A dynasty gone kaput

The Big Story – The Fall of the Patriots Empire: It just keeps getting worse and worse. Every time you think it can’t go lower for the Patriots it does.

It seemed the bottom couldn’t be any lower after humiliating back-to-back losses to the Cowboys and Saints by a combined 69 points. Then came a 21-17 loss to the dysfunctional Raiders a week away from firing their plainly over his coach Josh McDaniels.

But Sunday’s loss to the hapless Giants is the worst so far. For a second straight week they couldn’t outscore a team they held to just 10 points, despite being able to move the ball on the ground with 144 rushing yards, after 167 the week before, in large part because of the indecisive, mistake-prone puddle of doubt and insecurity Mac Jones has devolved into.

After consecutive losses at the hands of three terrible teams, they are in the running for the first overall pick at 2-9.

Sports 101: Who is the NBA leader in most fouls committed?

News Item – Jordan Montgomery, No Way: Given how he pitched after landing in Texas at the trade deadline, the lefty hurler will soon be a hot commodity, and the rumor mill has the Red Sox kicking the tires. But while price is the ultimate deciding factor, there’s no way the Sox should drop big cash on a guy after a two-month hot streak. The record says after seven seasons he’s 38-34 with a decent 3.68 ERA.

News Item – NBA In-Season Tournament: Three reactions to the NBA in-season tournament: (1) Who cares? (2) The courts specifically made for the tournament are unsafe for players, idiotic at best to viewers and blasphemy in Boston Garden. (3) And only a doofus doesn’t know it’s a ploy to juice merchandise sales from goobers who’ll buy anything.

News Item – Alumni News: Not a good week for ex-Celtics sent away in depth-sapping off-season trades. First Lob It To Rob Williams didn’t even make it through Week 1 before going down for the season after knee surgery. Then Malcolm Brogdon goes down for a few weeks with a hamstring issue, followed by news out of Memphis Marcus Smart will miss three to five weeks after spraining his foot.

The Numbers:

7 – number showing reality won over nonsense hype given to the ever obnoxious Deion Sanders, as it’s the number of consecutive losses Colorado had to close at 4-8 after he was all but given Coach of the Year honors after a 3-0 start.

75 –millions of dollars still owed to Jimbo Fisher after his firing as Texas A&M football coach last week. How much freaking money do these football programs have?

Of the Week Award

Thumbs Up – Texas Rangers and Arizona Diamondbacks: Whose players according to USA Today’s Bob Nightengale voted an inordinately high number of full World Series money shares (61 and 71 worth $311,000 and $506,000 respectively) to include clubhouse attendants and support staff that helped them get to the Series to make that extra money. Bravo.

Random Thoughts:

Listening to Matt Bonner while sitting in on a recent Celtics broadcast in Toronto I say give that kid a TV gig. He was smart, concise, funny and likable. And I swear his legendary Concord-ite dad Big Dave Bonner didn’t make me say this.

Given her general nastiness to anyone not on her political side, I must say I’m getting a kick out of the flak Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders is getting for spending $13,081.36 in public money on an invite-only party to kick off the U of A’s football season. Especially since the “Undefeated” season party badly missed the mark with the Razorbacks going 4-8 after the bash.

Sports 101 Answer: Not surprisingly the NBA leader in fouls committed is 20-year veteran Kareem Abdul Jabbar with 4,657, followed by Karl Malone, Artis Gilmore, Robert Parish and ex-76er Caldwell Jones to round out the top five.

Final Thought – Kristaps Porzingis Injury Watch Begins: Everyone knew the risk bringing him to Boston: a lack of durability that’s held him to just 54 games per since 2020, which was preceded by missing an entire season with a torn ACL.

And now it begins. He missed one at the 11-game mark, then went out early in Game 15 with a strained calf that will see him miss at least four games, including vs. Joel Embiid and the 76ers.

I’m not second-guessing trading for him. But his lack of durability was one reason I opposed giving up Rob Williams in the Jrue Holiday trade, because he was proven depth behind him. But given what’s happened to him, that’s a moot point.

What it all means is that Brad Stevens needs to find someone to reliably fill in for him. Though after the C’s depth and draft resources were wiped out by his two big off-season deals it’s hard to see how he’ll do that. Email Dave Long at dlong@hippopress.com.

Email Dave Long at dlong@hippopress.com.

Sox rebuild coming

The Big Story – Red Sox Makeover Begins: The spotlight in Red Sox Nation shifts to Craig Breslow this week as the makeover of a Red Sox team shaped by him kicks into gear. It has the Nation high on the belief the owner will open the checkbook to bring in big-ticket free agents. But what’s needed first is an assessment of who stays, to make clear what their needs are. To be followed by how those needs can be filled through free agency and trades of players deemed expendable.

Breslow has an uphill climb, but with Triston Casas, Rafael Devers, promising hurler Brayan Bello, solid reliever Garrett Whitlock and possibly speedy Jarren Duran as the core, he’s got a decent foundation to start with.

With that in mind, Breslow is now on the clock as he tries to silence skeptics (like me) by letting all see if being a Yale Phi Beta Kappa and alleged smartest guy in baseball translates to building a title-winning team.

News Item – Hot Mess Pats Return: To tank or not to tank? That is the question for the 2-8 Patriots as they return from their bye week. If Coach B is returning the answer is no, because he needs all the wins he can get to pass Don Shula for the most in history. If he’s not, then go for it to get the best draft position for the next guy to rebuild from.

News Item – Crybaby Coach Poll Results: The results of an exhaustive Hippo Sports poll for who is Sports’ Biggest Crybaby Coach is in. It’s a tie:

Nick (good night) Nurse – The ex-Raptors and now 76ers head man never sits down or shuts up no matter what the call, which was so evident in his two games vs. the Celtics already.

Sean McDermott – The NFL’s answer to Nurse is a blamer who whines from the sidelines on every single call for or against his Buffalo Bills, as evidenced by his scapegoating of DC Leslie Frazier last year and OC Ken Dorsey last week for team failures under his watch.

The Numbers:

13.3 –NBA-best point differential over their opponents in the Celtics’ 9-2 start that’s a whopping 5.1 higher than second-best Denver’s 8.1.

47.9 – NBA-best team rebounds per game by the Celtics.

106.0 – fourth-ranked points per game allowed by the Boston Celtics.

Of the Week Awards

Holy Cow Am I Old Note – It came when Mike Gorman’s soon-to-be Celtics play-by-play successor Drew Carter said on air last week that by being born in 1997 he’d never seen Michael Jordan play. Let alone Larry Bird.

Penitentiary News – After being convicted in a New York Court last week it looks like ex-Celtic Glen Big Baby Davis may be headed for a stretch in the big house. Big Baby was part of an elaborate scheme to rip off the NBA of $5 million in bogus medical and dental insurance claims. It’s unclear whether he’ll go or avoid time. But since one-time Nets first-round pick Terrence Williams got a 10-year stretch for being the pilot’s mastermind I’d be nervous if I were Baby.

A Little History – Nov. 23: On this day in 1984 Boston College QB Doug Flutie locks up the Heisman Trophy with a 472 passing yard performance in a 47-45 win over defending National Champion Miami with the most famous Hail Mary of all-time with a 47-yard TD heave from Flutie to Gerard Phelan in the end zone on the final play.

Final Thought – The Rex Sox Rebuild: Over the next few weeks we’ll talk about what we think the Sox should do in the rebuild and/or chart their progress as it unfolds. We’ll start with these two key pieces of that process.

First, the biggest danger they face is yielding to public pressure to make a big, but ultimately unwise signing just to placate Red Sox Nation. Like by wasting $190 million on the dual bust combo of Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez after a last-place finish in 2014.

Second are priority needs, which are: (1) two starting pitchers, one in free agency and the other in a trade; (2)put Garrett Whitlock and Tanner Houck in the bullpen — if you’re going to ask starters to just pitch five or six innings you must have a pen that can lock up the game from the seventh inning on; and (3) improve the defense.

We’ll get into specifics as we go along.

Email Dave Long at dlong@hippopress.com.

The week that was

The Big Story – Pats Elevator Going Down: During the first run of the TV show Frasier, when things were really going bad for Frasier Crane he would pretend he was in an elevator and say, “going down.”Well, after the Patriots’ latest disaster, this time in Germany, the elevator on Coach B’s time in New England is descending so rapidly it’s like the cable snapped and the safety protocols aren’t working either. The latest in a series of debacles came in the form of a 10-6 baseball-like score vs. Indianapolis on Sunday, sending them into the bye at a surreal 2-8.

Talk radio will be ablaze with (1) will Coach B still be on the sidelines when they return in two weeks? (2) Mac Jones has punched his ticket out of town, and (3) with no chance of pulling out of their nosedive should they just tank to enter the Caleb Williams sweepstakes? Given all that, no sports radio for me, because none of it will be about finding solutions. Just pointing the finger of blame.

Sports 101: Who has committed the most fumbles in NFL history?

News Item – Pritchard’s Shooting Woes: Earth to Joe Mazzulla: Payton Pritchard may be short, but he’s not a point guard. The reason he’s shooting under 30 percent is that he can’t shake defenders for room to shoot. If you want points off the bench, let Jayson Tatum play point forward and spot up Pritchard behind the line, because what he is is a catch-and-shoot guy.

News Item – Rookies on Record Paces: Since Gale Sayers set an all-time NFL record with 22 TDs it will be tough to become the best NFL rookie ever. But Houston’s CJ Stroud and L.A. Ram wideout Puka Nacua are giving it the old college try. Stroud is on pace for 4,958 passing yards, which would obliterate Andrew Luck’s record 4,374 from 2012. And he has a shot at Justin Herbert’s record of 31 TD passes, though he’ll need to pick it up a bit as he’s on track for 28. As for Puka, he’s at 60 catches and 800 yards, which will give 120 catches and 1,562 receiving yards in 17 games and take him by Jaylen Waddle’s and Ja’Marr Chase’s 104 and 1,455 respective records.

News Item – 76ers Minus Harden: It was just one game, but what was evident when Philly beat the Celtics last week was that they are better without James Harden. And not just because he dominates the ball and can’t cover my grandmother. With Harden’s dominating days over, the emerging Tyrese Maxey is just better.

The Numbers:

11 – a not bad losing margin by the basketball team at the U when they lost to Syracuse in the Dome 83-72.

28 – Not so much for Dartmouth when they got smoked by Duke in a 92-64 loss the same day.

520 – million dollars over 10 years ESPN.com projects Shohei Ohtani will get in free agency this winter despite his injury-riddled career.

Of the Week Awards

What A Stupid I Yam: To me for omitting in last week’s Sports 101 that Russell Westbrook joins Harden and Bob McAdoo as MVPs who’ve been traded four times.

Thumbs Down – Barf-Inducing Moment: I can take bad extra uniforms to juice merchandise sales, an in-season tournament I don’t get, even Tatum wearing hot pink sneaks, but I draw the line at having a non-parquet floor in the Garden at any time, like for the NBA’s new in-season tournament games. Come on, Adam Silver, that’s like tearing down the wall at Fenway for the All-Star game. Boooo. Barf. Booo.

Sports 101 Answer: Brett Favre is the all-time leader with 166, which means that since he’s also the interception leader with 336 he turned it over more than 500 times in his career.

In case you’re interested, Tom Brady is sixth with 138, while it’s astonishing Peyton Manning is ranked 59th with just 75.

Final Thought – Injured List: Those who said they were willing to include Rob Williams (which I was not) in the Celtics deal for Jrue Holiday because he’s injury-prone were right on the money last week. Lob It To Rob didn’t even make it out of the year’s first week before being lost for the season after knee surgery.

My fret was over lack of depth and that they were giving up the eventual replacement to Horford. But with the injury-prone Malcolm Brogdon now out with hamstring issues too, if they’d stayed the C’s depth would be even worse.

Ironically the injury news came on the same day Al Horford sat out to avoid playing back-to-back games. But the C’s won anyway when Pritchard and Sam Hauser had 28 bench points in a win over Brooklyn. So, as Casey Stengel used to say, you never know.

Email Dave Long at dlong@hippopress.com.

Eovaldi rolls in playoffs

The Big Story – The final dagger was plunged into the back of the Chaim Bloom era in Boston by Nate Eovaldi when he concluded a postseason run for the ages with a 4-1 Game 5 win over Arizona to end the World Series. It gave the Texas franchise its first ever world title since being born as the second version of the Washington Senators in 1961.

Eovaldi was deemed too expensive by Bloom for the starting pitching-poor Red Sox. He was replaced by the aging and injury-prone Corey Kluber. And by pitching just 56 innings all year while going 3-3 with an un-microscopic 7.04 ERA he was a major nail in Bloom’s coffin.

Meanwhile deep in the heart of Texas Eovaldi went 12-5 in the regular season and made the All-Star team as a prelude to his historic postseason performance, where his team won all six games he started as he went 5-0 with a 2.95 ERA and 41 K’s in 36.2 innings, leaving Red Sox Nation to play the Bob Lobel role and say, ‘Why can’t we get guys like that?’

Mark Ferdinando Memorial Sports 101: With his trade from the 76ers to the Clippers last week James Harden became just the second former MVP to be traded four times. Name the first one.

News Item – The ‘Was It Tom Brady or the Coach?’ Debate: Rough week for the coaches’ side. Coach B’s rep took another hit after the latest Patriots game ended in a 20-17 loss to the terrible Washington football team. Then, after getting whacked in Vegas to make it the second time he didn’t make it to the end of Year 2 as a head coach, you’ve got to think that’s all she wrote for Josh McDaniels’ HC career, which puts another notch in Brady’s belt.

Then there was Colin Cowherd reporting on his show the combined record of the Belichick coaching tree — McDaniels, Eric Mangini, Matt Patricia, Joe Judge and Romeo Crennel — wascollectivelyunder .300 lifetime.

News Item – Red Sox Introduce New GM: The gullible among us are buying the rap that new Sox Baseball Ops President Craig Breslow is the smartest intellect in baseball. The skeptics, however, note Bloom was also a Yale man and are thinking of Lou Gorman telling all he hired the equally inexperienced Butch Hobson as manager because a bright young mind like his won’t last long on the open market. And given that both were complete disasters, it makes one wonder if the only reason Breslow got the job is that all the top-tier candidates said thanks but no thanks to working for indecisive Sox owner John Henry.

The Numbers:

11 – wins vs. no losses on the road as Texas roared through the MLB playoffs.

38 – points along with 10 rebounds, two blocks and two assists in the breakout game for giant 7’5” French import Victor Wembanyama when the Spurs downed the Suns 132-121 last week.

80 – amount in millions Las Vegas is paying McDaniels and Jon Gruden not to coach the Raiders

Of the Week Awards

Halloween Costume: Sen. Mitt Romney and wife Ann went as NFL “It” couple Travis Kelce and Taylor Swift. Didn’t look anything like them, but A for effort for the buttoned-up Mittster.

Thumbs Up – The Celtics: Got to like their 5-0 start while becoming the second team ever to score 500+ points in their first four games of a season.

Thumbs Down – James Harden: Who cares if Danny Granger lost his job only because this me-first creep wanted out of Philly. Right, James? Boooo.

A Little History – Revived Classic Old-Time Quote: It comes from legendarily feisty Indiana Basketball Coach Bobby Knight, who passed away last week at 83. He once told a packed Assembly Hall crowd, “When my time on earth is gone, and my activities here are past, I want they bury me upside down and my critics can kiss my ass.” An on-the-mark personal eulogy if there ever was one. RIP, Bobby.

Sports 101 Answer: The other four-times-traded MVP is the great Bob McAdoo, whose NBA odyssey took him from the Buffalo Braves (now L.A. Clippers) to the Knicks, Celtics, Pistons and eventually L.A., where he was a killer off the bench for the ’80s Showtime Lakers. He also was the guy Pistons GM Dick Vitale (yes that one) gave the two first-round picks for that Red Auerbach turned into Kevin McHale and Robert Parish, leading to three Celtics titles in the ’80s.

Final Thought – Corey Seager’s Mega Deal: I thought Texas was nuts giving the injury-riddled shortstop a 10-year deal, let alone for the whopping price tag of $325 million. Since he only played 119 games in 2023 I’m still iffy on the 10-year part. But in batting .327 with 33 homers and then being World Series MVP as Texas won its first ever world title, he’s paid off so far.

Email Dave Long at dlong@hippopress.com.

C’s start strong

The Big Story – Celtics Get Started: The NBA season kicked off last week with great expectations for the local five. After an off-season of major changes, the new-look Celtics are among the favorites to win it all.

First they’d have to get by Milwaukee, who had a major renovation by acquiring Damian Lillard and saying goodbye to Jrue Holiday (which will hurt more than they think) in a trade with Portland. To which the Celtics said thanks very much when Holiday was flipped to them a few days later.

Then comes defending champ Denver and reconfigured Kevin Durant-led Phoenix out west.

It started well with newbie Kristaps Porzingis pulling their bacon out of the fire with a big fourth quarter in the opening-day win over New York at MSG. Two nights later new starter Derrick White was the man with 28 vs. Miami at home.

All of which suggests an interesting season lies ahead.

Sports 101: Who’s the all-time leading scorer in NBA Finals?

News Item – Strength: They arguably now have the best six-player group in the league. And while I loved (most) of what Marcus Smart did, it was clear at the end of last year White was not only the consistently better player but also the better on ball defender. And while his toughness was invaluable, it was time for Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown to become the top leadership dogs.

News Item – Concerns – The Bench: These also were revealed in Game 1, when the bench gave them nothing (four points) in 33 minutes. And while Payton Pritchard could be ready for a bigger role, better consistency is paramount and answers for everywhere else are not obvious. So in some ways the season rides on whether Pritchard and Sam Hauser can exceed low expectations and someone (anyone) can emerge as a reliable big off the bench.

News Item – The New Guys: Besides the obvious (needed size up front), by going for33 vs. the Knicks with a strong inside defensive/shot blocking presence and surprisingly tough rebounding, Porzingis demonstrated in Game 1 what he can do — if he remains healthy.

The real surprise was seeing Holiday play a 6’9” bull like Julius Randle all night as he shot 4 for 22 in scoring just 14 points. That was impressive toughness.

The Numbers:

0, 4, 7, 8, 9 – Am I the only one who noticed Celtics starters Tatum, Holiday, Brown, Porzingis and White all have single digits on their jerseys? That’s a first in team history?

Random Thoughts:

I know he’s two years away from free agency, but the Celtics may rue the day they didn’t get White signed to an extensionby last week’s deadline.

I do love seeing Jalen Brunson, who thinks he’s smarter than everyone else Dallas owner Mark Cuban let walk to NY, ranked 32nd ahead of Kyrie Irving’s 34 in ESPN’s Top 100 Players. All while making $10 million less per than Cuban pays the overrated, team-killing Kyrie.

Continuing on with those ESPN’s Top 100 rankings. The guy who had Grant Williams, who wasn’t even in the Celtics’ regular rotation from March on, rated over the not-ranked Horford and Brogdon must be on some really strong recreational medication.

Porzingis at 62, Klay Thompson at 41, Holiday at 23 and Brown at 19 seem lower-ranked than they should. I’ve got JB cracking the Top 15.

Sports 101 Answer: L.A. Laker Jerry West is the NBA Finals top scorer with 1,679 points, followed by LeBron James (1,562) and Kareem Abdul Jabbar (1,317).

Final Thoughts – The Blockbuster Deals: I loved the Porzingis-Smart trade immediately. But not so much with the Portland deal. And it isn’t because by giving up Rob Williams, Sixth Man of the Year Malcolm Brogdon and two first picks they overpaid for a 33-year-old point guard. It’s that they did so at the expense of their depth because it gives them zero insurance against a big injury to the not durable Porzingis and in the second game of the 12 back-to-back games Horford will not play in. But even more so after finding the long-term replacement for the 38-year-old Horford, it put them right back in the same position of needing to find his replacement with less trade material and more salary cap obstacles than before.

Brad Stevens hasn’t missed on one deal yet, so he gets the benefit of the doubt. But the feeling that gnaws at me is he’s taking a big long- and short-term risk to go for it right now over maybe having both without the second trade.

Email Dave Long at dlong@hippopress.com.

Pats buffalo Bills

The Big Story – Heat on Mac Jones: It’s amazing what actual pass protection does for a quarterback. After being thoroughly pummeled as being most responsible for the Patriots’ 1-5 start, Mac actually got some on Sunday vs. Buffalo.

And guess what? With the O-line playing well for the first time all season the Pats resembled a good team as Bill Belichick got his 300th career win. And with Jones going 25-30 for 272 yards and two TDs with, most importantly, no picks in the 29-25 win, the heat is off Mac for the minute.

But to keep it off, he’ll have to do it again this weekend vs. Miami, who’ll likely be looking for payback after losing 31-17 to Philly last Sunday night on national TV.

Sports 101: Name the one-time Patriot who holds the NFL record for TD passes caught from the most different quarterbacks.

News Item – Sox Struggle Finding New Baseball Boss: The search for a new chief of baseball operations is about to enter its third month for your Boston Red Sox, and the most notable thing about the search is the number of people who have said they’re not interested in the job.

While President Sam Kennedy arrogantly (and delusionally) sniffed at questions during the season-ending press conference about widespread disinterest in Boston, the rumors appear to be true, with the problem being the owner, whose indecision and recent lack of interest have been behind each of his last three GMs’ lasting just four years on the job before getting dumped.

The big question about their search is not who’s it going to be, but will they be able to get the best person for the big job ahead?

News Item – Jose Altuve Bombs Away Again: After hitting two more vs. Texas, the Astros’ 5’6”, 166-pound second baseman is at it again. Altuve hit a monster ninth-inning three-run shot to give the Astros a crucial Game 5 comeback win to put them up 3-2 in the ALCS. It gave him a second most ever 26 homers in just 424 postseason at-bats. That makes him the active leader and puts him in position to maybe catch all-time leader Manny Ramirez’s 29 if Houston got to the World Series with a Game 7 win that happened just after I filed this story.

The Numbers:

0 –interceptions by Jets DB Jordan Whitehead the last five weeks after getting three vs. Buffalo in Week 1.

523 – second-best NFL rushing yards for Indy’s Zach Moss after stepping in at running back due to star Jonathan Taylor’s holdout. But with Taylor now back, that’s a lot of yards going back to the bench

902 – league-leading receiving yards for Miami’s Tyreek Hill after six games, which projects to 2,558 over 17 games and would top Calvin Johnson’s single-season record 1,942 by more than 600 yards.

Of the Week Awards

Thumbs Up Eagles on Sunday Night: Loved those 1960s throwback uniforms Philadelphia wore Sunday night vs. Miami. Brought back memories of speedy flanker Tommy McDonald, the last NFL player to not wear a face mask, and the game’s last two-way player, ferocious Chuck Bednarik.

Why Can’t We Get Guys Like That – Nate Eovaldi: In case you ain’t been paying attention Big Nate is tearing it up in the postseason. After winning Sunday’s ALCS Game 6, he’s now 4-0 in October with a 2.42 ERA and 28 K’s in 26 innings.

Random Thoughts:

I know Kyle Schwarber has five homers in 11 postseason games for the Phillies. But with 14 whiffs in 42 at-bats and just six RBI, why in the name of Richie Ashburn is a .196 regular-season hitter batting lead-off?

Is there any offensive or defensive coordinator NBC’s Cris Collinsworth doesn’t make out to be a genius? The latest was Miami DC Vic Fangio, whom he endlessly praised Sunday for concocting defenses that are soooo confusing to QB’s. Well, if he’s so good, how come in 37 years of coaching he’s never been on a team that won a Super Bowl?

Sports 101 Answer: Former first overall pick Irving Fryar, who once got into a caraccident during a game he played in, holds the record for catching TD passes from 19 different QBs during his 17-year career.

Final Thought – Tips For Coach B: Two notes Bill Belichick needs to take from the Buffalo win.

(1) Leave Michael Onwenu at right tackle instead of moving him back to guard because they play much better when he’s on the outside.

(2) After his day on Sunday of four catches for 54 yards and 20 rushing yards, I don’t care if Demario Douglas fumbles five times next week. Leave him in because he has a speed burst none of the other receivers have. And he’s also got the Welker/Edelman-like quickness in tight spaces that is vital (and been MIA) to play in the slot, which is the second most important position in their offensive system.

Email Dave Long at dlong@hippopress.com.

Pats go broke in Vegas

The Big Story – Pats Fall to 1-5: The struggles continued for the Patriots on Sunday with a 21-17 loss in Las Vegas made worse by coming at the hands of an alumni club including Josh McDaniels, a now-ticked-off-at-Bill Adam Butler, Jakobi Meyers (who scored their only TD), Jimmy Garoppolo and, after he got hurt, (gulp) Brian Hoyer, who was solid QB-ing off the bench.

With Buffalo and high-flying Miami dead ahead it’s now or never over the next two weeks, where we’ll know if it’ll just be an ongoing struggle for the rest of 2023 or a (surreal) go for Caleb Williams’ tank-a-thon.

Sports 101: Who’s played the most MLB games without ever playing in a postseason game? Hint: He’s a Hall of Famer.

News Item – Bruce Bochy a Difference-Maker: In his first year as manager the Rangers go from 73 wins to 90. Then in the playoffs he/they were bad news for the AL East as they swept 98-win Tampa Bay in the wild card round and then rolled the 101-win Orioles in the ALDS.

News Item – Japanese Important on Red Sox Radar: They’ve gone there before with Daisuke Matsuzaka. That is, going all in to sign a hyped Japanese pitcher for big money. The next one is Yoshinobu Yamamoto, whose career numbers — 70-29 and a 1.82 ERA along with winning three straight Japanese pitching triple crowns — are impressive. With a few exceptions, the numbers have rarely stood up for Japan imports like Dice-K. But, given their desperation for starting pitching and the need to give its highly irritated fan base red meat, it seems certain they’ll be in the hunt for their next big guy.

News Item – Baseball’s Playoffs March On: It’s the battle of Texas between the Astros and Rangers in the ALCS, notable for the fact that this is Houston’s seventh consecutive time in the ALCS. And in the NLCS it’s the second straight year deposed Red Sox GM Dave Dombrowski has his Phillies face off with Atlanta while the Sox are on vacation.

The Numbers:
11 – tackles recorded by my new favorite player, David Long Jr., to lead Miami in Sunday’s 42-21 win over Carolina.

12.1 – yards per carry average by Dolphins rookie runner De’Von Achane, the highest in history by anyone through four games of a season. Overall 460 yards on 36 carries, including 157 on 11 vs. the Giants two Sundays ago before injuring a knee, which will sideline him for a month.

457 – astonishing rushing yards and five TD’s on 27 carries in a ho-hum day at the office for Souhegan HS’s JJ Bright as they ran over Hanover High 41-22 earlier this month.

… Of the Week Awards
: With him stuck on 299 for three weeks people are wondering if Bill Belichick will ever get his 300th career regular-season win.

Triplets: In the Celtics’ 112-101 pre-season win over Philly, Jrue Holiday, Kristaps Porzingas and Derrick White each played 17 minutes and each scored 11 points.

Double Play: Game 2 of the Philly-Atlanta NLCS ended with an 8-6-5-3 double dip. After a great leaping warning-track catch, Michael Harris wheeled and over threw to second base, but third baseman Austin Riley, backing up second base, got it and whipped it to Matt Olson at first base to nail Bryce Harper, who was way past second base after thinking the ball would drop.

Random Thoughts:
With the arrest of former safety Sergio Brown for the alleged murder of his mother, that’s two guys from the 2011 Patriots arrested for murder, Aaron Hernandez being the other one of course.

The hardest thing to wrap my head around about the demise of the Patriots is how boring they are to watch.

Must say I love seeing the Dodgers lose in the playoffs. Mostly because I hate the fraidy-cat, by the book, robotic way Dave Roberts manages. It’s a big reason they get knocked out early almost every year.

Sports 101 Answer: The great Chicago Cub Ernie Banks holds the record for most games without playing in the postseason at 2,520.

Email Dave Long at dlong@hippopress.com.

Saints came marching in

The Big Story – Belichick Hot Seat Gets Hotter: A week after being humiliated by the Cowboys, things got even worse for the Patriots as after being crushed again, this time by New Orleans 34-0 in Foxboro on Sunday, the last-place Patriots are effectively four games behind the 4-1 Dolphins in the AFC East already since Miami owns the tiebreaker from their 24-17 Week 2 win.

The second straight inept offensive performance led QB Mac Jones to be yanked again in the second half. And while Coach B says it won’t be next week, it seems inevitable he’s on the verge of losing his job to a guy who was cut in the final week of pre-season camp.

With them next heading to the site of last year’s most humiliating loss in Vegas, followed by games vs. Buffalo and in Miami, it’s likely the seat Bill Belichick sits on could be red hot before November even arrives.

Sports 101: Which franchise has the most wins in NFL history?

News Item – San Francisco Rises: A week after humbling the Patriots 38-3, the Cowboys got the same in a 42-7 loss on national TV to the 49ers. It moved the Niners to 5-0 as QB Brock Purdy continues to follow the script of the young Tom Brady in moving to 10-0 as a regular season starter after being taken dead last at 262 overall in the 2022 NFL draft. It grew SF’s point differential to +99 and strengthened the perception they’re now the team to beat.

News Item – It’s Not How You Start, It’s How You Finish: The Rays were the living breathing example of that old adage as their record-setting 13-0 start to 2023 didn’t mean much in the end. First Baltimore, who were already six games behind by April 14, caught them in mid-July on their way to winning the AL East by two games. Then it ended quickly in the wild card round, losing 0-2 vs. Texas.

The Numbers:

177 – number representing how bad a week it was for the Cowboys’ Dak Prescott, as it’s how many passes Houston rookie CJ Stroud has thrown to begin his career without an interception, breaking the record held by Dak until Sunday.

149.3 – passing rating against the just re-acquired JC Jackson during his tenure with the Chargers after leaving Foxboro as a free agent in 2022.

162.00 – ERA of Dodgers hurler Clayton Kershaw after surrendering five hits, a walk and six earned runs while getting just one Arizona batter out in L.A.’s 11-2 NLDS Game 1 loss.

19,704 – shockingly sparse number of people at Game 1 of the Rays–Texas playoff series in Tampa. It was baseball’s smallest postseason crowd since the 1919 World Series, when, oh by the way, gamblers paid the Black Sox to throw the series.

… Of the Week Awards

Why Can’t We Get Guys Like That Award – Jakobi Meyers: The ex-Patriot had 18 catches for 199 yards after his first three games with the Raiders before being sidelined with a concussion. The best anyone on his old team has mustered in five games is Hunter Henry’s 17 and 176.

Thumbs Up – Wenyen Gabriel: Nice to see one-time Trinity HS Pioneer get a chance to make the Celtics via the training camp contract he just signed.

Random Thoughts:

So much for drama in MLB’s Wild Card Series. Four 2-0 sweeps with only one game within two runs. Snore.

Sorry, Myles Bryant, a celebration dance after a sack with the Pats down 21-0 minutes into the second half is for losers.

Taylor Swift – Travis Kelce. Someone tell me why I should give a flip about that silly story.

A Little History – RIP Dick Butkus: Words can’t convey the ferocity of how the Bears’ all-time great middle linebacker played. Only a trip to YouTube can illustrate just how scary he was.

With all due respect to Lawrence Taylor, Butkus, who passed away last week at 80, was the most intimidating player ever.

While Taylor revolutionized the outside backer position I’d take Butkus over LT by a smidge as the greatest defensive player ever too, because he had a wider influence over the entire field than Taylor, exemplified by his 27 fumble recoveries and 22 interceptions in 112 games to LT’s two and 15 in 58 more games. RIP, big fella, and thanks for the memories.

Sports 101 Answer: Green Bay has the most NFL wins with 735. Pittsburgh, who picked number 700 last Sunday, is second.

Final Thought: I’m on record as saying short of a 2-15 disaster Coach B won’t get the ax after this year no matter what. But now I’m not so sure.

It’s not just the disasters of the last two weeks. Or even the 23-27 record since Tom Brady left the building. Most alarming as the dynasty fades in the rear view mirror is that they’re 3-12 vs. playoff teams post TB-12. Which means they are heading in the wrong direction with no apparent sign better days are on the horizon. And that’s all on Bill.

Email Dave Long at dlong@hippopress.com.

Pats bring down Jets

The Big Story – Sox Done for 2023: It was a busy week, where the end of the Patriots dynasty and Mac Jones hit a new low in an embarrassing 38-3 loss to Dallas and the Celtics did another blockbuster trade that probably made them worse while getting a really good player in Jrue Holiday. But the biggest story is the end of another dismal Red Sox season and where they go from here, which is our focus today.

Sports 101: Who holds the record for most relief appearances in one season with 106?

News Item – 2023 Red Sox Notables:
Triston Casas: He was the high point of 2023. Here’s how the power hitting rookie stands up to the great Carl Yastrzemski’s first season. Yaz stats followed by TC. Age: 21–23. G: 148–132. Avg: .266–.263. R: 70–66. 2B: 31–21. 3B: 6–2. HR: 11–24. RBI: 80–65.

Alex Verdugo: After ridiculously saying he was “snubbed” for the All-Star game, he hit a robust .225 since to show everyone how wrong they were.

Astonishingly just one pitcher, Brayan Bello, matched the 157 innings Dick Radatz pitched as closer in his dominant 1964 season — 157 IP, with 181 K’s, 16-9, 29 saves and 2.29.

All-Name MVP: Goes to Sox minor league pitcher of the year Wikelman Gonzalez, who went 9-4 with a 3.96 ERA in A-ball.

Alex Cora: Amazingly, with him returning, he joins the retiring Tito Francona as the only Sox managers in the last 60 years to last for five years according to Boston Globe baseball writer Alex Speier.

News Item – 2023 Baseball Notables:
Ronald Acuna: His sensational season included batting .337, leading the majors in runs scored with 149 and becoming the fifth player to have 40 homers and 40 stolen bases in a season.

Freddie Freeman: The Dodgers slugger came up one double short of being the first with 60 since 1936, when famers Ducky Medwick (64) and Charlie Gehringer (60) did it.

Zach Greinke: If this is it for the 2009 Cy Young winner he didn’t go out in style. By going 2-15 with a 5.06 ERA for the Royals, he whittled down his career winning percentage in 2023 from 61.3 to 58.9. He’ll also retire 23 strikeouts short of 3,000.

Adam Wainwright: Despite his epic struggle to get his 200th career win, he got it in the final week.

1 – 20-game winner in 2023, Atlanta’s Spencer Strider at 20-5 with a 3.86 ERA.
9 – shockingly low number of .300 hitters across the majors.
93 – homers by Kyle Schwarber since Chaim Bloom let him walk after 2021. With 47 (and 104 RBI) this year to become the first to hit under .200 (.197) while clubbing 40 bombs.

… Of the Season Awards
Branch Rickey Award – Alex Anthopoulos: Not only did he build the power-laden Braves, who hit a record-tying 307 homers, he did the opposite of Rickey’s famous line that he’d rather trade a guy a year too early than a year too late by replacing a reigning MVP in Freeman a year ago with an even better first baseman in Matt Olson (from Oakland), who led the majors in homers and RBI with 54 and 139.

Maxwell Smart ‘Missed It By That Much’ Award – David J. Long: No, not the Dolphins linebacker, but your not so humble scribe, who said in this space on April 6 the Sox would finish last in the AL East at 77-85. Which is exactly how they’d have finished if Tanner Houck hadn’t stabbed me in the back by finally pitching decently in Game 162. Instead it’s 78-84.

News Item – Looking Ahead: Most interesting rumor mill name for Boston Red Sox president of baseball operations is Sam Fuld, both because he’s from Durham (N.H.) and because it would be the latest example of John Henry’s indecisive leadership. Nothing against Fuld, but he’s the top lieutenant of Dave Dombrowski in Philadelphia, whom Henry foolishly fired to Tampa Bay-ize things by hiring Bloom in 2019. Now with him gone, will the fickle owner zig-zag back to the free-spending, trade-the-prospects style of the Dombrowski era? One can hope.

Free Agent – Shohei Ohtani: After getting zero from the $150 million Chris Sale got before they knew if his arm was OK, how can the Sox hand Ohtani $500 million until they know if his is OK?

Sports 101 Answer: To Mike Marshall in 1974, Radatz of ’64 was a sissy. He pitched an astonishing 208.1 innings in 106 relief appearances while going 15-12 with 143 K’s, 21 saves and a 2.42 ERA.

Final Thought – Tim Wakefield: Raise a glass to the honorable Red Sox lifer who lost his battle with brain cancer on Sunday. He meets his maker after winning a third most in franchise history 186 games. RIP.

Email Dave Long at dlong@hippopress.com.

Pats bring down Jets

The Big Story – Patriots Stave Off Disaster: The Pats took Sunday’s must-win game vs. the Jets in New York. It was their 15th straight win over the New Yawkas and first of the season. But it was another struggle by an offense that is averaging just 17 points per game and was aided by the Jets’ having to use the inept Zach Wilson at QB. Still, as they say, a win is a win.

Sports 101: Atlanta’s Ronald Acuna just became the fifth player to hit 40 homers and steal 40 bases in the same season. Name the other four. Hint: All were done after 1980.

News Item – Dolphins Offense Explodes: Not sure which was more impressive by the Miami Dolphins offense on Sunday: (1) running for an astonishing 350 yards on the ground. (2) racking up a stratospheric 726 yards in total offense, or (3) scoring the second most points ever in an NFL regular-season game during their 70-20 beatdown of Denver. In any event, it put De’Von Achane 203 rushing yards and Tua Tagovailoa 306 passing yards and four TDs into the day’s ho-hum category.

News Item – Mookie Betts: He set an MLB record for most RBIs by a lead-off hitter when his two-run eighth-inning double in L.A.’s 7-0 win vs. San Francisco Saturday gave him 105 for the year.

Other Alumni News: When the Dodgers and Tigers hooked up last week JD Martinez homered both times he faced 2018 championship teammate Eduardo Rodriguez.

JC Jackson: Looks like the Chargers are having major second thoughts after giving the former Patriot DB an $85 million deal two years ago, as he was a healthy scratch vs. Minnesota Sunday after an awful first season with L.A. ended early with a ruptured patellar tendon in his right knee.

The Numbers:
3 – Patriots cornerbacks named Jones (Jonathan, Marcus and Jack) who sat out that Jets game with a variety of injuries.
4 – NFL record field goals of over 50 yards in one game by Colts kicker Matt Gay as they slid by the Ravens 22-19 in OT.
25 – catches for Rams all-name team rookie receiver Puka Nacua in his first two NFL games after the fifth-round pick out of BYU had 15 in Week 2 vs. the 49ers. Both are all-time rookie records.

… Of the Week Awards
Player of the Week: When you play for the 49ers and tie any record held by Jerry Rice it’s a big deal. Especially when it’s touchdown-related. That’s what Christian McCaffrey did when he scored one in his 12th straight game as San Francisco beat the G-Men 30-12 on Thursday to tie JR’s record. I don’t think it’s a coincidence SF has won 13 straight regular-season games as he’s done that, do you?

Random Thoughts:
The worst thing that could have happened to the Patriots was seeing Dallas sleepwalk through Sunday’s trap game loss to the moribund Arizona Cardinals, because it likely means they’ll be extra focused when the Pats come to town this Sunday.

After the 42-6 butt-kicking Oregon gave Colorado on Saturday, guess the coaching Hall of Fame induction for Coach Prime is on hold.

Got to tell you, while I know it’s the color of the Irish, I hate when Notre Dame goes with the green jerseys, as they did in their 17-14 loss to Ohio State on Saturday. The traditional dark blue with gold pants are classic college football uniforms.

Also, liked seeing them lose to local lad Ryan Day’s sixth-ranked Buckeyes.

Sports 101 Answer: The other 40-40 guys are Jose Canseco (1998), Barry Bonds (1996), Alex Rodriquez (1998) and Alfonso Soriano (2006).

Final Thought: No, No On Snell’s No-No Bid: I know I sound like Peter Finch throwing open the window and shouting “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore” in the movie Network. Especially since I know it won’t change how baseball now treats no-hitters as no big deal. It happened again in San Diego last week, where for the second time in the last three years Padres hurler Blake Snell was yanked after seven innings with a no-hitter in progress. What made it even worse was hearing Snell being fine with it in saying, “I understand my body really well. I understand the risk/reward of injury, with pushing it,” and “I’m just not going to push for that.” Especially since it likely was his last start for the already eliminated Padres, so he has all winter to rest up from “pushing it.” What an awesome competitor.

I reject being called a dinosaur for saying this because the practice defies common sense. If the objective is to win, why would you take out a guy who hasn’t been touched for seven innings over the uncertainty of a new pitcher, like say Padres closer Josh Hader, who gave up two hits upon entering the game in the ninth? Worst of all, it robs the game (and its fans) of the drama of seeing if someone can finish off the thrill of pitching a no-no. BOOOO!

Email Dave Long at dlong@hippopress.com.

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