Can Boston Celtics interim coach Joe Mazzulla can handle the multiple personalities of an NBA locker room as the season begins Tuesday? AP Photo/Charles Krupa

A few thoughts while waiting for the Boston Red Sox and Xander Bogaerts to sit down for dinner …

• The New England Patriots are back to .500, and there will be no escaping Zappe mania this week. Rookie Bailey Zappe, the third stringer from Western Kentucky University, threw for 309 yards and two touchdowns in Cleveland on Sunday to go to 2-0 as the starting quarterback of the Patriots. For the first time in 20 years we have an actual QB controversy on our hands, and it will stay with us until Zappe loses a game.

Mac Jones may be back before Zappe gets that chance. But what if Jones starts next Monday night against the Chicago Bears and struggles? Fans’ call for Zappe will become deafening. It’s always fun to watch an underdog get his moment in the sun, but Jones will be the starter when he eventually returns.

The only question is how long he’ll stay in the position. Jones will now be fighting for his spot with every game he plays.

• Do you like the new baseball playoff format? Some of the best teams in baseball probably don’t. The 111-win Dodgers and the 101-win Braves were both upset by wild-card series winners this past week. Los Angeles and Atlanta — the two top division winners in the National League — had to sit around for five days while the Padres and Phillies played best-of-three, first-round series.

Those upsets have already started a chorus of complaints over the new format. Dodgers manager Dave Roberts showed a lot of class and refused to use it as an excuse. But every league wants its best teams on display, and two of those teams made early exits in part because of the format.


• There are still more than two weeks remaining in the MLB postseason, but here in Boston we’re already thinking about next season. That season will introduce rule changes including regulations that limit shifting.

Hard-core Sox fans should be keeping a close eye on the Criollos de Caguas team during the Puerto Rican winter ball season. The team, managed by Boston first base coach Ramón Vázquez, will experiment with various defensive formations within those new rules. Red Sox manager Alex Cora told me recently that they may look at moving outfielders around in new formations now that all four infielders must stay on the dirt.

He also said that the tight dimensions of Fenway Park might allow for some creativity in his outfield alignment. You might see a left fielder shifted over toward center with another outfielder moving in just beyond the dirt to plug up a defensive hole.

The days of four outfielders might be over … but the era of five infielders might be about to begin.

• It’s very early, but the Boston Bruins look like they could be a fun team to watch this year. The headline story is the return of David Krejci and Patrice Bergeron, but the key to this team will quietly be how the supporting cast fares. That’s why Saturday night’s two-goal performance from former Boston University star A.J. Greer was so satisfying for General Manager Don Sweeney.

Keep an eye on how the goaltending shakes out. Linus Ullmark and former UMaine Black Bear Jeremy Swayman each got a start to open the season, and both looked good. It’ll be interesting to see how new coach Jim Montgomery (another former Black Bear) divides up their time. Goaltending controversies are hockey’s version of quarterback debates.


• The Boston Celtics open the 2022-23 season Tuesday night when they host the Philadelphia 76ers at TD Garden. The biggest questions surrounding this team are still about the coaching. Will the Ime Udoka situation be a distraction? The Celts have managed to avoid letting it become one during the preseason, but they will start answering questions about Udoka’s suspension for real when the season begins.

The other question is whether interim coach Joe Mazzulla can handle the multiple personalities of an NBA locker room as the season begins. He’s never been The Man before. Now he takes over a team that has had its share of infighting in recent years. More than ever, it’ll be important for the Celtics to get off to a good start to put those questions behind them.

• Six months ago it was easy to imagine the Celtics were the best bet to break a Boston championship drought that goes back to Super Bowl LIII in 2019. Now they are surrounded with controversy and uncertainty. And those duck boats seem like they’ll be staying parked for a while.

Tom Caron is a studio host for the Red Sox broadcast on NESN.

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