Picked-up pieces while remembering the Bill Belichick/Tom Brady nine Super Bowls from 2002-19 …
▪ Theo Epstein is back with the Red Sox as a part-owner of Fenway Sports Group and a senior adviser to its many holdings.
Too many holdings.
FSG’s insatiable quest to expand its portfolio and take over the world has made the Red Sox the abandoned stepchild of the corporation’s family. The Sox might as well be Connor Roy.
Theo and Sam Kennedy were teammates at Brookline High and did a lot of their learning as very young men under the tutelage of Larry Lucchino with the Padres in the 1990s. When Lucchino came to Boston as part of John Henry’s group, he had to negotiate with the Padres to acquire the services of “The Brookline Two.”
More than 20 years later, Kennedy is the CEO of the Sox and oft serves as a human shield when Henry won’t talk or when Tom Werner says something questionable. Theo, meanwhile, has emerged as the darling of Major League Baseball, the guy who broke 194 years’ worth of curses (Bambino and Billy Goat) in Boston and Chicago, then saved big league ball with new rules that shaved almost a half-hour off games last summer.
And now they all are together again.
It’s something of a weird job for Theo. It’s like an internship for becoming an MLB owner. He’s not going to move here, he’s not going to be around the Sox much, and he’s going to have a hand in picking a coach for Liverpool.
“I will not be the one making decisions,” Theo said in the news release announcing his return. “Rather I’ll be the one asking questions, offering opinions, building trust, and supporting the terrific people at FSG to help us reach new heights.”
Never mind all that, Theo. Just help Craig Breslow find some pitching.
Epstein can only help the Red Sox because he knows the owners, he knows the fans, and he understands the root of recent baseball problems in Boston.
He knows Henry well. He worked for him for more than a decade. He knows that Henry (who also owns the Globe) felt betrayed by Dave Dombrowski’s spending and has become emotional about buying talent. He knows this year’s team is a lost cause (why do you think he waited until February to come back on board?), but he can help Breslow make things better for next season. He knows the Sox farm system is mediocre with no pitching. Theo can be honest about it while supplying some cover for the beleaguered Kennedy.
Theo knows of the chaos at the last two trading deadlines. He knows Henry wanted Chaim Bloom to sell but others in the organization wanted Chaim to buy. Bloom did neither. Epstein was unofficially instrumental in the hiring of Breslow and very much wants the Yale lefty to succeed.
Theo’s opinion matters. And he knows the Sox will have to spend money to improve their sorry product, win back fans, and entice players from other markets to once again want to play here. And unlike Bloom and Breslow, Theo has Henry’s ear.
Theo won’t be at spring training when pitchers and catchers report, but he plans to be there in Fort Myers the first weekend of March for a partners meeting and again later in March to get familiar with Breslow’s staff. He knows Sox fans are depending on him to Make Red Sox Nation Great Again.
Now 50, Epstein is here to get ready for his final chapter in baseball. He knows that the Red Sox once again need to be a functional baseball team, a team with a clear direction.
He’s not in this for the money or the publicity. He wants to see the Red Sox succeed again.
This is how you would feel if Tom Brady were coming back to the Patriots.
▪ Quiz 1: Patrick Mahomes has a chance to become the third NFL quarterback to win back-to-back Super Bowl MVPs. Name the two who have done it.
▪ Quiz 2: Name the five Super Bowl MVPs who are still active (not including Nick Foles, who has not officially retired but is not considered active). Answers below.
▪ If you were at the Patriots’ first regular-season game at Schaefer Stadium — a 20-6 upset of the Raiders in front of 55,405 on Sept. 19, 1971 — you saw Apollo Creed’s last football game.
Carl Weathers (a.k.a. “Apollo Creed” of “Rocky” fame), who died last week at the age of 76, played his final NFL game in Foxborough and made two tackles, including a takedown of Bob “Harpo” Gladieux on a fourth-quarter punt.
Five years later, Weathers was on the big screen as Rocky Balboa’s fast-talking nemesis.
Weathers, a college linebacker at San Diego State, also played against Boston University in the 1969 Pasadena Bowl when Don Coryell’s Aztecs beat the Terriers, 28-7, at the Rose Bowl.
Weathers went undrafted in 1970 but played seven games for John Madden’s Raiders in 1970 and finished his NFL career as an Oakland special teamer in the Patriots’ ‘71 opener. Author Leigh Montville covered the Pasadena Bowl in ’69 and the Patriots’ opener in 1971, but says he has no memory of Weathers.
CBS’s Lesley Visser, a close friend of Madden’s, remembers, “John once went to a play to see Carl Weathers perform on stage. And John loved boxing. Riding the Madden Cruiser to a game in San Francisco, we once stopped in Vegas to see Riddick Bowe train for a fight at Caesars Palace. John said his advice to Weathers was, “In the boxing game, just call everyone ‘Champ.’ ”
▪ I was haunted to read in the Sports Business Journal that as part of FSG’s $3 billion investment into the PGA Tour, Henry ”led a contingent that included Jay Monahan and Sam Kennedy to Saudi Arabia to meet with Yasir Al-Rumayyan in mid January.” Al-Rumayyan manages Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, which finances the LIV golf tour and is also in discussions with the PGA Tour.
▪ The 49ers will be attempting to become the third NFL franchise to win a sixth Super Bowl. Only the Patriots and Steelers have done it.
▪ Bill Belichick should come back as coach of the Jets. Seriously. Most of the Jets people he hates are dead or gone, Bill and Aaron Rodgers love one another, and it would be a great public relations move for the cursed New York football franchise.
▪ Offering “iconic field box seats right behind the Red Sox on-deck circle,” a Red Sox account executive wrote this to a season ticket-holder: “Due to circumstances over the past few years, we have been able to open up rare locations here at Fenway that have not been available for years in our Season Ticket Memberships.” Hmmm. Wonder what those “circumstances” might be?
▪ Excusing the decay of their major league team, the Sox keep selling “the future,” “the farm system,” and “prospects.” Then we find out that independent evaluators rank them near the middle of all major league farm systems. The Globe’s Alex Speier wrote that multiple publications view the Sox as lagging behind other teams in the AL East.
Overall, Baseball America has Boston’s farm system ranked 14th of 30 teams. MLB Pipeline puts Boston 15th, and ESPN has the Sox 23rd. Some rankings have Boston higher, but there’s certainly no consensus to back management’s insistence that things will get better because the farm system is so good. And everyone is in agreement that the Red Sox don’t have nearly enough minor league pitching prospects.
▪ Hard to ever feel sorry for Rick Pitino, but here’s what the veteran St. John’s coach says about the state of big-time college sports in the horrible new world of NIL and the transfer portal: “It’s very tough to build. So many football coaches are getting out, so many basketball coaches are getting out … We can’t really build programs and culture because everybody leaves.”
Good for the players, I guess, but why does any sports fan invest time, money, and emotion in this farce? Where’s the fun in it when it’s a whole new team every year?
▪ Michael Savarino, grandson of Mike Krzyzewski, is averaging 12.8 points and connecting on 49 percent of this threes for Division 3 NYU.
▪ The logo on the front of the Memphis Grizzlies jerseys at the Garden Sunday looked remarkably similar to the cover of Paul McCartney’s 2013 album, “New.”
▪ According to the New York Times, Newport (Maine) high schooler Cooper Flagg (headed to Duke next season) projects to be the first Maine-born player drafted in the NBA’s first round since the Nets picked Vanderbilt’s Jeff Turner in 1984.
▪ It’s fair to say that Johnny Damon doesn’t keep up with MLB roster changes during the winter. When he was reached by the New York Daily News to talk about new Yankees left fielder Alex Verdugo, Damon was unaware that the Yankees had traded for outfielder Juan Soto. “Thank you for filling me in,” said Damon.
▪ The Allstate Mayhem guy is the most annoying, revolting person on television.
▪ Lots of NBA brainpower at the Newton North-Wellesley High game at North last Saturday. Senior Brady Stevens, son of Brad Stevens, is bound for Notre Dame, and the Celtics boss was on hand along with Jeff Van Gundy and Celtics assistant general manager Austin Ainge.
▪ Quiz answer: 1: Bart Starr (1967-68), Terry Bradshaw (1979-80). 2: Patrick Mahomes, Cooper Kupp, Von Miller, Joe Flacco, Aaron Rodgers.