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Mike Shalin's Working Press -- Talkin' catchers, Smart and Gronk

By MIKE SHALIN
July 10. 2018 8:59PM




BUSY news week, so let’s get right to it.

NEWS ITEM: Christian Vazquez out 6-8 weeks.

The Red Sox lost their starting catcher for longer than first thought. Will they go out and get another one for the second half? In a word? No. Or at least not necessarily.

Wilson Ramos, in the final months of his two-year deal with the Rays, would be an upgrade over Vazquez. But the way the Red Sox are playing, do they really NEED the addition and the $5 million or so on the payroll?

This team is scoring runs by the bushel full. Sandy Leon is hitting. Blake Swihart can fill in. Concentrate elsewhere — set your sights on lefty reliever Brad Hand of the Padres if that’s possible.

NEWS ITEM: Smart talk heats up.

Marcus Smart was upset he hadn’t heard from the Celtics. Then, he wasn’t. Then it looks like he is again. Then there was talking he would sign the one-year/$6.1 million qualifying offer. Then the starving Sacramento Kings were preparing an offer sheet after losing out on Zach LaVine.

Monday, Smart, talking to The Athletic’s Jay King and the Globe’s Adam Himmelsbach, said he had “no clue,” on what the Celtics are thinking and added, ““That’s what I want to know. I can only control what I can control.”

What he can control is how hard he plays and how import he is to his current team off the bench in 2018-19.

On Tuesday, thescore.com reported Smart decreased his asking price and was meeting with multiple teams.

NEWS ITEM: Rob Gronkowski still on the block?

Yep, that was back on the table at the start of this new week. Greg Bedard of the Boston Sports Journal cited an AFC team personnel source saying no contract reconstruction — something said to be imminent just a few weeks ago — means the door is ajar.

“‘Where’s the restructure of his contract?’” the source told Bedard. “Until that’s done, I think he’s still available. I wouldn’t be surprised if (Bill) Belichick is going to test Gronk’s buy-in with the contract.’”

As Bedard wrote: “Three of the five personnel executives I spoke with feel that Belichick is just testing Gronkowski’s mettle and the tight end will eventually have his contract tweaked at some point and he’ll finish out this season with the Patriots. The other two execs said they think the Patriots (will) make Gronkowski play under his current contract. They feel Gronkowski put himself in this situation with his talk about retirement, and then his decision to stay away from the voluntary workouts. ‘I would be surprised if Belichick gave in on that,’ said one exec.”

NEWS ITEM: Fans get it right.

J.D. Martinez is having an incredible season. ON the field. Off the field, the slugger said the players should vote for the All-Stars, that they know more than the fans. Guess what — the fans got the thing right, their voting also including first-half AL MVP Martinez.

It’s tough to look at the All-Star starting rosters and see a real injustice (OK, Bryce Harper might have been a bad pick based on his season).

That said, we bring you to Blake Snell being snubbed by the league — twice.

First, the Tampa Bay ace was left off the original staff. Then, when Justin Verlander had to drop out because he’s pitching Sunday, Trevor Bauer was named to the AL team, the league ERA leader still waiting to be a fill-in.

“It’s frustrating, for sure,” Snell said. “I thought I did a lot of things I needed to do to be a good candidate to represent the Rays. I’m frustrated, but I think I made a good case ... I feel like I earned it.”.

Remember, this is the only All-Star Game, among the four major sports, that even resembles the game played during the season. And there are so many players who were left off who are deserving.

One of those is slugger Jesus Aguilar of the Brewers, whose teammates, like those of other players (see Brock Holt, Red Sox, for Andrew Benintendi) were pushing their players. Milwaukee fans voting for the slugger could claim a free doughnut at a Milwaukee-area shop and the slogan “We believe in Jesus” was popular.

NEWS ITEM: There’s no stopping J.D.

The numbers being put up by this guy are downright scary as he has emerged as the MVP frontrunner.

From @ESPNstatsinfor: “J.D. Martinez hit his 28th HR of the season in Monday’s win over the Rangers. The @RedSox improve to 24-3 when he homers this season.

“Martinez now has 60 HRs and 153 RBIs in his last 162 games.”

NEWS ITEM: Mookie not high on Derby.

Mookie Betts, talking to WEEI’s Rob Bradford, says the time has come for the Home Run Derby to be a thing of the past.

“Do something else, or take it out. Don’t even do it,” Betts said. “Anything you do too much, people are going to get tired of it.”

NEWS ITEM: Frank Ramsey passes away.

His number is retired in Boston and Lexington, Ky., and his actions on and off the court were lauded after Ramsey’s death at 86.

Tweeted Bill Russell: “I am in shock & deeply saddened to hear of my long time friend & teammate #FrankRamsey passing I had the great pleasure to speak with him often. He won 7 @NBA & 1 @NCAA title & was the 1st true 6th man. He was a great man & father. I will miss him!” Ramsey was the prototype for John Havlicek becoming a star sixth man.

Jerry West, speaking to Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald, said, “I never look at people as competitors. I kind of look at people as who they are and what kind of human beings they are. He was just one of the great guys you’d ever want to be around. He was a really great guy, and one of the players that commanded a lot of respect, not only for how hard he played but what kind of person he was.

“I think all of us, when we hear of our peers and people that we played against and competed against passing away, it’s … it’s not great to hear. Trust me, it’s not. He was just a great person, and it’s sad to see him pass away.”

NEWS ITEM: Yankees talking to Orioles.

Manny Machado wants to remain a shortstop. The Yankees have a shortstop but are said to be talking Machado and others with the Birds. Mega deal? It wouldn’t be the first between the teams.

While Machado is a long shot, the Yankees are also reportedly interested in Zach Britton, Brad Brach and Kevin Gausman.

At the June 15, 1976 trade deadline, the Yankees traded Rick Dempsey, Tippy Martinez, Rudy May, Scott McGregor and Dave Pagan to the Orioles in exchange for Doyle Alexander, Elrod Hendricks, Ken Holtzman, Grant Jackson and Jimmy Freeman.

NEWS ITEM: Crowder lauds Brad Stevens.

Jae Crowder was moved to the Cavaliers in last season’s big trade and is now in Utah. You know he’d rather be in Boston, playing for Stevens.

Talking to Bulpett in Las Vegas, Crowder, talking about the Celtics, said, “At the end of the day, Brad Stevens is there, and if he’s still there, they can make a lot of stuff happen.”

He also said he stays in touch with his ex-teammates.

“Damn right,” he said. “All of the young guys got better. Terry (Rozier) and Jaylen (Brown) definitely got better. That’s what it comes down to. And they’ve got pieces. You got Kyrie (Irving) and you got a lot of different pieces. And you’ve got Brad Stevens, so it works.”

NEWS ITEM: Another Williams problem.

First there was sleeping through his first conference call. Then there was the missed flight. Now, Robert Williams III is dealing with something that’s not his fault. He has an artery problem in his legs. According to Fred Katz of MassLive, it’s not considered serious but it’s another thing to keep an eye on with a very talented player who slipped all the way to the 27th pick in the recent draft.

NEWS ITEM: NFLPA files anthem grievance.

Apparently, they don’t like the owners, who caved in to the President, on the whole national anthem thing. So, they’re fighting it.

Says the union: “Our union filed its non-injury grievance today on behalf of all players challenging the NFL’s recently imposed anthem policy. The union’s claim is that this new policy, imposed by the NFL’s governing body without consultation with the NFLPA, is inconsistent with the collective bargaining agreement and infringes on player rights.

“In advance of our filing today, we proposed to the NFL to begin confidential discussions with the NFLPA Executive Committee to find a solution to this issue instead of immediately proceeding with litigation. The NFL has agreed to proceed with those discussions and we look forward to starting them soon.”

NEWS ITEM: Orr says kids play too much hockey.

When Bobby Orr says ANYTHING on hockey, we listen. Now, No. 4 says kids are playing the sport too much and shouldn’t be doing it in the summer.

“Kids play far too much,” he said. “I mean, kids are playing 12 months a year — little ones. They don’t need it. Play others sports. Have other coaches. Hang around other kids, their parents. I think that’s all healthy. Parents think their kids have to play for people to see them. Look, if your kid can play, they will find you.”

NEWS ITEM: Panda helping Giants.

Pablo Sandoval continues to contribute in San Francisco.

Sunday, Panda hit a three-run homer into McCovey Cove and drove in five runs in a victory. Then, Monday, he lined a game-winning single in the 11th inning to beat the Cubs.

Through Monday, Sandoval was hitting .260 with eight homers, 35 RBIs and a .739 OPS in 196 at-bats.

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Some numbers to chew on:

Clayton Kershaw, in his last 13 starts against the Padres, is 10-0, with an 0.89 ERA, 118 strikeouts, 18 walks and an 0.63 WHIP.

The A’s, 17-4 in their last 21 games entering play Tuesday night, were 35-0 when leading after seven innings, 42-0 when ahead after eight this season.

Through Monday, the Boston/Milwaukee/Atlanta Braves were 10,560-10,560 all-time.

Through Monday, Oakland manager Bob Melvin was 1,081-1,082 as a major league skipper. Thanks to Dave Laurila of Fangraphs for the last two stats.

From the Boston Globe’s Alex Speier: (Ryan) Brasier impressed the Red Sox this spring, when his fastball was up to 96 and he was throwing strikes. He was outstanding in Pawtucket — a 1.34 ERA (best in the Intl Lg for a pitcher with 40+ IP) and 13/14 in save oppts. This is his first big league appearance since 9/27/13.”

Note: Brasier hit 97 in his Sox debut Monday night.

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


Sports columns Patriots/NFL Red Sox/MLB Celtics/NBA Bruins/NHL


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