Wakeup call: Woah, Canada; Matthews disses Giants

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Wakeup call: Woah, Canada; Matthews disses Giants

Here's your wakeup call -- a combination of newsworthy andor interesting tidbits -- for Wednesday, August 8:

BASEBALL
That's 11 straight losses, and counting, for the Indians. (AP)

But that's 12 straight extra-winning wins for the Orioles. (CSN Baltimore)

Speaking of 11, that was Barry Larkin's uniform number. Eight years after he stopped playing, the Reds are getting around to retiring it. (NBC's Hardball Talk)

The Tigers and Yankees continue moving in opposite directions. (AP)

It was a winning return for Evan Longoria. (AP)

BASKETBALL
The 'Year of LeBron'? Almost enough to make you root against the U.S., isn't it? (NBC)

The Trail Blazers (finally) have a new coach. (AP)

Hall of Famer Arnie Risen -- whose 6-foot-9 stature wouldn't raise an eyebrow now but earned him the nickname "Stilts" back in the day -- has died at age 87. (NBC's Pro Basketball Talk)

COLLEGE FOOTBALL
Penn State has decided to add the players' names to the backs of their jersies (to honor their "resolve and dedication" to the program, they said), and also will wear blue ribbons to show support for victims of child abuse. (AP)

Meanwhile, ex-Penn State running back Silas Redd is fitting right in at USC. (AP)

GOLF
Tiger Woods hasn't won a major tournament in four years, and he gets his last shot at one in 2012 this week at the PGA. (golfchannel.com)

HOCKEY
New Jersey nearly won the Stanley Cup, but that hasn't kept the financial devils from its doorstep. (NBC's Pro Hockey Talk)

OLYMPICS
Canada's anti-refeering postgame rants after its loss to the U.S. in the women's soccer semifinals has caught FIFA's attention. (NBC)

Man, that's gotta hurt. (NBC's Off The Bench)

PRO FOOTBALL
More than 900 people, including many from the NFL (Bill Belichick among them), attended Garrett Reid's funeral. (CSN Philly)

It was a USC connection that got T.O. to Seattle. (CSN Bay Area)

Turns out the new kickoff rules actually did reduce the number of reported concussions last year in the NFL, at least a little. (AP)

The intensity of Tebowmania has surprised Jets owner Woody Johnson. (NBC's Pro Football Talk) And President Obama's comments that Jets fans should be "nervous" about their QB situation have irritated him . . . especially since he's a big Romney fund-raiser.

Whaddya know. For once, a lawyer was actually right when he said that when all the facts were in, his client wouldn't be charged. (AP)

Hey, Giants fans. That Super Bowl championship? You didn't win it; Clay Matthews says the Packers lost it. (Pro Football Talk)

Are Red Sox entering spring training with fewer questions than ever?

Are Red Sox entering spring training with fewer questions than ever?

BOSTON -- Every year it seems like there are major issues or question marks to start spring training where the answers are up in the air.

In 2015, the Red Sox lacked an ace, had Hanley Ramirez moving to left field and Pablo Sandoval coming to town.

In 2016, Ramirez was moving back to the infield, but at a new position, and his bat was in question. Sandoval was coming off a year where he couldn’t hit his weight (he hit .245 and he last weighed in at 255 pounds). How would the starting rotation look after David Price?

This year, there seem to be three questions, but in a way, they’ve already been answered.

How will the Red Sox make up for David Ortiz’s absence?

Well, for one, the Red Sox have three Cy Young-caliber starting pitchers (Price, Chris Sale and Rick Porcello) in their rotation.

And two, Hanley Ramirez is coming off a career year with his highest career output in RBI (111) and second-highest home run total (30). And while Mitch Moreland isn’t the greatest hitter, he’s good for 20 or more home runs. Plus, it seems he’s holding a spot for a certain Red Sox prospect who’s bouncing back well from an injury.

 

Will Sandoval earn the starting third base job back?

The weight loss is a good sign, not only for the physical reasons, but it shows he’s mentally committed to being better.

However, that doesn’t guarantee he gets his job back.

“I’m not going to say [third base] resolved itself,” John Farrell told CSNNE.com, “but you know Panda’s done a very good job of committing to get himself in better shape and we’re looking forward to seeing that play to in spring training.”

Even if Panda can’t put it all together, Farrell told reporters before Thursday’s BBWAA dinner, both Brock Holt and Josh Rutledge would be competing for the job as well.

Holt as plan B -- in the infield? Who wouldn’t take that?

Who’s going to start at catcher?

Sandy Leon, Christian Vazquez and Blake Swihart each have their pros an cons.

Leon did it all last year, but went from hitting .383 in his first 39 games to .242 in his last 39.

Vazquez has Ivan Rodriguez-esque abilities behind the plate, but couldn’t keep the staff under control last year and cannot hit.

Swihart, who turns 25 April 3, is the youngest of the three, has the most potential at the plate, but is far and away the worst of the three defensively at the most important defensive position -- excluding pitcher -- on the field.

They all have their drawbacks, but they’ve all shown at some point why they can be the Red Sox starting catcher in the present and future.

Everywhere else, the Red Sox seem to be in a comfortable position as pitchers and catchers reporting to camp draws ever nearer.

“I think the fact that we’ve got veteran players that have done a great job in staying healthy [and] young players that are getting more establishing in their return, we’re in a pretty good place in terms of the overall status of our position player group,” Farrell told CSNNE.com.

And it seems some players are confident in the team’s options as they ready for camp.

“We’re looking good in a lot of areas,” shortstop Xander Bogaerts told CSNNE.com. “Especially the pitching staff, [since] we just got Chris Sale one of the best in the game.”

“Pablo’s definitely going to bounce back, especially with the weight he’s lost."

Francona, Epstein receive grand ovations at BBWAA dinner

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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.