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The Sports Daily > Firebrand AL
Opening Day Report

As Evan mentioned yesterday, I was lucky enough to attend the Sox Home Opener yesterday. The weather was perfect, the ball was good, and the water was dirty, so everyone left happy. My photos aren’t uploaded yet, so no luck for anyone there, but I can offer you a few quick observations, about the event, the game, and the park.

  • The new renovations are, as usual, astoundingly well done. The upper deck is clearly a far better experience now, but like the Monster seats and the RF roof box they seem to fit seamlessly into the park, as though they could have been there for 50 years.
  • The Sox finally figured out what to do with all the ugly pennants that had lined the facades along the 1B and 3B lines: they got rid of them. Instead, we now have fancy new pennants hanging underneath the refurbished Fenway Park sign above the media booth. One worry about the old system, at least for me, was that there wasn’t room for any more; apparently the FO had the same thought, and plans on needing more space.
  • I love the fact that over the last several years – and for the next several – every year there’s an opportunity to rediscover Fenway Park. The front office has found a way to turn a 94 year old ballpark into a completely new experience on an annual basis. How amazing is that?
  • That was a nice little turnaround the Sox pulled on everyone who wondered whether we’d honor the ’86 club yesterday; instead, the Sox found two classic 40’s era cars, loaded them up with 6 surviving members of the 1946 AL Champion Sox, and drove them along the warning track to the infield to toss out the first pitch. Johnny Pesky, Bobby Doerr, Charlie Wagner, Eddie Pellagrini, Dave “Boo” Ferriss, and Don Gutteridge drew a laugh from the crowd by beckoning their younger catchers forward about 20 feet before they tossed their pitches. The best moment of the ceremony? Definitely Johnny Pesky giving Jonathan Papelbon a loving smack from his cane on Pesky’s way out to the mound.
  • But back to Fenway. We had a chance to wander around quite a bit preigame, and the improvements are quite impressive. Though you can’t get into the EMC Club or the State Street Pavilion without a ticket for those areas, you can get a decent peek inside, and the difference between the old roof boxes and what lives up there now is, frankly, extraordinary. That it was accomplished over the winter, with such subtle supporting structural changes that it took me an inning to realize that that pillars underneath the grandstand had been entirely replaced, makes it more so.
  • Josh Beckett’s only made two starts, but he’s already established a pattern: lull the other team into a 1-run sense of security in the first inning, and then eat them alive for the next 6. I have no problem with this strategy.
  • I’ll say this only once: Please give Wily Mo a chance. Please.
  • I mean, yeah, it looked dumb, but it was gonna be a homer anyway, and it’s his first time playing RF here (at least, in a while). So seriously, lay off.
  • And David Ortiz strikes out a lot too.
  • But, as I said, I’m only going to say this once.
  • If I were Manny Ramirez, I’d seriously consider taking out a large insurance policy on myself right about now. For the second time in 3 games, we’ve lost a starting OF; Adam Stern has filled in nicely for Coco over the last couple days, and Wily Mo… well, see above. But I’m definitely worried about Trot; given his long injury history, I’m not at all prepared to accept the 5-7 day estimate being bandied about right now. The problem? Mohr and Pena are both lefty-mashers, but we’ll need someone against righties too, at least for a while.
  • All hail Jonathan Papelbon. 5 games, 5 IP, 1 hit, no runs, no walks, 5 K’s, 4 saves. I know his future is supposed to be in the rotation, and it’s possible I’m misjudging him, but… man, is it a pleasure to watch him pitch out of the pen. He has the kind of stuff that’s responsible for the phrase ‘an 8 inning game’.
  • Finally, we’re 6-1. We’re tied for the best record in baseball, and we sit, after a week and a half of play, 2.5 games up on the rest of the AL East. The weather’s nice, the ball is good, and the water’s dirty. Wells vs. Chacin tonight; let’s make it 7-1.

Comments

  1. Doesn't Stern hit better against righties? I have no objections to seeing him get some time in a three-headed OF rotation before sending him back down.

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  2. Pena seemed like he had some shred of plate discipline during spring training, but not yesterday. It was all I could do not to yell, "For the love of God, TAKE a PITCH!!!!" The fielding I'm less concerned about, but I hope Papa Jack had a nice long talk with him after the game yesterday. Maybe while the suspended Tavarez has nothing better to do, he should just throw lots and lots of pitches to Pena to try to get him to start recognizing breaking balls.

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  3. Give him time. Aside from being a very "raw" player, Wily Mo is also coming over from the NL and has never seen most of these pitchers.
    He's a project, but he's never going to get better if he doesn't play the game. It's that simple.
    Knowing Trot's history, he's going to be out much longer than a week. I'd kinda hoped his inevitable injury wouldn't happen in the seventh game of the season. [Sigh]

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  4. Agreed about Nixon. I'm not comfortable at all, right now.
    God, Trot. You're a rich man now. Hire yourself a personal trainer who preaches the value stretching. And I'm not telling you what to do with your free time in the offseason, but for your own sake, run a few laps or something, work a little weight off those good childbearing hips of yours.
    He's such a good hitter. Such a good player, really. It's such a waste that he's constantly hurt like this.

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  5. I remember one of the spring break photos in which Trot is playing catch with Paps, and imitating a pitcher. It was amazing how he lifted his foot WAY over his head; how many professional atheletes can do that? Trot could probably benefit from some hard-core reiki, maybe ROLFing, acupuncture, but it looks like he's got the stretching thing covered.

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  6. And yet he's as fragile as your mother's good china. Little twist here, something rips, a little jerk there, something pulls. Hmmm.
    Have a link to this pic of yours? Not that you're going to convince me, but I still wouldn't mind seeing it.

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