Monthly Archives: February 2012

1992 versus 2012: How much has changed?

Many members of the Boston media are dubbing this spring THE MOST IMPORTANT EVR!!

Of course they would. Last year didn’t end well. The Red Sox collapsed. Drinks got drunk. Food got eaten. Fingers were pointed. Snitches have not, to the displeasure of some, stopped snitching.

Gleeful reporters knew the stories would provide the building blocks for a plethora of early spring training stories – the kinds that help fill the time between players arriving in camp and players actually doing something interesting like playing in games.

Amidst the rubble of tired storylines, it is oddly therapeutic to look back at dysfunctional spring trainings gone past. Boston’s new manager is a blowhard! The owners are unapologetic money-grubbers! The ace pitcher said that??

All these things may be true. In a general sense, the storylines are always the same during spring training. It may only be early March, but spring training already feels as though it is taking forever.

But compare the 2012 team’s plight to two decades ago in 1992. Things could be a lot worse.

The New Manager. After firing affable fan favorite Joe Morgan (the white one) in October 1991, the team hired former Sox third baseman Butch Hobson. Regardless of what anyone thinks of Bobby Valentine, hiring Hobson to manage the 1992 Boston Red Sox would have been like the team replacing Terry Francona with John Valentin – if John Valentin had a budding cocaine addiction.

Like Valentine, Hobson showed up in Florida, ran a steady hand through flowing white mane and fluttered the hearts of beat reporters by pledging to kick ass and take names. From Nick Cafardo’s column (“Hobson’s Choice: A demanding
camp
”) in the February 23, 1992 edition of the Boston Globe:

“The blueprints are just about in place for Camp Butch….Remember Ralph Houk’s spring trainings? Hit for a couple of hours and go play 18? Forget it, pal. Plan on spending some quality time at the ballpark. Plan on rekindling those ties with fundamentals you learned in high school. And make sure you get there on time. In uniform and on the field by 9:30 a.m. Just try coming late.”

Sounds eerily familiar to Bobby V’s hard-ass rhetoric during the first week-plus.

2012 Similarity Score: 8 out of 10. It’s nice to see Bobby V embracing the job with some emphatic energy. But would anybody be totally surprised if he’s done in two years, moves to some ESPN outpost town and starts overdoing it with the
booger sugar?

The Arrogant Fire-balling Texan. In ‘92, an unapologetic Texas Con Man Roger Clemens arrived late to camp. This year, it is the perennially piss-and-vinegar-filled Josh Beckett sating the media by vocalizing his paranoia over “snitches” in the clubhouse. Both guys tickle the fancy of reporters and columnists looking to stir up conflict. Both prove true the inverse relationship between an increase in hot air spewed out of a man’s mouth and falling fastball velocity out of the same man’s hand.

2012 Similarity Score: 5 out of 10 (try as he might, Josh Beckett isn’t Roger Clemens – which doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing).

The Oft-Injured Young Talent. The Tim Naerhing “If Only” Award for 2012 goes to Clay Buchholz. The righthander’s back problems are supposedly behind him and projection systems have Buchholz likely reaching the 150-160 inning range in 2012. Saying all the right things about the chances for full recovery is a good start. Still, Buchholz’s health over the long haul of the season is a significant wild card. (NOTE: Jed Lowrie would have been a shoo-in for this award had he not been traded to Houston for Mark Melancon.)

2012 Similarity Score: 3 out of 10. Buchholz has already done more earlier in his career than Naehring, who wouldn’t top 500 at-bats in a season until 1995.
Naehring’s career was done two years later at age 30. Meanwhile, asking for the “Tim Naehring Package” at a local chiropractor can cost HMO participants thousands of dollars out-of-pocket.

The Position Battle. Believe it or not, Hobson was on record as unsure who would man first base regularly in 1992: Mo Vaughn or Carlos Quintana. At that point, Vaughn had played only about half a season at the big league level while Quintana had a longer (read: two years) track record. The “battle” ended before position players even reported when Quintana was injured in a car crash while driving two of his brothers to a hospital after they had been shot in Venezuela. In 2012, the team effectively turned the shortstop position into a three-way position battle by trading Marco Scutaro.

2012 Similarity Score: 9 out of 10. “Disastrous, blood-stained car-wreck” is just one of the euphemisms being tossed around to briefly describe having to choose
between Mike Aviles, Nick Punto and Jose Iglesias to man shortstop.

The Departed Veteran Arm. During the 1991-1992 offseason, Lou Gorman opted not to offer 39-year-old Dennis Lamp arbitration. Talk of bringing Lamp back as a coach was put on hold after he signed on with the Pittsburgh Pirates, where he was briefly a teammate of Tim Wakefield’s before being released in June.

2012 Similarity Score: 8 out of 10. Like the recently retired Wakefield, Lamp’s
strikeout-to-walk ratio had grown minuscule during his twilight years. Lamp
gave the Sox about 100 innings in each of his last three seasons in Boston, but
the team was not exactly heartbroken about moving on from a pitcher with an ERA+ hovering around 90. Why Lamp didn’t attempt to extend his career into his early-40s by converting to an outfield position is beyond the understanding of top baseball minds.

The Front Office Nepotism. Twenty years ago, team president Jean Yawkey, wife of former Red Sox owner Tom Yawkey, died just days after camp opened. (Legend has it that slugger first baseman Jack Clark was so upset at the passing of Yawkey that he refused to swing at a single 3-0 pitch he saw during the season.) By contrast, present owner John Henry is very much alive. Just…maybe not on the inside.

2012 Similarity Score: 8 out of 10. Henry’s wife Linda Pizzuti tweets pictures of
players from spring training workouts and has thrust herself into the local fashion
modeling industry. (Coincidentally, Yawkey herself was a fashion model in New
York before marrying into the Red Sox in 1944.)  Two years ago, Pizzuti
took over Janet Marie Smith’s post as vice president of Planning and Development. Bobby Valentine would be well-advised to stay on Pizzuti’s good
side.

The Anniversary Memorabilia. After Yawkey’s death, the front office was so out of sorts during the 1992 season that club-initiated commercialization of the 80th Anniversary of Fenway Park was limited to, best we can tell, a commemorative scorecard that first became available in August. Meanwhile, well before Fenway’s 99th season in 2011 even had a chance to go sour, the Red Sox sold were busy selling fans 100-year commemorative bricks which could be personally engraved.

2012 Similarity Score: 1 out of 10. Talk about an unfair fight. Sure, the century-mark is much more monumental. But is there any doubt the current ownership group would have mobilized a bit more quickly in 1992? It’s difficult to quibble with a team that knows how to optimize its cash flow. Then again, results may vary for “rabid” fans that were moved enough to shell out $250 for a brick.

The Bottom Line. The 1992 Red Sox were a mess on paper even before the season began. Based on their run differential, the team fulfilled on the dot its Pythagorean won/loss expectancy, finishing 73-89. It neither underachieved nor overachieved. It just was. Hobson wasn’t a good fit to manage a major league team and the team’s mainstay veterans (Wade Boggs, Clemens) were already looking ahead to their post-Boston careers. Top to bottom, the team itself was devoid of the talent that the 2012 Boston Red Sox boast. This year’s edition is a legitimate World Series contender with a viable long-term plan to remain competitive in future seasons. It has a core of young All-Star-caliber players and money to spend in July.

So turn off the radio, log off and throw away the newspaper if need be. Things have been better. They’ve also been a lot worse. Negativity this early in the year is so 20 years ago.

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Clay Buchholz’s Love Doctor Mailbag: Spring is in the air

These days, Clay Buchholz will do just about anything he can to keep his libido in check. (Photo from the Boston Herald)

Red Sox pitcher and former ladies’ man Clay Buchholz hung up his pimping cleats a few years back after marrying and impregnating TV star Lindsay Clubbine.

Periodically, he imparts insight and wisdom from his days as a bachelor to Fenway Pastoral readers.

Clay,
Some photos recently surfaced in which Terry Francona can be seen out and about, enjoying the nightlife with a 20-year-old broad? I’m really grossed out by the whole thing. I hope the rumors aren’t true and this is all some big misunderstanding…

– Judy from Andover

Judy, you sound like you’re pretty old-fashioned. Terry Francona is an icon around here and if he’s gotta exorcise a few demons by dating some younger locals, I think he should do what he needs to do. Personally, I’m really glad to see him land on his feet so quickly. I have some of that really pungent body spray leftover from my single days. (Known fact: Cheap, artificial scents tend to drive girls conceived either during or immediately after Mike Greenwell’s heyday absolutely wild.) I think I’ll send it over to him just as a sort of ‘Hey, what’s up, Terry. Hope you’re having fun out there’ kind of olive branch. He knows my number if he’s got any other questions.

Clay,
For Valentine’s Day, I bought my girlfriend one of those commemorative bricks for Fenway Park’s 100th Anniversary. I got it engraved with our full names and the date of the night we first slept together. I figured that the next time we were at a game together and stood waiting in line for a Fenway Frank beneath the right field grandstand, we could have gotten our picture taken next to it. The only problem is we broke up a couple days ago and the Red Sox have already commissioned the brick for their … um, big wall of bricks. They are refusing refund. Help.

– Aaron from Shirley

Well, Aaron, you learned a valuable lesson. Fenway Park 100th Anniversary bricks are for life. Just like herpes.

Clay,
Is it just me or does Jenny Dell (NESN’s replacement for Heidi Watney) look an awful lot like John Henry’s wife, Linda Pizzutti.

– Jake from Medfield

I’ve seen both these broads in person and I can honestly say their faces would be difficult to tell apart in a dark strip club after a few pulls of Grey Goose. Anyway, Mr. Henry’s been going around camp telling people that he was opposed to the Jenny Dell signing because he didn’t think the organization needed another brunette. I guess the NESN people thought otherwise.

Clay,
How weird is it that the local media can’t get over the fact that some players haven’t sufficiently “apologized” for knocking back a few brews and crushing a few breasts of chicken in the clubhouse last year? I mean, these guys on the radio and in the newspapers sound like a bunch of needy broads, don’t they?

-Larry from Weymouth

As players we gotta deal with reporters on a daily basis for seven months. They just need some reinforcement that what they do makes some kind of difference. And sometimes they just need a little bit of affection. So, yeah. I see where these dudes are coming from I guess. A couple days ago I put a soft hand on some newspaper columnist’s shoulder, looked him in the eye for a couple seconds, and said “Sorry about all that stuff that’s got you all upset, boss.” It was a nice moment, I think. Being well-experienced in treating a lady with tenderness has helped me keep a good rapport with the Boston media.

TEH SOX ATE CHICKEN! You too, Joe McDonald?

ESPN.com’s Joe McDonald is generally considered a solid beat reporter. Alas, he too has fallen under the apparent irresistible spell:

Reaction: Presumably, @ESPNJoeyMac is being tongue-in-cheek here. But it’s still discouraging, particularly on a day when CSNE’s Sean McAdam (perhaps the only other decent Sox beat guy) also fell victim to the ridiculous Chicken Narrative, penning a column outlining why Red Sox players need to apologize for 2011 before moving onto 2012. Boston fans have already been here, in 2012, for about seven weeks now. It’s a shame none of the sports media cares to join us.

Literary Devices Employed: It was a Tweet. So…zero.

Final Grade: F-minus. Next time, Joe, leave the low-hanging fruit for guys like Peter Abraham.

Third in a series celebrating the Boston sports media’s refusal to abandon a dead storyline. Please send submissions to fenwaypastoral@gmail.com.

They. Ate. Chicken. Boston.com’s Eric Wilbur joins local media’s Red Sox Chicken Circlejerk

It was Boston.com’s Eric Wilbur’s turn with the ol’ Red Sox Chicken torch today.

In “Red Sox sweeping regret under the rug” an edgy, primed-up Eric Wilbur takes his best shot:

No more jokes about chicken and beer. We’re talking about the health and nutrition of players here, people. Don’t you feel badly now that you laughed all winter about the human players’ right to eat? Why do you feel the need to pile on a laughingstock? Let’s see you go three hours without greasing up your hands and pounding some swill.

Some have opined that the “chicken and beer” story line was simply symbolic of how this team tanked down the stretch. That’s unfair. Have you ever had Popeye’s and Bud Light together? That’s a heart-stopping recipe not to be denied to anybody.

Reaction: Get some, Wilbur! Get some!

Literary devices employed: Thick sarcasm, audience-engaging rhetorical questioning, the daring use of subject/verb agreement.

Takeaway: Wilbur appears to be initiating an attempt to lead Adrian Gonzalez (the team’s best player) toward the woodshed for actually giving a reporter the time of day by issuing a benign answer to a question about something that happened five months ago. Boston.com is essentially the graveyard in which insightful baseball analysis goes to die … before being memorialized in 50-page gallery format. Wilbur is no stranger in a strange land. Here, he proves himself something of an apprentice Masserotti, getting paid by the pound to shovel low-grade fertilizer onto the site’s Red Sox content farm.

Final Grade: D-minus.

Second in a series celebrating the Boston sports media’s refusal to abandon a dead storyline. Please send submissions to fenwaypastoral@gmail.com.

They ate CHICKEN?!1: Hacky reference of the day goes to Boston Herald’s Borges

Coverage of 2012 Red Sox spring training will be rife with 5-month-old references to the team’s pitching staff and fried chicken. Here at Fenway Pastoral, we’d like to celebrate the media in all its glory for its resilience.

Today, the Boston Herald’s Ron Borges flexed his literary muscle and wrote this gem (presumably all by himself):

As for the No. 4-5 starters, well, most teams are more worried about their 1-3 starters. Here, we worry more about those three facing a box of chicken than anyone in the batter’s box. This assumes Clay Buchholz’ back is back and Josh Beckett front is not, of course, but if those three are hale and hearty rather than haughty and hungry the starting pitching isn’t as concerning as some are making you feel.

Quick Take: Sure, it might be like shooting fish in a barrel … or engaging in fisticuffs with a man who can barely walk, but Borges gets his licks in here. Plus, the boxing writer demonstrates a somewhat unknown attribute in knowing the names of two players on the Red Sox.

Literary devices employed: Mild hyperbole; wordplay; compound sentences.

Takeaway: The reference is forced and no doubt took some time to work into a column that kinda sorta presents a defense of John Henry in the WEEI-style straw-man debate over whether the team is spending enough money. All in all, though, a pretty good effort considering it’s only mid-February. Realistically, it is debatable whether Borges has ever sat through an entire baseball game. The effort here has to be worth something.

Final Grade: C.

Please report offending media members to fenwaypastoral@gmail.com. Let’s make a difference together.

The Youker Files: Marrying Tom Brady’s sister

Written exclusively for Fenway Pastoral by Red Sox first baseman/third baseman Kevin Youkilis.

Kevin Youkilis confirms that he recently threw down a marriage proposal on Tom Brady's sister. She said yes. (Photo from USA Today).

Alright, so yeah, guys. I’m engaged to Tom Brady’s sister. I mean, big deal, right?

I guess I should extend a big middle finger to those Inside Track cows for ruining my news. Those chicks need to take some classes in, I don’t know, social etiquette or something.

Now that I got that out of the way – I gotta admit it was a pretty passionate moment proposing to Tom Brady’s sister. And this is coming from a guy who has had his share of passionate moments. In terms of just raw, blood-flowing emotion, asking Tom Brady’s sister to marry me was right up there for me with that argument I got in with Manny in the dugout a few years ago. You never forget those kinds of things.

Tom Brady’s sister and me (I told her it’s totally cool if she calls me KY20) have been dating for like a year. It’s been freaking awesome. I feel like she totally understands me, you know?

Her brother’s this kick-ass athlete for a Boston sports team (the Patriots) and so am I, so she gets that. Plus, just like Tommy, I get extracurricular attention from some Hollywood stuff (yeah, I was in a scene doing my thing at the plate in Moneyball, which is nominated for a gazillion Oscars). Also, she realizes I’m not a bad person just because I’ve broken a few sets of china after a tough day at the plate. Collateral damage. It just comes with the territory.

Oh yeah. My chin’s a little bit bigger and more muscular, but I’m also super-dedicated in the weight-room. Sound familiar?

I’m a Cincy guy so I can definitely say that Tom’s a cool dude to have as a brother-in-law even though he’s no Boomer Esaison.

The ring. I got a diamond one. It was from some boutique or galleria in the mall. There was a lot of really nice furniture inside and all the people there were really nice to me. They called me “boss” and “ace” and stuff, but not in that patronizing way that a lot of people have that make me want to punch them in the face really hard. It was all totally on the level.

I thought I was going to have to bring up the fact that I was in Milk Money to get them to offer free ring-sizing, but they just gave it away for free anyway. I definitely took them for a ride. I think I’ll send them some Sox tickets or something special like one of my old bats that has teeth-marks all over it (I struck out three times in a game in Yankee Stadium last June…I’m done with that piece of lumber).

I’ll keep the details of the proposal private. I wasn’t real nervous about giving Tom Brady’s sister the ring, though. Facing pitchers like Justin Verlander and CC Sabathia is way more intimidating because it seems like they always manage to buzz one or two heaters right near my face every time I step in against them. So for me, proposing isn’t that much different than just taking one for the team. A beanball to the neck is just as good as a hit.

I got a cortisone shot right before I did the deed to make sure bending down on one knee didn’t do any serious damage. My joints tighten up during the offseason so I figured it was better safe than sorry. Now, every time I go to a knee to knock down a grounder with my collarbone at third base this season, I’m going to think of my fiance. Just kind of a small tribute to her.

So that’s the story. I want Red Sox fans to know that marrying Tom Brady’s sister isn’t going to change me or distract me from my ultimate goal of hitting five home runs in the clinching game of the 2012 World Series. This team is focused this year and I know we’re all going to be ready to get down to business.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to make a phone call to find out how much it would cost to set up a chuppah on the Fenway Park pitcher’s mound.