Red Sox

Tony La Russa: Bill Belichick's still 'got that fire'

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Tony La Russa: Bill Belichick's still 'got that fire'

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Tony La Russa won 2,728 regular-season games and three World Series before retiring as a field manager in 2011. The Red Sox special assistant was 67 years old when he walked away from the St. Louis Cardinals’ dugout, wrapping up a Hall of Fame career -- and he’s still working in baseball now.

Bill Belichick turns 66 in April. The two legends happen to be old friends who have visited each other on the job, and La Russa believes Belichick can keep going.

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"I think he could do it as long as he wants to do,” La Russa said. “I think as long as his fire’s burning, and evidently, when you see the results he’s getting, he’s got that fire everyday, from the first day of the offseason, right now, 'til the next one. So, I never ask him. I don’t think he -- one thing you learn about him, he’s really in the present, right? It’s what happens today he’s all about. I wouldn’t try to distract him.

“I got a whole bunch of coaches that are friends that have gotten to know Bill, and we’re all amazed year in and year out, and I think we’re more amazed in this year than ever. The expectations coming back after winning the Super Bowl, slow start, the way they kept everything together and improved, and played a lot of tough games, come from behind -- I mean the guts of that team, and everything that he and his staff preach . . . It’s really, it’s a model for the rest of us.”

La Russa said he usually sends Belichick a text during the week, and a few days later he’ll respond.

“He just, he knows that he’s got 100 percent support,” La Russa said. “At the end of the year that was a tough loss but, still, you know, if you can feel good losing, that would be one of ‘em. Because they came back again and almost pulled it off. Sometimes you just give the other side credit and then they got outplayed in the end.”

The Red Sox are no strangers to controversies and media storms, but the Patriots have been the center of everyone’s attention, locally and nationally. Can La Russa empathize?

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"I think what you learn is you know the media’s a big part of the environment that you choose to be involved with as a coach, player, staff member, whatever, the manager,” La Russa said. “If that bothers you, you got to do something else for a living. No free lunch. All the attention means a lot of people are paying attention and your revenue for the sport and it gets into players’ pockets and coaches do pretty well. 

“I think the environment now is, you win, you’re going to get some credit. You lose, somebody’s going to say you should’ve done that differently. Bill’s really strong and he keeps a strong team and I didn’t see any excuses. I think he just gave credit to the Eagles and that’s the way it should be.”

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But . . . should Malcolm Butler have been in there?

“Well, I think the coach has proven that whatever his decisions are, he’s doing for the best for the team," La Russa said. "And I’ll go with the coach.”

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How two missing setup men have created a cascade of woe for Red Sox

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How two missing setup men have created a cascade of woe for Red Sox

For two rookies who weren't on anyone's radar until about this time last year, Darwinzon Hernandez and Josh Taylor have turned out to be massive losses for the Red Sox.

The two young power left-handers stabilized the bullpen over the final two months of 2019, with Hernandez striking out batters at a record rate and Taylor emerging as an every-other-day workhorse.

Hernandez struck out a staggering 57 in just 30.1 innings (16.9 K/9), with a 4.45 ERA. In 23 appearances from July 16 through Sept. 6, he posted a 2.31 ERA. Taylor, meanwhile, was even more consistent. He delivered a 3.04 ERA in 57 appearances, and from July 2 through the finale, allowed only eight runs in 40 innings.

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Both feature 95-mph fastballs and both figured to play expanded roles in this truncated season, but when spring training 2.0 began in July, both were missing because of failed COVID tests. Taylor quarantined in his hotel near Fenway Park while battling fatigue. Hernandez remained in his native Venezuela for the first three weeks of July.

They're both now in Pawtucket, facing hitters for the first time in months. Each threw live BP over the weekend, and Taylor could be activated this week, manager Ron Roenicke said on Friday in New York.

The trickle-down effect has been significant. Roenicke has had little answer for innings two through five, relying on lesser arms like Austin Brice, Zack Godley, Matt Hall, and Jeffrey Springs either to serve as openers or bridge the gap to more established relievers like Marcus Walden, Heath Hembree, Matt Barnes, and closer Brandon Workman.

As a result, on the days Nathan Eovaldi doesn't start, the Red Sox have finished the fifth inning trailing by an average score of 5-2.

A healthy Hernandez and Taylor could alter that dynamic in two ways. First, one of them could start and contribute as an opener. Roenicke said the Red Sox are stretching out Hernandez to throw two or three innings, which would make him a more dynamic candidate for the role than some of the flotsam the Red Sox have been forced to feature in his absence.

But even if both remained relievers, they'd either be available to throw in the early innings instead of Springs (33.75 ERA) or Hall (15.43 ERA), or they could bump someone like Walden or Hembree down there. Ten games into the season, too many games have already been lost before Roenicke could even warm his better relievers.

With the lack of legitimate starting pitchers forcing Roenicke to finesse his way through four out of every five games, the Red Sox can ill afford to enter battle without their full complement of weapons. Who knew that two guys we had barely heard of early last season would end up being such pivotal missing pieces?

Yankees' Aaron Judge set an MLB record during huge series vs. Red Sox

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Yankees' Aaron Judge set an MLB record during huge series vs. Red Sox

The Boston Red Sox just got swept by their nemesis, but hey, at least they were part of history.

The Red Sox fell 9-7 to the Yankees on Sunday night after New York slugger Aaron Judge belted a go-ahead, two run home run off Matt Barnes in the eighth inning.

The blast actually was Judge's second of the game and fourth in the three-game Red Sox-Yankees series alone. What's even more impressive (unless you're a Sox fan) is that all four of Judge's homers vs. Boston gave New York the lead.

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Judge also hit a go-ahead long ball against the Baltimore Orioles last Thursday, which means his second dinger Sunday set a Major League Baseball record.

Oh, and Judge also has an MLB-leading six home runs in eight games, tied with Alex Rodriguez for the most in Yankees franchise history through the first eight contests of the season.

Judge has done most of his damage this season against the Red Sox' inept pitching staff, using Ryan Weber, Zack Godley, Matt Hall and Barnes as launching pads during his historic start.

If Sox fans want a silver lining, at least Boston actually had a couple leads before Judge intervened. That's been a rare occurrence during the Red Sox' 3-7 start, which has them in the American League basement with one sixth of their season gone by.