Picked-up pieces while applying for membership to the Milwaukee chapter of the JBJ Love Society …
▪ What is Jackie Bradley Jr.’s place in Red Sox history? Who was he? Where does he fit?
An epic underachiever at the plate (.239 career batting average), Bradley dazzled in center field for eight seasons at Fenway Park. He probably was Boston’s best center fielder since Jimmy Piersall, and there aren’t many folks around who remember Piersall. If Bradley played in Baltimore, a good comparison would be Paul Blair.
JBJ was overrated locally because of his amazing catches, but he also delivered big hits when he was MVP of the 2018 ALCS against Houston. He was a one-time All-Star and Gold Glover, and has two World Series rings, but was never as good as Johnny Damon or Trot Nixon. Troy O’Leary was a better hitter, but JBJ no doubt is a more important figure in Sox history.
Bradley is top 50 in games played for Boston. In my pantheon of Fenway lore, he goes down alongside Piersall, Marty Barrett, Rich Gedman, and maybe Rick Burleson (who was a better all-around player). Bradley is way more important than Rick Miller, but he’s nowhere near Frank Malzone. Old-timers tell me Sammy White is a good comp.
Few of those listed above received the support and adulation Bradley enjoyed around here.
Barring a trade or something unexpected, the departures of David Price, Mookie Betts, and now Bradley since last winter virtually ensure that the Red Sox will have zero African-Americans on their Opening Day roster.
I can’t speak for the pre-Ted Williams era, but by any measure, this will be the worst Red Sox outfield of the last 90 years.
▪ Memo to Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown: The Celtics have a dubious history of stars saving themselves for All-Star Games.
In 2019, Kyrie Irving was held out of Boston’s final two games before the break because of a knee injury, then played 24 minutes in the All-Star Game. Last year, Kemba Walker played 30 minutes in the All-Star Game despite knee trouble that ultimately shut him down.
It goes all the way back to 1986. Kevin McHale had a sore left Achilles’ tendon that benched him for six of seven games leading into the break. K.C. Jones played McHale 20 minutes in the All-Star Game, then put him back on the shelf for the first eight games after the break.
▪ It may be a while before we get a detailed report, but it’s hard to escape the conclusion that Tiger Woods may have been asleep at the wheel when he crashed his car in California last week. USA Today has done great work on the case, interviewing car accident experts, one of whom said, “To me, this is like a classic case of falling asleep behind the wheel.”
The paper reported that, according to an affidavit, Woods told sheriff’s deputies at the scene “that he could not remember driving and he did not know how the collision happened.”
In 2017, Woods was arrested when he was found asleep at the wheel of his stopped vehicle in Florida, and a toxicology report revealed that he had Ambien, Vicodin, and other drugs in his system. Woods had back surgery in late December.
▪ Quiz: Name the only three active pitchers who have won more than 21 games in a season (answer below).
▪ Yaz in the movies: In 1969′s “Goodbye Columbus,” Ali MacGraw’s character relays a family joke regarding a dinner mystery guest, telling her boyfriend, “Every time the Red Sox win, we have to set an extra place for Yastrzemski.” In 1980′s “The Shining,” Shelley Duvall holds a Yaz-model Louisville slugger in her hands as she is berated by Jack Nicholson.
▪ My head will explode if I hear one more word about the mechanics of J.D. Martinez’s swing. Stop the madness. This is neither rocket science nor brain surgery. He’s a big guy with a strong uppercut. He had a bad year last year. We hope he can catch up to the fastball this year.
▪ Shaquille O’Neal should not have a TV analyst job if he won’t speak up enough so that we can hear him.
▪ It hurts to say this, but the Lakers’ top six players in history — Magic Johnson, Jerry West, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Wilt Chamberlain, Elgin Baylor, and Kobe Bryant — top the Celtics’ six of Bill Russell, Larry Bird, John Havlicek, Kevin McHale, Bob Cousy, and Paul Pierce. Both teams have 17 championships. The Lakers are favorites to get No. 18 before Boston.
▪ More Time Lord, please. I am in the growing club of people who want to see more of Robert Williams on the floor. He is an old-fashioned rebounder/shot-blocker and a joy to watch.
▪ The NIT has moved to Dallas after an 83-year run at Madison Square Garden. When Holy Cross won the NIT with Tommy Heinsohn, Togo Palazzi, and Ronnie Perry in 1954, the squad was introduced on “The Ed Sullivan Show” the night after winning the championship. Anybody remember Ralph Sampson’s Virginia team beating McHale’s Minnesota Gophers in the NIT final in 1980? To his dying day in 2006, Red Auerbach was angry at the NIT for snubbing his George Washington squad in the first tournament in 1938.
▪ M.L. Carr, who turned 70 in January, said, “I’m the only 70-year-old guy that can still dunk.”
He also said, “Get off my man, Danny [Ainge]. Danny will figure this thing out. There’s always going to be mountains and valleys, but Danny is the most strategic guy I have seen in sports, along with Jerry West and Arnold … And don’t be putting my name in the same paragraph with Rick Pitino.”
▪ While the Red Sox explored the cheapest alternative every time they went after a player this winter, the Toronto Blue Jays committed $186.3 million to free agents.
▪ West Virginia men’s basketball coach Bob Huggins needs to keep his mask on.
▪ It’s clear that Daniel Theis played a lot of soccer growing up in Germany. No one in the NBA does more flopping or complaining to the refs.
▪ Saddened to hear of the death of Vi Ripken, 82-year-old mother of Cal and Billy Ripken. Hall of Famer Jim Palmer said, “She was my mom away from home when I played for Cal Sr. in 1964 [in the minors]. A huge part of the Oriole family.”
▪ Speaking of the Ripken family, good luck to Ryan Ripken, son of Cal Ripken Jr., who has been playing in the minors since 2014 without moving above Double A. It can’t be easy being the son of Cal Ripken Jr., and if we didn’t already learn this from Michael Jordan and Tim Tebow, Ryan Ripken’s journey is a reminder of how difficult it is to make it to the major leagues.
▪ Miguel Cabrera is at 487 homers and likely will become the 28th member of the 500 club. Next up would be Edwin Encarnacion (424), Nelson Cruz (417), and Ryan Braun (352) if they can hang around long enough.
▪ March 6 is the 32nd anniversary of Bo Jackson’s monstrous home run off Oil Can Boyd in Baseball City during a Red Sox-Royals spring training game. Veteran executive Lou Gorman was among those who said it was the longest homer he’d ever seen. The game was attended by the late Barbara Billingsley, better known as June Cleaver.
▪ The great Peter Gammons still hopes to get to spring training for the 50th consecutive season. The last time Gammons missed was in 1971 when he instead covered North Carolina’s 90-49 NIT victory over UMass.
“Dean Smith told me that UMass had the best player in the game — Julius Erving,” Gammons recalled. “But he said that UNC had the next best 15 players.”
▪ Quiz answer: Rick Porcello, Jake Arrieta, Justin Verlander.