So last weekend was the second annual Red Sox Winter Weekend at Foxwoods. I was at last year’s event and noticed that I didn’t write about it at the time. (I even brought a recorder for the good stuff and still have audio files from that weekend that I’ve done nothing with but listen to them myself.) I am a pathetic excuse for a blogger these days.
Anyway, this year’s weekend was loads of fun. I was a little disappointed that there weren’t panels for the minor leagues as there were last year (last year, Kelly O’Connor and I attended almost exclusively panels that covered the minor league players and operations) but the panels we attended this year were informative and entertaining.
If I had any doubts about Dave Dombrowski, last weekend erased them for me. (Sure you could argue the team acquiring David Price should have erased them for me but I’m nothing if not stubborn.) The first panel we attended on Saturday was the Baseball Operations update with Dombrowski and Mike Hazen. Two people more eager to discuss baseball operations with the lowly fans you will not find, I promise you. It was less of an update and more of a casual Q&A about the team peppered with some interesting stories from the vault of Dave Dombrowski.
I had conveniently forgotten that Dombrowski was the GM of the Florida Marlins when Kevin Millar was getting his start in baseball and last weekend he shared the story about how Millar ended up as a replacement player in 1995. It came up as Dombrowski and Hazen were making that point that regardless of what Baseball Operations folks see in a player, it’s not an exact science and every so often a player comes around that surprises them. Dombrowski was also making the point that some players, the prospects, get special treatment. Kevin Millar was not one of those special players; they didn’t expect him to go anywhere.
“We also had players in our minor league system at that point and we invited some of them to come play exhibition games, pre-season games at the big league level. We broke those players down, we would not invite prospects to play in those replacement spring training games because we knew that the Player’s Association would frown on them being part of the Association in the future so we really spent a long time – Kevin Millar played in those spring training games for us so we did not think Kevin was a prospect at all at that time. And he worked hard continued to hit basically and he went on to have a very fine big league career and now he’s a top broadcaster with his personality, so we were really surprised. There’s an example of somebody that completely caught us off guard unfortunately for Kevin because we never would have done that if we would have thought he had that type of ability. To this day he’s not part of the Player’s Association; they don’t allow him in because he played in those Spring Training games and they’re not forgiving in that regard.” – Dave Dombrowski
If I need a specific reason to encourage people to go to the Winter Weekend if the Red Sox offer it next year, sound bites like this one would be my first example. It also doesn’t hurt that Dombrowski speaks relaxed and freely – and is personable enough that you want him to keep speaking. The only disappointment from this panel was that it only lasted an hour.
We also sat in on a panel called Covering Ground where we were entertained by Jim Rice, Fred Lynn and Dwight Evans along with Mookie Betts, Jackie Bradley, Jr. and Rusney Castillo. Sure it was fun to hear Rice, Lynn and Evans recall the good old days – (and I promise you not one of them has forgotten those days and they all seem to be in agreement that they were pretty much the best. Not age nor the fact that none of them brought the team a World Series win has affected their egos – it was glorious!) – but the interactions between the old guard and the new was what made this panel a must see. If NESN wanted to take the sting out of Don Orsillo not being on our tvs anymore they would give Jim Rice and Mookie Betts a reality show. Mookie’s incessant teasing (among other things, telling the three veterans that he didn’t know who they were) finally culminated in Jim Rice telling him to talk to the hand. (Okay, so Jim Ed is a decade behind the rest of us…it was still adorable.)
There were other highlights, I got to meet John Farrell and welcome him back, got a picture with Jerry Remy (and my second picture in as many years with my honey Fred LynN!), we saw Brock Holt giving up his #26 jersey to Wade Boggs at the Friday night town hall meeting, Wally’s little sister Tessie being the belle of the ball all weekend (if I heard one kid scream “THERE’S TESSIE!” I hear ten) and we almost shared an elevator with Roger Clemens (the baseball gods helped me out there and the Rocket ended up not taking the elevator) but they really did save the best for last. The two final panels on Saturday were the Kid’s Press Conference and Red Sox Game Show.
The press conference was what you would expect – kids asking the players questions (“What kind of car do you drive? Where is the best burger?”) but the true highlight of the entire weekend was the game show. Three teams (the alumni, the coaches and the players) competed in adorableness like Lip Sync Battle, Celebrity Name Games, Lil Picassos and the Doo Doo game (where you have to sing a song only singing “doo-doo”. It was a ridiculously entertaining way to end the day and it gave us the chance to see these guys more relaxed than we’re used to seeing them. Fred Lynn especially stood out as being a bit more silly than I would have expected. Steve Lyons was exactly as you would think he’d be and Hanley Ramirez completely won over the room with his huge smile, infectious laugh and the fact that at one point he jumped into the audience and sat with the fans so that he could applaud his own team.
As an aside, Hanley Ramirez is my binky this season. He completely seduced me last weekend and he has my support because I can’t believe someone with that much life and happiness in him can be bad.
The biggest surprise of the game show was Carl Willis, Red Sox pitching coach and guy you want at your party to keep things lively. I can’t do his personality justice, so I offer you the below shaky, blurry at times, video that I took of Carl and the rest of the coaches lip syncing “Uptown Girl” with the alumni at the end giving their props. I honestly walked out of that room in physical pain from laughing so much. (And the coaches got hosed…they should have won!)
Truck Day is February 10th – my plan is to be there because if I know anything it’s that I’m itching for some baseball and this weekend taste has me hungry for more. The entire weekend was a great way to get excited for the upcoming season but now I just want more!
I wrote a long, rambling blog entry yesterday that drew parallels between George Steinbrenner dying and my losing an aunt on the same day. I scrapped it because my emotions are pretty raw right now and that’s probably a bad time to be writing about the dead – especially when all I want to write about Steinbrenner is how much I disliked him and how annoying all of the “He was a good man and great for baseball” stories that are out there right now.
I’ve had some time to take deep breaths so here goes draft two (without any mention of my aunt because, honestly, it’s an insult to her memory to lump her in with Steinbrenner).
George Steinbrenner was generous to the Jimmy Fund and to most of his players (at least with their salaries). These two things I won’t dispute. The list of reasons why he doesn’t deserve glowing obituaries that make him sound like the Second Coming is too long to rehash here but we all know it exists. I don’t expect to read headlines like “George Steinbrenner is dead – woo-hoo!” but I also don’t expect tweets like the one the official Oakland A’s Twitter account published yesterday:
…baseball lost a good one today
My reaction was a loud “Are you shitting me?”.
Baseball lost a notorious one today. Baseball lost an infamous one today. Baseball lost a scandalous one today. These all would have worked. Baseball lost a good one today is just mind-bogglingly ridiculous. George Steinbrenner did amazing things for the New York Yankees team and fans, often times to the detriment of the rest of the league. This does not make him a “good one”.
I understand when someone dies folks want to put a halt to the negative talk for a day or two. What I will never get (and will never join in on) is acting like someone was a wonderful human being just because they had the misfortune of dying. This is a man who called one of his own players a “fat toad”. This is a man who took the time to mock the Red Sox after their loss at Yankee Stadium in Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS with “Go back to Boston, boys!”. This is a man who insisted Don Mattingly be benched because of his facial hair. This is a man who was a convicted felon. This is a man who was suspended TWICE from baseball. This is a man who hired someone to dig up dirt on one of his own players and got a lifetime suspension from then commissioner Fay Vincent because of it (as an aside, guess who reinstated him? Fellow team owner Bud Selig. I didn’t know weasels ran in packs). Instead of being good for baseball, as so many claim today, he made a mockery of it and now that he’s dead we’re supposed to pretend he was the most amazing man to ever work in MLB? Not me. Not doing it.
I’m sorry that his family and others who love him are going through what they are because I know how much that truly sucks and I don’t wish it on anyone. That doesn’t mean his entire slate gets wiped clean…that’s all I’m saying. I’m not here to dump on the dead guy but I’ll be damned if I sit idly by while revisionist history runs amuck.
Now that I got that off my chest…
Local Yankee troll “Lou” commented last night that Big Papi lost the game for the American League with his poor base running (I deleted the comment because Lou lost commenting privileges a while ago, but he wasn’t the only Yankee fan I encountered who gave that argument).
How’s this for a dose of reality? Joe Girardi manages his first All Star Game and the American League loses after 13 straight wins on the back of Phil Hughes’ poor pitching performance (check the box score folks, the “L” is next to Phil’s name).
Last week, when Joba choked up the lead by giving up a grand slam to the Mariners just after Girardi picked Paul Konerko over Kevin Youkilis for the All Star team, I jokingly tweeted:
Mariners win. Maybe the curse of Joe Girardi being a horse’s ass begins tonight?
Yanks won the next game but they lost both Bob Sheppard and George Steinbrenner and now have to face the realization that Mr Girardi (and Mr. Hughes) blew home field advantage for whichever AL team makes it to the World Series (I figure this way the Sox can win the next one in Boston!). I don’t wish death on anyone (especially not sweet Mr. Bob Sheppard) so I take no glee from either death, but maybe there is a cloud forming over the house that Ruth didn’t build?
And finally, some of you mocked me when I began calling Jon Lester “Crabcakes”. He’s finally letting his guard down. Unlike Steve Buckley, I get no joy from reading about one of our players backhandedly insulting another player who hasn’t engaged first. This isn’t a Sox/Yanks Sox/Rays Sox/anyone rivalry. STFU and just say “no”, Jon. You’re a major league ball player, try acting like an adult.
Guess I still don’t have the cranky out. It’s going to be a long week and I really need a game that counts to get me through!