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dan shaughnessy

The Chris Sale contract continues to haunt the Red Sox, and other thoughts

Chris Sale was introduced during pregame ceremonies on Opening Day, a game he did not start; he was scheduled for the second game of the season.Jim Davis/Globe Staff

Picked-up pieces while waiting for Reese McGuire to make a throw when an Oriole is stealing a base . . .

▪ Chris Sale on Saturday afternoon made his first appearance on the Fenway mound since 2021.

It was awful. In three innings, Sale gave up seven runs on seven hits (three homers), two walks, and a hit batsman. He threw 74 pitches, only 43 for strikes. The Orioles stole four bases while he was on the mound, and Baltimore led, 7-1, when Sale recorded his final out of the third inning.

Brutal. Sale certainly could return and pitch well for the rest of the season, but at this moment — given everything that’s happened — the contract extension given to Sale in the sugar-high spring of 2019 ranks as the worst deal in Boston sports history.


It’s worse than contracts given to Rusney Castillo or Pablo Sandoval. Worse than Carl Crawford or Matt Young. Way worse than David Price or Daisuke Matsuzaka. Worse than Vin Baker, Pervis Ellison, Antoine Walker, or even Rick Pitino. Worse than Kevin Stevens, Marty Lapointe, or Adalius Thomas.

Sale delivered in his first two seasons in Boston and got the final out of the 2018 World Series. This isn’t about that. This is about the non-yield since the Sox went out of their way to lock him up in the fateful spring of 2019.

In the four seasons since the new deal kicked in (2020, ‘21, ‘22, ‘23) Sale has made 12 starts, pitched 51⅓ innings, won five games, broken three bones, endured one Tommy John surgery, and when this year is over will have been paid $117 million.

The Sox finished last in 2020 and ‘22, and they stand a good chance to finish last again this year. Meanwhile — burned by the Sale signing — Boston’s ownership chose not to keep homegrown champion players Mookie Betts and Xander Bogaerts.


Betts and Bogaerts today are thriving for likely playoff teams in the National League West, while Sale’s contract remains a drag on the Boston franchise. At this hour, Chris Sale is the Ben Simmons of baseball.

“I was given that [contract] to do a job and I haven’t done that,” Sale said in spring training. “That has eaten me alive.”

Sox fans feel the same way.

There are two years left on Sale’s five-year, $145 million deal. He turned 34 Thursday and has not been All-Star-caliber since 2018. Saturday’s season debut was a gut punch to the hopes of Red Sox Nation.

▪ Quiz: Name the seven current MLB franchises that have never had a 100-win season (answer below).

▪ According to Forbes, the last-place Red Sox were the third-most-profitable team in MLB in 2022, trailing only the Mariners and Giants, while finishing just ahead of the Orioles and A’s. Oh, and the Sox also charge the highest ticket prices in baseball and are valued third-highest in MLB at $4.5 billion (trailing the Yankees and Dodgers).

▪ It’s never a good thing when the Sox lose an Opening Day slopfest while, in the Bronx, Gerrit Cole looks like Cy Young, Aaron Judge looks like Babe Ruth, and rookie shortstop Anthony Volpe looks like rookie shortstop Derek Jeter.

Cole fanned 11 in six innings of New York’s 5-0 win over the Giants, Judge homered on his first swing of the season, and the 21-year-old Volpe became the youngest member of the Yankees’ Opening Day starting lineup since Jeter (also 21) in 1996.


And later in the day, Xander Bogaerts went 3 for 4 with two doubles batting cleanup for the Padres.

Young Anthony Volpe was the starting shortstop for the Yankees on Opening Day.Seth Wenig/Associated Press

▪ Tweet of the week is this beauty submitted by NBC Sports Boston’s John Tomase from Fenway on Opening Day: “As a lifelong New Englander, I can’t tell you how depressing it is that Opening Day is now just a thing that happens between Lamar Jackson rumors.”

▪ Tuesday’s stinkbomb by the Celtics in Washington, followed by Thursday’s dismantling of the NBA-best Bucks in Milwaukee, demonstrates why it’s so difficult to believe in this team. They said they wanted the No. 1 seed, then failed to show up against the undermanned Wizards (no Bradley Beal or Kyle Kuzma). Two days later, they gored the Bucks, leading by as many as 49 points.

It’s clear there is nothing these guys will ever do that will inspire Joe Mazzulla to call them out. So we’ll just have to see if their “flip the switch” attitude works in the playoffs.

▪ More Celtics. Has there ever been a local team with more players who need to have their tires pumped than these guys? Messrs. Tatum, Brown, and Smart are needy triplets. Funny how great players like Jo Jo White and Kevin McHale never talked much about being All-NBA.

▪ Speaking of needy, we have Bob Kraft. He just had to let us know that he’s text buddies with Meek Mill. That little “look at me” tidbit put the onus on Bill Belichick to sign Jackson when we all know Kraft has no interest in meeting Jackson’s salary demand.


▪ Bravo to Kraft for launching a “Stand Up to Jewish Hate” campaign. Amazing that it came just a few days after Celtics social warrior/star Jaylen Brown (he took his message to the White House this past week) would not answer a question about whether he still considers Kanye West a role model.

▪ Six of seven New York Post baseball scribes picked the Red Sox to finish last. The outlier had the Sox fourth.

▪ Alex Cora does himself no favors talking about a chip on his shoulder and offseason happenings that he “took personally.” If Cora is referencing how he is characterized in “Winning Fixes Everything,” he should feel lucky that most of the harsh stuff in the book was quickly forgotten or dismissed. Why bring it up again?

▪ Brian Dutcher, head coach of San Diego State’s Final Four team, is the son of Jim Dutcher, McHale’s coach at the University of Minnesota.

▪ Final Four Miami head coach Jim Larranaga has multiple connections to New England basketball, not all of them regarding his career at Providence.

A star player at Archbishop Molloy back in 1966-67, Larranaga was scouted by then-Boston College coach Bob Cousy and wanted more than anything to play for the Cooz. Larranaga had a terrible game when Cousy came to scout, and Cooz told him, “Son, I think you might want to consider Division 2.”


Larranaga was good enough for Joe Mullaney at Providence and came back to haunt the Eagles during his career with the Friars.

▪ You knew it would happen. With Baby Boomers getting really old, tennis has officially ceded to pickleball. On Sunday, John McEnroe, Andre Agassi, Andy Roddick, and Michael Chang are competing in a $1 million pickleball tourney at a Florida casino.

▪ I feel bad for Roger Clemens, who insists that the Hall of Fame is no big deal to him.

This past week Clemens told USA Today, “I never played with the intention of making the Hall of Fame.”

Here’s what he told me in 1988: “I want to take my family to the Hall of Fame and show ‘em how I did. Besides winning a World Series, the next thing you strive for is to get into the Hall of Fame … That’s where you go forever.”

▪ The Hall in Cooperstown offers families/groups an opportunity to “spend a night with baseball’s legends.” Children ages 7-12 can sleep in the Hall of Fame Gallery, where plaques honoring Ted Williams, Babe Ruth, Jackie Robinson, and the rest are stationed. The event includes access to the museum’s public areas and a movie in the Bullpen Theatre. Interested groups should call (607) 547-0329 or visit baseballhall.org/events/extra-inning/.

▪ Corey Kluber gave up a homer to the second batter he faced in 2023. Twenty-one-year-old Ruth gave up zero homers in 323⅔ innings while going 23-12 with a 1.75 ERA for the world champion Red Sox in 1916.

▪ Red Auerbach’s George Washington Colonials are Colonials no more. The four finalists for a new nickname: Blue Fog, Ambassadors, Revolutionaries, Sentinels.

▪ LeBron is back. Fear the Lakers in the playoffs. They will not be an easy out in the so-so Western Conference.

▪ Iowa’s Caitlin Clark = Larry Bird. She might be the game-changer women’s basketball needs.

▪ Imagine the clueless folks at NFL Network letting go of a great reporter such as Mike Giardi.

▪ Former Globie Jackie MacMullan will be the commencement speaker for the University of New Hampshire. Jackie was captain of the UNH hoop squad in her senior season in Durham.

▪ The American League East is still in play, but the Sox can’t be happy losing the Fort Myers Chairman’s Cup to the Twins last weekend. The Sox had a 2-0 lead in the five-game series for the coveted Cup but dropped the final three exhibitions vs. Minnesota.

▪ The Angels are in town for Marathon Monday, and it’s possible Shohei Ohtani could be their starting pitcher for the 11 a.m. game.

▪ More birthday worlds (same day, same year) colliding: Former Rangers owner George W. Bush was born the same day as “Rocky” (Sylvester Stallone), July 6, 1946. The onetime wife of Joe DiMaggio (Marilyn Monroe) was born the same day as Andy Griffith (June 1, 1926). And the Globe’s Bob Ryan was born the same day as Tricia Nixon (Feb. 21, 1946).

RIP Globe photographer Frank O’Brien. Simply the best.

▪ Quiz answer: Blue Jays, Rangers, Marlins, Nationals, Brewers, Padres, Rockies.

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