Holiday joy for Boston

The Big Story – Xmas Arrives: With the holiday season a time of joy, the focus for the big story is the early success of the Celtics and Bruins. The C’s start this week with the best record in the NBA, on pace to win 65 games. Time will tell if the pace can be maintained, since a tough five-game western swing lies ahead, ending vs. LeBron and the Lakers in the marquee national TV game on Christmas Day. The Bruins are tied with the Rangers for the best record in the East after Saturday’s tough 2-1 OT loss to the New Yawkas. They close the year with a mixed bag of six games, some tough and some easy. As for the other two Boston teams, thank them for great thrills over the first 20 years of the century and leave it at that.

Sports 101: Name the only full-time NFL kicker to be named MVP.

News Item – NBA Scores Going Through the Roof: Something is in the water in the NBA and it’s affecting the scoring. There were six games last Monday night and the lowest total by a winning team was 129 by Denver in a seven-point win over Atlanta. In the others, two had 131, in addition to a 132, 136 and the Sixers crushed Washington 146-101. At the top is Indiana, who won 131-123 over Detroit and are on a 129-points-per-game pace that would be more per game than any team in history.

News Item – Five Christmas Wishes: Five presents under the tree for the New England sports fan.

(1) Coach B steps down and the Patriots get the next hotshot GM from the SF or Philly organizations to shop for the groceries.

(2) John Henry sells the Red Sox. Thanks for the memories but he no longer has the fire that’s needed in the owner’s box to win big.

(3) The Celtics (somehow) find a big under the tree to give them needed depth up front.

(4) Seats with cushions and more leg room in the stands at Fenway.

(5) Trip to the Finals for the Celtics. Not wishing for a championship, because I want to see them earn that on their own.

The Numbers:

12 – all-time Saint Anselm record for 3-balls made in game as Josh Morrisette went for a career-high 44 points in an 84-77 over Franklin Pierce.

18 & 23 – team record losing streaks for the San Antonio Spurs and Detroit Pistonsrespectively. The Spurs’ streak ended on Friday with a win over the Lakers, but Detroit’s rolled on with Sunday’s 146-104 blowout to Milwaukee.

64 – points scored with no box score-inflating 3-balls by Giannis Antetokounmpo, by going 20-28 from the field and making 24 of his astonishing 32 free throws to go along with 14 rebounds in Friday’s 140-126 win over Indiana.

A Little HistoryGiannis’ 32 Foul Shots: In case you’re interested, Wilt Chamberlain also had 32 foul shots that day in March 1962 when he went for 100 points vs. the Knicks, making 28. Dwight Howard holds the record for most FT’s in a game (twice) when he only made 25 and 21.

Of the Week Awards

Biggest Joke: Warriors Coach Steve Kerr saying they want to “help” Draymond Green rather than “punish” him after his latest cheap shot got him suspended. Are you kidding me? If anyone needs to be sent to his room without supper it’s this dirtbag. You’re enabling him with that nonsense.

Late Xmas Present: Even though it was done in the early 1990’s, if you’re stuck for a present for a real baseball history fan it’s hard to find a better one than a boxed set of the baseball documentary from Ken Burns that originally aired on PBS.

Random Thoughts:

When did playing back-to-back games in the NBA become the equivalent of scaling Mt. Everest in a Speedo and wearing flip-flops?

Earth to Adam Silver: Enough is enough with Draymond Green. Suspend that blight on your game for the rest of the year.

Sports 101 Answer: Paul Hornung (1961) and George Blanda (1970) were kicker MVPs, but it was also for a combo of duties as a running back and off the bench backup QB/savior for Green Bay and Oakland respectively. The Redskins’ Mark Moseley was just a kicker when he somehow was MVP during the strike-shortened nine-game 1982 season.

Final Thought:

Happy holidays to one and all.

Email Dave Long at dlong@hippopress.com.

The week that was

The Big Story – A Weird Local Week: No story dominated. The Red Sox actually got worse at the winter meetings and the Bruins surrendered their overall points lead in the NHL thanks to going 5-4-1 in their last 10 games, while thin-skinned refs heard it from Jaylen Brown after he was surprisingly ejected vs. New York on Friday. But most notable was D.C. political pub Politico reporting that for the first time in 20 years presidential primary candidates are now scheduling events during Pats games because the Pats are so bad. Exhibit A: the negative yacking about Thursday’s win over Pittsburgh because it may hurt their draft position in April.

That’s where we start the week.

Sports 101: OnSaturdayJayden Daniels became the third player from LSU to win the Heisman Trophy. Name their other two winners.

News Item – New Hampshire Athletes: Two locals were in the news last week. Steelers tight end PatFreiermuth of Durham had three catches for 18 yards vs. the Pats, and Merrimack’s Mickey Gasper was taken by Boston in the Rule 5 draft after spending five years catching in the Yankees organization. He’s got to stick all year with the Sox or he reverts back to New York.

Lakers Win First NBA In-Season Tourney: Yawn. That’s all we got for that.

The Numbers:

3.2 –NFLlowest yards per carry allowed by the stingier than you think Patriots defense.

50 – second best in the NBA blocked shots recorded by San Antonio 7’6” rookie Victor Wembanyama after 19 games, with the 50th being his viral swat off the backboard of a layup attempt by T-Wolves big Naz Reid.

129 – points averaged by the Indiana Pacers, which will set the NBA record for most points per game ever if the number holds.

Of the Week Awards:

Honors –Good guy Red Sox radio voice Joe Castiglione was elected to Baseball’s Hall of Fame. After 41 years and 6,000 broadcasts he’ll go in next July as the recipient of the Ford Frick Award for broadcast excellence. It’s about time. Congratulations.

Grudge Match –The long feud between historically overrated Chris Paul and touchy referee Scott Foster grabbed headlines again after Paul claimed Foster’s tossing him with two quick T’s was “personal.” The interesting side note is Paul’s teamhas won just twice in the 20 games officiated by Forster since CP3 entered the NBA. It got both a (David) stern response from Commissioner Adam Silver to knock it off.

Stat – Patriots are 1-3 when they’ve given up 10 points or less, while the rest of the NFL is 53-0 when teams have done that.

Thumbs Up – Fisher Cats Sold: As first reported by the Union Leader, the F-Cats were sold to Diamond Baseball Holdings, the operator of 29 minor-league teams, who also bought the Red Sox AAA club in Worcester days earlier. Best of all they’re staying put.

Thumbs Down – Sports Illustrated: In the latest flash-over-substance drone pick, the teenagers now running Sports Illustrated (into the ground) somehow named Colorado Football Coach Deion Sanders as its Sports Person of the Year, a guy who following a 3-0 start after running off almost every Buffalo from 2022 finished at 4-9. Who was their runner-up, Kyrie Irving? What planet do you people live on?

Random Thoughts:

Sorry, Pat Mahomes, you can’t blame the refs for calling back Travis Kelce’s oh-so-alert cross-court lateral/pass to Kadarius Toney that went for a TD vs. Buffalo. Toney lined up in the neutral zone, a preventable mistake that was entirely Toney’s fault. No excuse for such a bonehead move.

Sports 101 Answer: The other two LSU Heisman Trophy winners were Joe Burrow in 2019 and running back Billy Cannon, who after winning in 1959 gave the AFL a huge publicity boost by being the first big name to sign with the fledgling league.

Final Thought – Yanks Got Better, Sox Got Worse: Aside from making their everyday line-up weaker by gift-wrapping Alex Verdugo to the Yanks for three pitchers no one ever heard of, Craig Breslow came away with a doughnut at last week’s winter meetings.

Not sure it was the first mistake of the Breslow era. But it made the Yanks seem less desperate to improve their outfield and thus took some of the leverage San Diego appeared to have as they pursued slugger Juan Soto, who they got the next day in a seven-player blockbuster deal for what’s been called a disappointing return.

This was done with a majority of the starting pitching trade options coming off the board and as the marquee free agents eliminated Boston from their wish list, most notably Shohei Ohtani. Though, since he almost landed in Toronto and got an astonishing $70 million for 10 years from the Dodgers, the dominoes fell right with him.

But if this doesn’t change right away, can you say last in the AL East? Again.

Email Dave Long at dlong@hippopress.com.

Breslow now on the clock

The Big Story – Big Week for New Red Sox GM: Except for the St. Louis Cardinals, the action all over baseball has been pretty slow so far this off-season. But with the winter meeting happening this week in Memphis that’s expected to change.

The first order of business for new Red Sox GM Craig Breslow is finding two starting pitchers. And if the desire is to preserve as much of the young farm system talent assembled over the last three years as possible, at least one needs to be a free agent.

The top target is Japanese import Yoshinobu Yamamoto. But with almost every team looking to upgrade their pitching and the pool of quality free agent arms limited, Breslow will need to have the checkbook open and be ready to act quickly if he is to get things started on the right foot.

Sports 101: Who is the oldest player to win an NBA championship?

News Item – Tiger Woods Returns: The biggest takeaway from Tiger Woods’ return to golf last weekend at the Hero World Golf Championship was that his health/back held up. But in his first tourney since the Masters he was, as expected, rusty in finishing 18th out of 20 players and 20 shots behind the winner. Still the story was how he fared physically, so the weekend was good news.

News Item – Victor Wembanyama Update: The brouhaha over the 7’6” French import isn’t translating into wins. The Spurs started the week 3-16 and battling it out with Detroit for the worst record in the league. For his part Wembanyama is leading the Spurs in scoring (19.2), rebounding (9.7) and blocks (2.7) while shooting at 43.7 percent. That puts him in a tight battle for Rookie of the Year with Oak City’s Chet Holmgren, whose numbers are 17.6, 8.0 and 2.2 while shooting 53 percent.

News Item – Three Red Sox Questions:

(1) Should they get in the Shohei Ontani sweepstakes? Yes — expensive, but getting Ohtani would give them the clean-up hitter needed to use Raffy Devers in a trade for a major starter.

(2) Trade Devers? Yes. He’s a terrific hitter but a lousy third baseman who can’t be moved to first base with Triston Casas the future there. Plus he’s got a body that’s a bad risk for the back end of his 10-year deal.

(3) How Do You Fix the Bullpen? Give the seventh and eighth innings Tanner Houck and Garrett Whitlock and make Chris Sale the closer. Risky, I know, but I’m betting the 3- to 4-inning-a-week workload does for Sale what moving from starter to closer did for Mariano Rivera and Dennis Eckersley. Plus moving on from Kenley Jansen gives them more trade ammo.

The Numbers:

1 wins the Patriots have the four times they’ve held their opponent to 10 points or less including Sunday, when they were a 6-0 baseball score loser to the L.A. Chargers.

12.3 – points per game the Patriots offense is averaging, which is the lowest in their 62-year history.

Of the Week Awards

Win – The 49ers’ 42-19 demolition of Philly in a chippy showdown win on the Eagles home turf.

How’d They Do That?’ Loss: The Dallas Mavericks, who somehow managed to lose to Oak City 126-120 despite having a 30-to-nothing run in the fourth quarter on Saturday.

Random Thoughts:

It’s his life, but seeing Tiger struggle to make the cut each week is tough to watch. Fine for others, but he’s a historic icon.

Aside from top pick Trevor Lawrence the supposed Year of the QB 2021 NFL draft that had five taken in Round 1 has been a bust. While seeing Justin Fields (11th ) as the 14th-ranked passer is a bit surprising, his Bears are just 4-8, while 30th-ranked Mac Jones (15th) is benched and likely done in New England, Bret Wilson (second) is at 33 and a total bust in New York and third overall pick Trey Lance has already been traded by SF.

A Little History – Great Rookies: Putting the hype aside, Wembanyama has a long way to go to match the career starts of Larry Bird, Lew Alcindor/Kareem Abdul Jabbar and Shaq, who joined teams that had won just 29, 27 and 21 games respectively and by Year 2 Bird’s and Kareem’s teams won the title and Shaq had Orlando in the Finals.

Sports 101 Answer: The oldest NBA champion was 43-year-old Robert Parish as a reserve with Chicago in 1997.

Final Thought – Florida State Gets Screwed: The latest example of how morally bankrupt big-time college football is came Sunday when 13-0 Florida State was left out of the four-team CFP tournament because their starting QB, Jordan Travis, is out for the year. Which means a team that demonstrated the fortitude to overcome losing its first- and second-string QBs to remain undefeated is denied what they earned because the TV ratings won’t likely be as good without Travis. Greed, Greed, GREED!

Email Dave Long at dlong@hippopress.com.

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
Question
: 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.

Stay in the loop!

Get FREE weekly briefs on local food, music,

arts, and more across southern New Hampshire!