We haven’t been in the winner’s circle since.
It’s a dry spell that could end if the suddenly sizzling, flavor-of-the-month Boston Celtics can win three more series and pour champagne late next month. The Celtics have been the best team in basketball since January. This feels like their time.
The Green’s playoff march started with a stunning four-game sweep of the No No (Nan) Nets. Round 2 begins Sunday afternoon at the Garden against the defending world champion Milwaukee Bucks, who will be without their second-best player, Khris Middleton (MCL sprain).
The Celtics have home-court advantage and a ton of momentum. It’s not going to be easy, but it’s realistic to imagine them beating the Bucks, Heat, and Warriors to win the franchise’s 18th banner.
We haven’t experienced a real title dry spell since that Loserville gap between the 1986 Celtics and the 2001-02 Patriots. And that, of course, is nothing compared with what’s happened in championship-starved cities like San Diego and Buffalo.
But three-plus years is a long time for us in this new century. So we ask, “Why not the Celtics? Why not now?”
▪ Quiz: Six of the current 30 MLB franchises have never won a World Series. Name them (answer below).
▪ I went to the front desk of my massive Marriott in downtown Brooklyn last weekend, asking where I might buy a Sunday New York Times. The young man behind the desk responded as if I had asked for a Victrola turntable to play 78 RPM records.
Now I’m worried that this is how the rest of the NFL perceives Bill Belichick when Hoodie selects an offensive lineman from Chattanooga (Cole Strange) with New England’s late first-round pick. When the pick was announced, the Rams’ young Super Bowl-winning coach, Sean McVay, burst into laughter and said, “We wasted our time watching him, thinking he’d be available at 104, maybe.”
▪ Chaim Bloom’s April roster construction was pathetic. Here’s your Red Sox lineup, batters 4 through 8, against the Blue Jays Thursday, Game 20 of the season: Kiké Hernández, .194; JBJ, .173; Christian Arroyo, .182; Bobby Dalbec, .161; Travis Shaw, .000. Travis Shaw has no batting average. All courses incomplete. And now his whereabouts are unknown. He was DFA’d Friday.
The Mendoza Line All-Stars were shut out, 1-0, the Sox’ seventh loss in nine games.
So let’s ask: 1. What is the fascination with Arroyo? 2. How does Dalbac stay in the bigs? 3. Where did Matt Barnes’ fastball go? 4. Why is a big-market team stocked with so many castoffs and rejects?
▪ Royals outfielder Andrew Benintendi went into the weekend batting .393, tops in the American League. Tell me again why Bloom had to deal him for Franchy Cordero and prospects?
▪ More bashing of HBO’s “Winning Time” from the writers and directors of the film “Airplane,” which featured Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. The folks from the 1980 film wanted to correct a scene in “Winning Time” that depicted the actor playing Jabbar telling a small child to “[expletive] off,” during the filming of “Airplane.” According to the writers and directors, Abdul-Jabbar never did anything of the sort while making the film. Maybe Kareem should join Jerry West and ask for a retraction.
▪ Hate to hear media members lobbing softballs at a disgraceful Kyrie Irving, starting off Irving’s Monday’s postmortem presser asking, “After all you guys went through this year …”
Really? After all you went through?
It’s not as if Irving was an innocent bystander to the Nets’ blown-up season. He is the one who did it. He made his choice.
Irving complaining about everything the Nets “went through” is like the proverbial guy who kills both of his parents, then wants sympathy because he’s an orphan. The Nets’ train wreck was not random bad luck. It was one guy who chose not to help his team.
▪ Speaking of not being willing to help your team, say hello to Chris Sale, Tanner Houck, Josh Taylor, and Kutter Crawford, the anti-vax Red Sox who put their personal freedom ahead of their professional obligations as the Red Sox drove toward the base this week. Personal freedom no doubt cost the Sox a couple of games in the nose dive through Tampa and Toronto.
Tyler Danish, called up to replace Houck, was forced into a tie game in the eighth inning Monday in Toronto and surrendered a single and a game-losing grand slam. The next night, the depleted bullpen spit the bit, blowing a three-run lead in the ninth, then losing it in the 10th.
The bullpen is depleted because Garrett Whitlock has to start because Houck won’t get the shot. Thanks, Tanner. On Thursday, the Sox got three meaningless innings from Whitlock in the 1-0 loss. Whitlock should have been available to close the door Monday but … Houck made that impossible.
Crawford won’t get vaccinated? Seriously? You are 26 years old, with six games of big league experience, and you willingly make yourself unavailable for a big April series against the Blue Jays? See ya. There are a lot of Triple A pitchers who would do anything for a chance to pitch a game in the big leagues.
Wonder what Ted Williams — who lost five years of his career serving his country in two wars — would think of Kutter Crawford?
As for Sale, if the overpaid, low-producing lefty won’t get vaccinated to help his team after he recovers from his broken rib, he deserves a place alongside Carl Crawford and Pablo Sandoval among the worst contracts given to Red Sox players in this century.
Sale has won a grand total of 11 games since signing a $145 million contract extension in the spring of 2019. That’s 11 wins in four seasons, including three against the Orioles. The Sox play in Toronto again in July and at the end of the year in September. Your move, Chris.
▪ Boston College is going through athletic directors the way George Steinbrenner used to go through managers. Since Gene DeFilippo stepped down after 15 years in 2012, the Eagles have been led by Brad Bates, Martin Jarmond, and Patrick Kraft, and now Kraft is leaving for Penn State after less than two years on the job.
There’s some alumni support to hire Mike Mayock, a former general manager of the Las Vegas Raiders and a BC alum. The Eagles need to stop allowing themselves to be a launching pad for candidates with their eyes on a bigger job.
▪ Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva — the guy who broomed Tiger Woods’s 87 mph car crash last year (I think he asked for Tiger’s autograph) — was back in the news last week, investigating an LA Times reporter who reported an alleged coverup by Villanueva of intimate abuse. Seems like it helps to be famous if you break the law on Villanueva’s watch. The Times characterized Villanueva’s investigation into its reporter as an “attempt to criminalize news reporting.”
▪ It was fun to hear the great Dennis Eckersley praising Blue Jays pitcher Keving Gausman the other day. After four starts, Gausman had zero walks and 31 strikeouts for the season.
Not bad, right? But Eck did not remind anyone that when he was the Cy Young and MVP in 1992, he walked only 11 with 93 strikeouts in 80 innings, saving 51 games. In 1990, Eck walked four batters and struck out 73 in 73⅓ innings, saving 48.
▪ Max Scherzer, scheduled to start for the Mets on “Sunday Night Baseball,” hasn’t lost a regular-season game in 336 days.
▪ When the Red Sox beat the White Sox, 9-5, at Fenway on April 27, 1963, the game featured two pitchers who played in the NBA. Gene Conley, Bill Russell’s backup, pitched four innings for the Sox. Knicks Hall of Famer Dave DeBusschere retired Yaz on a popup but yielded a three-run homer to Frank Malzone.
▪ No network cuts to commercials faster than NESN during Red Sox games.
▪ Nets big man Nic Claxton went 4 for 22 from the free throw line in four games against the Celtics. Boston’s point differential in the sweep was 18. In other words, if Claxton made all of his free throws, the Celtics and Nets would have scored the same number of points in the first four games and the teams probably would still be playing.
▪ Congratulations to Dighton Rehoboth baseball coach Bill Cuthbertson, who recently registered his 600th win in a 9-2 victory over Bourne.
▪ Going to Fenway Tuesday to see Shohei Ohtani is worth the price of admission.
▪ Quiz answer: San Diego Padres, Milwaukee Brewers, Colorado Rockies, Texas Rangers, Tampa Bay Rays, Seattle Mariners (the only team never to make it to the Fall Classic).
Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @dan_shaughnessy.