Picked-up pieces while wondering whether the Patriots and Broncos will actually take the field at Gillette …
▪ News that the Red Sox are bringing back their entire coaching staff, minus Jerry Narron and Craig Bjornson, means one of two things: either Alex Cora is the “new” Red Sox manager or the Sox are going to hire a puppet to carry out the wishes of the nerds in the front office.
Here’s hoping it’s Cora. Meet-the-new-boss-same-as-the-old-boss makes a lot of sense for the Red Sox. There was a high level of comfort with Cora in the corner office. He worked well with ownership and baseball operations. Players loved him, especially Xander Bogaerts, Christian Vazquez, and Rafael Devers, who are the core of the team. Devers is simply a better ballplayer with Cora in the dugout.
Did Cora take a few liberties with the rule book? He did. But the Red Sox are in no position to stand on principle at this hour. They need a star and they need a proven commodity. Cora is both. With Cora as manager, the Sox also could bring back Ron Roenicke as bench coach. Not the worst idea.
If, on the other hand, the Red Sox are hiring someone other than Cora to manage the team after already hiring coaches, look out below. This would be a clear message that the manager does not matter. No self-respecting baseball person would take the job under these conditions. Basically, the message from the top would be, “OK, you are the manager, but we will give you the lineups and we will dictate everything you do.” No thanks to that.
The estimable Peter Gammons believes that keeping Cora’s pal Ramon Vazquez on the staff is a clear tell that Cora is coming back. Let’s hope so. A puppet regime would be a joke. Even Bobby Valentine had some control over who was on his staff.
▪ Can anybody explain how young Jack Easterby ascended to the role of acting general manager of the Houston Texans? Easterby worked briefly with the Jaguars after graduating from Newberry College (S.C.) in 2005, then went to seminary school at Erskine and Liberty. The Chiefs hired him as team chaplain in 2011.
Bill Belichick brought him to Foxborough a couple of years later, and his job description in New England was “character coach/team development." After six seasons with the Patriots, Easterby left for the Texans in the spring of 2019, taking shots at Bob Kraft’s Orchids of Asia spree on the way out the door.
Easterby further angered “Mr. Kraft” when he recruited Nick Caserio at the Patriots Super Bowl ring party at Kraft’s home. Now Easterby is acting GM of Texans. Hope he writes a book someday.
▪ Playoff Mookie is no Playoff Rondo thus far. Mookie Betts is playing great defense in the NLCS but he has not been the same hitter in the postseason. Lifetime in the regular season, he is a .301 hitter with an OPS of .895. In 32 career postseason games, he’s hitting .248 with one home run and nine RBIs.
▪ Quiz: Name the eight pitchers who struck out at least 200 batters in their rookie season (answer below).
▪ The Ed Davis Report In Context should be emerging from the Dominican Republic any day now.
▪ Jeff Benedict’s 592-page Patriots tome “The Dynasty” is so good to Kraft that at least one season ticket-holder says the team mailed it to him as a gift for his loyalty. Don’t recall copies of “Francona” (written by Terry Francona and yours truly) being mailed to Red Sox season ticket-holders in 2013.
▪ Kudos to the New York Post’s Mark Cannizzaro, who called members of the 1-15 1996 New York Jets and got them to rip this year’s winless team. Former Jets receiver Keyshawn Johnson said, "I don’t wish them to go 0-16 … but I wish them to go 0-16.” Safety Victor Green added, “If our team played this team 16 times, we’d beat them 16 times.”
The story made me wish I could call members of the 1932 Red Sox (43-111, 64 games out of first place) and ask them to compare themselves with the J.D. Martinez All-Stars of 2020.
▪ I think the president is onto something with his “If I win, I win, but if I lose, the contest is rigged” game plan. Maybe the Jets should try this.
▪ Swell idea getting UMass football back on the field in the middle of the pandemic this weekend. The Minutemen, who went 1-11 last year and gave up an NCAA-record 52.7 points per game, played at Georgia Southern Saturday and were 31-point underdogs. They lost, 41-0. There are no other games on the UMass schedule at this moment.
▪ Former Celtics coach Bill Fitch coached the late Bob Gibson in baseball and basketball at Creighton in the late 1950s.
I bumped into the super-competitive Gibson in an elevator about 30 years ago and told him about a rookie slugger who had homered off Roger Clemens, then asked Clemens to sign the ball. I could see steam coming off the top of Gibson’s head as I told him the story.
I asked Gibson what he would have done in that situation, and he said, “I would have hit him in the head the next time I faced him, then offered to sign his head!”
▪ I get annoyed when I see TV graphics about leaders in “postseason homers.” Don’t be ranking Mickey Mantle’s 18 “postseason” homers behind Manny Ramirez (29), Bernie Williams (22), and Derek Jeter (20). The Mick’s “postseason” homers were all hit in the World Series. It’s a record that should not be confused with homers hit in the LDS, LCS, or whatever we call that Round of 16 this season.
▪ More baseball deterioration: When the Pirates beat the Yankees, 10-9, in Game 7 of the World Series 60 years ago, the game was played in 2:36 and there were zero strikeouts. The Dodgers and Braves needed 4:12 to play a nine-inning game last week in which there were 23 strikeouts.
▪ Quiz answer: Dwight Gooden, Grover Cleveland Alexander, Don Sutton, Kerry Wood, Gary Nolan, Mark Langston, Hideo Nomo, Herb Score. If you got all of these, you really have too much time on your hands.