All Sections

Home | Sports Columns

Mike Shalin's working press: Let's play 2 if it's too cold for 1

By MIKE SHALIN
April 16. 2018 10:40PM




AS THE RED SOX were shivering their way through another victory at frigid Fenway on Sunday, there was all kinds of bad news on the left field scoreboard.

All kinds of postponements. Many teams are facing difficult pitching times down the road to make up games as a ridiculous April continued.

The Red Sox-Orioles made it 22 postponements, the Cubs 23 (Monday) for MLB, with Bob Nightengale of USA Today reporting that’s already the second-most in any April since 2000. And Monday, we even lost a dome game in Toronto because of falling ice damaging the roof.

It’s April 17, folks.

But as Mother Nature continues hinting there’s something indeed wrong with the environment, there was some good news for Red Sox fans on the scoreboard full of postponements.

If you can stay up late Tuesday, you can see David Price pitch against … Shohei Ohtani.

The Japanese sensation was slated to pitch for the 13-3 Angels in frigid Kansas City Sunday. The Royals wanted to bag the game with a wind chill of 11 degrees but MLB wanted it played. Finally, baseball came to its senses and the game was came to its senses and the game was postponed, setting Ohtani up as a pitcher rather than as a DH for the opener of the Red Sox’ road trip.

Ohtani grew up in a cold part of Japan and didn’t even have a coat on when he entered the clubhouse in K.C. But he was nervous, saying, “I was a little worried about pitching in the cold weather. I couldn’t feel my fingertips. I couldn’t feel the ball. It was a concern of mine.”

One would think the risk of injury is higher in those conditions. Nightengale notes that the 13-2 Red Sox have won six straight games played in under 40 degrees. Now they’re are off to Anaheim, Oakland and Toronto and don’t play at Fenway again until April 27. Hopefully, things will be better by then.

Saturday in Chicago, the Braves led the Cubs 10-2 and surrendered 12 unanswered and lost the game in a game played in a freezer.

“If we all don’t come out of here with pneumonia I think we’ll be alright, I think we’ll have won this trip. That’s pretty ridiculous,” said Braves reliever Luke Jackson.

Added Joe Maddon, whose team WON the game: That’s not baseball weather. The elements were horrific to play baseball. It’s not conducive.

“We’ll do what we’re asked or told to, but those were the worst elements I’ve ever experienced in a game. Ever. And I’ve been in some pretty bad stuff.”

Sunday, Chris Sale, who pitched well but with a high pitch count that limited him to five innings, said it was the coldest he’s ever been on a mound — and he used to call Chicago home.

“This is the most miserable I’ve ever been on a baseball field, by far,” Sale said. “Not even close. Not even close.”

Is there an answer to all this? Can baseball start the season later and not play well into November? I heard an interesting suggesting on WFAN in New York on Sunday.

They played single-admission double-headers every Sunday in the old days. Obviously, the owners don’t want to surrender dates so it won’t happen. But what if the fan had to pay more for a twin bill? A $50 ticket might cost $75 for two games, and while that’s a loss for the owners, the fans would be in the ballpark longer, thus spending more money.

To do something crazy like this, you would also have to increase the rosters, which should be done anyway. In this day and age of crowded bullpens, 25 players is simply not enough.

All of this will have to be dealt with. Meanwhile, crowds announced at over 32,000 (like Sunday at Fenway) will actually be 12-15 thousand, which is also a significant financial loss.

Big start

The Red Sox are only the sixth team in American League history to start 13-2 or better, the first in the AL since the 1987 Brewers.

Column pal Jon Couture, citing Baseball Perspective, notes:

“The 2018 @RedSox are the 16th team in the modern era to start a season 13-2 or better. Five of the prior 15 won a pennant, but seven failed to make the playoffs and two didn’t even top .500 at year’s end.”

According to a chart, the 1907 Cubs, the 1955 Dodgers and ’84 Tigers have started 13-2 or better and won the World Series.

Sunday marked Jackie Bradley Jr.’s second time batting leadoff for the Red Sox, something he had done 90 percent of the time in the minors. The other time saw him end a 29-game hitting streak. Sunday, he was 0-for-4.

The O-fer dropped Bradley to .191 — with one RBI — on the young season.

Foul or no foul?

When the Bucks took the ball out of bounds trailing by three with half a second left in regulation at TD Garden on Sunday, many assumed the Celtics would foul immediately on the inbounds pass, sending Milwaukee to the line with little chance of tying the game (a tip-in off the second shot intentionally missed.

But here’s the problem: Middleton caught and shot. The risk was there for a three-shot foul if the defender didn’t foul quickly enough. Brad Stevens elected not to foul and Middleton drilled a 35-footer to force overtime.

I’m with Stevens on this one.

“No. No, no, no. Too much — too much variable if he catches it and he’s into his shooting range — motion — you’re, you’re done,” Stevens said. “He still has to make the shot. It’s a hard shot over a guy. I just think the shot before that we gave up to (Malcolm) Brogdon, we should’ve, we could’ve done better. That one we could’ve done better. We’ll watch tomorrow and improve from it.”

Big names missing

No Brady. No Gronk. No worries.

Probably.

Tom Brady was returning from charity work in Qatar too late for Monday’s OPTIONAL workouts. But Rob Gronkowski just decided not to be there, continuing the saga that began right after the Super Bowl.

Will the big fella play this coming season?

The guess is he will and there’s a growing sentiment this is all about money. Karen Guregian of the Boston Herald said progress is being made in that area.

Wrote WEEI.com’s Ryan Hannable:

“It’s easy to see why the tight end would be upset with his current contract, as he’s set to make $8.9 million in cash this season and then $10 million in cash next season. Keep in mind after his incentives in 2017, he made just over $10 million in cash as he was named a first-team All-Pro.

“Not only that, Gronkowski can take a look at the deals free agent tight ends and even receivers have signed this offseason, and it isn’t hard to see just how underpaid he is.

“By having just under $14 million in cap space right now, the Patriots have some extra money to spend, which they didn’t before the trade of Brandin Cooks. Being so late in the offseason, it feels like some of this money could go towards a new contract for the tight end.”

After canceling a workout for Colin Kaepernick because he refused to say he won’t kneel for the anthem, the Seahawks signed a backup QB, Stephen Morris, whose NFL experience totals ZERO playing time since getting out of Miami in 2014. ZERO.

Someone is going to pay for not giving Mr. Kaepernick a job.

First impression

New Lions coach Matt Patricia is already making his mark in Detroit.

“I like him a lot,” running back Ameer Abdullah said. “I think he’s going to bring a special dynamic to the team.”

Added Abdullah: “He comes from a very knowledgeable background, very smart guy. He studied all different type of things in school and now he’s a football coach. So that brings a lot of personality, and I think he’s going to be cool.”

In the gone-but-not-forgotten department, check out Terry Rozier after Sunday’s Celtics victory.

“We definitely feel like they’re not as quick laterally as us, but they’re very tall and athletic,” he said. “We just tried move the ball offensively and get great shots, while defensively, we wanted to play long and show our arms. Giannis (Antetokounmpo), he loves to push the ball. Drew Bledsoe, he loves to push the ball. Khris Middleton, he makes tough shots. We just try to limit them at what they’re good at by just being long off the ball and showing our presence. I feel like we did a great job of that throughout the majority of the game.”

DREW Bledsoe is, of course, ERIC Bledsoe.

Around the horn

Old friend Deven Marrero lost a home run the other night when he passed teammate Alex Avila on the bases, reducing Marrero’s hit to a single. … As if the Rays aren’t bad enough: they lost Kevin Kiermaier for up to 13 weeks with a torn thumb ligament. … This from ESPN’s Tim Kurkjian, from the Elias Sports Bureau: “The @Angels became 1st team since 1960 Orioles to use 9 different SPs in 1st 15 games,” … The Nationals lost three of four to the Rockies over the weekend and were 7-9 and six games behind the Mets when they hit New York for a three-game series. … Despite the skipper’s early problems, the Phillies were 9-5 through the end of the weekend. … The Red Sox zoomed to No, 1 in the ESPN latest power rankings. … The ageless Bartolo Colon took a perfect game into the eighth inning Sunday. … The Pirates, 11-4 through 15 games, lost Josh Harrison for six weeks to a broken hand. … Finally, the Indians and Twins are playing in Puerto Rico this week as the island attempts to rebuild. This can’t hurt.

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


Sports Sports columns Red Sox/MLB Celtics/NBA