Deprive us of Baseball, Will You?

Take me out to the ball game!
Take me out to the ball game!

[In this special edition of “Best of the ‘Gest” we give you a taste of America’s pastime, which is rapidly masking itself “past time,” as the owners continue their lockout of the players.

It’s billed as the “Billionaires Quibbling With the Millionaires” and that sounds about right to me. We have a nation stumbling through the second year of a pandemic, on the brink of a world war, and desperately in need of distraction, but the owners and the players can’t find a way to get back on the playing field to play ball. Personally, I’d be glad to see them replaced with local softball tournament. Really … give them a first class video treatment and pay them with a couple of cases of beer after the game, and it would be just as engaging as major league baseball.

Here’s remembering what, to me was the most entertaining season of all time for Bostonians and Red Sox fans, the summer of 2013. SB SM]

February 5, 2013 … It’s Truck Day in Boston!

This is the first day of summer. It may seem like just another gray, cold Tuesday in February, but it’s Truck Day. The doors to the big rig are opened at 7 am and the loading begins. Bats, ball, medical supplies, training equipment, and assorted gear is brought from the clubhouse at Fenway to begin the 1500 mile drive to Fort Myers. It all needs to be in place before the official reporting day on Sunday.
This Year's Theme

Larry Lucchino, Red Sox president, showed up. So did Will Middlebrooks, last year’s rookie third baseman who was one of the team’s few bright spots before going down with a broken wrist. Lucchino unveiled the season’s theme of “Big Thing’s Ahead.” Around noon the trucks began rolling south, towards Fort Myers and Boston’s amazing summer of 2013.

Meanwhile, Whitey Bulger is in his isolated cell in the Plymouth State Correction Center where he is visited weekly by his brother, Billy.

As the equipment-laden truck barrels south, Red Sox fans in New England return to the tedium of winter.

February 6, 2013

In the News:

• Specialty drug labs in Massachusetts unsafe. Unannounced safety inspections at 37 specialty pharmacies, finding only four in compliance with industry standards.
• Industry experts point to New Mexico, which one of the country’s strictest medical marijuana programs, could provide a model for Massachusetts.

Spring Training:

John Lackey

 In his first interview since his surgery John Lackey says he has no regrets about coming to Boston. This will be his year to change the story and rebuild his damaged career.

February 7, 2013

The stock market has finally climbed back to its pre-financial crisis levels. Since March 2009, stocks have nearly doubled in value.

New England braces for major snowstorm. Not much snow thus far this winter, but now a big one is on the horizon. Thank goodness the truck headed south when it did.

More from John Lackey: “I was 14-11 in 2010 and if I had won one more game, it probably would have looked a lot better.”

Yeah, John, especially if that one game had been in September.

The Sox of 1918

February 8, 2013


Bostonians stock up at local stores in preparation for the looming snowstorm.

Kevin Cullen, Globe columnist (and author of a new book on Whitey) asks “Is Whitey Bulger crazy? Or just crazy like a fox?”

Whitey is 83, in isolation for 23 hours a day, and cut off from any media. That’s a lot of time to spend inside your head.

In a visit with his brother Jack, Whitey (knowing he was being recorded) stated that he was never an FBI informant and that he was granted immunity by a conveniently dead federal prosecutor to engage in any and all crimes, including those 19 murders he is charged with.

Says Cullen: “If I were Whitey, I would think I had immunity, too. Whitey’s problem is the immunity was in his head, not on a piece of paper.”

Tim Thomas Traded from Bruins to Islanders

What a strange ride it has been for Tim Thomas, from Stanley Cup hero and most valuable player to suspended player to ex-Bruin. He will always be remembered for refusing to attend the meeting with President Obama after winning the Cup. The Bruins traded Thomas to the New York Islanders for a conditional second-round pick in 2014 or 2015.

The Globe called the trade “the exclamation point on a career that was equal parts brilliant and curious.”

February 9, 2013

The region is ensconced in a massive storm. White out conditions prevail.


It’s the 49th anniversary of the first appearance of The Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show. Which will be bigger … the 50th of JFK or the 50th of The Beatles?

Meanwhile in Fort Myers:
Pedro Martinez gets started helping Red Sox

By Peter Abraham

Pedro Martinez was back in Red Sox gear on Friday, but this time only to offer advice as a special assistant.

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Pedro Martinez emerged from the Red Sox clubhouse on Friday morning wearing a team-issued red T-shirt and blue shorts. He didn’t look much different than the group of pitchers he followed out the door.

But Martinez didn’t have a glove. He was on the field only to watch and lend a few words of advice when asked.

“I’m the new guy,” he said.

Martinez, 41, has not pitched since the 2009 season. He rejoined the Red Sox in January as a special assistant to general manager Ben Cherington.

Abraham also reported the “Struggles of last season out of Daniel Bard’s head”

Oh yeah?

Getty images Bard

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Until it became too ragged, Daniel Bard used to wear a black T-shirt around the Red Sox clubhouse with “I’m That Dude” across the front.

He was that dude, too, one of the best relief pitchers in baseball. Bard had a triple-digit fastball and a treacherous slider, pitches that produced a 2.88 earned run average over a three-season span starting in 2009.

During that time, Bard struck out 213 batters over 197 innings while allowing only 132 hits. Jonathan Papelbon received more attention because he was the closer, but Bard often had the more difficult assignments.

Former manager Terry Francona would unleash Bard in the seventh and eighth innings to stifle rallies. In the eyes of his manager, Bard was every bit as valuable as a closer, maybe more.

“He was overpowering,” Sox catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia said on Friday. “Nobody wanted to face him.”

‘I think we just tried to tweak a few too many things.’

Winter storm March

But with Bard a willing participant, the Red Sox tinkered with that success last season by making the righthander a starter. Bard did not pitch particularly well in spring training but was given a spot in the rotation.

The rest, as they say, is history.

February 10, 2013

The story is the massive snow storm that has slammed, especially, coastal residents.

But Whitey is in the news, too.


Plus, a former inmate talks about Whitey.

In Boston Larry Lucchino, John Farrell, and Ben Cherington appear in a Q&A session

Selling the Red Sox

By Joan Vennochi | GLOBE COLUMNIST
THE BATTLE to win back the hearts, minds, and wallets of Red Sox Nation is underway.

It’s a cold February night. The lobby of Two International Place is filled with lawyers, investment bankers, and assorted politicos who are there at the invitation of developer Don Chiofaro. They chomp on Fenway Franks as they await the night’s big draw: “A Conversation with Red Sox Management.”

It features Sox CEO Larry Lucchino, general Ben Cherington, and John Farrell, the new Sox manager who flew back from Florida to participate.

With a replica of Fenway’s famous scoreboard behind them, Sox radio announcer Dave O’Brien leads the trio through a series of basic questions: Can pitcher John Lackey deliver for the Sox after Tommy John surgery? (They’re hopeful.) How excited are they about the return of Pedro Martinez as a team adviser? (Very.)

But the specifics of this Q-and-A aren’t the point; the presence of Lucchino and his colleagues is what matters. They are selling the Sox in a way it was hard to envision as necessary after two championship wins. As Lucchino explains afterwards, “There is a grass-roots campaign to restore faith in the team and in the team’s commitment to winning.”

February 11, 2013

Notebook: Daisuke Matsuzaka headed to Indians

The Red Sox paid $56 million just to be able to talk contract with Dice-K just a few years ago.

With at least one spot open in his rotation, new Indians manager Terry Francona will give a pitcher he knows well a shot to win a starting job.

Japanese righthander Daisuke Matsuzaka agreed to a minor league contract with Cleveland on Sunday. Matsuzaka, who pitched for Francona with the Red Sox, must pass a physical for the deal to be finalized.

Pitchers and catchers reported to Indians camp in Goodyear, Ariz., on Sunday, with physicals scheduled to take place Monday.

Matsuzaka, 32, would get a $1.5 million, one-year contract if added to the 40-man roster and could earn $2.5 million in performance bonuses based on innings and starts.

Remember the “gyro ball”? Not long ago the Red Sox paid $56 million just for the chance to talk with this guy. He was the talk of spring training around the globe.

February 12, 2013

The streets of Boston remain clogged. Quincy is still in darkness.

Blizzard 2

Meanwhile, the Pope stuns the Catholic world by resigning. Benedict XVI is the first Pope in 600 years to resign.

In Fort Myers, Red Sox principal owner, John Henry denied reports that he was planning to sell the team:

“They didn’t turn out to be true,” he said. “I’m very happy. The last 12 years have been the best years of my life. Tom and Larry and I have had a tremendous working relationship. We’ve always been on the same page. It’s fun working with talented people.

“You just don’t get an opportunity to own something like the Boston Red Sox. As long as we can do it, the three of us are committed to being here. These thoughts that we’re somehow selling, those are just erroneous.”

February 13, 2013

This book by Kevin Cullen and Shelley Murphy is now available:

Whitey Bulger book

Based on exclusive access and previously undisclosed documents, Cullen and Murphy explore the truth of the Whitey Bulger story. They reveal for the first time the extent of his two parallel family lives with different women, as well as his lifelong paranoia stemming in part from his experience in the CIA’s MKULTRA program. They describe his support of the IRA and his hitherto-unknown role in the Boston busing crisis, and they show a keen understanding of his mindset while on the lam and behind bars. The result is the first full portrait of this legendary criminal figure—a gripping story of wiseguys and cops, horrendous government malfeasance, and a sixteen-year manhunt that climaxed in Whitey’s dramatic capture in Santa Monica in June 2011. With a new afterword covering the trial, this book promises to become a true-crime classic. (from Amazon)

The city continues to dig out from the snow storm, but a veneer of normalcy has returned.


While in Florida, Dan Shaughnessy talks about “redemption.”

The Sox assembled at JetBlue Tuesday for the first workout of pitchers and catchers. Manager John “True Grit” Farrell put the fellows through a grueling two-hour workout, and nobody texted Adrian Gonzalez to suggest a clubhouse coup d’etat.

It’s all good this year. Come on down and take a long look at John Lackey. He’s a fatty no more. Say hello to new shortstop Stephen “I’m no J.D.” Drew. And while you’re at it, check out Dustin Pedroia, who says, “They didn’t have to spend $100,000 on that focus group to find out I’m a sexy guy. I could have told them that for free!’’

Please, a little less conversation, a little more action

February 14, 2013

From a review of Whitey Bulger by Sean Flynn appearing in the Globe:

This is a man, after all, who at the height of his power — lord of the Irish underworld, the FBI in his pocket, his brother Billy ruling as president of the state Senate — allegedly choked to death a troubled young woman named Deborah Hussey. He did this in a house in South Boston that he used expressly for killing people, and he did so while his partner, Stephen Flemmi, and his henchman, Kevin Weeks, watched. Hussey was neither criminal rival nor informant nor any real threat to Whitey’s empire. She was the daughter of Flemmi’s common-law wife, and Flemmi had molested her since she was a teenager.

This wasn’t business — there were plenty of others who were killed for business. Her murder was gratuitous savagery in service of his partner’s perversion. And Cullen and Murphy narrate it with such dispassion as to be devastating. “When it was over,” they write, “the trio assumed their usual roles: Weeks started digging, Flemmi started pulling Debbie’s teeth, and Whitey lay down to take his nap.”

He takes a nap?

In sports, the Celtic are depleted by injuries including a season-ender for All-Star guard Rajon Rondo, so how do they respond? They start winning. 8 of 9 heading into the All-Star break.

And in Fort Myers, Jon Lester tells Dan Shaughnessy that he intends to have a better year. Now, that’s news!

February 15, 2013

One of the biggest pieces of off-season news was the publication of Francona: The Red Sox Years co-written by Dan Shaughnessy. When Larry Lucchino met with reporters at the start of spring training, Shaughnessy’s questions were pointedly ignored by the Red Sox President. Shaughnessy “retaliated” with this glowing testimonial.

Francona book cover

FORT MYERS, Fla. — How much do I love Larry Lucchino? Let me count the ways. I may not be able to come up with 100, but there’s a lot to love about the Red Sox CEO.

■ He played basketball at Princeton with Bill Bradley.

■ He built Camden Yards, the ballpark that changed everything about the way ballparks are built over the last two decades.

■ The late George Steinbrenner hated Lucchino.

■ It was Lucchino who oversaw the spectacular renovation of Fenway Park.

■ Lucchino dated Maria Shriver.

■ Larry called Scott Boras a liar. To his face.

■ Lucchino built Petco Park in San Diego.

■ His mentor, Edward Bennett Williams, went to Holy Cross and was perhaps the greatest trial lawyer of the 20th century.

■ Lucchino was the only member of the Sox ownership trio who called Terry Francona after the Globe’s explosive story on the ex-manager in October of 2011.

■ Larry got to hang out with Elizabeth Taylor on football Sundays at RFK Stadium when Williams owned the Redskins.

■ He gave Theo Epstein his first break in big league baseball.

■ He beat cancer. Twice. And is a champion for the Jimmy Fund.

■ As a Yale law student, Lucchino worked alongside classmate Hillary Rodham on the Senate Watergate impeachment committee.

■ Lucchino grew up near Forbes Field, a classic old ballpark. He borrowed from Forbes when he built Camden Yards and renovated Fenway.

■ He is well-read. Lucchino said he is reading a Jefferson biography at the moment.

■ The Lucchino family comes from Calabria, the toe of the boot in Italy. “Stubbornness is supposed to be a trait of the Calabrians,’’ Lucchino told the Globe in 2002.

■ He was the first to refer to the Yankees as “the evil empire.’’

■ He is exceptionally loyal. If you take a bullet for Larry, he takes care of you for the rest of your life.

■ He looks a lot like Tommy Lee Jones.

■ Lucchino engaged in a $20,000 bet to see if Francona could quit chewing tobacco in 2009. Francona lost the bet and Lucchino gave the money to Children’s Hospital.

■ In Earl Weaver style, Lucchino loves a good argument, has thick skin, and doesn’t take things personally.

Whitey in Sox hat

Larry Lucchino offered “no comment” to two questions posed by Dan Shaughnessy on Thursday, but answered similar questions posed by other reporters.

Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at

And finally, how about Whitey in a Red Sox hat?

February 16, 2013

A giant meteor is seen, felt, and heard by millions in Russia:

Russian meteor

Red Sox spring training report … a typical day

By Peter Abraham

Clay Buchholz tested his sore right hamstring by throwing from 120 feet and said he felt fine.

A daily recap from camp as the Sox prepare for their first exhibition game Feb. 21.

■ FRIDAY’S WEATHER: It was 64 and overcast with a few drops of rain, but the Red Sox did everything as planned.

■ MEDICAL REPORT: Clay Buchholz (right hamstring) threw from 120 feet and felt fine. The plan now is for him to return to the mound for a bullpen session on Tuesday. He hopes that comes as early as Sunday . . . Felix Doubront (left shoulder) is scheduled for a bullpen session on Wednesday. He will throw from 135 feet on Saturday . . . Craig Breslow (left shoulder) threw from 75 feet. His return to the mound is not yet scheduled.

■ FUNDAMENTALLY SPEAKING: The position players had a busy day in their first official workout. There was a base running drill followed by throwing, individual defense, and batting practice. The pitchers who didn’t have bullpen sessions worked on comebackers, covering first base and home, and fielding squeeze bunts.

■ THUMBS UP: The Red Sox have a coach with a fungo bat slap softer baseballs at the pitchers to work on their fielding reflexes. The balls come in at close to game speed. John Lackey and Ryan Dempster were the two best at it . . . David Ortiz did some running and agility drills to test his Achilles’ tendon and seemed to be moving well . . . Batting practice home runs don’t necessarily mean a lot, but Jonny Gomes put several balls into orbit.

■ THUMBS DOWN: Coaching staff assistant Ino Guerrero was serving as the third base coach during a base running drill. He was waving his arm counterclockwise as the runners came around. “Wrong way, Ino,” shouted Dustin Pedroia.

■ AROUND THE BASES: How precise is the schedule? The bullpen sessions were set for 10:02 a.m., 10:14 a.m., and 10:26 a.m. . . . Jon Lester said the other day that he believes in leadership by example. He is showing in his actions hustling from station to station and going full speed through drills . . . Doubront reported in poor shape and the staff isn’t happy about it. He had conditioning problems in 2011, too.

■ SCHEDULE: The Sox will be back on the field at 9:30 a.m. today.

February 17, 2013

Russian meteor2

The meteor landing spot is discovered.

After years of resistance, Sam Adams is now available in cans.
Gary Dzen writes the 99 Bottles blog for

The can design Boston Beer Co. chose showed small but noticeable differences from a standard can. The angle of the lip and positioning of the opening forces your mouth a little wider. During the tasting, the prototype can deposited beer further back on my tongue than the control can. Samuel Adams Boston Lager is known for balance. You should get brief waves of peppery, floral hops on top of a malty backbone (think bread, caramel). Boston Beer’s study showed that drinkers experienced these intended flavors sooner with the prototype can. During the taste test I really did get more flowery notes from the prototype, which could be due in part to the can opening’s closer proximity to the nose, allowing hops to waft upward. It’s not like sipping from a glass, but it’s actually superior to drinking straight from a bottle.

sam adams

It’s been ten years since the tragic fire at The Station Night Club in Rhode Island that took 100 young lives.

Milton J. Valencia and Mark Arsenault write about it in the Globe

HERMOSA BEACH, Calif. — He walks with a cane now and, until recently, he wore a colostomy bag surgically attached to his waist, a humbling reminder of his near death in 2010, after years of drug and alcohol abuse.

Not-so Great White

Jack Russell, 52, has fallen a long way since that night 10 years ago when he preened before a packed house in The Station nightclub, before his band’s pyrotechnics turned the place into a deadly inferno. In minutes, the front man for the fading ’80s hair band, Great White, became a vilified figure in a national tragedy, not just for his role in starting the fire, but for his seeming insensitivity: He talked about the band’s upcoming summer tour even while The Station burned before his eyes.

Russell had hoped to do something positive earlier this month for the 10th anniversary, headlining a concert to raise money for a permanent memorial at The Station site in West Warwick, R.I. But fire victims and their families would have none of it; he remains a pariah in their eyes.

Jonny Gomes

In Florida Jonny Gomes tells Peter Abraham he’s more than a platoon player.

February 19, 2013

And what was Aaron Hernandez doing in February, 2013?

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — The staff at Tootsie’s bills their 60,000-square-foot adult emporium as the best strip club in the country, and glass-encased trophies backing up the claim greet patrons in the dimly lit lobby.

Aaron Hernandez, a New England Patriots tight end, reportedly spent part of the early morning here Feb. 13 with an acquaintance, Alexander Bradley, as a rotating cast of 50 women gyrated on the mammoth main stage and entertained customers in semi-secluded areas known as the Jungle Room, the Next Level, and Knockers Sports Bar.

By dawn, Bradley lay in a pool of blood, his right eye lost, in a gritty parking space off an industrial alley in Riviera Beach, 65 miles up Interstate 95 to the north.

The gunman, according to a civil complaint filed in US District Court in southern Florida, was Hernandez.

Red Sox broadcaster Jerry Remy was in Fort Myers, doing his own training for the upcoming season in the booth.

photo NT 1952

February 20,2013

From the Globe:

Has the next pope spent the last few years working in . . . Braintree?

As cardinals around the world prepare to elect Pope Benedict XVI’s successor next month, speculation is raging about potential candidates — and a number of Italian Vatican-watchers have begun to mention ­Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley.

In a blog entry Tuesday, John ­Allen, Vatican correspondent for the National Catholic Reporter, cited six Italian journalists or media outlets that had pointed to the Roman Catholic archbishop of Boston as a possible, if unlikely, contender for the ­papacy.

“It may well be this is a boomlet that lasts 24 hours and then fades from view,” Allen said in an interview yesterday. “The novelty I think is that the Italian Vatican writers who tend to be the ones who set the tone for public discussion . . . have seized on O’Malley in a way I don’t think any one of us saw coming.”


The city of Detroit has admitted that it is in the midst of a financial crisis while a Boston jury awards author Patricia Cornwell $50.9 million dollars.

“She is sitting in her posh home in the North End with a scenic view of Boston Harbor, and Patricia Cornwell is at once ecstatic and still livid. One of her famed works of crime fiction would not have this much drama.

A federal court jury had just awarded her $50.9 million in damages, finding her former financial company cheated her, her wife, and her company out of tens of millions of dollars. A federal judge could increase the award, too.”

Kevin Weeks

More good reading on Whitey:

On second thought, skip this one. Why reward Whitey’s former thug-in-training?

Not much going on in Fort Myers: It was an ugly day. Dustin Pedroia tripped over third and landed on his face. “I was enjoying the moment,” he said.

February 21, 2013

Boston Globe

Front Page News: The Times Company announces that they intend to sell the Boston Globe. Finally, the paper will be out of the Evil Empire hands. But, who will buy it? The paper was on the market a few years ago and there were no takers.

Meanwhile, you can’t keep this guy off the front page: James “Whitey” Bulger was quietly examined for an irregular heartbeat, raising questions about whether his health will keep him from trial.


TAMPA — Kevin Youkilis walked out of the bathroom on Wednesday freshly shaved. He appeared in good shape, but looked different in pinstripes, for sure.

He is a Yankee, he said, because of the “few teams” who courted him this offseason, he felt “the Yankees had the best chance of winning the World Series.” Since his camp-opening remarks about being a “Red Sock forever,” Youkilis has become more Yankee-like.

YOUK … YOUK … YOUK … YOUK …You’re a Red Sox forever!

February 22, 2013


Columnist Kevin Cullen speculates: “The Globe isn’t going anywhere. It’s changing owners. Who knows, maybe Rupert ­Murdoch will throw his hat in the ring. Stranger things have happened.”

And you know it’s a slow news day in Fort Myers when Dan Shaughnessy has to resort to a piece comparing the brothers Drew: “Stephen Drew is the new Red Sox shortstop. And the most important thing you need to know is that he is not J.D.

This is the way it always goes with brothers. Good and bad.

Vince DiMaggio had to live with, “I’m not Joe,’’ just as Billy Bulger has to live with, “I’m not Whitey.” Stephen Drew comes to Fenway Park this year with the added burden of reminding us, “I’m not J.D.’’

February 23, 2013

The cardinals convene in Rome … and $850 million upgrade of South Station is announced … and Globe staffers are briefed on their uncertain future.

■ THUMBS DOWN: Pedro Martinez had a brace on his right wrist. He injured himself doing some gardening. Yes, gardening. Pedro said he was trimming some bushes and jammed his hand.

■ AROUND THE BASES: Newcomer Mike Carp was given No. 38. He is the first player to wear that number since Curt Schilling in 2007. Ben Cherington and assistant general manager Mike Hazen watched Carp take batting practice. He lined several balls off the fence . . . The Sox have 36 exhibition games before the April 1 opener against the Yankees in New York . . . Rather than golf, Jonny Gomes and David Ross said they were going alligator hunting after the workout.

February 24, 2013

Front page News: An Expose of the “losing records” that athletes have in running their non-profit foundations. Among the things reported:

  • In an industry where the norm is that 65-75% of funds collected should go to the charitable recipients, Josh Beckett’s foundation managed to cough up only 37%.
  • Deion Branch’s foundation managed only 28% but the “class act” award goes to the Yankee’s Alex Rodriguez who managed to donate only 1% before losing their non-profit status. Why is this not surprising?

Non-profits representing Paul Pierce, Cam Neely, Vince Wilfork, Curt Schilling, and Ray Allen all earned high marks for their generosity.


In a column that is bound to haunt him for a long time, Dan Shaughnessy writes “It’s Hard to Get Excited About These Red Sox”

FORT MYERS, Fla. — The air is warm and fresh. Everybody is in a good mood. Players in the clubhouse are especially relaxed. No one is looking for snitches or rolling their eyes at the mention of the new manager.

There were not a lot of fans for the first week of Red Sox workouts. We witnessed none of the Beatlemania of 2005. The Red Sox were not visited by many members of the national media. No sign of the ESPN bus. Sox workouts were not featured on live television. There was no daily presence from members of the New York newspapers.

This must be what it feels like covering the Pittsburgh Pirates in Bradenton every spring.

The 2013 Red Sox have reinvented themselves. Surly, entitled ballplayers have been replaced by stand-up guys. Churl has yielded to character. Larry Lucchino actually said the $170 million Red Sox are a team of “scrappy underdogs.’’

Swell, just swell. Hope springs eternal and all that.

But here’s the reality, people: The 2013 Red Sox might be really bad. Worse, they might be really boring. Anybody talking about baseball in your neighborhood these days?

Two weeks and too many hours in the Sox clubhouse left me with a couple of impressions.

The Sox are a lot more likeable. Jonny Gomes really is the latter-day Kevin Millar. Stephen Drew has the manners of a West Point cadet. We were able to coax a smile out of Jon Lester, and Jacoby Ellsbury seems to understand the amusement we have with a player who is marking his final days at Fenway like some guy in Shawshank scratching lines on the wall of his cell.

But with one (spring training) game down and seven months to go, it’s apparent that the Sox have more questions than any other team in the American League East. It is difficult to pick them anywhere but last.

They will not be as bad as last year. This isn’t going to be a Pinky Higgins renaissance. The Sox have actual major league players this year, not the Pedro Ciriaco All-Stars who made out the lineup in the final days of the Bobby Valentine train wreck of 2012.

If, in fact, things go perfectly, the Red Sox actually could contend for a playoff spot. This is 2013, and five out of 15 make it in each league and it’s almost impossible to play yourself out of contention before August. The moribund Houston Astros have joined the American League. In this spirit, an optimist can make a case for the Red Sox.

I am going the other way this morning.

Where is there any evidence that the Red Sox have improved their starting pitching? It’s the starters who have killed the last two campaigns (starting with September of 2011 and running through all of last season).

Lester is supposed to be the ace, but he is coming back from a 9-14 season in which he gave up more hits than he had innings pitched. Next up is Clay Buchholz, who always looks good but gets hurt a lot; he strained a hamstring in the very first workout of 2013. Local pariah John Lackey is the third starter and made it to the mound Saturday for the first time since the end of 2011 when he was, statistically, the worst Red Sox starting pitcher of the last half-century.

Then comes veteran Ryan Dempster, who was cannon fodder when he moved to the American League last year. Finally, there is Felix Doubront, who is 25 years old and has managed to arrive in camp woefully out of shape in two of the last three seasons.

If any of these guys gets hurt (very likely) or don’t work out, the Sox turn to . . . Franklin Morales? . . . the maniacal Alfredo Aceves?

The bullpen looks strong. Let’s give Ben Cherington some props on the relief corps. Joel Hanrahan looks like a real closer and the Sox were smart to cut their losses with Mark “Schiraldi Eyes” Melancon.

Behind the plate, the Sox have depth, but not enough prime-time quality. There is a connection between the ineffectiveness of Sox starters and the insertion of Jarrod Saltalamacchia into the starting catching role in 2011. Salty has good power, but there is a big hole in his swing (.222 with 139 strikeouts last year). David Ross looks like a solid backup who’ll get plenty of playing time.

The first base situation is alarming. Mike Napoli is an old 31, hit .227 last year, has played only 133 games at the position, and has a degenerative hip disease. Don’t be surprised to see Lyle Overbay as an alternative.

We know the Sox are set at second base (Dustin Pedroia) and third base (Will Middlebrooks), but I worry that Middlebrooks will be asked to do too much to protect David Ortiz. It might be too much for a kid with only a half-year of big league at-bats.

Drew is in his walk year and should be OK at short. But he hit .223 last year.

The outfield looks like Gomes in left, Ellsbury in center, and Shane Victorino in right. Not exactly Rice, Lynn, and Evans, is it? Gomes is a winner but is best deployed as a platoon player. Ellsbury’s power numbers were way off last year. Victorino looks like a guy whose best days are behind him. Better hope he’s not Kevin Stevens or Joseph Addai.

Finally, it’s tough to feel good about Ortiz. He turns 38 this year, and is coming off an Achilles’ tendon injury — an injury he sustained running the bases in front of an Adrian Gonzalez home run last July. Ortiz doesn’t have contract incentive (he finally got his two-year deal, a lifetime achievement award from the Sox), and he is concerned that the Sox did little to find him lineup protection.

Sorry. The juice glass is half-empty today. These guys could be really bad. And really boring. “Scrappy” doesn’t sell in Boston in 2013. Not after everything that’s happened. For $170 million, a little more prime-time talent would have been nice.

Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at

February 25, 2013


The prospect of automatic spending cuts loom; native son Ben Affleck takes home the Oscar for Argo; and other native son John Kerry takes off on his first trip as Secretary of State;

Why can’t Dan S. get excited about this?

Jose Inglesias

February 26, 2013

One of the main links between Beantown and the Evil Empire, the Fung Wah bus company is forced to remove 21 buses from its fleet due to safety concerns. This is less surprising than Alex Rodriguez’s non-profit giving only 1% of its revenues to charity.

Tom Brady signs a team-friendly contract with the Patriots to give them flexibility to sign Wes Welker.

Now, it begins for real
Now, it begins for real

Who said the Yankees don’t have a sense of humor? From the Globe

When it comes to baseball, the Yankees really are the Evil Empire, according to a US Patent and Trademark Office judges’ ruling this month.

The decision is a setback for a Long Island woman who tried to trademark “Baseballs Evil Empire” to sell clothing.

“In short the record shows that there is only one Evil Empire in baseball and it is the New York Yankees,” according a trio of judges at the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board. “The weight of evidence submitted by [the Yankees] clearly demonstrates that the mark BASEBALLS EVIL EMPIRE would be understood by consumers to refer to the New York Yankees,” the judges wrote.

The battle, New York Yankees Partnership v. Evil Enterprises, Inc. began as a classic David and Goliath matchup in 2008. Tracy Carey, a former mortgage broker, started selling T-shirts, caps, and clothing apparel from her Long Island garage that had the famous interlocking NY logo with a devil’s face and the words “Baseballs Evil Empire.”

February 27, 2013

Fung Wah_Boghosian

Fung Wah No Mo’

Amalie Benjamin writes in the Globe how season ticket owners are fleeing.

“Seven years ago, Rick Auerbach’s wife put his name on the waiting list for Red Sox season tickets. She waited patiently, never revealing the secret, until the Sox called before the 2012 season. They were in.

Except there was a problem. The secondary ticket market had collapsed. Seats were selling for pennies or going empty. Interest in the team had waned so badly that Auerbach, who lives in Connecticut, couldn’t find anyone to take September Yankees tickets off his hands at even three-quarters of the price.

So, after one not-so-glorious year as a season ticket-holder, Auerbach is relinquishing the seats.”

In Fort Myers David Ortiz has sore heels, Mike Napoli a sore hip, and Clay Buchholtz a sore hamstring.

photo by NT 1952

February 28, 2013

Former Red Sox slugger Manny Ramirez has made a verbal commitment to sign with EDA Rhinos of the Chinese Professional Baseball League in Taiwan if he doesn’t land a major league deal by March 7, according to a report on ESPN Deportes.

Ramirez, who turns 41 May 30, hasn’t played in the majors since April in 2011, when he was suspended for testing positive for a second time for a performance-enhancing drug. Rather than serving the 100-game suspension and returning to the Rays, he announced his retirement.

Manny being Manny

He signed with Oakland last season but didn’t play a regular-season game, never progessing past Triple A.

He played in the Dominican Winter League and said he wished to return to the majors this season but drew little interest.

Ramirez has 555 major league home runs and a .996 career OPS.

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