Not enough production out of the 3B position, and another injury to Will Middlebrooks has forced the Boston Red Sox to re-sign free agent Stephen Drew, he who turned down a $14.1 million qualifying offer during the offseason. Drew will make a pro-rated $10M for the rest of the year.
The good news is that this allows rookie Xander Bogaerts to slide over to 3B, where he was successful during last year’s run to the World Series. Bogaerts wasn’t bad at SS, but he is still learning the position, and will probably still be considered the short stop of the future for the club. Bringing back Drew provides an upgrade at defense, as well as offensively, as the Sox need more than they were getting from Middlebrooks at the hot corner.
This will also lead to the inevitable demotion of Brock Holt, who I quite liked at third for the Sox. He has played well in his limited time with them this season, managing to do a little hitting, and playing some solid D. He plays baseball hard, which is what I love to see. But the Red Sox are not a developmental team, and changes needed to be made before they fall out of the race in the always tight AL East. Even with a losing record, they are hanging around, but they can’t hope for that for too long.
Overall, this is a good move for the Sox, and it should only be a couple of weeks before Drew is able to get back into major league action.
For baseball diamonds, Fenway Park was always the ultimate destination. It was the one place I had to see games, no matter what. It was a bucket list item. Fenway is home to the Boston Red Sox, my favorite baseball team, the team I have cheered with for years, being fortunate enough to watch them through three glorious World Series runs.
And it did not disappoint.
On the streets of Boston, Fenway is nestled in there, almost unnoticeable until you are standing right in front of it. It is not a gargantuan behemoth of engineering placed far away from the city, surrounded by parking lots and a couple of bars. It is right in the heart of it all, lined by the famous Yawkey Way and Lansdowne Street, which is chock full of bars and restaurants, all geared towards the Red Sox crowd. From the outside, you see the green that has been made so famous by the ancient stadium (going on year 102 now).
And you simply can’t wait to get inside.
I took the ballpark tour, because, come on, this is Fenway. The tour was good, and the guide was an excellent source of knowledge, telling stories about the park and about the teams that had played there.
First walking into the stands behind home plate, you have arrived. You stare out at the field, you look at the Green Monster in left field. You see Pesky’s Pole out in right, the famous scoreboard on the Monster, the current AL East standings, the signs for W.B. Mason. It is all so iconic, and it takes a moment to stand there, take it all in, take your pictures.
The tour was good, taking us to some of the most memorable and historic parts of the park. The ancient stands, the bleachers and the lonely red seat (which denotes the longest home run hit inside Fenway, by none other than Ted Williams), the press box, the outdoor patio high above left field, the Red Sox museum, and of course, the seats on top of the Green Monster, which have become the most coveted tickets in all of baseball.
The only disappointing thing about the tour was that we didn’t go to the locker rooms, or onto the field. This is understandable, as it was the day before Opening Day, but still…to stand on the shale of Fenway would have been something incredible. For $17, the tour was a good way to spend a little over an our, in the baseball cathedral that is this park.
My initial impression, walking up that ramp to see the field for the first time, was that this park is small! Fenway is intimate, and this only adds to the lustre of the place. It is not a mega-stadium that sits fifty-some-thousand. It is a small place, where fans gather to cheer for their beloved Sox. The beautiful thing about the smallness of the park, is that there is not a bad seat in the house. Wherever you are, even though it may seem like miles away from home plate, you still get a really strong view of the game. That is, of course, unless you are stuck with one of the obstructed view seats, but you would know that going into it.
The seats: I was lucky enough to be in Boston for Opening Day 2014, where the champs raised their banners and got their rings, celebrating an amazing season that culminated in an almost improbable World Series win last October. I will write a separate post on Opening Day itself, so for this one I will stick to the stadium. For Opening Day, we sat in the bleachers, section 62 (same section as the red seat), row 50 (actually the last row in the place). Tickets cost us $30 (we were lucky enough to buy them at face value before going to Boston, on StubHub before the game, those seats were going for close to $200- Opening Day!). Despite being as far from home plate as possible in right field, the seats were still great, and this speaks to how intimate the stadium is. There was a good view of the action on the field, and although you can’t call balls and strikes from that far away, it is still pretty awesome. You can soak in all the views from the bleachers, watch as balls ring off the Monster, and see the plays made in the infield with amazing clarity.
The seats, for being the bleachers, were pretty comfortable, and you are never too far from a beer stand, concession, or washroom. There is definitely a passionate fan base that sits in the bleachers, which gives the game more personality than it already has. I have never been to a sporting event where the fans are as knowledgeable as they were in Boston. They love baseball, and they LOVE baseball. It was amazing. No fair weather, just checking out a game because it sounds fun crowd here. The people of Boston live and breathe the Red Sox. I loved this.
The Monster: For the second home game of the season, of course we needed to sit on the Monster. This was a life goal, and both of us were pretty giddy to actually be able to get seats. Since we hadn’t initially planned on a second game, this one was more last minute. We paid $90 for standing room tickets on the Monster, for a night game on Saturday night. Even before getting there, we knew it would be worth it. And we were not disappointed.
There is no better place to watch a game than from the Monster seats. Standing room, while it sounds like a massive inconvenience, was actually kind of perfect. It gives you the chance to move around (which was great, considering it was bone chillingly cold that night). There are under 300 seats and standing spots on the Monster, so it is like a little community up there. There are two concessions just for the Monster people, with beers and Monster dogs (definitely better than the Fenway Franks!), and very close access to a bathroom. For those going for standing room, get there earlier than you normally might, claim your spot, and enjoy. Plus, if you are on the Monster, you really need to get there for batting practice, as the odds of snagging a home run ball are pretty good. All standing room seats are lined up against a bar, where you can lean, and rest your food and drinks. It makes the whole standing thing much more comfortable, as you don’t have to stand awkwardly in one position for hours at a time.
On the Monster, there were some of the nicest, and well-educated, fans I had been around. We made friends with all of the people in our standing section, and looked out for one another by saving spots when they would have to go to the washroom, top up a beer, or need to walk to warm up. Out little piece of the Monster was a nice one, and the great people made this one of the most fun ball games I have ever been to.
The views from on top of the most famous wall in baseball are incredible. In the crisp, cool night of April baseball, under the lights of Fenway, you see it all. You are on top of the action, and even closer to it than I would have thought. You look down at the left fielder, you see the pitches clearly (which makes yelling at the umps easier), and you are literally on top of the action.
If you are planning on going to Fenway as a vacation, see a game from the Monster. Despite the steeper prices, you will not regret it. Apparently standing room tickets are normally about $60, which is well worth it. Plus, as it was freezing cold, and the game ended up going in to extra innings, we ended up with Monster seats for about half the game, as some who were not as prepared for the temperatures ended up leaving early. Since it was so frosty, we still ended up standing, but we had moved closer to the famed edge of the Monster, and it was glorious. Plus, it gave us the chance to sit if our legs were feeling tired.
Prices: It is not cheap to go to Fenway. But I’m sure there isn’t anybody out there who are hoping for a cheap night out by going there. Beers cost nearly $9 for a can, a Fenway Frank is $5 (they are not large), and a Monster Dog is $9 (but good!). The service is fast and friendly.
Atmosphere: Simply put, there is no better place to watch baseball than at Fenway Park. Period.
The combination of the team, the city, the fans, the knowledge, the history, and the ballpark all make Fenway THE place to see a game.
The surrounding area: Is there more famous streets that surround a ballpark? Yawkey Way is the place to be on game day. The bars are lined up around the block, and the street is jammed full of people, elbow-to-elbow. There is a buzz there that is unprecedented in my experience. I can’t even imagine it during the playoffs. There are plenty of options for food and drink before and after the game. Either get there early (most places were open at 8:30 AM for Opening Day), or be prepared to wait in line for a decent amount of time. It is cool, because everybody is there for the same reason: because they love baseball, and they love the Red Sox.
Final Comments: Having the opportunity to fly across the country to watch baseball is one that I am grateful for. Seeing a game at Fenway really was a dream come true, and getting to see two was just adding to the perfection. Leaving the park after the end of the 11th inning on Saturday night, I simply thought to myself that I can’t wait to go back.
This book is a few years old already, so this review is definitely about a decade late, but I just finished reading it, and decided to write about it anyways.
First off, I love books about baseball. No other sport has created volumes of great work, created so many timeless stories, as baseball has. Perhaps it has something to do with the pace of the game being slower than other major sports, perhaps it is because it is easier to describe a one-on-one pitcher versus batter matchup, than it is to describe the actions of 22 men on a football field, or all of the insane action on the ice in a hockey game.
Books about baseball are the best. My bookshelves are packed with them. I find that I will read about anything, since the history of the game is so chalk full of great characters, heroes and villains, stories of the impossible, or improbable.
The story of the 1986 New York Mets is a great one. And it is put together extremely well in The Bad Guys Won!
From the beginning, Sports Illustrated writer Jeff Pearlman paints the ’86 Mets as being a group of degenerate, hard-partying, self-obsessed, overly cocky jerks, who happen to, together, be one of the great teams in baseball history. People didn’t like them, other teams hated them, there was even a fair amount of self-loathing going on in the locker room. They knew that they were crazy, and they were mean to each other, but they won together.
Often, the ’86 World Series is remembered best because the Boston Red Sox blew the series, and Bill Buckner went down in infamy. The fact is, the Mets were the favorites to win it all (according to experts, and to the players themselves), and they were a team coming off a 108-win season, which is nothing to sneeze at. They were good. And they knew it.
Pearlman pieces together the season, including the lead-in years where the Mets were a league laughingstock. Smart moves, drafts, and trades created a team that was poised to dominate for years. With these Mets, and their hard living ways, they ended up having one great season, and then been broken apart, bit by bit. Some of their destruction was due to their own foolishness (just look at the nefarious careers of Dwight Gooden and Darryl Strawberry), others due to poor decisions after winning it all in ’86, and part was due to an organizational shift in philosophy, where ageing veterans were favored over youth. The fact is, the Mets were an incredible team, but they were only truly incredible once, which makes them that much more magical. Because it never happened again.
Rightfully, Pearlman laments the death of the fun ballplayer, of which the Mets had several. Today, people are trained on being politically correct, saying the right thing at the right time. The Mets were trash talking, rude, destructive. And they could back it all up on the field, by being a great team.
The narrative here is strung together well, and the book reads at a fast pace, much like the way the Mets lived. Pearlman doesn’t get too bogged down in unwanted details, instead focusing on what is important. He doesn’t spend too much time discussing the debauched evenings the Mets had (and I’m sure there would be a million more stories), as that can be saved for a Motley Crue biography. He talks about the partying, focuses on some of the major stories, and moves on. Even the cocaine problems that were rampant at the time are discussed, but not dwelt upon. If someone wanted to read a history of Darryl Strawberry and cocaine, there are plenty of other sources. The Bad Guys Won! is about the whole team, and for this, it is a very interesting read.
There is enough in here for baseball geeks to sink there teeth into, as there is no shortage of statistics or descriptions of games. For those who are not huge fans of the game, there is still much to savor here, mainly the rowdy off-field behavior and personalities of the players.
As a kid (I was 7 at the time), I remember these Mets, and I remember them winning that World Series. I thought Doc Gooden was the greatest pitcher even, and that Gary Carter was the best catcher I would ever see. Maybe I was partially right. Reading this book now, gave me insight into that team I never could have imagined as a kid, and I’m glad I did.
After reading The Bad Guys Won!, it is easy to wish for the athlete who spoke his mind, for the team that knew it was great, and was willing to tell the world about it.
But, at least for now, we are stuck with our heroes giving their tired cliches, trying not to offend anybody on the entire planet.
Even though I will surely regret trying to pick the standings for the upcoming season, I might as well give it a shot. Last year, I was way off in my bold prediction of a Washington Nationals vs. Kansas City Royals World Series. I guess there is no harm in trying again! Except for my inevitable hurt pride in being so wrong about things.
Tampa Bay Rays
Boston Red Sox
Toronto Blue Jays
New York Yankees
Always the most difficult division to pick, because there are three very good teams in here, and two others that have great teams on paper but have yet to deliver it on the field. It’s hard to argue with the Rays’ success over the past years.
So much went right for the Red Sox last year, it will be difficult to duplicate that. But, they made some smart, low-cost moves over the summer, and should very much be in contention again. I like these guys, because they are tough and scrappy.
Yes, I’m picking the Yankees for last place. That rotation is just a huge question mark for me, and that starting infield is brutal. One injury to their old men roaming the shale, and they’re done. Their outfield is definitely improved, but that is only three of nine positions. Brian McCann is an upgrade at catcher, however.
I thought about going with the Orioles to win this division, but they are always such a tease. Third is where they belong.
Those poor Jays. Even if they put together a year that is injury-free, they will have too tough a time getting past the other monsters in the division. Too many questions in the rotation, as well.
Kansas City Royals
Chicago White Sox
Hard to pick against the pitching of the Tigers. They can basically roll out three aces in a row, and the rest of the rotation is pretty solid, as well. I think their bullpen is improved.
This year, the Royals start to put it together. After a few seasons of expectations, they started to get it together in the second half of last year. They keep it going. Definitely a team trending upwards.
The Indians put together something special last year, making it to the one-game playoff. I don’t think they can do it again, but they are another fun, scrappy team. Love what Francona has done there.
Not much changing at the top. The Rangers have still more firepower, but there is something about this team that is lacking over the past couple of years, and doesn’t seem to be fixed. It’s finish. They lack finish. Prince Fielder could have a huge year there, if he doesn’t wilt in the Texas sun.
The A’s are just consistent. They are a good team, even if they seem to lack good players.
Finally, an off-season where the Angles don’t overpay someone. Trout is incredible, but the aging lineup around him won’t do much to help him out.
The Mets will actually probably be the bottom of this division, because there is a lot to like about the young Marlins.
I feel that last year was a season-long mistake by the Nats. They are better than what they showed last year, after their success the year before. They pull it back together this year.
Is it just me, or does the Phillies just seem like a collection of dinosaurs at this point?
St. Louis Cardinals
Should be the most interesting division race again this year.
Impossible to bet against the always-consistent Cardinals. That rotation is excellent, arguably the best in the NL.
I think the Pirates contend again. They had players last year, on their miracle run, that had off-years. If they get it going as well, they can be good. Exciting team to watch, as well.
The Reds just kind of stay the same. Pretty good. Not excellent.
San Francisco Giants
San Diego Padres
That LA payroll is crazy. As is their roster. Even with the inevitable injuries, they have bought the depth to stay competitive. Another very good stable of pitchers. Seems like they have a dozen starters to choose from.
Arizona is building, and this division always seems to have tons of movement in it.
The Giants are usually good every second year, and this would be their year again. Don’t count them out, but I feel there are a few too many gaps to oust the Dodgers here.
I want to visit every ballpark in the major leagues. And having been to a small handful already, I think I have found the one that will stand as the one to beat: PNC Park in Pittsburgh.
For 20 years, the Pirates have been an awful team, but they began to enjoy a rebirth over the past couple of seasons. They threatened a couple of times with solid first halves, before falling off the map in the home stretch.
Then, last year, finally, the Pirates returned to the playoffs. They won the 1-game playoff and eventually lost to the eventual National League champion St. Louis Cardinals, but the city was swept up in Pirates fever for the first time since the early 1990’s. That is a long time for a town to go between playoff appearances. Even longer to go without having a decent team.
Years of penny pinching and trading away their best players seemed to work out for the team, as a stellar bullpen and young players playing their best and coming together at the right time brought the fans back to the park.
And PNC is one hell of a place to watch baseball.
I was lucky enough to get to do a park tour the day before the game, and it is a wonderful place. The details that went into building it, down to the original rivulets, is truly impressive. Wandering through the suites, and the pressbox was really cool, a way to see how the other half lives. Then we got to go down in to the depths of the stadium, where the dressing rooms are, the batting cage, and eventually, wandering into the dugout and onto the majestic field itself. Standing on a major league ball diamond is something truly amazing, to see the field in the same way that the players see it, and to feel the shale crunch beneath your feet. This was something unforgettable for me.
As far as the game itself went, it was extremely exciting. The fans were great, all clad in black and yellow, and they were there, fired up for their team. This was during the 2012 season, and the Pirates were still very much in the hunt when I saw them. The people of Pittsburgh were fired up. The park is beautiful, and after so many losing years, the prices was right. A $40 ticket got me fifth row seats behind the visitors dugout (they were playing the Arizona Diamondbacks), on the first base side. Couldn’t ask for better seats, and as I arrived, I was even surprised by how good they were. I wasn’t expecting them to be that close.
On my trip, I had lived off junk for too long, so I didn’t have a hot dog at the park, but I did indulge in a few beers with the friendly people in my section. They were nice people, and they made the game that much more entertaining, as we cheered for the Bucs together, dove for foul balls at the same time (made it on the big screen and on the local broadcast!), and roared as the Jolly Roger was raised at the end of the game, to signify a Pirates victory.
I loved everything about my experience at PNC. Great employees, very friendly ushers, a mascot that was fun and not obnoxious, and a young, exciting product on the field all made for a great night. The weather was absolutely perfect, and the view…
Looking into the outfield of PNC Park is one of the best sights in the majors. Downtown Pittsburgh sits across the Allegheny River, and a couple of the yellow bridges that cross the river sit in the beautiful view. It is something beautiful to behold, yet another city that has done it right with the location of their ball park.
The whole area around PNC is also perfectly done, as there is a long cluster of nearby bars and restaurants ready to handle the pre- and post-game crowds. A short walking distance away is Heinz Field, home of the legendary Steelers. The setup is similar to that of Seattle, with the Mariners and Seahawks stadiums being right next door to one another.
Pittsburgh is a surprisingly awesome town, and I was glad that I had the chance to visit there. It was even better having a hotel across the street from the ballpark, but that was an indulgence I would not be able to afford every time.
PNC Park, in my opinion, is my favorite ball park I have visited so far, and it is one that I would truly love to go back to in the future.
Ever since I became a fan of baseball, they arbitrarily became my favorite team. I love the idea of the long-suffering fan base, I loved that they were rivals of the New York Yankees, and I loved the idea of the Curse of the Bambino, which had been going on for about 80 years when I started following them.
The reason they became my team was simple, as my sister was on a trip to Boston, and I asked her to buy me a Sox hat. It started there, and has lasted ever since.
After being lucky enough to watch them win three World Series titles during the tenure of my fandom, I feel grateful that I chose them as my team, even if it was a random selection.
After completely falling in love with the game, I will finally be able to fulfill one of my bucket list wishes: I will get to go to a game at Fenway Park. And not just any game, but I will be able to go to Opening Day, to start a season after they won the championship. I have long dreamed of going to Fenway, and have been to Boston before during the season, but that was during the 2005 playoffs, when they were facing the White Sox, the year after they won their first, curse-breaking Series in 2004. There was no way I would have been able to afford tickets to that game. So I watched, along with the rest of the city, in bars. The Red Sox lost that series, but the city was still abuzz with the team, still basking in the afterglow of their series win the year before. I had decided that when I returned to Boston, I would see a game, if not several games.
I may not have the chance to see more than one, but I will be there for the most important, and celebrated, games of the year, outside of the playoffs.
A friend won tickets to opening day, and when she was not able to go due to her small children, I bought them from her. Quickly, I booked a flight to Boston, as they were more reasonably prices than I would have expected, and so it goes. I will get to sit in Fenway, watch the team I love, and party with the other faithful of one of the most popular teams in baseball.
To say the least, I am truly excited. April 4th can’t come quickly enough!
The Milwaukee Brewers are one of those major league teams that people tend to forget exists. They are rarely brutally bad, but not often really good, and they are just kind of…forgettable. Their most frequent headlines tend to be about trading away a really good, too-expensive player, or lately, too many things about the cheater MVP Ryan Braun and his failed drug tests.
But the Brewers have a great home park, and one that is so close to Chicago that it should not be overlooked if you are traveling in the area.
Milwaukee itself is a pretty quiet, but nice place to visit. It doesn’t have the bells, whistles, and culture of a place like Chicago, but has a lot more of that down home feel, a place where you can be really comfortable for a couple of days while exploring what the city has to offer.
Miller Park is another of the new-ish stadiums across the league, this one opening its doors in 2001. And it is a very fun place to see a ballgame.
First off, Miller Park looks really cool from the outside. It has a spaceship appearance to it, mainly due to the interesting look of the retractable roof. The rest of the facade is brick arches, and it is a very attractive stadium from the outside.
On the inside, nothing changes. They did it up right when they built this place for the Brewers. Throughout the ballpark, everything is nice, clean, and modern. They didn’t seem to spare any money or cut any corners when they put the park together. The field is beautiful, the cool slide in the outfield adds an interesting feature, once where the mascot slides down after a home run.
For a park named for a beer company (and a beer-named team, as well), I thought Miller Park was going to be a glorious haven of millions of beers, flowing freely and cheaply. Not entirely the case. There are some decent drink options, but the prices remain the same as any other park in the league. There is some good, greasy food there as well, and our focus was on the cheesy fries that came in a miniature Brewers helmet. Good. Waffle fries are pretty much the best thing ever.
The prices were reasonable, as we sat directly behind home plate in Row 3, for about $100 per ticket. Definitely pricey for a ball game, but those seats in any other stadium would cost double that price. Plus, we had the bonus of being on ESPN for the majority of the highlights that evening.
During the May game, the weather was not being terribly polite, and it ended up being a pretty spectacular thunderstorm during the game. Thankfully, they thought of that retractable roof. Having it closed took away a little bit from the outdoor ball experience (where, as I stated in a previous post, doesn’t really happen as much in Seattle’s home park), but it didn’t dampen the atmosphere inside enough to be truly problematic (I can picture a place like the Rogers Center, home of the Blue Jays, where having the roof closed would completely change the feeling of the game).
The best part about seeing the Brewers was for their fans. Fun, friendly, outgoing people. The group of people in our section were all great, loved baseball, loved the Brewers, and loved chirping the visiting Pittsburgh Pirates (who ended up losing, as they always did in those days). It was easy to strike up conversations with the people around us, to discuss matters of the game, and the season to that point. It was fun and laid back. People were all drinking beers and enjoying the food, but it was a well-controlled crowd, and nothing out of control happened, as it sometimes does at games. For the fans only, I would go to Miller Park again. It speaks to the blue collar people of Milwaukee, and how great they are.
One of the most memorable moments of the game was seeing then-Brewer Prince Fielder chugging around the bases and getting a triple, one of the more rare events of his strong hitting career. A man of that size does not usually travel so well, but he got it done, and the crowd went wild. They absolutely loved his hustle. It was a fun moment to experience. That, along with the traditional sausage race that takes place between innings during the game. I got pretty fired up over that.
I have never had an affinity for the Brewers one way or the other, and even though I won’t outwardly cheer for them now, they definitely have a soft spot because of my chance to see them live. Miller Park is a great place, one that is probably underrated in the league. Definitely worth the visit, in a cool little town.