Picked-up pieces while waiting for the final two hours of “The Last Dance” . . .
▪ This is a crucial week for Major League Baseball. Owners finalized a return-to-play plan Monday and will offer it to the Players Association Tuesday, but it’s going to get ugly if the parties engage in a public spat about player compensation.
The pandemic has reminded folks how much they miss sports — even baseball — and there is no public appetite for one of those well-worn, old-fashioned, players-owners scraps over compensation. Citizens are dying in large numbers and a huge chunk of America is out of work, so this would not be a time for millionaires to haggle over finances. Commissioner Rob Manfred and the Players Association need to work this out nicely without their customary sabre-rattling.
The issue is going to be proposed player pay cuts motivated by playing games without fans. The players and owners have already agreed to pro-rated salaries based on the number of games played, but owners are going to want additional cuts if they stage a product with no fans.
Ever tone-deaf agent Scott Boras fired the first odious broadside Monday, telling Sports Illustrated, "We reached an agreement and there will not be a renegotiation of that agreement.”
The big obstacles in this venture should be the massive hurdles involving testing, travel, league realignments, potential quarantines, and safety for team and ballpark personnel. Shame on the players and owners if they can agree on all of that and then get hung up on money.
It has the potential to make all of America hate baseball at a time when the sport is already teetering on relevancy in today’s society.
▪ It was announced Monday that Richard Seymour won the fan vote to gain admittance to the Patriot Hall of Fame. This means Bill Parcells is still out. Embarrassing. The Krafts circumvented the fan vote/popularity contest and inducted Billy Sullivan and Gil Santos independently. Will they ever do the right thing for Parcells?
▪ Scottie Pippen had 26 years to rethink his disgraceful quitting moment against the Knicks in the 1994 playoffs. And then . . . given a chance to address the issue in “The Last Dance,” he said, “If I had to do it over again, I don’t think I’d change it.”
Wow. In sports parlance, this is what’s known as a “loser.”
▪ The things you never noticed . . .
Rewatching Game 4 of the 2004 ALCS at Fenway (the Dave Roberts Game that started the comeback), I almost jumped out of my chair when I saw an underreported sequence of events in the third inning.
It starts with Alex Rodriguez breaking a 0-0 tie with a monstrous home run over the Volvo sign in left-center. Over everything, onto Lansdowne Street. Seconds later, with Gary Sheffield at bat, A-Rod’s home run ball came flying back over the Wall and rolled to Johnny Damon in center.
After time was called, Damon went over, picked up the ball, and flung it back over the Wall onto the street. Seconds later, after Sheffield hit a foul to left, time was called again when A-Rod’s home run ball came back from the street and plopped into center field. This time, umpire Joe West pocketed the ball, ending the splendid volley.
I was in the front row of the press box and noticed none of this. Must have been busy describing A-Rod’s blast. Seeing it 16 years later, it serves as a tribute to the best fans in the world. In what other city would two different people (presumably) outside the ballpark corral an opponent’s home run ball and fire it back onto the field? It tells you that the ’04 Sox deserved all the good things that happened to them, starting with the ninth-inning comeback later that night.
▪ Shout out to Red Sox groundskeeper Dave Mellor, who mowed a tribute to nurses into the Fenway lawn to celebrate National Nurses Week. Diane Raymond, a lifelong Red Sox fan and nurse of 46 years, said, “I was almost in tears when I watched the news and saw the picture of that. Would I have ever thought in all my years of slogging through crazy shifts that the sight of a tribute to nurses would be etched into the grass at Fenway?”
▪ QUIZ: Name two players on the Yankees’ 2009 World Series champs who joined Babe Ruth (among others) as players who won championships with the Red Sox and Yankees (answer below).
▪ J.D. Martinez claims the Red Sox were overpunished for their 2018 cheating scandal.
“If they went to court with that, they would get thrown out,” said the slugger. “There was nothing there. The judge would laugh. They really didn’t find anything.”
Actually, J.D., investigators took note of the fact that you and your teammates offered two versions regarding the illegal sign-stealing system.
“Of the 44 players who provided information, more than 30 said they had no knowledge,” the report stated, adding, “a smaller number of players said they suspected or had indications that [J.T.] Watkins may have revised the sign sequence information.”
If “they really didn’t find anything,” why did Red Sox management accept the punishment and apologize to the other 29 clubs?
▪ It’s often forgotten that Robert Parish picked up one last championship ring with Michael Jordan’s Bulls in 1997. The Chief wound up with four rings, one more than Larry Bird and Kevin McHale.
▪ Friday marks the 39th anniversary of Len Barker’s perfect game for the Indians against the Blue Jays. Danny Ainge was the starting third baseman for the Jays. Ainge grounded to second in the third and struck out in the sixth. Al Woods pinch hit for Ainge with one out in the ninth and struck out.
Veteran Red Sox fans might remember Barker as the man who threw a wild pitch over the Fenway backstop when facing Dwight Evans in 1978.
▪ The more I see of "The Last Dance,'' the more I believe Jerry Krause has been unfairly maligned. Krause was a team-builder in the mold of Red Auerbach. He deserved more respect from Michael Jordan and Pippen.
▪ In 1988, the late Don Shula briefly hired a young running back from Northwestern named Steve Burton. Burton’s dad, Ron Burton, was the first player ever drafted by the original Boston Patriots. Steve had been hoping to sign as a free agent with the Seahawks when he landed a contract with the Dolphins.
“I was vacationing in Miami,” recalled Burton, a longtime sports anchor at Channel 4. “A friend of mine took me over to the Dolphins facility and they timed me in the 40 and had a contract for me as a running back. Shula said, ‘You can go to Seattle or you can play for me.’ I said I would try to stick it out with Miami.
“Coach Shula was strong-willed and commanded respect. I was there not even a half year. I was on the practice squad for a while, but never played. In the end, Coach Shula called me in to tell me they were releasing me. Right after that, I went to NESN.”
▪ Quiz answer: Johnny Damon and Eric Hinske.