The Red Sox pitcher retires after 17 seasons with the club, how Peyton Manning got backed into a corner this week, and University of Maryland football coach Randy Edsall is not popular with the staff of The Washington Post.
45-year-old Boston Red Sox pitcher Tim Wakefield is retiring. The knuckleballer spent the last 17 seasons with the team, and was perpetually game to eat innings, pitch out of the bullpen, and stay on the mound when his knuckler wasn't floating and he was throwing the equivalent of batting practice fastballs. He won 186 games with the Red Sox, the third most in team history, trailing only Cy Young and Roger Clemens, both of whom can throw the ball faster than 70-miles-per-hour. In increasingly typical Red Sox fashion, the farewell was a bitter one.
Wakefield has 199 career wins, and almost got number 200 late in the season last year at Fenway Park. After the season, he went on Fox and said the Boston fans "deserved" to see him chase the club's all-time wins record, while new Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington said the team would only offer him a minor league contract for next season. That news prompted his agent to say "[Tim's] going to win 15 games somewhere else,” which didn't play well in New England in the wake of the team's September implosion. Wakefield tried walking that back, insisting he was getting in shape for spring training and "very much" wanted to pitch for the team, but Boston wouldn't budge. Correction: Wakefield did register his 200th career win on September 13 of last year. [The Boston Globe]
The Red Sox players who will be on the team this season are already griping about new manager Bobby Valentine's exacting ways, just like everyone predicted they would. On Wednesday, Valentine addressed the amount of frowning he was seeing from players during Spring Training, which he felt was entirely too high and "baloney." ESPN.com's Johnette Howard has put together an owner's guide to the Bobby V 5.0 (so named because he's been fired four times before). It's another reminder that Red Sox fans should expect the unexpected this year. On the one hand, he turns teams around quickly. On the other hand, they're prone to the same kind of disciplinary problems that became synonymous with Boston's September swoon. Only instead of beer and fried chicken in the clubhouse, he once had to explain why Ricky Henderson and Bobby Bonilla were playing cards in the clubhouse while the Mets lost the deciding game in the 1999 NLCS. But his players like him. Kind of. Said former Mets utility man Matt Franco: "Nobody loves Bobby V more than I do. But sometimes nobody wants to punch him in the face more than me, either." So at least the Red Sox with be interesting again this year. [ESPN.com]
From the start, the standoff between Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay and his quarterback Peyton Manning has played a bit like an old vaudeville routine. They're old pals who hate each other now because of money. That would be easier to do from a distance, but they're bound to each other by circumstance, arbitrary deadlines, the lure of putting one over on the other guy, 12 years of genuine affection, and a mutual refusal to let any perceived sleight go unanswered. For the last six weeks in Indianapolis, it's been a source of knockaround good fun. Between dueling leaks of Manning's medical reports, Irsay's overhaul of the team's front office, the Super Bowl coming to town and forcing everyone to be on their best behavior, and the quarterback and owner issuing a joint statement to dispel the notion they're trying to sandbag each other (then proceeding to gleefully sandbag each other some more), the pace has been brisk. Now it's devolved into the final 20 minutes of Duck Soup.
Briefly: on Tuesday, Irsay told the Indianapolis Star, "We can make it work if he wants to be here. We’d be excited to have him back and finish his career with us. I want him to be able to make the choice. We would love to have him back here if he can get healthy." He even said the team would "look at doing a contract that reflects the uncertainty of the healing process with the regeneration of the nerve.’’ The next day, Sports Illustrated reported that Manning had a fourth neck surgery last summer that nobody knew about, and that the team believes it's "nearly inevitable" he'll have to have yet more surgery. Then came the mad man stuff about how Manning wanted to play in the team's final regular season game against Houston, even though his neck muscles were still healing. "Can you imagine anyone putting him on the field in that situation?" a league source asks Banks, "Just to throw a string of red-zone passes? But that’s where things were going at that time, and it kind of speaks to the insanity of the situation." Last night, Irsay seemed to imply to two local TV stations that the two sides were discussing terms for a restructured contract. That's enraged members of the Manning camp, who today insist that "numbers aren't being discussed" and are fuming that Irsay is talking "way too much" with the media. Along with driving down Manning's market value as a free agent, Irsay's created the impression the team is willing to keep him and pay him to caddy for likely top overall pick Andrew Luck next year. Which is exactly what both didn't want to see happen: The Colts don't want the most expensive backup quarterback in history counting against their salary cap as they try to rebuild. And Manning still wants to be a starter, if he can find a team that will sign off on his health. Which, from the sound of things, only the Colts would be crazy enough to do. [PFT]
Negotiators from Time Warner Cable and Madison Square Garden Entertainment have returned to table to see if they can find a solution to this six-week long blackout that's prevented 2.8 million New Yorkers from being able to see St. John's basketball, Rangers hockey, and the rise of Jeremy Lin. A source says MSG's James Dolan and Time-Warner Cable chairman Glenn A. Britt resumed negotiations on Monday, with discussions continuing since then. Lest anyone think a deal is in the works, a source tells The New York Observer not to “get overly enthusiastic about it. The talks have yet to yield anything fruitful.” But at least they're talking. Four weeks ago, that would have seemed insane. (Not Linsane. Insane. The kind of insanity that only comes when you're fighting over cable carrier fees.) [The New York Observer]
Since leaving the University of Connecticut to become the head football coach at the University of Maryland last year, Randy Edsall has struggled to make friends. 24 players -- most recently starting quarterback Danny O'Brien -- have left the program since he took over. The D.C. media doesn't like him much, either. Longtime Washington Post staff columnist John Feinstein explained back in November when he called on the school to fire Edsall after one season and eat the rest of his $10 million contract, just to get him out of town: "Here’s the real reason Edsall should be fired. He doesn’t get it. He didn’t get it a year ago, when he didn’t have the class to tell his Connecticut players in person that he was leaving. He didn’t get it when he started spouting off about rules as if he had invented the idea of discipline." Going 2-10 also didn't help. With the news Wednesday that three Terrapin starters -- including O'Brien -- intended to transfer, The Washington Post's Sally Jenkins had to get into character today for her fair and accurate Edsall takedown column. "I’m trying to build men, shape character, and teach life lessons," explained Edsall/Jenkins. "Life Lesson No.1: Exude phony authority. Act like you’re wearing khaki and shoulder boards, and that way, folks might not pay attention to lesser details, like your lousy record....As long as I’m at Maryland, we’re going to continue to do things the Randy Edsall way. You’re going to put four feet on the floor. You’re going to keep a straight back. And you’re going to be the best damn empty chairs you can be." But the helmets with be fantastic. [The Washington Post]