A TRIP around your sports world on this final day of March:
There has been a whole lot of news coming out of Foxborough since the Patriots won their sixth Super Bowl. Most of it isn’t good. The star tight end retired. The owner got arrested. Free agency was basically allowed to pass without what people would call a significant acquisition. Tom Brady has yet to redo his contract to open cap space. And then, at the end of the week, Greg Schiano, Bill Belichick‘s close coaching friend, suddenly stepped down as the team’s new defensive coordinator.
As speculation ran wild about the reason Schiano had for leaving, the team was about to it hit April without a defensive coordinator — but Zack Cox of NESN came up with the following solution on Twitter:
“When Dean Pees left in 2010, Belichick was the team’s de facto DC for a season. The Patriots went 14-2, and Belichick won Coach of the Year.”
OK, and even last year, when Brian Flores was the de-facto DC, he was never actually handed the title — and people have always believed Belichick was running the defense, anyway.
Still, this latest shot at the bow of the NFL’s greatest franchise, coming at a time Robert Kraft is likely to be suspended, doesn’t look great. Belichick has worked with Schiano for years, drafted his players from Rutgers – and now Schiano quits before he ever really started. Strange.
Now, we open the notebook:
…On the same night Matt Barnes had a wildly successful first outing as the Red Sox closer, Joe Kelly gave up a three-run homer to the first batter he faced as a Dodger, blowing a three-run lead. The Dodgers took the lead again, Kelly blew that, too, and LA lost to Arizona in 13.
…Sox pitching coach Dana LeVangie after Chris Sale imploded on Opening Day in Seattle: “I thought he threw some really good changeups in the right delivery. That’s the delivery we want to get back into, that changeup delivery. It helped his slider. His slider wasn’t his best tonight. We’ll get back to driving the Mustang, not the Ferrari, try to increase deception and all that.”
…Thanks to column pal Jim Donaldson, ex of the Providence Journal, for pointing out the following in Thursday night’s Sweet 16 action: Purdue made 15 of 31 treys but missed 17 of 33 free throws – and beat Tennessee in OT, the Vols making 12 of 24 treys but missing 14 of 28 free throws. As Donaldson said “Shouldn’t it be a LOT easier to make a FT than a 3-point shot?”
…NFL consultant Marc Ganis, to Street & Smith’s Sports Business Journal on NFL owerns behaving badly (think Kraft, Jim Irsay, Jerry Richardson, etc): Every institution is going through this, whether it’s the church, or the Senate, or the House, or the White House, whether it’s broadcasters or movie production companies, whether it’s Wall Street, it is hitting every industry, every very visible industry.” In other words, behave, rich people!
…Thursday saw the top two finishers in last year’s Cy Young voting square off in both leagues – Jacob deGrom vs. Max Scherzer and Nate Snell vs. Justin Verlander. It was the third and fourth such matchups ever. Strangely, the other two both took place in 1979, with Ron Guidry vs. Mike Caldwell and Gaylord Perry vs. Burt Hooton.
…I was 8 years old and a fan when the 1962 Mets went 40-120 under Casey Stengel. That lineup was better than the one the Orioles threw out at Yankee Stadium Thursday. Heck, the “original” Frank Thomas hit 34 homers for the Mets and Roger Craig 1962 would be the ace of the current Baltimore staff.
…The 12 runs the Red Sox allowed in the opener were the most ever yielded by a returning champion in its opener – they then rallied from down 6-1 to win Friday.
…I love the Carolina Hurricanes’ theatrics after victories, but you don’t do it during the playoffs, when you have to play the same team 4-7 times. And they’ve announced they won’t.
…From MassLive’s Chris Smith: “2019 marks Pablo Sandoval‘s final year on the Red Sox’s books. He’ll earn $18.045 million. His AAV is $19 million toward CBT.” And: “Sandy Leon will be due $2.475M in 2019 (counting against Red Sox CBT) if he clears waivers and is outrighted to Pawtucket. Red Sox could have unconditionally released him before Opening Day and only owed him 45 days compensation pay.”
…The Mets lost their first eight opening day games, including in 1969, falling to the expansion Expos 10-9 at Shea Stadium. But since ’69, the Mets are an MLB-best 38-12 in openers. By the way, the Mets played the first and last games the Expos ever played before moving to Washington.
…Speaking of the Orioles, they won 47 games last year – and went 12-7 against the Yankees. NY needed six wins in the last seven meetings to get to 7-12.
…With departing Steelers stars ripping Ben Roethlisberger, current Steeler JuJu Smith-Schuster says, “I was so blessed to enter the league and play with a Hall of Fame QB as a 20-year old. Ben has taught me so much, he’s a true leader and I can’t wait to rock with my guy this season.”
…From ESPN stats: “Purdue gets the win in OT and is moving on to the Elite 8. Carsen Edwards becomes the first player with 4 straight 25-point games in the NCAA Tournament since Stephen Curry had 5 straight games in 2007-08.”
…The Spurs sent Manu Ginobili‘s No. 20 up to the rafters Thursday night. Talking about the four-time champ and intense competitor, his coach, Gregg Popovich, said, “The way the team was set up, we all needed each other. And without Manu, there were no championships. It was not going to happen without Manu.”
…The New York Times published a 20-page section on the 50th anniversary of the ’69 Mets.
…Rudy Gobert has broken the NBA’s single-season dunk record. Dwight Howard had the old mark – 269 in 2007-08. Giannis Antetokounmpo will also surpass Howard.
…From Canton, Ohio: The Pro Football Hall of Fame received from the National Football League a game ball used by the New England Patriots during Super Bowl LIII. The football is one of the 54 total footballs used by the Patriots during their Super Bowl victory over the Los Angeles Rams.”
…The Dodgers hit their eighth 2018 homer in Game 11. Thursday, they hit eight on Opening Day.
…Zion Williamson‘s 57 points were the most by a freshman through two NCAA Tourney games since Kevin Durant also had 57, in 2007.
…Was Sale’s opening meltdown the result of the Red Sox babying their starters in spring training? Nathan Eovaldi wasn’t much better in his Friday start.
…Conflicted press box note from Thursday in Seattle. Our friend Nick Cafardo, who passed away during spring training, should have been there. Column pal Jonny Miller, who suffered a stroke on a plane heading to the World Series in October, beat the odds and was there to work. Fittingly, Nick’s son, Ben, was in Seattle, working on the ESPN telecast. The Mariners saluted Nick by assigning him what should have been his seat.
…The Dodgers pounded former teammate Zack Greinke on Thursday. Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register pointed out: “In 6 starts at Dodgers Stadium since signing with the DBacks Zack Greinke is 1-4 with a 7.20 ERA and 14 HRs allowed.”
…From SoxNotes on Twitter: “Chris Sale struck out his first batter faced today. He is the only pitcher since at least 1908 to strike out the final batter of a World Series, then also strike out the first batter that winning club faced in the following regular season.” And … “22-year-old Rafael Devers is batting 3rd for the Red Sox today. Prior to 2019, the last Red Sox players to bat 3rd in an Opening Day starting lineup at the age of 22 or younger were Gene Stephens (1953) and Ted Williams (1940).”
…First impressions: Robinson Cano homered his first time up and drove in both runs in the Mets’ 2-0 opening win at Washington – and Paul Goldschmidt hit three homers Friday in his second game as a Cardinal.
…Actor Chris Evans, a devout Pats and Brady fan, is ready to jump off the bandwagon, telling the Hollywood Reporter: “I really hope he’s not a (President Donald) Trump supporter. I’m just hoping he’s one of those guys that maybe supported him and now regrets it. Maybe he thought it was going to be different — and even that bothers me — but maybe there’s a chance now he just thinks Trump’s an absolute dumb (bleep) — which he is. If he doesn’t, if he’s still on that Trump train, I might have to cut ties. It’s really tough.”
…Bryce Harper returns to Washington for the first time as a Phillie Tuesday.
…Gordon Hayward on not wanting his minutes monitored down the regular season stretch: “I think I did a lot of that early on with my ankle and all of last year,” he said. “So I’m definitely as of right now pretty good as long as I don’t get another random concussion or anything like that.”
…From Albert Breer of the NFL Network: “NFL announces they’ll launch a 30-episode series called “Peyton’s Places,” which will have Peyton Manning traveling to visit pivotal figures in the history of the game.”
…From WBZ’s Dan Roche: “Interesting note from MLB — there’s not a single active player left from the 20th century. With Adrian Beltre and Bartolo Colon no longer playing, MLB is the first of the 4 major sports without someone still around who played in the 1900s.”
…Devin Booker became the youngest player in NBA history with back-to-back 50-point games. Tweets ESPNstats: “Seven of the NBA’s top 10 all-time leading scorers never had back-to-back 50-point games. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar; Karl Malone; LeBron James; Dirk Nowitzki; Shaquille O’Neal; Moses Malone; Elvin Hayes — Devin Booker has done it at age 22.”
…From Fangraphs’ Dave Laurila: “When I first interviewed Joey Votto, in 2007, he said the following: ‘I want to be a career Red. That’s another big reason I like the Golden Era. When you think Ted Williams, you think Red Sox. When you think Joe DiMaggio, you think Yankees. I want to be part of a tradition.’”
…The Globe’s Chad Finn reported Guerin Austin‘s days on NESN Sox telecasts are numbered.
…How about this nugget from column pal Shawn Hutcheon from the other day: “In 61 games this season, David Pastrnak has produced 77 points on 36 goals & 41 assists. In 61 games this season, Patrice Bergeron has 77 points on 32 goals & 45 assists.”
…AP reports the Red Sox have the highest payroll (just under $220 million; the Rays are last at $61 million) and Scherzer ($37.4 million) is the highest-paid player heading into the 2019 season.
…The Maple Leafs, the Bruins’ likely first-round opponent, went all the way to this week without playing in a shootout. Then they lost that shootout with John Tavares losing control of the puck on his way in and thus being disqualified – and fell to 4-4-2 in their last 10. Bruins fans: these Leafs are unpredictable but don’t sleep on them.
…From Pete Abraham of the Globe: Red Sox where are they now ... Hanley Ramirez is in Cleveland’s lineup as the DH; Ian Kinsler is batting leadoff for the Padres; Joe Kelly is in the Dodgers bullpen; Drew Pomeranz is the No. 4 starter for the Giants; Craig Kimbrel is unemployed.” Does Corey Knebel‘s coming Tommy John open the door for Kimbrel in Milwaukee?
…Finally, from the you gotta be kidding me file: Ryan Brasier and his wife faced legal heat because … get this … their 8-year-old son missed too much school because of the World Series. FIRST GRADE!!! “We get home, see the court summons,’’ Brasier told USA TODAY Sports’ Ben Nighgtengale, “and it was like, “‘What the hell?’ It was the dumbest thing I heard in my life. It was ridiculous. We even had to hire a lawyer. It was a debacle. It wasn’t like we just weren’t sending him to school. There was a reason he wasn’t in school.’’
Mike Shalin covers Boston pro sports for the New Hampshire Union Leader and Sunday News. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @mscotshay.