Keeping Score with Chip Ainsworth: Mookie Betts the new Babe Ruth?

Published: 9/22/2023 9:46:45 PM
Modified: 9/22/2023 9:46:06 PM

Good morning!
History is repeating itself in the Hub where the Red Sox are destined for a long Westeros winter. The previous long winter lasted 86 years and began in 1919, which was Babe Ruth’s final year in Boston. He hit 29 home runs that season and was sold to the New York Yankees for $100,000 on the day after Christmas. 

Contrary to popular belief, Red Sox owner Harry Frazee didn’t need the money to produce a Broadway show called “No, No, Nanette.” He was simply tired of Ruth’s antics and unaware Ruth was on the cusp of becoming baseball’s greatest player.

“There was an outcry, to be sure, but Boston’s regard for Ruth was by no means unanimous,” wrote Seth Mnookin in his 2006 book Feeding the Monster about Red Sox owner John Henry.

“Frazee’s mistake — and the cause of the fossilization of his legacy as the man responsible for the media-constructed Curse of the Bambino, had everything to do with his failure to ally himself more strongly with the local press.”

Indeed, what Frazee had done to the Fourth Estate was simply  unconscionable — he had taken away their free food and booze.

Mookie Betts also hit 29 home runs his final year in Boston, which happened to be a century later in 2019. Unlike Frazee, however, John Henry and his minions knew they were trading a first ballot Hall-of-Famer for journeymen Alex Verdugo and Connor Wong and a bust named Jeter Downs.

It was the worst trade since Bill Lee for Stan Papi, or Sparky Lyle for Danny Cater. Betts is ranked among the top five in the NL in nine offensive categories including batting average, home runs, RBIs and slugging percentage.

Red Sox broadcaster Sean McDonough called it “a trade that can never be defended and a stain that will never be erased.”

History has thus repeated itself, and John Henry’s legacy has been forever tarnished. If he doesn’t believe it he can ask the ghost of Harry Frazee. The long winter is already five years old.    


Next September marks the 50th anniversary of ulnar collateral ligament reconstruction surgery — better known as Tommy John surgery — performed by Dr. Frank Jobe on a southpaw hurler who subsequently won 182 games.

Children as young as 14 are having the procedure today, some simply because they and their parents think they’ll throw harder. 

That’s a myth, said renown orthopedic surgeon Dr. James Andrews. “They think they can have this procedure and have a bionic arm,” Andrews told the Fort Lauderdale Sun Sentinel. “If you’re operated on in the eighth or ninth grade, your chances of playing at the collegiate level go down about threefold.”

Surgeries have also become more common because young athletes are focusing on one sport. What used to be fun is now a cutthroat business, and that’s a shame.


Last week’s two-point loss by the UMass Minutemen at Eastern Michigan was another of those snatched-from-the-jaws of victory heartbreakers. Backup quarterback Carlos Davis threw three interceptions and fumbled twice, no surprise considering he was picked off 18 times when he was at Western Carolina. “He floats the ball,” said EMU radio analyst Rob Rubick.

Starter Taisun Phommachanh might be back for today’s home game against New Mexico and the point spread was minus-3 entering the weekend.

Lay the points because UMass will be motivated by Phommachanh’s potential return.


Corny as it sounds, football is family. At halftime of the UMass-Eastern Michigan game, ESPN aired a segment about backup left tackle Zack Conti. A walk-on who’d played 20 games coming into his final season, Conti was ready to enter the transfer portal in hopes of a scholarship offer until right tackle Brian Dooley gave him his own scholarship. “He’s like a brother to me,” said Dooley. “I just couldn’t let him walk away from something he’s built here.”


Former UMass chancellor Robert Holub passed away in Ohio last month. Holub and former AD John McCutcheon fought over the bragging rights regarding who was responsible for getting UMass into the FBS. Dubious bragging rights indeed, but Holub didn’t hide in the ivory tower. For better or worse he was easy to find on the sideline or in the Mullins Center ready and willing to interact with the fans.


SQUIBBERS: A reliable source reports that former NMH hoops coach John Carroll is making serious money “as a promoter, recruiter and influencer” at TCU. … Tickets to the Hoyas-Friars hoops tilt in Providence sold out quickly after native son Ed Cooley bolted for Georgetown. “He grew up in the bad section and made it out,” said Providence grad John Blair. “I used to love that guy. I can’t stand the sight of him now.” … ESPN reported that Alex Rodriguez paid Anthony Bosch $12,000 a month in cash for testosterone and HGH during three of his 12 years in New York. Why is no one surprised?  …  Atlanta phenom Spencer Strider improved his career record to 30-10 on Tuesday and is a perfect 8-0 versus the Phils. … As of Thursday, the Royals were playing .667 baseball albeit in the wrong direction at 51-102. …Rafael Devers made his 18th error on Wednesday to give the Red Sox an even 100, the most in the league and second-most in the majors behind San Francisco. But Alex Cora’s a great manager, right? … FanGraphs was spot-on in February when it predicted the Red Sox would finish 79-83. … Chris Simms says USC’s Caleb Williams and Washington’s Michael Penix Jr. are college football’s two best quarterbacks. … Enough already with the hullabaloo about Deion Sanders. His Buffs beat TCU, Nebraska and Colorado State — ranked 42nd, 64th and 72nd by Let’s see how they do today at No. 10 Oregon and next week against No. 7 USC. … Masataka Yoshida, dubbed the Japanese Juan Soto in June by ESPN, has two home runs and is batting .200 this month; Juan Soto has 10 home runs and is batting .307. You take Masa, I’ll take Juan. … The BC football team has lost 18 straight home games against teams ranked in AP’s Top Five. The Eagles are 14-point ‘dogs today at Louisville. … UMass hockey tickets will cost $12 to get through the door this season, better than paying $200 to watch the Bruins from the last row at TD Garden. … Given ESPN’s penchant for posting useless and misleading information on its BottomLine scroll, Phil Mushnick wondered if it’s reporting “Aaron Rodgers 1-0 as Jets starter.”

Chip Ainsworth is an award-winning colum nist who has penned his observations about sports for decades in the Pioneer Valley. He can be reached at


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