Monday, October 31, 2022

Its Appeal Has Become More Selective

Shank's at another World Series and laments the lack of fans in recent times:
The World Series is a huge deal in Houston and Philadelphia, but not so much elsewhere

HOUSTON — Picked-up pieces from the World Series and beyond . . .

This is the 32nd World Series I’ve been privileged to cover. Friday night’s Game 1 was everything a baseball fan could want. The Phillies came back from a 5-0 deficit, we saw a great defensive play extend the game to extra innings, and the Phils won in 10 when a catcher hit a solo homer. Just like Carlton Fisk in 1975.

But I write with sadness in my hardball heart. I love the World Series. And baseball. And it feels like this once-national event is shrinking by the hour.

We all know the old saw about how baseball no longer grips the nation as it once did. We know the games are too long, played too late at night, with not enough balls in play. We know that America’s true pastime is almighty football. Baseball fans are an older crowd — folks who grew up when everybody knew who was heavyweight champ, and people still read newspapers, went to the track, and maybe attended daily Mass.

Revisiting Dave Dombrowski

Never one to shy away from kicking a hornet's nest, Shank catches up with former Red Sox general manager Dave Dombrowski:
Dave Dombrowski clarifies his feelings about the Red Sox, declaring he wants Boston ‘in the past’

HOUSTON — Terry Francona. Theo Epstein. Grady Little. Nomar Garciaparra. Manny Ramirez. Roger Clemens. Bobby Valentine. Carl Crawford. Adrián González.
"Name the Red Sox players and personnel Shank has run out of town over the years!"
It almost always ends badly for Boston baseball figures. And we can surely thank Shank include former Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski in that.

In September 2019, Dombrowski was fired less than 11 months after winning 119 games and the World Series.

It’s still amazing when you think about it. And the announcement of his dismissal came in old-timey cut-throat fashion. A midnight surprise, minutes after a Sunday night loss to the Yankees, while the Patriots were unfurling a championship banner and beating the Steelers at Gillette on “Sunday Night Football.”

For more than three years, Dombrowski has taken the high road, eschewing opportunities to gloat while the Sox finished last twice. Now that he’s brought his Phillies to the World Series, he’s admitting hard feelings about his final Boston days.

Tuesday, October 25, 2022

Smoke And Mirrors

Never one to let a bad New England Patriots loss go to waste, Shank laments the end of a situation he cheerleaded for three weeks, complete with lame nostalgia, a Jethro Tull lyric mention (feel free to guess which one!) and baseball cross-references:
After Patriots’ defeat, it is easy to see the magic show was just smoke and mirrors

For a couple of minutes in the second quarter, it was Zappe Magic and almost felt like 21 years ago when young Tom Brady came out of nowhere and took the quarterback job from Drew Bledsoe.

In the first half of the prime-time “Monday Night Football” game against the Bears, Mac Jones was Wally Pipped by Bailey Zappe’s Lou Gehrig (Zappe even wears No. 4). Zappe was Elvis. He was Rudy — with talent. The fourth-round pick from Western Kentucky came off the bench and directed two TD drives in less than four minutes, rocking Gillette to its foundation, and taking the Patriots from a 10-0 deficit to a 14-10 lead. The golly-gee kid completed 4 of 4 passes for 97 yards. He threw a 30-yard touchdown pass to Jakobi Meyers and a 43-yard bomb to DeVante Parker.

Despite preposterous insistence that the Pats were planning to play two quarterbacks regardless of performance (lie detector machines exploding from Portland to Newport), our local quarterback controversy was in full (not Chaim) Bloom when Jones failed and Zappe succeeded in the first half. In that moment, Zappe officially supplanted last year’s Pro Bowl/playoff rookie, Jones, who came to New England as a first-round QB savior. It looked like the Pats would move to 4-3 and take Zappe Magic into the Meadowlands against the hated Jets this weekend.

Sunday, October 23, 2022

DHL Dan CXLIII - The Tuna Speaks

Shank keeps the Mac Jones / Bailey Zappe thing going for a little bit longer:
Here is Bill Parcells’s philosophy on players losing jobs to injuries, and other thoughts

Picked-up pieces while wondering how my invitation to Bob Kraft’s wedding got misplaced …

▪ As we wait to see whom Bill Belichick starts at quarterback Monday (going into the weekend, the best guess was that Mac Jones is coming back), know that Hall of Fame coach Bill Parcells doesn’t subscribe to the notion that an NFL player should never lose his job while he is injured. The Tuna believes professional sports is a results business.

“I’m not speaking for Bill [Belichick],” Parcells said via phone this week. “This is just me. Players will say, ‘You don’t lose your job to injury.’ That’s right. You lose your job for two reasons: 1. You’re not playing well, or 2. Someone else is playing better.

“I would tell my team that. If you’re out of the game and someone else goes in and obviously plays better, then you lose your job. That was my approach.”

Thursday, October 20, 2022

The Bill Russell Tribute

Lots of good Bill Russell stuff in this column:
Ceremony honoring late Celtics legend Bill Russell was a thank you and a tribute

He’s always been here, even when he was no longer blocking shots and firing outlet passes to ignite the fast break.

Bill Russell proudly prowled the Old Garden’s parquet floorboards for 13 seasons, first in 1956-57. In his final three seasons, he had the audacity to coach the Celtics while he was still playing. In retirement, his 11 championship banners and venerable No. 6 flapped gently above the action as the torch was passed to Havlicek, Cowens, Bird, Pierce, Garnett, and Tatum. Every time the Celtics neared the winner’s circle, Russell returned to visit Red, bask in the glory, and hopefully hand off a Finals MVP trophy named in his honor.

Russell died at the age of 88 July 31, and Tuesday night on Causeway Street the Celtics played their first-ever game in a world without William Felton Russell.

Wednesday, October 19, 2022

Quality Reporting, By Ben Volin

It looks like a colleague of Shank's got punked by a commenter on Barstool Sports:
EXCLUSIVE: Ben Volin's "Report" That The Whole Building Hates Mac Jones Is Based On A Stoolie's Fake DM

If you heard this on Greg Hill this morning it was a real mess. Volin, very sheepishly, said he got a DM (according to the tweet "from someone that would know" but I didn't hear that in the audio, might've been in a different part of the interview) that "everyone in the building knows it." I retweeted it because it was pretty dumb, particularly considering that as the same time this interview was happening Jason McCourty was on Good Morning Football saying he was hanging out with the team on Monday night and everyone loves everyone.

Tuesday, October 18, 2022

Encouraging Useless Debate

Okay - I know that the headline and the subject of this blog makes for a redundancy, but to some extent so are comparisons like this one:
It’s time to revisit the Belichick vs. Brady scoreboard

Team Bill is trending up. Team Tom is trending down.

Wonder how this is all going to end for Bill Belichick and Tom Brady.

We’ve been keeping score of Team Bill vs. Team Tom since the final days of the 2019 Patriots season when a restless Brady threw tantrums, made faces, and said he was unhappy as the Patriots marched toward another AFC East title and a first-round playoff defeat.

Belichick said little, as usual, and had nothing at all to say on St. Patrick’s Day 2020, when Tom announced he was taking his talents to Tampa Bay.

We have been tracking their successes and failures ever since, and Team Tom has been the easy winner in just about every exit poll. Tom won another Super Bowl in his first year without Bill while Bill endured Cam Newton and didn’t even make the playoffs.

For more than two years, it’s been Team Tom in a rout. Brady’s success without Belichick advanced a narrative that New England’s dynasty was more about Tom than it was about Bill. Tom Toadies and many Patriot fans love to announce that Head Coach Bill never won a Super Bowl without Quarterback Tom. Bill’s record with and without Brady has been highlighted, and the numbers are a lowlight for the vaunted coach.
If you want to know when to stop reading this dreck, go forth a few more paragraphs until you run into this crap:
Meanwhile, Belichick has his upstart Patriots back to 3-3 and has discovered a fourth-round, third-string rookie quarterback named Elvis (Bailey) Zappe.

Monday, October 17, 2022

Zappe Fever?

Let's start off the week with some more Bailey Zappe, shall we?
Get ready for another week of debating Bailey Zappe vs. Mac Jones after Patriots rout Browns

CLEVELAND — The only question now is “How come Bailey Zappe wasn’t invited to Bob Kraft’s wedding?”

I mean, who needs Elton John, Drew Bledsoe, and Tom Brady when you’ve got the star power of Bailey Zappe working for you?

Zappe Fever is about to go viral. Bailey Zappe is ready to break the Internet. The kid quarterback is hotter than Wordle. He had a better game in Cleveland Sunday than Kraft-wedding-guest Brady had in Pittsburgh.

OK, I’m exaggerating a little. Zappe may not be the Next Big Thing. He may just be a placeholder until Mac Jones’s high ankle sprain heals. But New England’s fourth-round, third-string rookie completed 24 of 34 passes for 309 yards, threw two touchdowns, and had no interceptions in a 38-15 win over the Browns at FirstEnergy Stadium Sunday.

Friday, October 14, 2022

DHL Dan CXLII - Making History

Shank notes a possibility this weekend with respect to NFL history:
Bill Belichick has some historic NFL ties (and hats), and other thoughts

Picked-up pieces while hoping the Joba Chamberlain midges don’t invade FirstEnergy Stadium Sunday in Cleveland …

▪ Is it time for the Hoodie to bring back the fedora?

Bill Belichick has a chance to make history in Cleveland. A victory over the Browns will tie Belichick with George Halas as the NFL’s second-winningest coach (324 victories; Don Shula is first with 347).

In 2010, when Belichick was readying to tie legendary Paul Brown on the all-time list, he wore a “Mad Men” lid to Heinz Field as an homage to Brown. In 2018, traveling to Minneapolis for his eighth Super Bowl as a head coach, Belichick wore a Brown/Halas fedora, telling reporters that the hat had belonged to his dad, coach Steve Belichick.

Brown and Halas are the two coaches Belichick honors most, and he interacted with both while growing up.

Before the start of the 2022 season, I asked Belichick about respecting coaches who came before him, particularly Brown and Halas.

Tuesday, October 11, 2022

A Slight Overreaction

The New England Patriots shut out the Detroit Lions on Sunday, 29 - 0. Look who's doing cartwheels over the third-string quarterback:
Rookie Bailey Zappe is undefeated as a starter, so where does that leave the Patriots’ quarterback situation?

OK, strap yourselves in.

Here we go.

Zappe Fever Grips Hub. Zappe Days Are Here Again. Zappe Hour at Gillette. Don’t Worry, be Zappy.

Suddenly, Mac Jones is on notice. Mac Jones is Wally Pipp and Zappe is Lou Gehrig. Mac is Drew Bledsoe and Bailey Zappe is (gulp) Tom Brady.

We have what Bill Belichick hates the most: a fabricated quarterback controversy. I mean, we all know you’re not supposed to lose your job to an injury, but Zappe is undefeated as a starting quarterback in the NFL. How can Bill move him out of the position? And who cares if he looks like Ollie from “Hoosiers”? (Thanks, Rochie.)

Saturday, October 08, 2022

DHL Dan CXLI - Rooting For A Loss?

If Shank isn't openly rooting for a New England Patriots loss against the Detroit Lions tomorrow, he's certainly emphasizing the thought:
Patriots get no slack this week against the Lions, and other thoughts

Picked-up pieces while listening to the 2022 Red Sox insist that they really weren’t that bad …

▪ There will be no forgiveness for the Patriots if they lose at home Sunday to the Lions.

The 1-3 Patriots enjoyed a very un-Boston-like reception when they lost in overtime to the Packers at Lambeau last weekend. We gave them all kinds of slack because they were forced to use their third-string quarterback, played on the road against Aaron Rodgers, played good defense, and Bill Belichick almost willed them to victory. The day-after headlines in our sports section were unusually forgiving: “Masterful show by Belichick,” “Outlook is better despite outcome,” and “It was magic until the end.”

Wow. That’s Full Rochie stuff right there. Right out of Channel 4′s “All Access” playbook. We sounded like a bunch of fanboy Baghdad Bobs, like Alex Cora saying we had the best worst team in baseball.

Not this weekend. No more Mr. Nice Guy. If the Patriots can’t beat the 1-3 Lions at home, it’ll be raining hot takes on the head of the Hoodie, his coaches, and his players.

Thursday, October 06, 2022

Famous Last Place Words

A cute twist on an old phrase leads off Shank's obituary for the 2022 edition of the Boston Red Sox:
Famous last-place words: These Red Sox quotes spoke volumes about their season

Allow me to spare you lots of tedium:
Over the course of the 2022 Red Sox season, a lot of things were said by players and the front office. Let’s revisit a few of the bon mots regarding Boston baseball’s fifth last-place finish in 11 years:

“I’m excited to be here. I think this team has a chance to win again … I would love to finish my career here.”

— J.D. Martinez, March 13

“What we should be trying to do is use all our resources and be as great as we can, whatever that means … We have opportunities to boost our outfield in some way … The important thing is to focus on what you’re doing, not to focus on what everybody else is doing and not to focus on what kind of splash you might be able to make … I actually think we were better for what we did.”

— Chaim Bloom, mid-March

Wednesday, October 05, 2022

Fairy Tale Column

Given Shank's history with writing nasty columns about the New England Patriots after a loss, this one's a pleasant surprise:
Bailey Zappe’s fairy-tale debut had all the makings of a winning show for the Patriots, until the end

Aaron Rodgers vs. Bailey Zappe (which rhymes with “happy’').

A four-time NFL MVP vs. a fourth-round draft pick who’d never played a down of professional football?

A Super Bowl champion against a third-string rookie who made his last meaningful pass against Appalachian State in the vaunted Boca Raton Bowl?

A “Jeopardy!” host with 29 career game-winning drives against a 23-year-old who was playing at Houston Baptist two years ago?

It was a true Cinderella story, ‘til Zappe turned into a pumpkin ‘neath the cover of October skies. The undermanned Patriots pushed the Packers into overtime, but Rodgers finally stepped up and the Packers beat the Pats, 27-24, on a 31-yard walkoff field goal by Mason Crosby.

Sunday, October 02, 2022

DHL Dan CXL - Keep 'Em Guessing

Shank isn't too happy with the New England Patriots' recent roster situation:
Patriots’ attempt at a guessing game on starting QB was uncalled for, and other thoughts

Picked-up pieces while waiting to see Brian Hoyer play quarterback for the Patriots Sunday . . .

▪ Mac Jones or Hoyer?

What’s the difference, really? Jones has been one of the worst quarterbacks in the NFL this season. Hoyer has lost his last 11 games as a starter, with seven touchdown passes and eight interceptions. He has not won as a starting quarterback in the NFL since 2016.

Jones suffered a high ankle sprain at the end of last weekend’s home loss to the Ravens and we’ve spent the week assuming he can’t play against the Packers Sunday. But Bill Belichick dangled the carrot all week, insisting that Mac was “day to day” even though he did not practice Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday, and reportedly went looking for a second opinion while considering surgery. On Friday afternoon, the Patriots finally placed him on the inactive list.

Does Bill really think this ambiguity in any way confused the Packers? Is there really a competitive advantage to this stupid guessing game?
The above is, shall we say, heavily sampled from Felger & Mazz from Thursday afternoon.