Pats' free-agent forecast: Running back


Pats' free-agent forecast: Running back

This is the sixth in a series of position-by-position looks at the Patriots heading into free agency. Today's position: Running backs. Who's on the roster? Eric Kettani, Lousaka Polite, Stevan Ridley, Shane Vereen, Danny Woodhead. Patriots need level? 4 Position overview? The Patriots lead back the past two seasons, BenJarvus Green-Ellis, is a free agent. He wasn't outstanding in 2011 (often went down on first contact), but he's very sure-handed and dependable. Stevan Ridley's rookie season was promising. He's got more speed through the hole than Green-Ellis and is more elusive at the second level. Fumbling in consecutive games down the stretch was troubling, but that's something coaching and hard work can eliminate. Lousaka Polite and Eric Kettani are fullback types. Shane Vereen had an injury-plagued rookie year. Danny Woodhead is valuable and - when he's on - dangerous. Who's out there? Michael Bush, Raiders. A big, 6-2, 243-pounder whowill be 28 this summer. Has been the backup to Darren McFadden. A decent receiver who has one fumble in his last 414 carries. Mike Tolbert, Chargers. An absolute load at 5-9, 243, he can be elusive and - obviously - a pounder between the tackles. With teams going to more nickel and dime defenses, he's an able pass-catcher (54 catches last year) who can run over DBs if teams are preoccupied with trying to stop a passing attack. Cedric Benson, Bengals. Has fumbled 12 times in the past two seasons. He's on the downside and may be an option for depth but probably not much more even though he's been over 1,000 yards each of the past three seasons. Ryan Grant, Packers. Turns 30 this year and has lost a step but once was an explosive runner (over 1,200 yards in 2008 and 2009). BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Patriots. He's done quite a nice job for the Patriots but he can't expect to get a cash windfall here as a free agent. Peyton Hillis, Browns. He's only 26, but after an outstanding 2010 he got goofy and problematic in Cleveland in 2011. If he sits on the shelf a while, the Patriots may have a look. Other names of note? Kevin Faulk, Ronnie Brown, Mewelde Moore, Tim Hightower. Free agent forecast? If Green-Ellis signs elsewhere, look for the Patriots to hire a veteran a la Fred Taylor as security in case Ridley and Vereen prove unreliable.

Francona, Epstein receive grand ovations at BBWAA dinner


Francona, Epstein receive grand ovations at BBWAA dinner

BOSTON -- “I didn’t feel that love after I made a pitching change in the sixth inning,” Terry Francona said after a 45-second standing ovation from Boston fans upon receiving the MLB Manager of the Year award from the BBWAA Thursday.

It’s without question the love for Francona runs deep in the city. Why wouldn’t it? He was the leader in breaking the 86-year old curse, and wound up winning another World Series title for Boston three years later.

Actually, he was more of a co-leader, working alongside the same person who won the MLB Executive of the Year honors from the BBWAA for 2016.

Theo Epstein -- who received an ovation 17 seconds shorter than Francona, but who’s counting -- reminisced about the Red Sox ownership group that took a chance on a young kid who wasn’t necessarily the ideal candidate to take over as GM of a team, but now that’s helped him build the Chicago Cubs into a winning franchise and establish a great working environment.

This October marks 13 years since the ’04 championship, 10 years since ’07 and six years since the pair left Boston. Without question they’ve left their mark on the city and forever changed Red Sox baseball.

And while the fans showed their undying gratitude for Francona with an ovation almost as long as his acceptance speech, the Indians manager recognized the favor the current Red Sox brass has done for him.

“I’d like to thank Dave Dombrowski and the Red Sox for getting Chris Sale the hell out of the Central Division,” Francona said.