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Mike Shalin's Working Press: Gronkowski delivers quite the reminder

September 10. 2018 10:21PM

New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski reacts after an interference call against the Houston Texans in the second quarter at Gillette Stadium. (David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports)

THE DRAMA began minutes after an emotional loss in the Super Bowl.

It officially ended Sunday at Gillette Stadium.

We’re talking, of course, about Rob Gronkowski.

He was going to quit. Join WWE. Become an actor. Needed a re-worked contract. Was going to get traded. Skipped the voluntary workouts, leading to more trade speculation.

Right up until the hours before the opener, when a report surfaced he told the Patriots he wouldn’t play for another team if he were to be traded.


Then came the game. And the latest reminder of something we’ve said here in the past: He is the best player in football.

He did cough up a fumble in a rare sign of human on-field behavior. Other than that, he was simply amazing. He scored the first touchdown of the season with two defenders all over him. He made an amazing (and questionable) catch over the middle (I think he caught it) in a huge part of the game. He led the blocking on the right side for a James White touchdown.

He was Gronk. The best player in football.

The old guy throwing the ball to him was, despite both of them missing those workouts, very much on the same page.

“It’s a lot of practice, no doubt. A lot of practice,” Gronkowski said of his connection with Tom Brady. “It’s never letting up, it’s a lot of consistency out there on the practice field. Doing it every week, doing it in the offseason, doing it in it camp, doing it whenever. You can’t just get on a page like that just from the get-go. You’ve got to put work in, you’ve got to put time in and that’s what we do.”

Said Brady: “Rob and I — we’ve been playing together for a long time. I remember a couple years ago, we threw like in April one year, and I mean we threw like 40 passes. We hit them all. So, I know his body language. I know his ability to run and what routes. He can do it. He can do, really, all the routes. It’s just a matter of giving him a chance, and it came with a big touchdown today.”

Before coming back to New England for another return, defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel, asked how to defend Gronk, said, “Well, I could put about 12 or 13 people on the field. But that won’t work, because they won’t allow me to do that.”

Said teammate Rex Burkhead: “He is a machine. He is a big target and can make big plays like that for us.”

Playoff baseball

A great series at Fenway over the weekend, raising the level of excitement for next month.

The Red Sox needed that win Sunday night. They did the same thing they did in Houston in May/June, lost the first two games and then rebounded. This team has rebounded all year.

Did they get help? Yeah, Jose Altuve was safe at the plate. The strings of the glove do NOT count as a tag. Critical only recently of the replay system, Houston’s Josh Reddick posted a picture that clearly showed Altuve’s hand on the plate and Sandy Leon’s glove not on him. He was safe.

“He did get in there. It’s clear as day,” said Astros manager A.J. Hinch. “I’m tired of these questions because replay’s set up for precisely that type of play, and we feel like we have clear evidence.”

Almost four minutes, and they upheld a blown call.

Regardless, the Red Sox won their 98th game of what has been a special season, with J.D. Martinez hitting his 40th homer on Sunday night.

From the Elias Sports Bureau: “J.D. Martinez (.332, 39 HR) and Mookie Betts (.341, 29 HR) are in position to become only the second pair of teammates in the last 81 years to each hit at least 30 homers with a batting average of .330 or higher in one season. Last AL pair: (Joe) DiMaggio, (Lou) Gehrig, 1937.” The other pair was Todd Helton and Larry Walker with the ’01 Rockies.

From @SoxNotes: “Most HR in 1st season with Red Sox: Dick Stuart — 42 (1963); Jimmie Foxx — 41 (1936); Manny Ramirez — 41 (2001); J.D. Martinez — 40 (2018).”

Cool stats

Betts is the first player in MLB history to record four straight seasons of 40 doubles and 20 stolen bases.

Cleveland’s Jose Ramirez joined Joe Carter and Grady Sizemore as the only Indians with 30/30 — home runs and stolen bases.

“Not a lot of people do it in history,” said teammate Francisco Lindor, who hit his 34th homer Thursday. “It’s a special number, he’s having a great season, and I’m very happy for him.

Two LONG losing streaks came to an end Saturday: the Kansas football (46 straight) winning a road game (at Central Michigan) for the first time since 2009 and Kentucky beating Florida for the first time in 32 games.

Tweeted the Lawrence, Kan., Police department: “Alright folks, it’s been a while since KU won a road game, so let’s refresh everyone’s memory on how it works. Essentially if KU wins on the road, everyone celebrates by not breaking the law in any way. Let’s keep the tradition alive!”

Dez wants in

Reacting to a plea from a fan to return to the Cowboys, Dez Bryant took to Twitter to say what he really wants to do.

He tweeted: “Naw I’m OK. I rather go somewhere I can showcase my skills for real. If I line up next to Gronk Hogan Edelman I’m for sure getting a 1 on 1 matchup plus I won’t be getting criticized ... for expressing my love for the game. Washington is cool as well.”

Jimmy Garoppolo finally lost a game with the 49ers Sunday — his first loss in eight NFL games (the first two with the Pats).

“We knew it was going to be a tough challenge with the environment, going against a tough team,” said Garoppolo, whose offensive line is banged up. “They stood up to everything we thought they would, but with all the things that went bad we still had a shot at the end there. Just a tough way to end it.”

Separation anxiety

Think athletes like to compete? Consider the words of the Houston Astros’ Lance McCullers Jr., trying to fight his way back from the disabled list.

“Being on the DL, for me, is more mentally draining than playing,” McCullers said Saturday. “I feel kind of useless here, so I just try to be the best teammate I can, cheer for the guys, run up during the game, get drinks and food whatever they need. I just really want to pitch again. And I hope that’s going to come here soon.”

Strikeouts rule: From Dave Laurilla of Fangraphs: “Eleven of the 14 American League pitchers with 12 or more wins are averaging over a strikeout per inning. Three of the 11 National League pitchers with 12 or more wins are averaging over a strikeout per inning.”

There is a legitimate three-way battle that should ensue for the American League Manager of the Year honor: Alex Cora, Bob Melvin and Kevin Cash all more than worthy. My vote would go to Melvin.

Looking around

Branden Bolden, cut loose by the Patriots at the end of camp, tweeted out a picture of himself in a Miami uniform. He had a tackle on special teams, while Danny Amendola caught four passes for 26 yards in a win.

Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reported the Red Sox were among several contenders not happy with the way the Indians manipulated the rules to acquire Josh Donaldson in time for postseason eligibility.

…The Washington Mystics fell behind 0-2 to the Seattle Storm in the WNBA finals with one incredible stat: they were 0-for-16 from 3-point range in a three-point loss. The old record was 15.

David Krejci won’t join the Bruins in China because of a visa issue.

J.J. Watt on his team never winning at Gillette: “It’s obviously very frustrating. Being a competitor, you want to win. You want to compete, you want to win, you want to play your best. I have a lot of respect for those guys in the other locker room and everything that they’ve accomplished and all that they’ve done and just obviously would like the outcome to be different. “

Chris Sale will pitch the first two innings at Fenway tonight. He has thrown five innings since July 27.

Dellin Betances suffered the loss for the Yankees Sunday in Seattle, but recorded a strikeout for an AL-record 39th straight game. Teammate Aroldis Chapman, who might not pitch again this season, has the major league mark: 49 in a row with the Reds.

…Boston College’s football team, which will open its ACC slate at Wake Forest Thursday after two easy wins over UMass and Holy Cross, moved from 34th to 28th in the latest AP voting. If the Eagles win this week, they should be ranked.

…Tight end Ryan Griffin of Londonderry, had a busy, albeit ineffective day for the Texans Sunday. Five targets, no receptions. Didn’t look like it was his fault.

…Did you see what Aaron Rodgers did Sunday night? Hope you didn’t turn it off.

…Finally, the Red Sox have 49 wins at home and 49 on the road en route to a 50/50 season. The last teams to do it were the ’08 Angels (50/50) and ’11 Phillies (52/50).

Mike Shalin covers Boston pro sports for the New Hampshire Union Leader and Sunday News. His email address is

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