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Mike Shalin's Working Press -- It's official: Betts is my AL MVP

September 25. 2018 10:57PM
Boston right fielder Mookie Betts rounds the bases after hitting a two run homer against the Baltimore Orioles in the second inning at Fenway Park. (David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports)

OK, I’ve changed my mind.

Mookie Betts is the Most Valuable Player in the American League.

I did this after spending the summer pushing J.D. Martinez for the award, pointing to his production and what he represents to the others in the lineup — and how Betts dipped when David Ortiz left last season.

But Betts just keeps going.

So, I’ve changed my mind.

Hitting his 32nd home run of the season Monday night, Betts ended that game hitting .343, with a 1.077 OPS, 80 RBIs and 125 runs scored at the top of the lineup. He had stolen 29 bases and played great defense.

He’s the best player on the best team.

From Bill Koch of the Providence Journal: “Mookie Betts will play no more than 138 games this season. Consider: — The last MLB player with 125 runs scored or more in 138 games or less was Jimmie Foxx in 1939 — The last MLB player with 83 extra-base hits or more in 138 games or less was Joe DiMaggio in 1941.”

Special numbers

You likely know by now the Red Sox set the franchise record for victories in a season with No. 106.

The record of 105 lasted 105 years — and now it’s on to the special time of the season.

Some numbers: From @SoxNotes: “The Red Sox improve to 106-51, marking a new franchise record for wins in a season. They are the 19th team since 1900 to win as many as 106 games. The Sox have secured sole possession of MLB’s best record for the fifth time in franchise history (also 1903, 1912, 1915, and 1946).”

And from our buddy Chris Smith of MassLive: “1912 Red Sox (105-47) played fewer games (152-game schedule). So they still own the best winning percentage (.691) of any team in Red Sox history. The 2018 Red Sox have a .675 winning percentage. If they win their remaining five regular-season games, they’d finish with a .685 winning percentage.”

Almost gone

Patriots fans suffered through a tough night Sunday as Matt Patricia’s Lions took the Pats apart.

But close your eyes and imagine how it was almost worse: Rob Gronkowski did in fact kill a potential deal to those same Lions and would have been playing against New England Sunday.

After the game, Gronk confirmed the earlier reports, saying he would rather stop playing football than leave Tom Brady.

“Yeah, it happened,” Gronkowski said. “Brady’s my quarterback, that’s all. Wasn’t going anywhere without Brady.”

During his regular WEEI appearance on Monday, Brady said, “I think that speaks to our relationship and I feel as strongly about him as he does about me. I love the guy,” Brady told the radio station. “He’s had a big impact on my career — personally and professionally. Like I said, I’m very lucky to play with him and we’re going to keep fighting.”

Adam Schefter reported the Patriots would have received draft picks for Gronk, which clearly would have enraged the fan base. Even though he hasn’t looked it the past two games, the big fella is the best player in football, the toughest to handle.

“It would have been a trade involving draft picks,” Schefter told WEEI. “That was the base of the trade. He was the only player involved in that trade.” He added: “It would have been a combination of picks and so it didn’t work out for either side. In the end, the Patriots get to keep him.”

Worried yet?

The Patriots have not lost three games in a row since 2002 (spoiled much?), not even during 2008 when Brady was lost in the first game. They have dropped two straight and as hard as it is to believe, they trail the 3-0 Dolphins by two games as the Fish hit Foxborough, Mass., for what has become a very big game.

Team leader Matthew Slater said after Sunday’s debacle he thinks the toughness of this team has yet to be established.

“Well, we’ll see it over the rest of the remainder of the season,” Bill Belichick said Tuesday. “I mean, every week’s tough in this league, so we’ll see how we handle it. Look, each individual and each team has to prove it every year and every week, and regardless of what any of us have or haven’t done in the past or whatever, we’ll see what happens this year and so will everybody else. We’ll all know the answer to that question as we go through and we march through the season.”

Monday, Belichick said, “Alright, well obviously the Lions did everything a lot better than we did tonight, so give them credit. “They played well, coached well. We just didn’t do anything well enough to give ourselves a chance to win. Similar situation last week — get behind early, play from behind. (We) just weren’t able to make it up. So, just going to have to work our way out of it. Obviously we have a lot of work to do. So, there’s no shortcut, no easy way, just have to do a better job.”

Patriots defensive back Duron Harmon: “No panic. Not yet.”

Miami quarterback Ryan Tannehill is 10-1 in his last 11 starts.

It was tough to see Jimmy Garoppolo go down for the season with a knee injury. Again, his career is on hold — only this time at least he has a ton of money in the bank.

Staying quiet

The Tampa Bays Rays’ Blake Snell blocked his mother on his phone because she kept sending him clips of his accomplishments. “I don’t want to hear it,” he told Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. “I know I’m going to reply to my mom, so the only way I’m not is if I don’t see it. So I gave it a couple hours where I couldn’t see it, she had no clue, and then I unblocked her. Having to do that was funny in a way, and weird ‘cause it was my mother, but I just don’t like hearing it.

“I genuinely don’t care what I’m doing right now. I’m aware of it. It’s awesome. But I’ve got two starts left, and I’ve got to finish. That’s all I care about.”

Great note from Topkin, saying Snell, “is the first to win 20 from a 2011 draft class that included Gerrit Cole, Trevor Bauer, Jose Fernandez and Kyle Hendricks. Only 13 of the pitchers taken in that draft have 20 career wins.”

Just doing it

Nike is doing quite well after taking a gamble on Colin Kaepernick, Huffington Post reporting the company has hit the jackpot, even though the President predicted its death.

“(Nike’s) new ‘Just Do It’ ad campaign with Colin Kaepernick was a stroke of genius,” said Camilo Lyon, an analyst with financial services company Canaccord Genuity. “This premeditated move was another subtle but significant sign of Nike’s strength and confidence in its position in the marketplace.”

More Nike: The town of North Smithfield, R.I., has rescinded its boycott of Nike goods. … But Truett McConnell University (TMU) in Cleveland, Ga., will stop selling Nike products in its school store.

Now, THAT will hurt.

Looking around

…We’ve said this before, but golf becomes interesting when Tiger Woods is in the hunt. Spectacular weekend for him and his sport. And his swagger is back. Asked on the Ryder Cup Twitter feed for his Mount Rushmore of golf, he said, “Probably (Sammy) Snead, (Bobby) Jones, (Jack) Nicklaus, Me.”

Roberto Osuna, charged with domestic assault in Toronto, returned to that city and was booed by the locals when he entered Monday’s game. Didn’t keep him from his 19th save. “He wanted the ball like he always does,” Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. “I’m sure it was emotional for him.” Tuesday, he settled his case, the charges withdrawn via something called a peace bond — meaning he has to stay out of trouble for a year or he re-faces the charges.

Dellin Betances did not pick up a strikeout as one of eight Yankee relievers who combined on a two-hitter at Tampa Bay Monday night. That snapped his streak of an AL-record 44 straight outings with at least one. Teammate Aroldis Chapman holds the MLB mark, with 49 for the Reds.

Kawhi Leonard met the media in Toronto Monday and refused to look past what everyone thinks will be his only season north of the border. “I want to play here,” he said. “I came in with an open mind. I want to do great things ... focus on this year. If you’re looking toward the future, you’re going to trip over the present.”

…Jerry Remy update from the Dawg himself on Tuesday: Final session of radiation today. Will be on NESN tomorrow night to join the guys for a inning. Looking forward to visiting Fenway.”

Didi Gregorius vows to play again this year after suffering torn cartilage in his right wrist. It’s thought to be a season-ending injury.

…Now the Timberwolves want to keep Jimmy Butler, but Butler still wants out.

…The A’s took the lead in the seventh inning Monday night and moved to 68-0 on the season when leading after seven. Khris Davis hit his 46th homer of the season in the win — on the night the A’s had already clinched a playoff spot with Tampa Bay losing to the Yankees. The A’s improved to 68-21 since being 11 games out of the second wild card in June.

Brian Gionta officially retired from the NHL Monday. Look for him on television in the future after a great career.

Danny Amendola should get a warm reception from the folks at Gillette Sunday.

…The Marlins became the first team since the 2004 Expos to draw under a million people. The Expos became the Washington Nationals the following season.

…From Jim Salisbury of NBCSports Philly: “The Phillies led the NL East by 1½ games on Aug. 5. They were 15 games over .500 at that point. Since then, they are 15-28. The Braves are 27-20 since then. Phillies collapsed. Braves won division.”

…In one dreadful afternoon in West Lafayette, Ind., BC lost: a game, its first ranking since 2008 and, probably, any chance JJ Dillon had at a Heisman Trophy.

…Brady has thrown three interceptions in the last two games against Miami, a win and a loss.

…Finally, Rays manager Kevin Cash, asked about the Yankees “bullpen” night Monday: “I don’t think it’s fair for them to call it a bullpen day. It’s more like a closer day because they all just kind of come in there and they’ve all got … closing? It’s wipeout stuff from the second that (Chad) Green steps on the mound and out, they’re very special.”

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

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