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OPENING DAY: Fenway Comes to Life

The last of the ice was chiseled off surfaces in Fenway Park. The snow was plowed. Coffee and hot chocolate vendors expanded their inventory. Team owner John Henry toyed with the idea of placing portable space heaters with NASCAR decals located around the stadium. It is opening day, early April in Boston. Bundle the hell up.

Meanwhile, down in St. Petersburg, The Stupid Dome (Tropicana Field) sits vacant and baking in the 81 degree heat down in the Florida sun.

The show must go on, says Bud Selig from his plush office in Milwaukee. “What is the difference between 81 and 33 degrees, really? They can just put on more shirts, as long as the shirts meet the requirements of Major League Baseball and its affiliated sponsors, such as Chevrolet and Staples and Burger King. Also, they may not say anything or even allude to negative aspects of the wonderfully remarkable World Baseball Classic sponsored by Pizza Hu and Wilson sports equipment.”

Opening Day was rained out.

Opening Day II was not. And here are a few moments that captured the illustrious scene:

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The tough economic climate has taken its toll on the scene outside Fenway Park. This is the scene on Yawkee Way an hour before game time.


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Desperate to work for the Sox in any way, Kevin Millar accepts a position on Yawkee Way entertaining anyone who won’t turn away immediately.


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Boston fans haven’t exactly taken to Fenway’s new ‘No Alcohol Section’ as ownership had hoped they would. Says owner John Henry: “We should have kept the previous name of the section which was ‘Alcohol Free’, which at least got the fans over there. Of course, then people were very upset when they realized that not only was the alcohol not free, but there wasn’t even any alcohol over there.”


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Former Sox pitcher Luis Tiant cautiously shakes hands with his old manager Don Zimmer. “People say to keep some kind of barrier between you and Zim at all times,” says Tiant, “You just never know when the ol’ guy will try to drop you or something.”


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Dice-K throws a side session of 240 pitches (28 for strikes) in anticipation of his start two days later.


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It took Dustin Pedroia all of two pitches on the young 2009 season to connect for a home run. Here he practices his high five as he rounds the bases.


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Rays outfielder Matt Joyce demonstrates the skills he learned this off-season at the Jose Canseco School of Outfielding.


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Jonathan Papelbon closed out the win for the Sox. As teammates congratulate him he just says “Margaritas at my place, 8PM.” over and over.

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OUTLOOK 09′– LET’S GET IT STARTING

A look at the starting pitchers of the 2009 Boston Red Sox and their projected 2009 season outlooks.

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JOSH BECKETT

Pictured here with his new personal trainer at a Sarah Palin fundraiser, Josh Beckett’s Red Sox legacy lies in the balance with the upcoming season. He has had moments of greatness and moments of mediocrity. He feels ready to impress with the 2009 campaign.

“I wanna pitch the (expletive) out of the ball. Do good, you know?  Pitch awesome.” Josh spent the off season shooting guns off the side of tractors at ‘mostly whatever moved’ and working on his slider.

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JON LESTER

“Jon Lester aint going nowhere!”

“How can they keep a guy who throws 86 mph right down the pike?”

“Jon Lester is overrated and will never materialize.”

Above are the words of myself and my friend and baseball connoisseur Mike as we analyzed Jon Lester as he was breaking into the majors in 2006. Damn good thing we were not the GM at any given time. For the record, we also would have canned Dustin Pedroia and Kevin Youkillis due to their certain mediocrity.

Regardless, Jon Lester is a solid pitcher and if the Sox are successful this season he will need to win 15-20 games.

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DICE-K

As we gather from the photo above Dice-K is adjusting smoothly to life in Massachusetts. As for pitching he says he loves making pitches–many, many many pitches and he loves doing so before the sixth inning.

Through an interpreter Dice- K explains: “I want to work on lowering my pitch count because they told me that I don’t actually get paid by the pitch like in Japan. Apparently, they give me a ‘salary’. Weird American customs.”

Hopefully, that will be inspiration for him to experience pitching in a seventh inning.

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BRAD PENNY

Pictured above at the Kid Rock Wannabe Contest, Brad Penny is ready to pitch. Fresh off should surgery, and a summer of lounging in the Playboy mansion sipping White Russians and thumbing through Vanity Fair magazines, he says he feels ready to go for the 2009 season.

“Hef talked to me this winter and told me I need to feel sexy when I pitch and that I would do better. He said I didn’t look or feel sexy enough pitching for the Dodgers and that was the key to my downfall. But I got a lot of sun down in F-L-A so I look and feel good now.” There were no further questions asked in the interview.

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TIM WAKEFIELD

Like a proverbial broken record, Timmy Wakefield is back. Same knuckleball, same hometown discount, same camouflage, and most likely same 12-12 type record with heaps of innings pitches. As much as people groan about Wake’s inconsistency, having a 10-12 win fifth starter isn’t all that bad.

“Dang right.” said Wakefiled, upon being asked if he is ready to pitch this year.

Says Wakefield, “I always remember what (country singer) Toby Keith told me one time, ‘Wake get on out there an’ kick some ass. Pretend them other batters is terrorists, man.'” The whole AL is a bunch of terrorists Timmy. Go git’m.

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JOHN SMOLTZ

Smoltz (pictured above) gives pitching advice to Brad Penny. He also tells him to ‘stop being a little bitch and work harder.’ The Smoltz signing was designed to bolster the team’s pitching depth this season. Until he gets going in earnest, he is more than valuable offering advice and wisdom, speaking about his early days back during the Carter administration.

“I want to get the ball rolling.” he says. “i’m sick of schooling these 23 year old punk-asses in conditioning drills. Time to pitch.”

RANDOM NOTES FROM THE SUPPORTING CAST

CLAY BUCHOLTZ

Clay is looking forward to possibly moving up this season and having a chance to avenge last year’s struggles. “i can’t wait to get out of this (expletive)-hole called Pawtucket.” he says. “What I really need to do is throw more of those no hitters I used to throw. Those were awesome”

DANIEL BARD

Says Terry Francona, “Kid throws friggin’ hard. Kinda surprised that he has never seen ‘The Notebook’, though. But he’s young still.”

JUSTIN MASTERSON

We might see Justin in some spot starts or when a team jumps out to an early 7-0 second inning lead (when Wake’s knuckle doesn’t work or on Brad-Penny-hangover-starts).


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OUTLOOK 09′– CATCHIN’ ON

A look at the catchers of the 2009 Boston Red Sox and their projected 2009 season outlooks.

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JASON VARITEK

He’s back. He’s cheap. He’s hitting under .200 for the spring. So things are pretty much on schedule for the guy with the mask and the little ‘C’. The five spring training home runs are a bright spot, but for a guy who had less than 20 percent of his fairly batted balls line drives last year he needs to offset low batting average with at least some power.

“Varitek calls a good game.” said Francone when asked about Tek’s hitting. When probed further about his hitting, Terry replied: “Yeah, well, pitchers like him because he calls a good game and he is good defensively.”

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GEORGE KOTTARAS

He made the team. George can catch the knuckle ball–at least he did in Florida this spring. I can’t think of anything to say about George Kottaras except welcome aboard George Kottaras, and catch the (expletive) ball.

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OUTLOOK 09′– Out In The Field

A look at the starting outfield of the 2009 Boston Red Sox and their projected 2009 season outlooks. We’ll also toss Rocco Baldelli in there, too, because well, he is from Rhode Island and that’s pretty cool I guess.

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JASON BAY– LF

Jason Bay (pictured above) lets his hair down for an interview on NESN. He is the calm, reserved yin to Manny Ramirez’ dread-locked zany yang. He says while he is down with salsa and reggaeton he prefers “Loverboy” and ‘Rush’ and other favorites from his homeland up north in Canada. “What is good enough for the queen is probably good enough for me, I suppose.” he says sheepishly.

As for the season he just wants to hits about 30 homers, drive in a hundred runs, and unwind with some chilled LaBatt’s Bleue on road trips.

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JACOBY ELLSBURY– CF

Perhaps the Red Sox who fits into the “What-Have-You-Done-For-Me-Lately (or since 2007, even)” category this year is Jacoby Ellsbury. He hopes that working at his uncle’s tire yard in the off-season will help him hit the inside pitch that so fooled him last season.

“I think it will. Lotta big tires. Luggin’. Throwing them. Hardly ever got to just roll them.” he says of his off-season approach at the tire yard.

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JD DREW–RF

Shown here hitting the $28 million grand slam back in October 2007, he really could use a good season to shut everyone from Madawaska to Danbury up who thinks of him as a passionless softie who gets paid too much. I mean, he does get paid a lot …and he does miss a lot of time… and he doesn’t seem to be all that interested…but I mean…um. He really needs a good year to make it in this town another year.

Drew opted out of this interview citing tightness in his back and legs so he could not offer any comment.

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ROCCO BALDELLI–RF (When Drew gets hurt)

People in Tampa might have been entertained by the ol’ balancing three cups on your bat trick (I mean they still cheer pop flies and need directions to their own ballpark) but Boston fans have seen that time and time again, so he’ll have to do more than just that with the bat.

He’ll get plenty of time to play. Drew gets hurt a lot and Jacoby doesn’t hit lefties or hard throwers well. Actually, he will see a lot of time. Unless Drew doesn’t get hurt much and Jacoby figures out how to hit hard throwers and the inside pitch then Rocco might not get many at bats.

As Rocco puts it: “Terry told me that I had better be the (expletive) ready to play at any given moment with those two (expletive)-clowns playing in front of me.”

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OUTLOOK 09′– Straight Outta Infield

A look at the starting infield of the 2009 Boston Red Sox and their projected 2009 season outlooks.

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KEVIN YOUKILLIS– 1B

“When I strikeout I get really, really (expletive) angry.” said first baseman Kevin Youkilis when asked about his outlook for the 2009 season. “Really angry.” he added. When asked again to give his 2009 season outlook he replied: “Good, I hope.

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DUSTIN PEDROIA–2B

Dustin spoke at length about his new hobby of shining trophies and drinking. He did not elaborate on the upcoming season. Red Sox Nation hopes he does well and it is assumed that he does as well. When asked about his off-season workout regiment he answered: “Duuuuuuuuuuuuuuuude! Yeah, man, weights, hittin’ aqn’ stuff.”

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JED LOWRIE–SS?

The above image displays Lowrie’s lateral quickness and range. While he is not playing ball he reads the newspaper and sleeps. This season his outlook is upbeat: “Do good. Play shortstop. Hit good and field good as well.” He also hopes to be able to read the newspaper a lot, at least when the clubhouse newspaper is not already being used by another player–which has actually never happened

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JULIO LUGO–SS?

“You know, for this next season I want to do better with hitting. And fielding. And better with throwing and running. And other things you know?” You are not alone, Julio Lugo. We want you to, as well.

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MIKE LOWELL–3B

Lowell’s off season regimen (pictured above) may not lend itself to a productive season but everyone likes Mike Lowell, so go get’em Mike Lowell.

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WHERE ARE THEY NOW? Checking in with Jurassic Carl Everett

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The inaugural “Where are they now?” segment needs to have some gusto, some poignancy among Sox fans, and has to be an attention grabber.  Enter Carl Everett, the power hitting, dinosaur hating, not real happy former Sox outfielder.

He hit 34 homeruns for the Sox in 2000 and broke up a potential perfect game by Yankee Mike Mussina with two out in the ninth, but his days in Boston were best remembered for his less than glittery interactions with umpires and the media.  And gay people.  And people who do not believe in ‘excessive corporal punishment for their own children’.  And opposing pitchers. And teammates. And so on.

Everett was a talented baseball player without a doubt, but certainly not one with the personality for the Boston media.  Ironically, despite his rocky time with the Sox, I think the fans were very thankful for his services.  Not so much on the field but for coining the “Curly-Haired Boyfriend” nickname for Globe columnist Dan Shaughnessy.

“You can’t say there were dinosaurs  when you never saw them….No one ever saw a Tyrannosarus Rex.” Book of Carl

Fossils?

“Man-made fakes.”

Oh. Um, okay.  I heard part of Obama’s stimulus package is going to covert fossil building projects.  I guess that’s what shovel-ready is all about.

Where is he now?  No friggin idea.  Here are some places/jobs not to search for him at:

1.  Natural History Museum curator.  All those dinosaur skeletons.  Taunting him.  Snickering.  Day and night.  Each one faker than the last.  might as well start a unicorn exhibit…

2.  Daycare owner:  Boot camp for tots, maybe, but nothing on the sane/nurturing side of that.

3. Public relations adviser

4. Umpire

5.  Television evangelist:  Wait.  Hates gays and dinosaurs, and believes that a man doesn’t need to be faithful to his wife but that a woman always needs to be no matter what…never mind.

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DOG DAYS OF SPRING: “Now batting, Number 84.”

As March crawls by slowly Spring Training crawls by even slower. As the Red Sox inch their way towards Opening Day it is the same routine as most springs: stretch, jog, golf, shit-stomp a few college squads, play the Twins a few hundred times, answer the same dull questions everyday from reporters, and send all the players with jersey numbers higher than 58 to their respective summer homes.

“Hey, 84! You’re headed to Lancaster.”

“Coach, I have a name. It’s …”

“Whatever, 84. Learn to hit a (expletive) baseball and you’ll get a name. Get a cab to the bus station. The Greyhound from Ft. Myers to Lancaster, CA leaves in 20 minutes and you wanna bring a pillow– tough 67 hours on that friggin bus ride. Go.”

Here are some of the moments of spring training:

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Terry and the boys talk about their favorite moments from “The Notebook”

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Two of the younger pitchers play ‘Rock, Paper, Scissors’ to see who has to head to 7-Eleven to buy Brad Penny’s Michelob Ultras and latest issue of People magazine and Tim Wakefiled’s afternoon tin of Copenhagen.

lugoDustin Pedroia and David Ortiz share a chuckle watching Julio Lugo take grounders.

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Team owner John Henry attracted swarms of affluent fans as he signed baseballs for $38. NASCAR fans caught a bit of a break getting the autographs for just $36.

sox9__1234642841_1407Red Sox catchers do a drill to prepare for any Tampa Bay Ray who slides into home plate this season. “And make it a good one!” yelled Terry from sidelines.

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David Ortiz listens to a motivational speech by good friend Manny Ramirez entitled: ” Money, Hitting, and Money”

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