Picked-up pieces while finally watching football again . . .
▪ It’s been several days and we still have no acceptable explanation for the Red Sox front office/dugout quitting in mid-game at Fenway Monday while NESN’s Baghdad Bob barkers were still breathlessly promoting the Sox’ chances in the “wild-card race.”
Here’s what happened: With the Sox sitting 4½ games out of the final AL wild-card spot, Boston took a 4-3 lead into the top of the sixth against Houston — the team holding the final wild-card spot. Righthander Kyle Barraclough, a 33-year-old journeyman who pitched for the High Point Rockers earlier this season, was on the mound for the Sox in relief of Chris Sale.
Barraclough walked the first two batters in the sixth, then gave up a two-run triple to Jose Altuve. Boston trailed, 5-4.
Nobody warming in the bullpen.
When Barraclough hit the next batter, there was still nobody throwing in the Sox pen. Manager Alex Cora had no lefthander in his bullpen, so Barraclough pitched to mighty Yordan Alvarez, who cranked a three-run homer.
Sox down, 8-4.
Still nobody throwing.
Barraclough walked the next two batters, then hit another batter to load the bases.
Then came an RBI single; 9-4.
No activity in the bullpen.
Barraclough retired the next two batters.
The inning was over.
So was the game.
And the 2023 Red Sox season.
Barraclough finished the game, giving up 10 runs on 11 hits, five walks, and three hit batters in 4⅓ innings. He was sent back to Worcester the next day. None of this was his fault.
The blame lies with a front office that gave Cora an unwinnable hand in a game the Sox had to win. Because of medical evaluations and analytics, Cora was told he had to get through this game with four pitchers: Sale, Barraclough, Chris Martin, and Kenley Jensen. He had no lefty in the pen and did not want to go to specialists Martin or Jensen too soon after Sale left. So he showed the world what he had, effectively holding up a sign that read, “This is all they’re giving me, folks.”
After the disgrace, Cora explained, saying, “You’re not going to jeopardize somebody’s career because we have to win today.”
So the Red Sox tanked a game less than four days after CEO Sam Kennedy told me, “We absolutely feel we are on the right track toward building a World Series champion this year, next year, and in the years beyond that.“
After Monday’s white flag, the Sox rolled over in their final two against Houston and were 6½ out of playoff contention when they arrived in Kansas City Friday.
We should not be surprised. These Red Sox weren’t built to win in 2023 and Boston baseball boss Chaim Bloom reenforced this truth by doing nothing at the Aug. 1 trade deadline, when the Sox were two back.
I reached out to Bloom Thursday to discuss Monday’s debacle. He politely declined to comment on the situation.
▪ Quiz: Name six switch-hitting Hall of Famers (non-pitchers) who’ve been inducted this century (answer below).
▪ Order Gary Myers’s “Once a Giant: A Story of Victory, Tragedy, and Life After Football,” a new book on the inside story of the Super Bowl champion 1986 Giants. There’s great stuff on the Bill Parcells-Bill Belichick dynamic, and the emergence of Belichick as an NFL genius. Its release date is Sept. 12.
Here’s the author on why Bob Kraft hired Pete Carroll instead of Belichick (then New England defensive coordinator) after the breakup with Parcells in 1997: “When Parcells and Kraft split, Kraft and his wife, Myra, took Belichick and his wife, Debby, out to dinner in Boston. Kraft explained why he couldn’t promote Belichick. He had such a residual bitter taste from three years with Parcells that he needed a clean break from his coaching tree. He hired Carroll instead.”
Lawrence Taylor on Belichick: “I know Belichick is racking up all kinds of accolades and championships, but he’s still my No. 2 coach when it comes to Bill Parcells. Now, No. 2 ain’t bad, but he’s still my No. 2.”
According to former Giants quoted in Myers’s book, Parcells has loaned more than $4 million to ex-players in need, with no expectations of being paid back. “Some of these guys spent 10 to 12 years with me,” Parcells told the author. “Some of them didn’t have fathers. I feel an obligation to help them . . . They sacrificed so much for me . . . ”
In an email exchange with the author, Belichick answered 14 of Myers’s 15 questions, submitting a thoughtful document of 2,500 words. The only question Belichick chose not to answer was: “How do you think the ‘86 Giants would have done against the ‘07 Patriots or whatever of your Patriots teams you consider to be the best?”
▪ Kudos to Sean McDonough for calling out the Red Sox after Mookie Betts’s Sunday homer at Fenway. McDonough told the WEEI audience: “It’s a trade that can never be defended and a stain that will never be erased, the trade of Mookie Betts by the Red Sox.” Like Dennis Eckersley and the late Jerry Remy, McDonough speaks the truth on broadcasts. Meanwhile, we still hear the phony narrative that Betts “was never going to stay here anyway” — a handy excuse for a big-market ball club that charges the highest prices in baseball but would not pay market value to keep its brightest star.
▪ Sometime in September, a panel of veteran baseball writers will produce an eight-person ballot consisting of executives, managers, and umpires for consideration for the 2024 class at the Baseball Hall of Fame. Former Red Sox CEO Larry Lucchino and present Dodgers CEO/president Stan Kasten are under consideration. Both have impressive credentials.
Lucchino ran the Orioles and Padres before coming to Boston, and the Sox front office has been toothless since Lucchino was booted to the curb in 2015. Kasten ran the Atlanta Braves and Washington Nationals before taking over the Dodgers.
A common denominator for these two is architect Janet Marie Smith, who changed baseball with Lucchino when Camden Yards was built 30 years ago. Smith also renovated Fenway Park and Dodger Stadium. She deserves Hall consideration along with Lucchino and Kasten. If the ballot produces any new Hall of Famers, they will be announced at the Baseball Winter Meetings in Nashville in December.
▪ It feels like we read about another Fenway Sports Group acquisition every other day. And with each announcement, it feels like the Red Sox become just another piece of FSG’s booming portfolio.
▪ Dwight Schmidt, the father of Yankees pitcher Clarke Schmidt, is a veteran pilot for Delta Airlines and recently flew the Bronx Bombers to Tampa for a series against the Rays.
▪ Darkhorse candidate to land Shohei Ohtani: Seattle Mariners.
▪ Dwight Gooden and Darryl Strawberry will have their numbers retired by the Mets next season. Mets with their numbers already retired include Casey Stengel, Gil Hodges, Tom Seaver, Willie Mays, Jerry Koosman, Mike Piazza, and Keith Hernandez.
▪ Speaking of Gooden, we learned this past week that he almost wound up throwing the final pitch of the 1986 Mets World Series win over the Red Sox. On a show with two New York Post reporters, Gooden told the hosts that if Marty Barrett had reached against Jesse Orosco with two out in the ninth of Game 7 (Mets leading, 8-5), Mets manager Davey Johnson planned to bring Gooden into the game to face Jim Rice or Bill Buckner. “I was actually warming up in the bullpen,” said Gooden. Love this stuff. Thirty-seven years later we are still learning stuff about Games 6 and 7.
▪ Eighth-seeded Maria Sakkari of Greece was bounced from the US Open in the first round, then noted the smell of marijuana wafting into Court 17. “The smell, oh my gosh. I didn’t expect to smell it, but it has nothing to do with the match,” Sakkari said. She should talk to geezer American League relievers who warmed up in front of the Fenway Park bleachers in the late 1960s.
▪ Gamblers poison sports more each day. At least one BBWAA member was recently contacted by an anonymous character who turned out to be a writer from a betting site, trying to get a leg up on MVP voting for 2023.
▪ Speaking of gambling, it’s a little sad to see the once-great, 40-year-old Matt Leinart doing cheesy DraftKings ads.
▪ In February, a statue of the late Kobe Bryant will be dedicated outside Crypto.com Arena alongside Shaquille O’Neal, Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Elgin Baylor, Jerry West, and Chick Hearn.
▪ Adam Lazarus’s “The Wingmen” is an excellent history of the friendship between Ted Williams and pilot/astronaut/senator John Glenn. Teddy Ballgame fans will learn some new things about their hero. A worthwhile read.
▪ Quiz answer: Ozzie Smith, Eddie Murray, Roberto Alomar, Tim Raines, Chipper Jones, Ted Simmons (Murray and Smith were teammates at Locke High School in Los Angeles).