Red Sox, Celtics and Pride Week in Boston

Jason Collins spent time last season with the Boston Celtics (and he might be back next season) before he came out in a now famous Sports Illustrated story.  Last night Collins helped the Red Sox celebrate Pride Night by throwing out the first pitch to Manager John Farrell.  It should be noted that managers rarely do this.

The Boston Globe ran this story from the Associate Press

The 7-foot center was greeted with a nice applause when the PA announcer read the opening of the SI article: ‘‘I’m a 34-year-old NBA center. I’m black. And I’m gay.’’

Wearing a Red Sox jersey with the No. 98 on the back, Collins threw out the first pitch to Red Sox manager John Farrell.

Red Sox slugger David Ortiz feels everyone should support each other based on how they act.

‘‘Nobody knows what is perfect and what is not,’’ Ortiz said, sitting at his locker about three hours before the game. ‘‘If you are respectful and you do what you’re supposed to do, it doesn’t matter what you are and what you come from, people should respect you and love you the same way.’’

Collins wears 98 on his jerseys to honor Matthew Shepard who was killed in 1998, a decision welcomed by Shepard’s parents.

2015 Pride Night at Fenway

2015 Pride Night at Fenway

Hey Danny and Doc, bring him back to the Celtics!

By the way, the Sox won on a walk-off 3 run homer by – David Ortiz.

Photograph Jim Davis/Globe Staff

Voting for MVP

As Gary Washburn put it in his Boston Globe column this morning

…this isn’t the Best Player in the Game award, it’s the Most Valuable Player award, and I think what [Carmelo]Anthony accomplished this season was worthy of my vote. He led the Knicks to their first division title in 19 years.

That’s a long time ago.

I have to admit that for some reason I didn’t follow basketball – college or pro – much this past season so I don’t know much about the teams in the playoffs although I know that the Knicks beat the Celtics in the first round.  I also know that I think LeBron James may be a great basketball player, but he has yet to win me over as a human being.  I’m with Cleveland here.

121 votes cast and only one not for LeBron James.   Last night I was listening to the BBC news and even they wanted to know who the voter who didn’t pick James was.  And now we know:  Gary Washburn from the Boston Globe.

Gary Washburn voted for Carmelo Anthony based on his importance to the New York Knicks

Gary Washburn voted for Carmelo Anthony based on his importance to the New York Knicks

Washburn continued

Anthony led the league in scoring average and basically carried an old Knicks team to the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference. Amar’e Stoudemire missed most of the season with knee issues, Raymond Felton missed six weeks, and Tyson Chandler dealt with nagging injuries, leaving Anthony, J.R. Smith, and a bunch of lottery picks from the mid-1990s to win 54 games and beat the Miami Heat three times.

LeBron can win the MVP award every year. He is that good. And it’s to the point where I put him on a Michael Jordan scale. Jordan won five MVP awards but could have earned 10. In the 1992-93 season, Jordan averaged 32.6 points, 6.7 rebounds, 5.5 assists, and 2.8 steals and shot 49.5 percent from the field.

And the MVP award went to Charles Barkley.

So my vote had more to do with Anthony and less to do with the dominance of LeBron. If you were to take Anthony off the Knicks, they are a lottery team. James plays with two other All-Stars, the league’s all-time 3-point leader, a defensive stalwart, and a fearless point guard. The Heat are loaded.

If LeBron was taken away from the Heat, they still would be a fifth or sixth seed. He is the best player of this generation, a multifaceted superstar with the physical prowess of Adonis, but I chose to reward a player who has lifted his team to new heights.

Does James have the other writers so snowed they forgot the meaning of MVP?  Bravo to Gary Washburn!

Photograph:  EPA

The state of the Sox

Thank goodness the baseball season starts in a week.  My March Madness bracket is sooo busted I can’t decide if I will continue with the next round on the CBS round by round contest.  But baseball.  That’s a different story.  The season is ahead of us, all those games from April to September and beyond to the World Series.

The big question for Boston is whether the Red Sox can rebound from last year’s train wreck.  Actually the disaster began in September 2011, but things got worse under Bobby Valentine.  Maybe it is time to forgive Bobby.  After all, he was a new manager coming into a difficult situation, but he was just wrong for Boston and wrong for the Sox so no forgiveness yet.  Now it is John Farrell’s turn to try.

Spring training has been about what one could expect.  The Sox are .500.  We’ve seen some good youngsters and the pitchers are working faster – even Cloy Bucholtz.  The bullpen seems solid.  The question is:  Can the Sox hit?

Nick Carfardo had a nice list of issues the Red Sox have to resolve to get to their roster of 25 in the Boston Globe this morning.

1. Lyle Overbay — He is the most immediate decision since he has an opt-out Tuesday. The Sox have to tell him by noon Tuesday whether he will make the 25-man active roster. If he does not ask for his release and agrees to open the season in Pawtucket, he will receive a $100,000 retention bonus. The Sox might be OK with that as insurance in case something happens to Mike Napoli.

Overbay is also a proven first baseman while Napoli is not. We’re assuming that David Ross, Pedro Ciriaco, and Daniel Nava are on the bench. That leaves one spot for Ryan Sweeney (who has a March 28 opt-out), Mike Carp, and Overbay. Nava is protection at first base and in the outfield and is also a better fielder than Carp. Overbay is a pure first baseman (he made a nice diving stop Monday) and lefthanded bat. Carp went 1 for 2 against the Orioles and is hitting .211.

I haven’t been that impressed with Overbay or Carp and Napoli is doing OK at first.  I’d let Overbay opt out this morning and keep Nava as back up.

Jackie Bradley Jr. has raised his spring average to .444.

Jackie Bradley Jr. has raised his spring average to .444.

2. Bradley — It appears he’s made the team, at least that’s the indication after the team reversed its decision not to play him in left. He’s passed every eye test, including facing a tough lefty Sunday in Cliff Lee, whom he took deep for a three-run homer and sacrifice fly in his first two-at bats. He followed that up Monday by coming off the bench with two hits, a two-run single up the middle against Pedro Strop and a triple vs. lefty Chris Petrini.

Jackie Bradley, Jr.  Jerry Remy keeps using his full name.  He might be a rookie, but he’s been to the College World Series and appears very mature and stable.  I know there is all this talk about the free agency date being different if he starts the season at Pawtucket, but let’s face it, we need his bat.  Even if he cools off, as he will, I think he will be as asset.

3. Daniel Bard — We’re assuming the bullpen spots that are set are Joel Hanrahan, Andrew Bailey, Andrew Miller, Koji Uehara, Alfredo Aceves, Junichi Tazawa, and Clayton Mortensen. That could change if Aceves or Mortensen is traded. Mortensen, who was touched up for two homers Monday, is out of options and the Sox don’t want to lose him because he’s stretched out and basically fills the same role as Aceves.

Bard has options and could go back to the minors, as his performance hasn’t been smooth this spring. The Sox also could option Tazawa as well.

I would trade Mortensen ( I’ve read that there is interest in him.), keep Tazawa and have Bard start in Pawtucket.  It is a long season and we will need Bard sooner or later.

How will the Sox do this season?  Predictions have a way of coming back to haunt you (take my March Madness bracket), but I think the Sox will be a better than .500 team.  The AL East is tough and I think Baltimore is the team to beat, but never, never count the Yankees out.

(By the way, I picked Indiana to win the basketball crown this year, but any team but Louisville will suit me fine.)

Photograph Kathy Willens/Associated Press

Bracket busted

My picks for the final four this year:  Duke, Michigan State, Florida State, and North Carolina.  Duke went out early and Florida State didn’t make the Sweet Sixteen.  What I get for ACC loyalty.  Actually, Duke was a decent pick, but FSU was only because they were on a streak and which I thought could be sustained a few more games.  Oh, well.

With injuries to UNC, I have a feeling my ultimate winner – and President Obama’s – may not make it, but we shall see!  I have Michigan State and UNC in the finals, by the way, and they are both still alive for the moment.

 Kendall Marshall off-balance. He landed breaking his non-dominant wrist.

I know that everyone is saying that Kentucky is a lock now, that it is Kentucky against the field, but I am still betting against them.

The Mavericks and the Red Sox

The Dallas Mavericks are winners!  They defeated Miami and “King James” for the rest of us.

Two interesting posts from the New York Times live blog of the game.

10:42 P.M. |This one is over.

The Dallas Grown-Ups will surely finish this one, as the Miami Children continue to run around without any direction or purpose, much like I do in regards to my entire life. I empathize.

10:43 P.M. |Long Summer

It’s going to be a long summer for LeBron, D-Wade, and the rest of the Heat.

Classy move by LeBron untucking his shirt with a minute to go, too. Someone get him a life coach. Shotgun not it.

I also heard on the radio that LeBron shook a few hands and left the court almost immediately after the game was over.  What a classy guy – not! 

The Heat will likely win a championship sometime, but for right now, I’m happy that it wasn’t this year.

Earlier the Red Sox who finished in such a disappointing way last year, started the seaon 0-6 and then 2-10 and seemed to take forever to get to .500. won their 9th in a row – and I think, the 3rd sweep in a row.

David Ortiz greets Adrian Gonzalez after Gonzalez’s two-out home run in the first inning.

Carl Crawford has had his moments since coming to the Red Soxs, but Adrian Gonzalez is just as amazing as advertised.  And he – or something has Big Papi on a tear that has lasted for weeks now.  But recently it is not just the wins, it is the number of runs being scored and most of all it is the pitchers stepping up.  And speaking of pitching, it seems likely that Daisuke Matsuzaka had pitched his last game for the Sos and possibly the last in this country and he heads for Tommy John surgery.

Congratulations, Mavs!  Go Sox!

West Virginia: Mining and Basketball

I read this piece at lunch today and it brought tears to my eyes.  Denise Giardina’s Mourning in the Mountains was an op-ed in today’s New York Times. 

PEOPLE in West Virginia had hoped that on Monday night we would gather around televisions with family and friends to watch our beloved Mountaineers face Butler in our first chance at the men’s N.C.A.A. basketball title since 1959. Men working evening shifts in the coal mines would get to listen thanks to radio coverage piped in from the surface. Expectations ran high; even President Obama, surveying the Final Four, predicted West Virginia would win.

Then, on Tuesday morning, we would wake to triumphant headlines in sports pages across the country. At last, we would say, something good has happened to West Virginia. The whole nation would see us in a new light. And we would cry.

Instead, halfway through Saturday night’s semifinal against Duke, our star forward, Da’Sean Butler, tore a ligament in his knee, and the Mountaineers crumbled. And on Monday evening, while Duke and Butler played in what for us was now merely a game, West Virginians gathered around televisions to watch news of a coal mine disaster.

On Tuesday, the headline in The Charleston Gazette read instead: Miners Dead, Missing in Raleigh Explosion. And we cried.

Families and friends wait alongside emergency pers...

Families and friends wait alongside emergency personnel after a mine explosion occurred at the Upper Big Branch Mine, in Montcoal, W.Va., on Monday April 5, 2010. (AP Photo/Jon C. Hancock)
4:33 a.m. ET, 4/6/10

Like most people I haven’t spent a lot of time in West Virginia, but I have spent time in Southwest Virginia where Massey Energy also has mines.  It is beautiful countryside, scarred in places by strip mines.  I wonder what besides mining could drive the economy.  While I was working for the Department of Corrections in Virginia, we planned a prison for one of the mountain tops.  The jobs to be created were such a boon to the area, the community college started classes to train correctional officers before we even broke ground.  But prisons are not the answer.  What about eco-tourism?

Back to Giardina

Despite the sunny skies and unseasonably warm weather, the mood here in southern West Virginia is subdued. As of Tuesday afternoon, 25 men have been confirmed dead, two are critically injured, and four are missing and presumed dead. Their fellow West Virginians work round the clock and risk their own lives to retrieve the bodies.

Already outrage is focused on Massey Energy, owner of the Upper Big Branch mine. Massey has a history of negligence, and Upper Big Branch has often been cited in recent years for problems, including failure to properly vent methane gas, which officials say might have been the cause of Monday’s explosion.

It seems we can’t escape our heritage. I grew up in a coal camp in the southern part of the state. Every day my school bus drove past a sign posted by the local coal company keeping tally, like a basketball scoreboard, of “man hours” lost to accidents. From time to time classmates whose fathers had been killed or maimed would disappear, their families gone elsewhere to seek work.

We knew then, and know now, that we are a national sacrifice area. We mine coal despite the danger to miners, the damage to the environment and the monomaniacal control of an industry that keeps economic diversity from flourishing here. We do it because America says it needs the coal we provide.

West Virginians get little thanks in return. Our miners have historically received little protection, and our politicians remain subservient to Big Coal. Meanwhile, West Virginia is either ignored by the rest of the nation or is the butt of jokes about ignorant hillbillies.

Here in West Virginia we will forget our fleeting dream of basketball glory and get about the business of mourning. It is, after all, something we do very well. In the area around the Upper Big Branch, families of the dead will gather in churches and their neighbors will come to pray with them. They will go home, and the same neighbors will show up bearing platters of fried chicken and potato salad and cakes. The funeral homes will be jammed, the mourners in their best suits and ties and Sunday dresses.

And perhaps this time President Obama and Americans will pay attention, and notice West Virginia at last.

As I write this it is still too dangerous to send rescue teams down into the mines.   And there are no signs of life from the four miners who are still missing.

Sure signs of spring

The NCAA basketball tournaments are over.  We can only hope that UConn is not so dominent next year and someone else has a shot at the women’s championship.  I did have Duke in the men’s final which salvaged something although not as much as Reggie Love, President Obama’s assistant and former Duke player, who had Duke winning it all.

I planted my spring pots of pansies for the front steps, started some herbs and played with all the indoor plants  this weekend.  All signs of spring.

The Yankee’s opened at Fenway on Sunday night.  (I really dislike opening night.  One is supposed to skip school and work on opening day!)   The Sox took opening day, but lost last night.  Here is Wiley Miller’s take in Non Sequitur

There was the Easter Egg Roll at the White House where the President tried to help this poor bewildered child who was having trouble starting. 

White House Easter Egg Roll

It’s gonna be 80 today!