Posts Tagged 'Red Sox'

Two Trophies and a Side of Rice

A ‘7th Inning Stretch’ with Jim Rice and the World Series Trophies

New York City is great!  No, I really mean it.  I’ve lived in Brooklyn for almost 3 years now, and as much as I love New England (and my New England sports), I really enjoy the energy of the City as well as the opportunity to experience so many activities, sites, and events within minutes across the entire NY metropolitan area: world class museums, parks, on and off Broadway shows, live music, and an array of dining options reflecting the City’s diversity.  And in April, I had the good fortune of coming face to face with former Red Sox great and Hall of Famer, Jim Rice, and the 2004 and 2007 World Series trophies right here in NYC.

Back in mid-April, in recognition of Fenway’s 100th anniversary festivities, MLB Fan Cave and the Sox, set up a rare opportunity for fans to meet the Red Sox HOF’er and to check out the trophies in Manhattan.  Even Wally The Green Monster made the trip.  I found out about it on the day of the event on Twitter and proceeded to re-arrange my schedule to swing by for a ‘7th inning stretch’ with the Red Sox HOF’er.  No way was I going to miss out!  And as luck would have it, my son and I were both home that day, so fortunately I was able to take him with me to share the experience.

Although I was too young to enjoy Jim Rice’s finest years, I remember seeing him play for the Sox in the late 1980s and appreciate his contributions to the game.  And as an avid fan, it would be really cool to meet a Hall-of-Famer who once played for my favorite team.  I even dug up one of my old Jim Rice baseball cards.

Jim Rice, Topps, 1990

Within 30 minutes, including a few stops on the F train and a few blocks’ walk, we were at MLB Fan Cave, located at 4th Street and Broadway, right in the heart of Greenwich Village.  And being that it’s Manhattan, and not Boston, we had only to wait a couple minutes to meet Jim Ed and the trophies.

My son and I with Jim Rice and the 2004 and 2007 World Series trophies.

It was a real honor to meet Jim Rice and to check out the World Series trophies up close–and to share that experience with my son was priceless.  My little guy wasn’t yet born when the Sox came back to defeat the Yankees in the 2004 ALCS and went on to win their first World Series in 86 years.  And he was only 2 1/2 when the Sox swept the Rockies to win the 2007 WS.  So to be able to high five Jim Rice with him while checking out the World Series bling was a bonding experience with my son that I’ll never forget.  And the best part–it happened in NYC!  Thanks Mr. Rice, MLB Fan Cave, the Red Sox, and NYC!  Go Sox!

‘A Lyric Little Bandbox’ Turns 100: A Photo Album Tribute

On April 20, 2012, Fenway Park–‘a lyric little bandbox of a ballpark’, as Updike described her in his 1960 classic tribute to the great Ted Williams, “Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu“–turned 100.  Since serving as host to the New York Highlanders one Spring afternoon on April 20, 1912, this Grande Dame of Baseball Ballparks has seen it all.  From the triumphs to the theatrics, from the heroics to the heartaches, from the legends to the rivals… And the roar of the Fenway crowd is only topped by the sound of The Standells singing “Dirty Water” over the loudspeakers after the home team records the final out…

Over the years, I have been blessed to have enjoyed many a great game at this asymmetrical-cut emerald ballpark.   Seeing Pedro toe the rubber when he was at the peak of his game.   And enjoying the at-bats of such sluggers as Mo, Nomar, Papi, Manny and Pedroia.  And having the good fortune to see a young Clay Buchholz pitch a no-hitter on a cool September evening…  Not to mention the countless memories I’ve shared with family and friends at Friendly Fenway, especially taking my son to his first ball game at the Old Ballpark…  Such memories will be forever etched in the ‘Green Fields’ of my Mind.

While the names of the players and managers have changed, and the Park has undergone a few facelifts over the years, the majestic red brick and evergreen walls filled with the echoes of history and the hope of a passionate fanbase remain constant.   Happy 100th, Fenway Park!  Thanks for the memories!

As a tribute to Fenway, I have selected a few photos taken recently to honor the Old Ballpark.

On Yawkey Way, April 14, 2012, Opening Day Weekend.

The iconic Citgo sign. Fans file along Brookline on their way to catch an 'Old Ballgame.' Though not structurally connected to Fenway Park, no gallery of Fenway images is complete without the Citgo sign. Before the Monster Seats were added, on TV, the Citgo sign stood out like a beacon, appearing to hover atop the Green Monster. It remains itself a Boston landmark.

View of the retro-modern Gate B entrance at the corner of Van Ness and Ipswich.

Commemorative red bricks gather 'round Eck's outstretched hands, myself included.

From within the ancient cavernous walls around her, Fenway beckons you to enter her lush, palatial green courtyard...

View of Pesky's Pole from the bleachers during warm-ups. The foul pole is a mere 302 feet from home plate, making it the shortest home-run in baseball if you can hit it. Sox 2B Mark Bellhorn hit the Pole in Game 1 of the 2004 World Series helping the Sox win.

The Lone Red Seat.

View of the seating rows located in the RF Grandstand before the fans file in.

Black & white image of all of the retired Sox numbers along the RF facade (L to R): Ted, Cronin, Doerr, Yaz, Fisk, Pesky, Rice, and, of course, Jackie Robinson whose #42 was retired by MLB. Some day #45 will join the venerable facade...

A favorite Fenway tradition: Here's to one fine century and to another, Fenway!

The 7th Inning Stretch, of course! Across, is the famous Green Monster, standing 37' and 2" high and boasting a manually operated scoreboard. The left field wall wasn't actually painted green until 1947.

Sunlight majestically graces the Green Monster. To the right is the infamous outfield Triangle, and the bullpens can be seen in the foreground, just in front and below the fans, who sit in the bleachers.

The Green Monster at dusk.

Outside, The Teammates at twilight on Van Ness. Red Sox legends, Ted, Johnny Pesky, Bobby Doerr and Dom DiMaggio, stand tall beside the Park. These four statues honor the enduring friendship they enjoyed throughout their lives. Together, they would lead the Sox to the '46 AL pennant, the team's first since 1918. The Sox would lose the '46 World Series to the Cards in 7 games, however. One of the endearing highlights from Fenway's 100th anniversary ceremonies was seeing elder statesmen, Pesky and Doerr--the only surviving members of the old Quartet--being led onto the fine green grass by recently retired Red Sox heroes, Varitek and Wake.

Evening settles over the Ancient Ballpark with Pesky's Pole in the foreground and the Fisk Foul Pole in the back. The LF foul pole was made famous by Fisk's epic home run to win Game 6 of the '75 World Series, one of Fenway's many classic moments.

Here’s to many more magical Fenway moments! Go Sox!

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What are your favorite Fenway moments?  Please share your thoughts and comments.  Thanks for visiting and cheers!

Wraps or Cuban Sandwiches?

No, this is not a competition for the next Top Chef.  This is about Bobby V vs. Ozzie G for MLB’s coveted Mana-Jeer of the Year Award.  It’s the modern wrap vs. the traditional Cuban sandwich.  And the question right now is which skipper will stuff his sandwich (or his foot) in his mouth more often this season: the self-proclaimed inventor of the wrap or Fidel’s former BFF?  And with the blistering pace these guys have already set, it’s really not too early to consider this race a statistical dead-heat.

Ozzie with mouth already open. Courtesy: StarTribune.com (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

Let’s take a look at some of the highlight mana-jeerial moments:

-In Feb., Bobby caused a ‘big bang’ in Yankee universe, or whatever its called, insulting mytique and aura twice: first, by praising Tek on his decorated career for essentially “beating up” A Rod (with his mask on–the horror!); and second, by offering an unsolicited critique of St. Jete’s fabled “flip play” in the ’01 ALDS (blasphemy!).  Tongue in cheek or not, why even go there, Bobby?  Save that stuff for your autobiography or for filling airtime during your future ESPN gig. (Oh, wait!)

Bobby V sizing up his vocal counterpart in Miami?
Courtesy: NYPost.com

Early edge: Bobby.

-In March, Bobby V waved ‘bye bye’ to Ozzie after Castro’s biggest Miami booster was tossed from a ST game for arguing a foul call.  (Really, Ozzie? Was that one of those feeling the affects of a day game coming off a road game thing?)  Of course when Ozzie learned about the wave later, he told the media he would’ve “told [Bobby] to go and [expletive] himself” had he seen it.  ‘Cause, you know, “[t]hat’s the way Ozzie Guillen is,” referring to himself in 3rd person.

Hey, Hey, Good-bye! Courtesy: LarryBrownSports.com

Edge: Ozzie + bonus points for referring to himself in 3rd person.  Then Ozzie went on a roll:

-Before even his infamous praise for Fidel became public, Ozzie proclaimed that he gets drunk after every road game and has had the same routine “25, 28 years.”  Obsessive-compulsive glove adjustments and toe taps between every pitch is so yesterday.  It’s the Land of Oz and we’re just living in it.

Is that a sandwich wrap stuck in your throat, Ozzie?
Courtesy: MORNING JOURNAL/DAVID RICHARD

With those 2 comments, Ozzie surged ahead for the coveted award. But his substantial lead would fizzle faster than Rick Perry’s support for the Republican nomination for President…

-Last Sunday, following the team’s 3rd straight win at home, Bobby V dropped this little nugget on the Knights of the Keyboard: “I don’t think [Youks is] as physically or emotionally into the game as he has been in the past for some reason.”  Ozzie who??  Honestly, whether you really think that or not, Bobby, publicly calling out fan fave Yooouuuuks on it just 1 week into the season?  Can you imagine if this guy was managing Manny?

Result: statistical dead-heat.

For those of you leaning towards Bobby V right now, when an ‘innocuous’ comment threatens to jeopardize the manager’s control of the clubhouse, you do have a point.  For me, I still have to go with the Great and Powerful Oz with the slight edge.  As much as us Sox fans take umbrage with anyone insulting our local heroes and institutions (yes, I’m looking at you, Luke Scott!), declaring so much as admiration for Castro’s beard follicles is not exactly the wisest way to endear oneself to Miami’s politically passionate Cuban-American population.  (Fear the Beard, Ozzie!)

Fidel Castro. Courtesy: Antonio Milena - ABr

I give Ozzie the slight edge because the people he offended literally lost homes and loved ones and hold Castro directly responsible.  They bear deep-seated wounds which understandably do not heal easily, if ever.  So while Bobby, Youks and Pedey might not be singing kumbaya around a campfire together any time soon, I’d like to think the team will get over this and other inevitable Bobby V gaffes and focus on the big picture: winning.  But, hey!  It’s early, Bobby V haters!

Just when you think the race is over, Ozzie, Bobby V might just have a trick up his sleeve. Courtesy: AP Photo/ESPN

In all seriousness, the more I hear these guys talk, the more I ask myself WWTD (Tito)?  For all of his alleged faults (you know, like successfully managing a team to 2 WS championships), Terry Francona sure handled the media like a pro.  He kept most of the BS in-house where it  belongs, publicly protected his players, and kept the focus, not on himself, but on the games.  While we’ll never really know the whole story abut what went down last year, the Sox had a pretty damn good manager in Tito.  Blowhards like Bobby V and Ozzie could learn a thing or 2 from him about media relations.  Unfortunately, they may never learn…

So who do you think will win this year’s Mana-Jeer of the Year Award?

-Bobby Valentine?                                                                                                                                -Ozzie Guillen?                                                                                                                                       -Someone else?

Thanks for visiting and commenting.  Cheers!

Say it Ain’t So, Tito!

Somebody’s Heiney is crowning my icebox.  
Somebody’s cold one is giving me chills.  
Guess I’ll just close my eyes.  

Flip on the tele… Wrestle with Jimmy.  
Somethin’ is bubblin’ behind my back.  
The bottle is ready to blow.  

Say it ain’t so.  
Your drug is a heartbreaker.  
Say it ain’t so.  
My love is a life-taker.

Weezer, “Say It Ain’t So”, Copyright 1994, Geffen

Say It Ain’t So

The word on the street is that Terry Francona will be a “no show” at Fenway’s Anniversary festivities scheduled next Friday when the Sox face the New York Yankees–the very team against whom Boston faced on Fenway’s debut, a mere century ago.  (The Red Sox would properly christen their new ballpark on that day by defeating the then-New York Highlanders 7-6 in 11 innings.)  According to Dan Shaughnessy of the Boston Globe, former Sox skipper Terry Francona wants “no part” of Fenway’s centennial festivities.  A mere six months removed from his unceremonious departure, the wounds are still fresh for Francona.  Without rehashing the dirty details, the bane of his bitterness stems from a scathing Boston Globe article that was published just days after his departure last October citing Francona’s purported “personal issues” as a contributing factor to the team’s infamous collapse.  The article’s sources included a series of interviews the Globe conducted with individuals “familiar with the Sox operation at all levels”.  Naturally, nearly all of the article’s sources requested anonymity.  What a way to kick a guy when he’s down…

Courtesy Tefaye/ AP

Above: Former Sox manager Terry Francona pauses as he speaks to the media during a press conference, Friday, Sept. 30, 2011, in Boston. The Sox announced they would not pick up the option on his contract in the wake of the team’s collapse.

An Embarrassing Blemish

And what an embarrassment for the Sox.  On a day when the organization and its fans should be celebrating Fenway’s finest, Francona’s absence at the festivities will be a major blemish on this ancient gem which has long served as a pendant to the Back Bay’s emerald necklace.  Francona deserves a rousing ovation before the fans for his efforts and it seemed only fitting that that would occur during the Ballpark’s centennial celebration–a celebration made extra special by the accomplishments of the team the past 8 years under Francona’s stewardship.  This man accomplished twice what no previous manager in Red Sox history had been able to accomplish since Ed Barrow led the Olde Towne Team to its last Championship in 1918.  (Incidentally, Barrow would leave Boston in 1920 to join the Yankees’ front office, serving as GM of the Bronx Bombers until 1944.  During that ensuing 24 year span, the Yankees would go on to win 10 championships while the Sox would slowly slip into mediocrity… Curse of the Bambino? Pffft.  More like the Curse of Ed Barrow!)

Look, plenty of players and managers come and go in sports, and sadly, many of the greats have left on less than gracious terms.  Boston is certainly no exception in that department.  Francona deserved to go out with his head held high.  It’s truly a shame that his name was dragged through the Muddy River on his way out of the Fens, and it’s obvious that he’s still–understandably–upset by it.

“Good Times, Bad Times, You Know I Had My Share” 1

Since buying the team, John Henry and his crew have made some terrific decisions as well as enjoyed an extraordinary run of on the field success.  This is, after all, the ownership group that must be credited with making Fenway’s centenary celebration possible, having eschewed the original plan to build a brand spanking new ballpark in favor of preserving and expanding historic Fenway while improving the fan experience.  They collectively deserve to be commended by the fans for these accomplishments.  At the same time, however, the organization deserves the ire of the fans for the handling of Francona’s exit, an ugly affair standing in stark contrast to the team’s fine accomplishments.  There’s no direct evidence that the Sox were responsible for the smear campaign that followed Terry’s exit.  Moreover, Henry has gone on record denying he or Red Sox upper management had any role in the Globe article.  Regardless, I am left feeling that the entire team, from the ownership right down to the players, could have done a much better job of displaying some respect towards the man and his extraordinary accomplishments in Boston.  Instead, the entire organization was collectively left found wanting…

The Makings of a Dumas Novel

Courtesy BostonHerald.com Sports.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, the fans have grown impatient these past few years.  Despite lavish spending and high expectations the Sox have come up far too short on the field.  And Francona, of course, deserved a fair share of the blame for those results.  However, the picture that many fans increasingly see at the top, and the one the media has increasingly painted, is something right out of an Alexandre Dumas novel.  For many, Henry, a modern day King Louis XIII, has seemingly become more focused on his racing team and English football club toys than on his ‘old hat’ Boston Red Sox.  Over the past few years, he has seemingly leaned ever more heavily on Chief Minister Larry “Cardinal Richelieu” Lucchino to handle the reins of Red Sox Nation, to the chagrin of Theo’s d’Artagnan.  And fresh from the ashes of the team’s September collapse, the apparent schism between Theo and “Cardinal” Lucchino finally grew too wide for the two to bridge resulting in Theo’s decision to ultimately get out of Dodge.

Photo by Chitose Suzuki, BostonHerald.com Sports

As we continue to try to turn the page on the team’s 2011 demise, Francona’s recent decision serves as a curt reminder that the manner in which his departure occurred remains an ugly chapter in this Dumas-esque novel.

Closing Thoughts–A Hero’s Welcome

Although I’m disappointed that Terry Francona has decided to skip Fenway’s celebration, I completely understand his decision.  His absence as well as his accomplishments will not go unnoticed, however.  And who knows?  Maybe he’ll change his mind.  If not, surely any video footage of Tito on Fenway’s shiny new HD video board next Friday will be met with a resounding roar of appreciation by the fans.  Through the good times and the challenging ones, Francona handled the Red Sox admirably and with class.  He at least deserved the same on his way out.  Clearly, last season, the pressures had worn on the man and it was probably time to part ways.  I only wish it had been handled differently.  Terry Francona will forever be missed and respected by the fans in Boston and across Red Sox Nation.  It’s a real shame that he won’t be in town for the festivities honoring Fenway, an ancient baseball shrine with which he will forever fondly be remembered.  I look forward to the day he returns to the Old Ballpark and gets the hero’s welcome he so rightfully deserves.

Source: 4sportboston.com

Thanks for the great memories, Tito!

___________________

1 Led Zeppelin, “Good Times, Bad Times”, Copyright 1969, Atlantic Records

Opening Day – The Bobby V Era Begins

Well, Opening Day of the 2012 Baseball Season has finally arrived!  After a long offseason–particularly for Sox fans–hope springs eternal again!  And with Bobby Valentine at the helm, this season will certainly not lack in entertainment… But more on that in a sec.

Game 1: Brief Re-Cap

Unfortunately, my Sox lost their Season Opener in a pitcher’s duel in Detroit.  Not the best way to kick off the new season, but with 161 games yet to play, it’s all good (for now).  Can’t win ’em all, as they say.  The good news is Lester went toe-to-toe against the reigning AL MVP/Cy Young winner and the offense didn’t quit, managing to overcome a 2-run deficit to tie the game in the 9th.  Led by the ever-resilient Pedroia and Sox slugger A-Gon, the Sox got the rally started with a double and single, respectively.  Following a Papi sac fly, newly-acquired RF Ryan Sweeney drove in the tying run with a triple.  Unfortunately, the pen was unable to hold off the Tigers in the bottom half with new addition, Melancon, and newly-anointed Closer Pro Tempore, Aceves, falling short.  Sure, it stinks to lose the opener, especially with the wounds from 2011 still fresh, but I’m going to stay optimistic for the time being.

2012 TEAM ASSESSMENT

Pitching:

Contrary to public opinion, it was the lack of pitching depth, not fried chicken and beer, that ultimately did in the 2011 Red Sox, IMO.  By June of 2011, the Sox had lost 2/5ths of their rotation as well as a reliable reliever, Rich Hill, who underwent TJ surgery after suffering a season-ending elbow injury.  And Bobby Jenks, another FA Theo Epstein signed before the 2011 season to fortify the pen, did anything but, suffering one setback after another last year, pitching a grand total of 15.2 innings in 2011 for a cool $6 million bucks.  (BTW, Jenks, who the Sox are set to pay yet another $6 million in 2012, has already spent 2012 recovering from multiple offseason back surgeries, one which allegedly resulted in the development of an infection setting Jenks’ recovery time back by months.  Compounding his health issues, Jenks got himself arrested for an alleged DUI while in Florida in March.  Needless to say, Jenks doesn’t look to be anywhere near to toeing the rubber for Boston right now despite the sizable investment the Sox made in this guy.)

Getting back to my main point, the failure of the Sox to obtain quality replacements eventually caught up with the 2011 team.  This year, the Sox face challenges not only to their rotation, with two untested starters at the back-end, but right out of the gate they’re facing the loss of their new closer, Andrew Bailey, for possibly 4 months as he recovers from surgery to treat a thumb injury.  Talk about a tough break.

The Bullpen

Looking ahead, the bullpen, IMO, could be this team’s Achilles Heel, at least in the early going.  With Paps shipping out to Philly, and the Sox now losing Paps’ replacement to a freak thumb injury, the Sox have had to scramble quickly to fill the closer void.  They did so by anointing Alfredo Aceves as the team’s closer.  Time will tell if this was the right decision.  Of course, many have suggested Daniel Bard be switched back to the pen to close out games.  Tempting though this may be, it is probably not fair to Bard to switch him back and forth from starter to reliever like a human yo-yo so early in the season.  They’ve already committed to making him a starter, therefore, at least give him a chance to succeed at it.  If it doesn’t seem to be working after 4 to 6 weeks or so, transition him back to the pen.  Fortunately, the Sox have some potential pitching depth in AAA available to slide into Bard’s spot in this scenario.

The instability of the pen was magnified on Thursday with Melancon, another candidate to close out games, and Aceves both failing to hold the Tigers at bay in the 9th.  (And of course, Paps just had to nail down his 1st save for the Phillies on Thursday, just for good measure.)  All in all, the bullpen may be the weakest link on this team, at least at the outset.  As a result, I think we will see a lot of fluctuation with the pen this year.

The Rotation

Another potential weakness is the back end of the starting rotation.  Bard, one of the most dominant set-up relievers the past 2 seasons, will be the team’s 5th starter.  Can Bard successfully make the transition from ace reliever to quality starter while handling the increased work load?  And is the apparent downgrade of the pen as a result of Bard’s absence worth the potential benefits of moving him to the rotation?  In addition, the Sox have entrusted the 4th spot to a talented, but untested lefty, Felix Doubront.  The Sox are really high on the Venezuelan 24-year-old, but he’ll be cutting his teeth in the cauldron that is the AL East.  I’m actually really excited to see what these guys can do, and cautiously optimistic, but there is a good chance this could all blow up in the Red Sox’s face.

Overall, the Sox seem to have a lot more pitching depth this year with vets like Aaron Cook (optioned to AAA, but with a May 1st opt-out clause), Vicente Padilla (in the bullpen currently), and even Andrew Miller (optioned to AAA), who showed occasional flashes of potential last year, all capable of starting/relieving for Boston.  Overall, I’m optimistic that, in spite of the potential risks the 2012 starting rotation will be a bit better–and possibly much better–than last year’s when the team ultimately struggled to overcome the twin loss of Dice-k and Buchholz, as well as fan-favorite John Lackey’s consistently awful starts.  There’s also the possibility that Dice-K will be back by June/July, which could be either a blessing or a curse, depending on the Dice-K we get.  All in all, I think the rotation is in decent shape for now.  Like the bullpen, we will probably see some changes in the make-up of the rotation, depending on how well Bard and Doubront adjust to their roles.

Despite the pitching challenges, I’m not pushing any panic buttons yet.  Let’s see how things work out.  I suspect Ben will give himself a couple of months to assess the pitching staff, among other things, and exhaust all internal options before pursing any trades and/or signing a Roy Oswalt and moving Bard back to the pen.

The Offense

As for the offense, I think the Sox are in good shape.  Even if we accept the fact that Ortiz and Ellsbury will experience a drop from last year’s stats, they’ll produce if healthy.  I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect A-Gon to contribute as well if not more this season, given his increased familiarity with the AL and the fact that his surgically-repaired shoulder has had over a year to fully heal.  On the flip side, Youks could be poised to have a much better year following an injury-riddled 2011.  Same with Pedey, who was likely still recovering from his 2010 foot injury last season.  Crawford is the wild card.  After an awful year last season, his first in Boston after signing a lucrative contract, I’m optimistic Carl will have a much better 2012.  He’s been too good for too long not to bounce back.  Unfortunately, he’s already starting off the season on the DL.  Here’s hoping Crawford has a terrific season.

The Defense

Right now the infield defense, particularly at SS, is below average with Aviles manning the hole between 2nd and 3rd base.  By all accounts, defensive whiz Jose Iglesias will be the Red Sox SS of the near future.  Jose’s chance to flash his glove full time in Boston may finally arrive this season depending on how the Aviles at SS experiment works out.  That said, at this stage, his bat still leaves a lot left to be desired.  So long as Aviles’ offense offsets his defensive shortcomings, Aviles will likely remain the starting SS.  However, I really hope Jose uses the time at Pawtucket to refine his approach at the plate.  Of course, realistically, no one will ever mistake Iglesias for a young Nomar in his prime.  However, if the kid can get himself on base at a reasonable clip while providing Gold Glove caliber defense at SS, I could live with that.  While run production is desirable, run prevention is nothing to scoff at, especially if the kid is surrounded by a solid offense.  Monitoring the Iglesias Watch will be an interesting side note to the season.

The New Skipper

Ah, Bobby V….  What more can be said about the guy that hasn’t already been said?  We all know he has an ego the size of, well, New York.  He loves being the center of attention and is not afraid to speak his mind, no matter who is offended in the process.  His naysayers need look no further than the deal he just signed to do a weekly radio chat with 1050 ESPN New York Radio’s “The Michael Kay Show”.  Yep, that Michael Kay…  And of course, Sox fans all over have gotten their underoos in knots over this.  Personally, I think the fuss is overblown.  (Perhaps I’m biased, given that I live in NYC!)  Seriously, though, the way I see it, this is about market share.  1050 ESPN NY can be heard not only in NYC, but Fairfield County, CT, a large regional market that the Sox are clearly vying to dominate.  And don’t forget, Bobby Valentine is himself a Stamford, CT native, something Lucchino likely appreciated when the Sox were contemplating new managers.  Anyway, I think the Sox execs see this 1050 gig as a chance to further expand Red Sox Nation in a region typically dominated by NY teams.  Now, why does any Sox fan really care about this?  Do you seriously feel slighted that he’s doing a show based in NYC?  And if so, why?  I understand he’ll be doing WEEI Boston shows as well.  Do fans seriously think this radio gig will somehow affect the team’s play?  Maybe I’m naive, but I don’t see the problem.  Yes, it’s unusual, but will it be a detriment to the team?  Not in my opinion.  But of course leave it to the media and cutting edge “analysts” like Curt Schilling to make this out as something Sox fans should bemoan.  Really??

And to be fully honest, I was skeptical of hiring Bobby V as Sox skipper.  I really liked Terry Francona and admired his managing style.  He always struck me as loyal, tactful, measured, and even-keeled, as well as a pretty smart coach in his own right (especially when you consider his predecessor).  And the guy did win 2 championships as Boston’s skipper.  Bobby, on the other hand, seems much more divisive, self-centered, cocky, and too quick to speak honestly regardless of the potential adverse consequences of doing so.  And yet, even Bobby’s biggest haters will acknowledge that not only has he the “pedigree”, but a high “baseball IQ” to go with it.  He has also shown the ability to succeed in the pressure cooker of NYC, leading a largely inferior Mets team (no offense, Mets fans) all the way to the World Series against their intercity rivals in the 2000 Subway Series.  The question, IMO, is whether Bobby’s positives substantially outweigh his potential negatives.  And I just do not think this can be answered yet.

Regardless of your opinion of Bobby V, I think “analysts” like Schilling need to relax.  If you didn’t know already, you assuredly know now that there is no love lost between Bobby V and Big Schill.  Schill claims that players already “hate” Bobby.  Really? In Spring training?  I’m a bit skeptical, to be honest.  Schill has further compared the Sox to the ill-fated Titanic.  (He has since backpedaled a bit.)  IMO, Bobby V is right: “Consider the source.”  Other than Francona, who Schill has always respected, who hasn’t Curt blasted?  He is honestly the last guy who should be passing judgment here.  But Schill being Schill, he will always have an opinion and will always share it, solicited or not.  And now he gets paid to do it for ESPN.  Look, I will forever appreciate Curt’s pitching efforts in 2004 and 2007, but I’m going to take these comments with a grain of salt at this stage.

My suggestion is Sox fans give Bobby V a chance to manage a few real games before we render him “DOA”.  Sure, it’s possible the Bobby V Era will end tragically (can it honestly end any worse than last year?), but it’s also quite possible the man will lead the Sox back to the promised land, if things break the right way.  Though his approach might touch the nerve of many of us New Englanders/Sox fans, like his predecessors, history will ultimately judge Bobby V by how well the Red Sox produce on the field.  And I’m rooting for their success.

Concluding Thoughts

So right out of the gate, the Sox face a plethora of challenges.  Externally, the AL East will be as tough as always with a very good Yankees team.  I also expect the Rays and Jays to be solid threats to any NY-Boston hegemony.  And the AL West has only gotten better, with the Angels and Rangers, in particular, making some of the biggest offseason splashes.  So how will the Sox make out?  I honestly have no clue.  I’m cautiously optimistic, though.  The extra Wild Card should help, but I’m not banking on it.  As always, a lot will come down to injuries–to the Sox and to other teams–and how well they respond.  It’s a long season of ups and downs.  2011 only re-emphasized that.  For these Red Sox, however, they face the additional challenge of playing under the guidance of a new manager who has already inspired controversy, real or imagined.  One thing is for sure: the season promises not to be boring.  So sit back, buckle up, and enjoy the Bobby V Era , Red Sox fans!  Go Sox!!