October 6, 2017

Time for playoff baseball!

If you’re a major league baseball manager, that means your whole season is now condensed into a series where: 1) you actually have to know what you have for a playoff roster and how you’re going to use it and when, and 2) you have to manage to game conditions and make decisions fast. In both cases, the Red Sox loss to the Astros in Game 1 of their Divisional Series showed a manager seemingly incapable of both.

Anyone who has been watching Chris Sale pitch down the stretch knows it’s fairly easy to tell when he’s struggling, yet ol’ Manager John kept trotting him out one inning after another to take the punishment. Sure, it wasn’t easy to gauge the extent to which Sale was struggling since it wasn’t like he was being dinged one hitter after another, but it was clear he didn’t have his best stuff, either. Surely, Manager John has seen enough of him this year to know when his #1 dude has it and when he doesn’t.

Hint to Manager John: it’s OK in a playoff series to go to your bullpen early – after all, you really don’t want to get your inconsistent offense down too badly, too early. Oh, and it’s OK to bring in someone else other than Joe Kelly (of all people!) to replace Sale – not only is he as inconsistent as hell, but jeepers, you’ve got to pick his spots better than that. But of course that would require a manager who goes into a game with a plan and is ready to execute it if things start going awry. I’m guessing that’s too much to ask here.

And, while it was true that Eduardo Nunez was a solid hitter since his acquisition, the dude has had a bad knee (which, by the way, he blew out on his first at-bat of the game). Is Hanley Ramirez struggling? Yes. But he’s still a home run threat when you have him in your lineup. Still, Manager John chooses to play a dinged up, if not bona fide injured, player ahead of one of his only true home run threats. For gawdsakes, everyone (except Manager John, apparently) knows the Sox are going to struggle offensively against the Astros, yet Ramirez is sitting on the bench?

I guess what pisses me off the most about Manager John isn’t his incompetence (which he exhibits in spades) or his seeming aloofness (or is it arrogance?). What pisses me off the most is his lack of preparedness once the first pitch is thrown and the appearance that everyone else in the ballpark is at least three hitters (if not more) ahead of him. He seems to manage by the seat of his pants without rhyme nor reason. There seems to be little communication between Manager John and his coaches, and between his coaches and players. I honestly don’t know what Manager John is thinking when he’s there in the dugout, leaning forward seeming deep in concentration as he shifts one leg to another on the next step, and from all appearances, I don’t think he does either.

One final note: I’ve got a sneaky feeling the Sox are finding out under the not-so-best of circumstances that this winter they’re going to have some big decisions to make. Jackie Bradley, Jr., while one of my favorite players and a defensive whiz, can’t be counted upon for any real offense. Dustin Pedroia (another fave) is playing old. And they’re going to have to think about what they want to do at catcher, first base, and DH, because every time they take the field they’re playing teams who can actually generate offense – real offense – out of those positions.

The Sox are playing like a tired team, but even worse, they’re playing with a manager who has no clue what it means to manage a baseball team in the playoffs.

Filed in: Golf & Sports by The Great White Shank at 02:24 | Comments (0)
October 2, 2017

It’s going to be a great post-season in Major League Baseball, I think. There is a lot of excitement here in the Valley of the Sun for the Arizona Diamondbacks because of the way they man-handled the L.A. Dodgers during the regular season, but first they have to get past the Colorado Rockies in that one-game playoff. I can tell you who the Dodgers will be rooting for!

The Red Sox will be playing the Astros in the first round of the playoffs. Not too many people are giving the Sox a chance, and I have to agree with the so-called “experts”. The Sox are a mess right now. Of course, they do have the most dominant closer in the major leagues in Craig Kimbrel, but in my view it all comes down to the offense, and there’s no question the Astros hit the ball a helluva lot better than the Sox do. Right now there are a lot of holes in the Sox lineup, forcing them to work too hard to manufacture runs.

I love the enthusiasm the Minnesota Twins bring to each game and I’m hoping they’ll beat the Yankees. Whoever wins that series won’t matter, because I see the Cleveland Indians going all the way this year in a repeat of last year’s World Series matchup.

So, my predictions work out like this:

Astros beat Red Sox in the ALDS
Indians beat Twins in the ALDS

Dodgers beat Rockies in the NLDS
Cubs beat Nationals in the NLDS

Indians beat Astros in the ALCS
Cubs beat Dodgers in the NLCS

Cleveland beats Cubs in the World Series

Play ball!

Filed in: Golf & Sports by The Great White Shank at 01:50 | Comments (0)
August 2, 2017

The whole brouhaha over Red Sox star pitcher David Price’s abusive treatment of Red Sox Hall of Famer and NESN broadcaster Dennis Eckersley on the team plane sveral weeks ago was getting a lot of play in Beantown while I was in town for Goodboys Invitational week, and deservedly so. In my view, Price has always been a world-class a-hole, and why the Red Sox thought reeling him in for big bucks was a good idea is beyond me. Hard to say who looks worse in all this – Price, manager John Farrell (who has refused to apologize to Eckersley for the incident), or the team itself. I was just starting to get around to kinda liking and following this team, but hearing Farrell’s pathetic attempt to downplay the issue and then hearing seond baseman Dustin Pedroia defend Price’s actions has turned me off. I’m betting others feel the same way. Chalk this up as a true PR fiasco for the ball club. And just when the Patriots are starting training camp. Great timing, Red Sox.

One marvels at the way Farrell and the Red Sox have handled this incident and compare it with the way coach Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots organization not might, would have. I can guarantee you it would have: a) been handled in house, and b) resolved to everyone’s satisfaction. In Belichick’s mind, no one is bigger than the team and he allows nothing to distract the team from their one and only goal: getting to the Super Bowl. Obviously, the Red Sox don’t have the guts or willingness to hold Price accountable for his conduct. And it’s been that way from the very start with Price’s treatment of the media in general. Maybe he thinks he’s above it all, but as a member of the Red Sox organization it’s hard to see how this reflects positively on their brand. Perhaps if David Ortiz was on the team things would have turned out differently, but it’s clear the Red Sox clubhouse is sorely in need of a grown-up who can play the role of leader. David Price’s surly sourpuss act isn’t doing them any favors, and it will be interesting to see the reception he gets the next time he takes the mound once his DL stint is over with.

I’m guessing that the end result of this will be that Farrell gets fired at the end of the year. The Red Sox very well might make the playoffs, but it’s hard to see them going deep with the way the Yankees and Astros have positioned themselves. Actually, it’s hard to see how Farrell comes out of this as manager next year; he’s hardly an indispensable piece of the puzzle. He’s a lousy in-game manager, and any manager who loses control of the clubhouse (as he clearly has) is just laying the foundation for bigger problems down the line. I’m guessing the Sox know this, but there’s no way they’re going to let their manager go at this point of the season.

Just because you’re winning a lot of ball games doesn’t make you winners. In this media-conscious day and age it’s all about the brand, likeability, and the bottom line. The Patriots organization understands that better than anyone. I just wish the Red Sox did.

Filed in: Golf & Sports by The Great White Shank at 18:37 | Comments (2)
June 15, 2017

I’ve had three really good practice sessions in a row over the past week. The swing changes I’m attempting to implement are actually very simple: 1) play the ball a little more back in my stance than I’ve done in the past; 2) focus on my weight shift; 3) Don’t jump at the ball, and by all means (4) keep my lower body quiet. These sound pretty simple, but, as hard to believe as it is, I’ve got decades of bad form needing to be overcome. I’ve stopped worrying about the angle of my takeaway, stopped worrying about tempo, per se, stopped worrying about shanking the ball. If I do the above I’ll be OK.

I’m picking Dustin Johnson to win the U.S. Open. Secretly, however, I’ll be rooting for Rickie Fowler, Sergio Garcia, or Jordan Spieth.

Today I had a really good session with my short game. It’s tough to practice short game and putting out here in preparation for Goodboys Invitational weekend because the grass around the greens and the speed of the greens is so different here compared with back in New England. But you still have to stick with the fundamentals: for me, I tend to get a little upright in my takeaway when chipping, which then causes me to get more wristy. Far better, I think, to take a shallower takeaway and keep the wrists quiet.

Y’all know I love Phil Mickelson as much as anyone, but enough already. Either you’re in or you’re out. Don’t make your daughter feel like her graduation might be getting in the way of your U.S. Open experience. Don’t just attend her graduation and make way for Dodge – stay with her and share her day.

Filed in: Golf & Sports by The Great White Shank at 01:42 | Comments (0)
April 11, 2017

…wrapping up this year’s first major of the year with 18 – count ‘em – 18! – esoteric thoughts about the 2017 Masters.

1. Well, I know I always feel a little more refreshed after taking care of things when Mother Nature calls. Why shouldn’t Sergio?

2. The pre-Masters show on Sunday – Jim Nantz’s remembrance of Arnold Palmer, featuring the very last television interview with “the King” was both sad and poignant. Couldn’t help but think of my late Mom while watching it: like Arnold, Mom was a hero of mine; like Arnold she passed away last year, retaining her mind to the very end even though her body was breaking down like Arnie’s obviously was. It’s sad to see your heroes grow old, watching people who lived lives so vibrant reduced to mere shells of themselves by the passage of time. The sobering fact is that none of us are immune to that, so matter who you are and how big and famous you are.

3. And speaking of the passage of time, methinks this was the year that made me think that Phil Mickelson’s days of seriously competing at Augusta are over. It’s such a tough course to walk and I don’t think his body and mind are sharp enough to keep up with it over four straight days. You could see on Friday in those difficult conditions that he ran out of gas midway through the back nine. Then he just got sloppy and made equal portions of mental and physical mistakes throughout the rest of the weekend. But there’ll be no tears for Phil: he and Augusta have had a great run together.

4. Sergio had a great victory for sure, but I wonder how things might have would be different had the red-hot Dustin Johnson not slipped down those stairs at the house he was staying at. One of my Goodboys friends, “Goose” Dwyer was heard to joke that it was Seve Ballesteros’ ghost that pushed Dustin. I can buy that…

5. Along those same lines, I wonder how or if things would have been different if Rory McIlroy’s approach shot on nine on Friday hadn’t hit the flagstick and ricocheted some thirty yards down the hill. But Augusta gives as much as it takes away, and Rory needs to do a better job of ripping apart the back nines than he did this year.

6. There’s no doubt in my mind that Jon Rahm will someday be the fourth Spaniard (after Seve, Jose Maria Olazabal, and Sergio) to win a green jacket.

7. Speaking of nationalities: the TV guys love to refer to Sergio as “the Spaniard” and Thomas Pieters as “the Belgian”. So why not refer to Hideki Matsuyama as “the Jap”?

8. Count me as surprised at how little the top of the leaderboard changed names over Saturday and Sunday. Perfect conditions, but no one with the exception of Justin Rose on Saturday made a huge move over the weekend. I missed hearing the roar of the crowds on Sunday and wondering who just made a big move.

9. Fred Couples’ swing is still a beautiful thing to watch after all these years.

10. Watch Jordan Spieth invoke Arnie’s name and then pull off a beautiful shot.

11. I don’t care what Sergio says, that putt he had on 18 to win in regulation does not, will not, nor ever will break left. It’s straight, and either Sergio misread it or he just gave the putt a slight inside-out dipsy do.

12. The CBS golf coverage was pretty good as usual, but the normally solid Dottie Pepper I thought was awful, both in her on-course commentary and the insipid questions she asked during her one-on-one interviews. I know she’s better than that – she just sounded unprepared.

13. Matt Kuchar’s hole-in-one on 16 was great, but what he did afterwards is why the folks like the guy so much. He’s got enough game to win a major, I think – he’s always on the first or second page of the leaderboard at your average PGA Tour stop; I just wonder if he’s got the mental intensity to be a killer at a major. As Seve once said, he’ll shake your hand and wish you luck on the first tee, but after that his only goal was to destroy you.

14. Goodboy “Cubby” Myerow has that same kind of intensity when he plays hockey – which is why he’ll be spending this year’s Goodboys Invitational on the injured list. We’re not getting any younger, Cubby!

15. Rickie Fowler is fun to watch. I think he learned something by being in the next-to-last group this year, and I can easily see him winning a green jacket some day.

16. My pick Jordan Spieth didn’t get the job done this year, but I’ll pick him against next year and every year after that. I love to watch him play, love his intensity, and enjoy the way you can always tell if he made a good swing or not by his immediate reaction. I don’t understand why more pros don’t talk to their balls – how do they know it’s not listening? If Jordan can avoid injuries and the “Tiger trap” (y’all know what I mean), he’ll have three or four green jackets by the time he’s through.

17. Looks like this year was it for Ernie Els. His five-year exemption from winning The Open Championship in 2012 expired this year and he ended up finishing dead-last.

18. The Masters is the absolute best golf tournament to watch on TV and I can’t wait for Masters time to come around again. And like I say, I’m already picking Jordan Spieth for the win.

Filed in: Golf & Sports by The Great White Shank at 01:32 | Comments (0)
April 9, 2017

Congratulations to Sergio Garcia for his exciting and well-deserved first major, winning the 2017 Masters in playoff fashion over fellow European and Ryder Cup comrade Justin Rose.

This was a strange Masters. After all the hype over the two marquee pairings of Rose and Garcia and Americans Rickie Fowler and Jordan Spieth, it was disappointing to watch Fowler and especially Spieth slowly but gradually remove themselves from contention. 90 minutes into Sunday’s telecast it was strange to see how little suspense there actually was. Like Saturday, the field was playing under perfect conditions, and like Saturday, no one in the field was making a move. It was just Rose and Garcia doing their thing and the rest of the field seeming like they might as well have been playing another run of the mill PGA Tour event.

It wasn’t until the turn that things got interesting. Garcia seemed to lose his focus on 10 and it seemed like Rose had the green jacket for his taking until his missed putt and Garcia making his on thirteen seemed to reinvigorate the Spaniard, and from then on you had a true duel in the sun right up until the very end. It was pretty exciting stuff for sure, but nothing like Masters of previous years where you had leads changing every five minutes and countless roars from the patrons on the back nine creating an atmosphere of suspense and expectation.

Still, if you were to ask anyone who they’d most like to see win besides Phil Mickelson it would have been Sergio. He’s a true people’s choice, and his win will make him one of the most beloved Masters past-winners for years to come. Who knows? Maybe having this monkey off his back will free him up to win another major or two, just like Phil did. It would be great to see.

Filed in: Golf & Sports by The Great White Shank at 22:10 | Comments (0)
April 7, 2017

A few thoughts as we head into a Masters weekend:

The Masters theme in extended HD. Enjoy the visuals, I think they’re almost as good as the music.

…and did you know that the Masters theme actually has lyrics? It does. They’re not very good, but there ya go.

I miss Ken Venturi in the tower with Jim Nantz.

See Bubba Watson today? Supposedly, he’s on some health kick where he’s lost like fifteen pounds – not that he had them to lose to begin with. His new diet is lots of vegetables and fish. I can’t believe how awful he looks – he’s the Karen Carpenter of the PGA Tour. Get that man a steak!

I nominate William McGirt and first round leader Charlie Hoffman as Masters field golfers who look most like a Goodboy.

Watching Thursday’s telecast, my first thought was, where are the azaleas? Turns out because of unseasonably warm weather they bloomed three weeks ago. Guess there are some things even the Masters Committee can’t control. Oh well, better luck next year…

Anyone who could watch the opening ceremony honoring Arnold Palmer without getting a tear in their eye – especially watching Jack Nicklaus – isn’t human.

Filed in: Golf & Sports by The Great White Shank at 01:59 | Comments (0)
April 3, 2017

It’s the week in the professional golf year that is, to quote CBS Sports’ Jim “Hello, friends” Nantz, “a tradition like no other”. It’s Masters Week. The precocious, spoiled brats featured in the tiresome Drive, Chip, and Putt competition have been swept off the Augusta National grounds like so many dead azalea blooms (thank God!) and the adults are finally taking over.

This year’s Masters promises to be a good one. Of course, you have the red-hot Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy ready to overpower Augusta with their incredible distance, but I’m still sticking with Jordan Spieth as my pick. I know he missed the cut at the Shell Houston, but you could tell his mind was a thousand miles away in Augusta. He’s got a lot to make up for with last year’s cheap bridge table collapse, and I think he’s ready to up his game to ensure defending champion Danny Willett is putting the green jacket back on his shoulders. Besides, if Spieth can play with hickory sticks, he can surely win again at Augusta.

One person who won’t be there is Tiger Woods. I’ve come to believe that you can’t believe anything that comes out of the mouth of his agent Mark Steinberg. The guy lies like a rug trying to keep Tiger relevant and in the conversation of everything that is golf today, but you really have to wonder if the guy is coming around to the realization that he just can’t do it anymore. I mean, five minutes on the range and he decides he’s not going to play at Augusta? He couldn’t play when he teed it up at Dubai, and nothing has changed since that tine to make anyone think he’s any closer to rejoining the Tour on a regular basis than he was at this time last year. At some point it becomes a question of whether it’s all worth it. He had a great run, will always be known as one of the greatest golfers who have ever played the game. Ought to be enough to leave it at that.

And what’s going on with the LPGA allowing a phone-in by some Cheetos-eating, 16-handicap couch potato to influence the winner of a professional golf tournament? If I were Lexi Thompson I’d be pretty livid about the whole thing. The LPGA should put a stop to this kind of thing, and pronto.

Masters week is always special. It’s the best tournament to watch on TV, bar none. So queue the quaint music, turn up the microphone volume so that every bird within fifteen miles is heard, have a moment of silence for the departed King, and let those words ring out, indicating that winter is truly over and another golf season is upon us.

“Fore, please!”

Filed in: Golf & Sports by The Great White Shank at 16:44 | Comments (0)
February 8, 2017

….and such is life. The Patriots celebrated their Super Bowl championship with a glorious parade, and the Red Sox truck is about ready to head to Fort Myers.

And round and round life goes, one season ended and another just beginning. One season fulfilling all the promises that started during the heat of July, the other filled with the expectations of, if not great things, then at least doing well. I guess we’ll see come October. Heck, by that time the Patriots will be well underway in defending their title.

I love this pic from Parade Day. So Bawwwwwstin!

Filed in: Golf & Sports by The Great White Shank at 01:25 | Comments (0)
February 3, 2017

Well that was quick: Tiger Woods, after three dismal rounds in his vaunted “comeback tour”, has withdrew from the Dubai Desert Classic after posting a ghastly opening round 77 due to “back spasms”.

Yeah, right.

I posted here about the challenges Tiger would be facing coming back after his long hiatus from back surgery. Simply put, in that time the golf universe has changed beyond any kind of measure even someone of his accomplishments could ever imagine. The good golfers have multiplied in spades. They are young, fearless, hit the ball incredible distances, and have the best equipment and workout / fitness regimens in the world. And while undoubtedly they respect Tiger for everything he has brought to the game and made possible for them, they look upon him as nothing more than an artifact of days long gone by and never to be seen again.

The fact that Tiger says with a brave face that he’s preparing for Augusta and is only entering tournaments with the idea of winning is not just laughable, but pathetic. It’s all talk, designed for mainstream media ass-kissers who write as if Woods is still a force to be reckoned with. They’re just about as clueless about Woods as he himself is, afraid to admit that the object of their affection is nothing but a mere shell of the golfer and the presence he once was.

I was texting my Goodboys pal Killer last week about how Tiger looked at the Farmer’s Insurance Open. In my view he looked rusty for sure, but even more so, I didn’t like his gait as he would walk from one hole to another. He looked like someone with a stiff back – not necessarily in pain, but certainly in discomfort. The Great White Shank is all about telling the truth, whether it be politics, golf, or his own situation in any way, manner, shape, or form. Anyone who has followed this blog for the past eleven years knows no one is exempt from the truth, not even yours truly.

I said in my earlier piece that I thought Tiger was one awkward swing from retirement. For all we know, that time has come. Just don’t expect Tiger to man up and tell the truth about what he’s actually feeling and thinking. And that’s because it would require him to actually sound and seem human. Look, we all have flaws; his is being unable to reveal to those who, if not liking him, nevertheless respect him for all he has done and brought to the game of golf, the reality of his ability to play golf. If he can no longer play with the “big boys” he ought to just come out and say so.

Filed in: Golf & Sports by The Great White Shank at 22:24 | Comments (0)

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