.

“2014 probably,” Bogaerts said, “yeah I had a terrible, terrible few months -- probably three months.”

That was of course the season a lot came into question surrounding the now All-Star shortstop, so he was pretty spot on. In 2014 Bogaerts went from hitting .304 through 5/31, to .248 by the end of June, .244 after his last game in July, all the way down to .224 by the last day of August.

Bogaerts would hit .313 that September and finish with a .240 average -- but more importantly, an appreciation of what he’d experienced.

“That definitely helped me become a better person, a better player -- and understanding from that and learning,” Bogaerts said.

From that experience, he gained a better understanding of the importance of maintaining a consistent day-to-day routine.

“That has to stay the same,” Bogaerts said without question in his voice. “The league adjusted, they adjusted to me. It kind of took a longer time to adjust to them. They’ve just been pitching me so differently compared to other years.”

Bogaerts has had the point reinforced to him throughout, with Red Sox assistant hitting coach Victor Rodriguez serving as one voice of reinforcement.

“When you have a routine from the mental side, physical side, when you struggle that’s when you really need that,” Rodriguez said. “He’s been so good with his daily preparation, it doesn’t matter the result of the game. He can always go to something that feels comfortable.”

“He’s been so comfortable and confident with his daily routine and preparation that it allows him -- when he doesn’t get the results he wants in the game -- to have some peace knowing that the next day, we’re going to go back to doing that again.”

It’s clear Bogaerts needs to maintain his daily routine to help work through slumps -- and maintain hot streaks -- but Rodriguez made it clear, consistent preparation from a hitter doesn’t magically cure every problem.

“That doesn’t mean that because you stick with the routine you’re going to have results,” Rodriguez said. “What it means is, [because] you know and believe in that routine that you know you’re going to get out of it.”

Which means in addition to sticking to his normal routine, Bogaerts also had to identify flaws elsewhere in order work through his problems. He came to realize the problem was more mechanically based than mental -- given he’d done everything to address that.

“They pitched me differently, and some stuff I wanted to do with the ball I couldn’t do,” Bogaerts said. “I just continued doing it until I had to make the adjustment back.”

Bogaerts isn’t fully out of the dark, but he’s taken steps in the right direction of late -- and is nowhere near the skid he experienced in 2014. He and Rodriguez fully believe the All-Star’s ability to maintain a clear mind will carry him through whatever troubles he’s presented with the rest of the way.

“The more stuff you have in you’re head is probably not going to help your chances,” Bogaerts explained, “so have a clear mind -- but also have the trust in your swing that you’re going to put a good swing on [the pitch] regardless of whatever the count is.”

Nick Friar can be followed on Twitter @ngfriar.