No Division Title

Hopes of catching the Yankees were pretty much dashed last night as the Red Sox lost to the Devil Rays 9-4 and the Twins laid down to the Yankees in a doubleheader. Pedro Martinez struggled mightily once again, prompting concern about the former ace’s health and even psychological state as his postgame comments reflected a loss of confidence. Game stories (they aren’t really game stories, as most of them are all about Pedro.) from Tampa are provided by Bob HohlerJeff HorriganSean McAdamDavid Heuschkel and David Borges.

Even with the loss last night, the big topic was Pedro’s statement that he had been told the night before that he would be the game two starter for the playoffs. He made the comment matter-of-factly, and agreed with the assessment calmly, with apparent humility and without rancor or bitterness. Then, when the shot back to Tom Caron in the studio, Caron said something to the effect that Pedro was obviously very upset over the decision and seething. I didn’t see that. I think it was conjecture on Caron’s put based on what we know about Pedro, but I’m uncomfortable with speculating what someone’s thoughts are and the insinuation that they’re saying one thing and thinking another. Caron and Dennis Eckersley went on to say that perhaps Pedro’s poor outing was also based on him getting the news last night about being the number two guy. Again…given Pedro’s struggles the last month, I don’t know if I would go so far as to say the reason for his performance last night was anger and bitterness. Something is wrong with Martinez. But, the media is all about generating controversy and this number one/number two starter thing has had legs and talk shows and hosts are going to milk it for all it’s worth.

Gordon Edes looks at a humble Pedro, contemplating his place on the team, in the game and what his future holds. Tony Massarotti obviously subscribes to the theory in the above paragraph, as he says Pedro was sulking on the mound and after the game and generally acting insulted. David Borges has a look at Bronson Arroyo, who could be tapped as the number three starter for the postseason. Steve Buckley (subscription only) has a Red Sox “source” who tells him the team is not happy with Derek Lowe, insinuating that the pitcher perhaps did a little too much celebrating after the postseason clincher. Joe Haggerty has a good look at Boston’s “Orlando connection” Johnny Damon and Mark Bellhorn, who grew up within 15 minutes of each other in Orlando. John Tomase responds to a readers question about whether Kevin Millar is a leader. Jeff Sullivan thinks that Theo Epstein is really managing the Red Sox and that Terry Francona is just his puppet. Massarotti talks to a couple of former Expos players about the team moving. Ron Chimelis says the wildcard celebration was overdone and inappropriate.

Hohler’s notebook looks at Schilling getting the nod as the game one playoff starter. Horrigan’s notebook and McAdam’s notebook both have Pedro being “positive” that he and the Red Sox can reach a deal on a new contract. Borges’ notebook looks at Tim Wakefield getting the start tomorrow night, but nothing is certain beyond that point.

Nick Cafardo says the Patriots still have plenty of motivation heading into Buffalo for this Sunday’s game with the Bills. Last year’s season opener is still fresh in their minds. Michael Parente has a look at the Bills defense and what the Patriots might be doing to counter it. Mike Reiss says that on offense, the Bills are likely to employ plenty of trick plays. Tom E Curran says that the Bills fans are growing impatient with the club. Michael Felger looks at Drew Bledsoe and difficult time he’s having in Buffalo. Alan Greenberg has a more in-depth article on the same topic, chronicling Drew’s downward decent since the midway point of the 2002 season. Hector Longo also has a piece on Bledsoe. Steve Conroy says last year’s game in Buffalo still haunts Tom Brady. Chris Kennedy notes that the Patriots will be all business with the Bills.

Bill Reynolds looks at how Bill Belichick is the hottest thing in coaching right now, and how there is a certain irony to that, given what he went through in Cleveland. Karen Guregian has an article on Matt Chatham and Jarvis Green, two Patriots players preparing for their life after the NFL. Eric McHugh looks at the Patriots winning streak and compares it to the other great ones in NFL history. Jackie MacMullan and Steve Conroy say that the Patriots aren’t even thinking about the streak. Glen Farley says that the statistics don’t tell the story when it comes to Richard Seymour. Cafardo’s notebook has Benjamin Watson out for the year with a knee injury. That is also the lead topic of Felger’s notebook, Reiss’ notebook . Parente’s notebook and Kennedy’s notebook. Curran’s notebook has a look at Brady/Bledsoe – a story of two quarterbacks.

What’s this? Celtics articles? Be still my heart. Peter May has a look at the major questions and issues heading into Danny Ainge’s second full season. At the top of the list is of course, Gary Payton. Ainge says that he’s confident Payton will show up for camp starting Monday. However, an AP article has Payton’s agent saying that that statement is “incorrect”. Lenny Megliola says the Celtics have two players who could be “characters” on this squad and make things interesting/miserable. Of course, he’s talking about Payton and Ricky Davis. Mark Murphy says that Doc Rivers is looking forward to the challenges of coaching this team and even dealing with Davis and Payton. Murphy’s notebook says Ainge and Rivers are optimistic about Payton.

Stephen Harris says the AHL, including the Providence Bruins who have Patrice Bergeron playing for them, will get greater attention with the NHL out of business.

College football is about the only sports on nationally this evening as ESPN has Navy/Air Force at 7:30 and ESPN2 has Pitt/UConn at 7:00.

Hangover Free

Despite a very shaky performance from Derek Lowe, the Red Sox managed to come back and beat the Devil Rays in extra innings, 10-8, thanks to a Kevin Millar 2 run homer in the 11th inning. Jeff Horrigan has the story from the Tropicana Dome. Bob Hohler looks at the Sox keeping things going after the postseason clincher last night. Sean McAdam says the Sox avoiding letting any sort of letdown after clinching beat them. David Heuschkel has more on that same theme, as the Sox had no hangover from Monday night. David Borges looks at Derek Lowe getting hit hard once again.

Gordon Edes looks at the struggling Lowe and ponders just what his role in the offseason is going to be. Steve Buckley looks at Terry Francona as he prepares for his first playoffs as a big league manager. John Tomase has a look at Boston’s own version of the Bash Brothers, Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz.

Howard Bryant (subscription only) has a very interesting Boston UnCommon column today. The first part of it deals with Pedro Martinez, and what his future is, not just whether he’s the number one starter in the playoffs, but also his contract. He says scouts have been at Fenway, checking out Pedro. He reports:

One league source with some intimate knowledge of the Red Sox said Saturday he was convinced the club would not go beyond the $11 million per season mark in salary or three-year threshold for Martinez. Another option, the source said, was that the Sox were prepared to offer Martinez a one-year contract worth $15 million, plus incentives. Neither Larry Lucchino nor Theo Epstein could be reached for comment.

He goes on to say that it is unclear whether the Yankees will actually be interested in Pedro. One side says he “has not impeded the Yankees from the playoffs or their destinies” and thus the Yankees would be hesitant to throw a lot of money at a 33 year old pitcher. Others says he could make a Roger Clemens like transition in the Bronx. Hated to regaled. (Was Clemens really ever “regaled” in NY though?) The second part of the column is an appreciation of Ellis Burks and what he has meant to this team this year, even injured and also what he’s meant to the Red Sox organization, and how far it was come since his early years with the Red Sox. A very nice retrospective on a class act.

Steve Buckley (subscription only) looks at the Red Sox last ditch charge to capture the division this week. Michael Gee also has a subscription column looking at the Expos move to Washington DC. Gee was a Senators fan growing up, but has a twinge of sadness at the Expos leaving Montreal. He also says the move is entirely about greed by bad ownership. Howard Bryant has the second part of his series on language barriers in baseball, and today he looks at how the Latino stars of the game have missed out on advertising opportunities because of the language and race issues. Ron Chimelis looks at the death of Carl Yastrzemski’s son, Michael. Bob Halloran’s head is swirling with numbers. David Borges looks at Rocco Baldelli’s season.

Holer’s notebook looks at the Sox going with a four man rotation for the playoffs. He also has Pedro saying that Felix Heredia came to him offering his #45 if Pedro came to the Yankees next season. Horrigan’s notebook has more on the playoff rotation. McAdam’s notebook says the rotation hasn’t been changed for this last week of the season and Division chase. Heuschkel’s notebook says only Pedro and Schilling are locks for the postseason rotation. Borges’ notebook seems to have Francona indicating that unless the Sox are tied with the Yankees by Friday, he’s going to rest his pitchers.

Ron Borges has an article on Drew Bledsoe, who believes he can get it all together and still be a top QB in the NFL. It’s a good read, and Borges doesn’t try to make excuses for Bledsoe’s play or really defend him in any way. He lets Drew try to do it himself. Michael Felger has a look at Eugene Wilson, who is developing into a top-flight NFL defensive back. He looks at concerns regarding Wilson coming out of college, concerns that seem to have been unfounded to this point. He also looks at Tom Brady’s shoulder and talks to Pete Carroll about Brady and Bledsoe. Mike Reiss looks at the problems the Bills offensive line will face in figuring out the Patriots defensive front. Jonathan Comey has his Wednesday NFL notes and power rankings. Michael Parente says Richard Seymour needs to step up, looks at Lawyer Milloy itching to play against the Pats and a couple other items. Jim Donaldson looks at the rash of server injuries around the NFL.

Check back later today for the BSMW Review of “Patriot Reign” including a Q&A session with the author, Michael Holley.

There is a very interesting article by Jim Salisbury in the Philadelphia Inquirier. He looks at the media coverage devoted to Boston area sports franchises and how the Patriots still play second fiddle to the Red Sox when it comes to attention. He has quotes from many members of the Boston media and from the Patriots in here. You’ll probably have to register to read the article, but it’s an interesting outside perspective.

Ron Borges has boxing notes, and makes the case that Roy Jones Jr shouldn’t be mentioned in the same breath as Sugar Ray Robinson as the best boxer ever.

NESN has Red Sox/Devil rays at 7:00. ESPN will have Twins/Yankees at 7:00 and Giants/Padres at 10:00. ESPN2 will have Rockies/Dodgers at 10:00. CN8 SportsPulse will have their weekly visit from Shira Springer to talk Celtics at 10:00.