April 2012


Fenway Park, as I first came to know it.

Everyone remembers their first game at Fenway Park, and there’s a reason.

There are stories of first walking through the tunnel and feeling overwhelmed to see the expanse of grass and the wall appear, as if out of a movie. I’m happy to report that was my experience as well. It was a bit confusing to see how the brick facade and uneven concrete concourse could add up to the Fenway Park I’d seen on TV for so long, but that’s just part of the miracle of architecture.

In my first trip, Tim Wakefield, just past his period as a novelty and now settled in as the steady, useful pitcher he’d be for nearly 20 years, was on the mound to face the Oakland A’s. Mark McGwire was the star of the visiting lineup, playing first base and batting cleanup, while old friend Matt Stairs played right field and a young Jason Giambi DH’d.

I remember it all so vividly, likely because of how late my first visit occurred in my youth. I was 14 years old, already well deep into the obsession of baseball and the Boston Red Sox. (more…)

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Parting gifts include a severance check and plenty of bad blood.

Tomorrow afternoon, Fenway Park will open for its 101st season of baseball, and next week, it will celebrate its 100th birthday, rightly acknowledging the lifetime of the oldest baseball park in the United States.

And it will all feel a little hollow. While every living Red Sox player and manager have been invited to the 100th anniversary celebration, their most successful manager, the recently departed Terry Francona, wants no part of fanfare. It’s not hard to feel for him, either.

Following his exit after the Red Sox’ disastrous month of September 2011, the Boston Globe ran a hatchet job for the ages, capitalizing on fan outrage to run an anonymously sourced story that detailed, among tales of chicken and beer consumption and headphone gifts, Francona’s failing marriage and an alleged addiction to pain killers.

It was low, embarrassing, and sadly, an insensitive Boston media ran with it as gospel. (more…)

Felix Doubront could quiet much of the storm with a win tonight.

Here’s a positive to take from the Boston Red Sox’ three-game losing streak to start the season: the fans and media are already in midseason form when it comes to panic and dread.

Thursday’s opener was about as great a game as I can remember seeing on Opening Day. Justin Verlander and Jon Lester matched each other for eight innings, before each bullpen blew up the foundations carefully laid by the starters. Josh Beckett was awful for Boston on Saturday, and Clay Buchholz wasn’t much better yesterday afternoon.

Yesterday’s game also featured an encore performance by the bullpen, when Alfredo Aceves immediately gave up three runs to let the Tigers tie it up at 10-10 in the ninth inning. Mark Melancon, not to be outdone, gave up three more runs in the bottom of the 11th, sending Detroit home with a 13-12 win and a sweep to start their season.

So, there were six runs offered up by two of the rocks of the bullpen, surrendered quickly and efficiently to a lineup that could legitimately be described as a powerhouse. Troubling? Of course. But it happens. (more…)

Need something to look forward to on Opening Day? There's always Yaz...

Opening Day is a lot of things.

It’s a celebration of baseball, and with that comes the bizarre optimism that, typically, only kids get the chance to feel.

It’s a chance to see new faces. Prince Fielder makes his debut with the Detroit Tigers today opposite the Red Sox. Noted Philadelphia Phillies killer Cody Ross will be in the outfield for Boston. Hope springs eternal in Pittsburgh when Erik Bedard takes the mound. Theo Epstein’s Cubs begin their long climb to the World Series today when they host the Nationals.

It’s the first look at the rest of the league, from Miami’s new ballpark that borders on aesthetic abomination to the great rotations that San Francisco, Philadelphia and Anaheim hope to unleash on their opponents. (more…)