Picked-up pieces while thanking Daddy Globe for not sending me to the Tokyo Olympics . . .
▪ Theo Epstein got all the credit for the 2004 curse-busting Red Sox even though Dan Duquette assembled half the championship roster. It was the oft-maligned Duke who brought Pedro Martinez, Manny Ramirez, Jason Varitek, Derek Lowe, Johnny Damon, Tim Wakefield, and Kevin Youkilis to town.
In this spirit we should recognize contributions Dave Dombrowski made to the Sox’ first-half success of 2021. John Tomase brought this to our attention in his column for NBC Sports Boston this past week and I tracked down Dombrowski to give him an opportunity for a belated victory lap.
Dombro’s been something of a dartboard ornament since Sox ownership dumped him near the end of the 2019 season, but it’s only fair to acknowledge that he brought J.D. Martinez, Nate Eovaldi, and Chris Sale to town, resisted offers to trade Rafael Devers and Matt Barnes, hired Alex Cora, signed Xander Bogaerts to a team-friendly long-term deal, and drafted outfielder Jarren Duran, who is projected to be a big thing at Fenway someday soon. Dombro also won a World Series and three division flags.
The lasting local perception is that he strip-mined the farm system and left the Sox with nothing in the tank.
“I don’t think that’s accurate at all,” Dombrowski said in a Thursday phone call.
Dombrowski is now baseball boss of the Phillies but won’t be with his team at Fenway this weekend because he’s in Philadelphia preparing for Sunday’s draft.
“Once you leave, you move on," he said. “That’s just the way it is . . . You leave, you turn the page, but you continue to follow players that you’ve been associated with. I consider Alex Cora a close personal friend and we talk. So you follow them a little closer."
Any temptation to include Devers in the trade that brought Sale from the White Sox?
“They asked about him, but we said no, and that would have stopped the deal,” he said.
Why wasn’t Barnes ever traded?
“People sometimes laughed at me when I said this, and I know our bullpen was up and down, but we always had interest in him,” said Dombrowski. “He was a good pitcher. People would call about him quite a bit, but he always had dominant stuff. We wanted to hang on to him.”
Some of us (me) mocked Dombrowski for giving Eovaldi a four-year, $68 million contract after Eovaldi’s great relief stint in the 2018 World Series.
“I know a lot of people jumped on board, saying it was based only on the World Series, but we didn’t feel that way,” said Dombrowski. “We thought it was a good signing at the time. Our medical team cleared him.”
“It wasn’t an easy deal to get done at the time, but a lot of people contributed to that,” said Dombrowski. “We were just happy that he stayed on board.”
Dombrowski credited Sox amateur scouting director Mike Rikard with drafting Duran in the seventh round in 2018.
“I’m proud of what we did in Boston," said Dombrowski. “We won three divisions in a row and a world championship and had one down year in which we won 84 games. So I hold my head proud in what we accomplished. But I just turn the page and let people make their own decisions."
▪ Quiz: Name five big league hitters who hit their 500th home run during the 1960s (answer below).
▪ Now that Nassau Coliseum is history, Madison Square Garden (1968) is the only rink left where Bobby Orr played NHL games.
▪ The worst thing about the NHL’s switch from NBC to ESPN? The loss of Kathryn Tappen on hockey coverage. Tappen is simply the best in the business and those who love hockey will miss her.
▪ The official Twitter account of your Boston Red Sox asks in its bio: “Remember your tweets from the first week of the season? We do.” Wow. That’s a lot of attitude from a team that finished last in 2020 and has yet to accomplish anything in 2021. Who seriously thought this team was going to be any good? And now the Sox remind us that they were keeping score based on . . . Twitter rants? Maybe the Sox should pump the brakes a little until this team they have actually wins something?
▪ N’Keal Harry demanding a trade? I’m trying to imagine Pablo Sandoval demanding a raise in the summer of 2017 before he was released by the Red Sox.
▪ The Dodgers canceled Trevor Bauer bobblehead night, which had been scheduled for Aug. 19.
▪ Call me crazy, but Phoenix’s Devin Booker looks like a young Richard Gere. Something around the eyes.
▪ Marv Albert hung up his microphone at the end of the Hawks-Bucks conference finals. In an interview with the New York Post’s Steve Serby, Albert listed his All-NBA team of all time as: C, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar; F, LeBron James and Larry Bird; G, Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan; with apologies to Kevin Durant, Kobe Bryant, Stephen Curry, Oscar Robertson, Bill Russell, Jerry West, and Julius Erving.
Albert’s top five New York sporting moments: Knicks-Lakers, 1970; Rangers Stanley Cup, 1994; Namath’s Jets win Super Bowl, 1969; Giants over undefeated Patriots in Super Bowl, 2008; Mets over Red Sox in 1986 World Series.
▪ Buy Leigh Montville’s “Tall Men, Short Shorts,” the wonderfully told story of a young Montville covering the 1969 Bill Russell vs. Wilt Chamberlain, Celtics vs. Lakers NBA Finals. It’s great storytelling (a Montville staple) and pure fun. Montville brings Boston’s 1969 Boys of Spring to life in spectacular fashion. Take it to the beach. Thank me later.
▪ As if things aren’t already bad enough at ESPN, the Worldwide Leader botched its telecast of Joey Chestnut’s big Fourth of July win in the annual Nathan’s hot dog eating contest at Maimonides Park in Coney Island last Sunday. ESPN’s live feed cut out three times during the 10-minute event and we missed Chestnut inhaling his patriotic 76th, record-setting, buzzer-beating dog and bun. Chestnut is the Bill Russell of competitive eating. He’s won 14 of the last 15 July 4 competitions.
▪ Congrats to every high school athlete, coach, parent, and athletic director for staying the course through a patience-testing spring season that did not end until Monday, July 5, because of winter backups and COVID considerations. Xaverian baseball’s Division 1 state championship win over Leominster, Taunton softball’s 1-0 win over Wachusett, and Medfield baseball’s Division 3 loss to Taconic were the final three events. Now it’s on to the fall of 2021 and hopefully some normalcy for the kids and their parents.
▪ Congrats to Paul Kelley, who will be inducted into the Mass. Broadcasters Hall of Fame in September. The 90-year-old Kelley made WITS a big player in Boston sports radio and gave Glenn Ordway his big break.
▪ Classy of the Red Sox to honor longtime traveling secretary Jack McCormick. A 33-year employee, the best of the best, McCormick will be the Sox representative at Sunday night’s draft.
Nice move by the Red Sox to name long-time traveling secretary Jack McCormick as the team's representative at the draft.— Pete Abraham (@PeteAbe) July 8, 2021
Jack has been with the Sox for 33 years and is now senior director, club relations.
▪ Quiz answer: Ted Williams, Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Eddie Mathews, Mickey Mantle.