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Keeping Score: It happens every spring

  • Franklin Tech senior Sam Bobala is all focus as a pitch is delivered during practice Friday afternoon at Indoor Action Sports in Greenfield. The Eagles open the season April 4 with a home game against Mohawk. recorder staff/paul franz


Friday, March 23, 2018

Good morning!

That title of the 1949 movie starring Ray Milland makes for a good headline, imagining the huddled masses reaching for the remote after five months without baseball. Like Pete Rose said, “Opening Day is like Christmas, except it’s warmer.”

The Red Sox season begins Thursday at 4 p.m., when Chris Archer toes the pitching rubber and Mookie Betts steps to the plate at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg.

It’s an odd April schedule for Boston. They play four games in Tampa and two in Miami, return for their longest homestand of the season — three against the Rays and Yankees and four against the Orioles — then it’s out to California and Oakland, over to Toronto and back home to play — who else? — the Tampa Bay Rays.

Alex Cora was the only real choice to replace John Farrell, who took a scouting job this week with the Cincinnati Reds. Cora’s analytical, laid-back and a former All-Star. He looks like a Latin version of Terry Francona, but can he manage like Tito?

Meanwhile on 161st Street in the Bronx, the Joe Girardi loyalists will be ready to pounce on Aaron Boone if the Bombers get off to a slow start. The affable Boone played for six teams in 12 seasons, did some broadcasting work and on December 4 was named to replace Girardi.

Time will tell if GM Brian Cashman’s decision to fire the proven Girardi for the neophyte Boone was sheer genius or utter folly. In 1992, the Red Sox thought Butch Hobson could lead them to the promised land and he was gone after three seasons. Currently, the 66-year-old Hobson manages the Chicago Dogs of the independent American Association.

The Red Sox have solid pitching, three all-star outfielders, a trio of healthy catchers and enviable bench depth, but are one card short of a royal flush. Their infield is in tatters with journeyman Mitch Moreland and moody Hanley Ramirez splitting time at first base, injured and aging Dustin Pedroia at second base, error prone Xander Bogaerts (17 boots last season) at shortstop and Rafael Devers poised to be the second coming of Dr. Strangeglove at third base.

No team is perfect — the Yankees’ bats will need to compensate for a suspect starting rotation — so let the games begin.

PREDICTIONS

A.L.: BOSTON, CLEVELAND, HOUSTON (Yankees, White Sox)

N.L.: METS, CUBS, DODGERS (Nationals, Brewers)

ALCS: INDIANS over YANKEES

NLCS: METS over NATIONALS

WORLD SERIES: CLEVELAND over the METS in SIX

Winter’s grip forced the UMass baseball and softball teams to cancel their respective home openers on Tuesday and Wednesday against Holy Cross and Boston College.

Coach Matt Reynolds’ Minutemen were 6-4 and on a five-game win streak going into Friday’s three-game series at Richmond. Reynolds will unveil his starting nine for the home fans on March 30 versus A-10 foe St. Bonaventure at Earl Lorden Field.

Leominster native Ryan Lever and Middleboro’s Eddy Hart both have their hitting shoes on, batting .386 and .350, respectively, and workhorse Justin Lasko has a 1.17 ERA in 15 innings with 13 strikeouts and four walks.

Softball coach Kristi Stefanoni’s Minutewomen are 11-10 with 32 games left to play. In a quirky turnaround, the venue for their three-game series against LaSalle this weekend was moved to Amherst after the Philadelphia area was hit with up to a foot of snow. The first game of the twin bill today starts at 1 p.m.

Columnist Dan Shaughnessy called it a tossup whether the city keeps Yawkey Way or renames it Jersey Street. The public way borders Fenway Park and was named in honor of longtime Red Sox owner Tom Yawkey.

Current owner John Henry claims Yawkey was a racist and says the street sign “haunts” him. Former player and coach Tommy Harper works for the Red Sox and backs Henry, but in Sunday’s Boston Globe Shaughnessy quoted two players who think otherwise from the 1967 Impossible Dream Team. Outfielder Reggie Smith told Shaugnessy: “Tom Yawkey treated me very fairly. I wish they would leave it Yawkey Way.” 

Pitcher Jim Lonborg concurred: “I was not happy that a legacy like his could be wiped off the map with comments that were more anecdotal than fact.”

On Tuesday, a pair of Sweet 16 seats in the last row of TD Garden were listed on StubHub for $1,050 plus fees. Two days later those prices plunged by more than half for lack of local interest — not many were pining to see Purdue play Texas Tech at 9:57 p.m., or Villanova play West Virginia for that matter.

Don’t bother using StubHub or Ticketmaster for this afternoon’s Northeast Hockey Regionals at the DCU Center in Worcester. The box office has plenty of seats priced at $50 for both games (no separate admission), $50 for Sunday’s championship game and $90 for both days.

Today’s games match Cornell against BU at 1 p.m., and Michigan versus Northeastern at 4:30 p.m. The winners play Sunday at 4 p.m. for the right to advance to the Frozen Four in Saint Paul.

Clarkson won its third NCAA women’s hockey title in five years by beating Colgate in OT on Sunday. Although most of its players are from Ontario, Golden Knights freshman Michaela Boyle played at Reading High School and was named the Boston Globe’s 2017 Player of the Year and to the Boston Herald’s Dream Team. UMass didn’t recruit Boyle because oops, UMass doesn’t have women’s hockey.

Stumbling through the archives I found this off-air discussion between Boston Bruins announcer Fred Cusick and analyst Derek Sanderson from 1988:

Sanderson: This game is like watching paint dry.

Cusick: That’s a cliche.

Sanderson: All right. It’s like watching a haircut.

Cusick: I don’t like that either.

Sanderson: Okay, it’s like watching a plumber.

Cusick: My brother’s a plumber.

Sanderson (back on the air): “We just found out Fred’s brother’s a plumber.”

BASEBALL NOTES: The Las Vegas oddsmakers have Boston’s win total at 91½ — $110 to make $100 in either direction. The Yankees are at 94½ , the Mets at 81. I’ll take the White Sox to finish over 68 wins. If the Astros can leapfrog from 51 to 70 to 86 wins, so can the ChiSox. .… White Sox infielder Yoan Moncada, late of the Red Sox, is batting .255 and looked bad getting picked off rounding third base against the Rangers on Tuesday. … Despite near perfect weather, Grapefruit League attendance is down 698 a game from three years ago according to baseballpilgrimages.com. … Greenfield’s Frank McDonald met up with Billy Kilgour and the Powertown’s Mike McCarthy for an Astros-Mets game in West Palm Beach. “Been to see Mr. Callaway three times,” emailed McDonald, referencing the new Mets skipper. “Jay Bruce looking good, so was Orlando Cespedes until he got hurt.” … Zero home runs in 36 at-bats this spring for Albert Pujols, who goes into the season trailing Babe Ruth by an even 100. … Good to hear Jerry Remy back on Red Sox broadcasts. The popular NESN analyst is gaining strength after his latest round of cancer treatments. … Fernando Rodney, he of the skewed cap and archer’s salute, is the Twins’ new closer. This is the 41-year-old reliever’s ninth team, according to baseball-reference.com, a two-year deal worth $8.5 million. … Shohei Ohtani is off to a slow start stateside, batting .107 (3-for-28) for the Angels and rocked in his only two mound outings. … As of midweek the Indians led all spring training teams with 50 home runs; the Red Sox and Yankees had 30 and 29, respectively. … Houston (3.02), Boston (3.76) and Tampa Bay (3.98) led the majors in spring training ERA; the Yankees were 10th (4.25). … Clay Buchholz, whose finest moment was no-hitting the Orioles in his second career start a decade ago, signed a minor league deal with the Royals this week. … As of Thursday, Blake Swihart and Sam Travis had teamed up for eight HRs and 26 RBIs in 107 ABs. … Memo to Larry Flynn: According to baseball-reference.com, Carl Yastrzemski made $1.964 million from 1961 to 1979. His final four years’ pay aren’t reported, but it probably adds up to about $3 million in his career.

SQUIBBERS: Last Saturday’s Hockey East championship attracted 10,169 at TD Garden, well short of a sellout. BU beat Providence, 2-0. … ESPN reported this week that the combined $25.5 million salary of Alabama’s Nick Saban, Georgia’s Kirby Smart, Clemson’s Dabo Swinney and Oklahoma’s Lincoln Riley is nearly quadruple the combined pay of all 50 state governors. …  Melvin Upton Jr., aka B.J. Upton, was released by the Indians this week together with former Red Sox catcher Ryan Hanigan. … Chance Adams might be the Yankees’ version of Henry Owens — the prodigy that never made it. Adams was optioned back to Triple-A with an 11.57 ERA in three spring training games. … Danny Hurley turned down $2 million a year for seven years to stay at URI and took UConn’s six year deal for $3 million per annum to coach at UConn, according to the Hartford Courant’s Dom Amore. He replaces Kevin Ollie who was 127-79 in six seasons and is owed $10 million. …  If Avalanche prospect Cale Makar and Sharks prospect Mario Ferraro stay in Amherst next season, that means those NHL clubs trust Greg Carvel’s coaching skills. … Yogi Berra on the importance of opening day: “A home opener is always exciting, no matter if it’s home or on the road.”

Chip Ainsworth is an award-winning columnist who has penned his observations about sports for four decades in the Pioneer Valley. He can be reached by email at sports@recorder.com.