Ellsbury could be in line for big arbitration award

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Ellsbury could be in line for big arbitration award

Of the five potential arbitration cases the Red Sox face this year, one of the most interesting -- and potentially expensive -- is Jacoby Ellsbury.

Ellsbury is represented by the hard-nosed Scott Boras, who's had some significant arbitration victories. In 2001, he won a then-record 8.2 million for the Braves' Andruw Jones, and also negotiated the two highest contracts ever awarded to arbitration-eligible players in recent years. He got Mark Teixeira a 12.5 million contract from the Braves in 2008, and Prince Fielder a 15.5 million deal from the Brewers last year.
Ellsbury is in his second year of arbitration eligibility. He wont be a free agent until before the 2014 season. Last year, after a 2010 season that was almost totally wiped out by injury, Ellsbury settled before going to arbitration for a salary of 2.4 million (an increase from 496,500 in 2010, when he wasn't eligible for arbitration).

But this time he has numbers to present to an arbitrator: He batted .321, with 32 home runs, 105 RBI, 119 runs scored, and a .928 OPS. He was second in MVP voting and also earned his first All-Star berth and Gold Glove and Silver Slugger awards.

What might the Sox expect from Boras in arbitration?

He does a superb job, said Tal Smith, who runs Tal Smith Enterprises, a company that advises major-league teams in arbitration. He will be very well prepared. He will present very well. But it still gets down to the numbers . . .

"Sometimes he files very, very, very high and expects . . . that a lot of clubs will shy away from that risk and sort of capitulate, and he gets more than what the players worth. And Scott likes that, not only for that particular player, but because it establishes new benchmarks and drives the market up, if not for that year, for future years. But, sometimes he files too high and gets trapped. Its tough.

What approach might the Sox be likely to take with Ellsbury in arbitration?

Hes a fine player, Smith said. I dont think the Red Sox can do much with respect to diminishing anything hes done.

"I think they might use the fact that there was a year of service time accumulated without any contribution or performance" -- his injury-ruined 2010 season -- "and I think they would rely then on the career comparisons, on the quantitative measurements, or what we call the bulk i.e., at-bats, innings pitched, runs scored as opposed to rates, which are qualitative i.e., ERA, on-base percentage, slugging percentage. And showing that on a career path, because of the time he lost, hes only scored so many runs, or driven in so many runs, or hit so many home runs on a career basis as opposed to others who hadnt missed time. That would be one of their arguments . . .

"Im not sure how persuasive thats going to be. Thats up to the arbitrators. But thats an argument I would expect the Red Sox to make.

Theres no set answer for using a players most recent season or career as a whole in making a presentation to the arbitration panel. Each side will use what it feels best represents their position. For a young player, some will contend his most recent season is the most relevant.

A challenge, though, for both sides, may be to find comparable players, an important part of the arbitration process when each sides attempt to compare the player to others who can best help them make their cases. It will be difficult to find a player who missed virtually a whole season, only to return and post one of the most dominating seasons in baseball.

A potential comparable could be Jones, who was also in his second year of arbitration eligibility when he was awarded the then-record deal in 2001.

They dont have to be current comparables, Smith said. It can be people from the last several years. Scott Boras did an Andruw Jones case when Andruw was in his earlier years with the Braves, and that was a big award, and obviously Jones was a Gold Glove outfielder with power, speed, the whole package. Now you can say, Well, thats so long ago. But what he would do if hes using a comparable that old, he would then show what the average salary was in those years and what the percentage increase was, and then correspondingly apply that to Andruws salary and things like that.

Hunter Pences name could also come up.

Pence obviously had some power, Smith said. One of the strong points in his favor was he had three straight years of 25 home runs. And they emphasized the consistency of his career. Id go look at all the All-Star outfielders.

There are several options available to Ellsbury and the Sox. They could go through the arbitration process. They could agree to a one-year deal. Or they could agree to a long-term contract. Either way, one thing is pretty well guaranteed: Ellsbury is in line for a comfortable and significant raise.

NCAA TOURNAMENT: Gonzaga beats Xavier 83-59 to reach first Final Four

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NCAA TOURNAMENT: Gonzaga beats Xavier 83-59 to reach first Final Four

SAN JOSE, Calif. - Nigel Williams-Goss scored 23 points while orchestrating Gonzaga's efficient offense, and the Zags finally shook their overrated tag by routing Xavier 83-59 on Saturday to reach the Final Four for the first time.

Gonzaga (36-1) has been dogged by criticism through the years despite winning consistently, in part for playing in a weak conference but also for never making the Final Four.

On the cusp of history, the Zags took it head on with a superb all-around game to give coach Mark Few the one missing piece of his resume.

Gonzaga found the range from the perimeter after struggling the first three NCAA games, making 12 of 24 from 3-point range. The defense, a soft spot in the past, shut down the underdog and 11th-seeded Musketeers (24-14) to win the West Region.

The Zags will face the winner between South Carolina and Florida in next week's Final Four in Arizona.

J.P Macura led the Musketeers with 18 points.

The Musketeers brought their turn-the-page jar of ashes to the NCAA Tournament, where they burned through a string of upsets to reach their third Elite Eight and first since 2008. They beat Maryland, Florida State and took down No. 2 Arizona in the regional semifinals, setting up a matchup of small Jesuit schools seeking their first Final Four.

The Final Four was the only thing missing on Few's resume, which includes 18 straight NCAA Tournaments, eight trips to the Sweet 16 and a third Elite Eight after surviving West Virginia's constant pressure in the regional semifinals.

The Zags struggled to find an offensive rhythm against the Mountaineers - who doesn't? - but had it flowing against Xavier.

Gonzaga came into the Elite Eight hitting 29 percent of its 3-point shots after making 37 percent during the season. The Zags found the range early against Xavier, hitting 8 of 13 from the arc in the first half, mostly against the Musketeers' zone or on kick-outs from center Przemek Karnowski.

Xavier got off to a good start offensively by working the ball around, but hit a dry spell and made 1 of 5 from 3-point range as Gonzaga stretched to lead to 49-39 by halftime.

Halftime did little to slow the Zags, who pushed the lead to 59-42 on 3-pointers by Williams-Goss and Jordan Mathews. Gonzaga kept the machine rolling in the second half, continuing to make shots while its defense prevented the Musketeers from making any kind of run.

Blakely: Despite their spot in East, consistency remains a problem for Celtics

Blakely: Despite their spot in East, consistency remains a problem for Celtics

BOSTON –  Devin Booker went on a scoring binge for the ages against the Boston Celtics on Friday night, the likes of which won’t be seen anytime soon at the TD Garden.

The performance was so great, even the most die-hard Green Teamers had to give the 20-year-old props for dropping 70 points – 70 points! – on the Celtics who still wound up winning, 130-120.

And as Booker continued to pour on the points and the Celtics’ double-digit lead remained just that, a double-digit lead, the narrative of what we witnessed was a lot deeper than just some young kid getting hot.

The Suns are trying lose as many games as they can, while throwing youngsters out there like Booker to play major minutes and predictably make their share of mistakes with the goal being to learn from those miscues and get better.

But the true lesson in what went down Friday night had little to do with Booker’s big night or some Celtics being a little salty about it afterwards.

Lost in all of the hoopla surrounding Booker’s big night was the repeated revelation by Celtics head coach Brad Stevens after the game about his team’s play and their record not being on one accord.

“That’s why, like I’ve said before, I’m surprised at where we are record-wise because we’ve got to play at a higher level for 48 minutes,” Stevens said. “We just don’t do it.”

And Booker’s historic night is the latest example to illustrate Stevens’ point.

Not having Avery Bradley (sickness) was a factor, obviously.

But that’s no excuse for the way they allowed Booker to do anything and everything he wanted to on the floor, allowing a really good shooter to gain confidence to the point where there was literally nothing the Celtics could do to cool him off.

The Celtics looked casual for three-plus quarters defensively against the Suns and still managed to win which says more about Phoenix and its desire to lose as much as possible, than Boston’s ability to find success and overcome a player with a hot hand.

It was another case of Boston getting away from what works while settling into what felt good and easy.

Most of the guys Phoenix played on Friday weren’t players you would consider big-time scoring threats, so the Celtics defensively didn’t play with a defensive edge other than the first six minutes of the game.

In that span, Phoenix didn’t make a single shot from the field while Boston bolted out to a 16-3 lead.

From there, the Celtics didn’t play with the same sense of urgency.

Fortunately for them, they were playing a team that didn’t want to win.

That’s not going to be the case in these remaining games, a mixture of playoff-bound clubs, wannabe playoff-bound crews and a few others with rosters full of players fighting to stay in the league who will use these remaining games essentially as an audition for next season.

If Boston plays like this in any of their remaining games, they’ll most likely lose.

And that’s why Brad Stevens continues to harp on this team not being as good as their record.

Because when you’re in the same class record-wise with teams like Golden State, San Antonio, Cleveland and Houston, there’s a certain expectation of consistency you should play with most nights.

The Warriors and Rockets have explosive scorers; the Spurs play elite-level defense most nights and the Cavs have LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love.

Those factors form the basis of their consistency in terms of winning and overall play.

But the Celtics are very much a wild and unpredictable bunch, able to knock off Cleveland and Golden State, but get blasted by Denver and lose to Philadelphia.

If inconsistent play is a hallmark of this team, their potential for having a great season will be remembered as just that, potential.

Because games like the one they played on Friday against Phoenix on more nights than not, will result in a loss which could put the Celtics very much in the crosshairs for an early playoff exit.