Saturday, September 30, 2023

DHL Dan CLXXXIV - An Ode To Terry Francona

Take it away, Shank:
Terry Francona gets to leave baseball on his own terms, and other thoughts

Picked-up pieces while waiting for Patriots-Cowboys . . .

▪ Terry “Tito” Francona managed the Red Sox for eight seasons, averaged 93 wins, made it to the playoffs five times, and won two World Series. A future Hall of Famer, he is the greatest manager in Boston baseball history, and Sunday is the last day of his 36th and final major league campaign.

Raised in big league clubhouses — son of the original Tito, who played 15 seasons (.363 in 1959) — Francona is retiring after 11 years in the Cleveland dugout. The 64-year-old skipper has endured more than 40 surgeries throughout his career, and faces more this winter.

“I’ve taken pride in doing what I think is right, and I think this is right,” Francona said. “I don’t have the energy to do the job the way I want to do it. Rather than hang around for the wrong reasons, I’d rather just go out on my own terms. Not many people get to do that.”
Solid column by Shank.

Thursday, September 28, 2023

Lives Of The Rich And Famous

It's Robin Leach, filling in for the apparently vacationing Shank:
With Travis Kelce and Taylor Swift, the stars seem to be aligning again

Travis Kelce and Taylor Swift.

Imagine the small talk on their first date.

Taylor: “Travis. You’re so big and strong. Tell me, what it’s like to play in a Super Bowl?”

Travis: “There’s nothing like it, Taylor. Millions of people watching all around the world. Tremendous pressure. Let me tell you, when you come home to Kansas City and hold up that Lombardi Trophy for your fans at the parade … I mean, you’ve never heard such cheering.”

Taylor: “Yes, I have.”

This conversation, or something just like it, actually took place between Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe when they honeymooned in Japan in 1954. Marilyn made a side trip to entertain US troops in Korea, performing 10 shows in four days before more than 100,000 American soldiers.
Gag me with a spoon, and put thius crap on Page Six or something.

The rest of the column does recover from that insipid exchange, so check it out if you're so inclined.

Monday, September 25, 2023

Telegraphing Your Punch

Longtime readers of this site are well aware of Shank's antipathy towards the New England Patriots, in particular with coach Bill Belichick and owner Robert Kraft. Do you think Shank wanted to take a monster shit on all of them if they lost yesterday's game to the New York Jets? Wonder no more:
The Patriots should be thankful they can count on one thing — beating the Jets

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — The walls were closing in.

Bill Belichick was 0-2 for the first time in 22 years. A third loss would have ended all playoff hope, and put Bill at 0-3 for the first time since 2000, when he started 0-4 and finished 5-11.

“In Bill We Trust” was no longer rolling off the tongues of Patriot fans. New England’s 71-year-old coach was taking sports talk fire from morning drive through dinner hour with Felger and Mazz.

A few card-carrying Fellowship of the Miserables believed we might be watching the end of Bill. Some foolishly envisioned Bob Kraft relieving Bill of his command, like when President Harry Truman fired General Douglas MacArthur in 1951. Was Belichick going to be forced out in Nixonian fashion, flashing one last victory sign, then stepping into a helicopter on the South Lawn of Gillette? A Woody Hayes flameout, perhaps? Something akin to Colonel Nathan Jessup having his rights read to him by Kevin Bacon?
Maybe next time, Shank!

DHL Dan CLXXXIII - A Must Win Game

In the runup to yesterday's game between the Patriots and Jets, Shank states the obvious:
Yes, Week 3 is a genuine must-win game for the Patriots, and other thoughts

PIcked-up pieces en route to Exit 16W, somewhere in the swamps of Jersey …

▪ It’s hard to believe, but here we are: It’s Week 3 of the NFL season and Bill Belichick’s once-mighty Patriots face a must-win game against the hated New York Jets.

Week 3. How did it ever come to this?

The bad news is that the Patriots are 0-2 for the first time since 2001 and have yet to hold a lead for a single minute. They have turned the ball over and fallen behind (16-0, then 10-0) against their first two opponents, both at Gillette Stadium. They have played good defense and put themselves in position to win games, but failed at the finish. Third-year quarterback Mac Jones has run a popgun offense and failed to rally the Patriots for game-winning or game-tying touchdowns in the final minutes.

Thursday, September 21, 2023

Cellar Dwellers

As the 2023 Boston Red Sox wind down their season, Shank pretends to lament their potential last place finish in the American League East:
A sinking feeling that the Red Sox could finish in the basement again

“The last-place Red Sox.”

Rolls off the tongue, doesn’t it? Like “the inimitable Bill Lee.” Or “the ubiquitous David Ortiz.”

Maybe NESN can come up with a new series, featuring lowlights of the 2020, 2022, and 2023 last-place Sox seasons. They could make it an homage to Bob Dylan and The Band and call it “The Basement Tapes.”

The last-place Sox are in Texas this week, playing out the string of another throwaway season. Hardly anyone in Boston is watching.

I pay attention. The Sox and once-vaunted New York Yankees are in a steel-cage match to see who will finish last in the American League East. It is Bizarro World. The standings that we used to know have been turned upside-down.

Monday, September 18, 2023

The Not So Optimistic Column

Funny how a game can change Shank's outlook, isn't it?
This one had the makings of a Strange finish, but instead we’re left to wonder what to make of these Patriots


No fun.

No fun at all.

The Patriots lost to the Dolphins, 24-17, Sunday night at Gillette Stadium, a loss especially frustrating because we almost saw a dramatic comeback.

Bob Kraft’s new 22-story lighthouse is not exactly a good luck charm. The Patriots are 0-2 All Along The Watchtower. A Bill Belichick team is 0-2 for the first time in 22 years. Like the moribund Red Sox, the Patriots have secured sole possession of last place in their division.

“Not too much to say about this one,” said Belichick. “Tough loss.”

This one had the makings of one of those goofy Patriots-vs.-Dolphins finishes; like prison inmate Mark Henderson snowplowing a spot for a Patriots’ game-winning field goal in 1982; or like the hideous Miracle-in-Miami double-lateral play that crushed the Patriots in the closing seconds of a late-season game in 2018.

DHL Dan CLXXXII - The Optimistic Column

Shank had some (rare) positive thoughts before last night's Patriots / Dolphins game:
Staying optimistic that the Patriots will beat the Dolphins, and other thoughts

Picked-up pieces while wondering what becomes of the Bloominati . . .

▪ I am glass-half-full on the Patriots Sunday night. I am hopping on the Channel 4 Belichick Bandwagon and going Full Rochie. Wall to wall. All is swell.

The Patriots did the impossible last week. They played a terrible first quarter. They missed a couple of late-game chances to pull out a victory. They dropped to 0-1. And yet, somehow, almost everyone walked out of Gillette Stadium feeling good about the hometown team.

If you really think about it, this makes no sense. The Patriots are 25-27 (including playoffs) with no postseason wins since Tom Brady left. Third-year quarterback Mac Jones has only one career fourth-quarter comeback win and is 0-12 when the opponent scores 25 points. The Patriots are consensus picks to finish last in the AFC East and are 3-point underdogs at home against the Fins.

So why is everyone bullish on the Patriots around here?

Saturday, September 16, 2023

The Blame Game, A Continuing Series

What do you do when things go south? Start pointing fingers at everybody!
Chaim Bloom is not the only guy to blame for this Red Sox mess

What will we do now that we don’t have Chaim Bloom to kick around anymore?

Bloom, a good and decent man who was neither ready nor equipped to run a big-market baseball team, was fired by the Red Sox before Thursday’s day-night doubleheader with the Yankees. The record will show that the Red Sox finished last in two of Bloom’s three full seasons and were tied for last on the day he was fired.

Bloom was asked to do the impossible when the Red Sox hired him from Tampa Bay in October of 2019. Ownership wanted him to win at the major league level, but also wanted him to cut payroll (get the team under the luxury-tax threshold) and rebuild a deteriorating farm system.


Red Sox owner John Henry and chairman Tom Werner fired Bloom in a face-to-face meeting at Fenway Thursday morning. The Sox released a statement at 12:27 p.m. announcing the “departure” of Bloom, then made CEO Sam Kennedy available for questions at Fenway at 12:45. This gave NESN a television exclusive.

“There’s blame to go around,” Kennedy acknowledged. “There’s blame on me. Our ownership. The on-field staff deserves blame. I’m sure some of the players would say they haven’t performed up to expectations. We all fell short of our collective goal, so there’s a lot of blame to go around.”

Borrowed Line?

Shank describes the injury to Aaron Rodgers, who got injured on the fourth play of his first game as a Jet, with this phrasing:
Aaron Rodgers’s season-ending injury is the Most Jets Thing Ever

Take it from one who knows about sports curses: This Jets thing is real.

As you all know by now, Jets quarterback/savior Aaron Rodgers suffered a torn Achilles’ tendon in the opening minutes of “Monday Night Football” and is lost for the season.

The Most Jets Thing Ever.
I think I've seen that phrase before!

Monday, September 11, 2023

It's Good To Be The King

Here's Shank's annual take on the state of the local pro sports teams:
The Patriots may no longer be dominant, but football remains king, and that’s all that matters

Happy New Year, Boston sports fans.

The Patriots at long last play their first game Sunday afternoon at Gillette against the defending NFC champion Philadelphia Eagles.

There was a time, not so long ago, when April’s Red Sox home opener represented the first day of our annual sports calendar. That was when baseball was king and the Sox were an irresistible 12-month soap opera. That was before the Sox rendered so many Septembers meaningless and before the mighty NFL emerged as America’s inarguable national pastime.

That was before Tom Brady . . . who returns Sunday to remind New England and the football world of how everything changed after the turn of the century. Brady will be in the house Sunday, evoking memories of all that was once great about Bill Belichick and the Super Bowl champion Patriots. Our Sports New Year appropriately comes one weekend after Allston Christmas, another cherished Boston custom.

Wednesday, September 06, 2023

In The Air Tonight

Shank gets the warm & fuzzies for a renewed college football 'rivlary':
Nostalgia will be in the air as Holy Cross takes on Boston College in football again

Nobody loves tradition and nostalgia more than yours truly.

I have scrapbooks with every story from when I covered the BNBL for the Globe in the 1970s. I see photos of myself from the ‘90s and realize those old shirts are still in my closet. I long for “The Ed Sullivan Show” Sunday nights on CBS at 8 p.m.

Trust me when I tell you that I know and love the old Boston College-Holy Cross football rivalry.

My dad went to BC with Tip O’Neill, Class of ‘36. When I applied to Holy Cross in 1970, the application asked, “How did you first hear of Holy Cross?” The answer was, “As the son of a BC grad, I have been aware of Holy Cross since my earliest days.”

But it may be time to pray for My Old School. The Crusaders, national contenders in the Football Championship Subdivision, are playing at BC Saturday and there’s concern that it won’t be competitive. The former rivals — who have taken separate paths athletically — have played only once since 1986, and that was a 62-14 BC rout five years ago.
I'm not able to get a point spread from the normal betting sites as of this writing but I'm sure it'll be something in the range of four touchdowns, maybe more. It stands to reason this series was stopped because of the lopsided nature of the last bunch of the games, and a 62-14 loss more than qualifies.

Guess Again

The Boston Globe sportswriters weigh in with their predictions for the 2023 NFL season. Shank says the Detroit Lions will win the Super Bowl, beating the New York Jets. I think cold fusion will be invented before that matchup ever happens.

DHL Dan CLXXXI - The Surrender Column

The Red Sox had an embarrassing loss last week. Naturally, Shank is there to fire a full spread of photon torpedoes:
An embarrassing surrender showed everything you need to know about the Red Sox’ season, and other thoughts

Picked-up pieces while finally watching football again . . .

▪ It’s been several days and we still have no acceptable explanation for the Red Sox front office/dugout quitting in mid-game at Fenway Monday while NESN’s Baghdad Bob barkers were still breathlessly promoting the Sox’ chances in the “wild-card race.”

Here’s what happened: With the Sox sitting 4½ games out of the final AL wild-card spot, Boston took a 4-3 lead into the top of the sixth against Houston — the team holding the final wild-card spot. Righthander Kyle Barraclough, a 33-year-old journeyman who pitched for the High Point Rockers earlier this season, was on the mound for the Sox in relief of Chris Sale.

Barraclough walked the first two batters in the sixth, then gave up a two-run triple to Jose Altuve. Boston trailed, 5-4.

Nobody warming in the bullpen.

When Barraclough hit the next batter, there was still nobody throwing in the Sox pen. Manager Alex Cora had no lefthander in his bullpen, so Barraclough pitched to mighty Yordan Alvarez, who cranked a three-run homer.


The blame lies with a front office that gave Cora an unwinnable hand in a game the Sox had to win. Because of medical evaluations and analytics, Cora was told he had to get through this game with four pitchers: Sale, Barraclough, Chris Martin, and Kenley Jensen. He had no lefty in the pen and did not want to go to specialists Martin or Jensen too soon after Sale left. So he showed the world what he had, effectively holding up a sign that read, “This is all they’re giving me, folks.”
That game was a total tank job, so Shank's right on that one. What's also right - I'm sure we'll get a few more columns with this tone as the month proceeds.