Red Sox Open Fenway South Complex for Players to Prepare for 2020 Season, If There Is One

The Red Sox have opened the Fenway South complex in Fort Myers back up for players to once again prepare for the 2020 season, according to The Boston Globe’s Pete Abraham.

The important distinction here is that before this week, the complex was only available to players who were working their way back from injuries, such as Alex Verdugo and Chris Sale.

Now though, I would imagine the facility surrounding JetBlue Park is available to Red Sox players and staff in the same capacity it was before pitchers and catchers reported to camp back in February.

Per Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom, the complex was open on Wednesday and Thursday to a handful of players that included Jackie Bradley Jr. and Tzu-Wei Lin, and he expects that the exact number of players who show up “may vary day to day.”

This news comes at a time where the club is debating on whether to hold a second version of spring training in Boston or Fort Myers if baseball does indeed return this year. Of course, that all depends on the ongoing negotiations between Major League Baseball and the MLBPA.

As Abraham notes, if the two sides can reach an agreement on starting the season relatively soon, “formal workouts would begin approximately June 10th and last three weeks.”

These preseason workouts would more than likely consist of intrasquad games, so it would seem like it would be in the Sox’ best interest to hold a second version of spring training in Fort Myers rather than Boston given the volume of players who would be on hand in this scenario.

Looking Back at Jackie Bradley Jr.’s 29-Game Hitting Streak

On this day in 2016, Jackie Bradley Jr.’s 29-game hitting streak came to a close, as the Red Sox outfielder went 0-for-4 in an 8-2 loss to the Colorado Rockies at Fenway Park.

Hitting out of the leadoff spot for the first time in 2016, the then-26-year-old flew out to right in his first at-bat, grounded out to the pitcher in his second at-bat, flew out to center in his third at-bat, and grounded out to second in his fourth and final at-bat.

Headed into the bottom half of the ninth with his side trailing by six, Bradley Jr. was slated to bat sixth in the inning, and he even made it to the on-deck circle with two outs and two runners on before the pinch-hitting Mookie Betts grounded out to first to end the game.

“It was a fun ride,” said Bradley postgame. “I had a lot of fun. I enjoyed it. Most of all, the team played really well during it. I’m blessed to be in this situation.”

From April 24th, the day the hitting streak began, to May 25th, the day before it ended, the Red Sox went 21-8 to propel them to first place in the American League East at that point in the season.

Looking at Bradley Jr.’s numbers over that stretch, the South Carolina product posted an absurd .415/.488/.783 slash line to go along with eight home runs and 30 RBI over 29 games played.

By that time Bradley Jr.’s hitting streak came to an end on that faithful Thursday night at Fenway four years ago, he was just five games away from tying Dom DiMaggio for the longest hitting streak in Red Sox history (34 games in 1949).

Despite not being able to reach that mark, Bradley Jr. still became the first major-leaguer since 2013 to have a hitting streak of at least 29 games. The last Red Sox hitter to reach the 30-game plateau was Nomar Garciappara, who accomplished that feat in 1997.

After going hitless for the first time in several weeks, Bradley Jr. got back on track the following day in Toronto and recorded hits in three of his next four games to wrap up a terrific month of May in which he was named American League Player of the Month.

From there, the 2011 first-round pick was named to his first All-Star Game that July and went on to have his best season in the majors in terms of fWAR (5.3).

Red Sox Could Play Games at Empty Fenway Park This Summer, per Boston Mayor Marty Walsh

Boston mayor Marty Walsh is open to the idea of the Red Sox playing games at Fenway Park this summer under two conditions: no fans would be allowed in the stands and the City of Boston would have have to sign off on “advanced health and safety protocols that protect not only the athletes, but also everyone else reporting to the workplace,” per The Boston Globe’s Michael Silverman.

Speaking with Silverman in an over-the-phone interview earlier Friday, Walsh emphasized the safety of all parties involved in this challenging process.

“Yes, as long as the players and the teams and the support staff and all the people that are associated with it are safe and feel comfortable,” he said, “Obviously, their health is important to me as well, many of them are constituents of mine and even if they’re not constituents of mine, I obviously want people to be healthy and safe. That’s going to be the biggest challenge that they’re going to have to figure out and meet if they’re going to move forward here.”

Walsh mentioned how he had recently spoken with Red Sox team president and CEO Sam Kennedy. The two talked about MLB’s plan to get baseball back this year, although no specific dates to get the sport back have been set to this point in time.

Still, the league and its players association are hashing out negotiations about a potential return to baseball in 2020, and if an agreement is reached sooner rather than later, the City of Boston would have to ensure that MLB’s COVID-19 protocols meet its own.

“We want to see the plan,” Walsh said. “We’ll have our public health experts take a look at it and make sure that they feel like everything is covered that needs to be covered moving forward here…They’re personal teams and they have employees, and we want to make sure the teams and the employees are taking care of everything and looking through it all so that we can make sure if it does open it’s open in a safe way and the virus doesn’t spread.”

This applies to the Bruins and Celtics, whose respective seasons were abruptly suspended in March, as well.

Opening Fenway Park and the TD Garden back up to its tenants does not involve letting fans back in anytime soon, however. This is mainly due to the fact that we are still pretty far away from getting a vaccine.

Despite how unfortunate that may sound for fans across the city, Walsh is still looking forward to the return of professional sports. whenever that may be.

“I think if baseball could come back like we’re seeing in Taiwan and South Korea, I think that’s good for people to have a distraction,” Walsh said. “I think sports is one aspect of that. People have different reasons for distraction and sports is one, and I think it would help a lot of people’s psyches as far as having baseball and sports back.”

To get sports back at all though, one would assume that the City of Boston would have to open back up first. And until more information is gathered on the ever-changing coronavirus, that still might not be for quite some time.

On This Day in Red Sox History: Nomar Garciaparra Crushes Three Home Runs, Two of Which Were Grand Slams, in Same Game

On this day in 1999, Red Sox shortstop Nomar Garciaparra had a performance for the ages in a Monday night game against the Seattle Mariners at Fenway Park.

Playing in front of just 21,660 fans at America’s Most Beloved Ballpark, the best position player on the 1999 Red Sox went 3-for-4 with three home runs, two of which were grand slams, and 10 runs driven in.

That first slam came right away in the bottom half of the first inning, when after being given an early one-run lead, Mariners starter Brett Hinchcliffe allowed the first three men he faced to reach base, putting up Garciaparra in a prime position.

On the third pitch he saw from Hinchcliffe, the 25-year-old Garciaparra deposited a 2-0 fastball into the visitor’s bullpen for his third home run of the season, this one being a grand slam to put his side up 4-1.

Fast forward to the third, after Brian Daubach had led things off against Hinchcliffe with a double up the middle, Garciaparra answered the call once more as he once again took the M’s right-hander deep to right field for a two-run blast which gave the Sox a 6-2 edge over Seattle.

And in the eighth, ‘Nomah’ put an exclamation point on his historic night by coming through with the bases loaded again, this time against Mariners reliever Eric Weaver.

Weaver and Garciaparra’s duel didn’t even last that long, as the 1997 American League Rookie of the Year punished the first pitch he saw from the right-hander and sent it well over the then-seatless Green Monster for his third and final home run of the night.

His third big fly, and second grand salami, resulted in the Red Sox jumping out to a 12-3 lead, which would be more than enough for Boston to secure the eventual 12-4 victory a half inning later.

“It was amazing,” Garciaparra told reporters after the game. “I’ve never hit three home runs in a game before – not in Little League, college, nowhere. I’m glad I waited until the big leagues to do it.”

By hitting two grand slams at Fenway Park, Garciaparra became the first to accomplish that feat at his home ballpark. His 10 RBI that night were also the most by a Red Sox player in a single game since 1975.

“When you’re swinging well, good things happen,” Garciaparra continued. “Today, things felt pretty good.”

The Red Sox improved to 17-14 on the season following the 12-4 victory over Seattle.

Garciaparra would go on to finish seventh in American League MVP voting that year after winning the batting title and slashing .357/.418/.603 with 27 home runs and 104 RBI over 135 games played.

What If the Red Sox Moved to the South Boston Waterfront?

Before purchasing the Los Angeles Dodgers for $430 million in 2004, Frank McCourt had interest in becoming owner of his hometown team, the Boston Red Sox.

The Watertown native, having been the grandson of a Boston Braves co-owner in addition to the man in charge of the McCourt Company, a large asset and investment firm that specialized in real estate, had his eyes on purchasing the Sox when the club went up for sale in late 2000.

Two decades prior to that, McCourt had taken over several acres of land in South Boston, or more specifically, the Seaport District, that had once been an abandoned waterfront rail-yard and converted that land into parking lots.

With that property, McCourt envisioned a new ballpark for the Red Sox had he successfully come out on top in the bidding war.

“Great site for a ballpark,” McCourt told the late, great Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe in 2004. “We thought so. HOK [Sport in Kansas City, which builds ballparks] told me it was the single best ballpark site in America. And they designed Pac Bell (Oracle Park in San Francisco). We believed it was a great site, but not everyone agreed.”

Thanks to a rendering from StadiumPage.com, we can see what a major-league ballpark in the Seaport District would potentially look like.

At the time, McCourt owned approximately 25 acres of land in the area, and he intended on using 10 of them for the ballpark.

“It’s a prime piece of real estate, and we have an idea about how it could be used to anchor the team in Boston,” McCourt said in 2001. ”It’s snug, but it fits.”

The lot was also conveniently within close proximity of several transportation hubs in the city, including South Station and the Massachusetts Turnpike. That is something McCourt and his aides made sure to point out to local government and business officials as well as reporters.

A las, then-Boston mayor Thomas Menino and then-Red Sox CEO John Harrington never publicly backed McCourt’s ballpark proposal. In fact, at least two of the seven bidding groups had looked into ballpark sites in the South Boston area, according to The Boston Globe’s Meg Vaillancourt.

As it turns out, McCourt was really no where close to successfully winning the bid for the Red Sox, as the club, as well as Fenway Park and New England Sports Network, were sold to a group consisting of John Henry, Tom Werner, and Larry Lucchino for a whopping $700 million in December 2001.

The value of the Red Sox has only skyrocketed since Henry and Co. took over nearly 19 years ago, while McCourt went on to use the Seaport land he owned as collateral to help finance his $430 million purchase of the Dodgers from News Corp.’s Fox Entertainment Group in January 2004.

Despite decent on-the-field success, McCourt’s tenure as Dodgers owner was rather tumultuous. So much so that the Dodgers had to file for bankruptcy in June 2011 before McCourt agreed to sell the club for more than a record-setting $2 billion to a group consisting of the Guggenheim Partners, former Lakers star Magic Johnson, and former Braves and Nationals president Stan Kasten among the others the following March.

McCourt still has a vesting interest in professional sports, as he purchased French soccer club Olympique de Marsielle for about $45 million in 2016.

Per Forbes’ latest MLB valuations from earlier this month, the Dodgers and Red Sox today are the second and third-most valuable franchises in baseball behind only the New York Yankees. It would be interesting to see what those valuations would look like had McCourt been successful in purchasing the Red Sox rather than the Dodgers.

If he had been successful in purchasing the Red Sox, it also would have been fascinating to see what McCourt’s Seaport ballpark proposal would look like in real time.

The thought of the Red Sox calling a ballpark outside of Fenway Park home is odd, to say the least. There have been times where I wished the Sox played in a modern, more comfortable stadium, but at the same time, I understand the desire to keep the team at Fenway. It’s a historic relic at this point that deserves to be preserved.

Still, the allure of the Red Sox playing in a location that could offer great skyline views of the city from a different vantage point is certainly something to ponder, especially since the land in South Boston once owned by McCourt and now owned by developer John B. Hynes and Morgan Stanley remains mostly untouched.

 

 

 

That Time Manny Ramirez Hit Nearly 1,000 Feet of Home Runs in One Night at Fenway Park

Where were you on the evening of June 23rd, 2001? Personally, I was less than two months away from turning three years old, so I was probably sleeping or doing something else a toddler would do.

I ask because on that date, the Red Sox were hosting the Blue Jays at Fenway Park, and their starting lineup featured Jose Offerman, Chris Stynes, Trot Nixon, Manny Ramirez, Dante Bichette, Shea Hillenbrand, Mike Lansing, Doug Mirabelli, and Darren Lewis. A real throwback.

Despite ultimately falling to Toronto by a final score of 9-6 on that Saturday night, two of those six Boston runs came on two individual swings of the bat from Manny Ramirez.

In the bottom half of the first inning, the 29-year-old slugger crushed a 1-1 offspeed pitch from Blue Jays starter Chris Michalak deep to left-center field that wound up deflecting off a Fleet Bank sign. Statcast did not exist at this time, but per the NESN broadcast, the ball traveled an estimated 463 feet.

Fast forward to the third, and Ramirez was at it again against Michalak, this time absolutely demolishing a 1-0 pitch from the left-hander and sending it to the top of the leftmost light tower way above the Green Monster.

“How in the world are they going to measure how far this thing has gone?” said NESN’s Jerry Remy.

Had that light tower not been there, that ball was surely headed for the Mass Pike. But, since there was no real official landing spot with the deflection and all, the mammoth shot was estimated to have traveled 501 feet, one foot short of Ted Williams’ 1946 mark (the red seat).

85. Manny Ramirez's 501 foot Home Run | Find this plaque at … | Flickr

All in all, those two big flies traveled an estimated total distance of about 964 feet. Not too shabby in what was the fourth of five multi-homer contests for Ramirez in his inaugural season with the Red Sox 19 years ago.

In that first year with Boston, Ramirez, who signed an eight-year, $160 million deal as a free agent the previous December, would go on to finish ninth in American League MVP voting while winning his fourth Silver Slugger award after slashing .306/.405/.609 with 41 home runs and 125 RBI over 142 games played.

A Look Back at Recent Red Sox Home Openers at Fenway Park

Thursday was supposed to be Opening Day at Fenway Park for the Red Sox. They were scheduled to take on the Chicago White Sox in the first of a three-game series at approximately 2:05 PM EDT.

Instead, the COVID-19 pandemic that has affected millions across the country and the globe has pushed back the start of the 2020 Major League Baseball season for the foreseeable future.

In these times, baseball should take a backseat to more pressing issues we are all facing, but not having the comfort and distraction sports can provide over these past few weeks has certainly been odd.

So, since Thursday was supposed to be the first game played at Fenway Park this year, I thought it would be interesting to look back at some memorable Fenway Opening Day moments in recent years starting with the 2013 home opener. Let’s get to it.

April 8th, 2013: Red Sox 3, Orioles 1

Daniel Nava provided the only offense the Sox needed in this one to secure their fifth win of the year.

Going into their half of the seventh inning having yet to really muster anything offensively, Nava came through big time in his third trip to the plate against Orioles starter Wei-Yin Chen, as he took the left-hander deep to left off a 1-1, 91 MPH heater on the inner half of the plate to drive in both Dustin Pedroia and Mike Napoli to make it a three-run contest.

Former Sox closer Joel Hanrahan wound up giving one of those runs back on an Adam Jones leadoff homer in the ninth, but the right-hander held on to notch his third save of the season in what would turn out to be a 3-1 victory for Boston.

This took place exactly one week before the Boston Marathon bombings, and as we already know, the 2013 season that ended in a World Series title was a very emotional one for the Red Sox.

April 4th, 2014: Brewers 6, Red Sox 2

Speaking of World Series titles, the Red Sox received their 2013 World Series rings on this day in 2014.

Will Middlebrooks also homered in this contest, although Boston would eventually be swept by Milwaukee in their first three home games of the year in what would turn out to be a mostly forgettable title defense.

April 13th, 2015: Red Sox 9, Nationals 4

Coming off a solid 4-2 road trip in Philadelphia and New York to begin the season, the new-look Red Sox got the home portion of their 2015 schedule off with a bang against Bryce Harper and the Washington Nationals.

In his first home start as a member of the Red Sox, right-hander Rick Porcello provided Boston with eight solid innings of work while Mookie Betts and David Ortiz both went deep.

Speaking of Betts, the now-four-time All-Star was just getting his career started at this point in time.

Fresh off making his first career big-league Opening Day roster, the 22-year-old swiped second and third base in consecutive order against Nationals starter Jordan Zimmermann right away in the bottom half of the first inning. He also collected four RBI in addition to mashing his second homer of the season.

The Red Sox improved to 5-2 with the five-run victory over the Nats, and they looked like a team poised to bounce back from a last-place finish in 2014. That did not happen though, and come October, the Sox finished in the basement of the American League East for the third time in the past four seasons.

April 11th, 2016: Orioles 9, Red Sox 7

The sixth game of the Red Sox’ 2016 campaign marked David Price’s first start at Fenway Park since inking a then-record-setting seven-year, $217 million deal with Boston the previous December.

Unlike his Red Sox debut in Cleveland, where he fanned 10 over six two-run innings, Price struggled in his first start home, as he yielded five runs, all of which came in the top half of the third for Baltimore, over five innings of work.

Betts did impress once again though, as the 23-year-old plated a pair of runs on a solo homer and RBI single.

Ortiz, meanwhile, also shined in what was his final Opening Day as a member of the Red Sox, which was commemorated with a special pregame ceremony and his daughter, Alex, singing the National Anthem.

 

April 3rd, 2017: Red Sox 5, Pirates 3

While many expected the newly-acquired Chris Sale to get the Opening Day nod, ex-Sox manager John Farrell went with Rick Porcello, who was coming off winning his first Cy Young Award the year before.

Porcello was solid, racking up five strikeouts while surrendering three runs over 6 1/3 quality innings of work.

Offensively, all five of Boston’s runs came in their half of the fifth inning, with Pablo Sandoval and Dustin Pedroia plating a pair of runs on a pair of RBI singles and rookie outfielder Andrew Benintendi, fresh off making his first Opening Day roster, driving in three on a three-run blast to right off Pirates ace Gerrit Cole.

Benintendi would wind up finishing second in American League Rookie of the Year voting behind Yankees slugger Aaron Judge in 2017.

April 5th, 2018: Red Sox 3, Rays 2 in 12 innings

The only extra-innings game on here wound up in a one-run win for the Red Sox to open up the home portion of their 2018 schedule.

David Price contributed to the cause by hurling seven scoreless frames against his former team, while Hanley Ramirez and Xander Bogaerts came through with a pair of run-scoring knocks off Alex Colome in the ninth to make extra innings possible in the first place.

Fast forward all the way to the 12th, and Ramirez delivered in the clutch once more, this time coming to the plate with one out and the bases loaded against Ryan Yarbrough and plating Jackie Bradley Jr. from third on an RBI single to right field.

The Red Sox’ first walk-off victory of the season improved their record to 6-1 and they really wouldn’t have to look back en route to capturing their ninth World Series title that October.

April 9th, 2019: Blue Jays 7, Red Sox 5

Finally, we arrive at the most recent home opener. Another one in which the Red Sox received their World Series rings on what was an otherwise dreary day at Fenway Park.

Things did not get much better after the ceremony though, as Chris Sale surrendered five runs over four innings to eventually fall to 0-3 through his first three starts of the season.

Mitch Moreland and Mookie Betts did both homer, but at the end of the day, the Red Sox fell to 3-9 on the season and they never really were able to recover from that sluggish start despite finishing with a winning record.

So, there you have it. A nice look back at the last seven Opening Days at Fenway Park. Hopefully the next one will happen sooner rather than later.