Saturday, October 30, 2021

DHL Dan CLVI - Rehased Thoughts

Shank's concerned about the start of the 2021 Boston Celtics season:
Celtics aren’t getting an A for effort so far, and other thoughts

Picked-up pieces after a return to the road for the first time in 18 months …

▪ Forget the championship banners in the rafters at the Garden; the start of this Celtics season is all about red flags.

In their home opener, the Celtics were booed off the parquet at the end of a 115-83 rout at the hands of the Raptors. The Celtics were outrebounded, 60-42, and committed 25 turnovers. Veteran Al Horford talked about poor effort and new coach Ime Udoka said, “They came out and punked us, outplayed us, played harder than us.”

Hours before the second home game this past Wednesday, Udoka looked at his lethargic crew and predicted another embarrassing loss.


The 2021 spring shakeup was supposed to fix things for Brown and Tatum. They got the coaching change they wanted. Their voices were heard before Udoka was hired. Now this.

Udoka is honest. He is calling out his players. Celtics fans should love it. Accountability has been in short supply with Boston’s AAU warriors.
You know who else said many of the same things? These guys, a day before Shank's column. Just sayin'...

Saturday, October 23, 2021

They Ran Out Of Karma Too

Shank delivers the eulogy for the 2021 Boston Red Sox:
Red Sox ran out of karma, and it all started after the wristwatch taunt

HOUSTON — The Red Sox season ended Friday night with a 5-0 loss to the Houston Astros in Game 6 of the American League Championship Series.

The Sox went down passively, losing three straight games after dominating the ‘Stros and even mocking them in a Game 3, 12-3 rout at Fenway.

The record will show that the Sox flatlined after Eduardo Rodriguez ridiculed Houston shortstop Carlos Correa (pointing at an imaginary watch — a patented Correa move that means “it’s our time”) while coming off the mound with a 9-3 lead in the sixth inning of Game 3. Alex Cora yelled at his young pitcher for poking the bear. But it was too late. Karma shifted. And so did the series.
Felger & Mazz talked about the wristwatch taunt extensively on Thursday's show; little surprise we see it repeated here.

Thursday, October 21, 2021

And The Mojo Is Gone

Back to back losses by the Red Sox in the baseball playoffs? You bet there's a Shank column to go with it:
Mojo, once in deep supply, is suddenly gone as Red Sox head to Houston in a 3-2 hole in the ALCS

Where did all the good mojo go?

What happened?

Was it Eduardo Rodriguez taunting Carlos Correa after retiring Houston’s leader with the Sox romping, 9-3, in Game 3? Was it one too many showoff laundry cart rides when the living was easy with three grand slams and back-to-back, 9-0 leads in Games 2 and 3? Was it when we were all debating “Braves or Dodgers?’’ as the potential next tomato can in another inexorable Sox march to a World Series championship?

None of that really matters at this hour. What matters is all the feel-good fuzziness around the ’21 Red Sox dissolved in a stretch of 20 hours over two nights at Fenway as the still-proud, no-longer cheatin’ (as far as we know) Astros came back from two humiliations and reminded the Red Sox, “We’re still here.’’

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Series Changed

Shank's latest column on the 2021 ALCS takes on a decidely different tone:
After two blowout wins, Red Sox loss to Astros in Game 4 changes the entire feeling of the series

Are you kidding me?

The Astros stunned the scalding-hot Red Sox Tuesday, taking a 9-2 victory with a seven-run, ninth-inning rally off Sox emergency closer Nate Eovaldi. All the runs were scored with two outs.

Shocking. This was the night the magic ran out for boisterous Boston and suddenly this ALCS series is 2-2 with shaky Chris Sale (no good performances against winning teams in 2021, 11 outs in two postseason starts) on the mound Wednesday and two of the potential final three games at Minute Maid Park in Houston.

The muscle-flexing Sox pantsed the Astros in Games 2 and 3 of this series, taking 9-0 leads and hitting three grand slams in back-to-back routs. Boston’s ascension to the 2021 World Series felt inevitable. Houston had a problem, manager Dusty Baker was on the firing squad, and the Hardball Hub of the Universe was ready to party like it’s 2018 on the Fenway lawn.

But then baseball happened. The Astros, a staggering team with a starting rotation of meatball artists, got off the ropes and delivered a crushing blow to Greater Boston, coming back from a game-long 2-1 deficit with one run in the eighth and a jail-break eruption off Sox ace Eovaldi, who was brought on to preserve the tie. Eovaldi (four earned runs) was hurt by Hunter Renfroe’s bad read on a leadoff double by Carlos Correa, but the big blow came when backup catcher Jason Castro laced an RBI single to break the tie. (A Laz Diaz blown call on a 1-and-2 pitch changed history in this inning.)

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Mixed Messages

Today, Shank wants to take sides:
Red Sox seem to have been anointed by the baseball gods to punish the cheating Astros

It is as if these 2021 Red Sox, up-and-down throughout the regular season — have been selected by the baseball gods to punish the cheatin’ Astros for their 2017 crimes against hardball humanity.

The Sox bludgeoned the Houstons again Monday, blasting to a 9-0 lead in the third inning and cruising to a 12-3 Game 3 ALCS victory. It feels like we should just fast-forward to the World Series. Bring on the Braves or the Dodgers. Let’s be done with Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa, Alex Bregman and the rest of the nefarious Trash Can Dreamers.

This is baseball egalitarianism. In real time. At Fenway. Sweet.
Shank, five days ago:
In Red Sox-Astros matchup, it’s impossible to ignore both teams’ scandalous recent history

It won’t be a party starter at Fox Sports, Fenway Park, or Minute Maid Park, but it’s impossible to avoid the years-old cheating narrative in this 2021 American League Championship Series.

The Jimmy Hayes Column

Shank devotes a column to a local hockey player who unfortunately is no longer with us:
Fentanyl contributed to Jimmy Hayes’s death. His family hopes telling his story can help prevent another

Former Bruins winger and Dorchester native Jimmy Hayes, who was found dead in his Milton home Aug. 23, died with fentanyl and cocaine in his system, his wife and father revealed Sunday.

It’s the news some feared when the wildly popular pillar of the community died after celebrating his son’s second birthday with his wife, Kristen, and infant son on a perfect Sunday seven weeks ago.

Hayes’s sudden death made no sense in the moment. The 6-foot-5-inch, 31-year-old ex-athlete presented as a healthy, happy young man, blossoming into a full life of parenting, podcasting, and doing good deeds for others. Jimmy Hayes had a beautiful wife and two adorable boys. His parents, sisters, brothers, and cousins were all around him. He had it all.

Sunday, October 17, 2021

Another Comeback

Shank's pretty happy about last night's Red Sox / Astros game:
Alex Cora’s teams tend to come back strong after a playoff loss, and that’s exactly what happened in Game 2

HOUSTON — Alex Cora’s Red Sox don’t like it when you beat them in a postseason game.

The Sox are 16-5 in playoff games under Cora. After those losses, they are 5-0 with a run differential of plus-32, including Saturday’s 9-5 Game 2 ALCS spanking of the Houston Astros.

In 2018, the Sox beat the Yankees, 16-1, after losing Game 2 of the ALDS. Ten days ago, the Sox beat the Rays, 14-6, after losing the first game of the first round. Saturday, after an excruciating 5-4, Game 1 loss, the Sox jumped to a 9-0 lead on grand slams (J.D. Martinez, Rafael Devers) in the first two innings and a solo shot from Kiké Hernández — The Greatest Player in the History of Baseball — in the fourth.
Looks like we'll be seeing that hyperbole for a while. Funny how Shank doesn't focus on starting pitching for this piece (innings aside, Sale & Eovaldi both gave up three runs) or note Houston's steady run production at five runs each game. I'm sure he'll mention them down the road.

Saturday, October 16, 2021

Assigning Blame, A Continuing Series

Shank lays the Sox' ALCS Game 1 loss squarely on Alex Cora and Chris Sale:
Alex Cora took a chance by starting Chris Sale in Game 1, but the Sox manager’s luck finally ran out

HOUSTON — Alex Cora could do no wrong. Every move was the right move. Everything worked.

And then he went one step too far. He got cocky and greedy. He thought he could “steal” a game against the Houston Astros (odd phrasing given the history here, but it’s only a figure of speech). He thought he could get away with starting struggling Chris Sale instead of Nate Eovaldi in Game 1 of the ALCS. Cora knew his bullpen was rested and figured that if Sale could just get a few outs, the Sox pen could bring it on home.

It almost worked.

But it did not work. Sale staggered through 2 2/3innings (five hits, one walk, a hit batter, and a wild pitch), then handed a 3-1 lead over to Boston’s well-rested bullpen. It worked for a while, but there simply isn’t enough depth in Boston’s bullpen. Adam Ottavino, Josh Taylor, and Ryan Brasier preserved the lead through the middle innings, but then Tanner Houck and Hansel Robles gave up homers to Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa respectively and the Sox lost the lead. The dam burst in the eighth when Hirokazu Sawamura blew up and the Red Sox were 5-4 losers despite four hits (two more homers!) from Kiké Hernández — the Greatest Player in the History of Baseball.
'It didn't work' - in the sense Shank expects all starting pitchers to throw six innings of one-hit ball with eight strikeouts.

Thursday, October 14, 2021

If You Ain't Cheatin', You Ain't Tryin'

Shank takes a look at the lack of compliance to league rules by both teams in this year's ALCS.
In Red Sox-Astros matchup, it’s impossible to ignore both teams’ scandalous recent history

It won’t be a party starter at Fox Sports, Fenway Park, or Minute Maid Park, but it’s impossible to avoid the years-old cheating narrative in this 2021 American League Championship Series.

Astros vs. Red Sox features those lyin’, cheatin’ Despicable Me(s) from Houston — Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa, Alex Bregman & Co. — against the upstart Bostons, who are managed by Alex Cora, one of the few culprits of the 2017 Trash Can ‘Stros who was punished for his role in the scheme.

It’s as if the Spygate Patriots faced the Deflategate Patriots in some computer-programmed, analytic-driven, virtual Super Bowl. It’s where “Bang the Drum Slowly” meets “Rounders” at the intersection of “Molly’s Game” and “Eight Men Out.”

The Houston Astros are the most famous cheat-to-win perps in sports history. They won the 2017 World Series in seven games against the Los Angeles Dodgers. In January of 2020, an MLB report found that the ‘Stros cheated their way to the title with a sign-stealing system that (in part) included relaying stolen signs to batters by banging on a trash can at Minute Maid Park. Four years later, Houston’s lineup features four batters who were part of the scam.

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Red Sox Are In The 2021 ALCS

...and Our Man Shank is all over it:
Red Sox’ victory over Rays had drama, excitement, inspiration, and another walkoff, all the way to the ALCS

We got two magic nights at Fenway and two walkoff wins. ‘Neath the cover of October skies.

And so the Red Sox are advancing to the American League Championship Series, which will start Friday in either Houston or Chicago.

The Sox won Game 4 of the ALDS Monday, beating the Tampa Bay Rays, 6-5, on Kiké Hernández’s sacrifice fly to left, scoring Danny Santana from third base in the bottom of the ninth. The wild-card Sox beat the 100-win, first-place, heavily-favored Rays three straight times after losing the series opener.

After defeating the shell-shocked Rays on a 13th-inning walkoff homer by Christian Vázquez Sunday, the Olde Towne Team found more cosmic gold on Marathon Monday. After blowing a 5-0 lead and watching Tampa tie it with two in the eighth, the Sox got two perfect innings from reliever Garrett Whitlock and pushed across the winning run in the ninth.

Monday, October 11, 2021

Playing The Long Game

Shank takes note of the number of Boston Red Sox playoff marathons:
We know a thing or two about long postseason baseball games here in Boston.

There was Game 6 of the 1975 World Series when Carlton Fisk famously turned on a Pat Darcy pitch and drove it deep to Fenway’s left-field wall in the bottom of the 12th. The ball clanged off the foul pole and into Good Will Hunting. After midnight.

Just three years ago, there was a 7-hour-20-minute special in the 2018 World Series when the Sox and Dodgers played 18 innings before Max Muncy won it with a walkoff homer. It was after 3 in the morning in Boston when that one ended.

Saturday, October 09, 2021

DHL Dan CLV - The Achy Breaky Heart

In the latest installment of the Picked Up Pieces column, Shank bemoans the lack of interest in baseball:
It still breaks my heart to see how far baseball has fallen

Picked-up pieces while waiting for someone other than Tony Massarotti or Lou Merloni to mention the Red Sox on Boston sports radio . . .

▪ I am a realist. I don’t bay at the moon wishing folks under 50 still read printed newspapers. I know that our printed product is enjoyed primarily by people who remember Dwight Eisenhower, daily Mass, Suffolk Downs, and an age when everybody knew who was heavyweight champ of the world. For the most part, this is Major League Baseball’s audience in 2021.

But it still breaks my heart sometimes.

Last Sunday, after attending a memorial service for a family member, I drove my brother back toward home, listening to Joe Castiglione (another hardball geezer like myself) delivering play-by-play on the Red Sox very important Game 162 in Washington. It was in the middle innings and the Sox were trying to dig out of a 5-1 hole.
Read on for Shank almost crying into a beer, but baseball's waning popularity is largely self-inflicted. Most of the Red Sox - Yankees games, for example, clock in from 3 to 4 hours with pitching changes out the wazoo. Until that's rectified, fans will keep tuned into other sports.

This part sticks out like a sore thumb:
The Sports Hub, Boston’s FM sports radio powerhouse, routinely mocks baseball and largely ignores the Sox, except for Massarotti’s short evening program during the season. 98.5 consistently dominates the ratings. It’s strictly business. The soul-crushing reality for us baseball guys is that a Boston sports station is not rewarded for talking baseball. So they don’t do it. It’s far better for business to talk endlessly about a 1-3 football team that hasn’t won a playoff game in three years. That’s the reality, people.
Here's what we wrote over three years ago about 'largely ignoring the Red Sox':
Shank appears for two hours on 98.5 The Sports Hub just about every week. If he feels there isn't enough baseball conversation, there's a way to address that problem - provide it when you do these appearances.
And now that he's off the Zolak & Bertrand show, he'll continue to provide the same level of baseball discussion - none at all. That's what happens when a sports columninst would rather go on the air and regurgitate the previous day's newspaper column instead of giving the fans what he believes they should get.

Expecting A Loss, Getting A Win

That's the basic summary of Shank's column on last night's game, a 14 - 6 win over the Tampa Bay Rays:
Chris Sale didn’t have it in Game 2, but the Red Sox showed they still have a lot of life left

It was the worst game of the year. A season-low. Everything we suspected about this team was coming true. They were just not that good, after all.

Then it was the best game of the year. And suddenly there is buoyancy. And life.

Red Sox. Just when you think you are out, they pull you back in.

Boston’s erstwhile ace Chris Sale was rocked for a grand slam and lasted only one inning Friday at the Tropicana Dome. On the heels of Thursday’s Game 1 skunking, the Sox trailed, 5-2, in Game 2 and looked like candidates for a three-game sweep and a Marathon Monday on the golf course.

But this is one of the more resilient Local Nines of our time, and the Sons of Alex Cora peppered the Trop’s outer limits with five homers, cracking 20 hits and riding the right arm of rookie Tanner Houck to a 14-6, series-squaring, ALDS victory over the heavily favored, 100-win Rays.
Nothing says 'big win' like Shank now straddling the fence!

Friday, October 08, 2021

Creating Doubt

With the Red Sox and Rays in the ALDS, Shank could have picked two things to write about - last night's loss or tonight's game featuring Red Sox ace Chris Sale He chose the latter:
Chris Sale, who gets the ball for ALDS Game 2, hasn’t faced a team like the Rays yet this season. Can he deliver?

There’ll be nowhere for Chris Sale to hide at the circus tent/Tropicana Dome Friday night. No more soft landings for Boston’s $30 million per year ace.

The Red Sox were spanked by the aggressive 100-win Rays, 5-0, in Game 1 of their ALDS series in St. Petersburg, Fla., Thursday. Losing the first game of a best-of-five brings extra pressure and Sale will be carrying that weight to the hill in Game 2.

Perfect. Boston has its big-moment guy for a virtual must-win game.

The Sox made things as easy as possible for Sale when he came back from Tommy John surgery in mid-August. While a COVID surge depleted the Sox clubhouse, Boston’s most famous anti-vaxxer started nine games — six of them against last-place teams, including three vs. the Orioles, who were trying to lose. Feasting on a diet of Tomato Cans, Sale compiled a 5-1 record with a 3.16 ERA.

He made only two starts against non-losers, both against the Rays. He was winless in those two games, giving up a whopping 16 hits and three walks in 9⅔ innings. That’s 19 baserunners in 9⅔ innings in his only games against a winning team.
If I didn't know any better, I'd say Shank's rooting for a loss tonight, much like he did in the runup to the wild card playoff game on Tuesday against the Yankees.

Wednesday, October 06, 2021

We Are The (Wild Card) Champions

Behold - a rare Shank column following a win by the Boston Red Sox:
Red Sox had perfect execution in sending Yankees packing in AL Wild Card Game

It was Throwback Tuesday at ancient Fenway, featuring the Red Sox and Yankees jousting in a one game wild-card duel for the right to play in the 2021 American League Division Series. Winner moves on. Loser goes home. History, honor and hardball heartache were all in play. It was just like the old days of 2004, 2003, 1978 and 1949. The ghost of Babe Ruth hovered over Fenway.

“No need for rah-rah speeches,’’ said Red Sox manager Alex Cora. “It’s Red Sox-Yankees with a chance to advance.’’

“I think this game is going to be very good for baseball,’’ said Sox center fielder Kiké Hernández. “We’ve dealt with adversity all year long. We’re going to find a way to win this game.’’

It was very good for baseball and even better for the oft-maligned Red Sox, who thrashed the hated Yankees, 6-2, and advanced to a best-of-five American League Division Series against the 100-win Tampa Bay Rays starting Thursday in St. Petersburg, Fla. The Sox will be underdogs, which seems to be just the way these guys like it.
Do I really need to point out a certain sports columnist whose numerous columns over the past seven months would lead to this notion of 'oft-maligned', or who spent the past two days all but openly rooting for a Red Sox loss?

Tuesday, October 05, 2021

It's Like A Few Lumps Of Coal In Your Christmas Stocking

What's a little ass kissing from one 'journalist' to another?

Keep On Trollin'

He's not even being subtle about it anymore: And as always with anything printed by the Boston Globe - trust, but verify.

Monday, October 04, 2021

The Obligatory Bucky Dent Column

With the Red Sox in the wild-card round of the 2021 playoffs, leave it to Shank to preemptively pour salt into the wounds of Red Sox Nation:
The Red Sox and Yankees will play in a winner-take-all. What does Bucky Dent think about that?

His name is Russell Earl “Bucky” Dent. He was re-named Bucky (Bleeping) Dent in these parts after his pop-fly home run vaulted the Yankees over the Red Sox in the 1978 one-game playoff at Fenway Park exactly 43 years ago this week.

So when the 2021 Red Sox and Yankees finished play Sunday evening, assuring there would be another winner-take-all, one-game joust at Fenway for the right to advance in the American League playoffs, I had to call and text.
It's a pretty good column, which happens when Shank wants to kick a team in the balls.

Brady Beats Belichick

Shank wraps up last night's awesome game between the Bucs and the Patriots:
Tom Brady’s return to Foxborough had everything, and as usual, he came out on the winning end

Bill Russell never came back to the parquet floor to play against Red Auerbach. Bobby Orr never skated on Boston Garden ice against the Bruins.

But Tom Brady returned to Gillette Stadium as quarterback of the World Champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers Sunday and beat his sideline Svengali, Bill Belichick, 19-17, in a rain-soaked, wildly entertaining football game that was not decided until Nick Folk’s 56-yard field goal attempt doinked off the left upright with less than a minute to play.

It was at once biblical, amazing, weird, and somewhat unnatural. Seeing Brady beat the Patriots was like seeing Paul McCartney and Wings playing the Cavern Club in Liverpool. Brady was a pedestrian 22 of 43 passing for 269 yards and no touchdown passes.

Saturday, October 02, 2021

DHL Dan CLIV - Stumbling Along

This headline makes it look like his bonus check from John Henry just cleared:
The Red Sox’ playoff race has been great, even with their late-season stumbles

Picked-up pieces while waiting for Tom to burst from the tunnel, and hoping things don’t get ugly for Bill late Sunday night if the Buccaneers rout the Patriots …

▪ No doubt Tom Brady’s return is the most celebrated event regarding a famous figure visiting Greater Boston since Pope John Paul II kissed the tarmac at Logan in October 1979. Our region is agog.

But I hope you have been paying attention to this wacky wild-card scramble in the American League. It’s brought back memories of a simpler time when the Red Sox were the only team in town and a torrid pennant race involving the Sox commanded all of our attention in the final weekend of a season.
I'm not gonna get too wrapped up with this column and its current trajectory. Shank has simply spent too much time and spleen criticizing the 2011 Boston Red Sox six weeks to Sunday, including some stemwinders as they fell out of every lead for any playoff spot they had this season. For him to pretend otherwise is typical disingenuous Shank.