Picked-up pieces while enjoying the rarefied air of the No Deflategate Zone . . .
■ Two NHL conference finals, two seventh games on tap. I’m openly rooting for the Rangers and Blackhawks because they are Original Sixers and I love old things, but it’s hard not to be jealous, wishing the Bruins were part of this pulsating playoff spring.
■ Steve Pagliuca is a smart fellow who has enjoyed tremendous success at Bain Capital and with the Celtics, but I wonder if the US Olympic Committee takes Boston less seriously when the new director of Boston 2024 says he is planning on getting the job done in his spare time on “nights and weekends”?
■ Former Red Sox manager Joe Morgan called it “dead-ass baseball.’’ That’s what your Red Sox are playing. The blame pie is huge. It’s clearly time to start asking questions about the club’s talent evaluators. Baseball ops continues to overrate its own guys. Who thought swapping John Lackey for Joe Kelly and Allen Craig was a good idea?
Meanwhile, the Sox have a “man’s man” manager who simply allows his players to get too comfortable. Excuses reign and no one is accountable.
It’s time for an old-fashioned food-spread-tossing tantrum. Top chefs John, Tom, and Larry are also on the hook for this hot mess. The big bosses wouldn’t pay Jon Lester and hitched their wagon to the analytics geniuses headquartered in Lawrence, Kan. The Sox opted to throw money at older sluggers while rewriting 130 years of big league history, insisting that having an ace starter is overrated.
Fortunately, the Sox banked on the AL East being soft, and they’re on the money with that prediction. The sad state of this once-proud division enables the Sox to stay in “the race’’ despite two months of pathetic baseball.
■ I just got my “General Practice Reporting Policy” missive from the Patriots’ outstanding PR department and it’s a knee-slapper. It reads (in part): “Media attending practices during organized team activities (OTA), mini-camps, and training camp are asked to cooperate in observing the following practice policies:
“Please do not report on strategy. This includes describing formations, personnel groups, first-team/second-team groupings, positions and non-conventional plays . . . Please do not quote, paraphrase or report the comments made by coaches or players during a practice session . . . Please do not report on players who line up in positions different from the one listed on the roster.’’
In other words, leave your eyes and ears at the check-in desk when you report to Security Command.
■ Those star-studded days at the Los Angeles Forum (circa 1984, when Larry and Magic were at the height of their powers) would be a lot less interesting today with all fans “required” to wear the team jerseys that adorn the chairback of every seat for a playoff game. Who wants to see Diane Lane or Hilary Swank in a Lakers XXL T-shirt?
■ Anybody else sick of carpet-bomb advertising for fantasy sports websites? The ubiquity of the ads — which look a lot like legalized gambling to these eyes — indicates that we are getting closer to nationwide acceptance of betting on sports. Professional teams are now getting in on the act, just as they have done with secondary-ticket marketers (remember when that used to be called “scalping”?).
■ Are you one of those folks who annually complain about the rule that every big league club must have one representative at the All-Star Game? Swell. But that may be the only way the Red Sox get a player to the midsummer classic in Cincinnati in July. We are back to the days of Scott Cooper. With a $200 million payroll.
■ Golden State is a heavy favorite, but give me the Cavaliers over the Warriors in the NBA Finals. And when you watch Steph Curry shooting at Oracle Arena, remind yourself that Larry Bird missed all nine of his floor shots in a game during the 1980-81 season when the building was known as the Oakland Alameda County Coliseum Arena (opened in 1966).
■ Was that J-Lo or Tom Werner sitting on the judges’ panel for NESN’s “Next Producer”?
■ We hope there always will be a place for Dustin Pedroia-size players in big league baseball, but a tour of any clubhouse is a reminder that the major leagues — especially pitching staffs — are being taken over by giants.
The Yankees have five pitchers who are at least 6 feet 5 inches. The Cardinals have eight pitchers who are 6-4 or taller. According to ESPN Magazine, 14 teams don’t have any pitchers under 6 feet. It’s a tad discouraging if you are a good college player hoping to get drafted. More than ever, the majors are leagues of big people.
■ Kentucky assistant basketball coach Kenny Payne will make $2.1 million over the next three years. That’s the assistant coach. Coach Cal has two other assistants making more than $370,000 per season.
■ Lester has a winning record and his ERA (3.30) is a full run better than any of the five “aces” the Sox broke camp with. New Sox ace Rick Porcello has an ERA of 5.37 and Cy Joe Kelly weighs in at 6.24.
■ Cleveland’s Tristan Thompson is Dennis Rodman without the wedding dress.
■ Bill Pennington’s “Billy Martin: Baseball’s Flawed Genius” is a terrific read. I particularly enjoyed the stories of Buck Showalter learning from Martin with the A’s in spring training 1988. A favorite anecdote has young Showalter trying to keep up with Martin and his drinking buddies after a game. “You could learn a lot before the fourth or fifth drink,’’ said Buck. “But after that, things deteriorated. You saw the other side of things, which was a lot less fascinating and darker.’’
■ Tell us again . . . who is running the Red Sox? I’d feel better about the team’s ability to salvage this season if Larry Lucchino was kicking butts and taking names on Yawkey Way. Instead, we have Lucchino assuming a role with Boston 2024 and working to get a minor league ballpark built in Providence. Lucchino canceled his weekly appearance on WEEI’s “Dennis and Callahan” Wednesday. Hmmm.
■ Sixteen-year-old Max Plansky, an official member of the Northeastern University basketball team, is getting a voice of his own thanks to a nonprofit Indiegogo fund-raising campaign. Born with cerebral palsy, Max has been mostly nonverbal for his entire life, but the fund-raising has enabled his family to enlist the support of VocaliD, which creates personalized voices for people who rely on computerized speech. Interested parties can check out goNU.com/Max
■ By any yardstick, our local sports Comeback of the Year award winner is CSNNE’s Bob Neumeier.Dan Shaughnessy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @Dan_Shaughnessy.