Good new story for Sox

For the second straight year Red Sox Nation was on the cusp of entering the final week of March wondering what in the name of Haywood Sullivan was going on up there in the executive suite. It seemed Chaim Bloom was again in the increasingly hated (for me) bargain basement mode while Rome burned.

But news broke Saturday that John Henry has finally opened his wallet to outbid the Yanks and others for free agent Trevor Story. A major get that let some of the Nation’s building frustration escape. Though Chaim’s not out of the woods just yet.

But enjoy it for the day before getting back to the important business of grousing about the other issues that need addressing before the season starts.

Trevor Story implications: Signing him was a two-fer, as the former shortstop (for now) gives them a solid fielding second baseman with major offensive pop. It also sends Kike Hernandez out to right field to fill both the offensive and defensive holes left by the departure of Hunter Renfroe that everyone has been wondering about all winter. It also provides insurance at short if Xander Bogaerts opts out and leaves at the end of the year.

So, since Bloom “only” had to go six years and $25 million per to get all that, job well done. Especially since Texas gave their arguably not as good and definitely more injury-prone new shortstop Corey Seager a whopping $330 million over 10 years to get him.

Losing Kyle Schwarber: Letting him walk was a missed opportunity. Keeping him would have given them three more years of contractual control at DH and let them trade J.D. Martinez when every team in the NL suddenly needs one. It would have been revenue-neutral too, as Schwarber will get less per year than the $20 million the Sox pay J.D., while also making the line-up less right-handed dominant than it is now.

With the line-up and defense settled, we turn to pitching, which looks like a hodge-podge mess.

Starting pitching: The good news is the stat geeks tell us number of wins by a starter is totally circumstantial and unimportant. Phew! Because the six guys likely to get the bulk of the starts — Chris Sale, Nate Eovaldi, Nick Pivetta, Tanner Houck and newcomers Rich Hill and Michael Wacha — won a combined 34 games against 35 losses in 2021. Which means if 90 is the target, they need 56 wins from the pen. And while I like the promise Houck and Pivetta showed in 2021, am hopeful Sale and Eovaldi can avoid the injuries that have plagued their careers, wonder when it’ll end for the ageless Hill and have no faith in Wacha, the group as a whole doesn’t provide a lot of confidence.

So there are many questions looking for answers here, with the biggest coming from Chris Sale. The 5-1, 3.16 numbers after he returned from his 18-month Tommy John surgery absence look good. But it was a different story in the final 10 days of the regular season and in the playoffs when he struggled mightily. Was it natural fatigue or something more alarming?

Now comes the latest, a stress fracture in the ribcage. He’s calling it “a freak thing,” but it’s another reminder making you wonder if he has the body to face the rigors of pitching the 200-plus innings a year needed from your ace. Especially considering his last healthy season was way back in 2017. I don’t see him making a full 200-inning season anymore, which suggests a role change could be needed. Which brings us to the bullpen.

The bullpen: I know Tampa Bay won 100 games with a bullpen filled with guys making under a million dollars. But we also saw them knocked around in the playoffs, so I’d prefer a hybrid approach so you’re not bringing in seven new bargain basement guys every year as Chaim did in 2021 and basically is doing now, beyond Matt Barnes, who they’re stuck with after giving him an extension during his tremendous first half last year, and 2021 scrap heap find Garrett Whitlock. But beyond Whitlock, I had zero confidence in the pen after Barnes’ astonishing second-half collapse, because it has control issues and was used far too much by the suddenly micro-managing Alex Cora in games it was needed in. And 2022 starts out the same way.

Closer: To solidify the back end I’d make Sale the closer when he comes back for three reasons: (1) Pitching one inning every other day and 70 over the entire year would likely keep the arm fresher for the whole year instead of dealing with the dramatic second-half drop-offs that have plagued him since his days in Chicago; (2) Pitching just one inning gives him a better chance to regain the life to his fast ball and snap to his slider that have been missing since July 2018. (3) There’s no guarantee it’ll work, but almost every great closer was originally a failed starter. Including Mariano Rivera, who had durability issues starting. Not to mention the one-season record for saves is held by John Smoltz, set when arm issues prevented him from starting for three seasons.

Bottom line on the pitching: I know $30 million is usually too much to sink into a closer, but the money is already spent and the issue now is how to get the best bang for their $30 million.

So the Sox should not waste any more time. When Sale comes back, leave Houck in the rotation, give the seventh to Barnes, the eighth to Whitlock, and bite the bullet to make Sale the ninth-inning closer.

OK, so while I think it’s how you spend it, not how much, with payroll pruning done and David Price finally coming off the books after 2022 it’s time to spend to find more quality for the rotation and pen to give them a real chance in 2022.

Crowning achievement

Meet Miss New Hampshire Volunteer, Grace Orfao

Grace Orfao, 23, of Manchester, has been crowned the first Miss New Hampshire Volunteer. The new pageant program provides scholarship and growth opportunities for young women across the country who actively volunteer in their communities. Orfao talked about the program and how she’s preparing to represent New Hampshire at the Inaugural Miss Volunteer America Pageant in Jackson, Tennessee, in May.

How did you become Miss New Hampshire Volunteer?

I grew up dancing, starting at 4 years old. … I’ve been doing pageants since I was a junior in high school. I started in the Miss America program. … My dance teacher introduced me to the program because her daughter was the state title holder for the teen program, and she thought it would be a great opportunity. … I competed in my first state pageant when I was 16 and was the first runner-up, which was super exciting. … Then, I was a teen title holder and the Miss title holder for a few years. … Eventually, I was approached by a few people, including my director, who introduced me to the Miss Volunteer America program. I was given the opportunity to do some interviews and perform my talent and show my gown, and I ended up [being chosen] as Miss New Hampshire Volunteer.

How are you preparing for the national pageant?

I’m taking care of my body, being super active and maintaining a good skin care routine so that I can put my best self forward. … I’m also volunteering a lot and have a lot of [visits] set up with [schools in] the Manchester school district … to talk about my platform and to talk about the [Miss Volunteer America] program to see if any girls would be interested.

What is your community service platform?

The first few years I did pageantry, my platform was autism awareness. Once I was out of high school I wanted to change my platform to something that could really connect with many different people on many different levels, so I thought, ‘What’s something that people do every day?’ I did some research and found that texting while driving is unfortunately a big problem that a lot of people have right now, so my platform now is ‘Stay Alive; Don’t Text and Drive.’ I’m very passionate about it. I’ve created my own little emblem, and I’ve made stickers and handouts teaching people about the issue. There’s also a pledge that I [organized], where people can pledge to turn on the ‘do not disturb’ [feature] on their phone while driving. I’m just really trying to spread awareness and help make the roads a safer place.

What talent will you perform?

I’m doing a lyrical dance. … I’ve trained in all forms of dance, but my favorite style is lyrical, because you can really tell a story with lyrical dance, and people can relate to it. … I love being able to connect with the audience in that way. … It’s just a beautiful form of dance, and I’m just so excited to share that with everybody.

What are your future plans?

I’ve been teaching dance since the age of 17, and I choreograph dances for competitive dancers. … I’m taking classes online through Southern New Hampshire University and working toward my bachelor’s degree in business management. … I would love to open and own and operate my own competitive dance studio; that’s my dream.

What advice do you have for other young people in New Hampshire who want to get involved in volunteering?

The biggest thing I want to do is spread the word about this program, because [it offers] so many opportunities. Not only is it a great way to get involved in volunteering, but the scholarships are amazing; Miss Volunteer America gives out over $100,000 in scholarships to the girls who are competing. … You also make a lot of connections in the program and build relationships that you’ll have forever. It’s just such a rare opportunity, and I don’t think people take advantage of it enough. … I know pageants can be a little intimidating for some people, so if people are just looking to get involved in volunteering they can go to, [which has] a huge list of volunteer opportunities that people can sign up for across New Hampshire. … Once you start [volunteering], you can’t stop, and once you find your passion in helping others, it’s a feeling you’ll never forget.

Miss Volunteer America
The Inaugural Miss Volunteer America Pageant will take place in Jackson, Tennessee, from May 1 through May 7, and will be streamed on the Miss Volunteer America website, Follow Orfao’s pageant journey and volunteer work on Instagram at @missnhvol and @grace_orfao_volunteer.

Featured photo: Grace Orfao. Courtesy photo.

News & Notes 22/03/24

Covid-19 update As of March 14 As of March 21
Total cases statewide 300,511 301,308
Total current infections statewide 821 911
Total deaths statewide 2,417 2,436
New cases 860 (March 8 to March 14) 797 (March 15 to March 21)
Current infections: Hillsborough County 196 242
Current infections: Merrimack County 67 65
Current infections: Rockingham County 142 151
Information from the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services.

Covid-19 news

On March 16, the state Department of Health & Human Services announced in a press release that its 11 state-managed Covid-19 vaccination sites will permanently close on March 31. Additionally, four of the seven mobile vaccination teams will demobilize that same day. The announcement comes just one day after health officials permanently closed all of the state-run testing sites. Vaccines are still easily accessible through medical providers, pharmacies, urgent care centers and mobile vaccination clinics, the release said.

State health officials announced 53 new positive Covid test results on March 21. The state averaged 119 new cases per day over the most recent seven-day period, a 4 percent increase compared to the week before. Hospitalizations continue to be low, at just 30 statewide as of March 21 — that’s the fewest since Aug. 2 of last year.

Child advocate plan

Last week the state Office of the Child Advocate released its 2022-2025 Strategic Plan, a collaboration of members of the community and state leaders. Child Advocate Moira O’Neill said in a press release that forming the plan was an “opportunity to engage with the broader community to co-create a road map for deeper impact and lasting system reform,” and input was received from children, parents, foster parents, providers, attorneys, government leaders and the Oversight Commission on Children’s Services. According to the release, the plan was developed after looking at the office’s progress and talking to the community about its future vision, mission, values, priorities and needed changes. Focus groups and interviews showed that the four-year-old Office of the Child Advocate is “respected, reliable and transparent,” the release said, but it is still not well-known throughout the state. Another issue is an unbalance of independent oversight with collaborative relationships; both of those problems could be attributed in part to not having enough staffing, the release said. The Strategic Plan has four goals: continue to be responsive to complaints, incidents and opportunities to improve the state’s support and protection of children; expand public knowledge of the office as a resource to understand and advocate for children; invest in building the capacity of the office to support the safety and well-being of children; and strengthen and expand relationships with system partners based in trust, collaboration and impact. According to the release, O’Neill has completed her four-year term of service and is waiting for the governor to appoint a replacement.


On Friday, March 25, hundreds of people in the Granite State will sleep outside for Waypoint’s eighth annual SleepOut, which raises awareness and funds to help end youth homelessness in New Hampshire. According to a press release, the funds will support Waypoint’s new overnight youth shelter in Manchester and its drop-in resource centers in Concord and Rochester, as well as help sustain its existing services. This year’s event will be held remotely, with sleepers spending the night outside at a place of their choosing and sharing the experience virtually. The online event will also be livestreamed on the agency’s Facebook page, allowing members of the community to show their support even if they are not registered sleepers. Last year, Waypoint had nearly 1,500 contacts with youth who were on the streets and offered services like survival aid, basic needs relief, educational support, job and life skills training, driver’s ed, access to mental health services and more, the release said. Visit

Oil tank leaks

The New Hampshire Insurance Department has received numerous questions from consumers regarding insurance coverage for cleanup costs associated with heating oil spills. According to a press release, those costs can exceed $100,000, and there are no admitted insurance carriers in the state who cover home heating oil spills. However, the state Department of Environmental Services has two programs to help consumers who have home heating oil tanks that have leaked or are in danger of leaking: the Safetank Program and the Petroleum Reimbursement Fund Program. The Safetank Program provides financial assistance to income qualified homeowners — up to $2,250 to upgrade or remove and replace an above-ground oil tank and up to $2,500 to remove an underground tank. The Petroleum Reimbursement Fund Program reimburses costs incurred by DES-required cleanup at eligible properties where a petroleum release has occurred from a tank system, with coverage of up to $500,000. The Insurance Department encourages homeowners to upgrade or replace their heating oil tanks before a release occurs, the release said.

A presentation and conversation called “The Russian Invasion of Ukraine – Why Did it Happen? What Are the Global Implications?” will be held Tuesday, March 29, at 6:30 p.m. at the Goffstown Public Library, according to a press release. Registration to attend in person or virtually is required at

Last week, Memorial, Central and West high schools in Manchester hosted their first-ever Sports Nights, where representatives from high school and middle school athletics and youth sports leagues in the city came together to help students find a sport they love. According to a press release, the event also highlighted the schools’ current student-athlete stars who have signed with colleges and universities to compete for them next year.

Daytime road work on the Route 101 Bridge replacement project in Bedford has begun and, according to a press release, there will be alternating one-way traffic between 8:30 a.m. and 3 p.m. on Route 101 from Twin Brook Lane to Joppa Hill Road. Construction will continue in the area throughout the summer and fall, the release said.

Jersey Mike’s Subs locations in New Hampshire — most locally in Londonderry, Hudson and Plaistow — are supporting the 2022 Special Olympics USA Games through its 12th Annual March “Month of Giving” campaign. According to a press release, customers can make a donation at any Jersey Mike’s to help local Team NH athletes get to the Games, happening in June in Orlando. On March 30, Jersey Mike’s will have a “Day of Giving,” when the restaurants will give 100 percent of the day’s sales — not just profits — to the Games, the release said.

Saying goodbye

Fifteen years ago, as a new board member of the Animal Rescue League of NH, I pulled into the parking lot one day and met the sweetest beagle out for a walk. I went home and began negotiating with my husband, anxious for our 2-year-old son to have a canine companion to grow up with. He reminded me we were leaving on vacation. We agreed if the dog was still there when we got back, we could bring it home. The dog was adopted in the interim, but a few weeks later I received a call that he had been returned.

Potter and his sibling had both arrived at the shelter as strays. Their owner had been called but declined to pick them up. The shelter staff estimated Potter’s age as 1 at the time. When I saw Potter’s patience with our curious toddler, I knew he was meant for us. That patience never wavered with our son, nor with the next beagle I brought home, nor with the addition of a Brittany spaniel, and certainly never with our grandchildren.

This is not to say Potter didn’t have his quirks. UPS deliveries were a challenge as he assumed responsibility for judiciously guarding the front door from any drivers of brown trucks. A few years ago I noticed Potter no longer reacted to the sound of the UPS truck, and we soon realized he had gone completely deaf.

As he entered his senior years he slowed down remarkably, spending his days sleeping in his favorite chair, only rising (punctually) for his four meals a day. As one aging issue developed into another, Potter received his very own pill box so we could better manage his medications. We arranged our schedules to accommodate mealtimes and meds. He became increasingly anxious and restless, frequently pacing throughout the night, symptoms of doggie Alzheimer’s.

The past several months, we have struggled with when to let him go. At a recent vet visit, Potter became aggressive with the vet staff. I knew then that it was time, his pain and confusion causing atypical behavior for him. Potter did his job well, and the little boy who grew up with him is now a 17-year-old teenager. I will be forever grateful that he chose us all those years ago to be his forever home. His steadfast love and companionship made our family whole. He has more than held up his end of the deal and it is time to bid him farewell. May you rest in peace, our sweet boy.

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