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Sunday Mail: What do you get for Mariano Rivera, the closer who has everything?

Posted by Chad Finn, Globe Staff  September 15, 2013 10:12 AM

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LEADING OFF

I'm sure Dr. Charles Steinberg and his merry band of party planners will come up with an appropriate way to pay homage to Mariano Rivera tonight as the retiring Yankees legend makes what sure looks like his final appearance at Fenway Park.

During Rivera's graceful farewell tour, during which he's so thoughtfully gone out of his way to say hello before he says goodbye, the bar for departing gifts has been set by the Twins, who gave him a rocking chair made out of broken bats:

That's just awesome. No original, wrote-it-in-the-cab-ride-from-Logan song by Terry Cashman is ever going to top that -- especially since Rivera doesn't rhyme with much besides Santa Clara and "This one goes out to Steve Karsay" is hardly a lyric that sparks nostalgia and reverie.

With Rivera being the Red Sox' most respected opponent of his generation -- unlike Derek Jeter, he deserved every accolade he ever received -- this tribute tonight must be special. Like I said, I believe Dr. Charles will get it right. But in case he's still looking for a few suggests for a gift for Rivera, well, I've got a few:

* A chance to setup for Koji Uehara in the playoffs.

* One more opportunity to see if he can get Bill Mueller out in a big situation.

* A knit cap made out of all of the Red Sox' hitters beard shavings.

* The red Thunderbird the Sox bought a retiring Rickey Henderson, only to have him call it ugly and deem it "an old man's car."

* A second pitch.

Aw, I kid. As we learned with Rivera on Opening Day 2005 -- the moment when he really won over Sox fans -- he has a winning willingness to play along with a joke at his expense. It's telling that his response to a mock standing ovation that day -- a huge smile and a tip of the cap -- is the moment Sox fans discuss most from that remarkable day.

Here's to one more salute to the last man to wear No. 42, the last active player born in the '60s, and the rarest of rare, a Yankees legend who is as respected at Fenway as he is at his home ballpark.

A tip of the cap to you, Mo. Oh, and that offer to set up for Uehara is open-ended.

THE MAILBOX

I think Ben Cherington needs to get more credit for what he has done with this team. He has absolutely ACED his tenure so far in my opinion.

After enduring a hellacious 2012 with knucklehead Bobby Valentine at the helm (which was not Ben�s decision), he turned this entire franchise from worst to first in less than a year.

victorinofinn915.JPGHe makes that crazy trade last year, shipping out three of the biggest names on the roster for a couple of prospects (who haven�t even really had a chance to make an impact yet). Maybe not quite on the level of the gutsy Nomar trade of 2004, but still up there in terms of savvy trades. Effectively just got rid of three stars for nothing in return except maybe a better clubhouse. Then he goes out and signs a couple of decent players (Mike Napoli, Shane Victorino, Koji Uehara) and fringe-ball players (Jonny Gomes, Stephen Drew, Mike Carp, Ryan Dempster, Craig Breslow). He hits on some solid trades without giving up too much in return (Jake Peavy, Quintin Berry), and sticks with a few no-name call-ups that they end up relying on heavily (Daniel Nava, Brandon Workman, JunichiTazawa). And pretty much every move made has worked out, and worked out better than expected. What else can you say about Uehara, the THIRD closer they�ve gone to, who is now arguably the best closer in the AL if not the game? I can�t think of any player, starter or bench guy, who can be considered a real disappointment.

Looking at this roster going into the season, you may have felt good about Dustin Pedroia, Napoli, Jon Lester, Will Middlebrooks and maybe David Ortiz, but that is about it. I don�t think anyone could have looked at this roster in April and saw anything more than 85 wins, best case. What they have done is incredible, and I think Cherington doesn�t get nearly enough credit. Call it a small sample if you want, but to me, he has already outshone Theo as a GM (I�ll give Theo his due for 03/04 but after that, his record is not great�many more misses than hits).
-- Joe R.

Long note, good points, couple of thoughts:

1. Cherington does deserve more credit than he is receiving. Especially from those who wanted him to eschew singing these upper-middle-class, respected, recently productive winning veterans for a bauble like Josh Hamilton. It's as if the Carl Crawford lesson never resonated.

2. Uehara is actually their fourth closer -- Tazawa got a brief crack at it before he did. So weird to think Uehara pitched as early as the sixth inning at the beginning of the season.

3. Don't forget to give Theo credit for '07. That was a pretty good year, if I recall, though I suppose the Josh Beckett/Mike Lowell deal wasn't his.

4. Stephen Drew is not fringe! He's a top-five offensive shortstop in the majors! (You knew I was going to say that.)

5. The most impressive thing Cherington has done is resist the temptation to stand out on Yawkey Way some night at 6:30 or so and yell, "I told you so! You all should have listened to me in the first place! And that goes for ... that goes for everything! Especially hiring Bobby V.!"

Why do the Red Sox announcers always say, Jackie Bradley Jr. or Bradley Jr. and not just Jackie Bradley, or Bradley. It's driving my bride crazy, as much as Derek Lowe said "You know ..."
-- Michael G.

I don't know, man, I like it. It's a cool name, and a cool name to say -- Jackie Bradley Jr., three words, two syllables per word, the same consonant leading off the first and last word. I think announcers just like saying it. I admit it's weird to refer to him as "Bradley Jr." -- his last name suffices there. But I'll never have any issue with him using the Junior and honoring his dad.

As for the Lowe part, a quick, embarrassing story. I've done a few recurring weekly radio hits in Maine and New Hampshire for, I don't know, six or seven years now. Back when this thing was on blogspot and had nine readers a day. Anyway, after one of the spots, the program director called me, we talked about some stuff, and then he said, "Oh, you should be aware of how often you say, 'You know." I replied, "Uh, you know, OK," or something like that. He then added: "You said it 23 times during the last segment." The segment was about 12 minutes long. I was horrified, not to mention ticked that he actually sat there counting them rather than ever mentioning it before. So, yeah, I'm probably a little more willing than most to give D-Lowe the benefit of the doubt on the "You know" disease.

Let's grab one more off Twitter ...


He's probably skated a little, Ryan, because it's just two games and they've had so many unexpected personnel issues already that he's probably getting the benefit of the doubt for now. I mean, they're without their top five receivers from a year ago, as everyone knows, and the attrition has carried into the season. Their two best offensive players from Week 1 -- Danny Amendola and Shane Vereen -- didn't see the field in Week 2 because of injury. That's tough for any team to deal with. I do think McDaniels will get more heat if and when they lose a game soon and the young receivers still look like they've never heard of this playbook thing Tom Brady keeps yelling at them about, but hey, at least Aaron Dobson and Kembrell Thompkins can get open, which is a start. McDaniels can be frustrating sometimes -- he's too quick to abandon the run against good teams -- but generally he's done a tremendous job here. My one significant question about him comes to personnel -- he seems to have a major say in who they bring in, and too many players he's been familiar with have underachieved or done nothing here (Brandon Lloyd, Greg Salas, Tim Tebow, Michael Hoomanawanui). Makes me wonder if he wanted Amendola more than Wes Welker.

THIS WEEK IN ANCIENT MEDIA GUIDES

The guide: 2003 Patriots.

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Not the most inspired design, but I'm fine with Maine looming as large as all the other New England states put together.

The discovery: Not so much of a discovery as a reminder. The 2003 Patriots draft was an excellen one -- maybe not as excellent as it seemed at first, when Eugene Wilson and Bethel Johnson were useful players on back-to-back Super Bowl champions, but excellent nonetheless. First-rounder Ty Warren spent eight seasons with the Patriots and was a high-quality player when healthy. Fourth-rounder Asante Samuel is one of the best ballhawks of his generation despite his hands abandoning him at the most crucial moment of his Patriots career. Fifth-rounder Dan Koppen was the starting center for nine seasons. Seventh-rounder Tully Banta-Cain made a nice living as a decent pash-rusher for a number of years. But the biggest star they drafted that season never played a down for them:

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Kliff Kingsbury was the Patriots' sixth-round pick (201st) overall in '03. He spent his only season with New England on injured reserve, bounced around from practice squad to practice squad for a couple of years, then went into coaching. We best know him now as the Gosling-wannabe head coach at his alma mater, Texas Tech. (But not at Texas A&M, like some idiot wrote earlier.)

Until next Sunday, the mailbox is closed. Entrance music and exit music, please:

Exit light/Enter night/Take my hand/We're off to never never-land ...

About Touching All The Bases

Irreverence and insight from Chad Finn, a Globe/Boston.com sports writer and media columnist. A winner of several national and regional writing awards, he is the founder and sole contributor to the TATB blog, which launched in December 2004. Yes, he realizes how lucky he is.

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