Picked-up pieces while packing for Buffalo, home of America’s Team …
▪ Signing a homegrown star to an 11-year, $331 million extension is not something a franchise does on the spur of the moment. It’s not something a team does in knee-jerk fashion. It’s not an emotional reaction to the owner of the ball club getting booed two days earlier in his own ballpark. That’s just silly.
But that’s the shorthand, folks. That’s what fans will remember years from now when the pluses and minuses of Rafael Devers’s whopping contract are debated after the Local Nine experiences more duck boat parades and/or last-place finishes.
Fair or unfair, the lasting narrative of the Devers extension is going to be that a minor fan insurrection at Fenway Park Monday motivated the Red Sox to sign their best remaining player.
Red Sox/Globe/Penguins owner John Henry was harassed getting out of his car (a fan hollering “Pay Raffy! Pay anyone!” was featured on the Twitter feed of ESPN’s Joon Lee), then heard boos as he walked into the stands behind the visitors’ on-deck circle before the Bruins beat his Penguins.
There also was an unfortunate column in Tuesday’s Herald highlighting the story of a local fan who had his “Pay Devers, please” sign confiscated by Fenway security while entering Gate E for the Winter Classic. (Sox senior vice president Zineb Curran told me, “Based on the photo of the sign that was shared with us, it didn’t look like it violated our sign guidelines for size or content and it should have been allowed.”)
It was a big bowl of bad for the Red Sox: Fans hooting on the owner … Fenway security censoring fans … Fans pledging boycotts and advocating for the team to be sold … Lots of local and national noise about the southbound direction of the franchise (MLB Network’s estimable Tom Verducci said, “I don’t know what Boston is right now”).
And then … two days later … alakazam. The Sox agreed to give Devers the sixth-largest contract in MLB history.
It will go down as one of those epic Sox negotiating moments — like general manager Lou Gorman saying, “The sun will rise, the sun will set, and I’ll have lunch,” after Roger Clemens stormed out of spring training in 1987; Mo Vaughn referring to John Harrington and Dan Duquette as “joint chiefs of staffs”; or most recently, Chaim Bloom staring at his cellphone and spitting out pieces of his broken luck in the Delta Sky Club Lounge after learning Xander Bogaerts had signed with the Padres.
By any yardstick, it’s great news. Fans should love the Sox taking on payroll rather than cutting costs. It’s good to see them finally keeping one of their homegrown stars. After the departures of Mookie Betts, Andrew Benintendi, and Bogaerts, and this awful offseason of hollow words (hello, Sam Kennedy) and shedding salaries, Sox fans finally have reason to believe their team really is still in business of winning.
On paper, this doesn’t make the Sox better for next season. They already had Devers in the fold for ‘23. But it gives hope that other stars might yet come here and that ownership perhaps has made another sea change after the dumpster diving and one-year-contract festival of the post-Dombrowski era.
On the other hand, Jon Heyman of the New York Post reports that there is no no-trade clause in Devers’s new contract. This means he is still very much an asset if the Sox go into full rebuild.
But they wouldn’t dare? Would they?
▪ Quiz: Name three NFL running backs who had two Super Bowls of 100-plus yards rushing (answer below).
▪ One of my Twitter followers suggests that House Representative Kevin McCarthy go the Curt Schilling route and turn his speaker candidacy over to the Veterans Committee — “men whose opinions actually matter and who are in a position to actually judge a player.” (Schilling got 44 percent of votes from his peers after topping out at 71 percent with the BBWAA.) Another Twitter wiseguy wondered when the Republicans get to start an extra inning with a runner on second base.
▪ It can’t be fun for Mac Jones to hear what Boomer Esiason says about him. “Here’s the thing that I really dislike about Mac Jones, if you want to get to the root of it,” Boomer told WEEI’s “The Greg Hill Show.” “His body language, his facial expressions, his gyrations on the field piss me off.”
▪ After all the nonsense and noise of the last couple of years, the Brooklyn Nets might just sign up for more Kyrie Irving. The NBA’s most notorious team-killer is in the final year of his $36.5 million contract and might land a max deal after the way he’s played this season.
The Nets have won 19 of their 23 games since Irving returned from his eight-game (antisemitism) suspension. After Friday night’s win in New Orleans, Brooklyn had won 13 of 14 and trailed the Celtics by only one game for the top spot in the Atlantic Division.
Jacque Vaughn, who replaced Steve Nash early in the season, has become a top Coach of the Year candidate along with Joe Mazzulla.
▪ South Shore doctor Peter McDonald grew up in Hingham and remembers playing hockey with friends on Accord Pond when he was 15 years old and they got an unexpected visit from hockey royalty one Saturday morning in 1970: “This guy in sweatpants and a Bruins jacket skated across the pond towards us, took the puck, and wouldn’t give it back. All of us tried, but he was a master. This went on for a while. He started back toward his car and we followed him across the pond. He opened his trunk and gave us all sorts of Bruins stuff. Then he took off his skates and drove away. Bobby Orr.”
▪ American League Manager of the Year Terry Francona was back in Boston for the holidays and spent Christmas Eve handing out toys to less fortunate local families.
▪ Nice of Everett native/LSU coach Brian Kelly to run up the score against Purdue in the Citrus Bowl. 63-7. Nice. What a guy.
▪ The postseason-bound New York Football Giants play at Philadelphia Sunday at 4:25 in a game that will have zero impact on the Giants’ playoff positioning.
▪ The New York Times obituary on Barbara Walters stated, “The list of famous people Ms. Walters coaxed into going on camera with her is long. It includes Michael Jackson, Katharine Hepburn, Princess Grace of Monaco, and Barbra Streisand. She interviewed every American president and first lady from Richard and Pat Nixon to Barack and Michelle Obama, as well as Mr. Trump and his wife, Melania . . . world leaders like Margaret Thatcher, Boris N. Yeltsin, Yasir Arafat … ”
Let’s not forget Wade and Debbie Boggs. That’s right. Wade and Debbie sat for a series of interviews with Walters in Winter Haven, Fla., in March of 1989 in the wake of the Boggs vs. Margo Adams palimony dustup. Walters and her crew spent several days in and around Chain O’ Lakes Park and interviewed the Boggses at the USA Inn, less than 3 miles from the ballpark.
“I could win a million batting titles and never get on Barbara Walters,” reasoned Wade.
Walters’s Boggs segment aired on ABC’s “20/20″ on March 24, and Globe TV sports scribe Jack Craig reported that it “doubled the size of the program’s usual Boston audience.”
▪ Gotta admit it was pretty cool seeing Wayne Gretzky on the set with other TNT talking heads at the Winter Classic, appropriately gushing about Orr. It also was fun to hear that Sidney Crosby’s first time at Fenway was to witness a Vaughn walkoff homer back in the 1990s. The Pavlovian singing of “Sweet Caroline” was a Winter Classic low moment.
▪ You can see Bronson Arroyo in concert at The Burren in Somerville Jan. 11. He’s releasing a new album of original songs, “Some Might Say,” on Feb. 17.
▪ Did you know that Darwinzon Hernandez struck out the side on eight pitches in a game for the WooSox last summer? Starting against the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs at Polar Park, Hernandez fanned the side in the second inning with the help of two automatic strikes called because the batters were not ready with nine seconds left on the pitch clock. Get ready for some of this in the big leagues next season.
▪ Anybody else think it’s time to retire the “everybody clap your hands” audio during Celtics games at the Garden?
▪ The passing of Anita Pointer at the age of 74 on New Year’s Eve kindled more memories of former Celtic Paul Silas, who died Dec. 10. Silas grew up in a shared household in Oakland with Anita Pointer and her famous singing sisters, Ruth, June, and Bonnie.
▪ Quiz answer: Larry Csonka, Dolphins; Emmitt Smith, Cowboys; Terrell Davis, Broncos.