Wakeup call: A turning point for the U.S.?; 'no deal' between Vilma, NFL

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Wakeup call: A turning point for the U.S.?; 'no deal' between Vilma, NFL

Here's your wakeup call -- a combination of newsworthy andor interesting tidbits -- for Tuesday, August 7:

BASEBALL
If he'd been this honest and approachable during his career, people might actually like Barry Bonds. (CSN Bay Area)

Just a little too much Justin Verlander for the Yankees last night. (AP)

The O'Malleys are back in baseball: Peter O'Malley and golfer Phil Mickelson head a group that's reached agreement to buy the Padres. (AP)

Long time no see, Evan Longoria. (AP)

COLLEGE BASKETBALL
A little thing like a hip fracture won't keep Jim Calhoun off UConn's bench. (AP)

COLLEGE FOOTBALL
Penn State has lost nine players since the NCAA announced its sanctions against the program, but Bill O'Brien thinks that'll be it. (AP)

Meanwhile, one of the school's trustees is appealing the penalty. (AP)

All those years that his father hung with Bill Belichick apparently rubbed off on Hud Mellancamp, who's trying to make the Duke team as a walk-on. (AP)

HOCKEY
Deadline? What deadline? Donald Fehr says there's plenty of time for the NHL and NHLPA to reach a labor agreement. (AP)

Looks like Manny Malhotra and Jason Garrison won't be spotted in any Vancouver Chick-Fil-A's anytime soon. (NBC's Pro Hockey Talk)

OLYMPICS
The "Regime Team" found its stride in the second half against Argentina -- turning a 60-59 halftime lead into a 126-97 rout -- and Jack McCallum thinks we may look back on this as the turning point. (NBC)

Pro Soccer Talk's Jenna Pei explains why Alex Morgan's game-winning goal Monday, which lifted the U.S. women into the gold-medal game, was just another case of "Alex being Alex". (NBC's Pro Soccer Talk)

Mystery solved: We know, at last, the identity of Michael Phelps' girlfriend. (NBC's Off The Bench)

And because contrived controversies aren't limited to politics in Fox Land . . . (Off The Bench)

PRO BASKETBALL
Relax, Bulls fans. Luol Deng says he's fine. (NBC's Pro Basketball Talk)

PRO FOOTBALL
As everyone feared, the family confirmed Monday that the death of Garrett Reid, son of Eagles coach Andy Reid, was drug related. (CSN Philly)

Rumors are flying of a "settlement" between the NFL and Jonathan Vilma, in which the Saints' lineman will have his season-long suspension for his participation in Bountygate reduced in return for his dropping his lawsuit against commissioner Roger Goodell. The league, however, calls the reports "completely inaccurate". (AP)

The Ravens' Bryant McKinnie a) apparently borrowed 4.5 million from a lending agency during last year's lockout, and b) then didn't pay it back. So the Ravens will pay it for him by withholding half his salary and sending it to a company called Pro Player Funding. (NBC's Pro Football Talk)

Another thing you'd probably never have seen if the NFL hadn't locked out the officials: A woman will serve as line judge in Thursday's Packers-Chargers exhibition. (AP)

"Congratulations, Seahawks fans. Or, as the case may be, condolences." Mike Florio said it better than anything I might come up with. (Pro Football Talk)

Report: Third base among 'major upgrades' Red Sox seek by trade deadline

Report: Third base among 'major upgrades' Red Sox seek by trade deadline

Despite still being owed more than $42 million after this year, Pablo Sandoval's days with the Red Sox appear numbered. So, it's no surprise that landing a third baseman at the trade deadline is a priority.

That's among the "major upgrades" the Sox are seeking by the July 31 deadline, MLB.com columnist Mark Feinsand reports.

With Sandoval now on his second disabled list stint of the season - this time with an ear infection - after turning into what Feinsand calls "a horror tale for the Red Sox," and with fill-ins Josh Rutledge and Deven Marrero holding down third, it's apparent that the position is a glaring need.

"Sandoval is basically a non-entity at this point," a source told Feinsand. "They need to make a move there."

Feinsand mentions the usual suspects - Mike Moustakas of the Royals and Todd Frazier of the White Sox - as possibilities. Also, he wonders if former MVP Josh Donaldson could be pried away from the Blue Jays (if "Dave Dombrowski knocks their socks off") with an offer and if Toronto is still sputtering at the deadline?

Those other upgrades? "Boston is also looking for pitching, both in the rotation and bullpen," Feinsand writes. Again, no surprise there.

Drellich: Red Sox' talent drowning out lack of identity

Drellich: Red Sox' talent drowning out lack of identity

A look under the hood is not encouraging. A look at the performance is.

The sideshows for the Red Sox have been numerous. What the team’s success to this point has reinforced is how much talent and performance can outweigh everything else. Hitting and pitching can drown out a word that rhymes with pitching — as long as the wins keep coming.

MORE RED SOX

At 40-32, the Sox have the seventh-best win percentage (.556) in the majors. What they lack, by their own admission, is an intangible. Manager John Farrell told reporters Wednesday in Kansas City his club was still searching for its identity.

“A team needs to forge their own identity every year,” Farrell said. “That’s going to be dependent upon the changes on your roster, the personalities that exist, and certainly the style of game that you play. So, with [David Ortiz’s] departure, his retirement, yeah, that was going to happen naturally with him not being here. And I think, honestly, we’re still kind of forming it.”

To this observer, the vibe in the Red Sox clubhouse is not the merriest. 

Perhaps, in the mess hall, the players are a unified group of 25 (or so), living for one another with every pitch. What the media sees is only a small slice of the day. 

But it does not feel like Farrell has bred an easygoing, cohesive environment.

Farrell and big boss Dave Dombrowski appeared unaligned in their view of Pablo Sandoval’s place on the roster, at least until Sandoval landed on the disabled list. 

Hanley Ramirez and first base may go together like Craig Kimbrel and the eighth inning. Which is to say, selfless enthusiasm for the ultimate goal of winning does not appear constant with either.

Dustin Pedroia looked like the spokesperson of a fractured group when he told Manny Machado, in front of all the cameras, “It’s not me, it’s them,” as the Orioles and Red Sox carried forth a prolonged drama of drillings. 

Yet, when you note the Sox are just a half-game behind the Yankees for the American League East lead; when you consider the Sox have won 19 of their past 30 games, you need to make sure everything is kept in proportion.

How much are the Sox really hurt by a lack of identity? By any other issue off the field?

Undoubtedly, the Sox would be better positioned if there were no sideshows. But it’s hard to say they’d have ‘X’ more wins.

The Sox would have had a better chance of winning Wednesday’s game if Kimbrel pitched at any point in the eighth inning, that’s for sure. 

Kimbrel is available for one inning at this point, the ninth, Farrell has said.

A determination to keep Kimbrel out of the eighth because that’s not what a closer traditionally does seems like a stance bent on keeping Kimbrel happy rather than doing what is best for the team. The achievement of a save has been prioritized over the achievement of a team win, a state of affairs that exists elsewhere, but is nonetheless far from ideal — a state of affairs that does not reflect an identity of all for one and one for all.

Maybe the Sox will find that identity uniformly. Maybe they’re so good, they can win the division without it.