Francona: '08 was the best team I had in Boston

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Francona: '08 was the best team I had in Boston

Just like John Farrell on Tuesday, Terry Francona drew quite a crowd when he met the media Wednesday . . . from Cleveland (since he now manages the Indians) and Boston (since . . . well, you know).

And he had plenty of things to say about the Red Sox, such as a) he felt the 2008 team, which lost to Tampa Bay in the ALCS, was the best he had in Boston, b) he's "very thankful" Dave Roberts was safe because "I probably would have gone home" otherwise, and b) he hopes people will buy the book he and Dan Shaughnessy wrote after he left the Red Sox.

What he had to say about the Sox . . .

Terry, what's it been like for you kind of the last couple of years, from Boston to ESPN and now back to the game. Describe what it's been like the last couple of years for you.
"Uneven. A little bit of a roller coaster. I think you go back to September of '11, and that was tough, man. I don't care what city you're in. When you go 7 and whatever, 20, if you're the manager, you're wide open for criticism. That's just the way it is.

"And the way things ended was difficult. I thought stepping back was probably a smart thing. It's not necessarily the easiest thing in the world to tell yourself you need to do that, but it was, I think, really healthy for me. I know I get back into it now feeling like I'm better prepared to do the job correctly because it's got to be almost 24 hours a day to do it right, at least I think so. I was pretty beaten up by the end of that last year."

Terry, when you were with the Red Sox, a lot of times your team would beat middle to small market teams to a free agent. You were on the other side of that yesterday with Victorino. What's it like being on the other side of that?
". . . You know what, it's kind of hard to fault a guy like Shane Victorino for going to Boston. When guys get to be a free agent, they earn that right to go wherever they want, and it's a great baseball town.

"Again, I have a lot of respect for him and the way he went about his decision. So it's kind of hard to fault somebody for that."

Terry, this is different, obviously, from your last job. For you coming in, how is it different?
"When I took the job in Boston, the expectations were win or go home. I remember being very thankful that Dave Roberts was safe. I probably would have gone home.

"This is a little different now. We're younger. We're not in the same position. But our expectations, at least in my opinion, are still the same. We're supposed to try to win.
So general manager Chris Antonetti and I and all the guys are trying to put together the best roster we can, and when it's time to put a uniform on, that's when I get really excited, and we try to have our guys play the game correctly."

Terry, the Giants are now in a very similar position as you guys were after '07, a franchise that had not won the World Series in decades and suddenly wins two in a short spell. Did something change after '07, as far as expectations, challenges from other teams, or anything along those lines?
"No, I don't think so. People ask, is it hard to repeat? It's hard to win. And what happens is you try to put yourself in a position to win every year because things go wrong.

"I thought to be honest with you, I thought '08 was our best team. I really did. Josh Beckett had that intercostal issue. And Tampa beat us. That was our best team. We got beat by a really good team, and Beckett wasn't quite able to be the Beckett from the year before. But you put yourself in that position to give yourself a chance, and sometimes you're fortunate enough to win."

Terry, you have a book coming out this winter. What's the reaction to that going to be in Boston?
"I don't know. I hope people want to buy it."

But do you expect there to be fallout?
"Fallout? I hope people buy it. I spent a lot of time. No, I think it's more it's eight years of a lot of funny, some emotional, a couple sad things. I think co-author Dan Shaughnessy busted his rear end on this thing.

"The fact that, first of all, me and him were together doing it was a shock to me."

How did that happen?
"I don't know. First time I picked him up, I told him, you have to blackout the windows because I don't want people to see you driving me around. It ended up being probably I had a year where I could do it because under normal circumstances, you can't do it. And it ended up being kind of fun.

"I think, for the most part, if somebody ends up being bent out of shape, that was not ever the intent. It was just to kind of tell the story, and I hope that people take it that way because I think it's a really good story."

The way things ended in Boston is obviously tough on you emotionally. Now that some time has passed and you're back in the game, are you a little more at peace?"You know what, I never had a problem. I think it's a little bit of a misrepresentation. If you really think about it, it wasn't like all of September me and you guys were feuding. We had a really tough September. It was a rough, uphill battle for us. We were leaking oil like every day, but our biggest concern was to trying to get to the playoffs.
"We didn't deal with any of those issues until after the season. So it was kind of weird. I didn't have a chance to like sit back and think about not having that job. Two days later, I was defending myself. So it was hurtful. And where it went from there was disappointing, but time does have a way of I don't want to go through life being I don't know if vindictive is the right word. I don't know if that's healthy.

"I have too many people there that are too special. I was disappointed with the way it ended, and I'll probably always feel that way, but it doesn't mean it wasn't a great seven years and five months."

Is it sort of cathartic a little bit to get out there and see the ovation?
"I was conflicted. I'll be pretty honest about it. I wasn't planning on doing it. I talked to some people who told me maybe I was a being a little too selfcentered. I wasn't too thrilled about that. I was glad to be there, and I was glad to leave.

"But I've never felt like besides that one guy in the third row that used to scream at me, I thought Boston it's a wonderful place. If you care about baseball, it's a wonderful place. Sometimes things happen in that city. You can't have all that good without having some of the bad, and I got caught up in it."

Belichick convinces UDFA to sign, tells him to be in shape

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Belichick convinces UDFA to sign, tells him to be in shape

The moments following the final round of the NFL draft are always a whirlwind because the work done by those in their respective war rooms isn't finished. Every year, coaches and personnel staffers work their phones calling undrafted free-agents in order to round out their rosters with passed-over talent.

Arizona State receiver and running back D.J. Foster was one of those fielding calls on Saturday, giving his cell battery a workout. The Cardinals, Texans and Patriots all came calling, and he was leaning toward what he considered his hometown team in Arizona.

Then the Patriots deployed their top recruiting weapon: coach Bill Belichick.

You can watch Foster's draft day ordeal here with this video put together by 12News.com in Phoenix.

When he's made his decision he gets a call from one team employee telling him how "fired up" they are to have him on board. Then Belichick calls again, his mission accomplished, to first congratulate Foster and then order him to be in shape for rookie minicamp.

Foster was barely in elementary school when Belichick and Tom Brady helped the Patriots win their  first Super Bowl. Ever since, they've been one of the most consistently successful teams in football.

That track record couldn't have hurt Foster in his decision-making process, but it seems as though he was proposed the best financial deal by the Patriots. They're also a team that won't be afraid to try players at multiple positions. The fact that Foster considers himself both a running back and a receiver could be seen as beneficial in regards to him making the team. Being labeled a "'tweener" isn't always a detriment.

In the Patriots offense, there is room for a player with Foster's skill set. Perhaps he will work alongside Dion Lewis and James White as a "sub back," who specializes in the passing game and poses a threat either lined up in the backfield or out wide like a receiver. The other option would be for Foster to serve as a full-time receiver -- something he focused on last season -- who might be best suited for the slot. As an undrafted rookie, he'll also likely be expected to contribute in the kicking game in some way shape or form.

Patriots named Super Bowl LI favorites despite Brady suspension

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Patriots named Super Bowl LI favorites despite Brady suspension

Is the Patriots roster so loaded that Tom Brady can be suspended for four games, and they're still the favorites to win it all? 

Apparently so, according to odds released by the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook.

Not long after the completion of this year's draft, the Patriots were favored at 6-1 to win their fifth Lombardi Trophy even though their quarterback is scheduled to miss the first month of the season after his Deflategate punishment was recently reinstated by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. Brady plans to appeal that ruling. 

Next on the list of favorites are the Seahawks, Steelers and Packers, all of whom are tied at 8-1. The Panthers, who fell in Super Bowl 50 to the Broncos, have 9-1 odds to redeem themselves after last season's defeat and walk away winners. 

The Patriots are, of course, favored to win the AFC (3-1) and the AFC East (4-9), and their season win total projection has been set at 10.5.

Felger: Is the praise for Jacoby Brissett too good to be true?

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Felger: Is the praise for Jacoby Brissett too good to be true?

Three mid-week thoughts for your perusal . . . 

-- I was 100 percent behind the drafting of quarterback Jacoby Brissett. And then I read comments about the kid from Charlie Weis and Bill Parcells in Karen Guregian's excellent story in the Boston Herald on Tuesday.

Now I'm down to about 80 percent.

"He's a Curtis Martin-, Willie McGinest-, Troy Brown-type of player,'' said Parcells. "That's the kind of guy he is. That's what New England is getting. Those kind, those Tedy Bruschi types, those players who've been successful -- he's very similar in his personal life to those kinds of guys.''

"Let me tell you,'' added Weis, "this kid, from the time he was in high school, is the Pied Piper . . . He was definitely the leader of the pack. In the quarterback position, I think that's a critical factor. And that's what he was.''

Added Parcells: "He has zero personal issues.''

So why would glowing reports cause me to like the pick less? File under: Too good to be true.

I read those quotes and get the feeling I'm being sold something, which shakes my confidence a bit. Plus, it's a little too much on the intangible element. Character is certainly important at the position. In fact, it's crucial. But if intangibles were the only thing that mattered, Tim Tebow would have been an NFL QB. And we all know how that turned out.

Bottom line: I still like the pick. I still want the Pats drafting and developing quarterbacks. I just smell a bit of bull crap.

-- Chris Mannix nailed it regarding what it would take for the Celtics to lure Kevin Durant to Boston.

"Boston's ability to lure him is going to come down to who else they can get. You can't walk into a meeting with Kevin Durant and say, 'We've got Isiah Thomas and 97 draft picks; we're going to be good in a few years','' he told Toucher and Rich Tuesday morning. "Kevin doesn't want to hear that . . . What he wants to hear is that we're ready to win now . . . They have to come to the table with a Jimmy Butler, with a Bradley Beal, with an Al Horford. They can't just come with Brad Stevens, Danny Ainge and a bunch of draft picks.''

In other words, the pieces on the current roster aren't nearly as good as they looked in the regular season. And, no, Thomas is not a franchise player. And, finally, don't get too attached to those picks, no matter where the ping pong balls land.

-- I wonder if the Bruins look at the current landscape in net across the NHL playoffs and consider how wise it is to pay their goalie, Tuukka Rask, $7 million a year.

Still alive are guys like the Islanders' Thomas Greiss ($1.5 million cap hit), the Blues' Brian Ellliott ($2.5 million), the Sharks' Martin Jones ($3 million) and Penguins rookie Matt Murray ($620,000). Out are 8 of the top 10 highest-paid goalies in the league, a list including Henri Lundqvist, Carey Price, Cory Schneider, Ryan Miller and, of course, Rask.

Please note: No one is saying you can get away with shoddy goaltending in the playoffs. It's an unassailable fact that you need elite play in net to contend for Stanley Cups. The question is what you have to pay for it. 

And in that regard, this year is no aberration. Sometimes you have to pay through the nose for it, and sometimes it just falls in your lap.

Can the Bruins get away with trying to survive in that second camp? Good question. This much I know: Paying Rask $7 million a year to miss the playoffs two straight years isn't doing anyone any good.

Email Felger at mfelger@comcastsportsnet.com. Listen to Felger and Mazz weekdays, 2-6 p.m. on 98.5 FM. The simulcast runs daily on CSN.