Yesterday my wife and I visited Sun Trust park and watched the Red Sox, despite a shaky (but scoreless) performance from Nathan Evoaldi, take game one of their 3 game set with the Atlanta Braves 8-2. The game was much closer than the score would indicate and it wasn’t until the Sox added two in the top of the 8th to give a bit of a cushion and 3 more in the 9th that it was comfortable.

It was a grand day for baseball. The huge amount of RedSox fans in attendance meant that it had the feel of a home game for the Alex Cora’s team and there were competing cries of “Let’s go Redsox” and “Let’s go Braves” on a regular basis and everyone was focused not only on a great game but the playoff implications of a game that could be a preview to this year’s World Series making it a great day for Baseball in General and for the Red Sox who won the game and the Braves who sold out the park in particular.

Meanwhile while key games in pennant races continued to be the focus for baseball, the NFL with its season about to start discovered that the Colin Kaepernick and the kneeling controversy continues to be the gift that keeps on giving:

Nike selected former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick as the face of its “Just Do It” campaign, which is celebrating its 30th anniversary.

Darren Rovell of ESPN reported the choice of Kaepernick, who started the movement to kneel during the United States national anthem to protest racial injustice in August 2016.

In one respect this move by Nike, the official sneaker of the NFL. might make some business sense when you consider the demographic targets for on overpriced sneakers made in Vietnam and China are not likely to be all that upset about protesters kneeling for the National anthem.

Alas this isn’t the case for the NFL. Not only is this move likely to spark even more protests by players which, while embraced by the playsers association and ESPN, will serve to enrage their customer base even further but Nike has guaranteed that the for the rest of the week the lead story for those covering the NFL will not be the opening of the season and the various teams, players and stars but the whole Kaepernick protest business which is the last thing a league that whose ratings are already in decline needs.

Of course in fairness the NFL was already in this position to some degree as the Washington Post noted in a story written before Nike’s Kaepernick anouncement:

In May, the owners of the NFL’s teams were gathered at a hotel in the Buckhead district of Atlanta. As a high-ranking official from one franchise made his way to a coffee break before the meetings began, he wondered what the group would do that week about the national anthem dilemma that had so vexed the league since President Trump inflamed a national controversy last fall about players’ protests during the anthem.

“What we can’t do,” the official said, “is get to next season and still be in this position.”

However, with the opening of the 2018 season days away, that is exactly where the league finds itself.

The Washington Post, not withstanding their mendacious attempt to blame Trump for the players actions, was exactly right about the NFL’s situation before Nike signed Kaepernick and made it worse.

Perhaps the NFL should have thought of this before it decided to allow the Kaepernick protests to go unchallenged. If they did the conversation this week might be about Brady, the Eagles QB situation and the new contract for Aaron Rogers rather than who kneels and who stands. And you better believe that with election day only weeks away, President Trump and the GOP will take full advantage of the gift of idiocy of their opponent in this matter.

FYI in case your interested at yesterday’s Atlanta Braves Boston Redsox game A group of local school children sang the national anthem to start the game and an opera singer followed up with a resounding rendition of God Bless America during the seventh inning stretch. Nobody kneeled during either song and thus nobody other than me found it worth mentioning.

If you turned in early to the Red Sox Seattle game you saw a lot of offense.

You saw the Mariners put up 4 in the top of the first and the Red Sox answer with five. Then Mariners put up six more meaning that Red Sox starter Stephen Wright, who had given up a single run in his last game against the very same team, had given up 10 earned runs before the book was closed on him, Nelson Cruz with two 3 run HR’s and a single to drive in seven on those 10 doing most of the damage.

It didn’t stay that way.

The same Seattle pitcher Wade Leblanc who had shut out the Red Sox in that same game against Wright would give up one in the fifth. J. D Martinez would hit a 2 Home run in a 3 run Red Sox 6th and then a key single in a five run seventh with the bases loaded and then three in the 6th and then in the seventh went on a tear to score five more.

As I’m writing this the score is 14-10 with one out in the bottom of the 8th, now the top of the ninth. Seattle is coming to the plate and while it looks very good for the Rox Sox they will still have to get those three final outs before Seattle scores 4 to get that win.

And that is why Baseball is better than Basketball, Hockey, Football or Soccer and it isn’t even close.

No matter how big a lead you have you still have to get those outs before you can celebrate, and no matter how bleak it looks, you team will still have a chance to score as many runs as you can before that third out is recorded.

No Clocks, no taking a knee, no pulling a goalie, no LeBron sitting down because he knows its hopeless. As long as you still have a single out yet to be given your team is not done.

That’s baseball and that’s why it’s the best.

Oh and the Sox won 14-10

It’s been an amazing year for Boston Sports.

Last Year the Red Sox Won their Division, the Patriots went to the Superbowl, the Bruins are tied for the lead in their division with 3 games to go and the Celtics, even without their Superstar Kyrie Irving are in 2nd place in their division with a chance to be the #1 seed with five days to go.

This year is starting just as good the Boston Red Sox after losing their opener thanks to one wild inning have won five straight, the team has yet to commit an error in the field and no starting pitcher on the staff has an ERA above 1.70 and that’s with Eduardo Rodriguez, Drew Pomeranz or Steven Wright all starting the season on the DL

In the days before the Red Sox broke the curse of the Bambino a 5-1 start with their ace carrying an ERA of under 1.00 there would be no other story in the state. Newspapers would be hailing the teams start, TV shows would be talking about the upcoming series with the Yankees with bated breath and the phone lines of sports talk radio would be full of optimists proclaiming this being the year and naysayers noting that their big free agent signing JD Martinez is hitting .200 and has yet to go yard and proclaiming the limited offense in the opening games as a harbinger of doom.

But in this post curse era none of that is happening.

What is the number # 1 topic on Boston sports radio, on TV and in the papers: The Patriots.

What are the Patriots doing with their off season moves. Will Belichick trade more players for draft picks or draft picks for players. Why did they let Brandon Cook and Danny Amendola go? Will Grok retire? Is Brady planning to retire before 45, will they Draft a quarterback and why the hell DID the Patriots sit Malcolm Butler in the Superbowl?

Oh the Celtics and Bruins get some mention in passing and if either get to the conference finals the might get more but even on WEEI the home station of the Red Sox the only thing I hear in my drive to work or my drive home is Patriots Patriots Patriots.

Now to be fair the Patriots are an incredibly newsworthy topic, they are the longest running dynasty in the history of football and have arguably the best coach and best player in the entire history of the league and as the end of their time together gets closer they will become even more newsworthy than they are now.

But I submit and suggest if David Ortiz, Curt Schilling and their gang of idiots had not broken the curse 15 years ago, there is no way that the Patriots offseason would be a bigger story than the Red Sox start and when I turn on the radio looking for news of how the Red Sox when my workday ends, I would certainly find it.

Closing thought, I wonder if they’re seeing the same thing in Chicago.

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Finally might I suggest my book Hail Mary the Perfect Protestant (and Catholic) Prayer makes an excellent Gift.

Curly: Hey! What’s this stuff for anyway?
Larry: Why, it’s a cleaner, ya chump!
Curly: I know, it’s auto polish.
Moe: You boys really wanna know what it’s for?
Larry & Curly: [together]: Yeah.
Moe: It’s for sale, now get busy selling it.

The Three Stooges, Dizzy Doctors 1937

The New Year started in a bad way for the liberal news and sports media.

For the news media you had President Trump finishing strong, between Israel and the Tax cuts and worst of all the lowest recorded black unemployment rate since the government started taking figures by race. Add to that the prospect of a deal that would produce a border wall as the price for legalizing the “dreamers” (illegal immigrants brought to the US as children) you had a narrative of Trump success that was not only contrary to the narrative they’ve been selling all year, but unappealing to their niche market that has become increasingly anti trump.

At the NFL things weren’t looking much better, not only did you have a 2nd straight year of big ratings drops, thanks to the protests during the national anthem that continued all the way to the final week of the season but you had the prospect of the New England Patriots featuring Trump fans/friends Tom Brady, Bill Belichick and Robert Kraft once again turning the entire playoff season until Superbowl Sunday into an afterthought.

After all what’s the point of watching the wild card and playoff rounds when everybody “knows” that the only question is:  Can anybody get by Brady / Belichick and the Patriots?

That’s the problem, both the news and sports media are stuck with two narratives of success (Trump & the Pats) that don’t appeal to a customer base that hates the former or is bored with the later.

That’s where Michael Wolff and ESPN’s Seth Wickersham come in. Both have come out with “bombshell” narratives that the news and sports media CAN sell.

Suddenly instead of ISIS in retreat, the Economy moving forward and the Russia / GPS Investigations suddenly turning on the left instead of Trump the Wolff Book give the MSM a narrative of a Trump White House occupied by a president who doesn’t want the job, of people who think he’s a traitor or a nut and supposedly the biggest detractor of this administration is the guy who ran his campaign. It’s Trump vs Bannon and the MSM is bringing you a front row seat

It doesn’t matter how improbable all this is, or the lack of actual evidence or even the lack of credibility of the storyteller for an entire week the print, online and cable media have a narrative that they can sell to their customer base.

For ESPN and sports talk radio it’s the same thing. Instead of once again droning on about the Patriots/Belichick system seemingly immune to injury and trying to sell a Tom Brady “decline” when he is once again the leading contender for league MVP and is two wins away from his 8th superbowl appearance and three wins away from his sixth ring, suddenly we have a tale of jealously, rivalry and the longest running dynasty since the Yankees of Stengel or the Celtics of Auerbach about to destroy itself as Tom Brady and Bill Belichick fight it out to the death.

These aren’t two different stories, this is the same story being sold for the same reason to pivot from a story that won’t grab the eyeballs and ears of their customer base  to a story that will.  

Now for ESPN and the sports media this narrative will sell the dupes that narrative right up until the Patriots actually appear in playoff games and the “Patriots falling apart” meme meets a less team trying to beat them.  While in any single game anything can happen, the  meme can’t stick unless they actually lose.

The Trump narrative will endure a bit longer sustained by the media bubble until the realities of the economy or Iran and the Norks or the Trump count picks or the tough votes for red state Dem senators force them out of the bubble and into real life.

And then they’ll find a new narrative to sell, because right now it’s all about the dollars because it’s the only thing they are sure of until the Democrats actually win control of something.



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Finally might I suggest my book  Hail Mary the Perfect Protestant (and Catholic) Prayer makes an excellent Gift.

One more point concerning the NFL protests.

The NFL players might be OK with a less profitable league and a contract that might be smaller right now when they are making six and seven figures but they are forgetting something.

The avg NFL players career is 3.3 years, for a pro-bowl caliber player that shoots up to 11.7. This is the time of maximum earnings for these players, not only from playing but from endorsements and appearances.

Now a very smart player might put money aside for when the big checks stop coming but if they do not they will find that the taxes and the mortgages on those million dollar properties don’t stop when the NFL checks do. So they need to be marketable if they want to keep up that lifestyle.

How marketable do you think NFL players are now that the league is identified with protesting against the flag and police? If you have a national brand or even a local one do you want to take a chance on identifying your brand with this type of thing?

And while the most visible protesters will certainly be affected even the avg player who didn’t take a knee is going to suddenly discover that the tag “ex-NFL player” will no longer open financial doors like it used to.

NFL players, thanks to your protests you have sacked the financial future of every guy in the league not named Brady or of that caliber and you’ve done it for decades to come. And when you find yourself in financial trouble you will have the unpleasant realization that you as a group did this to yourselves and to every college player that follows you.

If you are looking for a distraction from the news of the day and a lot of people are these days, you’re in luck.  Major League Baseball is giving us a some division and wild card races this season that (unless you are a fan of the NL East) really fits the bill.

Let’s start in the American League East The first Boston Red Sox Team without David Ortiz in 15 years has managed to keep first place in the East despite injuries to Price and Pedroia and the Bust that was Pablo Sandoval who they finally released eating tens of millions in salary. However their arch rivals the New York Yankees are under five games out and with more than a 3rd of their remaining games against either the Yanks or teams currently in First place they will be hard pressed to keep themselves 16 games over .500 when the season comes to a close.

In the Central Cleveland continues to prove that last year’s Pennant wasn’t a fluke sitting five games up, but both Minnesota under 2nd Year manager Paul Molitor and the 2015 World Champion Kansas City Royals have no intention of going quietly. The next three weeks will be the key as the Tribe will be playing a 17 game where their opponents are Boston, the Yankees, Twins and Kansas City. If they get through that three week stretch still on top then Terry Francona has to feel really good about their chances for another shot at breaking their 69 year championship drought

In the west The Houston Astros are likely the only team breathing easy. With an 11.5 game lead in their division and only three games against a 1st place team before the last week of the season (and those against the Washington Nationals also sitting pretty and safe) it will take a massive collapse for Houston to fail to win their first division title since 2001 not to mention their first since joining the American League

AL Wild card: Wild is the way to describe this race. The Yankees currently hold the first wild card spot and two games behind them sits the Angels but seven count the SEVEN teams Minnesota, Kansas City, Baltimore, Seattle, Tampa Bay, Texas and Toronto, sit within 3.5 games of that final spot. but are as close to the Yankees as they are to the Red Sox. More teams will be playing more meaningful games this later in the season then we’ve seen in a long time.

In the National League East Washington sits in a similar position as Houston in the AL west. With a comfortable 13.5 game lead and schedule lacking in division leaders their have an entire two months to try to figure out how to get by the LA Dodgers in October

The NL Central is where the action is.  The World Champion Cubs (It’s still odd to write that) hold a slim 1.5 game lead over StL with Milwaukee and Pittsburgh both under five games out. While August isn’t so bad 18 of their games in Sept will be against teams chasing them. If they win that division they’ll have earned it.

In the West the only question left to answer is will the LA Dodgers break the record for most wins in a season.? They are already at 83 wins and if they only play .500 ball for the rest of the season would finish with 105.  With 26 games remaining against sub .500 teams a record breaking 117 wins is very possible and an earth shattering 120 while unlikely is not outside the realm of possibility. One caveat, the two teams that hold the 116 win record for a single season, one failed to get to the World Series and the other failed to win it.

NL Wild Card. Thanks to the Dodgers both the Colorado Rockies and the Arizona Diamondback have no prayer to win their division but with 66 wins each, enough to lead the central division in either league they share the wild card lead with only St. Louis, Milwaukee and Pittsburgh anywhere near close enough for a real challenge. The one fly in the ointment? Both teams have two series left with the record chasing Dodgers.

Put simply half way into August two thirds of major league clubs are still playing meaningful games so if you are a baseball fan watching a game this week you can expect some excellent baseball.

So great that Red Sox fans gave him a standing Ovation for robbing Hanley Ramirez of a Home Run:

 Red Sox fans know greatness when they see it.

That’s why Cleveland Indians center fielder Austin Jackson received a standing ovation from the Fenway Park faithful on Tuesday night after taking away a home run from Sox slugger Hanley Ramirez.

I was watching at the time it was the best catch I’ve ever seen in my life,

Basically he made the catch that Torii Hunter missed by 2 inches against David Ortiz back in 2014

If there was ever a play that deserved a standing ovation for an opposing player, it was that one, however Red Sox fans were rewarded for their good sportsmanship in the last of the 9th when Catcher Christian Vasquez hit a three run homer with two outs in the 9th to win the game for the Red Sox.

So all’s well that ends well

There has been a lot of talk about who is more important Brady or Belichick as the Patriots, much to the delight of New Englanders and the dismay of the Anti-Trump crowd (excepting those in NE that is) reach their 7th Superbowl, but if you really want to understand how much Brady & Belichick each of them mean to each other, think Yogi Berra & Casey Stengel.

Unlike Belichick, Stengel has been a champion player but like Bill, as the man in charge he never had much success until he was paired with Berra. As he once said when asked about the secret of his success. “I never play a game without my man.”

Like Brady who had a year with a very good Drew Bledsoe, Berra had a Bill Dickey as a teammate and coach.

Of course there are differences, off the field Brady is known for his strict physical regimen, Yogi was an odd looking sort. Yogi was known for being a bad ball hitter with an odd style, Brady is considered methodical.

And both Brady

and Yogi

were popular with advertisers.

All four of them belong to teams that were hated for their success and both had success long into their tenures.

But when it comes down to it the real answer to the question oft asked is Belichick’s success only due to Brady will not be answered until either Brady or Belichick leaves.

When Stengel was fired Berra won two more world series titles under a different manager while Casey took over the expansion Mets and led them to new heights of ineptness.

It’s unlikely that Belichick will be going anywhere anytime soon and even less likely, thanks to the health regime of Brady that he will be replaced right away, but until we see either a Belichickless Patriots under Brady or a 40 something Tom Terrific playing elsewhere the answer to that question will have to remain speculation reserved for sports talk radio.

And we Pats fans will just have to settle for winning.

Ruberry Black Sox
Ruberry in June with man in 1919 White Sox uniform

By John Ruberry

As this decade winds down you can look for many 100th anniversary articles. They’ll be a huge uptick of them next year to mark the centennial of America’s entry into World War I, followed by more on the armistice that concluded “the war to end all wars” in 1918. The execution of the czar and his family, as well as the fall of the Houses of Hohenzollern and Habsburg also occurred that year, events all directly related to World War I.

In 2019 baseball fans will mark 100 years since the Black Sox Scandal, when eight Chicago White Sox players conspired with gamblers to throw, that is, purposely lose the 1919 World Series.

“It never occurred to me that one man could start to play with the faith of fifty million people — with the single-mindedness of a burglar blowing a safe,” F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Nick Carraway remarked about the scandal in The Great Gatsby.

That one man, although given a fictionalized name in Gatbsy, was Arnold Rothstein, the mastermind of the scandal, although one of the few things that historians agree upon is that its genesis came from Charles “Chick” Gandil, the first baseman for the 1919 South Siders.

What does the First World War have to do with Major League Baseball’s most notorious scandal. Plenty. In his book The Betrayal: The 1919 World Series and the Birth of Modern Baseball, Charles Fountain looks back at “the war to end all wars” and goes back much further.

Comiskey statue, US Cellular Field
Comiskey statue, US
Cellular Field

The most famous member of the Black Sox of course was the illiterate–but, as Fountain explains, in no way dumb, left fielder Shoeless Joe Jackson. During the Great War Jackson was one of the baseball players who avoided military service by joining a defense industry factory baseball team where he made perhaps the same, if not more money than he did playing for owner Charles Comiskey’s White Sox. In recreating the setting of early 20th-century baseball, Fountain, a Northeastern University journalism professor, shows that there was plenty of money “out there” for players, as a third circuit, the Federal League, proved in 1914 and 1915 by luring players from the established National and American leagues with more lucrative contracts.

Another way to collect extra cash was to throw games, and Fountain spends an entire chapter on the now largely forgotten Hal Chase, a talented first baseman who was the first homegrown star of the New York Yankees, whom he dubs “the Prince of Fixers.”

There was more gambling cash involved in baseball than ever during World War I, as President Woodrow Wilson’s “work or fight” labor policy inadvertently led to the closing of most horse racing tracks for the duration of the conflict. Money for wagering wasn’t just going to idly sit in gamblers’ wallets until the war ended. While some minor baseball leagues suspended play during the war, the big leagues, despite shortened seasons in 1918 and 1919, were still in business. And so were the gamblers. The war, and Wilson, upset the economic balance of the underworld.

After the Cincinnati Reds won the World Series, or after the South Siders lost it, and despite an investigation by Comiskey that seemed to suggest some White Sox players weren’t playing, as how it was said back then, on-the-square, it would take an unrelated gambling incident for the scandal to break wide open in the final week of the 1920 season, as the White Sox were in a heated pennant race that they would lose to the Cleveland Indians. The fixers almost got away with it. As the eight Black Sox players were exposed, Fountain details the playing out of a longstanding feud between Comiskey and American League president Ban Johnson, one that nearly put the junior circuit out of business with the creation of a new 12-team National League. Of course the two-league majors survived, ruled by a man seemingly removed from the Old Testament, federal Judge Kennesaw Mountain Landis.

John "Lee" Ruberry of the Magnificent Seven
John “Lee” Ruberry of the Magnificent Seven

As White Sox left the ranks of baseball’s elite in 1920, modern baseball, the post-dead ball era, began. No one knew it at the time, but the Golden Age of Sports, led by the New York Yankees’ Babe Ruth, had also arrived. Comiskey, who died in 1931, never put another contending team on the field, and the White Sox wouldn’t return to the Fall Classic until 1959–and the South Siders wouldn’t win it all until 2005. But the owner nicknamed “the Old Roman” was still able to cash in on the rollicking Roaring Twenties party; Comiskey Park was expanded in 1927, largely because of Ruth’s transformation of baseball.

Comiskey is treated somewhat sympathetically here, as someone who is more frugal than stingy.

Fountain’s effort succeeds not only as a baseball book but as an historical work. Which means you don’t have to be a fan of the national pastime to enjoy it.

John Ruberry, a lifelong White Sox fan, regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.