Sunday, March 31, 2013

Can You Move The Goalposts In Baseball?

I'm wondering what it would take for Shank not to complain about something. I think the answer is 'nothing', because once the Red Sox took steps last year to remove massive contracts and malcontents from their roster, he's bitching (again) about something else.
FORT MYERS, Fla. — The Red Sox are selling character this spring. They have cleaned up their toxic clubhouse.

No more Josh Beckett snarling and looking for snitches. No more Carl Crawford complaining about how mean everybody is in Boston. No more aloof Adrian Gonzalez, arms folded, looking down on those who would question his commitment. Kevin Youkilis isn’t here to gossip or complain. Goofy Bobby Valentine is gone and so are the coaches who wouldn’t talk to the manager. Jon Lester has promised to smile.

It’s all Hakuna Matata in Camp Farrell.


I hate to break it to everybody, but chemistry in a baseball clubhouse is way overrated. Winning requires talent, pitching, and three-run homers.
Of course you'd think a rational person might wait for a few regular season games to be played to see if in fact the Red Sox actually win some games, but that would require a rational person...

Thursday, March 28, 2013

At Smith Barney, They Earn It

That's the most recent observation from Captain Obvious:
FORT MYERS, Fla. — The worst-kept secret of Red Sox spring training finally spilled out of the ball bag Wednesday before the Sox played the Miami Marlins at JetBlue Park.

Jon Lester will be the Opening Day starter against the Yankees in New York Monday afternoon.

“That’s a surprise in camp — in Camp No Surprise,’’ said manager John Farrell.

Lester will become the first Red Sox pitcher to start three consecutive openers since Pedro Martinez started seven straight from 1998-2004. The only other lefties to start three straight openers for the Sox are Mel Parnell and Babe Ruth.
No shots at John Henry or Larry Lucchino? What gives? And what's a column on Jon Lester without a mention of birds and Buds?
Getting Lester back on track has been one of the top goals of the spring of 2013. Still only 29 years old, the big southpaw is 85-48 (.639) over seven seasons, but he slumped badly beginning in the infamous September of 2011. In his last four games of ’11, Lester went 0-3 with an ERA of 8.24. He gave up 25 hits and 12 walks in 19⅔ innings. After manager Terry Francona was fired, Lester was fingered as one of the chicken-and-beer brigade and he seemed to carry psychological baggage into the 2012 season.
That'll never get old, will it?

In a rare moment of guilty feelings / candor, Shank then mentions this:
“It’s all about standing tall,’’ Lester said after Wednesday’s outing. “It sounds simple, but for whatever reason I morphed into it from 2011 to 2012. I was pitching like I was 5-10 instead of like I’m 6-4. You can see it. You look at it, side-by-side, even someone who doesn’t know anything about baseball [I think he was looking at me when he said this] can see it. I couldn’t dig out. I don’t know how it worked out in my head, but it wasn’t good. So this spring I overhauled everything and I’m back to being me.’’
Translation - 'shut your piehole about me for a while and let me pitch.'

We'll see if that's 'message received' or not.

Unruly 'Noted'

What in the heck is this? A Red Sox notebook from The CHB?

Sure, it's sitting in the premium spot (the web version of above the fold) on the website, but there it is, not a column, not a game story but a notebook.

There's still a bit of snark: He takes aim at Dustin Pedroia's helmet problems to suggest that the Mighty Mite is on steroids.

But for today at least, Shank's been relegated to intern territory. Tee hee. 

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Phi Slamma Jamma II

Shank is all over the latest Cinderella story of this year's NCAA men's basketball tournament.
FORT MYERS, Fla. — They play in the newly chartered Dunk City. They play on a campus that’s only been open since 1997. The oldest alums are in their early 30s. They play in the Atlantic Sun Conference. They are the lowest-seeded team (15) in the history of the NCAA Tournament’s Sweet 16.

And now they belong to the universe.

Florida Gulf Coast University is the home of the hottest sports story in the land. The Eagles just routed Georgetown and San Diego State in the Philadelphia sub-regional. Friday night they’ll play the University of Florida in Arlington, Texas, for a shot to advance to the Elite Eight. Not bad for a school that didn’t exist 20 years ago.

There never has been anything like this in sleepy Fort Myers. This is bigger than Deion Sanders. It’s bigger than the opening of Mike Greenwell’s amusement park. It’s bigger than Lou Gorman serving as grand marshal of the City of Lights Festival parade. It’s bigger than Red Sox vs. Twins in the rubber game of the Mayor’s Cup Series.
The only thing of note is the heavy doses of hyperbole throughout the column.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Yank on This

Not to walk all over what Roger wrote, but The CHB's Sunday column is guilty of premature evacuation.

How many times have this group of Yankees been written off as too old, too overpaid, too hurt, too well, too anything? And yet all they do is win:

1996 New York Yankees
1997 Baltimore Orioles
1998 New York Yankees
1999 New York Yankees
2000 New York Yankees
2001 New York Yankees
2002 New York Yankees
2003 New York Yankees
2004 New York Yankees
2005 New York Yankees††
2006 New York Yankees
2007 Boston Red Sox
2008 Tampa Bay Rays
2009 New York Yankees
2010 Tampa Bay Rays
2011 New York Yankees
2012 New York Yankees

That's 13 times in 17 years, in case you are wondering.

Then there's the Blue Jays. So what, exactly, makes them such a slam-dunk for the AL East this year? The addition of three players from the last-place Miami Marlins? Good luck.

Monday, March 25, 2013

It's Never Over!

Shank's Sunday column laments the current state of the Red Sox - Yankees rivalry.
I had this image in my head during the papal conclave. Gathered with holy men from around the globe, there was a cardinal from Boston and a cardinal from New York. Sean O’Malley and Timothy Dolan. I wondered if our guy and their guy might get into it — right in the middle of the Sistine Chapel. A little good-natured Red Sox-Yankees ribbing. Maybe an unholy chant would break out in Latin.

But no.

The rivalry as we knew it is over. It’s no longer an issue of which team will finish first and which one will settle for the wild card.

The question now is, “Who are you going to pick to finish in last place — the Red Sox or the Yankees?’’
The column's a decent summary of the American League East as it's shaping up for the start of the season next week.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

The Book Tour Continues - III

It looks like Shank lit the room up a few days ago on another leg of his book tour.
Melrose, Mass. — Author and journalist Dan Shaughnessy paid a visit to the Melrose Public Library Tuesday night to talk about his latest book, “Francona: The Red Sox Years.”

The event was part of the Author’s Corner, an ongoing program that brings adult and children’s authors to the Melrose library for book readings. (Click here to view the full photo gallery.)

Shaughnessy, a Boston Globe sports columnist, shared stories from the nonfiction piece he co-wrote with former Boston Red Sox manager Terry “Tito” Francona.
I'll just go with the interesting bits (my emphasis in italics):
Shaughnessy, who approached the podium at 7:30 p.m., full of energy and wit, spent the first part of the evening sitting in the audience, talking with guests.
Shaughnessy said he emailed Francona the day he was fired from the Red Sox about the possibility of a book deal.
“There’s one we like about Manny Ramirez,” said Shaughnessy. “We all know Manny was just an interesting guy. There’s one where they’re in the World Series in game four against the Cardinals. Manny’s at the plate and an argument ensues…Terry pulls Manny aside and says ‘what’s going on’ and Manny said, ‘he says I’m stealing his signs.’ Terry said, ‘Manny doesn’t even know our signs!’”
Around 8 p.m., Shaughnessy took a half hour to answer questions from the audience.

One guest wondered if Francona would ever return to manage the Red Sox.

“No, they’re mad at him,” Shaughnessy said, adding that Red Sox owner John Henry would not answer one of Francona’s emails when they were writing the book.

Shaughnessy, who used to be close with Henry, couldn’t offer an explanation for the team owner’s behavior, stating Henry doesn’t respond to his emails anymore either.
Another fan asked if Shaughnessy regrets anything he wrote about Francona prior to his current relationship with the man.

“I was never harsh towards him,” Shaughnessy said. “He would get mad but there was nothing we couldn’t get past. I really liked him and I love him now.”

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Asking The Stupid Questions - II

The NFL has changed the tuck rule, which many of us Patriots fans remember. Shank, naturally, takes a negative view of this rule change.
So, now it can be asked: Was the Patriots dynasty built on a lie?
It was not built on a lie; it was 'built' because a rule that was in place when this game took place benefitted the Patriots. Other than an effort in self-serving controversy generation, I don't see the need to call or interpret this rule change as something nefarious or dishonest, or as an excuse to rewrite history.
OK, maybe that’s a little harsh. But the NFL rules committee on Wednesday eliminated the phony “Tuck Rule,” which means the team’s first championship never should have happened.

It really was a fumble, after all.
My off the cuff response - this is simply foolish. A rule was in the playbooks, and Woodson's tackle of Tom Brady resulted in an incomplete pass, and starting in 2013 this will result in a fumble / turnover. I think he's really reaching here; anything to take shots at the Patriots organization.
We can’t blame the Patriots for any of this.
After delegitimizing the Patriots when he led off the column...
All you can do is play within the rules as they are written. The Patriots didn’t manipulate the system. But Wednesday’s ruling validates what everybody knew all along: The Patriots got lucky. They got a second chance they never should have received. Tom Brady wasn’t trying to tuck the ball next to his body when he was hit. He simply fumbled it and the Patriots should have lost that game to the Raiders.
The rest of the column, however, turns into interesting speculation:
What if there had never been a Tuck Rule? Maybe Brady wouldn’t be the best quarterback of all time. Maybe Tom never would have met Gisele. Maybe Bill Belichick would be working in a TV studio with Eric Mangini and Charley Casserly. Maybe Bob Kraft would have gone back to a life of corrugated cardboard. Maybe Patriot Place would be a parking lot. Think of how we’d all miss CBS Scene.
If I remember correctly, Giselle introduced herself to Tom after a home game, maybe in 2005. Does she pursue him, say, if he only won two Super Bowls instead of three? Inquiring minds want to know!

And I wonder why he keeps at it with his criticism and cheap shots with CBS Scene. Granted I've never been or dined there, but I'm willing to bet Shank gets half his meals comped at one of / the restaurant there, so why's he bitching?

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Feeling The Heat

After watching last night's game between the Miami Heat and the Boston Celtics, Shank reflexively thinks of earlier times, like his favorite decade, the 1970's:
When it’s about NBA history, it always goes back to the Boston Celtics, the Los Angeles Lakers, and . . . Wilt Chamberlain.

The Miami Heat Monday night won their 23d consecutive game, recovering from a 13-point deficit in the final eight minutes in a spectacular 105-103 showcase triumph on the parquet floor. This was blood-and-thunder basketball for the full 48, easily the most entertaining game of the Causeway season. Subbing for Kevin Garnett, Jeff Green lit up the New Garden for 43 points, but it was not enough to keep the Heat from extending their winning streak.

Miami now trails only the 1971-72 Lakers, who won 33 in a row. Those Lakers had a center named Chamberlain. The Heat have the latter-day Wilt and his name is King LeBron James.
After a few paragraphs of discussing the actual game, Shank then proceeds to 1) piss off Celtics fans and 2) show an interesting interpretation of great NBA players:
Nobody around here likes to admit it, but Wilt was the greatest player in NBA history (sorry, ESPN, we know you kind of like Michael Jordan). We all know that Bill Russell was the greatest winner, but Wilt retired with all the individual records. He averaged 50 points a game in a season. Rules were changed to limit Chamberlain’s dominance. He was 7 feet 1 inch of muscle and athleticism.

LeBron reminds me of Wilt. Maybe it’s the headband. Maybe it’s the muscular frame. Maybe it’s the delight we take in seeing LeBron­ lose. That’s the way it was watching Wilt.
We know Wilt liked to score, but wasn't the knock on Wilt that he couldn't win the big games, and Russell could? Give me Russell or Jordan over Wilt any day, or when Game 7 of a playoff series is on the line.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Quote Of The Day

Shank, on Comcast Sports New England a few minutes ago (with Bob Ryan & Damien Amendolara) - "Our knowledge of hockey could fit into a thimble."

Waaah, Waaah, Welker

Don't let the loss of Wes Welker fool you, as that's not why Shaughnessy's crying today. He's moaning that once again Bill Belichick is getting away with something by not commenting on Welker's free-agency bolt to Denver, and that the Patriot players are lining up (and closing mouths) in support of their coach and their culture.

Culture is not something The CHB understands (unless you count drinking at The Fours until your hair turns all red and curly). Proof: He has spent three decades demeaning every African-American, Hispanic or other non-Caucasian who walked onto the field at Fenway as prima donnas and selfish and not team players. But in football, where putting the team ahead of yourself actually matters, he takes the opposite stance. Keep in mind that Welker violated Belichick's philosophy by whining about the play-calling last season and also by making fun of Jets coach Rex Ryan a few years back in an interview (although, unlike Shank, Welker is funny).

And as for comparing a slot receiver who was not the face of the franchise to a long-retired baseball catcher who personified his club ... well, only The CHB.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

The Book Tour Continues

I'm thinking prime heckling opportunities:
Sports writer Dan Shaughnessy heads to The Music Hall's Writers in the Loft series with his “bombshell” of a book, “Francona: The Red Sox Years,” on Wednesday, April 10. The 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. events both include an author presentation and moderated Q+A plus book signing meet-and-greet and will be held at the Music Hall Loft at 131 Congress St., Portsmouth.

New England's award-winning Boston Globe columnist Dan Shaughnessy visits the Loft to talk about his latest, a New York Times bestseller co-authored with former Red Sox Manager Terry Francona. Experience the triumph and heartbreak felt by generations of fans with this all-access pass that takes readers from Fenway's locker room to the owners' suite.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Who Is He Kidding?

For the second time in two weeks, former Red Sox outfielder Carl Crawford complained about his treatment by our wonderfully kind and compassionate local sports media while a member of the Sox. Shank ridiculously takes exception to Crawford's comments.
Last week Carl told Danny Knobler of, “I took so much of a beating in Boston, I don’t think anything could bother me anymore . . . They love it when you’re miserable. Burying people in the media, they think that makes a person play better. That media was the worst thing I’ve ever experienced in my life.’’

Any of you scratching your head over this one?

Let’s start with the fact that Carl gladly signed a seven-year, $142 million contract and delivered nothing. He was never the player that he had been when he played against the Sox. He was soft and often injured. He didn’t hit, didn’t get on base, didn’t steal bases, and became a subpar defender. It was all bad.

And despite all that, we cut him slack. Fans and media. We pumped his tires. We noted how much he cared, how hard he tried. We discouraged booing the guy. Poor Carl. Don’t blame him.
Dan Shaughnessy, cutting Crawford some slack, April 21, 2011:
Who’s at shortstop today? Who’s behind the plate? Where’s Waldo Crawford hitting? Who is leadoff man du jour? It’s a New England parlor game, from Eastport to Block Island.
Yesterday, Marco “Wally Pipp’’ Scutaro was back at short and banged out a couple of hits. Jed Lowrie played third base and hit his third homer in five games. No. 7 hitter Crawford actually knocked in a run. Leadoff man of the hour J.D. Drew homered. Jason Varitek caught Clay Buchholz while Jarrod Saltalamacchia sat.
Dan Shaughnessy, cutting Crawford some slack, April 24, 2011:
It was embarrassing seeing Crawford batting eighth last night. We are 20 games into the season and poor Carl has already batted first, second, third, seventh, and eighth. He’s certainly the first $142 million No. 8 hitter in baseball history (not counting Alex Rodriguez in the 2006 playoffs). Crawford has left an astounding number of runners on third base, but got a break Friday night when the Angels’ flossy center fielder, Peter Bourjos, dropped a sky-high shot with runners on second and third and two out in the fourth.
Dan Shaughnessy, cutting Crawford some slack, August 18, 2011:
Four losses in five games. Nine hits and three runs in 27 innings over two days at home against the Rays. David Ortiz is wearing a ski boot on his right foot and Carl Crawford is harder to find than Albert Haynesworth.
Dan Shaughnessy, cutting Crawford some slack and reminding readers of Crawford's contract, July 29, 2012:
Carl Crawford, the man with the $142 million contract, was not in Boston’s lineup against CC Sabathia.
Dan Shaughnessy, cutting Crawford some slack again on July 29, 2012:
No. Curt Schilling, Pedro Martinez, Derek Lowe, and Johnny Damon are not walking through that door. You now have tin soldiers Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, and Jacoby Ellsbury.
Maybe Shank means 'cutting him some slack' in a relative sense:
I know this will be hard for some of you to believe, but I, myself, have at times been harsh. When Robert Parish struggled through a brief playoff slump, I called him, “Basketball’s Mr. October.’’ Sox reliever Steve Crawford was “as effective as a sack of doorknobs.’’ For refusing to acknowledge a bunt sign, Jose Offerman was characterized as a “piece of junk’’ (OK, over the line on that one).
How about calling David Ortiz "a sad sack of you know what"? Was that over the line? But it's all good - because all Boston sportswriters do it!
It happens. We are tough on professional athletes in this town. Carl Yastrzemski, Jim Rice, and Wade Boggs all were ripped here and all are enshrined in Cooperstown. Nomar Garciaparra was ripped (only at the end). Manny Ramirez was ripped (only when he quit). Pedro Martinez was rightfully colored as a “diva,” and Roger Clemens was regularly insulted. Comparing the amazing skill sets of Messrs. Clemens and Martinez, I wrote, “On top of everything else, Pedro Martinez even speaks better English than Roger Clemens.’’


But absolutely none of this poison was spilled on Carl Crawford. Zero.
I guess Shank has a point. It could have been worse, Carl - you could have been the next sack of you know what!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Shank, Rask and Living in the Past

Tuukka Rask is 12-2 and off to perhaps the best start in the NHL outside of Chicago.

So naturally, The CHB wants to talk about Rask's performance. In the playoffs. In 2011.

Much like Satan, The CHB is living in the past. Check the calendar, dude. It's 2013.

Friday, March 08, 2013

Now Get Off My Lawn!

The NCAA men's basketball tournament is fast approaching, and Shank gives the subject the contemporary treatment it deserves.

Just kidding! Shank instead goes back nearly four decades to his favorite decade (the Seventies) to let today's young whippersnappers know how good they have it now:
We will hear the noise a week from Sunday night when the NCAA men’s basketball draw is announced. Bubble teams will cry foul. Schools with double-digit losses will claim they were “snubbed” by the tournament selection committee.


You want to hear about a worthy team that didn’t make it to the NCAA Tournament? Hop into the wayback machine and let me tell you about the 1973-74 Maryland Terrapins.

They might have been the best team in the country. They had three of the top 10 players in the nation. They had six NBA draft picks. They were ranked in the top five all season. In December, they lost a 1-point decision to Bill Walton’s defending champion UCLA Bruins (the team that won 88 straight).

Then they lost the final game of the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament, 103-100, in overtime to North Carolina State. Some have called it the greatest college basketball game ever played. Maryland shot 61 percent from the floor in the losing effort.

The Wolfpack, led by David Thompson, went on to defeat UCLA in the Final Four, and won the NCAA championship.
All snark aside, this is a pretty good column; it's an example of the writer Shaughnessy is when he puts his mind to it.

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Trash Day

When you see the words random thoughts associated with a Shank column, just take it to the curb.
Picked up pieces while waiting to find out if I’ve been fired by any radio station this week . . .

The photo of Dennis Rodman sitting with Kim Jong-un at a basketball exhibition in Pyongyang goes into the vault, alongside the photo of a zombie-esque Elvis Presley shaking hands with President Richard Nixon. Rodman’s “This Week” interview Sunday with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos was a stunning demonstration of the Worm’s stupidity.

The David Ortiz Achilles’ situation is especially alarming given that he sustained the injury rounding second base in front of a home run hit by Adrian Gonzalez. That’s like Tony Soprano straining his Achilles’ walking down the driveway to pick up the morning newspaper.
Or Shank straining a hamstring on his one mile run...
Red Sox brass must have loved it when Bobby Valentine ripped the BoSox last week. On the day that Mr. Wrap Inventor was named athletic director at Sacred Heart in Fairfield, Conn., Valentine was asked about the disaster of the 2012 Red Sox and said, “Connie Mack couldn’t have won with that team. I thought the things that went on were kind of silly most of the time, but I didn’t think it was that tough.’’

Did anybody ever storm the court at the old Worcester Auditorium when Holy Cross had Bob Cousy and an NCAA title back in 1947?

Hiding in Plain Sight

Several days since Shank's last column and we've been wondering where he was hiding out. As it turns out, on Internet TV!

The CHB discusses David Ortiz's aching Achilles with noted baseball hockey writer Kevin Paul-Dupont (love the hyphen, Kev!). (The CHB says they shouldn't rush Ortiz back. But just wait until May, when he says Big Papi's been dogging his return and how The Dominican Diva has been a bad influence.)

And then Kevin Paul-Dupont discusses the Bruins-Canadiens rivalry with noted hockey/baseball/football/basketball writer The CHB. Consensus: It's back. (It left?)

Such compelling drama! I was on the edge of my seat for the entire 18 seconds!