Picked-up pieces while filling out an expense account for the first time in 13 months . . .
Major League Baseball’s decision to pull this summer’s All-Star Game out of Atlanta — a swift reaction to Georgia’s new voting law that many view as voter suppression targeting minorities — was stunning. MLB traditionally moves slower than other professional sports leagues regarding issues of politics and controversy. Not this time. After lobbying by civil rights groups and the MLB Players Association, commissioner Rob Manfred acted quickly.
It’s risky business for a commissioner who rarely takes risks. The decision is bound to offend a portion of baseball’s dwindling fan base — a group older, whiter, and likely more conservative than the fan bases of the NFL and NBA. Corporate pressures will be another matter altogether. Delta Air Lines and Coca-Cola voiced displeasure to Georgia’s legislation, but not until after the law was changed.
Political backlash was immediate. Accusing Manfred of succumbing to “cancel culture and woke political activists,’’ Georgia’s governor, Brian Kemp, stated, “Major League Baseball caved to fear, political opportunism, and liberal lies.’’ The Braves issued a statement (embossed with their tomahawk logo) in which they said they were “deeply disappointed’’ the All-Star Game was being pulled from Atlanta. Saturday’s Wall Street Journal featured an editorial headlined “The Biden Baseball League,’' stating that MLB “has smeared Georgia’s elected majority as racist and anti-democratic,’’ concluding, “Welcome to the Democratic Baseball League.’’
So, here we go. Manfred and MLB have jumped feetfirst into America’s raging political divide. It’s going to be tough sledding from here on in. There’s a voting law bill on deck in Texas. You know Florida can’t be far behind.
Welcome to the fight, MLB. You’ve been reluctant to join too many times in the last 120 years.
Not this time. Manfred has put himself and his sport out there, and high heat will be coming MLB’s way for a long time to come.
▪ The Mets offered franchise shortstop Francisco Lindor 10 years and $325 million. Lindor came back asking for 12 years and $385 million. If the Red Sox were the Mets, that would have been the time to dump Lindor to the Dodgers, tell everybody that he never wanted to stay in New York, ridicule Los Angeles for spending foolishly, then brag about shiny new “payroll flexibility” on the way to a last-place finish. Instead, the Mets went back to the table and signed Lindor for $341 million over 10 years.
▪ Incredible to see the owner of the Patriots upstage the Red Sox by making himself available to the media on the eve of Fenway’s scheduled Opening Day. Bob Kraft addressed his loyal fans’ concerns and got the headlines as Red Sox ownership stayed the course on the Howard Hughes Highway. (Taking hard-hitting questions from their own flagship station Friday doesn’t count.)
▪ The Globe’s intrepid Pete Abraham informed us last weekend that the Sox have beefed up their analytics department and now have 21 employees in the baseball research and development department.
This includes Tyler Burch, who, according to Abraham, “was with the Argonne National Laboratory developing particle physics simulation and machine learning to run on the Aurora supercomputer.”
Wonder if Burch also entertains at kids’ birthday parties with his flux capacitor.
▪ Why Can’t We Get Players Like That Dept.: The Houston Cougars made the men’s Final Four with big help from DeJon Jarreau and Brison Gresham, a couple of UMass players who transferred out of Amherst after Derek Kellogg was fired as coach.
Jarreau, a 6-foot-5-inch point guard, is a defensive specialist who scored 10.8 points per game and led the Cougars with 4.4 assists per game. He shut down Syracuse’s Buddy Boeheim and Oregon State’s Ethan Thompson in the regionals. Gresham is a 6-8 forward who started 19 games for the Cougars.
Both are from New Orleans and sat out a year after leaving UMass.
▪ Speaking of the Final Four and UMass, it’s sweet to see UCLA make the Final Four after John Calipari turned it down before it hired Mick Cronin a couple of years ago.
▪ Quiz: Name baseball’s only Triple Crown winner who did not hit a triple. (Answer below.)
▪ Chris Snow, an excellent Red Sox beat reporter for the Globe 15 years ago, is assistant general manager of the Calgary Flames. Snow was diagnosed with ALS in 2019 and fights the fight while continuing to work and battle his horrible disease.
This past week, he shared on Twitter a December 2019 letter from Jerry West, who wrote (in part), “We’ve never met, but I work for the Clippers, so I’ve heard many glowing words about you from my colleagues … I heard recently from them about your diagnosis … I remember, as a boy in West Virginia, listening to Lou Gehrig address fans at Yankee Stadium. That was one of the most inspiring moments of my childhood. I believe you too will be a source of inspiration … Be strong. Be positive. Make this a mission. You’ve accomplished a lot in your front office career and have much more to offer.”
This has been on my desk for more than a year. I think it’s time to find a frame. That’s the thing with sharing struggle. Sometimes a total stranger makes your day. And sometimes that stranger is one of the greatest players, competitors and gentlemen in NBA history. pic.twitter.com/s3l3oCrslv— Chris Snow (@ChrisSnowCGY) April 1, 2021
▪ The 2020-21 Celtics are one of the most unlikable local teams in recent memory. They have talent. They lie down early in the game and fall far behind. Then they rally, make it close, and lose in the end.
In the last couple of weeks, they fell behind the Bucks by 25, the Pelicans by 17, and the Mavericks by 23 — then roared back into contention in the final minutes. Only to lose.
“It’s easy to play when you’re down,” said frustrated coach Brad Stevens.
Indeed, these Celtics are great when all the pressure is off and they decide to apply themselves.
Check out the video of Jayson Tatum grabbing a defensive rebound in the second quarter against Dallas the other night. Tatum came down the floor, worked one-on-one for about 20 seconds, bouncing the ball at least 24 times — never looking at any of his teammates — then missed a shot, which was rebounded by the Mavs.
It’s the ’20-21 Celtics framed in a single possession.
▪ Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva makes fanboy federal judge Richard Berman look like Oliver Wendell Holmes. LA’s see-no-evil sheriff has broomed the Tiger Woods car crash since Day One, and this past week announced that authorities have discovered what happened, but will not release the details out of respect for Woods’s privacy. Wow.
Woods, who has a history of driving while impaired, blasted through a median, went across two lanes of traffic coming from the opposite direction, then rolled his vehicle. Without braking. The authorities are OK with all of it. Would anyone else get this treatment?
▪ Can anyone explain why sports fans would ever root for local teams to be fiscally responsible when it comes to player payroll? When a local team cheaps out, the savings are never passed on to fans. So why do any Sox fans brag about the Sox not breaking the bank on Mookie Betts? Sure the Dodgers won the World Series and we had our worst team in 55 years, but the Dodgers are going to regret that big salary nine years from now. Seriously? Why would you root for your team to save on payroll? What’s in it for you?
▪ The Bruins have not played the Canadiens in more than a year (Feb. 12, 2020).
▪ Don’t be making any road trips to Toronto to see the Red Sox play the Blue Jays. For now, the Jays are playing their home games at TD Ballpark in Dunedin, Fla.
▪ Jim Rice (1978) and Mickey Mantle (1955) led the American League in triples and homers in the same season.
▪ Congratulations to the Boston Pride, who won their second National Women’s Hockey League championship, beating the Minnesota Whitecaps at Warrior last weekend. The Pride and the MLL’s Boston Cannons (2020) have been our only local sports teams able to hang championship banners at Logan’s Terminal C since the Patriots’ last Super Bowl win in February 2019.
▪ Sorry to learn of the passing of former Red Sox second baseman Chuck Schilling, who died at the age of 83 last Tuesday in West Chester, Pa. Schilling was a Sox rookie alongside AL Rookie of the Year Don Schwall and outfielder Carl Yastrzemski in 1961 and played with the Sox until 1965. He wore No. 2, was a great fielder, and a streaky hitter. He taught middle school math for more than 20 years after retiring from baseball.
▪ Quiz answer: Miguel Cabrera in 2012 hit .330 with 44 homers, 139 RBIs, and zero triples. He has 17 career triples.