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Friday, June 15, 2012

A Visit to Fenway Park

The family and I went to Boston last weekend, and one of our major stops was Fenway Park.  The kids have seen Fenway on television and have heard of its lustre, but it's one thing to see pictures and another to be there, especially during the 100th anniversary of this fabled stadium.  We had a beautiful day -- 79 and sunny -- to watch the hometown BoSox host the Washington Nationals.  Ironically, it's the visitors who have a hot hand and are the pleasant surprise of the year (at least to some, because for others their success is not a surprise), while the hometown nine have more payroll on the disabled list than almost any other team in baseball (and the payroll for which exceeds the entire payroll of several Major League teams).  In addition, Kevin Youkilis (who hometown fans near me derided for perhaps being the source of the "beer and chicken gate" story last year didn't start, and neither did Nationals' phenom Bryce Harper or highly paid OF Jayson Werth.

Here are a few observations:

1.  I had last been at Fenway about 20 years' ago, when Danny Darwin pitched 5 2/3 of no-hit ball before fading, and the magic remains.  We sat on the right-field line, watched a foul ball land two seats before us and saw Big Papi homer to right.  We had a good view of the scoreboards and, of course, the Green Monster, enjoyed our obligatory peanuts and the overall scenery.

2.  It's fun to take public transportation to the ballpark.  Hint when heading back from Fenway -- cross the street from where the crowd is going, walk toward the Barnes & Noble and then enter the T from that entrance.  There is no crowd (where there is a huge one on the same side of the street as the ballpark).

3.  The BoSox didn't play with a lot of energy.  They didn't have the customary bounce in their step.  Then again, they had some AAAA players in the lineup and, in many ways, are analogous to the Philadelphia Phillies.  The lineup doesn't particularly scare anyone, and Jordan Zimmerman of the Nats pitched very well, as did Jon Lester of the BoSox, who deserves better run support.  In contrast, the Nats plays with some zing and oomph.  For example, closer Tyler Clippard strolled into the game for a save opportunity as if he owned the place.  And then there was Bryce Harper. . .

4.  He didn't start, but he pinch hit in the top of the ninth with the game tied, working a walk in a great at-bat.  Then, running as if there were no tomorrow in a ballpark that cannot be considered cavernous, he scored from first on a double, showing a tremendous amount of hustle.  Ballgame over.

5.  Hard to see what the point was of Bobby Valentine's getting tossed by plate ump Al Porter late in the game.  Porter called a pretty decent game, and his ball and strike calls didn't determine the outcome for the Sox.  Perhaps Valentine asked to be tossed so that he didn't have to watch his relatively lifeless team blow a game and show little energy.  The irony of this is that the front office canned Terry Francona because the clubhouse lost its edge and its discipline, hence beer and chicken-gate.  But the team showed little energy under Valentine, which means either a) the manager isn't the issue, b) the team needs more and better leaders (read:  no one has replaced, among others, Jason Varitek) and/or c) the team just doesn't have enough talent.  In any event, chemistry is an issue in Boston, and the big-dollar signings so far look like major mistakes (John Lackey, Carl Crawford).

6.  I disagree with the fan who called Youkilis a snitch, if, in fact, it was he who outed the pitchers who seemingly were irresponsible during the Sox' collapse last September.  Someone had to say something, and organizations go to seed quickly if bad ethics or poor performance becomes the norm.  It is regrettable and that the leaders on the team didn't step up and clean up their own mess or that highly paid professionals didn't act that way, but who's to blame Youkilis if in fact he complained about an abject lack of professionalism and discipline at season's end.  The BoSox' collapse was historic in its magnitude.

7.  All in all, a terrific experience, worthy of going to an old-time ballpark with a lot of history.  I like the new parks, too, although Yankee Stadium seems corporate, Citi Field seems vertical, hotel-like and cavernous, and, very much relatively speaking, Citizens Bank Park seems a cookie-cutter copy of the other modern stadiums.  That's tough criticism in comparison, of course, but there is charm in Boston.  It's just a shame that the 2012 edition of the Red Sox seems destined not to make the playoffs.


Anonymous Kurt Smith said...

Fenway Park is especially great with all of the renovations they've done. I remember my first couple of visits being cramped and missing two innings going to get a hot dog. Now that they've closed off Yawkey Way and added the Big Concourse, it's SO much easier to get around the ballpark, making the experience that much better.

And those seats on top of the Green Monster are awesome, too.

9:40 PM  

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