Monday, February 21, 2011

The Other Old Timers

Shank writes a good column every now and then. His weekly CNN / SI effort is one of them.

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- I arrived in Florida for spring training last week and the first order of business was visiting with Joe Corchran and Tommy McLaughlin, longtime clubhouse workers for the Boston Red Sox. The guys behind the scenes carry the institutional memory for every big league club, and time with Joe and Tommy is always time well spent.

"Did you hear that Ernie Tyler died?'' Joe asked.

First I'd heard of it, I told him.

"A big deal in Baltimore,'' said Tommy. "A very big deal.''

Indeed. Tyler first worked for the Orioles during their inaugural season in 1954. He was an usher at the old Memorial Stadium on 33rd Street for six seasons before he took over as umpire attendant in 1960. Ernie took care of the umps' laundry, their cleats and their meals. He filled ticket requests and arranged for cabs. If they needed directions to Pimlico, Ernie could handle that, too.
Since Shank covered Baltimore in his earlier days, it's safe to say he knew Ernie and writes this in honor of him. I'm not quite sure what to make of one of Shank's better columns comes as a result of an event like this one; probably because stressful events concentrate the mind?

Sunday, February 20, 2011


Not a very tough call, mind you...

With nothing like that level of substance to talk about, when will we see our first genuine mail-it-in job? I'm guessing it will be the Sunday column.
Shank, naturally, does not disappoint (yet disappoints at the same time with over-the top schlock):

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Been here a week now, and it’s pretty clear that this is the greatest team in the history of baseball.

One hundred wins?

Easy. Why not go for the Mariners’ record of 116, established in 2001?

The 2011 Red Sox are the 1927 Yankees. They are Secretariat in the Belmont. They are the 1985 Bears and the 1995-96 Bulls. They are Nixon over McGovern in 1972.
It goes on like that for half the column. There is one good sign in all of this:

I have to get out of here
...before he makes more of an ass out of himself. Shank does, however, come back down to Earth later in the column:

Maybe we need to rein things in a little. Maybe it would be good to remember that the Sox will play half their schedule against the beastly American League East. Maybe we need to remember that injuries happen and that the Sox have an unproven kid behind the plate and a still-shaky shortstop rotation. Let’s not forget the inconvenient truths of Beckett (6-6, 5.78) and Jonathan Papelbon (3.90, eight blown saves) last year.
Nice of Shank to acknowledge reality.

Saturday, February 19, 2011


Shank's Saturday column covers Carl Crawford and all that it means to the Red Sox. Shank is fairly praiseworthy of Crawford:

Now he comes to Boston trying to make some history in a Red Sox uniform. Crawford is a Gold Glove left fielder who hit .307 with 19 homers, 90 RBIs, and 47 steals last year. He joins Adrian Gonzalez, Dustin Pedroia, Youkilis, David Ortiz, Jacoby Ellsbury, and J.D. Drew to give the Sox the best lineup in baseball.

You can make a case that Crawford was the big winner in NESN’s abysmal ratings last season. The Sox needed some splash and the acquisition of Crawford ($142 million), coming on the heels of the trade for Gonzalez, was done to bring the Sox back to relevance in a competitive sports market.
Be aware of what Shank said about Crawford shortly after the signing:

I worry about his legs. Crawford does a lot of his damage with his wheels and the horrid surface inside Tropicana Field no doubt took a toll. There is also his mediocre history at Fenway — a .275 career average and .301 on-base percentage with only four homers in 320 at-bats over 76 games. Fenway doesn’t seem to amplify his offensive skills.

On Tampa’s 100-loss teams, Crawford was the player who never mailed it in. With Evan Longoria and David Price still maturing, Crawford goes down as the most popular and best player in the history of the Rays franchise.
I included that second paragraph in the interest of fairness. I mentioned previously that Shank seems to write negative things in advance so he can say 'I told you so' in the event of a prolonged slump.

And what's with the similarity of columns the past few days? Do these guys hang around at lunch or dinner and share the same talking points they're going to mention in the next day's columns?

Friday, February 18, 2011

Fired Up

That's how you will not feel after reading Shank's column about Big Papi arriving at spring training. It's a decent enough column by Shank standards; maybe there just isn't a ton of things you can say about someone coming to the clubhouse.

Spotted in Steve Buckley's column, also on Big Papi:

Viewing the obligatory collection of misshapen media types standing off to the side, he laughed and said, “What’s up, (expletive)?” To one of them in particular, he leaned in and said, “Man, I thought you died!”
I wonder why that's in Buckley's column, but not Shank's?

Thursday, February 17, 2011

And Now, Batting Fourth...

Shank finally gets around to the obligatory Jacoby Ellsbury column. Unsuprisingly, Ellsbury doesn't want to discuss the 2010 season with Shank (as we're lead to believe in the very first sentence). There's not much new ground to cover in the first half of the column, Shank having devoted a number of columns on the subject. I was expecting much more petty vindictiveness (Mark McGwire & Jay Cutler mentions notwithstanding), but we'll just have to settle for this:

Ellsbury stonewalls better than most. Maybe it comes from being a Scott Boras client. Or maybe the kid is just a natural. In any event, he won’t give it up. He wouldn’t even pinpoint when his ribs were finally 100 percent.
Why would that be, so Shank can trash him on something else?

With nothing like that level of substance to talk about, when will we see our first genuine mail-it-in job? I'm guessing it will be the Sunday column.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Just Buy A Restaurant, Shank...

That way you'll be able to stir as many pots as you want at the same time!

Not content with declaring Jonathan Papelbon gone at year's end, or dredging up John Lackey's 14-11 record last year, Shank now aims his cross hairs at Josh Beckett, in a rather disingenuous fashion:

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Not to heap any additional pressure on the man,
Shank is just so full of shit, isn't he?

but Josh Beckett stands to be the most important Red Sox player as we look toward this season of great expectations.
Now, onward - to flunk his own logic test:

Sure, Kevin Youkilis is the soul of the Sox. Dustin Pedroia has been an MVP. Adrian Gonzalez could be the answer to Mark Teixeira. Carl Crawford brings new dimensions. Jacoby Ellsbury (would it have killed him to come here a couple of days early?) can be a star. Jon Lester is one of the best pitchers in baseball. Jonathan Papelbon hopes to return to his old dominant self.
So, Beckett's more important to the Red Sox this year than five everyday players, last year's ace, and your closer? And finally, a shot at Ellsbury. Shank's not disappointing so far. He hangs part of last season's woes on Becket before finally mentioning things Beckett did during the offseason to rectify things, then finally looks at the new year.

It’s Feb. 16 and Epstein is talking about an elite rotation and Beckett is talking about 100 wins. Don’t you just love spring training?
This is a textbook Shank passive / aggressive column.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

More Spring Training Dispatches

This is Shank's busiest time of the year, belting out a breathtaking four columns in the span of three days. On one hand, we have a CNN / SI column on spring training itself, with Shank telling a few stories from yesteryear.

Today's Globe column focuses in on pitcher John Lackey, and his 'disappointing' season from last year.

FORT MYERS, Fla. — How bad was it?

Despite popular perception, John Lackey wasn’t a total meatball artist last year. In 33 starts, Lackey went 14-11 with a 4.40 ERA. He led the Sox with 215 innings and struck out 156. Only 14 American League pitchers won more games than Lackey. So how come Lackey gets the Way Back Wasdin treatment everywhere he goes?
I would say 'because of writers like Shank'.

Shank's strange / dishonest conclusion:

Lackey is a workhorse who almost always keeps his team in the game. That should be enough in Boston in 2011.

Then again, we all know it’s almost never enough in Boston.
Because of writers like Shank, of course.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Shank Talks To An Athlete

We know that's not a standing headline. Shank talks about Jonathan Papelbon's non-future with the Red Sox.

FORT MYERS, Fla. — He’s gone. This is it. One more season and Jonathan Papelbon and the Red Sox get divorced. In 2011, Papelbon is the dead man walking (and striking out) batters on the Fenway Park mound. You can search long and far before you find a single soul who believes Papelbon will be part of the Red Sox next season.
This column's tone is pretty much the same as it reads above. It's more than garden variety pot stirring; he's pushing this theme pretty damn hard.

It makes you wonder - when does Shank start ripping Ellsbury again, tomorrow's column?

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Welcome To Sunny Florida!

Shank is in Fort Myers on his annual baseball junket. Witness the smooth transition from provincial semi-snobbery to someone who got his ass kicked by seventy inches (and counting!) of New England global warming:

FORT MYERS, Fla. — There are so many reasons that it’s better to be in Fort Myers than in Boston today.

I’m not usually much of a weather guy. I always felt sorry for my parents’ friends who traded their drafty New England farmhouses for some pre-fab condo in a sterile courtyard near an orange grove and an Olive Garden in central Florida. It struck me as an unholy swap. I’ll take the snow and ice if it comes with a neighborhood, lifelong friends, and memories.

This year is different. Life has been too hard in the Hub. Give me heat and humidity, even if it comes with a Perkins and pawn shop on every other block.

Give me the warmth of the sun.

Give me pitchers and catchers.

Give me baseball.

You should be here, too. Here are just a few reasons why:


You won’t confront a snow-forced “faceoff’’ every time you’re on a secondary road and there’s a car coming in the other direction. The streets here are snow-free and wide. You don’t have to visit the body shop every time you bang into a wall of concrete/snow. Nobody calls for a tow truck if you park on the side of the road for a moment. It’s shocking for those of us who just got off the plane from Ice Station Zebra/Boston.
It's not a genuine Shank column without a random insult or two:

You might ask new slugger Gonzalez, “Yo, Adrian, what’s up with No. 28?’’ It’s not exactly steeped in tradition. It was worn by lunkheads Steve Crawford, Jeff Stone, and Doug Mirabelli. It was also worn by Jack Billingham, Diego Segui, Dennis Bennett, and Wilbur Wood. It was Joe Rudi’s uniform number during the half-hour he spent with the Sox in 1976.
Ice Station Zebra? Way to date yourself, Shank!

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Fuck Shaughnessy, Hard

I'm aware that these are supposed to be the types of articles that this prick is renowned for, but I'm unable to stomach the thought of Shank lionizing a suicide canidate at this point of time. I will say this slow, for the 'Objective Bruce' shitheads that may be reading this. I had a younger brother who went through a quick depression (and a three day coke binge) and hung himself in depression after losing what he thought was the love of his life. Now I'm supposed to stand here and elevate Will above that?

Call me callous, but fuck Shaughnessy for this article. If you want to compare their ages (my little brother was 28 when this happened), maybe he has a point. Should we compare suicides at different points in life and decide what's better? The point I'll make is that it's a selfish act, and maybe shouldn't be forgiven.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

A Stand-Up Guy

I can't say a whole lot about Shank's latest effort, mainly because he writes so infrequently about hockey, he's probably wrong when he writes anything about it. I saw the hit about ten times, and I thought it was marginal, because the hit was right at 90 degrees, or to Sawada's right side, not in the back like a boarding call. I don't think it was worth a four game suspension, but that's the sort of thing you argue about.

I will, however, steal this comment from the Globe's comment thread:

Who would know more about cheap shots than Dan "They Call Me Character Assassin" Shaughnessy?

Monday, February 07, 2011

Shank's Trademark Optimism on display in his weekly CNN / SI article.

Hope you all enjoyed the Super Bowl last night. There won't be any football for a while.

Maybe a long while.

NFL fans have learned to live a few months without football. But a lockout? What will a lockout do to draft day? How will we live without offseason conditioning camps? Summer two-a-days? Those criminally-priced preseason games?

And what if there is no football come Labor Day? No Sunday Night Football. No Monday Night Football. No (gulp) Sunday afternoon football.
He reminds us of previous strikes, lockouts and other 'work stoppages' in other professional sports further on in the column. My interest in baseball has never been the same after the 1994 strike. I thought at the time - 'That's rich - millionaires going on strike'.

Baseball's darkest hours since the Black Sox Scandal came in 1994 when commissioner Bud Selig canceled the World Series due to a work stoppage. Refusing to accept a salary cap, Players Association chief Donald Fehr took the players off the field on Aug. 12, and on Sept. 14 Selig called the whole thing off. It marked the first time the World Series wasn't played since the New York Giants refused to play the Red Sox of the upstart American League after the 1904 season.

The baseball strike of '94 extended into spring training in 1995 and baseball owners assembled teams of replacement players. The fraudulent prospect of scab teams playing big league ball was stopped by a court ruling near the end of spring training and the real games resumed on schedule in 1995. But the damage was done.
I still feel a diminished interest about baseball since that time, but I'll acknowledge a more forgiving attitude towards football and basketball because those are sports that I like more. This means the NFL will weather this storm better because it's much more popular; I don't know how the NBA will fare if it stops operations due (like the NFL) to an expiring collective bargaining agreement. At first glance, the NFL and NBA situations share some attributes, are different in some respects (NFL - increasing revenue stream; NBA - not as much). Maybe it just boils down to one simple truth:

Owners and players are fighting over a pile of money they made by enticing fans with vicarious delusions of grandeur, just like the baseball players of yore.

Their humanity is merely a manipulative calculation fueled by the flames of greed and then superimposed onto all those who follow.
Mea culpa time?

You can make a case that baseball's steroid scandal was aided and abetted by the baseball strike of 1994. The national pastime was desperate to get fans back after the cancellation of the '94 postseason and this might be why we all looked the other way during the roided-up Mark McGwire-Sammy Sosa home run chase. Everyone was rooting for baseball to come back and the long ball was a big selling point. Cal Ripken's consecutive games streak and the home run chase of '98 were largely credited with "saving the game.'' We later learned that the homers were artificially enhanced. Rampant cheating was part of the post-strike fallout.
Somewhere, Shank absolved himself of this dilemma. I cannot find the article right now - help me out, dear readers!

Friday, February 04, 2011

I'm Out Of Ideas

...and we all know that means:

Picked-up pieces while sitting with the NFL commissioner, who says he’s still waiting for Bill Belichick to “tell his side of the story’’ regarding Spygate . . .
It's the expected subpar column as Shank treads water before Sunday's Super Bowl. Shots at various athletes / coaches abound, including Curt Schilling, Ben Roethlisberger, Deion Sanders, Bill Belichick, Lance Armstrong and Roger Clemens.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

You're Both Right

Shank shakes off the past couple of snowstorms and comes up with another Boston College connection a few days before B.J. Raji plays in the Super Bowl on Sunday.

He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother.

Actually, he is a little heavy. The brother of Boston College basketball forward Corey Raji weighs 337 pounds. And he’s playing in the Super Bowl Sunday.

“A lot of people don’t know B.J. is my brother,’’ said BC’s senior slasher. “Not everybody can say that their brother is playing in the Super Bowl. It’s just a blessing to have somebody that close to me in one of the biggest games in the world.’’
A good column ensues, mainly because he's not able to rip on
this guy.