As summer fades to fall, the Red Sox – Boston and Pawtucket – and the Patriots dominate the sports news. Here is my take on three hot topics.
RED SOX: SNAP OUT OF IT!
The Red Sox could have all but clinched the A.L. East title with a decent weekend in New York, but no, they seem determined to do it the hard way, if they do it at all. They lost three of four in the Bronx and returned home with a shaky 3½-game lead over the Yankees. Then, on Monday night, they took a 10-4 beating from Toronto. LAST PLACE Toronto, for Pete’s sake! Now the lead is 2½ games, thanks to that loss and New York’s victory at Baltimore.
What in the name of Big Papi is going on up there in Boston? Rick Porcello, a 24-game winner and Cy Young recipient in 2016, pitched his way closer to a 20-loss season Monday night when he threw three home run balls to the Jays, raising his total to 35 for the season. He is 9-16. Chris Sale, a lock for the American League Cy Young Award at the All-Star break, has been horrible in two of his last three starts, has lost three of his last four, and gave up three home runs to the Yankees on Sunday night. Lefty Eduardo Rodriguez hasn’t won since the end of May. Rehabbing pitcher David Price is throwing bullpen sessions. Slumping shortstop Xander Bogaerts returned to the lineup Monday night after three days off and was hitless in four at-bats. Second baseman Dustin Pedroia, the soul of the Sox, continues to nurse a sore left knee and is in and out of the lineup. I could go on, but you get the picture, right?
We should not be surprised. The Red Sox have taken us on a rollercoaster ride all season. They got off to a slow start, began winning in June, won their sixth in a row on July 4th and were in first place at the break, 3½ games ahead of the Yankees and Rays. They were 16-4 during a torrid stretch from July 31 to August 23 but are only 4-8 since then. Their hitting has been inconsistent, and their pitching, for the most part, remains suspect. If the Sox continue their current funk, they will squander the A.L. East title, limp into the playoffs as a wild-card and face an early exit again.
PAWSOX: BUILD IT!
The good citizens of Rhode Island need to take a deep breath, hold it for a few seconds, exhale slowly and consign once and for all the failed 38 Studios deal to business school case studies. Then they can take another deep breath, exhale slowly and encourage their lawmakers to negotiate a deal to build a new stadium for the Pawtucket Red Sox.
Public financing for private enterprise has been discussed, debated, argued and editorialized for years. That’s good. Some proposals are better than others, and legislators must be careful with their constituents’ tax money. Having written that, I say it’s time for the General Assembly in Rhode Island to forget another round of studies and to help fund a stadium on the Apex site off I-95.
This project, expected to cost about $83 million, will have the commitment of PawSox ownership ($45 million) and State of Rhode Island ($23 million) and City of Pawtucket taxpayers ($15 million). I sat let’s do it. Imagine driving through the famous S curves in Pawtucket, rounding the bend and coming upon a sparkling new 10,000-seat stadium, home of the Pawtucket Red Sox.
We need positive images for Rhode Island, and what can be more positive than cranes in the sky by day followed by light towers in the sky at night?
The Senate Finance Committee is holding hearings throughout Rhode Island this month. House Speaker Nicholas Matiello is taking his time and should pick up the pace.
Critics say we should not line the pockets of the PawSox’s millionaire owners. I say we should look at this as a partnership. We should use the stadium for events in addition to baseball. I envision URI playing a night football game in Pawtucket. Perhaps even Brown. I can see summer concerts when the PawSox are on the road, collegiate baseball games, high-school baseball tournaments and high-school football games. How about the Providence Bruins and Brown and Providence College teaming up for a weekend of outdoor hockey?
It’s all possible, but only if the citizens of Rhode Island show some forward thinking and demand that their representatives in the General Assembly get it done.
PATRIOTS: STAY HEALTHY!
The Super Bowl champs kick off the 2017 season Thursday night at Gillette Stadium. Tom Brady, their 40-year-old quarterback, will lead them. Please, Lord, keep Brady and the rest of the Patriots healthy so they can make another championship run. Winter is long enough in New England, and Patriots playoff games in January help us get through to spring training and the Red Sox.
The Patriots have already lost three players to knee injuries, the versatile Julian Edelman the latest. They can survive those blows, but losing Brady would be another question entirely. He may be in great shape, but even he can take only so much punishment.