Boston Red Sox manager Alex Cora, center, arrives at his hometown with the 2018 World Series trophy in Caguas, Puerto Rico on Nov. 3, 2018. AP photo

A few random and not so random thoughts on the current state of the sports landscape…

• Alex Cora is back as manager of the Boston Red Sox. Cora served his punishment for his role in the Houston Astros sign sealing scandal, and deserves a chance to resume his career in baseball.

Did Cora screw up? Absolutely, and he was punished for it. Only the most bitter person would hold this chapter in his life over Cora’s head forever. Cora has been contrite when addressing the issue. To hold him, and former Astros manager AJ Hinch, who was recently hired by the Detroit Tigers , to a career-ending standard while none of the players who carried out the Astros dirty plan saw any punishment from Major League Baseball at all, is not fair.

Cora, and Hinch, for that matter, have to know every move they make will be under a microscope in the 2021 season. In every season they manage for the rest of their careers, people will break down the audio in search of the sound of a banging trash can. If either tries to pull off an intricate sign-stealing scheme again, he is a fool and should rightly lose his job. For now, welcome back, Cora. See if you can get Raphael Devers and Andrew Benintendi right.

• I’m enjoying this late fall version of The Masters. For many casual professional golf fans like myself, The Masters is must-viewing every year. If you close your eyes for a second, you can imagine it’s April in Augusta.

• Is every game the rest of the regular season a “must-win” for the New England Patriots? If you consider anything short of a deep playoff run a failure, sure. The close losses to Seattle, Kansas City and Buffalo this season are frustrating, sure, but I’m enjoying watching this team start the inevitable rebuild after the Tom Brady Era.

Patriots fans should not act spoiled if this team struggles this season or misses the playoffs. Not after the unprecedented two decades the team just gave us.

If you think this team is awful, go find videos of the Patriots teams from the late ’80s and early ’90s. A few minutes watching those will show you the difference between the average team we see now and a truly bad one.

• Another spring tradition recalibrateed for the fall is coming up this week, the NBA Draft. The Boston Celtics have three picks in the first round, picks 14, 26 and 30. None of those spots is likely to nab any team a franchise player. Luckily, the Celtics already have a pair of those in Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum.

It would be a surprise if Danny Ainge does not make a few deals and the Celtics end up with a higher pick. Rumors this past week had Boston trading both Kemba Walker and Gordon Hayward. With Brown and Tatum as the foundation, it’s about plugging the right complementary pieces in to keep this team a contender in the Eastern Conference. Ainge’s track record shows any deal he does make should be accepted with cautious optimism.

• Here’s hoping the winter sports teams at the University of Maine get all the approvals they need from the state and University to begin competition this week. The women’s and men’s ice hockey teams have games scheduled Friday, and men’s and women’s basketball have games penciled in soon, too.

Even if played in empty arenas, Black Bear sports would give the people of Maine a needed slice of normalcy this winter.

• This would have been the week of the state championship high school football games. For people in my business, that week is always busy, but it’s always fun. I miss it.

• You want high school sports of any kind this winter? Please, when out in your community, wear a mask.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM

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