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Mastrodonato: Chris Sale hasn’t been a key contributor for the 2021 Red Sox, but he still can be

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Mastrodonato: Chris Sale hasn’t been a key contributor for the 2021 Red Sox, but he still can be

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Chris Sale has meant a lot to the Red Sox over the years, but this can also be true: Sale is pretty far down on the list of most important guys on the Sox’ playoff roster.

And it’s not just because he missed more than half the season recovering from Tommy John surgery.

Sale will take the ball against the Rays for Game 2 of the American League Division Series on Friday night, when he’ll be looking to prove his value to a team that didn’t use him in the Wild Card Game on Tuesday night and hasn’t seemed particularly encouraged by his performances this year.

Manager Alex Cora explained that Sale wasn’t in the bullpen Tuesday in part to protect his arm after coming back from Tommy John surgery.

Cora said Sale would be in the bullpen Thursday night, but it didn’t seem like he’d use him.

“With him we’re going to be very careful as far as if he is going to be in the bullpen or not, for obvious reasons, right?” Cora said. “But if it’s up to him, he probably would be out there. He will be in the bullpen today, but these guys are important for the present and obviously for the future of the organization. It’s been two years trying to get to this point, all the hard work, all the tears and sweat throughout the process. So we have to take care of him.”

Sale doesn’t want to be taken care of.

“It’s what we did in ’18,” Sale said of throwing out of the bullpen between postseason starts. “We were a little bit more prepared then because we could kind of rest some guys getting into the playoffs, but I mean there’s no reason to save an arm to go sit on the couch. This is all the baseball we have left, and we’re going to get to certain points in these series where tomorrow might not come, so if that’s the case and it’s what’s called upon, it’s my job. It’s what I signed up to do.”

Sale has actually pitched great in his two postseason relief appearances that occurred between starts, throwing a perfect eighth inning to secure a win against the Yankees in the ‘18 Division Series, and striking out the side in the ninth to close out the final game of the World Series against the Dodgers.

“I know a lot of people like to think about the glitz and the glam of what it’s like doing this, but the grit and the grind is what we’re here for,” he said. “And this is what we actually signed up to do, and this is what we live for, so if it’s the first 15, 18, 21 outs or the last two, three, six, whatever it is, we got a bunch of pitchers in there that have the same mindset. It doesn’t matter when or where. Just hand me the ball, and I’m going to sling it until you take it.”

It’s been a grind for Sale to get back to being the pitcher he once was.

His regular season numbers weren’t bad: 5-1, 3.16 ERA, 52 strikeouts, 12 walks in 42-2/3 innings. But seven of those starts were against losing teams, and the two other starts were against the Rays, who knocked him around for 16 hits and seven runs (three earned) in 9-2/3 innings.

He said his changeup has been a bad pitch for him and he’s been working on it all week ahead of this start.

He was also the first to acknowledge he hasn’t done a lot to contribute this year, especially after his ugly start against the Nationals in Game 162.

“I did absolutely nothing to help our team win,” he said. “I actually put us in a horrendous spot in that game, and our guys could have taken that one of two ways and gotten down after I went out there not doing what I was supposed to do and the plan not unfolding.

“Being down late in the game, coming back, rallying back, that was huge. I was obviously very appreciative of that because that would have been a not fun — been a not fun last game of the year.”

Sale knows he’s not the most important player on this team anymore. He’s not even in the top-five.

But a good start on Tuesday would still mean a lot for the Red Sox’ chances.

“I’m figuring this stuff out as we go,” he said. “I say it a lot. I’m not really fighting against anybody as much as I’m fighting against myself trying to sharpen my tools and make better pitches and be — like I said, just consistency.

“I had a lot of time off, you know, and with that comes a little bit of hiccups and things like that, but with who I have in my corner, obviously, the drive that I have myself and just the — it’s just relentless. It’s every day. Every single day I come here to get better.”

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Robbins: New winds change Mass. political landscape

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Robbins: New winds change Mass. political landscape

“The more things change, the more they stay the same,” wrote a French essayist in 1849, and the expression has become part of our common parlance. But it isn’t always true, and recent events have demonstrated that if the saying once applied to the norms of Massachusetts political life, it no longer does.

Ranked 15th among the states in population, the Bay State always punches well beyond its weight on the scale of national impact, which is why its political doings receive outsized attention. This makes sense: what happens in Massachusetts doesn’t always stay in Massachusetts, politically speaking. Four of America’s 46 presidents were born here, and seven others studied here. In the last nine presidential elections, three major party nominees – Michael Dukakis, John Kerry and Mitt Romney – were Massachusetts politicians. In 2020 alone, five candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination – Elizabeth Warren, Deval Patrick,  Michael Bloomberg, Seth Moulton and Bill De Blasio – were either Massachusetts officeholders or were raised here.

Then there are the armies of campaign operatives and public policy types that hail from the state. The result: Massachusetts politics is not only a local blood sport but an ongoing national spectacle. Just as a now defunct financial services company’s advertisements once proclaimed “When E. F. Hutton talks, people listen,” so too do political professionals ascribe tea leaf qualities to what happens here.

Two recent developments have generated national attention. The election of 36-year-old City Councilor Michelle Wu as Boston’s new mayor has excited young Bostonians and communities of color, punctuating their ascendancy. The daughter of Taiwanese immigrants, Wu’s election has made it clear that the days when white men ruled Boston’s roost are over. “The old Boston is gone,” Democratic strategist Mary Ann Marsh told the Washington Post last month, “and there’s a new Boston in terms of political power.”

Census figures tell part of the story. In 1970, 79.8% of Boston’s population was comprised of non-Hispanics whites. Now it is 44.6%. Only 2.6% of Bostonians were Hispanics; now it is 18.7%. Asian Americans numbered only 1.3% of the city’s population 50 years ago. Their proportional representation has increased almost tenfold since then.

Wu’s election has electrified Bostonians. Whip smart and seemingly limitless in her energy, the mother of two small children has been everywhere since winning the mayoralty four weeks ago. She doesn’t appear to have much choice in the matter: every group in every neighborhood in the city has been clamoring for her appearance at every ceremony that Boston’s robust holiday season has to offer, and there are a lot of them. This goes beyond the normal “Wouldn’t it be nice to have the mayor come?”; there is a slightly frenzied “Do you think we can get Michelle?” aspect that has taken hold. Nor is this simply a testament to Wu’s personal vibrancy. Her push for free public transportation, cost containment for renters and environmental protection has resonated widely.

Also marking the end of a political era was Republican Governor Charlie Baker’s announcement that he would not seek reelection. Baker is the latest in a long series of moderate Republicans who have won the governorship in dark blue Massachusetts over the past century, and he may be the last. Since his election in 2014, Baker has been one of the country’s most popular governors, not merely projecting but displaying a steady hand, decency and thoughtfulness. These qualities have not endeared him to his own state party which, like the Republican Party generally, is now dominated by election-deniers. The odds that Baker would have lost his own party’s nomination for a third term were likely a big factor in driving a good man from public service.

In Massachusetts, the Gods of Good Governance have both given and taken away, all in the same month. It’s plain that politics here has actually changed and not stayed the same.

Jeff Robbins is a Boston lawyer and former U.S. delegate to the United Nations Human Rights Commission

 

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Michelle Wu has no timeline for clearing tents from Mass and Cass, city searching for 200 homeless beds

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Michelle Wu has no timeline for clearing tents from Mass and Cass, city searching for 200 homeless beds

Mayor Michelle Wu said she has no timeline for tearing down the tent cities that have sprung up at Mass and Cass, where opioid use and homelessness have hit crisis levels.

“We don’t have a specific timeline. We are working as quickly as possible,” the mayor said, speaking at an unrelated event at City Hall on Monday.

Wu said city officials are searching for up to 200 beds to house people living in tents around the intersection of Massachusetts Avenue and Melnea Cass Boulevard in the area sometimes disparagingly referred to as “Methadone Mile.”

“We are identifying sites citywide to make sure we have enough beds for everyone who needs support or shelter,” Wu said, adding potential locations still included the Roundhouse.

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101-year-old returns to Pearl Harbor to remember those lost

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101-year-old returns to Pearl Harbor to remember those lost

HONOLULU — When Japanese bombs began falling on Pearl Harbor, U.S. Navy Seaman 1st Class David Russell first sought refuge below deck on the USS Oklahoma.

But a split-second decision on that December morning 80 years ago changed his mind, and likely saved his life.

“They started closing that hatch. And I decided to get out of there,” Russell, now 101, said in a recent interview.

Within 12 minutes his battleship would capsize under a barrage of torpedoes. Altogether, 429 sailors and Marines from the Oklahoma would perish — the greatest death toll from any ship that day other than the USS Arizona, which lost 1,177.

Russell plans to return to Pearl Harbor on Tuesday for a ceremony in remembrance of the more than 2,300 American troops killed in the Dec. 7, 1941, attack that launched the U.S. into World War II.

About 30 survivors and 100 other veterans from the war are expected to observe a moment of silence at 7:55 a.m., the minute the attack began.

Survivors, now in their late 90s or older, stayed home last year due to the coronavirus pandemic and watched a livestream of the event instead.

Russell is traveling to Hawaii with the Best Defense Foundation, a nonprofit founded by former NFL Linebacker Donnie Edwards that helps World War II veterans revisit their old battlefields.

He recalls heading topside when the attack started because he was trained to load anti-aircraft guns and figured he could help if any other loader got hurt.

But Japanese planes dropped a series of torpedoes that pummeled the Oklahoma before he could get there. Within 12 minutes, the hulking battleship capsized.

“Those darn torpedoes, they just kept hitting us and kept hitting us. I thought they’d never stop,” Russell said. “That ship was dancing around.”

Russell clambered over and around toppled lockers while the battleship slowly rolled over.

“You had to walk sort of sideways,” he said.

Once he got to the main deck, he crawled over the ship’s side and eyed the USS Maryland moored next door. He didn’t want to swim because leaked oil was burning in the water below. Jumping, he caught a rope hanging from the Maryland and escaped to that battleship without injury.

He then helped pass ammunition to the Maryland’s anti-aircraft guns.

Russell still thinks about how lucky he was. He ponders why he decided to go topside on the Oklahoma, knowing most of the men who stayed behind likely were unable to get out after the hatch closed.

Russell remained in the Navy until retiring in 1960. He worked at Air Force bases for the next two decades and retired for good in 1980.

His wife, Violet, passed away 22 years ago, and he now lives alone in Albany, Ore.

For decades, Russell didn’t share much about his experiences in World War II because no one seemed to care. But the images from Pearl Harbor still haunt him, especially at night.

“When I was in the VA hospital there in San Francisco, they said, ‘We want you to talk about World War II.’ And I said, I told them, I said, ‘When we talk about it, people don’t believe us. They just walk away.’ So now people want to know more about it so we’re trying to talk about it. We’re trying to talk about it, and we’re just telling them what we saw,” he said. “You can’t forget it.”

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