Twice, now, the Patriots have dared their quarterback. The first time, they agreed to forfeit their right to use the franchise tag. Now they’re daring him to go free agency. The message? We don’t think you have the heart to leave, Tom.
The next Jeter? Oh, he’s out there somewhere. And somebody is probably teaching him about launch angle, which would be a baseball tragedy.
Think about it: the NFL, NBA and NHL all have instituted changes in recent years to shorten delays, making the games faster, more entertaining. Meanwhile baseball can’t even get the pitchers to throw the ball. If pitchers like Price and Justin Verlander are going to give Manfred the finger when he talks about a pitch clock, what chance does the commissioner possibly have of getting the positional players to stop stealing signs?
Obviously, there’s a lot to address here, particularly as the Red Sox look to shed payroll under a first-time general manager who must think he just bought a ticket on the Hindenburg. David Price is chronically unhappy. Mookie Betts probably wants out. Your $80 million starting rotation remains an unknown and your manager is in the eye of a historic cheating scandal.
Let’s make something clear here: organizational penalties are great and all, but they’re impersonal. The penalties always mean a little more when someone specific is paying the price. This brings us to Hinch and, more specifically, Cora, who is now starting to look downright devious.
In the interim, here’s a question that is worth asking: do the Patriots really want Brady back? Does Bill Belichick? Does the Kraft family? This past offseason, Brady wanted the right to become a free agent, asking the Krafts to forfeit the right to use the franchise tag on him. And they gave it to him.
If the Pats lose tomorrow, we’ll view the loss as sign that the Tom Brady era is coming to a close. But if they win – and if N’keal Harry and the offense continue to improve – we’ll wonder if Brady and the Pats have yet another Super Bowl tucked in their hip pads. And that is quite a dramatic contrast.
So here we are now, in Week 16 of what could be Tom Brady’s final season in New England, and the Patriots have one final hurdle to clear in the regular season: the Bills. Buffalo might effectively sit between Brady and The End, between New England and a final Super Bowl run or the Patriots and an ominous appearance on wildcard weekend.
In the fourth quarter last night, Joel Embiid torched the Celtics for 16 points, eight of which came from the free-throw line. Embiid made shots from the perimeter and in the paint, and the Celtics really couldn’t do a thing about it.
On offense, especially, New England has had far too many fundamental breakdowns this year, the result of which has been uncharacteristically poor play, particularly in the red zone. That flaw – along with some bad officiating – helped do them in Sunday against the Kansas City Chiefs.
The Patriots and Chiefs have played five times since Reid took over the Chiefs, and while the Patriots are 3-2 in those games, Kansas City has scored an average of 34.8 points per game that has made the New England defense look like the French army. And with Patrick Mahomes at quarterback, Kansas City has scored 71 points in the last two games against the Patriots, including 40 in Foxboro last year.
Upon closer inspection, one can’t help but wonder if the Patriots defense is a little overrated. Against Baltimore and Houston, the Pats allowed 65 points while opponents went a combined 12-for-22 on third and fourth downs – a whopping 55 percent. Kansas City steps up to bat this week - in Foxboro.
But again, back to the question: would Belichick have turned Jackson loose like this? Would anyone other than John Harbaugh, who has altered his entire operation to accommodate one singular talent? No way. At least not Belichick, whose entire philosophy is built on system and team … maybe to a fault.
Mazz: Why don't we have an answer yet on Chris Sale - and is he the linchpin of the Red Sox offseason?
So what’s going on here? Is Sale OK and are the Red Sox looking to trade him after foolishly signing him to a five-year, $145-million contract that has yet to even begin? Or is Sale injured and are the Red Sox busy trying to find ways to completely rebuild their starting rotation as a result?
The big news, as it turns out, is that Gronk is hosting a Super Bowl party. So there you go. Can we now stop with all the nonsensical and downright selfish talk of a comeback?
While other sports launch free agency with a frenzy of moves, news leaks and announcements, baseball is still delivering its mail via the Pony Express. And meanwhile, you end up spending Christmas focusing on something else.
While the Celtics were defeating the upstart Dallas Mavericks for their eighth straight win last night, Tatum was having arguably the worst shooting night in Celtics history. Let me repeat that: Last night, TATUM HAD ARGUABLY THE WORST SHOOTING NIGHT IN CELTICS HISTORY. And if that sounds like an exaggeration, it isn’t.
Let’s remember that the Red Sox are in a fairly tight predicament. They want to shed about $30 million or more in payroll while addressing needs at first base, second base and on the mound. They have a thin farm system. And they want to contend at the time.
Somebody - or somebodies - must go. And we mean somebody (or more than one) from the group of Nathan Eovaldi ($17 million), David Price ($31 million), Chris Sale ($25.6 million) and, yes, Mookie Betts, the last of whom has a projected salary of $27.7 million next summer and will be a free agent at the end of the 2020 season.
Does that mean the Patriots erred in trading away the man whom many (including Belichick) deemed Brady’s successor? No. Garoppolo still comes with lots of questions, durability first among them. But if there’s anyone out there still suggesting that Garoppolo was some sort of flash in the pan … stop. Don’t embarrass yourself. He can play.
Let’s not pretend that we know what Chaim Bloom is – or will be – because the truth is that we don’t have a clue. Sometimes, there is just no way to know how someone will perform until he is in the actual position.
Under Brad Stevens, the Celtics never won a playoff series without Al Horford. In meaningful games, they lost convincingly. So it's fair to wonder if Horford, not Kyrie Irving, was the bigger loss for the team.
The Cleveland Browns are the next victims, who are scheduled to face the Patriots at Gillette Stadium late Sunday afternoon in what may very well the greatest coaching mismatch in NFL history. Once that happens, we can earnestly begin talk of another undefeated Patriots season because what the Patriots are doing right now is making a mockery of the entire NFL.
New from Mazz: The Astros and Nationals' dominance in the league championship series are showing why starting pitching still matters in October.
Incredible as it seems, the AFC race is over. The only way the Patriots will fail to host the AFC Championship Game is if they blow it.