Picked-up pieces while looking forward to the opening of training camp and wondering if somehow, someway, the Patriots can climb Kilimanjaro and win the AFC East this year . . .
At this hour, your Boston Red Sox enjoy a friendlier environment than almost any of the 30 teams in baseball. The Sox have a chance to finish in last place for the second time in three years, win a playoff game in only one of six seasons, and still be perceived by their fans as “perennial contenders.’’ The Sox can play nine games under .500 for the first 95 games and still have a Nation of believers thinking they can win the division, or compete for the phony second wild card. Sox owners can pare payroll ($72.5 million scheduled to come off the books for next year), stay well below the coveted luxury tax threshold, and listen to regional applause while fans pay the highest ticket prices in baseball. The Sox can get folks to buy into the notion that it’s foolish to compete in the open market for the services of their best pitcher. Sox tickets and merchandise are hotter than they were at this time last summer and Pat Moscaritolo, president of a Boston tourist group, says, “For the past 10 years that I’ve been tracking visitor spending and the economic impact of the Red Sox, it’s almost unaffected by the team’s performance.’’
The Sox were positively surging with five wins in six games against terrible/mediocre teams (aggregate 21 games under .500) as they prepped for the Royals Saturday night. The KC-Boston matchup is a good one, since it sometimes sounds like the Sox want to be a middle-market team. Like the Royals of recent decades (29 years since making the playoffs), the Sox now sell the fans on “watching the kids.” Don’t people realize that EVERY team has a farm system stocked with young players who’d love to play in front of sellout crowds in the moribund final months of a season? It amazes me how soft this baseball market has become. In 1978 fans and media crushed the Sox for a 99-win season that concluded with eight consecutive pressure-packed victories. The Boston manager was unmercifully booed on Opening Day the following year. Now everything is awesome because the Boston ballpark is a tourist destination and fans fall in love with the hype of every young player coming through the system. Swell. When did we become St. Louis?
The only worse idea than the Olympics in Boston is the NFL putting a team in London. Stop. Please.
Quiz: The Red Sox did not have a position player on the American League All-Star team this year. When did this last happen? (answer below).
The NBA is trying too hard to make its lottery fair. I say let’s go back to reverse meritocracy, which rewards losers. In the old days, when the worst team got the first pick, games involving bad teams actually meant something. There were real stakes. Now it’s ambiguous.
Jake Peavy is now up to 19 starts with one victory. For a defending World Series champ. And he has not pitched badly. This is almost impossible.
After spending 15 seasons in Boston, scoring more points than anyone in franchise history other than John Havlicek, Paul Pierce this year will play for his third team (Washington Wizards) in three seasons.
Joe Torre told the New York Daily News he’d take the commissioner’s job if it was offered. Torre is 74. He’d be a terrific choice.
Thirty-four text messages between Bill Belichick and Aaron Hernandez still sounds like a lot of texts.
AAU baseball programs (a.k.a “The Devil”) are killing local legion baseball and pose a threat to high school programs. Stop the madness. Let kids play ball with their friends and neighbors. Nobody gets overlooked. Save your money. Your young ace pitcher will still be “discovered” if he plays for his high school or local legion team.
Are the Celtics really going to (ugh) build through the draft? This is going to be painful. For a long time.
It’s fair to say that WEEI was slow to react when Kirk Minihane called Fox Sports reporter Erin Andrews a “gutless [expletive]’’ on the air Wednesday morning. Folks at the station were so clueless that they re-aired the segment a little later in the morning. That reminded me of a long-ago moment when a little-known Sox pitcher named Rob Woodward was captured on live television as he came out of the shower on the day the Red Sox clinched the 1986 American League East title. Channel 5’s Mike Dowling was interviewing Jim Rice and Don Baylor in the clubhouse on live TV when the camera caught Woodward toweling his privates in the background. An editor at Channel 5 remembers getting a call from a woman after the unfortunate segment aired. The caller wanted to know, “Are you going to run that again at 11?’’
According to Someone Who Knows, the New York Knicks prepare their players for media interactions by showing them photos of media members and identifying each as “friend” or “foe.’’
The Red Sox are in St. Petersburg, Fla., Friday night. Can’t wait for that first David Ortiz vs. David Price matchup. After their last meeting, Big Papi used the Minihane word to characterize his feelings about Price.
US soccer star Tim Howard did not play goalie for his New Jersey High school team in his final season. Already established as the best goalie in the nation for the under-17 national team, Howard wanted to be a midfielder in his final high school season and the coach was OK with it. When the state final went to penalty kicks, Howard insisted that the regular goalie stay in net. Howard’s team lost, but it was a lesson learned in backing your teammates. Hope he can cash in on his World Cup performance.
CBS Sports boss Sean McManus says his announcers can ignore “Redskins” when they work NFL games involving the Washington franchise. Or not. Weak. Why should broadcasters be the ones to make a decision on The Team That Must Not Be Named. Networks, both local and national, are going to have to provide some direction. Patriots favorite Scott Zolak is already wearing his red Patriots TV shirt, readying for the preseason opener in D.C., and says, “It if says ‘Redskins’ in the end zone, I’m saying ‘Redskins.’ ’’
If the Tigers lose Max Scherzer, look for them to get in on the bidding for Jon Lester. Detroit needs to win now.
Great to see colleague Shalise Manza Young in a recent Sunday football column noting the joke of the competition in the AFC East. Once again, all three New England division “rivals” are falling down in front of the Patriots. Miami’s Mike Pouncey will likely miss the season opener, and the Dolphins will have five new players on the offensive line. Defensive end Dion Jordan is suspended for the first four games. Meanwhile, Bills linebacker Kiko Alonso tore his ACL during the offseason. The Jets, Bills, and Dolphins again have terrible quarterbacks. So the Patriots will win the AFC East just by showing up. The hats and T-shirts are already printed. It’s like the old days of the NHL when 16 of 21 teams qualified for the playoffs. Boola-Boola.
Quiz answer: In 1961, the Sox were represented by pitchers Don Schwall and Mike Fornieles.
Condolences to the family of Neil “Barney” Manning, who died suddenly last Tuesday. For several decades with his brother Mark, Manning was co-owner of the Stockyard Restaurant in Brighton. Manning was a great fan of local amateur baseball and the Stockyard was a second home to a lot of Boston’s collegiate teams.Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @Dan_Shaughnessy