Baseball thoughts while the Yankees are in town for a four-game series that looked “big” when we first saw the schedule last year. That was before Jhoulys Chacin and Travis Lakins were selected to start the first two games for Boston.
■ Baseball, and the Red Sox in particular, should prepare for a television ratings beatdown of epic proportions when the Sox and Yankees go up against the Patriots and Steelers on national television Sunday night. This is going to be Secretariat at the Belmont, a Nielsen thrashing like we’ve never seen. Baseball and the Red Sox thoroughly deserve it. MLB shows contempt for its remaining (mostly older) fans, force-feeding four-hour games on a regular basis. Any league that allows Boston to feature 21 men in the bullpen deserves to be humbled. Alex Cora joked about it when the call-ups were announced Tuesday, saying “The games, instead of four hours, they’re going to be five hours,’’ but this is no joking matter. The Sox are certainly obligated to do everything they can while they are still mathematically in contention, and the expanded roster rules are being changed next season, but that doesn’t spare us from this soft parade of pitching changes over the next couple of weeks. The analytic-obsessed Sox play the longest games in the majors (3:24, seven minutes longer than the next-worst team). They attempt to strike out every batter, work every count to 3 and 2, nibble and feature all pitches against .180 hitters, step off and look into their hats whenever there’s a man on second, and generally suck the life out of the viewing experience. Other than that, everything at the old ballyard is just swell.
■ NESN loves cheesy graphics. I have an idea for a new one. Show us a map of American League standings highlighting all the teams bound for the playoffs. Then have the upbeat manager of the Red Sox operate the “Cora-Strator” underlining all probable playoff teams. Cora can use a Sharpie to draw a loop around Boston, indicating that the path to the 2019 World Series is likely to pass over Fenway Park. This would be NESN gold. Better even than the “Heat Zone”.
■ The Yankees have a lot more at stake in these games than the Red Sox. The Yanks went into Saturday’s play in a dead heat with the Astros for best record in the American League (92-50). Everything points to a New York-Houston ALCS and home-field advantage could make a big difference.
■ There was a little buzz in the Fenway stands in the later innings of Saturday’s loss. Fans were on their phone buzzing about the Patriots’ acquisition of Antonio Brown.
■ John Smoltz was in town for television duties and relayed this story from 2009 when started the season with the Red Sox: “After they let me know I went to the Cardinals. I was really struggling and couldn’t figure it out. Chris Carpenter came up to me and said, ‘I know what you are throwing on every pitch.’ He explained to me what it was that I was doing and in the next game I went out and struck out seven straight batters. It is the all-time Cardinal record and you could win a lot of bets on that one. I knew I wasn’t going to get the eighth guy. It was Tony Gwynn Jr. and Tony Gwynn owned me and junior hit a ball up the middle.’’
■ The champions of the Jimmy Fund were at Fenway en masse for their gold ribbon ceremony as part of Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.
■ J.D. Martinez (two bad plays in right Saturday) should stick with the Red Sox. He is never going to be a good big league outfielder, which means the National League is out of the question if Martinez opts out of his Sox deal.
■ Red Sox CEO Sam Kennedy Friday traveled to Beverly, where he presented a 2018 championship ring to ALS warrior Pete Frates.
■ Trot Nixon was at Fenway with his wife Kathryn and two sons, Chase and Luke. Chase Nixon, who was born Sept. 11, 2001, is a high school senior who plays football and baseball in Wilmington, N.C.
■ In case you missed it, Friday’s New York Daily News cover featured a photo of Aaron Judge and a giant headline, “Hunt For Dead October — Yankees out to bury rival Boston’s playoff hopes.’’ Over at the New York Post, columnist Ken Davidoff suggested the Yanks would benefit by tanking against Boston in an effort to get the reeling Red Sox into a five-game series. “The Yankees would absolutely maul the Red Sox,’’ Davidoff wrote.
■ The owner of one of the local parking lots near Fenway told me that Friday night marked the first time he did not sell out his lot for a Red Sox-Yankees game in 20 years.
■ Why does Dave Dombrowski keep spending big money for starting pitchers when he can trot out 13 different pitchers in the first two games against the Yankees?
■ Bill Fitch went into the Basketball Hall of Fame this weekend. The honor was overdue. How does a former Celtic coach fit into a baseball column? Easy. The onetime Celtics boss was Larry Bird’s first professional coach and won a championship with the 1981 Celtics. Fitch cut his teeth coaching basketball and baseball at Creighton University, where one of his young pitchers was Hall of Famer Bob Gibson.
■ Tony La Russa is brokering a meeting between Bob Cousy and Bill Belichick.
■ Congratulations to Abby Murphy and her husband, Eamon, who welcomed Emeric Laighean Murphy to Red Sox Nation Friday night.
■ Happy 70th birthday to Red Sox/Globe owner John Henry, who hits the magic number this Friday the 13th.