Picked-up pieces along the baseball trail . . .
■ Red Sox baseball boss Dave Dombrowski is expected to be in New York Sunday to interview Houston Astros bench coach Alex Cora for the Sox’ managerial opening. The 41-year-old Cora played 14 major league seasons, 3½ under then-Red Sox manager Terry Francona from 2005-08. Cora will be in New York Sunday with the Astros, during the day off between Games 2 and 3 of the American League Championship Series featuring Houston and the New York Yankees.
■ I’ve read that the Red Sox should hire Cora (I agree). I’ve read that the Red Sox should hire Gabe Kapler. I’ve read that the Red Sox must hire a minority candidate when they fill their managerial opening. Truly, none of us have any idea whom Dombrowski will hire. Evidently, Brad Ausmus is not the front-runner we thought he might be.
Whomever the Sox hire, it’s important that the new guy establish up front that he is the boss and will not let David Price run the team. That was not the message during the 2017 Sox season, which ended in epic underachievement. There are fans who think the Price-Dennis Eckersley issue is a media-only topic that should be put to bed. Dombrowski certainly sent that message when he refused to discuss the dustup at the news conference announcing John Farrell’s firing. Too bad, Dave. This topic doesn’t go away because the Red Sox never fixed it.
They never got Price to do the right thing and they never punished the Boston-hating lefty. Price’s applauding teammates could only assume that Price did a good thing for them. It poisoned the clubhouse. The same toxicity will carry into next year (when does Price start complaining about not enough first-class seating on team charters?) unless the new manager delivers a message stipulating, “That’s no longer tolerated here. We expect our players to act professionally.’’ This sentiment was sadly lacking under the weak leadership of the Red Sox in 2017.
■ Who knew that Craig Kimbrel had Calvin Schiraldi eyes?
■ Sorry, but there is just no good reason for a 4-hour-37-minute nine-inning baseball game (Cubs, 9-8 over Nationals, Thursday). I love baseball, but it’s become impossible to defend the sport when folks complain about the hideously long games. Washington fans had to stay up past 12:30 a.m. to see if their team would advance. Stop the madness.
■ Francona (who has his own problems now that he’s lost six straight elimination games) had this telling quote when he heard of Farrell’s firing: “I do think for whatever reason, that place is a little crazy . . . I think he’ll probably end up feeling like he’s in a better place, because I think that place can age you a little bit.’’ Continuing on this theme, we have Dombrowski’s answer when he was asked about the scrutiny of Boston: “I’ve had really qualified managers that I know and respect that said they would not manage in Boston.’’ Wow. So I guess we’re not making it up when we speak of the dreaded Boston Baseball Experience.
■ When 5-foot-6-inch Jose Altuve hit three homers in a single playoff game against the Red Sox, old-timers noted that a guy shorter than Altuve once hit three homers in a single game against Boston: shortstop Freddie Patek. The 5-5 Patek never hit more than six homers in any season, but in a single game in 1980 he hit three homers for the Angels against the Sox at Fenway.
■ Television networks can’t complain about small markets in the playoffs this year. The final four teams standing hail from the four largest cities in America: New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Houston.
■ I hate the cheesy replays on the close plays on the bases when fielders hold the tag and wait to see if a safe base runner slips off the bag for a millisecond. This is what happened to the doomed Nationals in Game 5 Thursday, and it is not the spirit of the rule, nor the spirit of the game. Washington’s Jose Lobaton got to the bag ahead of Willson Contreras’s throw and that should have been the end of it. But the Nats fell victim to instant replay and it was a horrible way to end the eighth inning of an epic Game 5.
■ The New York Times asked Yankees third baseman Todd Frazier about going through life hearing Howard Cosell’s “Down Goes Frazier!’’ every time he fails. Frazier spoke of a minor league series in Georgia in which he went 0 for 15 and heard it over the PA system after every out. “Fifteen straight times — ‘Down Goes Frazier!’ ’’ he recalled. “I got out the 15th time in the ninth inning. I’m in the clubhouse, and I told the clubhouse guy I want the name and number of that guy. I never got to him, but that was the only time it rattled me.’’
■ Poor Dusty Baker. The affable Nationals manager has managed more than 3,500 games and he’s still waiting for that elusive championship. He was Cubs manager for the Steve Bartman game back in 2003. He’s been to the playoffs with the Giants, Cubs, Reds, and Nationals. At 68, he is the oldest manager in the game. Baker won a ring with the Dodgers as a player in 1981, but that’s it — in 13 trips to the postseason. Thursday’s 4-1 lead dissolved in a clown show of errors, the horrible call in the eighth, and a rare routing of Max Scherzer in relief.
■ Hall of Famer Tom Seaver was among those who had to abandon his Napa Valley home (and vineyard) during the northern California wildfires.
■ If you take away his 19 games against the Red Sox, Aaron Judge batted .305, slugged .684, and had an on-base percentage of .441 and an OPS of 1.125 in his rookie season. Only Babe Ruth and Ted Williams have a higher career OPS (courtesy of Bill Chuck).
■ Bob Gibson pitched eight complete games in nine World Series starts. Something tells me we will never see that again.
■ The cover of the June 25, 2014, issue of Sports Illustrated featured a photo of the Astros’ George Springer and a headline, “Your 2017 World Series Champs.’’
■ Anybody else hit the mute button every time that Hyundai “Sweet Caroline’’ commercial comes on during the baseball playoffs?