Over the final days of the year, WEEI.com will count down the top 14 stories of 2014 in Boston sports. This is No. 8: Red Sox bolster offense with signings of Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez. To read other stories in this series, click here.
Pablo Sandoval comes to Boston after helping the Giants win their third World Series in five seasons. (Elsa/Getty Images)
The Red Sox made some big splashes early this offseason when they acquired veterans Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez.
Boston looked for offensive help after the team finished the 2014 season with 634 runs, 18th fewest in baseball. Especially at third base, the Red Sox saw inconsistency and instability from former prospect Will Middlebrooks. After starting a promising career with 15 home runs in 75 games in 2013, Middlebrooks finished this past season with two home runs and a .191 batting average.
Even before the season ended, analysts saw a potential fit for Sandoval in the Boston lineup. ESPN’s Buster Olney said the Giants were worried a team would make a push for the third baseman, who averaged 20 home runs and 86 RBIs per season since his debut in 2008.
“I saw the Giants the last couple of nights, and there’s a lot of anticipation within that organization that someone’s going to make a run at Pablo Sandoval. That team could turn out to be the Red Sox,” Olney said on Sept. 24. “He would fit them in a lot of regards. When I talked to some people with the Giants about that, they were nodding their heads and said, ‘You know what? He’d be a really good fit.’ Because he could play third base, and he had a good year defensively.”
Sandoval went on to have one of the greatest offensive postseasons of all time, collecting 26 hits over 17 playoff games. In the World Series, Sandoval finished with 12 hits and four RBIs in the seven-game set. All eyes were upon him as he grabbed the last out of Game 7.
A few teams emerged as possible suitors for Sandoval as free agency commenced, with the Red Sox and Giants at the top of the list. Sandoval visited Boston for the first time in the middle of November. The Red Sox and the player reportedly discussed a multi-year contract in the $90 million range.
Soon after his initial visit, Sandoval made his final decision: He would be a a member of the Boston Red Sox. He signed a reported five-year, $95 million deal that included a team option for a sixth season. The third baseman said it was time for a different adventure after spending the first half of his career with the Giants. He also said he was eager to play with his new teammates.
“I want a new challenge,” Sandoval said. “I made that choice to be here in Boston because I need a new challenge. The legacy they have here. To show them the fan support they have here. That’s what I wanted to make sure I made the right decision. It took me a long time, but I’m happy to show the fans all the support they gave to this team. Now I want to show I came here to give them the support to go into the postseason again.
“It’s exciting for me to be with Hanley and David Ortiz. Like everyone says right now in media relations, it’s the ‘Three Amigos.’ It’s just exciting to be part of this lineup and this organization.”
General manager Ben Cherington said the team gave ample chances to players like Middlebrooks to succeed at third base. The time was now to make a change.
“Third base has been a position we’ve been trying to figure out now for a couple of years,” Cherington said. “We had some talented players that I’ve been involved in at third base that we’ve given opportunities, but this is an opportunity to add just a really good player, a great person, and a great fit for our team in a position of need.”
But the Red Sox felt third base was not their only position of need, and so at the same time, they pursued a former Boston prospect in Ramirez. Since his trade from the Sox to the Marlins before the 2006 season, Ramirez has become one of the best hitting infielders in the game. He had a .300 average with an .873 OPS and 191 home runs in 10 seasons between the Marlins and Dodgers. But with the Sox having Xander Boagerts entrenched at shortstop, the Red Sox went after Ramirez for a completely different position — left field.
After Ramirez inked his five-year, $90 million deal, Cherington said the newest outfielder would not be perfect on the first day of spring training. However, Ramirez had a strong willingness to get better at the position, which made the decision much easier for the Red Sox.
“I think it’s really a combination of two things. One is his desire to do it and his openness, the willingness to do it in the context that he had opportunities,” Cherington said. “He could’ve gone places and played the infield. He wanted to do it because he wanted to be here. There’s a desire, there’s a willingness to work at it. He’s already agreed to get down to Fort Myers early; we’ll have a dedicated coach with him.”
Many were surprised the Red Sox would spend so much money on older players in free agency. Earlier in 2014, it was reported the Sox most likely would avoid older, expensive free agents. Owner John Henry said his words were misconstrued.
“That was really overblown because one comment quoting a study which says more about the structure of major league compensation,” Henry said. “Players aren’t compensated that well in their 20s. They have to get to free agency, so almost by definition you’re going to get more bang for your buck when a player is in his 20s. That’s just the way the structure is set up. That doesn’t mean you’re not going to go out and sign 30-year old players. You can’t win unless you engage in free agency.
“We always engage in free agency.”
With the acquisitions of middle-of the-order hitters in Sandoval and Ramirez, the Red Sox are expected to improve offensively in 2015. Olney said a weak offense will immediately get a boost from these two.
“So for the Red Sox to land both those guys,” Olney said, “it’s going to be a very different-looking offense than last year when it always seemed like they were bringing a knife to a gun fight.”
Over the final days of the year, WEEI.com will count down the top 14 stories of 2014 in Boston sports. This is No. 8: Patriots acquire standout cornerback Darrelle Revis. To read other stories in this series, click here.
Darrelle Revis helped turn the Patriots defensive secondary into one of the team’s strength. (Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
Heading into the 2014 offseason, the Patriots were in desperate need of a premier pass-catcher. Instead, they got one of the league’s best at shutting down other team’s receivers.
The courtship of Darrelle Revis was brief and profitable. The veteran cornerback agreed to a deal with the Patriots on March 12 just hours after being released by the Buccaneers in a cost-cutting move.
Revis, whose best days were with the rival Jets from 2007-12, helped transform a New England defensive secondary that had struggled the previous few seasons, leading some to call him the 2014 Patriots MVP.
Heading into the final two games of the regular season, Revis had been targeted 74 times by opposing quarterbacks, who completed just 50 percent of those passes. The passer rating of those QBs when throwing at Revis was 68.7.
With Revis — along with some other key additions — the Patriots defense has improved from a rank of 25th in yards allowed and 23rd in points allowed last season to 16th in yards and eighth in points.
You needn’t convince Tom Brady of Revis’ importance to the team.
“He’s a phenomenal player and I’ve loved playing with him,” Brady said last week. ‘I’ve hated playing against him, and I’ve had my fair share of those opportunities. He’s a great teammate. He’s a phenomenal player. I think the thing that I’m so impressed with is his coverage skills without getting penalties.”
Revis also appears to have bought into the Patriot Way, focusing on the team rather than individual performance.
“Look, it’s a team effort, it’s a defensive effort. It’s all aboard,” he said earlier this month. “We have great, talented players on this team, this defense. We just have to continue to play great team ball, chemistry ball. We’ve been doing that. Guys have been coming to work. It doesn’t have anything to do with me, or me being the focal point. Everybody is doing their job, and it’s working well for us.”
Soon the focus will be on trying to keep Revis in Foxboro for another season. He signed a two-year deal in March, but it has a reported $20 million option and $25 million cap number for 2015, making it unlikely the Patriots will adhere to it.
“You guys know my contract — there’s no reason to really get into it,” Revis said before the season began. “I’m here. I’m here for this year. Everything else will take care of itself after the season.”
During his weekly appearance on the Middays with MFB show this week, ESPN’s Adam Schefter cautioned that Revis isn’t likely to take much of a hometown discount to remain with the Pats.
“I think the Revis story is still playing out,” Schefter said. “Darrelle Revis has been a great player for a long time. I’ve always look at him as a businessman — that he’s going to go where the best deal is. If the best deal is in New England, then fine. Does he like it there enough? If they win a Super Bowl, where he gets a Super Bowl on his resume, and he says, ‘Now I can just go for the best deal truly.’ Or is it worth it to compromise a little bit there to continue playing on in New England where you’ve got a shot to win the Super Bowl? That’s possible, too. The Darrelle Revis story obviously has yet to be written. I think he’d be open to going back to New England. But when I think of Darrelle Revis I think business first, always.”
Added Schefter: “The circumstances were such last year that it just played perfectly for both sides. And I’m sure that they both would like to be together next year in a perfect world. But again, we’ll see how Darrelle approaches that and what his thoughts are there. I’m sure he’s been very happy playing there this year, but again, it’s going to come down to money.”
Over the final days of the year, WEEI.com will count down the top 14 stories of 2014 in Boston sports. This is No. 9: Celtics miss out on Kevin Love, draft Marcus Smart and James Young. To read other stories in this series, click here.
The Celtics used their two 2014 first-round draft picks on guards Marcus Smart (left) and James Young. (Nick Laham/Getty Images)
All-Star power forward Kevin Love was on the market, and after registering a career high in points (26.1) while pulling down 12.5 boards per game during the 2013-14 season, the UCLA product was in high demand for a multitude of teams.
The “Summer of Love” continued to grow into hysteria as the weeks ticked closer and closer to the draft — held on June 26. Excitement was at a fever pitch for Celtics fans on June 1, as Love was spotted at Fenway Park.
Photos later emerged of Love meeting with C’s captain Rajon Rondo, leading many to believe than the California native was scouting out one of his new potential destinations.
While many teams continued to harangue the Timberwolves throughout the summer, no deal was put in place by the time of the draft, leaving the Celtics to make their two first-round selections (sixth and 17th overall).
With the sixth pick, Boston selected Oklahoma State point guard Marcus Smart, who averaged 18 points and 5.8 assists per game during his sophomore campaign with the Cowboys.
Possessing an NBA-ready body at 6-foot-3, 227 pounds, and lauded for both his aggressive play toward the basket and his tenacious defense, Smart was picked with the expectation of being another strong combo guard in Boston’s already plentiful backcourt corps.
Not to be outdone, Ainge and the Celtics added another piece to their long list of guards, choosing James Young from the University of Kentucky with the 17th pick.
The 18-year-old Young made his mark during his only season with the Wildcats, averaging 14.3 points per game en route to an All-SEC second-team selection and an appearance in the NCAA national championship game against UConn.
“First of all, we’re very pleased we were able to get these two guys where we got them. When you looked at the draft, I had both of these guys in my top 11,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said. “I think at the end of the day, you feel really good about that. That said, I look at it more from the big picture of there’s a whole group and these guys are now parts of that group and we’ve all got to move in one direction, and I feel good that that’s happening.
“I’ve said over the last couple of weeks that our young guys are in there working, doing things the right way, doing things with great pace and doing things together, and that’s a good thing moving forward.”
The addition of Smart and Young to Boston’s roster not only injected additional talent into a club that slumped to a 25-57 record the previous season, but also gave Boston two new trade chips to offer Minnesota in exchange for Love.
Unfortunately for the Celtics, a new leader in the Love trade negotiations quickly broke away from the rest of the pack in the weeks following the draft.
Despite Boston’s best efforts, Cleveland presented an offer that Minnesota couldn’t turn down, packaging Wiggins, 2013 first-round pick Anthony Bennett, Philadelphia’s Thaddeus Young and a $6.3 million trade exception to the Cavaliers in a deal for Love.
The arrival of Love to a Cavs roster including James and point guard Kyrie Irving already has paid dividends for Cleveland, which boasts a record of 17-11 — good for fifth place in the Eastern Conference.
It’s been another trying campaign for the Celtics, with the team compiling a 10-16 record heading into Friday’s game against the Nets. While Boston might have missed out on Kevin Love‘s services, the promise and talent possessed by players such as Smart and Young has given Boston a young core aimed for the future.
Kyle Arrington of the New England Patriots joins Butch Stearns and DJ Bean to talk about this weekend's match-up at home against the Buffalo Bills
[0:00:05] ... the AT&T hotline and Kyle heritage conversation is brought to you by SamuelAdams Boston laser. And dropped him it's Butch Stearns and DJ being in for ChristianFauria. Lou Maloney and Tim bands Kyle Howard in my Franca. All I got home after it's my fault they you Duma different. ...
Adam Schefter, ESPN, joins Butch Stearns and DJ Bean to talk about week 17 in the NFL and the Patriots chances as the number one overall seed in the AFC
[0:00:00] ... I at this time every week Tim bends ChristianFauria and little Maloney are joined by Adam shaft or none of those three are here. However sports Stearns and DJ being and ... [0:02:41] ... arrangement you need cheap to beat San Diego at or below. The BaltimoreRavens. So. In a way to calculate what it away right although we need to make the argument that you're actually happy that ... [0:08:21] ... maybe not get enough attention or something. That intrigue you was it TonyRomo in the cowboy days is it. Well I'll say that the cowboys should be and probably will be more ordered our conversation ... [0:09:14] ... great players I mean Karl Malone Charles Barkley is the NBA that DanMarino's years ago ought to we Tony Roma's at that level yet. Yet this is another defining. Opera moment opportunity for him and into this post season. Well. I think it to the body what corporate recorder that ticket policies and Tom Brady broke the legacy on how he's performed policy. And Russell Wilson or he has cut through and just apply the postseason record reflect it's going to be. Tonyromo's got a huge opportunity here. To really. Distinguish themselves and build his reputation and legacy and quite. Most important step quieter. Who's ...
I’ll be honest with you. The only Spanish I know I learned from watching “Dora the Explorer” when my kids were little and restaurant bathroom signs telling employees to wash their hands. But if Gronk says it, I second its. Feliz Navidad, everyone. And yo soy fiesta.
Over the final days of the year, WEEI.com will count down the top 14 stories of 2014 in Boston sports. This is No. 10: Bruins trade Johnny Boychuk to Islanders. To read other stories in this series, click here.
Johnny Boychuk spent five productive seasons on the blue line for the Bruins before being sent to the Islanders in a cost-cutting move. (Francois Laplante/Getty Images)
It was a rare trade that, upon announcing its completion, Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli acknowledged it made his team worse.
When the Bruins sent Johnny Boychuk to the Islanders on Oct. 4, there was no hiding the fact that the move was made purely for financial considerations. The Bruins sent the 30-year-old defenseman to New York in order to clear his $3.36 million salary from the books and because it appeared unlikely they would be able to re-sign him when he becomes a free agent at the end of the season. They received two second-round draft picks and a conditional third-rounder in return.
“This doesn’t make us better now, obviously,” Chiarelli said at the time, “but it’s something that, when I look at it in a series of steps, I think we made the right move.”
With Dougie Hamilton, Torey Krug and Reilly Smith set to become restricted free agents and Carl Soderberg an unrestricted free agent at season’s end, Chiarelli gave himself one less player to fit under the cap.
“We’ve got a lot of people to sign,” Chiarelli said. “There’s a list of priorities, and part of my job is to prioritize things. That’s a little bit of how it shakes out. I’d love to keep this team together player to player as long as I could if I felt it was prudent on the hockey front and the financial front. I’ve tried to keep the critical mass together and will continue to provide the right moves for the organization.”
Boychuk said the writing was on the wall.
“Everybody knew somebody was going to get traded,” he said. “Everybody. Everybody on the team.”
When he received the phone call from Chiarelli, Boychuk knew it was bad news.
“Peter phoned me when I was just waking up from my pregame nap, because I was supposed to play [against Detroit],” Boychuk. “As soon as I said ‘Hello’ and he said, ‘Hi, Johnny, this is Peter,’ I was like, ‘Ugh.’ You know that you’re getting traded when Pete calls you.”
Added Boychuk: “He praised me, and obviously I was upset. It was the fact that I was leaving Boston and there’s a lot of things going through your mind when it happened. He said all positive things. It’s not like I [got myself traded]. You try to make things as hard as possible. It is what it is.”
“There was some talk about different things and stuff, but I was pretty much shocked,” fellow defenseman Adam McQuaid said. “I don’t know, I guess maybe we all just kind of had that hope in the back of our minds that somehow we could all stay. He’s a guy that’s a huge part of this team and for me a guy that always put a smile on my face every day. Always came to the rink in a good mood and was cracking jokes. I think I’ve played seven pro seasons and six have been with Johnny, so we’ve been through a lot together. He’s a guy that — I don’t think it’s really sunk in quite yet — but a guy that will be sorely missed.”
Said captain Zdeno Chara: “I think that we all really feel that Johnny is such a great teammate. Always loyal and always willing to do whatever is being asked for him. It’s not very easy to see one of your teammates and good friends to be traded, but I’m sure that everybody tried their best to keep the team together. We have to move on. Obviously we wish him all the best. He will always be very much missed, and all of the memories we have while he was playing here are always going to be with us.
“Well, you don’t know if it’s going to make us worse. It’s something that I guess I really wish that we’d be able to keep everybody together for a long time, but you always try to improve the team. At certain times it’s not always easy, like I said, to keep certain guys in positions. Sometimes, as we know, it’s a game of numbers, and we know who were talking about right now.”
It’s not clear exactly how much the loss of Boychuk affected the Bruins’ performance, although they certainly could have used him when Chara injured his knee — coincidentally during Boychuk’s return to Boston on Oct. 23 (a 3-2 Islanders win) — and had to miss 19 games. The Bruins are a disappointing 18-14-3, a point out of the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, heading into this weekend’s action.
The upstart Islanders, meanwhile, are tied for the second-most points in the East at 23-11-0. Boychuk, who missed nine games earlier this month with an upper-body injury, has recorded two goals and 12 assists in 24 games and provided veteran leadership.
“They’re a great hockey club and they’ve got a lot of depth on the Bruins, but he came here and he’s getting an opportunity,” Islanders coach Jack Capuano said, “but it’s one thing for a player to get that opportunity. It’s another thing for a player to take advantage of that opportunity, and I think he’s done that.”
Rodney Harrison joins Ben Volin and Danny Piccard to talk about Pats-Bills and the rest of the NFL.
[0:00:00] ... The talk more about that now we bring in RodneyHarrison joins us in the AT&T. Hotline with. Broadcom assays were RodneyHarrison brought to you by Cumberland farms wake up with Cumberland farms farm house like coffee. And with football legend RodneyHarrison Cumberland farms bomb out like coffee is so delicious. It's too good to put boundaries 99 cents Eddie size and only at ... [0:03:32] ... in that last game with the potential to injured. Talk over the RodneyHarrison air under the eyes and Rodney we are to see the patriots kind of roll through the AFC this year they beat ... [0:05:00] ... and beat the COLT birdie and in their history the Broncos and PeytonManning on the soak it. You know the one team we don't know if they're in the playoffs yet I think the one team that would concern me a little bit would be the ravens but he got John Harbaugh and Joseph Joseph Flacco who have commented elect and pull off an upset all right Al think they'd be. Based by the stage we don't know much about the ravens as the patriots and played in the Euro what are your thoughts on them and how good of a shot that you're the pats. What I think familiarity with asking p.s are and you know am nor TomBrady and Belichick are still struck. The front seven is outstanding. Even without the com will be not a those pass rusher is the biggest part with that is that back in that secondary effect of they've got a lot of injuries they move out or out and they just. Another group they're young actor TomBrady could potentially about. But you know just before setting an outstanding this year in the run game they ever play well on the rape and they didn't play well and she develops Joseph Flacco threw an interception. But you know potentially this team that could give them sit there they've always creature. Speaking with RodneyHarrison. Rodney. One last one fully we've talked a lot of other on the show today. You know potential plays the patriots cannot afford to lose. My guy is Darrelle Revis I think he's the team MVP. I have seen this patriots team the last couple years when they lost did their top dog you know. Not cornerback in Aqib Talib and host conference championships and and that's whip things fell apart this patriots team. I'd agree this is the god this team just cannot lose outside of TomBrady of course I think that's a given but. Revis is the guy you lose Revis did not what not when in this thing. Is is do you agree with that it you have another guy in the same. His idol I don't put the onus on just one player. Record your quarterback position as such we gonna get. You know like clear DenverBroncos team that has multiple weapons OK but he takes away watered the great player like you go Thomas. But they have so many other weapons I don't put all its all just one player are the media I've never been all that what cleared that Ford you know other than quarterback. I would always straight contrary you know out to TomBrady at quarterback and greater real read mystery is. You know you still have also asking things that you can do the part ... [0:07:47] ... your time today on the yeah our reality by happy holidays on RodneyHarrison not conversational Ronnie. Brought to you by unload bombs almost one coffee cup Lansky insurance and omni Keyon. Jewelers. So he's stick ...
FRIDAY’S BROADCAST HIGHLIGHTS:
NBA: Nets at Celtics, 1 p.m. (CSNNE)
NBA: Hornets at Thunder, 8 p.m. (NBA TV)
College football: Heart of Dallas Bowl, Illinois vs. Louisiana Tech, 1 p.m. (ESPN)
College football: Quick Lane Bowl, Rutgers vs. North Carolina, 4:30 p.m. (ESPN)
College football: St. Petersburg Bowl, NC State vs. Central Florida, 8 p.m. (ESPN; WEEI-FM)
Soccer: Premier League, West Ham at Chelsea, 7:40 p.m. (NBCSN)
Soccer: Premier League, Newcastle at Manchester United, 10 a.m. (NBCSN)
Soccer: Premier League, Queens Park at Arsenal, 12:25 p.m. (NBCSN)
James hugged and high-fived his former teammates, taking extra time to joke around with Dwyane Wade, then saw Wade score 24 first-half points en route to a 31-point night in the Heat’s 101-91 victory.
James, who finished with 30 points and eight rebounds, was the first player introduced of Cleveland’s starters, and the crowd wasn’t given much time to react before the next player’s name was called. However, he received an ovation when a video tribute was played during the first timeout of the game. There were some boos but mostly cheers for his first game in South Florida since his four-year stint there.
“We only play this game for so long,” James said. “You’ve still got life afterwards. For us we’re going to compete, we’re going to go about our business and do what we need to do in our profession. You’ll never let friendship come in between that.”
“The question I have, which is kind of bothering me sometimes, is when a player decides to decide his own fate, there is always questions about it?” James said. “And, ‘Why did this guy do that, do that and do this?’ When an organization decides to go elsewhere for a player, it’s that they did what’s best for the team. Let’s figure that out some time.”
“We didn’t have a bad breakup,” Wade said. “We played against each other for seven years, man. The weirdness just wasn’t there. It wasn’t like we played against each other our whole career and the breakup happened. We played against each other for seven years, then with each other for a period of time, then he went back to the same situation and I’m in the same place.”
Said Heat coach Erik Spoelstra: “Couple of the best in this generation. Spectacular. I wish I could sit back and enjoy it like a fan, because it’s just fantastic basketball. … However long these two guys play, you’ll get your money’s worth.”
“I see myself being the quarterback here for a long time,” Smith said. “I see myself helping this team turn things around. Obviously, I’m a part of the reason why we are in this position, so I’d love to be a part of the solution.”
Smith is 10-18 in two seasons as an NFL quarterback, throwing 34 interceptions in that time. He has the third-worst QB rating (70.9) this season, better than only Blake Bortles and Josh McCown. But he’s confident he has what it takes to lead this team back to respectability.
“I know that it takes hard work, and not everyone is going to see the same things, but within this locker room, within this group of guys, we all see the potential we have as a team,” Smith said. “Obviously, that’s not saying much with the record that we have right now, but we believe that if we work hard enough and we do what’s right, we can turn things around.”
Earlier in the week, Smith was asked about Ryan’s imminent departure and said, “A change could be good for us all.” He expressed disappointment that his comment was taken to mean he wouldn’t mind seeing Ryan go.
“I was surprised that it was written that way,” Smith said. “I was surprised that it was said about coach Ryan or made to believe that I didn’t want him here because everyone knows how I feel about coach Ryan and how this team feels about him.”
— Curt Schilling is getting some attention for the unsolicited advice he offered to Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel.
The rookie QB admitted earlier in the week he was not as prepared as he should have been for his first action in the NFL.
Tweeted Schilling early Christmas morning: @JManziel2 Didn’t ask for it, but I’ll throw it out there. If being the best doesn’t consume your every waking thought, do something else.
ON THIS DAY TRIVIA (answer below): On Dec. 26, 1976, John Bucyk scored in a 6-3 victory over the visiting Cleveland Barons, giving him 545 career goals and moving him past which Canadiens legend for fourth place on the all-time list?
QUOTE OF THE DAY: “The fans are dying. We’re dying We’re out there not producing.” – Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony, after Thursday’s 102-91 loss to the Wizards left New York with a league-worst 26 losses