Boston Celtics

Patriots represent a second fresh start for Talib

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Patriots represent a second fresh start for Talib

Greg Schiano admitted he was concerned. But the first-year Tampa Bay coach chose an optimistic outlook when it came to Aqib Talib.

"Well, any time you have a guy where there's an off-the-field situation that could affect his on-the-field situation, you're concerned,'' he said in the Tampa Bay Times after charges of assault with a deadly weapon against Talib -- the third incident (including two arrests) on record since he entered the NFL in 2008 -- were dropped in June.

But Schiano decided to focus on the Aqib Talib he'd dealt with since becoming coach, not the one he'd heard about.

"The thing that I can tell you is since I arrived here January 26, he's been awesome," Schiano said. "The way he's worked, he's been here every day. I hope that it's left behind him and there isn't anything and that we can move forward because, again, I can only judge people since I've been involved.
"I can't stick my head in the sand, as I've said before, but on the other hand . . . he's been extremely focused and here, doing everything that we asked. So I'm pleased with that and hope everything can just kind of sort itself out and we can get back to life . . . normal situation.''
Talib escaped the potential 20-year jail sentence. After dismissal of the charges, he promised he'd fly right.
Clean slate, clean start, Talib told an Atlanta radio station. Got the little situation behind me, man, so Im just forward from now on.
He drew hope from Schiano. The way Talib tells it, former coach Raheem Morris wasn't much of a disciplinarian.
It got a little loose last year where people got a little too loose around the building, he said. So Schiano definitely came in and brought that order back to the building.
All went well for a while.
Talib started all four of Tampa's September games. He had 21 total tackles, seven passes defensed, one interception, and a blocked punt.
But then came the suspension. A violation of the league's policy on PED's earned Talib a four-game ban on October 13. Instead of fighting, the corner confirmed the positive test for Adderall so he could return to game play as soon as possible.
His apology was part of the team's official statement:
Around the beginning of training camp, I made a mistake by taking an Adderall pill without a prescription," explained Talib. " This is especially regrettable because, for the past several months, with Coach Schianos help, Ive worked very hard to improve myself -- professionally and personally -- as a player and a man. I am truly sorry to my teammates, coaches and Buccaneers fans, and Im disappointed in myself.
"I will work diligently every day of this suspension to stay in top football shape and be ready to help this team in the second half of the season. I have chosen to be immediately accountable for the situation I put myself in, which is why I will not exercise my appeal rights and will begin serving the suspension immediately.
Schiano was forced into an unenviable position. But when the coach was asked after Tampa's 38-10 win over Kansas City what his feeling on Talib was, he appeared to stick by his guy.
When Aqibs suspension is up, I really believe hell work hard and be ready. And then well go from there, said Schiano.
When he gets back, then we go with him. But when hes away, Im really, really proud of the way E.J Biggers stepped up. And everybody. Its a trickle-down effect. Guys didnt miss a beat. They went out and played Buccaneer defense."
Tampa won all three of its games -- against the Chiefs, Saints, and Vikings -- played in Talib's absence. Perhaps that made it easier to let go.
Now it's up to the Patriots to see if there's enough reason to hold on.

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.