Wakeup Call: Apparently, Napoli's the Sox' No. 1 priority

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Wakeup Call: Apparently, Napoli's the Sox' No. 1 priority

Here's your wakeup call -- a combination of newsworthy andor interesting tidbits -- for Wednesday, November 28.

BASEBALL
According to Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald, Mike Napoli is the Red Sox' No. 1 free-agent priority and, flush with money after shedding those mega-contracts in the Dodgers deal, they're prepared to outbid anybody for his services. (NBC's Hardball Talk)

Memories of the Steroids Era will return today, when the 2013 Hall of Fame ballot is released with many of the tainted stars from that time -- Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa -- front and center. (AP)

And as a reminder that drugs in sports are an ongoing problem, one of baseball's best 2012 stories gets tainted a little -- okay, a lot -- as Carlos Ruiz is hit with a 25-game suspension for the use of a banned amphetamine. (CSN Philly)

Looks like the Yankees will have Andy Pettitte back in 2013. (AP)

Scott Feldman calls moving from the perennial contender Rangers to the downtrodden Cubs "a dream scenario for me". (CSN Chicago) So, ah, what are your nightmares like, Scott?

Jonathan Broxton's going back to Cincinnati in a move that apparently means the Reds are going to switch Aroldis Chapman to the starting rotation. Holy Daniel Bard; you might want to think twice about that one, Reds. (Hardball Talk)

Leaving Cincinnati is Ryan Madson, who's about to join the Angels after never throwing a pitch for the Reds. (Hardball Talk)

Soon to be available: An off-center, heavily bearded relief ace coming off Tommy John surgery. (CSN Bay Area)

COLLEGE BASKETBALL
Indiana left no doubts in this one, eh? (AP)

Be concerned, Tar Heels fans. Be very concerned. (NBC's College Basketball Talk)

The reeling Big East regrouped a bit, tabbing Tulane and East Carolina as its newest members. (AP)

But the carnivorous ACC is back pounding on the the door, apparently poised to gobble up Louisville as its replacement for Maryland. (College Basketball Talk)

If that's true, Cincinnati sure will be disappointed. (NBC's College Football Talk)

For a conference that has no problem robbing members from other leagues, the ACC sure gets touchy when someone wants to leave them. (AP)

Memphis' response to its slow start: Blame the messenger. (College Basketball Talk)

COLLEGE FOOTBALL
Let me get this straight: Jon Gruden gets an ownership stake in the Cleveland Browns if he agrees to take over as coach at the University of Tennessee? Hah? (NBC's College Football Talk)

Les Miles from LSU to Arkansas? Well . . . (College Football Talk)

Jimbo Fisher gives the standard non-denial denial -- albeit a bit more emphatically -- in discussing rumors that Auburn may attempt to lure him away from Florida State. (College Football Talk)

Fisher lost one of his staff members yesterday, as defensive coordinator Mark Stoops was hired as head coach at Kentucky. (AP)

C'mon, NCAA. How can you fine a school for this? They won the Egg Bowl, for crying out loud! (AP)

GOLF
Tiger Woods decides not to join the European Tour. (AP)

The Old Course at St. Andrew's will have a new look when the British Open returns in 2015. (AP)

HOCKEY
Things are looking so bleak on the labor front that Sidney Crosby's about ready to pack up and head overseas. (NBC's Pro Hockey Talk)

Take it from someone who knows, NHLers; decertification of the union is a serious step. (Pro Hockey Talk)

They're thinking positive thoughts in Phoenix, where city officials have approved a 320 million deal to keep the Coyotes in town. (AP)

I'm sure those thoughts aren't so positive in Minnesota, since the Wild's staff is about to be hit with 20 percent pay cuts because of the lockout. (AP)

Hockey returned for a night in Atlantic City, with Henrik Lundqvist making 57 saves to lead Team New York to a 10-6 victory over Team New Jersey in a benefit game to raise money for Superstorm Sandy victims. Best part of the whole thing: The 10,792 fans chanting for Gary Bettman to be fired. (AP)

PRO BASKETBALL
The Rockets beat Toronto last night, then boarded a plane to attend the funeral of coach Kevin McHale's daughter today. (AP)

McHale thanked the team via text after the victory. (CSN Houston)

Kobe Bryant's 40 points -- with the flu, no less -- wasn't enough to save the Lakers. (AP)

Now that's a double-double! (AP)

Byron Scott had a terse, to-the-point scouting report of the Cavs' 10th loss in 11 games. (AP)

Aggrey Sam advises everyone in Bulls Nation to take a deep breath and remember that the season isn't even a month old. (CSN Chicago)

DeMarcus Cousins says his latest ejection came after the referee cursed him. Sure it wasn't your coach and teammates, DeMarcus? (NBC's Pro Basketball Talk)

PRO FOOTBALL
The housecleaning has begun in Philadelphia, where the Eagles cut loose the underperforming Jason Babin and his five-year, 28 million contract. (AP)

Babin found his release almost as funny as the Eagles found his play this year. (the700level.com)

Great question from John Gonzalez: Is there anyone in sports whom you'd rather be less than Andy Reid? (CSN Philly)

Maybe DeSean Jackson, but only because multiple rib fractures -- which have ended his season -- are so painful. (AP)

Apparently, there's a method to Colin Kaepernick's tattoo madness. (NBC's Off The Bench)

The Steelers hope they'll have Ben Roethlisberger and Troy Polamalu back when they play the Ravens on Sunday. (AP) Considering that they're chasing Baltimore in the AFC playoff standings, so do the Patriots.

The NFL didn't suspend Ndamukong Suh for his latest bit of choochery because, says commissioner Roger Goodell, intent "is something that is very difficult for us to ever try to make a judgment on." (AP)

Speaking of chooches, Titus Young still hasn't returned to the Lions. (AP)

Sad news: Former All-Pro linebacker and NFL coach Jack Pardee has been given six to nine months to live after being diagnosed with gall bladder cancer. (AP)

Steelers descending into disarray?

Steelers descending into disarray?

Less than 48 hours removed from openly wondering if the AFC Championship Game stage was “too big” for some of his young teammates, Ben Roethlisberger has decided to play the latter-day Hamlet/Brett Favre game.

Speaking on Pittsburgh’s 93.7 The Fan on Tuesday, Roethlisberger hinted at retirement.

“I’m going to take this offseason to evaluate, to consider all options,” Roethlisberger said. “To consider health, and family and things like that and just kind of take some time away to evaluate next season, if there’s going to be a next season. All those things. I think at this point in my career, at my age, that’s the prudent and smart thing to do every year.”

The soon-to-be-35-year-old Roethlisberger is a likely Hall of Famer who’s still arguably one of the top five quarterbacks in the NFL. But for whatever reason, he’s got an insatiable need for people to register concern about his status. Whether it be limping around the field, lamenting injuries or this, few quarterbacks in the league go through the same histrionics Roethlisberger does in order to get those, “Attaboy, Ben!” backslaps.

I remember being at Steelers training camp in 2009 in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, and having veteran Steelers writers roll their eyes as Roethlisberger started hopping around like he was on hot coals after a throw. The quarterback having an owie act was a daily tradition.

Roethlisberger’s also got a passive aggressive side in which he’ll deftly twist the knife on coaches and teammates but leave himself enough room for plausible deniability.

In addition to openly wondering if his young teammates took the AFC Championship Game seriously enough, Roethlisberger gave the “just running the plays as I’m told” answer when asked about the Steelers resistance to running a quarterback sneak when they were at the Patriots goal line before halftime. Roethlisberger could have taken offensive coordinator Todd Haley off the hook there – he’s lobbied for Haley to get a head coaching shot after the two had a bad relationship when Haley arrived. But he opted not to.

Similarly, earlier this year, Roethlisberger’s critiques of the way head coach Mike Tomlin was running the team were aired. 

So, this could be part of a Roethlisberger power play aimed at the Steelers bowing to his wishes.

That wasn’t the only tidbit from Pittsburgh that looked bad for the AFC finalists. Linebacker Bud Dupree said the Steelers were surprised by the Patriots using an up-tempo offense earlier in the game. 

Do they not have electricity or internet access in the Steelers facility? Up-tempo is a staple part of the Patriots offensive diet. You can see it on the television or the internet through your smart phone.

While there’s no doubt that defensive coordinator Keith Butler – and defensive minded head coach Tomlin – were aware and talked about the Patriots going no-huddle, the fact Dupree (and his teammates) were unable to recall the preparation or adequately fall into an emergency plan to address it does fall on the coaches.

Need more? It’s also being leaked out of the building that Antonio Brown cares too much about his statistics. He made clear last week how much he cares about advancing his personal brand at the expense of Tomlin and the team with his Facebook Live video. 

If there’s an upside for anyone in all this, it would have to be Joey Porter. Nobody’s even talking about his off-field fracas anymore.

As this season ably demonstrated, the Patriots have plum run out of authentic rivals in the AFC. That the team they just pulverized is steamrolling into an offseason of dysfunction and uncertainty isn't good if you like parity. But it's terrific if you couldn't care less.