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Shaughnessy answers Walpole’s sports questions

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By James Kinneen
Hometown Weekly Reporter

When a well-known writer visits a library, it’s almost always to try and sell a book they’ve recently written. Because of this, the visit usually consists of a lengthy presentation about the book, followed by a brief question-and-answer period. These questions will inevitably be about the presentation, as bringing up previous work or an unrelated issue is seen as poor form.

It was incredibly refreshing, then, that when veteran Boston sportswriter Dan Shaughnessy visited the Walpole Library, he had no specific agenda.

There was no lengthy presentation, just a brief introduction (during which Shaughnessy assured the audience that the Red Sox were in a rain delay, so they weren’t missing anything), before the Spink Award winner solicited questions from the audience about whatever topics they wanted to discuss.

With football season just around the corner, there were plenty of questions about the Patriots. When a fan asked why the Patriots seem to be so far ahead of the league in terms of coaching, Shaughnessy was flummoxed. After making sure nobody in the audience was related to Texans head coach Bill O’Brien (he has a brother that lives in Boston), Shaughnessy noted how for years, O’Brien, as Tom Brady’s QB coach, taught the quarterback that in the wake of a controversial catch, he was best served by running up to the line of scrimmage and running a play before the previous one could be challenged.

O’Brien apparently forgot this information as a head coach, because he watched Brady do it to him last year after a likely incompletion to Rob Gronkowski. Why would something like that happen? According to Shaughnessy, other coaches are simply scared of Belichick and freeze when playing the Patriots. He noted there are very few coaches unafraid of Belichick, namely John Harbaugh, Tom Coughlin and for all his other faults, Rex Ryan.

Despite the Red Sox’s struggles, plenty of people wanted to talk about them, and baseball on whole. When a fan asked if Shaughnessy thought Alex Cora regrets how he handled his pitchers during spring training, Shaughnessy answered “I hope so!” before asking former Red Sox manager Joe Morgan, who was in the audience, what he thought about it. Morgan said it must have come from upstairs, with Shaughnessy concurring and arguing it must have been one of the analytics guys, who he argued “are ruining everything.”

Furthering the idea, Morgan stood and argued that “these days, six innings is considered a quality start. To me, a quality start is nine innings. And if you’ve got a good closer, it can be eight.” This line inspired riotous applause from the appreciative crowd.

Baseball’s pace of play issues were another topic that came up a couple of times. Shaughnessy talked about how annoyed he is when NESN cuts to “Elliot on the sofa” as soon as the ball is in the first baseman’s mitt for the third out, rather than letting the broadcaster announce the score and inning. When one audience member suggested MLB eliminate incoming pitchers’ warmup tosses, Shaughnessy disagreed, arguing that as close as the relievers can get to warming up in the bullpen, a new mound is a new mound.

Again, Shaughnessy sought the wisdom of Joe Morgan on the issue, who declared: “I was thinking last night, someday I want to see a pitcher that’s been throwing pitches for ten minutes, walk to the mound, throw one pitch and tell the umpire ‘That’s it, I’m good.’”

While Shaughnessy also addressed the Bruins’ disappointing end to their season, sports gambling, and the general state of sports media, the night didn’t end on any time schedule - people simply ran out of questions.

Still, Shaughnessy was nice enough to stick around and talk to his fans afterwards, as well as sign anything the audience brought for him. It was a classy move, and one not many writers of his stature would pull - even if the Red Sox were in a rain delay.

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