Haggerty: Sunday's win a sign of what might have been

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Haggerty: Sunday's win a sign of what might have been

CLEVELAND When the Red Sox season is over and every last statistic has been recorded, parsed and analyzed in the big book of MLB numbers, most may remember Sundays wipeout 14-1 win over the Indians as the last wide smile of the season.

No matter how good that Sunday afternoon drubbing felt,the Sox are still a far sight away from the playoffs and simply treading water.
Despite urgency being the name of the game, the Sox havent gained a single game in the Wild Card playoff standings since the July 31 trade deadline, and they sit 5 games back in the middle of August. They're going nowhere fast with David Ortiz still missing in action with a balky Achilles, and the wonderfully energetic rookie Will Middlebrooks is likely gone for the season.

In a way, a blowout win like Sunday's can be disappointing for the Sox because it is a reminder of how talented this ballclub really is. Its also a harsh reminder of how much theyve truly underachieved.
Sure there are injuries. The Sox have had the most disabled players (25) and DL stints (29) in franchise history since the 1971 season.But theres still oodles of talent on a 180 million payroll thats second only to the Yankees in MLB this season. They should have been better despite all the adversity.
Watching Jon Lester dominate Tribe hitters to the tune of 12 strikeouts in six innings showed that nothing is wrong with the 28-year-olds stuff. He should have been that guy all season for the Sox rather than a mega-talented hurler trying to recover from a bloated 5.20 ERA that will probably look like an aberration when his career is over.

The numbers are so bad that Lester admits hes had to stop paying attention to his stats in a sport where every player knows every one of their own back-of-the-baseball-card breakdowns backwards and forwards.Things could have been much different for this Sox team if Lester had pulled it together before August, but he didn't.

Watching Jacoby Ellsbury, Carl Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez and Dustin Pedroia singe a Cleveland rookie hurler is similarly maddening. Ellsbury and Crawford were both MIA for long stretches of the first half, while both Gonzalez and Pedroia never played up to their potential.

Sure, the Sox lead the league in runs scored. But thats like being the prettiest girl at a beer goggle dance contest. Those stats were inflated by a handful of blowout wins in the first few months of the year. Gonzalez was a gloried singles hitter masquerading as a cleanup guy and Pedroia was essentially a .260 hitting second baseman with a good glove when the Sox were at their worst. Now that the season is beyond salvage, Gonzalez has turned back into a home run hitting monster, and Pedroia has pumped his batting average up to .278 for the first time since early June.

Watching the Red Sox lineup do the rumba around the base paths while wearing out the gap in right-center field at Progressive Field was impressive on its face. But it was also a stark reminder that Boston should have been doing this all year, and they should be a team pushing the New York Yankees near the top of the AL East.

Its a season full of coulda, woulda and shoulda and theyll now be four years removed from their last playoff game win, and three years away from even qualifying for the postseason.

Instead theyre sending out feelers to deal veterans like Mike Aviles and Kelly Shoppach before the waiver trade deadline at the end of August. Maybe they're figuring which of John Lackey and Josh Beckett if not both has to find the door this winter. Perhaps theyre even thinking of mercifully shutting down Crawford, who needs elbow surgery and is now starting to feel soreness in his surgically repaired left wrist.

Call it trending downward.

Call it moving in the wrong direction.

But call it also a team that's serving out the final months of its hardball death sentence. Each and every efficient or eye-popping victory moving forward is an example of what this team might have been under different circumstances.

It was feel-good win on Sunday for the Sox, but that just makes it all a bit worse today as the Sox get ready for six games against the Orioles and Yankees.

Report: Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura killed in car crash in Dominican Republic

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Report: Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura killed in car crash in Dominican Republic

Kansas City Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura was killed in a car crash in in the Dominican Republic on Sunday morning, according to ESPN's Cristian Moreno. Ventura was 25 years old.

Ventura was 13-8 with a 4.08 ERA for the Royals' 2015 World Series champions and 11-12 with a 4.45 ERA in 32 starts in 2016. The right-hander made his major league debut in 2013 and in 2014 went 14-10 with a 3.20 ERA for Kansas City's A.L. pennant winners. 

Ironically, Ventura paid tribute to his good friend and fellow Dominican, Oscar Tavares, who was also killed in a car crash in the D.R. in October 2014, by wearing Tavares' initials and R.I.P. on his cap before Ventura's start in Game 6 of the World Series in 2014. 

Ventura is the second major league player to die in the past five months. Former Miami Marlins ace Jose Fernandez was killed in a boating accident in Miami on Sept. 25.


 

Patriots-Steelers game notes: Pats shooting for record ninth Super Bowl berth

Patriots-Steelers game notes: Pats shooting for record ninth Super Bowl berth

A quick look at the information you need to know about tonight's Patriots-Steelers game:

PATRIOTS-STEELERS PREGAME

TEAM RECORDS: Patriots 15-2, Steelers 13- 5

GAME TIME: 6:40 p.m. EST

TV: CBS

TV ANNOUNCERS: Jim Nantz, Phil Simms and Tracy Wolfson

NATIONAL RADIO NETWORKS: Westwood One

NATIONAL RADIO ANNOUNCERS: Kevin Harlan, Dan Fouts and Ross Tucker

LOCAL RADIO NETWORK: Anchored by WBZ-FM (98.5 The Sports Hub)

LOCAL RADIO ANNOUNCERS: Bob Socci and Scott Zolak

ALL-TIME SERIES BETWEEN THE TEAMS: Steelers lead, 15-14

LAST MEETING: Patriots 27, Steelers 16 on Oct. 23, 2016 at Heinz Field

* * * *
QUICK FACTS
-- Bill Belichick is coaching in his NFL-record 11th conference championship game. Tom Brady is playing in his NFL-record 11th conference championship game.

-- The Patriots are 8-4 in AFC Championship Games, including 5-1 in games played in Foxboro and 4-1 at Gillette Stadium.

-- The Patriots are 30-19 in postseason games, including 19-4 at home (3-1 at Schaefer/Sullivan/Foxboro Stadium, 16-3 at Gillette).

-- The Patriots' 30 postseason victories are tied with the 49ers for fourth-most in NFL history, behind the Cowboys (34), Steelers (34) and Packers (32).

-- The Patriots' .612 winning percentage in postseason games is third-best in NFL history, behind the Ravens (15-8, .652) and Packers (34-21, .618).

* * * *
MILESTONES
-- If the Patriots win today they will qualify for their ninth Super Bowl, most in NFL history. They are currently tied with the Cowboys, Broncos and Steelers at eight.

-- If the Patriots win today, Robert Kraft will set an NFL record for most conference championships by an owner (8) in the Super Bowl era. He is currently tied with the Denver Broncos' Pat Bowler at seven.

-- If the Patriots win today, Bill Belichick will move into a tie with Bill Walsh for third place on the NFL list of best postseason coaching winning percentage. Belichick (who would be 25-10 with a victory) and Walsh (10-4) would have .714 winning percentage. Belichick is currently in fifth place, two percentage points behind Joe Gibbs (17-7, .708). Vince Lombardi (9-1, .900) is in first place and Tom Flores (8-3. .727) is second.

-- If the Patriots win today, Belichick will advance to his seventh Super Bowl as a head coach, which would be most in NFL history. He is currently tied with Don Shula at six.

-- Tom Brady (8) needs one more playoff game with three or more touchdown passes to tie Joe Montana (9) for most three-plus TD playoff games since the 1970 NFL merger.

-- Stephen Gostkowski (142) needs 11 points to tie Gary Anderson for third place on the NFL's all-time list of kicking points in the postseason. Adam Vinatieri (234) is first and David Akers (175) is second.

-- Julian Edelman (76) needs nine receptions to tie Andre Reed (85) for sixth place on the NFL's all-time list of postseason receptions. Michael Irvin is fifth at 88, and Hines Ward and Wes Welker are tied for third at 88.

* * * *
TONIGHT'S OFFICIALS
-- REFEREE: Terry McAulay. UMPIRE: Rich Hall. HEAD LINESMAN: Wayne Mackie. LINE JUDGE: Mark Perlman. FIELD JUDGE: Scott Edwards. SIDE JUDGE: Boris Cheek. BACK JUDGE: Tony Steratore. ALTERNATES: John Parry, Mark Steinkerchner, Rich Martinez. REPLAY OFFICIAL: Mike Wimmer. SUPERVISOR: Gary Slaughter.