Thursday, September 13, 2018

SZ 683

AUGUST 27, 2018

The last Sportzine, #682, was dated 2/26/18. Some of you may have wondered where it went, why it stopped. My companion, Victoria R. Troxell, had been battling cancer since November 18, 2013. when she was diagnosed with bilateral ovarian cancer, Stage 4.

Victoria went through chemotherapy, surgery, more chemotherapy and finally she got into a clinical trial at Dana Farber in Boston. That clinical trial kept her alive far longer than any of us could have imagined or hoped. And then the trial ended.

In March of this year, chemotherapy was started at Miriam Hospital, but it was so debilitating that her daughters Sophie and Jemma convinced Victoria to stop that treatment and have home hospice care. The staff of Hope Hospice and Palliative Care did a wonderful job helping Victoria, Sophie and her family, Jemma and Victoria’s son Hugh and his family, and myself through those darkest of times.

It was a testiment to Victoria’s tenacity, her will to live that she fought her disease until the very end. She died on April 24, 2018.

Victoria’s family had a Celebration of Life for her (there was no wake nor church service). Sophie, Jemma, Hugh and I were in accord that Victoria’s ashes be scattered on Swan’s Island in Maine where she had a summer home. We scattered her ashes in the waters of Mackerel Cove outside her home recently. Victoria is now in a place where she would have wanted to be. In addition, Sophie and her husband Barak paid Providence Public Works to plant a tree on the walking path on Blackstone Boulevard, near the stone hut. I try to walk 2 miles every day and when I do, I always stop at Victoria’s tree to commune with her. We were together for almost 18 years. I miss her every day and always will.

On behalf of Sophie, Barak and their boys Liam and Tiernan, Jemma, and Hugh and his companion Sharon and daughter Samantha, I would like to thank Dana Farber, Victoria’s clinical trial doctor, Khanh Do, M.D., and the staff of Home Hospice and Palliative Care for their love and support.

Victoria would want me to carry on, and so I will try to do just that. What follows is an abbreviated Sportzine. The full version should resume around the time that the Patriots season begins and the Red Sox inch closer to the playoffs. R.I.P. Victoria, my Love.

Or as Curly of the Stooges would say: ‘Noy-vis? Who’s noy-vis? Well, I am.
Red Sox fans have been treated so far to a memorable season. 50 games over .500 is not a place the Red Sox have ever gone before in my lifetime. The best record in baseball at 90-42. And as Richard Flinn reminded me, Boston is the only team that hasn’t had a 4-game losing streak. However on Sunday, they got swept by the Tampa Rays. The Red Sox had gone 10-0-4 in its previous series. Time to worry?

All this time that the Red Sox have put up great offensive numbers, the lurking Giant in New York has somehow kept pace and stayed in contention, and that despite injuries to Bronx bashers Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez. Sanchez is in rehab and due back soon. Judge has a fractured wrist and his return date is unknown. Oh and the Yankees have the second best record in baseball at 83-47.

So it comes down to the remaining games, with NY having 16 at home and 16 on the road where they are only 38-27. The Red Sox have 17 at home and 13 on the road. The Sox are 46-19 at home.

With Sunday’s games, the Yankees are now 5 games back in the loss column. That’s the only stat that means anything. It was 10. The Red Sox have 6 games remaining against New York, 3 away and 3 at home, the last 3 in Boston the last week of the regular season. Sox fans can only hope that Boston has a big enough lead that those last 3 games are meaningless. Otherwise you may see someone liking Chris Sale pitching a crucial game that weekend, depriving them of their best pitcher for the beginning of the playoffs. Let’s hope that isn’t a wild card game.

As for those remaining games, the Yankees still have a West Coast trip versus Oakland (Sean Manaea just went on the 10-day DL with left shoulder impingement), Seattle and then the Twins. However of the games left for the BoSox, there are 3 at Atlanta, 3 at Cleveland and 3 at home against Houston.

So buckle up your seat belts for this remaining ride. It would be a shame to see the Sox falter down the stretch. Just remember those 2007 Patriots who went undefeated in the regular season and then won the first two games of the playoffs to make it 18-0. They lost to the New York ‘Football’ Giants (this is for you Jim Dwyer and Al Vallese) in the Super Bowl. Does anyone care about that great season the Patriots had or how it ended?

It’s hard to make it to the World Series. This Red Sox team is quite capable of doing that. However I constantly remind Patriots fans that it is extremely difficult to make it to the Super Bowl, no matter how good your team is. And the Red Sox will face much tougher competition. Let’s go Red Sox. Take care of business. You hold the keys. Don’t relinquish them.
What to make of this year’s edition of the Patriots? There are always changes from year to year. Danny Amendola, Dion Lewis and Nate Solder are gone. Edelman is out the first 4 games for using an unknown drug. Tom Brady is 41. The window to winning another Super Bowl is closing. As a Patriots fan, a 6th Super Bowl win would put aside any chatter about who had the best dynasty team (except for Patriots haters).

This 21st Century Patriots team has lost 3 of the 8 Super Bowls in which they’ve participated. The reason they lost those 3 was that their defense let them down. Tom Brady and company had given them the lead in all three. They couldn’t hold on.

So, will this edition have a better defense? I hope so. Defensive Coordinator Matt Patricia has gone to Detroit to coach the Lions. His replacement, Brian Flores (technically the LB coach), will be under the microscope. It’s tough to measure how well a defense will do based on pre-season games. Flores seems to want to blitz more and the team had 5 in the first half vs the Eagles (8 for the game). However I’ve noticed that when they didn’t get to the quarterback, there were pass completions for big gains.

Bill Belichick has brought in two players who may play key roles on the defense: DE Adrian Clayborn and NT Danny Shelton. They also have DE Derek Rivers who was injured last year back. Rookie LB Ja’Whaun Bentley has looked good. Dont’a Hightower, coming back from a torn pectoral muscle, has barely shown up on the stat sheet in the pre-season. That is not encouraging for the quarterback of the defense.

On the offensive side, Belichick traded for massive LT Trent Brown (6’8”, 380 lbs) who has to protect Brady’s blind side. Since Nate Solder (gone to the Giants for big bucks) didn’t always do that last year, Brown may be an improvement. The right tackle is Marcus Cannon’s when healthy. The rest of the OL is intact from last year.

With Dion Lewis gone (6 TDs, 896 yards), will the Pats be able to run the ball effectively? A good running game offsets teams with a good pass rush. So it’ll be up to Burkhead, White, Hill and Gillislee (if they both make the team) and rookie Sony Michel to do the job. Rookie Michel had better rushing stats at Georgia than Todd Gurley but tends to fumble a lot.. Michel has a knee injury (left I believe) and had the knee drained in the pre-season. The timing of his return is unclear. Rookie RB Ralph Webb looked good in a game that I saw.

So opening day against Houston 9/9 (my daughter Cara’s birthday and she’ll be in attendance) can’t come soon enough. Oh and FootJoy, the Patriots TV game versus Carolina outdrew the Red Sox game vs. Tampa. Just sayin’.

Readers of Sportzine know that I seldom comment about the political arena. However in losing the PawSox to Worcester, MA, it’s hard to avoid that topic.

First, understand that I am a Pawtucket native and remember it as a once thriving city with a vibrant downtown. Besides China Inn, one of the few current gems in Pawtucket’s firmament since those glory days has been the Pawtucket Red Sox. Now that will be taken away from baseball fans and the citizens of Pawtucket and RI.

As a kid, my Dad took me to games at McCoy Stadium when it was home to the AA Cleveland Indians farm team. Eventually it became the AAA Red Sox team. Stadium conditions were squalid until Ben Mondor (a Canadian!) bought the team in 1977. Ben Mondor brought in Mike Tamburro and the duo with help later from Lou Schwechheimer transformed the stadium into the gem that it is today (a 1998-1999 refurbishing also helped).

When Ben Mondor died, Larry Lucchino and minions bought the team from Ben’s widow. Their first act was to try and move the team to Providence and get a new stadium built, using ‘other people’s money’ (read Rhode Island taxpayers). Mover and shaker James Skeffington was the driving force for that plan and House Representative Nicholas Mattiello was all for it, even though it was a bad deal for RI taxpayers. All the political dominos were in place for the deal but then Skeffington died, and so did the re-location plan.

This year, it was obvious that time was of the essence in getting a new Pawtucket stadium deal plan in place.William Conley of the Senate had town hall meetings, economists weighed in and a financing plan was passed in the Senate. However now Speaker of the House Mattiello wasn’t going along with that Senate passed plan. Mattiello waited until almost the closing of the House session to introduce a bill that undercut the Senate’s plan by removing the backing of the state vis-a-vis the bonds to be borrowed. That would have significantly raised the costs of borrowing.

Governor Gina Raimondo is also a culprit in the loss of the Pawtucket Red Sox as she stood on the sidelines observing rather than making sure that the Senate deal passed the House. Raimondo doesn’t care. She will still probably win re-election and she still has Point Judith Capital, her hedge fund, which has money invested in our state pension fund (with an option for next year too).

My hope is that Nicholas Mattiello loses his election in November to Stephen Frias, the Republican. I’d rather have the devil I don’t know as the new Speaker of the House as I definitely detest the current devil, Mattiello. Of course, Mattiello will probably then become a lobbyist in the General Assembly. That’s how it goes in the Biggest Little.


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