POMP AND CIRCUMSTANCE.
Weather permitting, the champion Red Sox will finally open the home portion of their schedule against the Blue Jays Tuesday at Fenway Park. There will be a ring ceremony. There will be Patriots — albeit not Robert Kraft, Tom Brady or Bill Belichick. The Sox’ fourth title in 15 seasons will be recognized. A team that won 119 games will get its bling.
Believe it or not, Sunday’s win in the desert — and didn’t we all know Hector Velazquez and Marcus Walden would be the saviors, right? — took a bit of the social media pressure off this team. Coming home 3-8 and off a win is different than coming home 2-9 off four straight losses.
And much of the talk on Twitter and elsewhere centered around whether or not you’ll boo them while they’re getting their rings.
As the kids say these days: Are you kidding me right now?
Forgetting the fact you can’t eliminate yourselves in the first 11 games of a season, these guys have earned the right to hear nothing but cheers during Tuesday’s pre-game festivities. ANYONE who boos is foolish. This is not meant to be a rah-rah thing for the home team, but this group, which basically returned intact minus Craig Kimbrel and Joe Kelly, deserves your cheers for what happened in 2018.
It’s really that simple.
“We just need to get back home,” says David Price. “Our fans will remind us of how good we are.”
And they ARE good. Sure they’re good. They were presented with a 13-game (including two exhibitions) road trip out of Florida. Their starters were clearly not ready to start the season. The hope of management is that the decision to baby these guys in Florida pays off down the road. Also, there were no days off to start the season.
They will be adding Dustin Pedroia, perhaps as early as today, although it’s tough to imagine bringing him back on soggy turf. They will have Chris Sale pitching and we’ll see if it’s the new (and crafty) Sale or the overpowering Sale. They’re playing a lousy team in the Blue Jays, and they’re getting their rings and raising their flag.
And they WON’T get booed.
“We learned a lot from this road trip,” said manager Alex Cora. “... We know we’re a good team. We never took anything for granted last year, not during spring training and not during this week. But there’s a few things we need to get better at.”
Coming into play Monday, the Red Sox and Cubs were a combined 5-15. Neither had played a home game. On the other end of the surprise spectrum, the Mariners were 9-2 and Tigers and Rays both 7-3.
This is the time of year for weird stuff happening.
Over the weekend, Eduardo Nunez pitched for the Red Sox.
The ever-durable Jon Lester, staked to a 6-0 lead after two innings in the Cubs’ home opener Monday, left after facing two batters in the third with left hamstring tightness apparently suffered sliding into home plate.
Lester, whose RBI double off the head of Pirates starter Jameson Taillon delivered the first run of the Cubbies’ home season, has made at least 31 starts every year since 2007.
Mike Trout, Bryce Harper and Manny Machado, who had the largest of all the huge contracts signed around MLB, have settled in with the following numbers through Sunday: Trout was hitting .393 with five homers, 12 RBIs and a 1.581 OPS; Harper was at .385 with three homers, five RBIs and a 1.402 OPS; and Machado was at .290, with two homers, five RBIs and an .890 OPS.
While the Red Sox certainly aren’t panicking and their fans shouldn’t be, the 3-8 start has seen the champs drop all the way down in the Yahoo power rankings.
Dropping them from 10th to 30th, Mike Oz wrote, “Is this a bit over-dramatic? Probably. The Red Sox won the World Series last year and they’ll, likely, be fine. But if a team that wasn’t the Red Sox had eight losses, the worst run differential in the league and lost series to the Mariners, A’s and D-backs, I wouldn’t be giving them the benefit of the doubt. Enjoy No. 30, Boston, now get yourself together.”
Playoffs are here
This is my personal favorite time of the year: the start of baseball and the indoor sports going into their playoffs. The Bruins open with the Maple Leafs. The Celtics have the Pacers. Both have home court for the first round.
How much does that mean? Leafs coach Mike Babcock said Monday, “As much as we say it’s a hostile environment, I’ve never seen a fan play yet.”
The Bruins are pretty healthy (no Kevan Miller). The Celtics? Not so much with the injury suffered by Marcus Smart Sunday night, leaving things a bit up in the air. The oblique injury was first called a strain but then changed to a bruise, which is better. Brad Stevens didn’t think it was serious, but face it: As hard as they’ve played down the stretch, the Pacers with no Victor Oladipo shouldn’t beat the Celtics, with or without Smart.
“Just play our game,” Kyrie Irving says. “Be physical, do the little things out there. Use our IQ on both ends of the floor and just play together. Just be great. Just be great. It’s easy to do that, you know, when you put in the work, prepare as much as you do, take care of your body, just go out there and play.
“I’m just happy we get to prepare for a team for multiple days so that always makes it a lot better. Just go out there and make plays; there’s nothing really surprising out there in the playoffs so just go out there and get a good feel for the Pacers. Game 1 is a feel-out game and we go from there.”
Hall of Famer Bob Ryan Monday: “Happy 79th, John Havlicek. Unarguably the greatest two-position player ever. Eight rings. One NCAA title. No one had better stamina. Had three-point range necessary for today’s game. And always carried himself with class.”
You know how much we love the mock drafts running rampant this time of year, and The Athletic’s Dane Brugler went all the way through the seven rounds.
The Patriots’ pick, in Brugler’s eyes (and we know Belichick never goes through with the picks he has):
No. 32: Jeffrey Simmons, DT, Mississippi State:
“The Patriots received the fewest amount of snaps from their rookie class last season and that didn’t slow down their Super Bowl championship run. Working his way back from an ACL injury, there is no guarantee that Simmons will play in 2019, but the Patriots might see the reward (top-five player) worth the risk.”(Personal thought: the Pats need a first-rounder and others to step in and play).
No. 56: Irv Smith, Jr., TE, Alabama
No. 64: Jahlani Tavai, LB, Hawaii
No. 73: D’Andre Waller, EDGE, Georgia
No. 97: Ryan Finley, QB, N.C. State
No. 101: Mecole Hardman, WR, Georgia
OK, we’ll cut it off there, before you ALL fall asleep.
Football Morning in America’s Peter King, doing what he called a “non-mock” draft, had the Patriots taking CB Greedy Williams of LSU, adding, “Pats can dip into deep wideout/tight end market at 56, 64 or 73 overall, or with a trade. The tight end who might fit well is Texas A&M’s Jace Sternberger — if the Patriots think he can block well enough in their scheme. He can stretch a defense.”
Funny Twitter exchange over the weekend when the Sports Xchange’s William Bendetsen wrote, “Interesting to see what Bill Belichick has to say this Wednesday at his pre-draft press conference.” To which Bill Burt of the Lawrence Eagle-Tribune responded, “You’re joking, right?”
With all the talk taking place on fixing our broken national pastime, can we please do something about position players pitching? Once a novelty, it’s now expected when a team is hopelessly down late in a game. Saw Nunez Saturday. Then the Orioles used Hanser Alberto against the Yankees Saturday. It used to be cute. Now, it’s annoying.
And it taints one of the things we love about baseball: stats. The Yankees’ Austin Romine hit the seventh Yankee homer of the game off Alberto, the most they’d hit in a road game since 1961 (in Boston). And Yankees announcer Michael Kay called it like a legitimate homer, which I guess it was. But was it REALLY?
Did Brock Holt REALLY record the first cycle in postseason history when he did it against the Yankees in the 2018 ALCS? He capped it with a homer — off Romine. To me, that’s an asterisk kind of thing.
Speaking of that 1961 game at Fenway, Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris and Moose Skowron all homered twice and Yogi Berra once in a 12-3 New York win.
Finally, actress Gabrielle Union came to the defense of her husband, Dwyane Wade, after Paul Pierce said he was better than Wade, tweeting, “This @paulpierce34 thing is wrong on many obvious levels but what I find most troublesome is this idea of a man trying to diminish another man that looks like him, was raised like him, in order to shine a tad brighter. (Bleep) isnt entertaining, it’s sad.”
And AP basketball writer Tim Reynolds adds: “If Dwyane Wade came back next season, played all 82 games and scored zero points in every one, he’d still have a higher career scoring average than Paul Pierce.”
Mike Shalin covers Boston pro sports for the New Hampshire Union Leader and Sunday News. His email address is email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @mscotshay.