Fire Brand reader Gerry checks in…
SPRING TRAINING OBSERVATIONS.
Tradition Field. Port St. Lucie, FL. Mets vs. Red Sox
Dodgertowon. Vero Beach, Fl. Dodgers vs. Red Sox
RED SOX NATION IN FLORIDA
The roar of the crowd when Johan appeared today would have been thunderous if a third to half the crowd weren’t Red Sox fans. The same ratio occurred yesterday at the Dodger game in Vero Beach. Sorry Hank, Red Sox Nation really is everywhere, is knowledgeable, passionate, and wonderfully eclectic. You would have enjoyed all the folks running around with Red Sox hats over Dodger shirts. You would not have believed all the Mets and Sox fans laughing and sitting together. It’s not New York that Boston fans have trouble with, it’s the Yankees. New York is the Big Apple and everyone loves the Big Apple. The Yankees are NOT the Big Apple. They are just, like the Red Sox and Mets, a very good baseball team which has managed to alienate everyone not from New York and, of course, Mets fans from New York.
GOOD BYE TO DODGERTOWN
Not only is this a state of the art training facility, it is the most historic (since 1948), and the sweetest. Despite the technology and efficiency, it has retained its fundamentally human scale, its trees, its meandering walkways. It feels good. It is serene. The players and coaches at work there, from A to L.A. levels, looked rested, confident, de-stressed. Professional and relaxed. This is a park where, before the game, you can get up close with Larry King, Tommy Lasorda, Vince Scully, Ron Cey, Sandy Koufax… priceless. The buzz is that Baltimore is in serious negotiations about taking over this pioneering facility, and would move here from Ft. Lauderdale. I can see why. Rumors also have had the Red Sox in the running. I love Ft. Myers, but if Vero is a possibility, it would be worth making the move. Yesterday was the largest crowd in the history of Dodgertown, partly because the World Champion Red Sox were there. If the Sox move in, this would become the norm.
PAYING FOR SANTANA
“This foul ball is brought to you by Joe’s AutoBody Shop.” “This strikeout was brought to you by Lucky Strike Bowling Alley.” “Please turn to page 48 in your program (an ad), and read about Billy’s FishMarket, and they are waiting to serve you after the game.” “The opening pitch will be thrown by Mary Murphy of ForestMar Bank. This pitch is sponsored by ForestMar Bank.”
Prior to the game we listened to a steady drone, over the PA, of all the sponsors and advertisers we are supposed to support. It went on for 15 minutes. Most fans ignored it. Some claimed it gave them a headache. The commercials droned through each half of each inning as the pitchers warmed up. Frankly, it was so venal it was insulting to the fans and to the game. Picture a stadium with virtually every square inch covered with ads. At Dodgertown, the chain link fence dividing the outfield from the spectator berm was left open, so fans can see through it. At Tradition Field, the fence is covered with ads. The fans can’t see through it. Soon, sponsored players… your ad here?
Yes, baseball is a business. But this business is a game, and this game is our national past-time, with sufficient weight to involve Congress when ethics are breached. This is an ethical breach. Whereas serene Dodgertown left everyone (everyone) feeling uplifted, this transparent bottom line approach, this using baseball as a device to siphon dollars, left a lot of us feeling slimed.
There was vindication in Jon Lester outpitching Johan Santana. Those who expected Jon to bring back his A-Game after the chemotherapy was gone and his rehab was complete were vindicated. Jon Lester is a powerhouse just getting it together. His 11-2 record and dominant Game 4 win were not anomalies.
David Aardsma and Bryan Corey fall into this category. It seemed last year that Corey had a breakout year with a future in our pen. It seemed that David Aardsma was a risky acquisition, a whim. If you could have heard the pop in the catchers mitt and seen how they took control of their game… these two are in a duel for a job, and they are both worthy of that job. And Oki and MDC are back.
Lopez’s numbers, today looked good, but his outs could as easily have been HRs. Breslow seemed to be gaining consistency. Hansen’s numbers were not as bad as he pitched. Give him time. Gronk was flat out awesome. Can we keep this guy?
Although Sox pitching seems to be slow to get into its groove, these games show Lester, Aardsma, Corey, Oki, MDC are ready to go, right now.
I have seen nearly 10 catchers in the past two days. The Dodger’s Russell Martin is awesome, a perpetual All Star. Using him as a standard, and sharing a general concern about finding Tek’s protege, I hoped to see prospect Lucas May. Last year’s A-level 25HR, 25-2B, .465 SLG could make him someone the Sox might acquire. Lucas did, in fact, look good, and is batting .333 in ST.
However, George Kotarras continues to look better, and seems near-ready, perhaps spending time at Fenway in 2008. He is hitting well (.571) has surprising basespeed, and seems to have a hard working attitude. Dusty Brown was very good, showing an increasing upside, but needs some seasoning. However, when watching Doug Mirabelli yesteday and the Captain today, the difference between these smooth, savvy old pros and all those young prospects is enormous. Forget that Mirabelli went 2 for 3 and cranked the ball, and that Varitek didn’t. Behind the plate, controlling the game, the pitchers, the runners. No comparison. They are so good. We are lucky to have them both. If, between them, we get .240/20/70 and 98 wins, we are set for a while.
PICKING UP THE PIECES
Joe Thurston, as an infielder, was blocked in the same way Jef Lowrie and Chris Carter are blocked. So they made him an outfielder and now, as a young Non-Roster Invitee, I saw him play CF yesterday and 2B today. What a play he made at 2B today, comparable to Lowrie’s against the Dodgers. He is hitting .368 in ST. There must be a way to hang on to this one.
Chris Carter (.318) and Brandon Moss (.333 and the game tying RBI today) are also paying their dues. These two are hitters. Moss only made 2 errors last year, Carter is not a D-whiz. Their inputs could be significant during the long season.
Sean Casey and Alex Cora. Sean is every bit as valuable as anticipated. Alex showed himself as a steadying influence, a leader in the infield, and made some dramatic plays that kept us in the game. I had thought of Lugo or Lowrie in this position, but they would not have the same effect. Like Tek and Mirabelli, we are lucky to have these guys as good guy, pros and anchors.
Fire Brand reader Gerry checks in…