Picked-up pieces while trying not to feel hopeless about our long-awaited sports start-ups . . .
▪ I thought today would be a good day for that ever-handy guessing game regarding which of our four major sports teams will win the next Boston championship. The Celtics in the Orlando bubble? The Presidents’ Trophy-winning Bruins in Edmonton? The Red Sox, who gave up on their 2020 season in February only to find hope in a mini-schedule that rewards mediocrity? The Cam Newton Patriots? And then I read the Saturday morning news that the Houston Astros had canceled another workout, this time because they learned that a staff member was potentially exposed to a COVID-19-positive individual from outside the organization. ‘‘Out of an abundance of caution, we have canceled today’s workout,‘' read the Astros’ statement. Understood. So where is this going? Every day another bucket of cold water is tossed on our heads. A person who works for the Astros believes he or she was “potentially” exposed to a positive individual so everything shuts down. What we once thought of as virtually nothing is now enough to stop everything. The Red Sox are scheduled to open their season on Friday, July 24, against the Orioles at Fenway. That’s less than two weeks from now. Meanwhile, the coronavirus is raging through the South and the West, and a seemingly harmless workout at Minute Maid Park is canceled because a staff member was “potentially” exposed to a COVID-19-positive person. Do a lot of you really think this is going to work?
▪ There can never be enough piling on Tom Brady, Alex Guerrero, and TB12, so it’s important to note that it was disclosed this past week that the Brady brand was approved for a Paycheck Protection Program loan of somewhere between $350,000-$1 million. The mere notion that it would apply is offensive.
▪ If there is a baseball season, I’m picking the Tampa Bay Rays to win the American League East.
▪ Washington Post sports columnist Shirley Povich was a god in our industry and fought vigorously against the racist Redskins of his time. When Cleveland running back Jim Brown was crushing Washington’s football team, Povich wrote, “Jim Brown, born ineligible to play for the Redskins, integrated their end zone three times yesterday.‘’ In another column, Povich wrote, “The Redskins’ colors are burgundy, gold, and Caucasian.‘'
▪ Garoppolo, a two-year-old horse making his second start, won a race at Belmont Park this past week.
▪ The 2021 Red Sox will have already played 10 games against the Orioles before they first meet the Yankees June 4 in New York.
▪ QUIZ: Name the only pitcher to hit a grand slam in an LCS game. Answer below.
▪ Rusney Castillo has a major league contract, so even though there’s no minor league season, he’ll make a final $5 million (prorated from his $13.5 million annual salary) from the Red Sox this year if there is a 60-game major league season.
▪ Hate to see jobs lost, but a COVID-19-inspired limit on basketball assistant coaches is not the worst development. There are simply too many people in suits on NBA (and college) benches. It looks like one coach per player. Red Auerbach laughed at this in the early days of coach inflation. Red did it alone for his whole career and still had time to smoke a cigar on the bench when his team was far ahead at the end of games.
▪ Patrick Mahomes has sports’ first half-billion-dollar contract. Wonder who will be the first billion-dollar player.
▪ Umpire Joe West is 67, but he plans to work the shortened baseball season. West needs 66 games to pass Bill Klem’s record of 5,375 regular-season games worked by a big league umpire. Cowboy Joe gave multiple interviews this past week and came just shy of calling the whole COVID-19 thing a hoax. It got so bad that the umpires’ union Thursday put out a statement peppered with disclaimers such as “regardless of any umpire’s personal views . . . we will conduct ourselves as professionals.‘'
▪ Apropos of nothing (the great Nick Cafardo always used that in his Sunday notes), it occurs to me that Brady and Larry Bird share an odd/weird Boston ending. The last play of Brady’s Patriots career was a pick-six in a playoff loss to the Titans. For some reason, it reminds me of Bird’s last game. Does anybody remember Larry’s final competitive moment? It was the gold medal game of the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. The USA’s Dream Team defeated Croatia for the gold. And the great Larry Bird went scoreless. Larry Legend’s final game produced 0 points and two rebounds in 12 minutes. Bird was the only US player who did not score in Team USA’s 117-85 rout. Leading scorers for the losers: Drazen Petrovic (24), Dino Radja (23), and Toni Kukoc (16).
▪ Speaking of Bird, during those early shutdown days of re-watching great games from the golden era, was I the only one who noticed that Larry’s “lefthanded” game against Portland in 1986 has been somewhat overstated? Bird indeed scored 47 points in a 120-119 overtime win on Valentine’s Day in Portland, but I counted only seven lefthanded baskets when I re-watched it, and most of those were close to the hoop.
▪ Eight of the NHL’s playoff teams have never won the Stanley Cup: Arizona, Columbus, Florida, Minnesota, Nashville, Vancouver, Vegas, and Winnipeg. The Canucks made it to Game 7 of the Finals twice, losing to the Rangers in New York in 1994 and at home against the Bruins in 2011 (remember that one?).
▪ I Give Up Dept.: Seth Schorr of Fifth Street Gaming told the New York Times, “I expect that within the next five to 10 years in North America, esports will be third after the NFL and the NBA in terms of total wagering.‘'
▪ RIP to Haverhill’s Mike Ryan, who made us all proud when he was a local boy catcher for the 1967 Red Sox. Ryan spent parts of four seasons with the Sox. He caught Dave Morehead and Ken Brett in Game 4 of the 1967 World Series and went 0 for 2 (like a lot of people) against Bob Gibson. Ryan died Tuesday at his home in Wolfeboro, N.H.
▪ Congrats to WEEI’s Courtney Fallon, a Boston native who’ll be a sideline reporter for ESPN’s coverage of Major League Lacrosse’s 20th anniversary tournament beginning next weekend in Annapolis, Md.
▪ QUIZ ANSWER: Orioles lefthander Mike Cuellar vs. Minnesota in 1970.