Who Is The Biggest Boston Sports Villain Right Now?

In Boston’s illustrious history, there has always been a villain. Whether it be King George, Roger Goodell or the entire city of New York, there has always been a rival. The recent retirements of guys like Kobe Bryant, A-Rod and Peyton Manning has ushered in a new era for a potential Boston sports villain. It seems like there is one who stands out above all the other athletes marred on the Boston sports scene.

The Patriots’ success in the past decade and a half has made rivals all but obsolete.Boston sports villain InBoston sports villain football, it’s difficult to pinpoint a single player as the villain. The perfect one was Peyton Manning. He was always in the discussion with Brady as the greatest quarterback in the league or even of all time. Also, the Colts were often in high-stake games with the Patriots. Even though Peyton’s brother Eli has beaten the Pats twice in the Super Bowl, they don’t play each other enough to call him a villain.

A blockbuster trade last summer took away the great Bruins villain of this generation. P.K. Subban was the face of the Montreal Canadiens and a bona fide Bruins killer, especially in the playoffs. Now with Subban in Nashville, that position lay void for the time being. I’ve already written about Manny Machado’s rise as the Red Sox villain in place of Alex Rodriguez, so that just leaves one team yet to be covered.

You probably could have guessed this by now, but clearly the biggest Boston sports villain is one LeBron James. This rivalry goes back about a decade now and, like Manning, Boston has always been the thorn in LeBron’s side. He has had his success against the Celtics, sure, but it has never been easy.

The Celtics and LeBron’s teams have always been each other’s main competition. In his first stint with Cleveland, the Celtics knocked out two very promising Cavaliers teams in the second round. In 2008, he bowed out of an epic duel with Paul Pierce in a Game Seven in which both scored over 40 points. It was a vintage showdown with two of the league’s best scorers, and LeBron couldn’t win it.

Not only is he a generational player, he is also one of sports’ biggest dinks. Boston doesn’t like dinks. Everything from “The Decision” to Miami’s super team to the Prodigal Son’s return rubbed Boston and basketball fans the wrong way. The Celtics’ Big Three had one last tango with LeBron’s Heat in the 2012 Conference Finals, where the Celtics lost in seven games. It was LeBron’s 45 points at the TD Garden in Game Six that felt like the dagger in the Celtics fans’ hearts. At least, that’s what we thought.

That summer, LeBron pirated one more star for the World Champion Heat. Celtics sharpshooter Ray Allen took a pay cut to go join LeBron and the Celtics’ chief rival. As we’ve seen in the news the past few weeks, that didn’t sit well with Bostonians or his fellow Celtics. LeBron, of course, was the catalyst of that.

So that’s the villain. LeBron is the Joker, Lex Luther, and the Boogeyman all rolled into one. Luckily for us fans, we get another Celtics-LeBron rodeo this week. It may be quick and it may be another LeBron victory, but we will have to embrace this theatre. In the near future, the Red Sox will have hatred like this again. For now though, we’ll have to settle for this. So bring it on, LeBron, bring it on.

Life and Times of a Sports Journalist: Peter Abraham

Day in and day out sports journalists all over the world are providing fans and media alike with the inside scoop when it comes to our favorite teams. From trades and injuries, to getting that big interview, these men and women are on the front line’s of the professional sports world. I was fortunate enough to be able to chat with 2 of Boston’s best and Sports Journalist Peter Abrahambrightest sports journalists in the game this week— Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe, and Jen McCaffrey of MassLive.com.

A Massachusetts native, Peter Abraham covers the Red Sox. He joined the staff in 2009 after spending nearly 10 years in New York covering the Mets and Yankees for the Journal News.

CW: Growing up in New England and attending U-Mass Amherst, I can imagine you were pretty excited about starting your career at the Boston Globe is 2009. After being at the Journal News for almost 10 years covering the New York Mets and the New York Yankees, what kind of emotions (if any) did you have knowing you were coming back to home to cover the Boston Red Sox?

PA: My biggest emotions were leaving a newspaper that had treated me very well and given me the opportunity of a lifetime to cover baseball. The editors at the Journal News were great mentors. But the Globe was the paper I read growing up and people like Peter Gammons, Bob Ryan, and Will McDonough were why I decided to go into journalism in the first place. I would have regretted not taking the opportunity to work there. In addition, it was an opportunity to work closer to home and see my family so much more often.

CW: How would you describe the differences between your time in New York and here in Boston?

PA: Covering the teams is about the same. The Mets and Yankees beats, in my experience, are more collegial. In Boston, for whatever reason, there’s more media attacking other people in the media. I’m still not sure why that is. The faux indignation on some topics is kind of comical. The other big difference is the demographics; there are 8 million people in New York and a good chunk of them don’t care much about baseball. In Boston, the interest in baseball is much more widespread and pretty much every Red Sox fan is sure they could run the team better than the people who do. It’s great to cover a team so many people care about.

CW: When 9/11 occurred you were covering the New York Mets, and when the Boston Marathon Tragedy occurred you were here covering the Sox. Would you mind speaking about your experiences during both events?

PA: The 9-11 attacks were more of a personal experience for me. Several of my friends lost people in the towers and I covered sporting events in New York afterward, including the Braves-Mets games when Piazza dramatically homered. In the days and weeks that followed, I was switched over to the news department for some assignments in Westchester including speaking to the families of some victims. It was heartbreaking to witness the funerals and other services.The Boston Marathon attacks were odd for me because I was in Cleveland covering the Red Sox for much of what happened in the days afterwards. It was a helpless feeling because I wanted to be home. In the time since, it has been a great privilege to meet people like Jeff Bauman at Fenway Park along with some of the officers who helped bring the Tsarnaev brothers to justice. As somebody who grew up in eastern Massachusetts, it was great to see how the region responded. Covering the 2013 Sox was a memorable time because you saw up close how the team helped the city move forward.

CW: Social Media, everyone is on it. Fans, media, players. Some people have called you snarky or rude when it comes to your interaction with fans on Twitter. I can imagine you get a ton of far-fetched, ridiculous and just overall dumb tweets and emails (I’ve probably tweeted a few, apologies) how do you go about responding to people, especially the Twitter trolls?

PA: I regret my Twitter persona, I’m sarcastic in person, but more in a playful way. On Twitter, it doesn’t translate and I falsely assume people would get I was goofing around. I should just stop looking at notifications. Ideally, it would be a way to get a sense of how fans think. But Twitter has no sense of humor or humanity. It’s a haven for the irrationally angry and easily offended. The other problem is Twitter has done a terrible job of policing abusive users. Women in the media should not be subjected to the trash they receive.

CW: I read one of your blog posts about your first MLB interview with Sox manager, John McNamara. Being rewarded for your hard work and getting to cover that game, did you feel at all discouraged after Johnny Mac told you to “get the $%#& out of my office”? Did that encounter prepare you for future interviews and how you go about talking with managers and players?

PA: I was too young and idealistic to be discouraged. A few writers there also told me what a crank McNamara was and to ignore it. The rest of the day was so great I didn’t let five minutes ruins it.

CW: For anyone wanting to get involved in reporting/sports journalism, what kind of advice would you give?

PA: Be broad-minded. Learn to write and report, develop your voice and contribute to any platform you can. Video, audio, social media, print, etc. Be completely platform-agnostic. Also don’t be afraid to work your way up. I covered thousands of high school, college, and minor league games before I got a big league beat. Don’t expect everything to come your way right away.

From Tragedy to Triumph: This is Our F’N City

#OneDayInBoston is the hashtag being used for today, but it’s also the perfect way to begin the story of the tragedy that rocked our city three years ago today. One day in Boston…

April 15, 2013—Patriot’s Day, the Red Sox playing at home and, of course, the 117th This is our fucking cityBoston Marathon. “Marathon Monday”, as we call it in Boston,began as a day like any other—battling Boston traffic, perfect spring weather for New England, Red Sox fans and marathon watchers cluttering the streets. After observing a moment of silence honoring the victims of the Sandy Hook shooting, the marathon began as scheduled; wheelchair participants left the starting line at 9:17, elite women at 9:32 and elite men at 10:00 AM. By 10:40 AM, all competitors in the world’s oldest annual marathon were on the way towards the finish line on Boylston St. 26.2 miles away.

2 hours and 10 minutes into the race, the first, second and third place winners triumphantly crossed the finish line. Their clock times were 2:10:22, 2:10:27 and 2:10:28. Nearly two hours later at approximately 2:49 PM, with runners crossing the finish line and approximately 5,600 more yet to cross, two pressure-cooker bombs–packed with shrapnel and other materials and hidden in backpacks that were placed on the ground amidst crowds of marathon-watchers–exploded within seconds of each other near the finish line along Boylston Street. The blasts instantly turned the sun-filled afternoon into a gruesome scene of destruction and chaos. Three spectators died: a 23-year-old woman, a 29-year-old woman and an 8-year-old boy, while more than 260 other people were wounded. Sixteen people lost legs; the youngest amputee was a 7-year-old girl.

First responders reacted immediately, and a medical tent that had been erected to treat runners was turned into an emergency medical facility. Three bombing victims died of their injuries, and more than 100 of the seriously injured were transferred to area hospitals.

Our city was under attack.

Calls to and from that area of Boston were impossible. The FBI, Boston Police and State Police closed  everything within a 15-block radius. Our city had been attacked and we had no idea by who, what or if there was more to come.

Law enforcement officials worked feverishly to find out who was behind this attack and where they were. Bostonians were licking their wounds…but not for long.

Within 48 hours we knew that the attack was a terrorist attack using homemade bombs. Within 72 hours, the FBI released photos of two male suspects— 19-year-old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and older brother 26-year-old Tamerlan Tsarnaev. We knew who and we knew what and it was only a matter of time before law enforcement officials knew where these men were.

As a massive manhunt ensues, the brothers continue to run, winding up at Massachusetts Institute of Technology where police officer Sean Collier is shot and killed on campus by the bombers, raising the death toll to 4.

This is Our F’N City!

April 20, 2013— 5 days after tragedy struck our beloved city and not even 24 hours after the capture of the terrorists behind the attack, baseball returned to Fenway Park. In the first home game since the marathon bombing, the Red Sox pregame honored the victims, law enforcement and everyone who helped our city to recover and begin healing.

On this Saturday afternoon, before tens of thousands of Fenway Faithful and a national television audience, David Ortiz had something he wanted to say to the city he has come to love.

After an emotional week that included bombings at the marathon, real life Call of Duty scenes in our city’s streets, residents locked in their homes under Gov. Patrick’s orders for safety and security while police hunted these terrorists, and the deaths of four people—we were in no mood to be politically correct or to censor ourselves. And this was evident in Big Papi’s words to our beloved city:

“All right, Boston,this jersey that we wear today, it doesn’t say ‘Red Sox.’ It say ‘Boston.’ We want to thank you, Mayor Menino, Governor Patrick, the whole police department for the great job that they did this past week. This is our F’N city, and nobody’s going to dictate our freedom. Stay strong. Thank you.”

David Ortiz’s words—This is our F’n city—rallied the city together, and the team. 2013 was the year our city went from tragedy to triumph as we watched our team rally together under Big Papi’s inspirational words and actions. With every Red Sox win that year, not only did our beloved team become stronger, but so did our city. As the Sox went from ‘worst to first’, it strengthened our city. We saw people ban together to support one another, to help their fellow neighbor and most of all, to not live in fear, but to fight back because, “This is our F’n City!”

We all know that the Sox went on to win the World Series that year, a triumphant end to a tragic year for Boston’s residents. Baseball, like it has at so many times throughout American history, served as a distraction from the reality of what was going on around us, but it also unified a city, a community, a nation.

None of us, especially here in Boston, will ever forget April 15, 2013. We will never forget those who tragically lost their lives, and we can never be thankful enough for the people who worked to help and save so many more. The world is an uncertain place, that’s no secret. But as we remember the events of that one day in Boston, we should also remember that we are Boston Strong.

This is our F’n city!

Wrestling Under the Stars at Spinners LeLacheur Park

The Lowell Spinners, Class-A affiliate of the Boston Red Sox, are bringing world class professional wrestling to LeLacheur Park, in conjunction with Northeast Wrestling, announced the team will host “Wrestling Under the Stars” Sunday, August 2 at LeLacheur Park.

wrestling under the stars lowell spinners

“Wrestling Under the Stars” to feature Rey Mysterio amongst other stars

The event will feature wrestling stars familiar with fans across all generations, highlighted by Rey Mysterio, a former WWE world champion. In addition to Mysterio, the event will feature national acts Alberto Del Rio, Jerry “The King” Lawler, Mick Foley, “Gorgeous” Mickie James, Joe Samoa, The Young Bucks, Northeast Wrestling Champion Matt Taven and more local stars set to join the card in coming weeks.

“We are thrilled to bring this event to LeLacheur Park and the countless wrestling fans in the Merrimack Valley and beyond,” said Spinners President and General Manager Tim Bawmann. “We pride ourselves on creating top notch entertainment at each and every Spinners game and this event allows us to continue to do so while the Spinners are on the road.”

Tickets for the event go on sale Friday, June 5 at 10am and start at just $20. A limited number of ringside seats on the field are available. Tickets will be available at the Spinners Box Office at LeLacheur Park, online at www.LowellSpinners.com or by phone at (978) 459-1702.

Gates for Wrestling Under the Stars will open at 3:30pm and there will be a special “Meet & Greet” for all in attendance beginning at that time. Fans have the opportunity to take pictures and get autographs from the superstars for an additional charge. To pre-order autographs or photo ops, or for more pricing information, visit www.northeastwrestling.com.

“To have these world class stars here in Lowell is going to make for an incredible event,” said Bawmann. “We look forward to a top notch event in an environment outside the norm for wrestling events.”

In addition the Spinners will partner with Chaotic Wrestling in tapping into the local wrestling fan base. Chaotic and the Spinners have enjoyed a long partnership of events, including pre-game wrestling on the front promenade, and the two will tag team once again in the promotion of the show.

For tickets or additional information, contact the Spinners at (978) 459-1702 or visit www.lowellspinners.com or www.northeastwrestling.com.

Red Sox Need Another Lefty Pitcher

John Danks lefty pitcher

The trade of Jon Lester opened up a void of veteran leadership and a lefty in the starting rotation. The Red Sox have a kid with a bright future in Henry Owens, but he may need more seasoning next year down in AAA Pawtucket. An intriguing possibility for the Red Sox could be Chicago White Sox lefty John Danks.

Danks is currently 29-years-old and is signed to two more years after this season. The original deal he signed in 2011 was for five years worth a total of $65 million, making $8 million in 2012 and $14.25 per season each year after. The money is hefty, but the years are just where the Sox would like to be without a long-term risk.

Danks has had some health issues having had surgery on August 6, 2012. He came back last year to pitch and kind of reinvented himself under pitching Coach Don Cooper in Chicago to become “crafty”. He still can throw in the low 90’s, and mixes things up with an arsenal of a sharp cutter, a very good straight change, a big slow curve ball and a two- seam fastball; he has gotten stronger since his return.

His best year to date was in 2008, his first full year in the starting rotation, going 12-9 with a 3.32 ERA (fifth in the American League) and 1.23 WHIP in 33 starts. He finished just shy of the coveted 200 innings mark with 195. He pitched a one game playoff that year, defeating the Minnesota Twins 1-0 to clinch the American League Central Division, which was dubbed the “Black Out” game—all fans in Chicago wore black.

The White Sox were rumored to have been having talks with the Yankees at the trade deadline, but in the end nothing materialized. There were some sniffs by other teams, but GM Rick Hahn decided to stand pat as nothing made sense at the time to get better for the short or long-term benefit of the team. Some groundwork was laid for a future deal though with these discussions and if the Red Sox weren’t already in them, they may be in the future.

With the trade deadline passed, waiver deals are the next steps if any teams are looking to still make moves. (A player would have to clear waivers first which is always kind of risky.) The good news is the Red Sox have a worse record than the Yankees, so they would get a chance at him first if they act on him this year. If not, then I would expect them to talk in the off season.

John Danks is not Jon Lester talent wise, but is from Texas and is a grinder who has battled adversity and keeps on fighting.

Red Sox First Half Report Card By Position: Starting Pitchers

Red Sox First Half

The Red Sox first half has come and gone and seven pitchers have gotten starts so far. Jon Lester is proving that he is an ace and deserves ace money, while some of the other veterans have been shaky.

Lester is coming off a terrific postseason and could be headed for free agency next year, putting the Red Sox in a tough place. Some think the Sox won’t pay him and should trade him to a contender. The Red Sox have been on a run recently though and Lester is a big part of it. Coming into the year, his best season was probably 2010, when he went 19-9 with a 3.25 ERA. Going into the break this year, he’s 9-7 with a 2.65 ERA. While he probably won’t get a high win total, that’s not on him because he has been pitching great with only a few rough starts. Lester ranks in the top ten in virtually every category in the AL and has without a doubt been the team’s ace this year.

John Lackey is having a similar year to 2013, but has been shaky as of late. Following his nine inning scoreless outing against the Twins, Lackey’s ERA has gone up from 2.96 to 3.79 in four starts, despite getting the win in two of them. Lackey has only had an ERA below 3.5 twice in his career and was close to a third time last season when he finished at 3.52. So while it would have been nice if he continued to pitch sub-3.00, it is hard to expect a pitcher to have a career year at age 35.

Clay Buchholz could have really done anything this season and it wouldn’t be too surprising, but his first half was almost shockingly bad. Since returning from the DL, he has been much better, but he still has the tendency to leave some pitches over the middle of the plate, resulting in home runs. He finished the first half with a bang, shutting out the Astros while striking out 12. His ERA has gone down from 7.02 (yikes) to 5.42 since coming back from the DL four starts ago, but that should continue to go down if he continues to have the stuff he did against the Astros. Physically, he looks fine, so this may be a mental battle from now on for Buchholz.

Jake Peavy has been mediocre at best and may be at the end of his run in Boston. With trade rumors swirling around the former Cy Young winner, he may be gone by the deadline. With a 4.59 ERA and 1.41 WHIP, he doesn’t seem to be fooling batters very often. The Sox have lost nine of the last ten games he’s started and with a few youngsters ready to get a chance, it just doesn’t make sense to keep Peavy around.

Felix Doubront began the year in the rotation, but worked his way out of it with poor pitching and injuries. In ten starts, he posted a 5.19 ERA and had trouble with accuracy. He has only came out of the bullpen three times since his last start on June 20th, so it is unclear what the team wants to do with him moving forward.

Brandon Workman has seen eight starts and has had varying results. In his last three starts, he’s allowed five home runs and has seen his ERA go from 2.88 to 4.13. He still has been able to maintain a low WHIP of 1.18, so if he is able to cut down on the long ball, his ERA should lower quite a bit. If Peavy is dealt, Workman is sure to see some more starts in the second half.

Rubby De La Rosa has pitched very well so far and has had a couple of lights-out starts. With a WHIP hovering around 1.00 and a sub-3.00 ERA, De La Rosa is finally showing why he was such a big factor in the blockbuster trade with the Dodgers in 2012. He has still made some mistakes here and there, but should be able to stay in the rotation unless he works his way out of it.

Jon Lester- Grade: A

John Lackey- Grade: B-

Clay Buchholz- Grade: F

Jake Peavy- Grade: D

Felix Doubront- Grade: F

Brandon Workman- Grade: C

Rubby De La Rosa- Grade: A