October 10, 2016

So baseball in Boston is over for another year, just in time for the first freeze watches to be out. Between now and Opening Day 2017 there are a lot of leaves and not a small amount of snow to fall. The David Ortiz era is over, and the Red Sox in 2017 should have quite a different look than they do now. A few thoughts and comments about where things go from here.

1. I’m pretty sure manager John Farrell stays – after all, how do you dump a manager that got you to the post-season? But he really doesn’t deserve it. He was out-managed by Terry Francona in the playoffs, was out-managed on virtually every occasion that warranted it during the season, and couldn’t handle a bullpen if you gave it to him in a shopping bag. I’m not sure what kind of a motivator he is with younger players, but you can bet the Sox are going to get younger next year, and I’m not sure Farrell is the guy you want to have manage that. Unfortunately, he’ll probably be back, but on a very short leash.

2. While I love Jackie Bradley, Jr. in CF he’s too streaky a player on a team that’s already streaky. I’m guessing he’s trade bait at the Winter Meetings and should bring something very nice in return. That allows Mookie Betts to go to center, and hopefully the Sox find some punch and a decent defender in right field.

3. Andrew Benetendi is a keeper. Can’t wait to see him mature with some experience under his belt. He could be a star.

4. I hate to say it, but you’re probably looking at The Return of Pablo “Fat Pig” Sandoval at third base next year if he’s able to keep distance between him and the Golden Corral “Blue Plate Special”. He can’t do a hell of a lot worse than Travis Shaw did – he had one good month and a half and showed he was nothing more than a decent AAA player who got killed once big-league pitchers figured out his weaknesses. The guy never learned to adjust, so see you later, alligator.

5. Hanley Ramirez had a great year and I look forward to seeing him again at first base next year.

6. I hope Dave Dombrowski doesn’t go apeshit trying to replace David Ortiz. You can’t replace “Big Papi” – there will never be another like him. But he’ll still need to consider carefully how he wants to handle the DH spot next year.

7. You can bet the Sox will be in the market or a pitcher at the Winter Meetings. David Price sucked this year but Sox ownership made that bed a long time ago when they dissed Jon Lester. They’ve still got a damned good core with Price / Porcello / Rodriguez / Buchholz, but another starter wouldn’t hurt.

8. Dustin Pedroia is going to be a problem. The guy can still play, for sure, and with Papi gone his role as a leader on the team is going to be even more important. But he can’t play an entire year as your everyday second baseman. He plays too hard, and John Farrell never rested him enough. By the end of the season he was toast. Gotta keep that in mind for next year.

9. The biggest issue is going to be rebuilding the bullpen. I’m guessing – thanks to Farrell’s mismanagement – they’ve gotten all they can out of Junichi Tazawa, which is too bad. Koji Uehara should be brought back. Closer Craig Kimbrel was OK but he needs to pitch better. The rest of the bunch you can have for a bag of balls.

10. The Sox need to find a backup for Xander Bogearts – another player Farrell drove into the ground so that he was all but useless the last month of the season. Somebody’s gonna need to be a suitable backup for Bogearts and Pedroia.

11. It wouldn’t bother me if Jerry Remy doesn’t come back to the NESN broadcast booth as analyst next year. He was great with Don Orsilllo, but his style never meshed with Dave O’Brien’s, and, frankly, he got on my nerves all year long. He had a great run for a long time, especially with DO, but his time is past.

12. That being said, anytime Dennis Eckersley shares the booth with O’Brien that’s OK by me. Loved listening to his commentary all year long.

Overall, it was a good year, one that my Mom would have been proud of. She loved her Sox, and I feel bad she missed seeing Big Papi’s farewell – I think she would have liked that. It’s always sad when baseball in Boston comes to a close, but the feeling is much more muted here in Arizona when it’s still sunny and the temperatures are in the 90s. Here there is still lots of golf to be played. The Sox overachieved much of this year, but over the last three weeks – hey, timing is everything – picked the worst time to slump as a team. I think Farrell’s management style had a lot to do with that, but that’s the way it goes.

This off-season ought to be most interesting because both the Sox and the dreaded Yankees are on the ascendancy. Next year I’m guessing these two teams will be back to being the great rivals they are, fighting it out one memorable series after another. That’s something to look forward to!

Filed in: Golf & Sports by The Great White Shank at 21:41 | Comments (2)
September 26, 2016

It seems like this year is nothing but a year of sadness and death. My heroes are all dying, and I’m slowly being left with nothing but memories.

Such is life. Such is the passage of time.

Like most folks my age I’m guessing my first introduction to Arnold Palmer was on a black and white TV screen. I don’t remember a whole lot and couldn’t tell you when I first saw him in action, but it doesn’t really matter: it’s first perceptions that last, and my first perceptions of Arnold Palmer was that: a) he was very popular and loved by a huge bunch of followers, and b) he was extremely charismatic, a larger-than-life personality, a self-made alpha male whose persona was perfect for TV, and c) he commanded my attention.

But golf was only the springboard to greater things for Arnie. He paved the way for what would be known in the marketing world as “branding”. He sold everything from motor oil to clothes (I actually bought myself an Arnold Palmer sportscoat with his trademark umbrella logo back in the mid-70s). He was the first professional athlete to have his own plane. His signature became as much a brand as the person himself. And, perhaps most importantly, the hospitals in the Orlando area that he and his wife Winnie helped found are to this day responsible for the lives and well-being of thousands of patients, young and old.

Arnold Palmer was larger than life. I’ll leave it to others to talk of his legacy and his impact on the game of golf and the professional world of sports in general. All I can say is that he was a hero of mine, my favorite golfer of all time. I never met him in person, but like so many others feel as if I knew him. His story and his journey are quintessentially American. He was an alpha male who was never afraid to show his sensitive side. I think deep down he would have fit in really well as a Goodboy.

It’s hard to see your heroes grow old and die, their bodies giving out well before their minds, their personalities, and their innate selves do. This is a bad year, a sad year. The world as I once knew it is passing me by.

Filed in: Golf & Sports by The Great White Shank at 01:33 | Comments (0)
September 20, 2016

It seems pretty clear at this juncture that, absent something astronomically bad happening, the Boston Red Sox are headed to the post-season. And anyone who has watched them over the season – and especially the past six days playing the likes of the Yankees and the Orioles – ought to know that, for a streaky team as the Sox are, they’ve gotten hot again at just the right time. With only two weeks left and no one else in the American League East seemingly able to push them, it’s looking good for the good guys.

Clearly this is a team with only a few weaknesses at this point. Pitching-wise, sure, you really don’t know what you’re getting every time David Price, Eduardo Rodriguez, and Clay Buchholz go to the mound, but their upside (Buchholz is the dark horse, in my opinion) is such that the odds are you’re going to get a fairly solid outing whomever goes out there. Besides, you’ve got odds-on Cy Young favorite Rick Porcello who’s riding a seriously hot streak right now. In a short series, my money is on Price-Porcello-Buchholz as your top three. Rodriguez appears to be kind of a head case, but don’t kid yourself: most teams would dream to have their #4 starter with his kind of stuff. Drew Pomerantz? They’ve got him and Steven Wright if they need them. It’s a nice problem to have.

Besides, when you’ve got a lineup that features the likes of Hanley Ramirez – wow, is that dude hot! – and David Ortiz – wow, is that dude hot! – and Mookie Betts, Xander Bogearts, and Dustin Pedroia you’re just trying to give the offense a chance to rake. Jackie Bradley, Jr. is so streaky, but if he got hot, say, around the last week of the season he could carry the team almost by himself – hey, he’s done that before. Same thing with left-fielder Andrew Benintendi, once his knee gets a little healthier. Of course, 3B Travis Shaw is a black hole at third-base – he’s proven over a season that he’s really not much more than a utility player, but the Sox have options there as well. And Sandy Leon as catcher has come back to earth a bit, but I sure like his style.

To me, the biggest improvement the Sox have made over the past couple of weeks is getting reliever Koji Uehara back. I knew, I just knew, that Koji was going to play a huge role down the stretch if he could prove himself healthy. And being inactive for a while means he’s fresh for the post-season. I just wish Junichi Tazawa had been placed on the disabled list as well so that John Farrell couldn’t burn him out with overuse. But having Uehara back means that if you can get a good six innings out of your starter you’ve got Koji, Brad Ziegler, and Craig Kimbrel the rest of the way. Not a bad situation to be in at all.

The Sox are in a seriously good spot right now – as long as John Farrell isn’t forced to out-manage his opponent. Perhaps he’s OK as a manager in the clubhouse, but the guy is absolutely one of the worst in-game managers I’ve ever seen. I would love to see a Cubs – Red Sox World Series, and you’d be hard-pressed to find another team in the A.L. as talented as the Sox are right now, so why not dream?

It could get interesting, folks – to the point where we might just need to call up the post-season magic of “Tessie”.

Filed in: Golf & Sports by The Great White Shank at 20:45 | Comment (1)
July 28, 2016

I dunno. Maybe it’s because we’re in the middle of the political conventions. Maybe it’s because, due to the Summer Olympics, the PGA Championship has been moved up to just two weeks after the Open Championship. Maybe it’s because after Goodboys Invitational weekend I’m feeling more than a little golfed out right now, thank you. Or maybe it’s because I couldn’t stand watching Golf Channel’s Kelly Tilghman hosting their “Live from the PGA Championship” nightly broadcasts this week (awful!). Or, most likely, it’s a combination of all these factors.

I wish I could say I’m interested in what happens at the last major of the year but I find myself not really caring that much. It would be nice, I suppose, to see Phil Mickelson rewarded for that incredible last round at the Open Championship where he was simply flat-out beaten by Henrik Stenson, but seeing Phil in contention on Sunday is probably the only way I’ll bring myself to watch.

Were I to hazard a pick, however, it would have to be Dustin Johnson, who has to be – at least as far as I’m concerned – the favorite to win the Fed Ex Cup this year. He’s had a great year, and it would be nice to see him put the pedal to the metal, so to speak.

Just wondering: whatever happened to Jordan Speith?

Filed in: Golf & Sports by The Great White Shank at 14:35 | Comments (0)

It’s time for the Red Sox to fire manager John Farrell. Sure, I’m guessing if you were to ask anyone if they’d be satisfied with the Sox being 11 games above .500 and just three games out of first place days before the July trading deadline back in March they’d be pretty satisfied with that, but the fact is that this team is under-performing and the pitching staff in particular poorly managed by Farrell pretty much from the start. One can only guess where the team would be were it not for the sheer “luck” of Eduardo Rodriguez’s knee injury in spring training forcing knuckleballer Steven Wright into the rotation – I mean, Lord knows where they’d be!

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, it’s hard to believe that Farrell was a one-heralded pitching coach. Let’s face it, folks: with the exception of Wright and Rick Porcello, the Sox pitching staff has pretty much under-performed from top to bottom, and it’s starting to get worse. Sure, the injuries to Carson Smith and Craig Kimbrel have hurt, but that doesn’t mean Farrell’s use of the bullpen hasn’t been horrendous from the very start. And while I’m no fan of Clay Buchholz, I believe Farrell has destroyed whatever confidence the fragile Buchholz might ever have had during Farrell’s tenure. And while it’s true the team’s offensive strength this year has come on the heels of its “Killer Bs” – the young trio of Mookie Betts, Jackie Bradley Jr, and Xavier Bogearts – I have a sense that Farrell really doesn’t know young ballplayers, how to relate to them, and how to get the most out of them.

With some serious talent lying just below the major league level and about to show their faces in the upcoming September call-ups, it’s time to replace Farrell with bench coach Tory Lovullo, who replaced Farrell last year while Farrell was undergoing cancer treatment and did a great job getting performances out a team that, truthfully, didn’t have the same level of talent this year’s team does. Not only am I confident he can get more out of the talent that there already is, but as the team further integrates its major league roster with new and younger blood that will be regulars as early as next year, having Lovullo at the helm will make sure this process is handled correctly. I’m also certain Lovullo will do a much better job at ensuring the pitching staff gets straightened out and performs closer to their abilities.

John Farrell must go.

Filed in: Golf & Sports by The Great White Shank at 01:45 | Comments (0)
June 16, 2016

This is one of those years that, unlike others, where the U.S. Open is my #3 favorite major (behind the Masters and the Open Championship), watching the U.S. Open being played at Oakmont has to jump up to #2. I’ve read all about the controversies about Oakmont and the elimination of, like, a gazillion trees to recapture the original intent of its original developer, and I have to say I love the wide-open space and the oh-so-familiar terrain of a Northeast course. I love the fact that Oakmont is traditionally the toughest of all the U.S. Open venues. I love the concept of the penalizing rough and the beyond rocket-fast greens, and the prospect of the winning score being somewhere north of three-over par. There are way too many PGA Tour events where everything is a birdie-fest; give me a really tough, no frills, golf course where you have to hit it straight and land your approach shots on a spot akin to a postage stamp in order for a chance at birdie.

It’s our national championship. It oughta be tough.

It’s a shame Arnold Palmer won’t be in attendance, but time catches up with everyone, I’m afraid. I sill love hos famous quote about Oakmont: “”You can hit 72 greens [in regulation] in the Open at Oakmont and not come close to winning.”

I know just about everyone is picking one of the “Big Three” – Rory McIlroy, Jason Day, or Jordan Spieth, but I got a special feeling for 46 year-old Phil Mickelson. He knows this course better than just about anyone, and he’s been driving the ball and putting it just about as good as anyone.

It will be great viewing, and with the temps around here this weekend in the 115-120 range, I can’t think of anything better than to stay cool, crack open a brewskie or two, and watch the best golf on the planet.

Filed in: Golf & Sports by The Great White Shank at 01:36 | Comments (0)
April 18, 2016

OK, I’ll admit I haven’t watched all of the Red Sox games thus far, but I’ve watched enough and read enough to know that manager John Farrell must be fired. And immediately. Not only is the guy mismanaging his bullpen in a way that will ultimately get him fired anyways, but by the time he does poor Torey Lovullo (his obvious replacement) won’t even have a bullpen left to wield for the rest of the year.

Look, I feel bad the guy was diagnosed with cancer last year (the only reason why, IMO, he kept his job to begin with). I don’t feel bad for the guy caught cheating on his wife with a Comcast SportsNet reporter. But what really bothers me is the fact he’s gonna wear Junichi Tazawa and Koji Uehara down to the quick before the calendar even flips to May. The guy is (obviously) managing as if every game is the seventh game of the World Series in a pathetic attempt to keep his job, with little recognition that the baseball season is a marathon not a sprint, and the team in the end is gonna suffer for it, big time.

The Sox are playing .500 ball (6-6) but there are definitely two, perhaps three games that Farrell has single-handedly lost because of his handling of the roster generally, and the bullpen specifically. I thought everyone had agreed that Tazawa was run into the ground last year and needed to be handled if not with kid gloves, then judiciously this year. Same thing with Uehara – isn’t that why they brought in San Diego closer Craig Kimbrel to begin with? So what has Farrell done? Uehara and Tazawa lead the pitching staff in appearances with seven and six, respectively. At this rate, Memorial Day will come around and both will be done for the year.

I’m only hoping (actually, I’m sure) GM Dave Dombrowski is paying close attention to what’s going on, and I guarantee he’s not liking what he sees. I know he’s jonesing to pull the trigger but he knows he’s got to give Farrell a little more time in order to make it look like he wasn’t ready to fire the guy before the team broke camp in Fort Myers (even though I’ll bet he was). My only hope is that by the time DD does get around to canning Farrell there’s still a bullpen left for Lovullo to use for the rest of the year.

Filed in: Golf & Sports by The Great White Shank at 20:14 | Comments (0)
April 11, 2016

Still shaking my head over yesterday’s final round at the Masters.

It’s always been said that the Masters doesn’t really start until the back nine on Sunday. This timeline illustrates just how unbelievable it all was as events unfolded.

Loved Peter Kostis’ line after Jordan Spieth’s play on 12 upended the leaderboard: “It’s as if you were shuffling a deck of cards and a gust of wind blew them all over the place.” Priceless.

Here’s a cool article this is about how the Masters event became the Masters tournament we have come to know and love today. A big thanks to the “Big Three” – there will never be another like them. Talk about just oozing class:

Gotta agree with Kyle Porter here. I think you’re gonna see one fired-up Jordan Spieth by the time the U.S. Open comes around. He’s not just a quick learner, but I guarantee what happened yesterday will only motivate him to greater heights.

Has there been anything crazier to watch than Louis Oosthuizen’s tee shot on 16? His ball hits J.B. Holmes’ ball then dives into the cup for a hole-in-one. Bizarre.

Only 51 weeks to go until the 2017 Masters and seeing Danny Willett return the favor by putting the green jacket on Jordan Spieth. You just know that’s gonna happen, dontcha?

Filed in: Golf & Sports by The Great White Shank at 20:02 | Comments (0)
April 10, 2016

What a wild and wacky final day at the Masters! There’s a reason why this tournament is the absolute best of the golf year – between the way the powers-that-be set the course up on Sundays, the course itself, and the stakes involved you can bet that something is gonna happen that keeps one on the edge of their seats. Few, if any, leads are safe, and the one who ends up putting on the green jacket is the one who can play consistently while staying in the moment.

Take today, for example. It was around 4:45 PM EDT that I was already planning to get on the Jordan Spieth “Grand Slam” watch for 2016. Dude was five strokes ahead of his nearest competitor, the unheralded Danny Willett from Great Britain, at the turn after a series of clutch birdies to close put the front nine.

Then came #10. Spieth bogeys, Willett birdies. Lead cut to three.
Then came #11. Spieth bogeys, Willett birdies. Lead cut to one.
Then came #12. This is something I really don’t understand. On Sunday #12 is sucker pin placement. Anyone ought to know that short is death by water, the play is long, into the bunker. Countless guys have lost the Masters by hitting it short, so what does Spieth do? He hits it short, it bounds into the water. Then he flubs a penalty shot into the water again. he ends up with a quad-bogey seven (!), and drops to three behind Willett.

After that, while putting up a brave front, his brain is mush but still puts on a good enough show until he misses a crucial birdie putt at 16 and it’s hasta la vista Jordan. Willett does what he has done all weekend – play assertively while avoiding mistakes, and thus the green jacket goes to the gentleman from “jolly old”. Perhaps there’s roast beef and Yorkshire pudding on the menu at the 2017 champions dinner?

There’s not a lot you can say. Spieth, I think, has learned that in a major no lead is safe; Tiger Woods in his prime would have tried to push that five-stroke lead to ten and not let up until the final putt dropped. Spieth’s young, he’s learned a valuable lesson from this and I’m sure will do everything he can to make sure this never happens again in the future. A few other thoughts:

This was Dustin Johnson’s tournament to win. If he had made even half the putts that skimmed the hole over the weekend he’d be wearing the green jacket. Dude simply has to learn to putt better.

Rory McIlroy played horribly from the start and reinforces my impression that while he’s got all the talent in the world there’s something missing between the ears or in the heart.

Jason Day – my pick – had a lousy tournament. Not sure what he was struggling with but he couldn’t get anything going whatsoever.

The Europeans are loaded when it comes to talent. I just don’t see the Americans matching them in overall skill and wherewithal when it comes to the Ryder Cup this September.

The biggest winner of the tournament? Augusta National, which, thanks to the windy conditions separated the wheat from the chaff and proved once again why it’s the absolute best golf event on TV.

Filed in: Golf & Sports by The Great White Shank at 21:28 | Comments (0)
April 7, 2016

Not the punk band, but the scene I’m predicting we’ll be seeing come Sunday afternoon in the Butler Cabin at Augusta National when 2015 winner Jordan Spieth slips the green jacket onto Jason Day as the latest Masters champion. My view: Day not just has the entire package (just about everyone agrees on that, you’re not going to be #1 in the world if you don’t!), but he’s really ramped up his iron and short game play over the past year – something he’s missed having previously at Augusta.

So that’s my prediction and I’m sticking with it: Jason Day for the win.

Former Masters champs to keep an eye on this year: Zach Johnson (there’s something about the guy I just can’t take to, but you can’t deny the guy’s intensity and skill with his irons), Adam Scott, and Phil Mickelson. Lots of folks like Justin Rose, not me. Nor do I like Spieth nor Dustin Johnson (even though I’d love to see DJ win his first major at Augusta). And no on Rory McIlroy, who has all the talent in the world but someone I’ve come to think is kind of immature and a head case. Anyone who dumps the likes of long-time gal pal and fiancĂ©e Caroline Wozniacki (by phone, no less!) has bigger issues than what his putting stroke looks like.

My dark horse pick: Rafael Cabrera-Bello. Would be great to see another Spaniard pick up a green jacket.

Can’t wait to watch the television coverage, even if it starts with the bozos on ESPN today and tomorrow. But when Jim Nantz intones his hokey but familiar, “Hello, friends” on Saturday you can bet I’ll be watching along with the rest of the golf world. Sure Nick Faldo will be alongside him, but that will just remind me of the late, great Ken Venturi. It’s all part of what the Masters is about: the past, the present, the future.

Next to Goodboys Invitational week (say, is that happening this year, Exec-Comm?), it’s the best week of the golf year for me.

Queue the music!

Filed in: Golf & Sports by The Great White Shank at 09:27 | Comments (0)

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