Boston Red Sox

Fehr doesn't see 'path to agreement' in NHL talks

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Fehr doesn't see 'path to agreement' in NHL talks

Its eminently fair to ask what exactly the NHL and NHLPA are trying to prove at this point.

Both sides met for an hour on Sunday to discuss player contract rights and smacked head-long into a wall after a long week of discussions. Both NHLPA Exec Director Donald Fehr and NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly admitted the two sides were gaining ground on the big issue of splitting Hockey Related Revenue (HRR), but said the league isnt going to budge on their player rights demands.

That led Fehr to pessimistically tell reporters that he doesnt see a path to an agreement given the tenor of negotiations.

Those are the same player contract rights (eight years of service or 28 years old until unrestricted free agency, reduction in arbitration rights, five year contract term limits, considerable change to the entry-level deals and limiting year-to-year salary variance to five percent) that the NHL has whispered to members of the media that they would have flexibility on all along.

Instead the NHL appears willing to cancel more games and further cannibalize their record-breaking business so they can limit players to five-year deals. This is the same group of NHL owners that were giving thumbs up on signing players like Tyler Seguin to six-year contracts immediately prior to the Sept. 15 lockout.

Take a bow for your stunning new level of hypocrisy, Jeremy Jacobs. Now thats really saying something.

The league-approved media messengers have said all along that the only player contract demand that was non-negotiable was the five percent variance on player contracts to limit the back-diving deals designed to circumvent the salary cap. But thats not how its played out in face-to-face negotiations as those around the NHL started to get their hopes up.

Daly reiterated after Sundays face-to-face meeting that the NHL owners werent willing to budge on the seemingly minor player contract rights, and were willing to go to the wall on it.

These issues are very, very important to the clubs, said Daly to NHL.com. If we were hearing from the clubs, Geez, dont let these player contracting issues get in the way of a deal. Lets get a deal done and get the players back on the ice, then thats what we would be saying at the bargaining table, but thats not what were hearing from our clubs.

So there you have it.

The NHL owners have told Gary Bettman and Daly to draw the line in the sand on player contracts, and theres no budging them despite the window beginning to slam shut on a Dec. 1 start to the regular season. The players are still wondering whats in it for them as theyre taking a drastic pay reduction from the last CBA, and potentially facing much more limited options in controlling the fate of their individual careers.

Players have two interests here, said Fehr. Interest No. 1 is how big the share is and thats not agreed upon yet either, but the parties have at least moved on that. The second one is how does an individual player negotiate his piece of the pie? The answer is players will have vastly fewer rights, vastly less leverage for vastly longer portion of their career under the NHL proposal.

The NHL and NHLPA need to get an agreement done this upcoming week if they hope to have training camp begin after Thanksgiving for a Dec. 1 start season opener. That means there needs to be give and take on both sides. Otherwise the earliest start to the NHL season well be looking at his Jan. 1 with a date for the obliteration of the 2012-13 season slowly crawling onto the horizon.

Perhaps this is just one final showdown between the league and the players before they eventually lock down a deal.

The two sides arent there yet, of course, as they hit this most recent stalemate in negotiations. But total regular season oblivion could come up much quicker than people realize if somebody doesnt learn the meaning of the CBA vocabulary word compromise, and learn it very quickly.

Eduardo Rodriguez's delivery wasn't the same after knee injury, until recently

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Eduardo Rodriguez's delivery wasn't the same after knee injury, until recently

BALTIMORE — If you suspected Eduardo Rodriguez’s knee created a residual effect with his mechanics as he struggled in the second half, you were correct. 

It was here in Baltimore on June 1 that Eduardo Rodriguez hurt his right knee, suffering another subluxation, which he’s prone to. Once he came back — a month and a half later, after the All-Star Break — his performances didn’t match the competency he’d shown pre-injury.

Through the first nine starts back, Rodriguez had a 5.47 ERA. He appeared clearly outside of the playoff rotation picture.

The last three outings have left a different impression, and are a product of improved mechanics. The Red Sox feel Rodriguez is lifting  right leg, his lead leg, higher now.

“I think Eddy’s regained more confidence physically over his last three starts,” pitching coach Carl Willis said. “We’ve seen a better delivery. Really since he had come back the injury here, a little bit of abbreviated leg lift. He finally got a little more confidence in picking that knee up and getting a little more drive from his lower half. I think that’s made a huge difference. He’s using his changeup more which is also a huge difference, but I think that lower half has allowed him to do that.”

Rodriguez has a 2.55 September ERA. He has strikeout ability that could be appealing in a postseason setting, but he’s young and inexperienced compared to Rick Porcello and Doug Fister. The fact he’s had confidence issues with his delivery could factor into how the Sox decide their playoff rotation, but his upside and strikeout potential are undeniable.

Rodriguez had a knee subluxation in 2016 that affected his mechanics for a time as well.

Branch on reduced role vs. Saints: "Ask Bill"

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Branch on reduced role vs. Saints: "Ask Bill"

FOXBORO - If Alan Branch is worried about his spot with the Patriots, he isn’t acting that way. A notorious slow starter, Branch played just six snaps in Sunday’s win at New Orleans. And to hear him talk, it’s business as usual.

“It’s not like you can practice 3 technique on a store clerk,” said Branch late Wednesday afternoon. When informed that he probably could if he wanted, Branch smiled and noted “you’d probably get arrested for that.”

All kidding aside, it was stark to see Branch’s ample behind stapled to the bench. He earned a two-year contract this offseason, and his presence on the interior has been critical to the defense’s success. But after getting pushed around a bit too often in that opening night loss to the Chiefs, Branch spent a lot more time watching then playing. Did he know that he wasn’t a big part of the plan?

“That’s another question you gotta ask Bill, man” said Branch. “That’s not something I can talk about.”

Branch has - at times - come off as nonchalant about the game. Wins, losses, big plays, no plays, none of it seems to change his demeanor. Knowing that, I asked him if he was frustrated by his lack of playing time.

“I mean every player wants to be on the field so it is what it is,” he responded. 

Does he think that he’ll be more involved Sunday against the Texans?

“I don’t know what they plan to do with me,” he said. “i just need to go in there and keep my head to the grindstone and work.”

That may be Bill Belichick’s plan: sitting the player to motivate him. It would also seem to be potentially the last resort, and with someone who clearly marches to the beat of his own drum, it’s unclear how he’ll respond.