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dan shaughnessy

Red Sox can’t unstick themselves from this issue, and other thoughts

Garrett Richards's performance has declined considerably in his last three starts.Jim Davis/Globe Staff

Picked-up pieces while combing the Internet for the last stashes of Spider Tack …

▪ Can Red Sox fans, uniformed personnel, and local media please stop pushing the narrative that your team has not benefited from violating MLB Rule 6:02 (c) by using foreign substances to get a better grip? Every team had guys doing it, and the Red Sox pretty clearly benefited more than most. Just look at the cast of Boston starters who curiously overachieved, then fell back to earth as soon as warnings were issued.

Spider Tack and other substances don’t help only spin rate. They help a pitcher locate. Martín Pérez got lit up on high changeups against the Jays last Sunday. In the words of super-agent Scott Boras, foreign substances are “control enhancing, so it’s performance enhancing.”


Wednesday we had J.D. Martinez with this: “Talking with our pitchers, nobody really uses that kind of stuff. Nobody uses those kinds of substances. So I think it’s going to benefit us.”

Tell that to Garrett Richards, who was touted as Mr. Spin Rate when the Sox signed him over the winter. Here are Richards’s numbers since pitchers were warned to knock it off: three starts, 14⅓ innings, 26 hits, 5 walks, 2 HBP, 6.91 ERA. According to Alex Speier, Richards had the lowest spin rate of his career Wednesday.

After the game, Richards said he threw only fastballs and summed, “I think tonight spoke for itself. We’re going to follow the rules and this is the game we’re going to get.”

Richards is 33 years old and makes $10 million this year. It’s pretty clear he is a product of spin rate (MLB’s best on sliders in 2020), which in his case appears to be a product of a rules violation. Now, like a lot of MLB pitchers, he is playing the victim. Because he can’t break the rules anymore.


“I didn’t feel convicted with any of my breaking balls tonight,” Richards said after his Wednesday stinker. “So I threw pretty much all fastballs.

“I’m just grateful I got this far into my career before we’re at this point. Maybe I’ll have to develop another pitch. Maybe I’ll learn a changeup or something.”

It sounded like a Nixonian concession speech. Look out below, Boston baseball fans. It’s one thing to say everybody does it. It’s also pretty clear that the staff Chaim Bloom assembled NEEDS it.

The New York Daily News reported that commissioner Rob Manfred’s investigators presented voluminous data and evidence of illegal substance use to the owners at a meeting June 2-3 and named the Red Sox as one of six teams as prime offenders (along with the Rays, Brewers, Cardinals, Dodgers, and Angels).

The most laughable response to the crackdown came from Tampa Bay ace Tyler Glasnow, who blamed his partial UCL tear on the new restrictions: “I just threw 80 … innings, and then you told me I can’t use anything in the middle of the year. I had to change everything I’ve been doing the entire season. … And I’m telling you, I truly believe that’s why I got hurt.”

Wow. The whole thing reminds me of a classic scene from “The Sting” (yes, it’s an old flick, but it’s Bill Belichick’s favorite movie) when poker-cheating millionaire Doyle Lonnegan gets fleeced by master card-cheater Henry Gondorff, then complains to an associate, “What was I supposed to do? Call him for cheating better than me in front of the others?”


Hall of Famer Jim Palmer says, “Maybe we need to have a universal substance to put on the baseball. A substance that is not going to allow them to enhance the spin rate, but control where the ball is going and not hit people.

“I understand where all these pitchers are coming from. It’s like asking a guy who is addicted to heroin to quit cold turkey.”

Starting Monday, umpires will be inspecting pitchers for foreign substances. A guilty pitcher will be suspended for 10 days. With pay, of course.

▪ In the end, Kemba Walker had about the same impact here as Gordon Hayward. It’s like it never really happened. And is anybody wondering why stars who come here can’t seem to get out of town fast enough after a couple of seasons?

▪ Patriots minicamp was another endless homage to Cam Newton. I learned that Cam wasn’t actually bad last year. He was just “overthinking.” He was limited by COVID. He didn’t have time to learn the complex Patriots system.

Get used to this narrative, folks. This is the way it’s going to be from now until whenever Belichick eventually makes the switch.

We have nothing against Cam. He’s been a great guy and a model teammate. It’s just that we saw him play last year. It’s nothing personal. It was Rodney Harrison who first concluded that Newton can’t play quarterback in the NFL anymore.


▪ A good indication that Celtics stars are overrated would be Tuesday’s announcement of the All-NBA team. We’re ever reminded that Jayson Tatum is a “top 10” NBA talent, but Tatum was not named to the first, second, or third All-NBA Teams. So he’s not a top 15 talent in the league. Not yet anyway.

▪ Quiz: Name 15 North American-born Black pitchers with a 20-win season in the big leagues (answer below).

▪ Maybe Doc Rivers will be looking for a job soon? Anybody want to bring back Doc?

▪ The Celtics, Pacers, Magic, Pelicans, Wizards, Mavericks, and Trail Blazers are looking for new head coaches. South Carolina’s Dawn Staley, Duke’s Kara Lawson, and San Antonio assistant Becky Hammon have the credentials. Will the NBA be the first of our big four sports to hire a female head coach?

▪ The death of Jim “Mudcat” Grant at the age of 85 last week took me back to June of 1977 when I was a cub reporter traveling with the Baltimore Orioles and Earl Weaver invited me to join him with his coaches at The Theatrical, a Cleveland nightclub around the corner from the old Hollenden Hotel on Superior Avenue.

It was a noisy, smoky joint, right out of a Jimmy Cagney movie. I expected Dean Martin and Perry Como to arrive any minute.


On stage that night: Mudcat and the Kittens, a song-and-dance group fronted by Grant, who’d won two games and hit a three-run homer against the Dodgers for the Twins in the 1965 World Series. A onetime Indians pitcher, Mudcat was working in the Cleveland baseball offices during the day and singing at night.

▪ Speaking of the Islanders, what if championship-starved New York wound up winning the NHL and the NBA this spring/summer? It’s never happened. The last time representatives from the same market were in both of those leagues’ finals was 2003, when the New Jersey Devils won the Stanley Cup over Anaheim and the New Jersey Nets lost to the Spurs.

New York is always at an advantage here because it has five teams in those two sports. A purist would say it doesn’t count unless it’s the Rangers and Knicks. Boston had a close call when the Bruins won in 1970, one year after the final season of the Celtics/Bill Russell dynasty.

▪ Franchy Cordero might be the new Rusney Castillo. Franchy has been Ted Williams at Triple A Worcester. He was hitting .406 for the WooSox at midweek.

▪ A toast to the great Ron Hill, who died last week at the age of 82. Hill won the Boston Marathon in 1970 and was the Cal Ripken Jr. of daily runners. Hill ran at least 1 mile every day for more than 52 years. His streak of 19,032 consecutive days ended in 2017 when he suffered chest pains while running and required a stent in his coronary artery. Streak Runners International recognizes Hill as the all-time record-holder.

▪ Saturday night’s Game 7 between the Bucks and Nets goes down as the biggest Game 7 in Brooklyn since Dodgers-Yankees in the World Series on Oct. 10, 1956.

▪ Knowing that this makes me sound like Pierre McGuire, I must tell you that Islanders coach Barry Trotz and Lightning bench boss Jon Cooper — rivals in the Cup semis — both played at Athol Murray College of Notre Dame in Wilcox, Saskatchewan. They were not there at the same time. Trotz is five years older.

▪ Folks were wowed when former Celtic Walter McCarty broke into song — K.C. Jones style — at a reception for former Boston Police commissioner William Gross at Davio’s in the Seaport last week.

▪ Just give Lou Lamoriello the NHL’s General Manager of the Year award right now. The Islanders GM will always be a New Englander.

▪ Very best wishes go out to Eddie Miller Sr., the heart and soul of the Boston College athletic department for so many decades, who just turned 90 and is on the comeback trail after a week at Beth Israel Milton.

▪ Quiz answer: Don Newcombe, Sam Jones, Bob Gibson, Earl Wilson, Al Downing, Mudcat Grant, Vida Blue, J.R. Richard, Dwight Gooden, Ferguson Jenkins, Mike Norris, Dave Stewart, CC Sabathia, Dontrelle Willis, David Price.

Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at daniel.shaughnessy@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @dan_shaughnessy.