Holiday Letter to Ben Cherington

Ben Cher and Big Papi

Ben Cher and Big Papi

Dear Ben Cherington:

I trusted you. ; I had faith that you could right the ship. ; After you pulled off The Trade of 2012, dumping the contracts that had the Red Sox in a multi-year stranglehold, I looked at you in a different light. ; I was willing to forgive you for trading away Josh Reddick (who went on to blossom in Oakland) and Marco Scutaro (who became the Giants’ World Series MVP). ; I still had faith in you. After all, you brought back John Farrell. ; After a tumultuous 2012, all was suddenly calm on Yawkey Way. ; I felt good about the rebuilding of my Boston Red Sox. ; I can handle a “bridge year” or two…or three.

So, Josh Hamilton is not coming through that door. ; Enter Jonny Gomes. ; Enter David Ross, Shane Victorino, Stephen Drew and (maybe) Mike Napoli. ; Enter Ryan Dempster, he of brilliant Harry Caray impersonations. ; They are all reportedly “good clubhouse guys”. ; In your effort to remake the so-called “unlikeable” Red Sox, you have assembled quite a cast of characters. ; That would be fine if you were auditioning a new cast for Saturday Night Live, but this is a baseball team, right? ; A baseball team now filled with .225 hitters. ; Nice guys who are on the down-side of their careers. ; Add them to the mix of the always yapping dirt dog, Dustin Pedroia, the veteran top dog, David Ortiz, and the illusive Jacoby Ellsbury; and who is the alpha wolf in the clubhouse? ; Can a team have too much personality? ; Just because Mike Napoli destroyed Red Sox pitching at Fenway doesn’t mean he can play first base. ; If you wanted a first baseman with a bad hip, you could have brought back Kevin Youkilis. ; At least he’s a good first baseman. ; But Napoli is a “good guy”, right? ; Fans will like him. ; After several balls thrown to him bounce off the dirt and into the Red Sox dugout, will the fans still like him? ; Will we think of the months with James Loney on first as the good old days?

The pitching rotation currently stands at Lester, Buchholz, Dempster, Doubront and Lackey. ; Do those names inspire trust? ; Dr. Phil has said, “The best indication of future behavior is past behavior.” ; I hope the good doctor is wrong about that.

Ryan Dempster, by the way, is a very funny guy who looked good against the Red Sox a couple of times last year. ; But remember it was the 2012 Red Sox. ; You understand what I’m saying, don’t you, Ben? ; (How long before Dempster works a Joe Castiglione impersonation into his repertoire?)

Chemistry is a good thing, Ben; but you cannot recreate the 2004 self-proclaimed “idiots” no matter how hard you try. ; You can bring them back in Duck Boats for a bizarre 8th anniversary celebration, but they are not taking the field, Ben. ; Kevin Millar is not walking through that door without an MLB TV microphone in his hand.

By the way, if you were looking to overpay a bunch of mediocre outfielders with great personalities, why have you passed on Cody Ross? ; Cody is better than mediocre. ; He wanted to stay. ; He loved Boston. ; He has a perfect Fenway “to the moon” swing. ; He is likeable. ; Cheerful. ; Am I missing something, Ben?

A lot of names have been thrown around as potential trade bait. Names that we would never have expected to hear in those terms a couple of years ago: ; Lester, Ellsbury, Saltalamacchia, to name a few. ; A few fools even mentioned Pedroia. ; David Ortiz finally got his coveted 2-year contract. ; You know … the one he should have gotten two years ago before he damaged his Achilles. ; We have four catchers on the major league roster — four mediocre catchers for five mediocre starting pitchers. Great.

It’s only December, Ben. ; I realize you may have more work to do – something else up your sleeve. ; I’m just…well…a little worried. ; The national media is lining up the AL East on paper like this: ; Blue Jays, Rays, Yankees, Orioles and Red Sox. ; So, I guess nice guys finish last.

In just over two months, spring training will start. ; The 2013 Red Sox will assemble for group and individual photos. ; When you look into the faces in those photos, Ben, what will you think? ; Will you be proud that you put your personal stamp on this team? ; Will you think, “This is MY team”? ; Or will you curse your old friend, Theo Epstein, for leaving you with no way around these spare parts – this dusty back room in a used-furniture store. ; You are in this mess because your buddy, Theo, traded away the organization’s best prospects for the likes of Adrian Gonzalez. ; He left you to deal with the wreckage when the dominoes fell. ; ; Perhaps it is Theo who should stand front and center in the 2013 Red Sox team photo — like Jack Torrance in the 1921 photo of the Overlook Hotel in The Shining. ; Say “cheese”, Theo. ; Or, more appropriately, say “REDRUM”.

Maybe it’s not your fault, Ben. ; Maybe it is just the hand you have been dealt. ; Not even you — not even John Farrell — can work miracles.

Happy New Year, Ben. ; Now get some sleep. ; You are going to need it.

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Trading Friendly for Farrell

John Farrell

He’s baaaaaack!  It happened and I am glad.  I think.  John Wayne … I mean … John Farrell is about to ride in on a white horse and save the Red Sox.  You know what that means, don’t you?  Dust off the NESN Farrell-cam for countless shots of that strong-chinned, handsome face intimidating everyone with his stare from the dugout.  I was hoping for this … I think.  Maybe it is because Farrell is so familiar to me and I yearn for the Terry Francona days.  All we really know about Farrell is that he kept the Red Sox pitching staff under control when he was their pitching coach.  As a manager, all we really know is that he led the Blue Jays to next-to-the-last place over only the Red Sox.  Meh.  There were also reports out of Toronto about Farrell that were troublesome.  Will he be a different manager in Boston?  We know he understands the hierarchy of the Red Sox organization and that Ben Cherington has a good relationship with him.  That’s a positive.  We know (at least we think) that the players respect and perhaps fear him.  That’s a positive.  Is it enough?

Then there is Mike Aviles who was traded to the Blue Jays in the deal.

Friendly Mike Aviles

If you are looking for statistics and intelligent baseball knowledge commenting on this deal, try another blog.  This blog is written from the heart of a Red Sox fan.  My heart tells me that Mike Aviles was too high a price to pay for a manager — even a manager riding a white horse.  What I know about Mike Aviles is this:  He is an above-average shortstop who worked hard to prove himself.  He did extra work every day with Dustin Pedroia on infield practice.  He was a mentor and friend to rookie, Will Middlebrooks, and took him under his wing in the major league clubhouse.  (If you follow their Twitter accounts, you can see the friendship between them.)  He did everything with a smile.  He clearly enjoys the game of baseball and knows how lucky he is that he gets to do it for a living.  Everyone made fun of Larry Lucchino’s letter to fans where he referred to “friendly Mike Aviles” but it is true.  I had three Mike Aviles moments this past year.  The first was at the Bosox Club luncheon.  Mike was fan-friendly and said all the right things.  The second encounter was when I was on the field with my nephew for his “Play Ball!” experience.  While walking past the dugout, I peered in — couldn’t help myself.  The only face looking back at me was Mike Aviles.  While all his teammates hid behind their caps, heads bowed (their usual response around fans who don’t pay for their presence), Mike looked up, smiled, waved and said “Hi!”  The third encounter was at the pre-game celebration for Tim Wakefield’s retirement.  While holding my Wakefield quilted fabric portrait, who was looking up admiring the quilt from the dugout but Mike.  He told the players on either side of him (Kelly Shoppach and Marlon Byrd) to look up.  He then gave me the thumbs up with a “Nice!” thrown in.  These are little things, I know, but as I always say, it takes so little to make a fan for life.

So, Mike Aviles, you leave for Toronto but you have made a fan for life.  I hope you get a good manager and good teammates and that you show them what you can do.  I will look forward to seeing you at Fenway next year where I will wear my Aviles t-shirt and cheer for you to do well (as long as your teammates do not).

And thanks for this signature.  You will be on my Red Sox quilt forever as well as in my heart.

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Is That All There Is?

2012 felt like 100 years

“Is that all there is?” was a song recorded in 1969 by Peggy Lee. It is a song about disillusionment and disappointment. It is a song about the 2012 Red Sox. It is appropriate that a song that was popular in 1969 so aptly describes the 69-win Red Sox.

As the baseball season draws to a conclusion without the Red Sox getting so much as a sniff at the post-season, I cannot help but reflect on the past year. It was a year that started with some trepidation. After the Great Collapse of September 2011, it was difficult to trust the 2012 Red Sox. Most of the same faces returned – including those with greasy chicken fingers and beer breath. The players that did not return (Scutaro, Reddick, Papelbon) were not the problem, so how could things get better? The pitching staff was suspect due to past performance or inexperience. The starting pitchers were a disaster for the most part. Daniel Bard was lost as a starting pitcher; and in making the transition from the bullpen was lost as one of the best setup men in the league. We lost Papelbon, our All-Star and World Series winning closer. His replacement, Andrew Bailey, injured his thumb in spring training and nearly missed the entire season which made the loss of Pap stand out like a sore thumb. (Bad pun intended.) The old guard was gone. Epstein, Francona, Wakefield, Varitek – gone. The Red Sox were rudderless. Bobby Valentine was such a question mark. We hoped for the best. We got the worst. A verbal scuffle between Valentine and Youkilis in April created an even bigger story when Pedroia put in his two cents and created a dustup bigger than him. The team was devastated by a league-leading number of injuries. Coming off a should-have-been-MVP season, Jacoby Ellsbury’s shoulder injury during the home opener seemed like a premonition of things to come. And it was.

We all know about the trade of Kevin Youkilis and The Blockbuster Trade of that four-headed monster, Gonzalez, Beckett, Crawford and Punto. Everything worth saying (and more) has been said about Valentine’s missteps, the players’ underperformance, the coach’s uncooperative attitude and the owner’s aloofness.

It was a year when everything was upside down. The Baltimore Orioles and the Oakland Athletics were kicking everyone else’s butts. The Red Sox could not even hold onto .500 for more than a day.

Sure, there is something to cheer about. The Yankees tanked in the post-season and got swept by the Tigers. Their anemic offense made the Red Sox look not so bad. But even that small victory was tarnished. For a true baseball fan, it was difficult to see Derek Jeter fracture his ankle and to watch Joe Girardi try to maintain his composure through the grief of losing his father. It was hard to enjoy the Yankee’s failure in the face of such sad circumstances. Except for A-Rod’s failures and foolishness, Teixeira’s general dorkiness, and the absence of Swisher’s smirk.

Is that all there is?

For this Red Sox fan, no. There was more. Although there is no question that my Sox need mending, I choose to look back on a disappointing year and find the silver lining. You see, I am not just a fan of winning. I am a fan of baseball. I am fan of all of the remarkable stories and moments that happen during the baseball season. And I am still a fan of the Red Sox. When I look back at the photographs I took during the season, I am shocked at how much I personally witnessed. There were special moments, sad moments and happy moments. Some moments were so special that I could not look away long enough to grab my camera. There were moments that will make me come back for more. So, here is my story in photographs of the remarkable things that I witnessed during this disappointing, but never dull, year in the life of a fan of the Boston Red Sox:

Christmas as Fenway

The year officially began with the introduction of Bobby Valentine at Christmas as Fenway. He seemed nice enough at the time. I told myself that it could work.

Reddick and Ortiz

In January, capturing David Ortiz with his arm around Josh Reddick was the highlight of the Boston Baseball Writers Dinner. Josh had just been traded to the Oakland Athletics and he did not seem happy to be leaving the only organization he had ever known. Little did we know how he would blossom in Oakland and become one of the A’s most popular and successful players. Go get ’em, Josh!

Pap times 2

In February, I was shocked to be contacted by Ashley Papelbon and asked to make two portrait quilts on consignment. The only hitch was that her husband had to be wearing his new Phillies cap! The quilts were sent off to the Papelbons while they were in spring training. I am told one was a surprise for Jonathan’s mother and the other will be kept by them. I usually create a label for the back of my portrait quilts which includes a miniature version of the photograph from which I based the fabric portrait. On these labels, Pap was wearing his Boston cap! Just a little reminder, Pap!

Opening Day

There’s nothing like the home opener.

Fenway Turns 100

I feel so lucky and blessed to have been at the celebration of the 100th anniversary of Fenway Park in April. The organization did an exceptional job. The pre-game ceremony was moving and beautifully done, but let’s hope that the 101st year is better for the team.

Pesky and Friends

At the 100 year celebration, we didn’t know it would be the last time we would see Johnny Pesky at Fenway Park. An emotional Johnny is seen here with Bobby Doerr, Varitek, Ortiz and Wakefield.

Thank you, Wake!

Red Sox fans celebrated Tim Wakefield’s long career in May as Wake decided to put away his knuckleball for good. His celebration was as classy and emotional as any I have seen and a fitting tribute to him. By the way, if you have not seen the documentary Knuckleball! starring our very own Tim Wakefield and the Mets’ R.A. Dickey, you simply must not miss it.

My quilted fabric portrait of Tim Wakefield was shown on the HD video screen at Fenway and on several television clips of the ceremony. Orders are pouring in. Not really, but it was pretty cool.

R.I.P., Carl Beane

In May we said goodbye to Carl Beane, the golden voice of Fenway Park. Sadly, Carl passed away in a tragic car accident. A recording of his soothing voice was played before every game: “Ladies and gentlemen, girls and boys, welcome to Fenway Park…”

“Play Ball!”

I have the most awesome nephew! Ryan and one of his teachers won an opportunity to say “Play ball!” at the start of a game in June. He invited me to join him on the field because he understood how much it would mean to me to be there. What a lucky aunt I am! The best news is that the experience seemed to re-awaken his interest in baseball. How cool is that!

Wrigley Field

I visited Wrigley Field during the Red Sox/Cubs series on a Red Sox Destinations trip. The best part of the trip was the meet-and-greet luncheon with Salty. He could not have been more receptive, open and warm. What a good guy!

Jarrod Saltalamacchia

Goodbye Youuuuuuk!

Where were you on June 14? I was at Fenway watching Kevin Youkilis getting pulled from the field and traded away to the White Sox. It was an unbelievable and emotional moment for everyone — especially Kevin.

Mike Aviles and Stephen Cisheck

June was an eventful month. I met Mike Aviles at the Bosox Club luncheon. Best smile in baseball and a darn good shortstop, too.

Youk: He’s Baaaaaack!

July came around again and so did Youk. This time he was wearing a White Sox uniform. Sigh. But wasn’t it great to witness the emergence of Will Middlebrooks?

Beautiful Fenway

July 8: I chose to spend the evening of my birthday at Fenway watching the Yankees beat the Red Sox. Oh well. At least I got this wonderful photograph.

In July another celebration was held. This time the guest of honor was Jason Varitek, retired catcher and captain. Thanks for the memories, Tek.

Apparently, I was fairly mad at the Red Sox in August since I did not bother to take any photographs during that long stretch of time. Hmmmm…

Former Red Sox pitching coach and current Blue Jays manager, John Farrell, made a return trip to Fenway Park early in September. I wonder which uniform he will be wearing the next time we see him at Fenway?

The Idiots of 2004

The organization tried to distract us from the last place Red Sox late in September by bringing back the lovable 2004 Red Sox World Series winning team. It was fun but we were not distracted.

Big Papi and Me

September 11: Red Sox vs. Yankees. What a way to end the year! Having purchased tickets to this game from the David Ortiz Children’s Fund auction, I was invited by director of productions, John Carter, to watch batting practice from the field. The next thing you know, I was standing in the dugout with David Ortiz and getting a Big Papi hug! Did that really happen? Yes, it did, and here is the photo to prove it. And the Red Sox won that night!

Is that all there is? Yes….for now. But there is always next year. Another silver lining to the end of baseball season: At least there’s more time to quilt.

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Fifty Shades of Red (Part 2)

  1. When you think about the wreckage created by the Sox acquisition of Adrian Gonzalez, it is startling. There was no effort to retain Adrian Beltre on third base, and he left for the Rangers where he has been an all-star. Kevin Youkilis was displaced and had to move to third base which seemed to physically (and emotionally) take a toll. The Sox traded three highly respected prospects to the Padres for Gonzo. Casey Kelly was their top pitching prospect who probably would be pitching at Fenway this month but instead he is on the mound for the Padres. Anthony Rizzo is a power-hitting first baseman now with the Cubs. Lastly, Lars Anderson, a Red Sox AAA first baseman, whose path was blocked by Gonzo, was traded away to Cleveland as unnecessary baggage. Theo Epstein, who coveted and finally captured Gonzo, has moved on to the Cubs. Now Gonzo is gonzo. What a waste.
  2. I hope Carl Crawford becomes the player he used to be. I suspect that it was never going to happen in Boston.
  3. John Farrell simply must be the next manager of the Boston Red Sox. If not him, anyone other than Bobby V. will do.
  4. Occasionally I have an odd and unsettling feeling that Bobby Valentine will be back next year as the Red Sox wait for John Farrell’s contract with the Blue Jays to run out. Then Bobby does or says something stupid and the feeling goes away.
  5. At Fenway Park, they have been playing Papelbon’s former entrance song, “I’m Shipping Up to Boston”, between the top and bottom of the ninth inning. It is just plain wrong. As far as I’m concerned, Pap took that moment with him when the Red Sox refused to make him an offer. It cannot be our feel good, rally song when it feels so bad. Those who stand up and dance to it just don’t get it. For me, it rubs salt in an open wound. Maybe in time, but not now. Not this year. It’s too soon.
  6. Umpire Jim Joyce is known for spoiling Tigers’ pitcher Armando Gallaraga’s perfect game with a blown call on first base. Now he should be known for performing CPR on a Diamondback’s food service employee and saving her life. Janie remembers hearing his soothing voice, “Janie, hold on…hold on…” At least he didn’t say, “Safe!” Good job, Mr. Joyce.
  7. The “Soxification” of the Dodgers has not worked out very well so far for LA. Gonzalez and Beckett’s performances have been sub-par but no surprise for Red Sox fans. I guess you can’t change a leopard’s spots.
  8. In the August 2012 edition of Boston Baseball, Glen Stout wrote a fabulous and moving article entitled, “Shades of Gray”. If you are fan of the Red Sox (or any struggling team in any sport), I recommend you find that article and read it. He wrote so beautifully of the journey of a fan through a losing season that it left a lump in my throat. “Game time each night is a gut check on your relationship”, wrote Stout. “Are you in, or are you out? … Are you a fan of only winning, an addict to the morphine pump of highlights and high fives, or is there something else, deeper and more profound, that brings you back?” Stout continued, “The decision is yours, and it tells you who you are.” So, who are you? Me? I have realized that I am a fan of baseball. Thank you, Glen Stout, and bravo.
  9. Congratulations to Kelli, Dustin and Dylan Pedroia and welcome to the world little Cole Bradley Pedroia! A baby quilt is on the way!
  10. The moment captured by the NESN camera when Bobby V. told Dustin Pedroia that Kelli was in labor was precious. The look of a young husband and father-to-be – concern, fear, shock – the open mouth in an “O”, the sprint into the clubhouse, on his way to his wife’s side. The human side of the trash-talking Laser Show/Muddy Chicken revealed. Sweet.
  11. If anyone thinks the Red Sox should trade Dustin Pedroia and feels compelled to call sports talk radio to suggest it, just be quiet. Don’t be stupid.
  12. On September 11, 2012, I watched batting practice from the field, met David Ortiz in the dugout, got a Big Papi hug (!), saw Jacoby get a walk-off hit, and saw the Red Sox beat the Yankees. What a day!
  13. I am fairly certain that the Red Sox have a real closer in Andrew Bailey. He seems like the anti-Papelbon in every way – from his laid-back, intelligent personality to his speedy delivery on the mound.
  14. The Summer of Ciriaco is just about over. The success of Pedro Ciriaco makes me wonder how many big league quality players are overlooked in the minor leagues for their entire careers and never get a chance to show that they can make it at the highest level.
  15. Ryan Lavarnway’s fiancé, Jamie Neistat, writes a damn good cooking blog, www.cookinginredsocks.com . She is a professionally-trained chef and seems like a sweet and genuine young woman.
  16. I wish the Yankees had tanked this September. It would have been sweet justice. I do not hate the Yankees. I just do not like their smug faces.
  17. This Red Sox team put a bit of a damper on the 100 Years centennial celebration of Fenway Park, didn’t it? 2012 will be forever etched into the record books as an embarrassing failure of a gazillion-dollar team. 100 Tears is more like it.
  18. The majority of Red Sox players should have gone to Johnny Pesky’s funeral with the exception of a select few who may have had real excuses. If Salty, Buchholz, Ortiz and even Padilla could make it after flying in at 3:30 a.m. that morning, then others could. That’s all I will say about that. It was also surprising how few fans showed up for the tribute to Johnny held at Fenway.
  19. After not having David Ortiz in the lineup over the waning months of this season, is there anyone out there that still thinks that the Red Sox should not sign him for next year? If so, you must be a fan of another team.
  20. I am tired of fans moaning about an “unlikable team”. I know it was a rough season; but what’s not to like about Cody Ross, Mike Aviles, Dustin Pedroia, Will Middlebrooks, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, and Daniel Nava, to name a few. Come on, people. Are they supposed to invite you out to dinner and pick up the tab?
  21. It is going to be a strange feeling this coming weekend with the Red Sox playing the Orioles in Baltimore. It is hard not to root for the Sox but the Orioles need to win to catch up with the Yankees. So, let’s go O’s, I guess.
  22. According to Cody Ross, Salty’s nickname is “Saltalama-chia Pet” due to his curly mop of moss. Now, that’s funny.
  23. It was fun to see the 2004 team being honored and paraded around on Duck Boats before the next-to-the-last home game. For all the bad things that have been said about John Henry and Company, you have to admit they are darn smart. They knew that bringing back those familiar and beloved faces would take the edge off of the fans. Who would boo the team off the field when Kevin Millar is sitting in the stands?
  24. Seeing some of the 2004 Red Sox reminded me that the 2013 Red Sox need more idiots.
  25. I wish I liked football.

2004 Red Sox: Bunch of Idiots

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Fifty Shades of Red (Part 1)

As a loyal fan, I have hung in with my Red Sox despite the pain of watching my Home Towne Team dissolve into dust.  I found myself jotting down thoughts over the last couple of painful months.  Here are the first 25 of 50 shades of all things Red (Sox):

  1. Bobby Valentine looks like he is getting beaten on a daily basis.  The clubhouse must be like the Red Room of Pain to him by now.  If he cannot be the dominator, he needs to give it up and walk away.  (That’s the last reference to Fifty Shades of Gray that will be made, in case you are wondering.)
  2. Although it is not a popular sentiment, I believe that J.D. Drew’s coverage of right field has been missed this year.
  3. I refuse to believe that Daniel Bard is broken for good.
  4. The 2012 NESN marketing promotion, “Every game matters; every play matters…” was about as truthful as the 2011 marketing promotion: “We’re all in.”
  5. Admit it.  When the Red Sox signed Gonzalez and Crawford in the winter of 2010 you felt dirty.  The Trade was cleansing.  We are not the Yankees anymore.
  6. This is Ben Cherington’s team now.  For better or worse.  I’m excited to see what happens over the next year.
  7. The Red Sox are an historic franchise.  The September 2011 collapse was the worst in history.  Zach Stewart (who came in the trade for Youkilis) started  for the Red Sox on 8/25/12 and had the worst start in a first appearance by a pitcher since 1903.  The Trade was the biggest salary dump in history.  I would be happy if the Red Sox were a little less historic going forward.
  8. In one week, Alfredo Aceves went from closer, to a 3-game suspension and not allowed on the team flight, to a mid-game mop up reliever.  A week later, he had a crazy inning where he dropped a pop up fly ball that he insisted on handling and proceeded to have a verbal altercation in the dugout with Pedroia.  Talk about a fall from grace.
  9. Things you thought nobody would ever say:  The Sox have sorely missed Scott Atchison out of the bullpen the second half of the year.
  10. Can we untrade Youk and put him back on first base at Fenway where he belongs?
  11. I feel sorry for James Loney who came to Boston in The Trade.  Imagine going from the playoff-bound Dodgers to the mess in Boston?
  12. On April 21 when the Red Sox blew a 9-0 lead to the Yankees that ended in a 15-9 loss, Bobby V. told reporters that the team had hit rock bottom.  Little did he know the depths they would reach in their subterranean dumpster dive of a season.
  13. The Los Angeles Dodgers have lost 8 out of 16 games since being joined by Gonzo, Beckett and Punto .  Just sayin.’
  14. I doubt that Josh Beckett deserved the vitriol that rained down upon him from the press and from Boston fans.  However, Josh’s stubbornness did nothing to sway anyone to his side.  In fact, he seemed to do everything to convince everyone he was a stupid ass.
  15. Adrian Gonzalez was difficult to warm up to.  There, I said it.  There’s nothing warm and fuzzy about a statue.
  16. I will have a pit in my stomach until some other team signs Josh Hamilton and Zach Greinke.  I do not want to see either of them in Red Sox uniforms.
  17. Boston sports radio needs to stop reporting results of Dodgers games.  It no longer matters.
  18. I caught myself thinking, “I can’t wait for the playoffs and World Series to begin so that I can watch some good baseball.”  That made me sad.
  19. I stopped making Red Sox quilts because they made me mad.  Until someone proves to me that they deserve it, there will be no more.
  20. It’s impossible for me to be mad at Dustin Pedroia.  He is too valuable and cares too much.  Yes, he has said some stupid things this year.  When I think about it, I remember that he and most players are young men – in their 20s.  Think about your sons, step-sons, nephews, younger brothers, etc. in their 20’s.  Imagine them on a big stage, where every word they say is reported, dissected and replayed 60 times a day.  Singer/songwriter Peter Mulvey wrote in his song, “No Sense of Humor” about “that stupid age between 26 and 35”.  Think about those young men you know.  You understand, right?
  21. I hope Jacoby shocks everyone, avoids free-agency and signs with the Red Sox.  I know it is not going to happen but wouldn’t you love him beyond words if he did that?
  22. Callers to talk radio are still calling Bobby V. “Valentin”.  It’s September, people!  What is so difficult about, “Valentine”???
  23. September 1, 2012:  The 1 year anniversary of the Red Sox beginning of the fall from grace.  September 2011 began innocently enough. The Sox were in first place.  Then they lost to the Yankees, 4-2.  Then they went on to a 7-20 September and fell off the cliff for the next twelve months.  Happy anniversary?
  24. On Labor Day, I sat down to read what was going on in the MLB.  I saw that Marco Scutaro had hit a walk-off homerun, Josh Beckett won his second game as a Dodger, Adrian Gonzalez hit a walk-off double for the Dodgers, and Jason Bay hit a walk-off grand slam for the Mets.  I have to stop reading the MLB news.
  25. The month of September has felt like a death watch for Bobby Valentine and the Red Sox.  I don’t want it to end and yet I feel guilty that I just want it to be over to end the suffering.

TO BE CONTINUED….

The Laser Show: Portrait of Dustin Pedroia
by Colleen Kane Whary

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Tek Support: A Tribute to Jason Varitek

The Captain: Jason Varitek

The Red Sox organization threw a party for Jason Varitek on Saturday, July 21 in the name of “Thanks Tek Day”.  The retired and retiring Captain Tek decided in April that he would hang ’em up as a Red Sox.  The Sox know how to put on a good party and this one was no different.  Although lacking some of the emotion of Tim Wakefield’s day, it was a fitting tribute to Jason Varitek — a  man of few words with the heart of a lion.

In tribute to the quiet captain, I will keep my words to a minimum and tell the story in the photographs I took on that special day.

Clay Buchholz

Clay Buchholz signed autographs for some grateful fans before the festivities began.  Clay needs to take smiling lessons from Mike Aviles and Cody Ross.  It’s not that serious, Clay!

Jason Varitek and 2004 and 2007 World Series trophies

Jason had a little something to do with bringing this hardware to Boston.

David Ortiz and Jason Varitek

David Ortiz presented Tek with two of the most uncomfortable chairs that ever existed — Fenway grandstand seats — with each of their uniform numbers on them.

Jason had the attention of the Red Sox dugout.  Mike Aviles (#3) seemed to be enjoying himself, as usual.

Beckett, Buchholz, Lester

The three amigos presented a gift in appreciation of the years Jason put up with them.  (My words, not theirs.)

Jason’s new toy

The Red Sox gave Jason a brand new shiny pickup truck (red, of course).  What else do you give a man who lives in Georgia and who has everything.  Hey, he’s retired and on a fixed income, you know.  I wonder if part of my astronomical ticket price went towards this little gift.  You’re welcome, Tek.

Jason’s oldest three daughters gave a sweet speech thanking him for doing all those dad things like combing their hair and making ponytails. (Theirs, not his.)

Jason Varitek

Then Jason thanked everybody with a simple, “Thank you”.  (See “man of few words” reference above.)

And he threw out the first pitch to … who else but Tim Wakefield.   It was a knuckleball.

The obligatory man hug!

Time to let the game begin!  The Red Sox took on the Toronto Blue Jays in the second game of a three-game series.

Dustin Pedroia

Pedey is always ready.

Jarrod Saltalamacchia

Salty is always ready, too.  How can he crouch like that?  Ouch.

Friendly Mike Aviles

Mike caught me taking his picture.  Say CHEEEEEESE!

Will Middlebrooks

Will Middlebrooks, our new third baseman.  Ahhhh, the promise of youth!

Salty

Salty hit a homerun!  Yay!

Pedro Ciriaco

Pedro continues to find ways to get on base.

Nick Punto and Mike Aviles

Mike Aviles is still smiling.

I SPY CODY ROSS!!!!

Cody Ross

Cody has a lot to smile about, too.  He must have still had the glow from his walk-off homerun two days earlier.

A true hero

I love the tributes to the military men and women at Fenway.  Bobby V.  always pays his respects.

Daniel Nava

I love Daniel Nava’s spirit and his story.  And there he is on base again!

Dustin Pedroia

Pedey is still ready.  Unfortunately, the Red Sox were not.  They lost the game to the Blue Jays and went on to be swept in the series.  Those boys really know how to ruin a party.

Aaron Cook

Aaron Cook pitched a fine game except for a couple of misplaced pitches.

Boston

But, still, I believe.  Sort of.

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The Red Sox: The Saga Continues

I have been speechless. Blame it on the Red Sox. I dutifully kept notes about my favorite topic throughout June and July and had every intention of posting my thoughts. But then the June gloom turned into the July high, only to quickly fall back to ground zero. The next thing I knew, I looked up and found July nearly gone and the Sox in last place, 9.5 games back at .500. The Red Sox are about to face the Rangers, Yankees and Tigers, oh my. Meanwhile, they resemble Dorothy in the Land of Oz in search of a wizard that does not exist.

In case you missed anything, I will give you a summary:

In June, Clay Buchholz found his stride but it would not last long. Clay ended up in the hospital with a case of esophagitis. After bleeding internally and losing what looks like quite a few pounds, Clay has bounced back strong and has made a couple of great starts. In Clay I trust.

Pedroia returned from a thumb injury wearing a special brace but struggled at the plate. Finally the decision was made to put him on the disabled list with a “new” thumb injury. Pedey is back from the second thumb injury and that is a good thing. If he is not contributing at the plate, he is contributing on the field with his Dustbuster-type plays.

June was time for interleague play and the Washington Nationals came to town. We got a good look at their much-discussed rookie, Bryce Harper, and their phenom pitcher, Stephen Strassburg. They are both the real deal. Sigh. Why can’t we get guys like that?

Dice-K returned to mixed reviews and then quickly was back on the disabled list with a new ailment. Marlon Byrd came and went quickly as did Scott Posednick. Both players helped out while the Sox lost several outfielders to injury – Ellsbury, Crawford, Sweeney, Ross, Kalish, McDonald…who have I left out? There were more. Sadly, Darnell McDonald was designated for assignment. From all reports, D-Mac is a great person and a great teammate. Then the worst happened. The Yankees picked him up. Their rules and regulations forced him to cut off his dreadlocks and shave his beard. Shortly after his visit to Fenway wearing pinstripes, clean-shaven and unrecognizable, carrying his beloved dreads in a Ziploc bag, the Evil Ones cut him. Well, Evil Ones, you can take away D-Mac’s dreads but not his spirit! So, there!

Franklin Morales left the bullpen and took a few starts for the ailing Josh Beckett. Mo quickly became the ace of the staff, pitching some of the fastest and cleanest games of the year. Then Beckett came back and some idiot decided to put Mo back in the bullpen. Meanwhile, Beckett’s starts have ripped the heart out of Red Sox Nation by giving up too many runs in the early innings.

Felix Doubront continues to do well and has proven himself to be an important part of the rotation for years to come. Let’s hope that continues to trend well.

Daniel Bard had a bad couple of months. After a few painful starts, Daniel was sent down to Pawtucket to try to find the old Daniel Bard. It is unclear who was more pained by the experience – Daniel or all the batters he hit with his wild fastball.

Jon Lester’s struggles have continued. Jon has no answers as to why he is struggling and why his games so quickly unravel. Apparently, his pitching coach has no answers either. Post-game press conferences with Jon have become heart-wrenching. Why are there no answers for either of these two talented pitchers? Is it a coincidence that two such talented players are so lost? When is John Farrell’s contract up with the Blue Jays??

Rumors of a possible trade of Red Sox icon, Kevin Youkilis, actually came to fruition. Kevin played his last game in a Red Sox uniform on June 24, 2012. I was lucky to be there on that day and be part of the crowd that paid tribute to YOUUUUUUK. Then, Kevin changed his Sox. Before I knew it, there he was at Fenway Park in a White Sox uniform. Youk proceeded to pound Red Sox pitching and was named the American League Player of the Week, of course. Just Youk being Youk.

Young Will Middlebrooks settled into Youk’s position at third base. Between Youk’s notable dislike of Bobby V. (and vice-versa), his injury, and the rookie’s outstanding performance, Youk had to go. But, still….I feel so Youkless. Shortly after taking over the job, Middlebrooks was out with a strained hamstring. He is currently struggling at the plate and has made a few errors, and yet I believe in Will. You know….where there’s a will there’s a way. (Sorry.) Plus, any rookie who gets up the morning of a day game and Tweets, “Time to wake and rake”, is okay by me.

Buster Olney reported the Red Sox have a “toxic clubhouse”. Players and Bobby V. scoffed at the idea. Someone is lying.

David “Big Papi” Ortiz continued to carry the team into the All-Star break. Papi was the only Red Sox representing the team in the All-Star Game and deservedly so. Thankfully, he did not take part in the dreaded, swing-destroying homerun derby. However, a couple weeks later while jogging around the bases after an Adrian Gonzalez homerun, Papi managed to re-injure his Achilles. With his foot in a boot, Papi joined the once-crowded disabled list just as Ellsbury, Crawford and Pedey returned to the game. It’s been that kind of year.

I wish I could say that the return of Crawford and Ellsbury has made a big impact. I guess it is more accurate to say that they, personally, have done well since their return; but even their terrific performances cannot mend these Sox.

Some good moments:

Youkilis returned to Fenway in a White Sox uniform. Despite the color of his sox, Kevin received a warm response from the fans. I found it especially touching that the PA guy played Youk’s walk-up song, Biz Markie’s “…oh baby you….you got what I need…but you say he’s just a friend…”

Welcome back, Adrian Gonzalez! He was never gone but his power was. It appears to be back. Nice to see you both!

To the Moon! The ever-cheerful Cody Ross was born to play at Fenway. Cody hit three 3-run homeruns over the Green Monster in two days. The third one just happened to be a walk-off win for the Sox. Well, it was good while it lasted. Momentum shifted back to the dark side the next day but Cody’s smile lingers.

So, there they sit, in last place in the AL East looking at the backs of the Blue Jays who just swept the series in Boston. It’s sad. Rock bottom is getting hard to find.

Beautiful Fenway

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Destination: Chicago!

Wrigley Field

The Red Sox visited the Cubs last weekend. I did, too. It was a whirlwind trip to Chicago with Red Sox Destinations. Chicago is a beautiful city with a river running through it, not to mention the lake that looks like an ocean to lifelong east-coasters like me.

I had heard so much about Wrigley Field and how it compared to that other grand old lady, Fenway Park. The great wall of ivy where balls magically get lost was a lovely first impression. The closeness of the seats to the field had the same feeling as Fenway. One significant difference from Fenway was the roomy, comfortable seats with cup-holders in every section of the park! Yes, I said cup-holders at EVERY seat! Take note, John Henry. It is, after all, the little things in life that matter most. But Wrigley does not compare to Fenway. There is nothing like that breathtaking moment of walking up the ramp at Fenway.

By the way, don’t be tricked into buying tickets for the “famous” Wrigley Roof Decks. If you want to watch a baseball game, you have to be in the park – not across the street, behind the bleachers. Bad move, Red Sox Destinations people!

Some wonderful memories of Chicago include the friendly, mid-western attitude of its residents. I lost count of how many strangers stopped us to talk about baseball even outside of Wrigley. We were wearing Red Sox shirts on the street before and after games and they turned out to be quite the conversation-starters. I have never worn a Red Sox shirt in New York but something tells me I should not.

A well-travelled Red Sox fan

Cubbies fans love baseball. Perhaps we are bonded by the knowledge of what it is like to be the lovable losers for decades. The honesty around us was disarming. The fans groaned when their heart-attack closer, Carlos Marmol, came into the ninth inning of Friday’s game. The fellow behind me said the closer had recently lost his job because he was so bad. Well, in this case, he continued the shutout of the Sox. Their starting pitcher, Ryan Dempster, who elicited groans by Cubs fans, managed to shut out the Sox in the earlier innings. The Sox were in their anemic mood and could not hit the ball with a club that night. The Cubs are shopping Ryan Dempster. Based on the game he pitched that night, it would be okay with me if he wore a Red Sox uniform. After all, Dempster is a good friend of Kevin Millar. Any friend of Millar’s is a friend of ours.

Ryan Dempster

Cubbies fans are also not enamored of Alfonso Soriano. After he failed to run out a potential single that ended up being bobbled, they let Alfonso know what they thought. I felt right at home.

I witnessed Dice-K give up 3 runs in the first and second innings and then settle down and pitch a good game. Unfortunately, his teammates did not help him out with runs. Apparently, every Cubs pitcher was Cy Young-caliber on Friday night. On a positive note, if the Sox had not lost that day, I never would have heard the Cubs great post-game win song. Even a few days later, I find myself singing the opening lines of “Go Cubs Go”. Check it out on YouTube.

Saturday turned out to be a better night as Jon Lester pitched a fine game. The win was appreciated by the many Boston fans in attendance. The “Let’s Go Red Sox” chant overpowered the polite Cubs fans.

The best part of the Red Sox Destinations trip is the ability to have a pre-or post-game reception with a current player. Our luncheon companion was Jarrod Saltalamacchia. I love Salty! I love him as a player and now I can see why he has become a leader in the clubhouse. Salty was as gracious, natural and comfortable in that role as anyone could have been. He was warm and receptive, looked everyone in the eye and greeted each and every one of us with a smile, an autograph, a photo and a thoughtful question and answer session. Even if, in his heart of hearts, he was thinking, “Get me out of here and away from these sweaty people staring at me”, he never let on. Meeting Salty was the highlight of the trip. The Red Sox need more players like Salty.

Jarrod Saltalamacchia

After the luncheon, we were allowed to hang out behind the Red Sox dugout while the Cubs and then the Sox took batting practice. In my mind I thought, “Yay! An opportunity to get some more quilt squares signed!” Silly me. Much to his credit, Ryan Sweeney stopped by and signed for many people. Even Carl Crawford stopped by and signed for a couple of little kids (but blew off the nearby adults). Ever hopeful, we stood in the blazing sun (the temperature was in the 90’s) for what seemed like forever. Surprisingly, Terry Francona popped out of the Red Sox dugout. He startled when we let out a cheer for him; but otherwise did not react to us standing there adoring him and remembering the good old days. Perhaps the good old days were not quite so good for Tito; but it’s not our fault.

Tito and Gonzo

There were a few smiles and waves from David Ortiz, Mike Aviles, Matt Albers, Daniel Nava and the always personable Darnell McDonald.

Darnell McDonald: Good guys wear blue hats

No other member of the Red Sox acknowledged the presence of the 60 or so Red Sox fans who paid a premium to travel through their organization from New England to Chicago to see them play the Cubs. Really? I realize that major league baseball players must constantly feel like they are being called upon to give away a piece of themselves. Turning their backs to fans and hiding under their caps while not even offering up a smile or wave is just plain unforgivable.

One of many photos of the backs of Red Sox players.

My boys disappointed me. It reminded me that a friend once told me, “You fans love the Red Sox but they don’t love you back”. Ouch. So, I hold on to the memories of Salty’s warmth, Darnell’s soft-spoken words, the big smiles of Mike Aviles, Matt Albers and Daniel Nava, and the ever-present smile and wave of Big Papi. I wish I could send them this message: It takes so little to make a fan for life.

Ryan Sweeney: He gets it

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April Sour Brings May Power

Things are looking up in Red Sox Nation. You don’t believe me? Looking back, the beginning of May did not start out promising. There were embarrassing losses to Oakland and Baltimore. There was Josh Beckett’s real or imagined injury that kept him off the mound but did not impact his golf game. Beckett’s two-inning fiasco that followed “Golfgate” felt like his way of giving the finger to reporters, fans, and his own teammates. Aaron Cook’s deeply gashed knee that derailed his comeback after only two innings. The Orioles sweep of a three-game series at Fenway that included the 17 inning heartbreaking loss that forced backup outfielder, Darnell McDonald, to take the mound and pitch for the second time in his professional career. The frustrating “Take Me Out to the Balk Games” where several Red Sox pitchers were called on for balks. The curious case of the disappearance of Adrian Gonzalez’ power stroke continued. On May 6, Gonzo went 0-for-8 on the same day that Albert Pujols got his first homerun for the Angels. It’s been an odd year. Former Red Sox, Josh Reddick, has hit more homeruns for the Oakland A’s than Gonzo and Pujols combined. The saddest news of all was the day we heard that the beautiful and warm voice of Carl Beane, the Fenway announcer, would be forever silenced.

Adrian Gonzalez

Around the middle of the month, we noticed a few positive signs. We learned that David Ortiz held a team meeting after Beckett’s meltdown game and that things grew “heated”. Thereafter, the starting pitchers noticeably improved. The Will Middlebrooks era began in earnest when he came up from Pawtucket to step in for the ailing Youkilis. Middlebrooks (or as Bobby V. has been known to call him, “Willowbrooks”) made a name for himself by hitting two homeruns in one game and then continued to hit consistently. Clay Buchholz showed signs of getting his groove back. Felix Doubront has been an outstanding addition to the pitching staff.

Will Middlebrooks

Then there was Tim Wakefield Day and the beautiful tribute to the Red Sox retired knuckleballer.

At Tim Wakefield Day

The Sox visited the Phillies and we saw old friend, Jonathan Papelbon sweep in for the save in the first game of the series. Instead of a rousing rendition of “Shipping Up to Boston”, Pap took the mound to “For Whom the Bell Tolls”. A bit of a letdown, I would say. The Sox then took the series from the struggling Phillies.

Jarrod Saltalamacchia

Saltalamacchia (a.k.a. “Saltalamaggio”) showed his toughness and leadership after a ball wiped out half his ear. The next day, twelve stitches later, he knelt behind the plate and began what appears to be an All-Star season for him. Cody Ross, former Giants World Series MVP, who has been a spark in the lineup, hit a ball off his own foot – Dustin Pedroia style – and sadly ended up on the DL with a fractured foot. With Youkilis back from the DL creating excess infielders, Gonzo keeps turning up in right field and is actually holding his own. Big Papi played a mean first base for a couple of games and has shown power and a new ability to hit to the opposite field and against lefties. Who said Papi was done? Near the end of May, the Sox even beat up on the Philly’s Cliff Lee, 5-1. Our old friend Beckett was dominant that day; and shortstop, Mike Aviles, hit a lead-off homerun for the second game in a row. Throughout the month, Doubront pitched well but got no offensive help; Bard pitched poorly but got a ton of offensive help. A fight broke out between the Red Sox and Rays – but oddly appeared to be mainly a problem between the coaching staff on both sides. Salty hit a pinch-hit walk-off grand slam. “Everyday Alfredo Aceves” appeared to be a closer idiot savant. You have to give the guy credit for his durability, and his willingness to take the ball. He is a work in progress with a huge up-side.

Memorial Day 2012 at Fenway

Memorial Day! The Sox were officially on a roll and beat up on the struggling Tigers. (Prince Fielder = not so scary.) The original Dirt Dog, Trot Nixon, returned to Fenway to throw out the first pitch and the boys did not embarrass themselves in front of him. At one point, there were seven – count ‘em’ seven – outfielders on the DL in May. But still, the worst that could happen was Pedroia getting hurt. Of course, Murphy’s Law prevailed and Pedey ended up with a torn adductor muscle in his thumb. By the end of the month, it was all hands on deck. Every day, a new unsung hero emerged. This team that was built on high-priced free agents – Gonzo and Crawford, to name two – and homegrown talent with huge expectations – Ellsbury, Youkilis, Pedroia, Lester – started winning on the backs of the likes of Ryan Sweeney, Scott Atchison, Mike Aviles, Andrew Miller, Franklin Morales, Vincente Padilla, young Will Middlebrooks, and don’t forget the one and only Legend of Daniel Nava (no longer a one-hit wonder). Yes, the pitching staff picked it up a little bit but the patchwork bullpen is what really has kept the ship from sinking.

Trot Nixon, his wife and children, Larry Lucchino and Johnny Pesky

The Sox ended May in last place in the American League East, one game over .500; but the spread between first to last place in the division is inconsequential. Somehow, someway, this formerly “unlikable” team (as has been said on the radio over and over) is….well….likeable. And, by the way, they are winning. There is nothing like winning to create team chemistry. We look at the smiles on the faces in the dugout and, what’s not to like?

David “Big Papi” Ortiz

As June begins, the skies open up, the belated spring rain is falling, and the Red Sox appear to be coming together. Welcome back, boys. Better late than never.

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Thank You, Tim Wakefield

The Knuckler: Tim Wakefield

It would be so easy to pile on the negativity by getting into the Josh Beckett controversy. It has all been said and we will never know the absolute truth. Believe me, I already scratched out a few angry paragraphs about that subject. Now it is out of my system and I have chosen to dwell on only the good things about the Red Sox. That positive attitude allows me to look past the mind-numbing early May sweep by the Orioles, the Josh Beckett “Golfgate” incident, and the “Take Me Out to the Balk Game” against the Rays.

Tim Wakefield

Then there was May 15, Tim Wakefield Day. That was the day the Red Sox honored their 17 year, 200-game winning knuckleball hurler. The Red Sox organization knows how to throw a party. The moment I will never forget is when the garage door opened and out came the “Wakefield Warriors”. Tim was not the only person at Fenway that day who was emotional. Tears were flowing from the box seats to the bleachers to the broadcast booth. It was a lovely and fitting tribute to a man who is a great humanitarian.

Wakefield’s Warriors

On a personal note, I had an unforgettable moment as well. I stood behind the dugout for the pre-game ceremony and held up my quilt, “The Knuckler”. Sadly, Wake did not seem to look up to see it. However, it appeared on the HD screen, on NESN’s Game Day Live broadcast and on MLB.com. While I did not really appreciate seeing myself larger than life on the HD screen, I was delighted to see the quilt I made in honor of a special Red Sox pitcher. As an added bonus, it got the attention of Mike Aviles (one of my favorite players). Mike pointed it out to Marlon Byrd and Kelly Shoppach. All three players turned and nodded their approval. Mike Aviles stared at it for some time, looked at me, back at the quilt, then back at me, and said, “Nice!” As I was stumbling for my camera, my friend Kate told Mike that he could be next. He and Kelly seemed to get a kick out of that and chuckled.

Mike Aviles

A Mike Aviles quilt….I’ll have to think about that one. How will I ever capture that big smile in fabric?

For more of my photos from Tim Wakefield Day, please visit: http://photobucket.com/colleenwhary-TimWakefieldDay

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