Tag Archives: John Henry

This Week in Boston Baseballing, October 25 – 31

Boston’s weekend in St. Louis started off pretty rudely Saturday night thanks to a baserunner obstruction call against Will Middlebrooks that gave the Cardinals a 2-1 lead in the 2013 World Series. However, that loss would prove to be the team’s last defeat of the season. Boston would come back to win a tight game the next night thanks to a gutsy effort from Clay Buchholz on Sunday. The Red Sox managed to beat Adam Wainwright for a second time on Monday before heading home and clinching its third World Series championship in the last 10 years on Wednesday night. It was the first time the team had clinched a world title at Fenway Park since 1918. There will be a parade in Boston on Saturday.

Game 6 itself wasn’t much of a game in the HOLY SHIT GAME 6! way that some other Game 6’s in the team’s history have played out. Shane Victorino hit a double off the wall with the bases loaded in the 3rd inning off Michael Wacha. John Lackey made the lead stick from there. The Red Sox had a 99% win probability by the 7th inning and Carlos Beltran’s RBI single only moved the needle down to 97%.

Game 6 win probability
Source: FanGraphs

Koji The Man On Front Pages
Boston Sports Media Watch had an exhaustive rundown of all the daily newspapers’ headlines on Thursday morning. Eleven out of the 15 papers featured on BSMW opted for variations of photos of Koji Uehara celebrating in the arms of catcher David Ross and other teammates. The Red Sox closer went from one of the least appreciated, recognizable guys on the team in his middle relief days to one of the most popular players on the team. But surprisingly, it was The Boston Herald coming through with maybe the best and most unique front page.

Herald Front Page 10/31/2013

The timely shot was taken after Jonny Gomes slid in safely at home to give the Red Sox a 3-0 lead on Victorino’s wall ball. Our favorite part is on-deck hitter Xander Bogaerts joining Jacoby Ellsbury and David Ortiz to help synchronize the safe call on Gomes along with the umpire. It is perfect and – as good as Uehara has been this year – this is the more appropriate lasting image of the 2013 team and its incredible season.

David Ortiz Wins World Series MVP
In almost any other year, Jon Lester’s two shutdown starts to beat one of the NL’s best in Wainwright twice would have earned him the MVP. But thanks to his well-documented, otherworldly performance, Big Papi had the MVP honors wrapped up pretty early.

Going into Game 6, Dave Cameron pointed out that:

Ortiz has played in 13 World Series games. In six of them, he has either scored or driven in a run on the play with the largest win probability added in the game. In other words, he has scored a run or had an RBI on the most important play of the game in almost half of his World Series games.

St. Louis finally decided not to pitch to Papi on Wednesday. Ortiz walked four times – three intentionally – and scored two runs. So to amend Cameron’s note:

Ortiz has played in 13 14 World Series games. In six seven of them, he has either scored or driven in a run on the play with the largest win probability added in the game. In other words, he has scored a run or had an RBI on the most important play of the game in almost half of his World Series games.

The Obstruction Call and the Role of Intent
Sam Miller at Baseball Prospectus summed up the Will Middlebrooks obstruction issue pretty soundly in a piece posted Sunday morning. Many Red Sox fans have argued over intent – or more specifically the absence of clear intent to obstruct. But the rulebook, as it stands now, basically goes out of its way to exclude the need for interpretation of a fielder’s intent.

…At the end of Rule 2.00 (Obstruction) Comment, it lays out this exact scenario: “For example: if an infielder dives at a ground ball and the ball passes him and he continues to lie on the ground and delays the progress of the runner, he very likely has obstructed the runner.” It’s so specific. It is as though this play happened and they wrote the rule immediately after with a play exactly like this one in mind. And the rule they came up with is… ambivalent! “He very likely has obstructed the runner.” Not “he has,” but “he very likely has.” Probably. Maybe. Up to you to decide. Use your best judgment. What am I, God?

The guess here is that come next year, sufficient language will be written into the rulebook to ensure that the grounds for the call made against Middlebrooks will either be set in stone with some less ambivalent, more specific parameters. Or, if MLB really wants to keep things interesting, it could open up such plays as judgement calls that are reviewable on replay.

Jacoby Ellsbury Is Probably A Goner
ESPN’s Buster Olney wrote in the wake of the euphoria Thursday morning that the Red Sox center-fielder is probably headed elsewhere, based mainly on how far away the team and his agent were two years ago.

According to sources: After the 2011 season, for which Ellsbury finished second in the American League MVP race, the Red Sox offered him a deal that fell slightly short of $100 million. The counter-offer from agent Scott Boras, according to sources, was for a deal of about $130 million. The gap in the negotiations was too large to bridge at that time.

There is a possibility that with GM Ben Cherington now fully at the helm, the gulf may narrow. But odds are that gap is even larger now, especially with Cherington coming off the high of a World Series in which several bargain bin guys contributed. He may very well be licking his chops at the chance to find this offseason’s version of Shane Victorino.

Cardinals Play-by-Play Man’s Laughter Turns to Misery
As Marc Normandin on Over the Monster wrote, the best part about Kolten Wong being picked off first to end Game 5 was that Cardinals play-by-play guy Michael Shannon took the Red Sox to task for even holding the runner on first base. Shannon even began laughing, calling the whole thing “silly.”

(From the Washington Post)

(From the Washington Post)

John Henry Explains His Newly Purchased Newspaper Project
John Henry said all the right things in an editorial from Saturday in which he explained his purchase of The Boston Globe and Boston.com. The piece is chock-full of lofty language and platitudes regarding civic responsibility and encouraging influential thinking and being a catalyst for activism. The Red Sox principal owner even went so far as to cite his political idealism that budded in the 1960s when he joined the civil rights movement and volunteered to assist in presidential candidate Eugene McCarthy’s campaign.

John Henry globe

It’s still difficult to get a good read on Henry’s angle here. But the guy deserves some credit for outlining in such detail his intentions for acquiring an embattled business.

I soon realized that one of the key things the paper needed in order to prosper was private, local ownership, passionate about its mission. And so decisions about The Boston Globe are now being made here in Boston. The obligation is now to readers and local residents, not to distant shareholders. This, ideally, will foster even bolder and more creative thinking throughout the organization, which is critical in an industry under so much stress.

Meanwhile, Henry’s plans for Boston.com are vaguely grandiose. But, unfortunately, the continued polarization of pay-worthy content and the garbage people will only read for free likely means more moronic stories such as a local woman finding a green pepper that looks like a Red Sox “B” as she prepared a taco prior to Game 6.

“Wot’s, Uh, The Deal With This Rubbish?” A Stern Message from Red Sox owner John Henry

Dear sirs of Red Sox Nation,

I quite nearly choked on my biscuits while breakfasting on my open-air terrace this morning after hearing unsavory rumours on my handheld audio device that my Boston Red Sox are for sale. Thank goodness a lukewarm cup of Earl Grey was nearby to allow me to drown out the dire circumstances of such tracheal blockage.

Let there be no further debate: I am fully committed to the Fenway Sports Group and all of its components, including the beloved Red Sox Baseball Club of Boston.

I shan’t beat around the bush: I find all such rumours to be utterly insulting and downright nasty. I do believe the whole lot of it has been done to a turn.

Might I also state that Fox Business, from which this story originated, could not possibly have the inside intelligence to put forth such a preposterous claim – even if it were true – unless it had done something drastic, like figure out some magical way to listen in on private telly conversations.

As of this writing, I have lorded over this club for a decade, during which time we have won two world championships; made substantial improvement to Fenway Park; and effectively monetized the experience of diehard Red Sox fandom.

Make no mistake, we are just getting started. Our decline and fall has been vastly overstated. We have expunged vile bodies and, I pledge, Red Sox Nation, that we shall put out more flags before this whole thing is over and done.

Good day,

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
”) 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

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.

Thoughts on Boston magazine’s “Red Sox Confidential”

Boston magazine has something for you to read in your local dentist’s office while you’re waiting for that root canal. The long and short of it is that former Boston Globe reporter Doug Bailey wants you to know he worked for the Red Sox for a while:

From the winter of 2001 until the end of 2007, I was a flack for the Sox. In my capacity as senior vice president at Rasky Baerlein, I consulted with the team’s owners about their public relations and strategic communications. For a New England kid, six seasons of reporting to Fenway Park each morning kept me in a constant state of exhilaration. I was the envy of colleagues and family members. I had a badge that gave me total access to Fenway Park at any time. I was present at nearly every major Sox milestone in the first six years of the new millennium — including two World Series. I was on a first-name basis with the top executives and sometimes rubbed elbows with players.

Some thoughts after reading the story:

This is predictable narcissism at its very height. This is autoerotica thinly veiled as autobiography further disguised as expose. The piece is bookended by anecdotes involving Bailey and his career plight as journalist-turned-PR man, including a finish that strives to make Red Sox fanboys cream into their MLB-licensed pajama pants. The centerpiece photo is a gigantic portrait of Bailey himself in the foreground and the true subjects of interest–Larry Lucchino’s PR machine, the extraordinarily successful Red Sox, etc.–in the distant background.

The attempted potshot at Nomar was brutally pathetic. Even by Boston media standards, a second-hand account of an awkward exchange eights years ago between a professional baseball player and a NASA astronaut isn’t nearly as offensive as Bailey would like to think. It hardly qualifies as worthy tangential fodder for a story that aims to shit on the current Boston Red Sox ownership. Nomar Garciaparra, by the way, is retired and last played for the Red Sox more than seven years ago.

The Inside Track ladies are ripping the piece for poor ethics. Wow, that is rich. Former colleagues are pissed at Bailey for exposing them as scumbags. Gossip columnists are quoting industry insiders and shaking their head at the presumed breach of confidentiality. The sun will rise. The sun will set. Gayle Fee and Laura Raposa will have lunch.

The Boston Red Sox ownership group is reaping what it has sown. John Henry, Tom Werner, Larry Lucchiono, et al, climbed the ladder to the top of the popularity food chain as rapidly as a girl who gets breast implants as her Sweet 16 present or, say, a woman who catches the eye of a billionaire at a trendy cocktail bar. They’ve crafted themselves one hell of a hero’s narrative. As par for that course, every former flack, hack, lackey, leech and intern feels owed his or her share of the attention. The irony is that for every ticketholder who may be at Fenway Park this summer because the Red Sox have a Midas Touch when it comes to marketing the team, there are 100 fans who follow the team and pay for tickets because they are entertained and inspired by the players running around on that green spray-painted grass. There is no chicken versus the egg debate to be had here. Boston loved its baseball long before media decided to reminds us of it every damned chance they get. The fact that a former team consultant now believes himself to be part of the story isn’t terribly surprising.

The Red Sox have been at the same address for 100 years. Thank you, Mr. Henry. Thank you, Mr. Lucchino. Thank you, we guess, hard-working PR men. You all have a hand in the ongoing successes.

Now, shut the fuck up for a little while won’t you?

Manager hunt done, John Henry begins trolling Boston bar scene in search of next Heidi Watney

Who says Red Sox owner John Henry isn’t active enough in his team’s affairs?

Several club sources have confirmed that Henry recently took the reins in Fenway Sports Group-owned NESN’s search for a successor to the infinitely popular Heidi Watney, who confirmed last month that she’s moving back to California.

John Henry's eyes are trained on Larry Lucchino. But his mind is ... elsewhere ... (Courtesy of Providence Journal).

“The Red Sox front office has heard all the grumblings from fans that Mr. Henry is diverting too much attention to other business endeavors, such as the soccer team in Liverpool. But that’s simply not the case. John’s instrumental role in the search for new on-field talent for NESN is a perfect example,” said a NESN spokesperson.

While Boston Sports Media Watch ventured a respectable list of possible Watney replacements on Monday, Henry’s tireless pursuit of talent seems to suggest that the potential slate of candidates is quite a bit meatier than just names already known within the television industry.

The affable team owner may have employed a “hands-off” approach to the lengthy search for a new manager, which was reportedly close to completion as of Tuesday morning. However, it would seem that Henry believes he may find a diamond-in-the-rough or at least a girl-next-door who could be molded into on-air talent if afforded with the right opportunity.

And, yes, Henry knows a thing or two about finding broads at watering holes. He met his current wife, Linda Pizzuti, at a bar in the Liberty Hotel and famously won her heart by writing her an endearing letter. Pizzuti is believed to be all-in on Henry’s search for a Fenway star as long as it does not interfere with his exploitation of corn futures.

For their part, fans also seem to be responding positively to the news that their beloved owner is taking such an active interest in the team’s lengthy offseason chore list. In particular, female bar goers in the Boston area seem to welcome the added scrutiny.

“He’s kind of creepy when you first notice him lurking in the corner,” said Worcester product Laura Taylor at M Bar in the Mandarin Hotel during a recent night in which Henry was spotted. “But, yeah, it would be fun to be on television. I may have unbuttoned a couple of buttons once I noticed him in the corner sipping on a dry martini.”

As fans may recall, former Sox GM Theo Epstein once ate Thanksgiving dinner with Curt Schilling’s family. So this isn’t the first time the Red Sox have used the “wine-and/or-dine” tactic to assemble a team. However, it is presumably the first time the team has employed the technique to acquire non-roster talent.

Said one club official: “We can say for certain that this is the first time in this ownership group’s tenure that we’re expressly angling toward a home-grown product.”

Confirmed another team source: “Tina Cervasio and Heidi Watney were carpetbaggers who predictably split town after a few years. We think signing someone local will give us the long-term stability we’re lacking in that part of the organization.”

And, really, what better way to find local talent than to plumb the city’s bustling night clubs and lounges?

Some scouts, however, remain skeptical that the Red Sox will be able to merely plug in a cheap, relatively unknown replacement into such a prominent role as Watney’s.

“Who do they think they’re kidding? On-field interviews and features on ballpark cuisine are high-leverage, pressure-packed situations,” said one long-time scout. “That type of spot requires a certain level of raw talent that simply doesn’t grow on trees. You’re better off paying for a known commodity with the experience and the know-how.”

Nevertheless, the Sox owner is reportedly undeterred. But aspiring on-field journalists beware: John Henry may be able to see you, but you may not be able to see John Henry.

“A lot of it is being done under the cloak of clever disguise…” said one Henry assistant requesting anonymity. “Believe it or not, there are some women out there who get gussied up and show up at ritzy bars simply to meet rich men who can make them feel financially secure. John needs to know that whoever replaces Watney is indeed sincere about the important things – like getting Kevin Youkilis to speak to her after a walkoff, bases-loaded beaning.”

Clubhouse sources would not comment on anyone else’s involvement in the vetting process beyond Henry.

But Sox fans seem to feel strongly that multiple front offices executives would only serve to gum up an already tall task.

“Larry Lucchino better not be holding up the process with whatever weird fetishes he happens to have,” said Nathan Prince after swearing he spied Henry during a recent night at the bar at Bond in the Langham Hotel.

“I mean, let’s be honest. It’s six in one; half a dozen in the other. I trust Mr. Henry’s judgement on this,” said a Sox fan last night at Lolita Tequila Bar. “As long as the new girl can post a lineup on Twitter and stay out of Jarrod Saltalamacchia’s pants, I think Sox fans will be happy.”

Jarrod Saltalamacchia declined comment for this story.

Time to wrap a bow around this near perfect offseason, John Henry

That’s great work, John Henry. Bravo. Speedy and Gonzalez in Sox uniforms. This has been like Christmas in December.

Your boy Theo has truly come into his own. He resisted the urge to get in a bidding war with the Yankees for Mark Teixeira two years ago, thus opening the door for the Adrian Gonzalez deal and the Carl Crawford signing. The planned improvements to Fenway Park for 2011 look solid and even Jason Varitek’s one-year deal is difficult to argue against given the existing depth at the position.

Yup, all around, this offseason is about as close to perfect as rational fans could possibly expect of their baseball team. There are only a handful of opportunities for further improvement, John.

Grease Mayor Menino’s palms: Look, this is embarrassing. Boston is a world-class city of culture, renowned artists, top-notch hospitals, esteemed universities and restaurants owned by Nick Varano. There is no good reason why fans in the “budget” grandstand, loge and bleacher sections shouldn’t have the option of purchasing beer without leaving their seat. People like to drink beer. People like to act rowdy and fight. Both are going to happen regardless of how inconvenient the organization makes it for middle class people to purchase alcohol. Business owners with a fraction of your wealth manipulate the city ordinance system all the time obtaining licenses to get their loyal patrons drunk. We’ll even set up the breakfast on Beacon Hill and buy the unmarked security envelope for you if you’d like. How about a nice brunch somewhere near the park? You can bring home the sliced cantaloupe and surprise Linda. She’ll love it.

Stay away from Liverpool for a little while: It’s not that Sox fans are jealous. But you should give those Reds fans some time to cool off. They seem pretty pissed. Apparently, they already had their grape smugglers in a twist last week over the sum of money given to Crawford and Gonzalez. Just wait until they hear about Bobby Jenks…

Establish a “Mustaches Only” facial hair ordinance: Kevin Youkilis. Tim Wakefield. Adrian Gonzalez. Dustin Pedroia. Jed Lowrie. None of these guys wouldn’t look hilarious in a mustache. And if nothing else, it beats Josh Beckett and Jenks sporting matching flavor savers.

Re-sign Manny for right-hand outfield depth: You do want television ratings to be better in 2011 than 2010, no? Ramirez isn’t going anywhere for big money this year and he’s likely to be available at a relative discount sometime before spring training. Seriously, signing Manny actually makes enough sense that if can’t be dismissed outright. We’d be willing to bet Epstein has broached the subject with you already. The lineup is lefty-heavy and the outfield needs a right-handed bat. Darnell McDonald will understand; Gerry Callahan won’t. But really, nine out of 10 scouts are bearish on Danny Woodhead’s chances of improving his outside-zone swing rates and becoming the next Bo Jackson.

Fix the bullet holes and busted concrete on the lower concourse: Chuckie and Don Draper both have wicked bad aim.

Double burgers at the Fenway Grill will only set fans back $10.50 next season.

Get off our lawn: Sox owners again engaging in world’s oldest profession

Tickets were still available less than 24 hours before Wednesday night’s soccer match at Fenway Park between two European soccer clubs you have never heard of before.

It is encouraging to see demand stagnate—even just a little bit—for such a contrived event.

Understand: this isn’t about the presence of a sport other than baseball being played at Fenway Park. (There’s probably been, like, other sporting events hosted at Fenway over the last 100 years or so…Someone oughta make a list.)

But the excessive whoring out of Fenway over the last five years speaks to a new sort of organizational arrogance that John Henry and Co. has established in the Back Bay. Even Scott Brown can see that the current ownership group routinely engages in thinly veiled prostitution of what should be treated as a sacred asset.

Thanks to the immense success, high revenues and national interest generated by their baseball team, these owners assume people should be willing to pay to witness just about anything that takes place on the hallowed Fenway grounds.

Piggybacking on the popularity of the 2010 World Cup, Wednesday night’s soccer match was aimed at striking before the sport’s popularity goes into hibernation for another four years. The only problem is that this particular pairing of two minor league soccer clubs would be like the Portland Sea Dogs taking batting practice in Wembley Stadium. It is an insult to fan intelligence disguised as something other than a recycled idea.

This isn’t a new trend by any means. Lately, the owners have been overplaying their hand when it comes to extracurricular entertainment. Fenway has gone from hosting hall-of-fame acts like Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band and the Rolling Stones to shows from the likes of Phish and Jimmy Buffet. At least there’s the local angle for next month’s Aerosmith / J. Geils Band bill.

Sure, all the aforementioned bands are washed up. But at least the first two carried some small semblance of Beatles in Shea Stadium cache. It’s just embarrassing when the outfield gets chewed up because the organization books some overrated act that peaked in the mid-1990s (Dave Matthews Band). In 2025, are we going to be watching commercials advertising “classic rock sensation” Kings of Leon: Live at Fenway Park?

Fine, it’s just a soccer match. The Red Sox owners certainly deserve every bit of praise they have received for all their renovations and updates that creatively keep a landmark alive and profitable, to boot.

Some of these extracurricular events at Fenway are a necessary evil in order to stay profitable. We should all tolerate the various “initiatives” that transform portions of Yawkey Way and its surroundings into a cross between a country fair and a de facto amusement park absent the Ferris Wheel (for now…). After all, Boston’s provincial vice-grip on the past will never come cheap.

One can’t help but wonder, though: How many blatant money-grabs are too many blatant money-grabs?

Even after his father reached ill health, Ted Williams’ son exploited his father’s legacy, imploring him to make appearance after appearance at various events, insisting he sign autographs for significant fees. It was a sickening revelation to many that was brought to light after the fact because his son’s selfishness before and after his father’s death was excessive enough that Ted’s well-being was undoubtedly jeopardized.

This space isn’t accusing the Henry ownership group of anything that perverse yet. After all, John Henry bagged a trophy wife all his own last summer. Some point soon, maybe he’ll be compelled to stop cultivating another.

Clay Buchholz’s Love Doctor Mailbag: Red Hot Summer Edition

Red Sox pitcher Clay Buchholz is on a roll thus far in 2010. He’s 10-4 with a sub-3.00 ERA and appears to be putting together an All-Star-caliber season. Using his instinctive guile, Clay is tearing through batting orders the same way he used to plow through women before marrying model Lindsay Clubine last fall. Even amidst preparations for the birth of his firstborn child, Buchholz found some time to impart some of his pimping wisdom to his faithful fans at Fenway Pastoral.

Clay, what’s the deal with NESN Sportsdesk anchor Jade McCarthy’s mole located above her top lip? At times, I’m able to rationalize it as a Cindy Crawford-esque beauty mark, but just as often it just seems like a regrettably-placed distraction. Help?

– Andrew from Plymouth

I’m not a big fan of facial blemishes, Andrew. Whenever I turn on NESN and Jade and Her Mole are on the screen, I imagine that she is wearing one of those sexy silver stud rings some girls have pierced onto their faces. Usually, when you see a chick who has a weird piercing like that on her lip or nose or (obviously) her tongue, it means she’s gonna be pretty wild when you get down to rolling around in the hay with her.

Clay, you managed to impregnate your wife within a couple months or so of marriage. But Sox owner John Henry was married to his wife/muse for nearly a year before he was able to slip one past the goalie. What gives?

– Lynn from Chatham

Well, Lynn, I can’t say for sure, but it’s probably all the energy drinks and protein shakes. Also, there are certain positions that I like my partner to be able to contort herself into that are more conducive to getting a broad pregnant. Honestly, Mr. Henry is kinda old, so I hope he didn’t try any of my moves.

Clay, I’m 17 years old and pretty new to the … “dating” scene. Whenever I’m in the throes of the moment in the bedroom, I find it useful to think about baseball when delaying arrival at the finish line. This method must not work for you since you’re probably always thinking baseball all the time anyway, right?

– Brett from Lexington

Brett, I spend six-plus months in a major league locker room. I see a lot of dudes parading around in towels on a daily basis and they’re not all svelte guys in their primes. I’ve got plenty of ammunition to slow down the clock if I really need it. But in all honesty, dude, why are you trying to delay the inevitable? You’re young. Relax and let the game come to you. You can’t move onto the next batter until you’ve gotten the one at the plate out. Also, throwing a few side sessions in the “bullpen” in between starts might help a young player like yourself find the proper rhythm.

What, exactly, did Jason Varitek get himself into with Heidi Watney? The guy romances her a few times and the next thing he knows, the chick is scurrying over to him every time she needs a player to toss her a bone with some throwaway quote on camera.
– Jeff from Manchester

All I can say about that situation is I feel bad for poor ‘Tek. Generally speaking, a man should always make it clear to a female from the get-go whether he sees her as a full-time starter or just a situational reliever.

Clay, I was at a gentleman’s club in Austin last week getting a lap dance when I noticed that the woman taking care of me had a small tattoo of the New York Yankees logo just to the left of her landing strip. I, uh, immediately wilted like A-Rod in October and actually cut the dance short before the end of the 20 minutes I’d paid for. What’s the etiquette in that situation? I already paid for about twice the amount of time she was with me, but she seemed peeved I didn’t give her a tip on top of my wasted up-front fee.

– Gerald from Bangor

You did the right thing cutting the dance short, Gerald. But really, it sounds like your laziness lead to some buyer’s remorse. You should always make sure you get a good overview of the lady offering you a private dance before shelling out any dough. Next time, have the dame do a few twirls in front of you to get a better idea what you’re getting into. It’s OK to say no and if any other strippers are around, they’ll appreciate your discerning tastes.

Click here to read the Valentine’s Day edition of the Love Doctor Mailbag

Click here to read last October’s edition of the Love Doctor Mailbag

Analyzing the 2010 Sox Pax

John Henry and every other red-blooded market capitalist will tell you that purchasing commodities in bulk well in advance of their expected maturity in value is the perfect way to maximize riches in a down economy. Along that vein, Fenway Pastoral is here to analyze the latest ten-fecta of Sox Pax ticket packages, which go on sale this Saturday, December 12 online, over the phone and at the team’s Christmas at Fenway Event.

(The organization cautions that refunds will not be issued if Marco Scutaro winds up as the Red Sox’ marquee offseason acquisition.)

Sox Pack 1 is an “Opening Day” collection that guarantees a ticket to Boston’s very first game of the season, which is against the New York Yankees. Fans cannot go wrong with this selection for their Sox Pack purchase, despite the inclusion of clunker games against the Texas Rangers and Baltimore Orioles. Meanwhile, the May 12 game against the Blue Jays scheduled for 1:35 p.m. will have a certain slap-in-the-face feeling for those who already played hooky or skipped work six weeks earlier to see Opening Day. The Bottom Line: You’re going to Opening Day against the hated Yankees, which means you can toss verbal barbs at CC Sabathia or Roy Halladay from the grandstand.

Sox Pack 2, “Patriots Day,” also guarantees an early April ticket for a Yankees game as well as a ducat for the coveted Marathon Monday matchup against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. Fenway Pastoral took a glance at the schedule and projects David Price to be on the mound for the D-Rays that day. Payback for the 2008 postseason will never feel so sweet as it will 10 beers deep at 11:30 in the morning. Meanwhile, fans wearing old Alex Gonzalez No. 10 Boston jerseys to the Toronto game must remember to X-out the former Red Sox shortstop’s last name after his defection to the Canadian enemies up north. (Bob Ryan has already filed his column telling fans whether they should or shouldn’t boo A-Gonz in his return to Fenway.)

Pack 3 is the TGIF “Thank Goodness It’s Friday” set. Twenty years ago, this package would not have sold very well due to stiff competition from ABC’s enormously popular TGIF television sitcom lineup that included classics such as Full House, Family Matters and Perfect Strangers. Tivo, DVR and Hulu have rendered appointment viewing an artifact of the 20th Century that no one will be able to seriously acknowledge in 50 years without snickering. In short, ABC’s TGIF phenomenon will make about as much sense as Derek Jeter’s Gold Gloves.

Who do the Red Sox think they’re kidding with their “Saturday Special” and “Sunday Special” Sox Packs (#s 4 and 5)? All game times are listed as TBA and both include two September games. Fans purchasing either of these packs will need to clear their schedules for two full weekend days that are more than nine months away. All Home Depot and Bed, Bath & Beyond jokes aside, solidified weekend schedules are a must when constructing large signs with clever four-word combinations for the NESN or ESPN acronyms. Making last-minute signs using a Sharpie and the flimsy cardboard from a Busch Light 30-pack just doesn’t have the same effect.

The selling points for the “Yankee Pack” and “Pinstripe Pack” (#s 6 and 7) center on the possibility that the final regular season games of the year, three home games against the Yankees, will serve as de facto playoff games. It could happen, but it’s just as likely that several of the games wind up with someone like Jeremy Hermida hitting cleanup.

On the flip side, the September 8 matchup against the Devil Rays is likely to have strong playoff implications. Meanwhile, Pack No. 7’s September 20 game against Baltimore could be one of those playoff spot clinchers, which can be especially fun for those fans interested in witnessing (or joining) drunken revelry in person.

The No. 8 “Yaz Pack” also features a Yankees game during the final weekend of the season. The bonus here is a complimentary 12-month prescription to the birth control pill that shares a nickname with the immortal No. 8. This ticket package is solid, especially so for sexually active female fans between the ages of 15 and 50. These types of cross-promotions would never have been offered on John Harrington or Tom Yawkey’s watch.

Sox Pack #9 is a “Splendid Splinter” collection featuring three important AL East divisional dust-ups as well as a ticket to see the perennially underrated Minnesota Twins. Sure, AL MVP Joe Mauer is likely to remain one of the best players in the league next season, but this Sox Pack does seem to lack a certain punch. Fenway Pastoral gets the feeling these are the types of games in which ownership will heroically give up John Henry’s dugout seats to some charitable foundation rather than waste Ben Affleck’s time. But seriously, these Packs make great stocking stuffers.

In trying economic times, deals such as the No. 10 “Extra Inning” Pack really cannot be trumped. The organization has pinpointed four games throughout the 2010 season that will go into extra innings, giving fans added value at no additional price. In 2009, the club was 4-6 overall (1-2 at home) in extra innings affairs. If sample sizes are your cup of tea, Boston was 1-0 in extra innings games played against the New York Yankees at Fenway Park in 2009.

Sox owner John Henry feeling duped after learning of Paul McCartney’s past drug use

BOSTON–Red Sox owner John Henry is boycotting tonight’s Paul McCartney concert at Fenway Park after learning for the first time that the former Beatle used performance-enhancing drugs during the 1960s and 1970s.

The owner was spotted burning several vintage LPs, including limited editions of the Beatles’ renowned White Album, in a large trash barrel on the Budweiser roof deck. According to a club official, Henry has also forbidden all Beatles and Wings songs from being played during future Red Sox games.

Speaking on the condition of anonymity, the club employee who “broke” the news to Henry reported that the owner is “devastated over this. I feel really bad that I told him about it…I thought everyone knew…”

In various interviews over the last 30-plus years, McCartney has admitted to using marijuana, cocaine and LSD–all of which are widely believed to provide musicians with a certain level of creative inspiration otherwise inaccessible to sober artists.

While McCartney has presumably curbed his PED use over the last couple of decades, Henry similarly destroyed more recent albums such as 1997’s Flaming Pie and 2007’s Memory Almost Full out of fear that residual effects from his past drug use lingered during the creation of his more recent cuts.

In addition, James Taylor, a long-time Red Sox fan and legendary songwriter, has been banned from Fenway Park because McCartney played bass on Taylor’s 1968 hit single “Carolina on My Mind.” Henry was overheard saying he can “only assume James Taylor was using drugs at the time as well,” according to the club official.

Responding to a query, the front office’s crack public relations staff issued the following statement:

“John Henry and the Boston Red Sox have no comment on Paul McCartney’s apparent use of PEDs. We will only confirm that Mr. James Taylor has been asked to remove several acoustic guitars he had been storing in the owner’s suite.”

Meanwhile, ESPN’s Peter Gammons has been notified he is no longer welcome in the Fenway Park press box. A guitar player in his spare time, Gammons has been known to quote Beatles songs in his baseball columns and on his ESPN blog.

Club insiders told Fenway Pastoral that Henry planned to skip Thursday night’s concert as well in order to complete formal petitions to the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences requesting the immediate revocation of the many Grammys and Oscars awarded to McCartney throughout the years.