Keeping Score: Thoughts on the Sox and a jerk on a plane

  • Children walk up a sand dune in Australia with tobbogans in hand for some fun in the desert. for the recorder/kevin lamagdelaine

Friday, July 28, 2017

Good morning!

The Red Sox try to keep turmoil and bad behavior out of the public eye, but the scrutiny extends back before the days of social media. When the team trained at Winter Haven, brooding Red Sox slugger Jim Rice would leave his car in publicity director Bill Crowley’s parking spot. Crowley finally confronted Rice, who twisted his arm badly enough it had to be bandaged.

People noticed.

In Texas, reporters saw Manny Ramirez shove 64-year-old traveling secretary Jack McCormick onto the floor because he couldn’t fulfill Ramirez’ request for 14 complimentary tickets.

The incident made the news.

The latest brouhaha involved pitcher David Price berating NESN analyst Dennis Eckersley for alleged slights he’d made about the players.

The Red Sox front office apologized profusely but couldn’t keep this one under wraps when Dan Shaugnessy reported the details in Monday’s Boston Globe.

Price has been skewered on the sports talk shows and the national media’s reaction was scathing. “Dennis Eckersley under fire for ludicrous reasons” reported the Mercury News … “Tremendously thin-skinned Red Sox are waging a ridiculous war,” headlined thebiglead.com. Curt Schilling went on Twitter saying the Red Sox lacked a strong clubhouse presence.

That became painfully obvious on Wednesday after the SportsHub’s Fred Toucher tweeted that longtime veteran Dustin Pedroia had been among the players who applauded Price’s diatribe.

Shaugnessy also reported that outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. had arranged with the Public Relations Department to have a photo-op with Eckersley two years ago. Bradley used the photo in a Tweet that said: “Huge thanks to @Eck43 for saying all the things I ‘can’t’ do these past few days. People like you is what drives me.”

The Red Sox are picking on the wrong guy. Eckersley retired with 197 wins and 390 saves and was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2005. He won 20 games for Boston in 1978, including four straight in September to help push the Red Sox into a one-game playoff with the Yankees.

According to celebritynetworth.com, he’s worth $20 million, and that wealth has let him tell it like it is.

Fans who heard former Red Sox pitcher Mike Timlin try to fill Eckersley’s shoes on the road this week wondered if he was sitting in announcer Dave O’Brien’s lap.

O’Brien: “That sun is tough.”

Timlin: “It is tough.”

O’Brien: “Simmons is having a dynamite day.”

Timlin: “Yes he is.”

O’Brien: “Attendance here is 29,262.”

Timlin: “Almost 30.”

NESN’s problems go deeper than its third string announcer. The team is a figment of BoSox chairman Tom Werner’s Hollywood imagination. Werner’s production company won 24 Emmy Awards, and he’s confused baseball with scripted entertainment. “We need to start winning in more exciting fashion,” he famously said in 2010.

When Bradley Jr. robbed Aaron Judge of a home run two weeks ago, NESN sent a reporter into the corner of the bleachers where JBJ had jumped to make the catch. It was as if JBJ had landed on Mars or had set the world high jump record.

Such pandering feeds into the players’ egos — Jackie Bradley Jr.: The Man, The Legend, The Catch — and they freak when Eckersley infers otherwise.

Most folks go to Cape Cod or Maine for their July vacations, but Recorder circulation director Kevin LaMagdelaine, his wife Dina and their three children flew to Australia, where Tim and Danielle Cross were waiting on the other side of the pond. Danielle was the couple’s au pair when their twins were 2-year-olds, and she invited them to Brisbane for the grand tour. 

They fed the kangaroos and pet the koalas at the Australia Zoo and posed for a picture with its owner Terri Irwin. “We lucked out,” said Kevin. “She happened to be there handing out Krispy Kremes to the workers.”

Irwin was married to the late Steve Irwin, better known as the Crocodile Hunter. He died in the waters off Australia in 2006 after being pierced in the chest by a stingray while filming a documentary called The Ocean’s Deadliest.

Terri Irwin wrested control of the zoo’s property from a strip mining company and populated it with peculiar-named critters like the Asian small-clawed otter, black-necked stork and blue-winged kookaburras.

LaMagdelaine thumbed through photos to a picture of his son Noah sand tobogganing down a steep dune. “He wore goggles but still got sand in his mouth,” he said.

Asked what he remembered most, LaMagdelaine thought for a moment and replied, “Not sleeping for the whole 31-hour plane trip because I didn’t have enough leg room.”

It’s a shame he didn’t try bribing the flight attendant with a Krispy Kreme.

The Red Sox aren’t the only ball club with pampered players. The Cardinals missed the playoffs for the first time in five years last season and are currently under .500 in the NL Central. “I was in the St. Louis clubhouse and everyone was looking down at their cell phones,” said ESPN’s Eduardo Perez.  “They have a PlayStation they travel with, and they’re playing that instead of studying video.”

Perez played three years with the Cardinals and his father Tony was a cog in Cincinatti’s Big Red Machine. “They miss (third base coach) Jose Oquendo,” he added. “He kept everyone on edge and held you to a high standard.”


SQUIBBERS: Ivan Rodriguez will be inducted into the Hall of Fame this weekend, and Bernie Carbo and Peter Hantzis will be among the attendees. Both were invited by MLB for recognition of their transfomative memoir “Saving Bernie Carbo.” … My lasting memory of I-Rod was sitting in the stands behind third base and watching him pick off Brian Daubach before he could barely move. …  Bridge jumpers dove into the Pacific Ocean at Del Mar on Saturday after Arrogate finished fourth in the San Diego Handicap. “He just laid an egg,” said trainer Bob Baffert. His horse was bet down to a nickel on the dollar and took 92 percent of the win-place-show pool. … Wes Welker’s 3-year-old filly Spellker finished seventh in a $92,000 optional claimer at Saratoga on Sunday. … The Patriots’ training camp roster includes three players from New England schools: linebacker Trevor Bates (Maine), running back James Develin (Brown) and tackle Max Rich (Harvard). … An irate caller to Monday’s Felger & Mazz said of Red Sox skipper John Farrell: “As somebody from New Jersey, I’m embarrassed John Farrell is from New Jersey.” … Travis Shaw has 23 home runs and 73 RBIs, but Boston wasn’t the only team to get fleeced by the Brewers. Pitcher Zach Davies was traded by Baltimore in 2015 for the immortal Gerardo Parra and is 12-4 for the Brew Crew. Not like the O’s need pitching. … The Gray Lady parenthetically reported this week “The New York Times does not allow its writers to vote for the Hall of Fame.”… Yup, neither does The Recorder. 

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.