Boston Celtics

Brady knows playoff wins are hard to come by

981621.jpg

Brady knows playoff wins are hard to come by

FOXBORO -- Much has changed among Patriots personnel since the team's last title. 
Quarterback Tom Brady, however, persists. 
As one of just three players (Vince Wilfork and Deion Branch being the other two) who were on New England's 2004 Super Bowl Champion roster, Brady has a unique perspective on the postseason. He knows the tragedy, the triumph, and every shade of feeling in between. 
One thing he's grateful for? Going through the gamut with head coach Bill Belichick. 
"He is very consistent," Brady said. "I think there is one thing you can always expect about coach Belichick: he is going to give you everything hes got. Whether its this week, or you come to our passing camp in May, he coaches just as hard. 
"And I think that is why we have been able to make improvements over the course of the year. Because it is not like, Ok guys, this week is not that important. It is always like, Look, this week is important because it is only going to build on next week."
Belichick has similarly commended Brady for being steadfast. Clearly, it counts for a lot: Brady is not just the only quarterback among the four still playing who's won a Super Bowl, he's the only one who's even been to a Super Bowl.
Doing the time, earning trust, has earned him a bit of breathing room on the field. 
"I think over the years Ive gained flexibility within what my coaches allow me to do. I see certain looks and I know to get to a particular play that may be better." 
"Sometimes it doesnt always turn out that way," he grinned ruefully. "Those are the ones you go to the sideline and coach yells at you for changing the play. But when everything goes right, I think it is real positive for our team. That is part of the experienced part that really pays off; youve been in enough situations to understand what may work and what may not work."
His experience has become more varied in recent seasons. 

Brady's earliest years might have tricked him into thinking winning is easy; hoisting three Lombardi Trophies by age 27 might do that to a guy. But he has learned in the years since -- via six playoff losses that include two Super Bowl heartbreaks -- that easy has nothing to do with it.  "Believe me, I have thought about that a lot myself," he admitted. "It's hard to win the Super Bowl, no question. We have made it there, since Ive been here, five times. It is hard to get to this point; it is hard to get to the AFC Championship game. You need a lot of things to go your way over the course of the year. 
"I think we are fortunate to be in this game and have this opportunity. There are a lot of things that need to happen positively over the course of a long season to have this chance and I am glad we have it."

How should Red Sox handle Chris Sale's pursuit of Pedro Martinez's strikeout record?

How should Red Sox handle Chris Sale's pursuit of Pedro Martinez's strikeout record?

BALTIMORE — Baseball records are so precise. When to pursue them, when to value them even if minor risk is involved, is not nearly as clear cut.

The Red Sox, Chris Sale and John Farrell have stumbled upon that grey area, and it will continue to play out in the final two weeks of the regular season.

Sale reached a tremendous milestone on Wednesday night, becoming the 14th different pitcher in major league history to reach 300 strikeouts in a single season. No one else has done it in the American League this century. Clayton Kershaw was the last to get there in the National League two years ago.

“It was really fun,” Sale said of having his family on hand. “My wife, both my boys are here, my mother-in-law. Being able to run out and get a big hug from him and my wife and everybody — it was special having them here for something like this. … I’ll spend a little time with them before we head to Cincinnati.”

Now, there’s another mark ahead of Sale: Pedro Martinez’s single-season club record of 313. And the pursuit of that record is going to highlight the discussion of what matters even more.

The tug-of-war between absolute pragmatism and personal achievement was on display Wednesday, when Farrell gave ground to the latter. 

The manager was prepared for the questions after a celebratory 9-0 win over the Orioles. His pitchers threw 26 straight scoreless innings to finish off a three-game sweep of the Orioles, and the Sox had the game well in hand the whole night.

With seven innings and 99 pitches thrown and 299 strikeouts in the books, Sale went back out for the eighth inning.

If you watched it, if you saw Sale drop a 2-2 front-door slider to a hapless Ryan Flaherty for the final strikeout Sale needed and his last pitch of the night, you surely enjoyed it. Records may not be championships, but they have their own appeal in sports that’s undeniable. 

But Sale could have recorded strikeout No. 300 next time out. Surely, he would have. He needed all 111 pitches to do so Wednesday.

In this case, the difference between 299 and 300 wound up being just 12 pitches. 

It’s doubtful those 12 pitches will ruin Sale’s postseason chances, particularly considering he was throwing hard all game, touching 99 mph. 

Nonetheless, the Sox hope to play for another month, and they've been working to get Sale extra rest. So, why risk fatigue, or worse, injury?

“The two overriding factors for me,” Farrell explained, “were the pitch counts and the innings in which he was in control of throughout. Gets an extra day [for five days of rest] this next time through the rotation. All those things were brought into play in the thinking of bringing him back out.

“We know what the final out of tonight represented, him getting the 300 strikeouts. Was aware of that, and you know what, felt like he was in complete command of this game and the ability to go out and give that opportunity, he recorded it.”

If Sale makes his final two starts of the year, he’ll break Martinez's record of 313. At least, Sale should. But he might not make his projected final start, in Game No. 162, so that he’s set up for Game 1 in the Division Series.

(So, if he could do reach 314 Ks in his next start, he’d make this discussion disappear — but 14 Ks in one outing is not easy.)

When should exceptions be made to let someone get to a record? Where do you draw the line? 

Would it be reasonable to get Sale an inning or two against the Astros in Game 162 if he was a few strikeouts away, even though he may face the Astros in the Division Series?

Letting the Astros get extra looks against Sale is a different matter than Sale throwing 12 extra pitches. But neither is really a guarantee of doom. They're small risks, of varying size.

Consider that if Sale is on, he should rough up the Astros no matter what.

What's 12 pitches Wednesday for a guy who leads the majors in average pitches thrown per game? Not enough to keep Farrell from letting Sale have a go at one milestone.

Will the Sox work to put Sale in position for the next?

Records don’t usually fall into such a grey area. Outside of the steroid era, anyway.