Picked-up pieces while wondering when Pete Rose becomes commissioner of baseball …
▪ When Chaim Bloom sat for his first spring training interview at Fenway South on Valentine’s Day, the first question was, “Do you think your job is on the line this year?”
Welcome back, Red Sox.
No pressure, Chaim.
The Sox open their 123rd big league season at Fenway Park against the Orioles Thursday afternoon. That night, the first-place Bruins will play the Columbus Blue Jackets at the Garden, while the Celtics will be in Milwaukee for a critical game against the Bucks. The Bruins have a chance to win more games than any other team in NHL history, and the Celtics — who have more good players than any other NBA team — are trying to make it to the Finals for a second consecutive spring.
The Red Sox? They’re trying to avoid a second straight last-place finish and abject irrelevance in the New England sports marketplace.
This would not be a good year for the Local Nine to get off to a rough start. Local fans are all about the Bruins, the Celtics, and championship hopes. The offseason Patriots are never out of our thoughts, and the Sox can ill afford to be resting at the bottom of the American League East when the Celtics and Bruins finish their playoff runs (hopefully in June).
Red Sox executives got a wake-up call when they were roundly booed at a traditionally friendly Winter Weekend fan event in Springfield at the end of January. Many fans are angry at the direction the team has taken since winning its last World Series in 2018 and firing Dave Dombrowski in 2019.
Bloom spent his offseason signing once-star players (Corey Kluber, Adam Duvall, Justin Turner, Kenley Jensen) to team-friendly deals while hoping the national nerd newspapers would boast about Boston’s great farm system. His big winter acquisition was signing Masataka Yoshida, a soon-to-be-30-year-old outfielder from Japan. Fortunately for Bloom, Yoshida looked like the goods in the World Baseball Classic, batting cleanup for Japan’s tourney champs.
But a million questions remain.
Will Chaim’s infusion of old talent, plus Yoshida, make up for the losses of Xander Bogaerts, Nathan Eovaldi, Michael Wacha, J.D. Martinez, and Christian Vázquez? Can Chris Sale be healthy and dominant for the first time since the middle of 2018? Are the spring health woes of pitchers James Paxton, Brayan Bello, Joely Rodríguez, Garrett Whitlock, and Wyatt Mills indicative of things to come? Can Christian Arroyo and Kiké Hernández be a serviceable keystone combo? Is Triston Casas ready to mash big league pitching? Do the Sox have enough (any?) catching?
An in-house NESN spot that airs during spring training games features a lot of reasons to believe and ends with Sale saying, “Watch out.”
Or “look out below”?
▪ Quiz: Name the Dodgers’ all-switch-hitting infield of the 1960s. Extra credit if you know which one appeared on “Gilligan’s Island.”
▪ One of my readers suggests that Jayson Tatum skip the 2023 playoffs to rest up for the 2024 NBA All-Star Game.
▪ Wonder what Ime Udoka is up to these days.
▪ The plague of legalized sports gambling has wholly infested NESN, WEEI, the Sports Hub, and NBC Sports Boston. And it’s not just the commercials. You can’t watch a Celtics game without the ubiquitous Scal in your face talking betting, and the same goes for real journalists Tom Giles and Chris Forsberg, who are compromised, delivering betting segments that are part of the game presentation.
Whatever happened to journalism? It’s inappropriate for the folks who call games and comment on outcomes to also comment on and promote betting lines and point spreads. Period.
▪ This from last Sunday’s New York Times Q&A with Jaylen Brown: “Q. You described Kanye as a role model in the past. How do you feel about him now? A. Go to the next question. I’m not going to answer that.”
Brown is stubborn. Brown does not like to be told what to do. But his refusal to renounce Kanye’s antisemitism invalidates much of Brown’s own social justice efforts. Is it that hard to say, “I disagree with my friend’s views on Jewish people and hope he gets the help he needs”?
In the same interview, Brown spoke of “a part of the fan base that exists within the Celtic nation that is problematic. If you have a bad game, they tie it to your personal character.”
This is not that, Jaylen. This is me wondering how Brown can be on the right side of so many issues but let his position on this linger in ambiguity.
▪ The WBC ended with 2023′s equivalent of southpaw/slugger Babe Ruth coming out of right field to fan Rogers Hornsby for the final out of the seventh game of the World Series. After striking out Angels teammate Mike Trout to clinch the WBC, Shohei Ohtani said (through an interpreter), “This is the best moment in my life.”
It was only the 24th time in 6,174 plate appearances that Trout swung and missed at three pitches in a single at-bat. Try to imagine any other sport in which a team with the game’s two best players cannot qualify for a watered-down postseason.
▪ How The Mighty Have Fallen Dept.: The New York Post last weekend ran a fantasy draft preview ranking all major league outfielders. The Red Sox had none of the top 42. Alex Verdugo was ranked 43rd and Yoshida 44th. We’ve come a long way from Rice, Lynn, and Evans, no?
▪ The prophetic Doobie Brothers in 1974 released an album titled, “What Were Once Vices Are Now Habits.” Sounds like the state of sports betting in America in 2023. “Here, kid. First one’s free.”
▪ Rick Pitino. More comebacks than Richard Nixon or Cher. Sippin’ Ricky returned to the Big East with a six-year contract at St. John’s. That’s a long way from Panathinaikos, Greece.
Pitino was 26 when he took over as head coach at Boston University in 1978. He was 102-146 as head coach of the Celtics from 1997-2000.
Amazing that he would return to legitimacy after a stint at Iona — which is where Jim Valvano plied his trade before ascending to faux sainthood at North Carolina State. Coach V did a lot of great things and put a brave face on his cancer, but he was Pitino-esque in every way.
Can’t wait until Pitino tells St. John’s fans, “Chris Mullin’s not walking through that door.”
▪ Ed Cooley served Providence well, going 242-153 in 12 seasons, making seven trips to the NCAA Tournament. He becomes the first Georgetown men’s basketball coach in a half-century with no ties to John Thompson (the coach from 1972-99).
▪ Larry Lucchino — the adult in the room when the Red Sox actually had great vision — was a sophomore bench player when Princeton made it to the Final Four with Bill Bradley in 1965.
▪ Never forget that Fairleigh Dickinson lost to Merrimack in North Andover the week before taking down No. 1 seed Purdue in the NCAA Tournament.
▪ Geno’s UConn women (31-6), advancing to 29 consecutive Sweet 16s but bounced Saturday, have not won a national championship since 2016.
▪ Fraud Coach Prime Update: More than 35,000 yahoos are expected to attend Colorado’s spring football game, which will be televised on ESPN April 22.
▪ WBZ radio legend Jonny Miller will be attending his 65th Red Sox home opener March 30.
▪ Red Sox minor leaguer Albie Pearson and first baseman Norm Zauchin were traded to the Senators for Pete Runnels in 1958. Pearson was only 5 feet 5 inches, but wound up playing nine seasons in the big leagues. After winning two batting titles in five seasons with the Sox, Runnels was traded from Boston to Houston for Román Mejias.
Pearson and Mejias died on back-to-back days (Feb. 21 and 22) last month. These are things Red Sox fans notice.
▪ Joe Pepitone and John Lennon were both born on Oct. 9, 1940. That’s almost as good as Nomar Garciaparra and Monica Lewinsky both being born in California on July 23, 1973.
▪ You’ll be able to buy an Aaron Judge-inspired “99 Burger” at Yankee Stadium this season for $19.99. Got to be better than a Reggie Bar, right?
▪ Hope Tom Hanks goes full Jimmy Dugan when he gives the commencement address at Harvard in May and tells grads, “There’s no crying in baseball!”
▪ Congrats to Joe Amorosino Sr., a Massachusetts Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Famer who’ll be honored during the Celtics-Jazz game next Friday at the Garden. He’ll be honored as “Jr. NBA (Celtics) Coach of the Year” for 56 years of operating youth basketball camps, including a partnership with the Celtics for the last 11 years.
The 84-year-old Amorosino will run 14 weeks of Celtics camps this summer. A former NBA scout, Coach Amo coached Quincy High teams in the 1970s and ’80s.
▪ Congrats to Worcester North for winning the boys’ state basketball championship. The Polar Bears played the most ferocious full-court (high school) defense these eyes have ever seen. There was no beating them with the Picket Fence Play. They never got caught watching the paint dry.
▪ Best wishes go out to Dartmouth football coach Buddy Teevens, who was critically injured in a bicycle accident in St. Augustine, Fla., last week.
▪ In the same spirit, a big shout-out to Celtics PR legend Heather Walker, who is bravely battling an insidious disease while taking care of her husband and two daughters. Heather continues to inspire us all.
▪ Quiz answer: 1B Wes Parker, 2B Jim Lefebvre, SS Maury Wills, 3B Jim Gilliam. Lefebvre appeared with the Professor and Mary Ann.