McAdam: Sox season begins under much uncertainty

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McAdam: Sox season begins under much uncertainty

DETROIT -- They spent the winter digging out from the worst finish to a season since 1978, a public relations nightmare that resulted in an off-the-field house-cleaning.

They hired a new general manager and a new manager, trying to rinse the organization of the mess that had been made.

For the most part, the roster underwent only minor revisions. Uncharacteristically, they seemed to spend much of the winter waiting for prices to drop, a far cry from just 12 months earlier when they handed out 142 million to Carl Crawford, traded for Adrian Gonzalez and, for what it was worth, "won the off-season."

They found themselves serving as punch lines for their clubhouse misdeeds. You couldn't think or say the words "fried chicken" or "beer" without first thinking of the Red Sox.

The cloud over them never seemed to lift. In January, Carl Crawford required wrist surgery, delaying his season and slowing his chances to make up for a terribly disappointing first season in Boston.

Spring training brought them a chance to turn the page, which, with an exception or two, they seemed to manage. Bobby Valentine, the new manager, displayed boundless energy and offered the promise of a re-boot.

All of which leads them here, to the 2012 season and the hope that accompanies Opening Day.

And never have the Red Sox needed a fresh start.

For the past 10 years, really, since the arrival of the team's ownership, the start of the season has meant great expectations. From 2003 through last fall, the Red Sox won two World Series, went to the seventh game of the American League Championship Series twice and qualified for the playoffs six times while missing out on a seventh trip in the final out of the final game.

Each Opening Day, the expectation was that the Sox would play deep into October, that another World Series title, or, at the very least, an American League pennant, would be within reach.

This year, for the first time in a long time, it's difficult to find that same optimism.

The Red Sox enter the year with two unproven starters, without their starting left fielder, and with questions about their shortstop.

Worst of all, they open the season without a proven closer. Andrew Bailey was supposed to fill that role, but a thumb injury late in March required thumb surgery Wednesday, sidelining him until past mid-season at minimum.

Every team is supposed to start the season 0-0, but it's hard not to think that the Red Sox aren't starting out with a deficit.

The early-season schedule does them no favors, with 15 games, right out of the chute, against contenders: Detroit, Toronto, Tampa Bay, Texas and New York.

Try as they might, they won't be able to ease into the season. The schedule is unforgiving. For a team which stumbled badly in the early going of the last two seasons, a challenge awaits them again.

All is not lost, of course. The offense is mighty and should produce more runs than most. The front end of the rotation, should it remain healthy, is formidable, with something to prove.

And their is the collective will of the team in general to distance itself from last September's disaster. Even for modern athletes with guaranteed contracts, pride can serve as a huge motivational tool.

Certainly, things could be worse. This is not Kansas City or Baltimore or Pittsburgh, where winning seasons are distant memories and not even the arrival of Opening Day supplies the necessary amount of optimism.

But for a team which hasn't made the playoffs in either of the previous two seasons, there is the nagging thought that the decade of excellence the Red Sox have enjoyed may have come to a close and hard times are ahead.

In that sense, as first pitches are thrown and anthem sung and the season begins, the 2012 Red Sox find themselves not only trying to run away from last fall, but also, rediscover what made them so successful in the not-too-distant past.

Brown apologizes for 'distraction' caused by Facebook Live video

Brown apologizes for 'distraction' caused by Facebook Live video

Pittsburgh Steelers wideout Antonio Brown posted an apology on social media Tuesday night for his Facebook Live video that has caused a stir over the last few days.

"I let my emotions and genuine excitement get the best of me, and I wanted to share that moment with our fans," said Brown in a statement on his Twitter. ""It was wrong of me to do, against team and NFL policy, and I have apologized to Coach Tomlin and my teammates for my actions.

"I'm sorry to them for letting it become a distraction and something that they've had to answer questions about while we're preparing for a big game on Sunday."

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said on Tuesday that he has “absolutely no worries on the video's effect" on Sunday's game against the Patriots, but it was "selfish and inconsiderate" of his star wide receiver.

Brown could still be fined for violating the league's social-media policy. The policy states that players, coaches and football operations personnel are banned from using social media on game days 90 minutes before kickoff, during games, and before "traditional media interviews."

Haggerty: Bruins would be foolish to deal away Carlo right now

Haggerty: Bruins would be foolish to deal away Carlo right now

There’s been smoke for weeks signaling trade talks between the Boston Bruins and the Colorado Avalanche, and things are reportedly heating up with the Bruins potentially reaching a tipping point with their subpar play on the ice. According to Bleacher Report columnist Adrian Dater, things may be progressing between the two teams because the Bruins are beginning to entertain the idea of trading away 20-year-old top pairing rookie defenseman Brandon Carlo.

Bruins Director of Player Personnel John Ferguson Jr. was expected to be out in Colorado scouting the Avalanche/Blackhawks game on Tuesday night, and perhaps getting a long look at players like Gabriel Landeskog, Matt Duchene and Tyson Barrie among others.

The expectation is that 24-year-old Landeskog is in the middle of these trade discussions, and that he would be one of the players targeted by a Bruins team that could use more size on the wing, and more players that can put the puck in the net. Certainly Landeskog has done that in his brief NHL career after being a No. 2 overall pick, and has four 20-goal seasons on his resume prior to a disappointing, injury-plagued current season in Colorado.

The word around the league was that talks fizzled between the Bruins and Avs previously when Joe Sakic asked about the availability of the Colorado Springs native Carlo, and those discussions hit the same crunching roadblock that Winnipeg did in discussions with Boston about Jacob Trouba.

Perhaps that has changed in the last 24 hours after Cam Neely and Don Sweeney watched their Bruins completely no-show against the worst team in the Eastern Conference, the New York Islanders, on Monday afternoon. Now one would expect that Bruins management is getting desperate feeling that a third “Did Not Qualify” for the Stanley Cup playoffs could be in their future if they don’t make a bold, swift move to shake up their dazed hockey club.

But let’s not pull any punches here. The entire Bruins management group should be fired on the spot if they trade a 20-year-old, top pairing shutdown defenseman on an entry level contract like Carlo unless they are getting a bona fide superstar in return. Carlo, Charlie McAvoy and David Pastrnak should all be young, untouchable assets for a Bruins organization that is years away from legitimately holding a chance at a Stanley Cup.

Landeskog is not a bona fide superstar. He’s a good player that’s topped out at 26 goals and 65 points in the NHL, but he’s also the Captain on a horrendous, underachieving Avalanche team over the last three years.

If the price were right for Landeskog it would make all the sense in the world for the Bruins to deal him, but it’s a giant honking red flag that Colorado is looking to unload a player like him that’s signed for a reasonable $5.5 million price tag over the next four seasons. Teams don’t trade young players like that with term unless there’s more to the story, and that’s something the Bruins would do well to consider before giving up a player that could be a top-4 shutdown defenseman in Boston for the next 10 years.

Teams like the Bruins that are in reloading mode also shouldn’t be trading 20-year-old players for 24-year-old players that have already cashed in on their second contract. That’s exactly how the Bruins can get right back into salary cap trouble, and do it with a team that’s producing far less than the Peter Chiarelli groups that were at least still making the playoffs.  

Certainly the Bruins have other young D-men like Charlie McAvoy, Jakub Zboril and Jeremy Lauzon coming down the pipeline, but none of those defensemen are in the mold of a true shutdown D like the 6-foot-5 Carlo. With Zdeno Chara in the final few years of his career with the Black and Gold, the B’s are going to need Carlo to slide into that defensive stopper role given his size, strength, wing span and willingness to do the dirty work the D-zone.

That goes beyond the simple fact that rebuilding the back end with ALL of those young stud D-men is the best way to actually build the Bruins back up into a legitimate Eastern Conference power. 

It would be a giant mistake for the Bruins to ship away a player like Carlo with the hope Landeskog can put Boston over the hump for the playoffs this season, and perhaps ease some of the intense pressure currently weighing on Sweeney and Neely. That kind of desperate move smacks of doing it for all of the wrong reasons, and that’s one way to ensure that the Bruins will never escape the web of mediocrity that they’re currently caught in.