Fast Friday 5: Chris Sale, Red Sox prove money talks even in a pandemic

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Five fun Friday mini-columns from the world of (mostly) Boston sports for the price of one free click!

 

This past Monday, Red Sox ace Chris Sale flew to California to have Tommy John surgery performed by Dr. Neal ElAttrache at the Kerlan-Jobe Institute in Los Angeles.

During a pandemic.

While most of the country is living under some form of stay-at-home order.

As the majority of states banned or advised against any elective surgeries.

Yet, there was Sale under the knife for what was, make no mistake, an elective surgery. One that he and the Sox elected against late last season and again earlier this spring training.

But now, suddenly, with the coronavirus taking full hold of the lives of so many, Sale just had to get surgery.

Why is Sale allowed to leave his house, travel and have elective surgery while most of us have been asked by our state and national government as well as the CDC to NOT do such things?

Same reason that the Utah Jazz could have the entirety of their organization tested for the coronavirus immediately during the early stages of the pandemic in the U.S. while it was such a struggle for so many others, many of whom never did and never will get tested.

Money. Fame. Power.

In good times and bad, this world is about the haves and the have nots.

Sale and the Red Sox brazenly and blatantly proved that yet again.

Oh, and why didn’t the most famous, reputable orthopedic surgeon on the planet, Dr. James Andrews, do Sale’s surgery?

A spokesman for Andrews told the Boston Globe that his clinic “suspended elective procedures to comply with an executive order from Florida’s governor Ron DeSantis related to the pandemic.”

Huh, what a novel, noble idea!

Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom did his best to defend what he clearly knew would be a questionable, suspect and much-criticized surgery.

“It was important to all of us to do this in a way that would not place any undue burden on anyone suffering due to coronavirus,” Bloom said. “I spoke to Dr. ElAttrache personally to make sure that was the case here and he is just as mindful of the considerations that go along with surgery at a time like this.”

Do kids playing pickup basketball on the local courts place “undue burden on anyone suffering due to coronavirus”? Nope. Same for so many activities we’ve been requested to put on hold these days. And most of us lowly, rank-and-file citizens have done so for the long-term betterment of our society. For the health of others, even if we may not directly have an effect on that health.

“We know this is not life and death and that there are people who are suffering in situations that are life and death,” Bloom also said.

Nope, it wasn’t life and death. Also wasn’t affecting his livelihood. Sale is in the first season of a five-year, $145 million contract that’s fully guaranteed. Unlike so many in this world, Sale’s livelihood is just fine.

Sure, maybe getting the surgery done a few months earlier allows him to return to the field earlier in 2021.

Of course it would also have been even earlier if he’d elected to have the surgery last summer.

Instead he and the Red Sox waited, took their time and elected to have the surgery during a pandemic with the rest of the world shutting down around them.

Did anyone die because Sale flew west and had surgery? Probably not.

Even if he hadn’t had the surgery, would ElAttrache have donated the masks, gloves and other protective equipment used to places like New York City hospitals on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic in the U.S. where stock of PPE is tragically low? Probably not.

But that doesn’t matter.

We’ve all been asked as states and a nation to refrain from unnecessary travel, to stay home, to practice social distancing and to put off elective surgeries.

Most of us are abiding by those rules.

But not Sale.

He’s a rich and privileged athlete.

He throws a ball really hard.

He plays for the almighty Boston Red Sox!

The rules don’t apply to him, apparently.

 

‘Kids have become human weights’

Stress-reducing trips to gym are one of the things we’ve all lost.

But for professional athletes, working out isn’t a hobby or a way to relax, it’s their job.

They, like the rest of us, are adjusting on the fly at home these days. Making the best of what they have, even putting family members to use in some workouts.

“That’s the unique challenge that we’re facing right now. My wife would be the first one to tell you I’ve got a dozen apparatuses all around the house. The kids have become human weights and we’re making do with what we have here at home,” Patriots special teams captain Matthew Slater said this week. “Certainly, you have the ability to go out and run by yourself and do that when the coast is clear, so to speak, but you have to be resourceful in ways that you never thought you’d have to be resourceful in. Again, it really puts things in perspective. I’m thankful to be healthy, I’m thankful to have a home to go to, I’m thankful that I have a family to support me during this time and we’re going to count our blessings and stay as positive as we possibly can and make do with what we have and not complaining about it, so that’s what I’ve been doing.”

Some of us pulled out some old weights in the basement to try to stay active, and Patriots running back James White can sympathize.

“Obviously it’s a little different time right now with a crisis going on, so just doing what I can,” White said via Zoom from his Florida home. “I’m fortunate enough to have a treadmill, a couple dumbbells, things of that nature and it’s warm out here so I can run outside. I’m just trying to do what I can, make the most of the situation, trying to stay in shape for whenever things get back rolling.”

 

Brian Hoyer competing to be Patriots’ opening day starter?

After Brian Hoyer signed with New England to begin a third tour of duty in Foxborough his agent indicated that part of the reason he chose to return to the Patriots was a chance to compete with second-year backup Jarrett Stidham for the starting job in the wake of Tom Brady taking his talents to Tampa Bay.

This week, on Dale & Keefe on WEEI radio, NBC Sports Boston Patriots insider Tom E. Curran outlined his vision for the scenario in which Hoyer might indeed be New England’s opening day starter.

“I could see, ‘Run the ball, play defense, let Brian take care of business and Jarrett, don’t worry about it, we still love you.’ But don’t send him out there to fail, which could conceivably be a primetime game and (he could) get his head kicked in.”

Maybe Curran’s vision is right and maybe Hoyer will indeed compete for the job. But it’s a terrible plan.

Certainly the likely lack of OTAs and a traditional offseason will hinder Stidham’s development. But he has been in New England for a year and spent the entirety of last season in the backup role in Foxborough. He should be somewhat entrenched in the offense and comfortable working with coordinator Josh McDaniels. Certainly the two can connect via Zoom or FaceTime in the coming weeks and months in an effort to gain at least some mental growth.

Starting Hoyer to open the year, in the first game after the Brady Era, would be a dismal display. It would fuel those who believe that Belichick had no post-Brady plan.

It’s also hard to fathom that the team can lean on a running game that struggled mightily a year ago and a defense that faded against real competition last fall and lost two of its key contributors this spring in Kyle Van Noy and Jamie Collins.

The 34-year-old Hoyer is what he is. He’s not without talent, but he’s proven over 11 NFL seasons that he’s a journeyman backup. He has a career completion percentage below 60.

He offers no hope.

New England needs to figure out what it has in Stidham. As Belichick loves to remind us, Stidham was one play away from playing all last season. He should be the guy on opening day. After all, the guy he’d be replacing won the Super Bowl when thrown to the wolves his second season.

Aside from a significant addition to the quarterback depth chart, for better or worse the Patriots should sink or swim with Stidham at this point. Playing Hoyer would be just spinning your wheels on the way to failure.

 

Staying hopeful

The Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association released its plans this week for a potential spring sports season that hinges upon Governor Charlie Baker’s current projection that kids throughout the state could return to school on May 4.

Whether Baker’s plan or the MIAA’s blueprints for a shorted high school spring sports season are realistic or not is impossible to know at this point. The world changes seemingly on an hourly, daily and weekly basis.

In many ways May 4 is a lifetime away in this coronavirus controlled world that we’re all living in.

But at this point, realistic or not, May 4 represents hope. Hope that the kids will return to school. Hope that we’ll begin to settle back into some normalcy, whatever normalcy is moving forward.

And as the MIAA and school sports go, so go youth sports. So May 4 also represents hope that baseball diamonds and lacrosse fields everywhere will be opened up and put back to use, kids running, playing and doing anything other than the stay-at-home social distancing that’s ruling their lives these days.

May 4.

Stars Wars Day to some.

A day of new hope for us all.

In fact, isn’t that the name of one of the movies, “Star Wars: A New Hope”?

That can’t be a coincidence, can it?

May the 4th be with us all.

 

Krafts, Patriots doing good

You hate to measure or compare charitable efforts and actions at a time like this, but the good work that Robert Kraft and the Patriots have done in light of the coronavirus pandemic has been tremendous. At a time when some are cutting costs and making questionable decisions, New England’s football team is stepping up.

Bill Belichick and his players put together a PSA urging fans to make good decisions – Together While Apart – in this unique time.

The Kraft family, the Patriots Foundation and the Revolution Charitable Foundation teamed up with the Massachusetts Military Support Foundation to hand out 1.4 million meals to active duty military, veterans and their families.

Kraft, and his son Jonathan, then led an effort to use the Patriots’ team plane to secure and transport 1.2 million masks from China to the U.S. That included 300,000 masks being shipped to New York City, the epicenter of the pandemic in this country.

As a local nurse joked to WBZ TV, “Mr. Kraft, I forgive you for not signing Tom Brady. This is much more important to me.”

The arrival of the masks at Logan Airport left Gov. Baker emotional in giving thanks to the Patriots and Kraft family.

“Jonathan .... honestly we can't thank you and your dad and your family enough for answering the call and helping make this happen,” Baker said.

Kraft, who has been known as a unifier over the years in NFL negotiations of all sorts, including the 2011 CBA lookout that looked so dire until he stepped in, is once again stepping up for his community.

“We agreed to buy the masks and give them to the people of the City of New York just to try to bring some hope and goodwill and let people know we’re trying to bring everything together and generate some good feelings,” Robert Kraft said.

In these tough times, those not only doing the right thing but those going above and beyond deserve credit and recognition. That certainly applies to Kraft and the Patriots.