fb-pixel Skip to main content
dan shaughnessy

Baseball is giving fans another reason to turn away, and other thoughts

Clouds seem to be gathering, and it's possible that the Red Sox won't begin spring training on time.Barry Chin/Globe Staff

Picked-up pieces while waiting for Tom Brady & Co to launch a Sunday playoff tripleheader …

▪ Baseball owners and players don’t seem to care about you, the fans. This will be painfully obvious if they fail to craft a new basic agreement in the coming weeks.

Demonstrating zero urgency, the sides have talked twice in the last six weeks — a seven-minute session in early December and an hourlong Zoom session Thursday. The sides do not trust one another, which means a likely delay for the start of spring training and possibly the regular season.

It’s clear that owners care most about postseason TV revenue and would be happy to lose some of the 162 if they can get a favorable new deal. Meanwhile, ballplayers have made their disregard for fans clear with their insistence on maintaining a still-life pace of play that has turned off millions of baseball watchers.

I’ll spare you the saber-rattling over issues of minimum salaries, arbitration eligibility, service-time manipulation, and luxury-tax limits. You don’t care. Same here.

Advertisement



Like the rest of America, New England this weekend is hypnotized by football, watching six wild-card games. Imagine waking up the day after the Patriots season ends, checking the Red Sox Grapefruit League schedule at JetBlue (the Sox are slated to play the world champion Braves in Florida Feb. 26), then realizing you can’t make any spring training plans because of a labor lockout. You can’t even talk baseball. The lockout freezes all offseason transactions.

So there. A sport already endangered by declining interest is now giving its remaining fans another reason to turn away.

▪ Next year’s Hall of Fame controversy will involve the first year of eligibility for Carlos Beltran. His stats make him a strong candidate, but he’s going to see vote suppression owing to his involvement with the cheatin’ Astros of 2017. Current Houston stars Carlos Correa and Jose Altuve no doubt will be watching closely.

Advertisement



▪ Quiz: Name three baseball Hall of Famers inducted since 1990 who played post-1961 and share their last name with a US president (answer below).

▪ Novak Djokovic. Selfish liar. Go home.

Jon Lester’s retirement got me thinking about the Red Sox starting pitching staff of 2011. Lester and Tim Wakefield both wound up winning exactly 200 games. John Lackey won 188, Josh Beckett 138, and Clay Buchholz 90. That’s 816 career wins.

The Sox starting stable from 2004 won 959 career games: Pedro Martinez (219), Curt Schilling (216), Wakefield (200), Derek Lowe (176), Bronson Arroyo (148). Pedro is the only member of either group in the Hall of Fame, but Lester has a shot in five years.

Let the record also show that when the “chicken and beer” scandal erupted after the 2011 collapse, Lester was first to own up, telling the Globe’s Peter Abraham, “We pushed the envelope” and “I should have been on the bench more than I was.”

Jon Lester helped the Cubs win the World Series in 2016.Getty Images/Getty

▪ Lester played six seasons for the Cubs after signing a $155 million free agent deal in December of 2014. He might be the greatest free agent signing in the history of any Chicago team. In Boston, I’d give that distinction to Manny Ramírez, who gave the Sox 7½ great seasons of an eight-year, $160 million deal (thank you, Dan Duquette).

▪ I think we’d all forgive Brad Marchand if he delivered an Oil Can Boyd-esque five-star nutty after getting the news of his All-Star snub.

Advertisement



▪ Circle March 6 on your calendar. If form holds, that’ll be the day Kyrie Irving returns to Boston for a Nets “road” game. Also, when the Celtics visit Toronto March 28, we’ll have a pretty good idea which players are unvaccinated since Canadian travel restrictions will be in place by then.

▪ After Jaylen Brown’s triple-double enabled the Celtics to beat the Knicks last Saturday, former-Celtic-champion-turned-TV-barker Kendrick Perkins tweeted, “Jaylen Brown completely took over this game with his first triple-double of his career! Played a perfect game while Jayson Tatum went 6/14 from the field. They got the win tho! Carry on …”

Tatum reacted, tweeting, “Normalizing uplifting one man without bringing another one down … JB played great it’s alright to leave it at that.”

As those words were written by Tatum, the Celtics were still under .500, still tied for last place in their division, and reeling from a series of blown leads late in games. Tatum’s sentiments are understandable, but why would he tell everybody about his hurt feelings?

“That’s what social media is for sometimes,” Tatum told the Globe’s Gary Washburn Wednesday. “You see something and you get the ability to respond. We both said what we said and move on … I don’t have no problem with Perk, we don’t have no beef toward each other.”

Advertisement



▪ Speaking of Celtics-Knicks, did you know that the Knicks have won only one playoff series since 2013 — and that was against the Celtics in 2013?

▪ Things just go from bad to worse with the Orioles. Now they are changing the outfield dimensions in Camden Yards. With no warning, crews started taking out seats in left field this past week. Camden Yards will become a little less intimate. The left-field fence is being moved back about 30 feet and the wall will go from 7 feet to 12 feet. Too many homers, I guess.

So fans will no longer be “on top” of the left fielder. No more outfielders making leaping catches to rob homers. If the Orioles want to stop the homer barrage, how about spending money on drafting and developing pitchers?

▪ When it comes to football, the SEC should just secede from the NCAA. Then Alabama and Georgia can secede from the SEC and have a two-team league, playing each other all season. No one can compete with what they spend and the edge they now have in recruiting.

▪ When Rachel Balkovec was named manager of the Single A Tampa Tarpons in the Yankees system, Billie Jean King tweeted, in part, “History made in baseball!” Wonder how many folks on Twitter are aware that King’s brother, Randy Moffitt, pitched 12 big league seasons, most for the San Francisco Giants?

▪ Last Sunday night’s regular-season NFL finale between the Chargers and Raiders was truly epic. The goofy notion that a tie would have kicked the Steelers out of the playoffs certainly added to the drama, but the play of Chargers second-year quarterback Justin Herbert was magical. The kid went 6 for 6 for 106 yards on fourth-down passes. Wish he were in this weekend’s playoffs.

Advertisement



Justin Herbert worked some magic against the Raiders but the Chargers eventually lost in overtime.Ethan Miller/Getty

▪ While the clown show unfolded in the Meadowlands over the last couple of weeks, I couldn’t get it out of my head that former Giants coach Joe Judge was Aaron Hernandez’s North Attleborough neighbor during those dark days of 2013.

▪ Do yourself a favor and read Mike Sielski’s “The Rise,” the story of Kobe Bryant’s coming-of-age years as a young basketball player growing up in Europe and Lower Merion, Pa.

▪ Wait, the Revolution started preseason practice at Gillette Wednesday? Didn’t they just get knocked out of the playoffs a half-hour ago?

▪ Who knew that Rogers Hornsby, the greatest second baseman of all time who hit .424 in 1924, was third base coach for the expansion Amazin’ Mets (40-120) in 1962? Hornsby died in January of 1963 at the age of 66.

▪ Quiz answer: Gary Carter, Reggie Jackson, Randy Johnson (sorry, Otis Nixon fans).


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