Can Sox keep their arbitration-free streak intact?

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Can Sox keep their arbitration-free streak intact?

You probably know the Red Sox have not been to arbitration since 2002, when Dan Duquette was the general manager. Give yourself a couple of baseball IQ points if you knew the last player with whom the Sox went to arbitration was right-hander Rolando Arrojo, before his final season in the major leagues. Tack on a few more points if you knew that the Sox won that case, with a bid for a salary of 1.9 million to Arrojos bid for 2.8 million.Still, the Sox dont hold the record for avoiding arbitration. Cleveland last went in 1991, Toronto in 1997, and St. Louis in 1999. Some teams just prefer to avoid the process.
Tal Smith has been in baseball for over 50 years and was with the Astros for 35, most recently as president since 1994, until he was unceremoniously dismissed by new owner Jim Crane in November. Smith also runs his own company, Tal Smith Enterprises, which he began in 1981, that offers consulting services to major league teams.
With more than 150 arbitration cases on his resume, he is considered the arbitration guru.Some clubs dont like to go. They think it scars the player, Smith said of arbitration. I dont subscribe to that. Obviously it depends on whos presenting and how they approach it. Weve done over 150 cases and I can think of only about three where it really became a little bit testy and adversarial. Basically, its a continuation of the same kind of arguments that the club and the agent enter into during negotiations when theyre trying to negotiate why they want this or why theyre offering that. Obviously theres a reliance almost solely on numbers and comparable salaries. Nobody is demeaning a player. If you hit .230, you hit .230. It speaks for itself. If you hit .310, it speaks for itself. If you won 15 games, the same.
So its not all that testy. I think theres a lot of people out there, including media people, who think, Oh, you dont want to take this guy to arbitration. Hell never forgive you. I dont buy into that at all. Ive obviously been on the club side and Ive had players that I run into in later years in airports or something like that who come up and they dont hold any animosity, even Barry Bonds. We had Barry twice when he was with Pittsburgh and the club won both cases. And as cantankerous as Barry can be seen by some, when he was still playing with the Giants, hed come into Houston and hed see me and come over and wed laugh.
"Its not that dire a setting. Its just a continuation of the negotiation process being presented to a third party, to a panel of arbitrators. And theyre listening to the same kind of stuff that you were talking about before arbitration and theyre going to make the decision for you.Arbitration figures must be submitted by Tuesday. This year, the Sox have six players -- David Ortiz, Alfredo Aceves, Mike Aviles, Andrew Bailey, Daniel Bard and Jacoby Ellsbury -- eligible for arbitration. Andrew Miller, Matt Albers, Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Franklin Morales have already agreed to deals, avoiding arbitration.
Arbitration hearings are scheduled to be conducted in St. Petersburg Feb. 1-21. In the hearings, which generally last several hours, each side will present its case to a panel of three arbitrators, with a chance for rebuttals following. Even if a player goes to arbitration, the sides have up until a decision is rendered by the panel to reach a deal.It used to be that about 85 percent of cases that filed would be settled before arbitration, but, Smith said, in recent years the number is even higher, with only about three or four cases going to arbitration. Last year 119 players filed, with just three Hunter Pence, then with the Astros, the Pirates Ross Ohlendorf, and the Angels Jered Weaver going through arbitration. Pence and Ohlendorf won their cases, with Weaver losing his.The reason for that is the stakes are greater, the dollars are greater, and there are greater risks for each party, Smith said. If you go and lose, youre leaving money on the table, so to speak. When I first started this process back in 1974, there were cases where the spread, the difference between the two numbers, was as low as 3,500. I did four Yankee cases in 1974 or 75 and the total of the four cases was about 20,000. Today you get spreads of individual cases weve done recently of 2 million, 3 million. So the stakes are greater and the objective of the whole exercise is to get meaningful numbers on the table for which the parties can continue to negotiate.

Tom Brady on pace to dwarf deep-ball passing numbers from 2016

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Tom Brady on pace to dwarf deep-ball passing numbers from 2016

FOXBORO -- When the Patriots traded their first-round pick in the 2017 draft for Brandin Cooks, they gave Tom Brady one of the most productive deep-ball receivers in the NFL over the course of the last few seasons. 

The Cooks acquisition not only made the Patriots offense more versatile, it also may have signaled an acknowledgement that the team needed more pass-catchers who could produce down the field and outside the numbers.

In the playoffs last season, against Houston's and Atlanta's defenses -- both of which were effective at times in taking away the short-to-intermediate areas of the field -- the Patriots could have benefited from someone like Cooks. In both games, the Patriots were able to hit on throws deep and on the outside in critical moments with likes of Julian Edelman, Chris Hogan and Malcolm Mitchell. 

Now after three weeks, and after having faced two defenses in Houston's and Kansas City's that were intent on packing the middle of the field with defenders, it's clear that the move to grab Cooks is paying dividends. 

In Sunday's win over the Texans, 36-33, Brady threw eight passes that traveled at least 20 yards in the air, and he completed five for 185 yards and three scores, according to Pro Football Focus. On the season, Brady leads the league with 22 attempts of 20 yards or more, per PFF. He's completed 11 of those for 368 yards and four touchdowns. His passer rating on deep attempts (135.4) is second in the league. 

Compare that to last season's totals for Brady on deep passes -- 23 completions for 834 yards and eight touchdowns -- and he's on pace to blow those numbers away. Whereas he only attempted deep passes on just over 11 percent of his throws last season, according to PFF, so far this year one in every five of his throws is traveling 20 yards or more.

The biggest beneficiary of the new approach? Cooks, of course, who Brady has dubbed "Cookie." 

PFF says Cooks is leading the league in deep-ball receiving through three weeks, with 187 yards on five deep catches. Three of those came on Sunday and they resulted in 111 yards and two scores. In Week 1, Cooks had three catches for 88 yards -- including a 54-yarder -- and he drew three penalties that resulted in an additional 38 yards. In Week 2, Cooks had two catches for 37 yards -- including a 22-yarder.

Last year? The leading receiver for the Patriots on passes that traveled 20 yards or more was Hogan (10 catches for 397 yards). 

One more indication that the Patriots offense has shifted with Cooks in and Edelman sidelined: Cooks leads the NFL in yards per catch through three games (25.6 yards per reception), while Danny Amendola (16.4 yards per reception, seventh) and Rob Gronkowski (14.9, 13th) are all found among the league leaders in that category.  

Opposing defenses may continue to play the Patriots as the Texans and Chiefs did this season: Flood the middle of the field and pressure Brady with just three or four linemen. They may be content with allowing Brady to attempt lower-percentage throws down the field as opposed to letting him slice them up with shorter tosses. 

It worked well enough for the Chiefs to win, and it nearly worked well enough for the Texans. Perhaps "the blueprint" is still the blueprint. But with the addition to Cooks, Brady and the Patriots have proven that they've evolved to more efficiently combat those schemes.

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Morning Skate: Blackhawks looking for right mix on fourth line

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Morning Skate: Blackhawks looking for right mix on fourth line

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading. while readying for the last home game of the preseason tonight. Boy that went by quickly.

*Chicago Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville is looking for the right mix on the fourth line for the Hawks.

*The NHL is coming late to the China party and it makes one wonder what will happen for the Winter Olympic Games set to be played there in 2022.

*PHT writer Adam Gretz has the Arizona Coyotes wanting to retire the freshly-retired Shane Doan’s number in the future.

*Pittsburgh Penguins coach Mike Sullivan says that the decision to accept the White House’s invitation was independent of politics. Certainly, it was, but the timing of it and the feeble statement to go along with it left a lot to be desired.

*Pierre Lebrun goes 1-on-1 with Montreal Canadiens coach Claude Julien to talk about his past, his present and his future behind the bench with the Habs. I had always intended to subscribe to the Athletic, and this is the article that finally got me to do it as I get to read a few moments with one of the classiest individuals in the NHL in Julien. It certainly had a few rocky moments toward the end here in Boston for Julien, but I will always respect that guy as a coach and, more importantly, as a person.  

*For something completely different: an interesting look at Alejandro Villanueva, the only Pittsburgh Steelers player, and a proud veteran, to stand outside the tunnel and on the field for the national anthem prior to the Steelers game on Sunday.