FenwayNation 2010 Media Awards

The
Editors of FenwayNation have announced their 2010 “Best O’ Nation”
Media Awards. The list includes repeat winners Bob Ryan, Dave O’Brien,
Jerry Remy, Rob Bradford, and Dan Roche. Some newcomers to the list are
Amalie Benjamin of the Globe, Mike Fine of the Patriot-Ledger, and Lou
Merloni of WEEI. The Boston Herald was also a repeat winner for its
overall Red Sox coverage. View the entire list of BON winners HERE

Pure Boston Baseball

With all the focus on our struggle to reach the post-season, it’s easy to forget how fortunate we are to just enjoy the one truly ‘beautiful game’–(no, not soccer) professional baseball. Forget the PEDs, the salaries, and the controversial instant replays–the pure joy of experiencing baseball on a warm August night is something we should all cherish.

I felt that last night watching the Red Sox beat the Angels, 6-0 at Fenway Park. It started out in the usual angst-ridden way. Angel hurler Jered Weaver had mowed down the first eight Red Sox hitters. Even though Clay Buchholz was almost as effective through three innings, it just seemed that Weaver, with all his stuff working, could not be beaten on this night. You know the feeling.

Then, my 14-year old son and I noticed the sky above Fenway–turning a brilliant mix of azure and pink as the sun set behind the old ballpark. Seconds later, Darnell McDonald sent a rocket over the Monster, shattering the rear car window of some unfortunate fan. Red Sox 1, Angels 0–on the first Boston hit of the night. Good omen.

Later, after walking Mike Lowell semi-intentionally to get to a rookie, Ryan Kalish launched his first grand slam into deep center field, giving the Sox a rocking-chair 5-0 lead. Add to these moments a brilliant over-the-bullpen-fence catch by Torii Hunter (robbing Beltre of a sure HR) and the night became all the more memorable. 

Walking back to our car along a quiet Beacon Street–far from the madding Kenmore Square crowd–it struck us again how lucky we were to witness, first-hand, pure Boston baseball.

Sox Need To Figure Out Papelbon

His sixth blown save was huge. Ahead by 3 in the bottom of the ninth, the Red Sox blew a game that would have kept the post-season momentum humming. After Lackey coughed up a HR to cut the lead to 2, Jonathan Papelbon continued his Year From Hell with another blown save and loss. 

With another one-run win for the Empire later in the day, the hopes of a division run faded again. One game can mean a lot.

This off-season, the Red Sox will either have to figure out what’s eating Papelbon or deal him. His value is still high enough to fetch a good return. Next year at this time, he may only draw interest from independent leagues.

The plan to bring along Daniel Bard slowly has worked. We have nothing to fear but more blown saves.

Why NESN Is Fading

NESN_Logo.jpg

There must be a lot of hand-wringing going on at NESN Headquarters on Arsenal Street in Watertown. Ratings are way down for Red Sox broadcasts, and the once endless flow of money is slowing to a trickle. “How can this be?”, they must be asking.

Here are some possibilities. First, the local nine are pretty vanilla in their 2010 incarnation. With Pedey in a walking boot, Papelbon in a blown save funk, and Ellsbury caged by his ribs, Bill Hall and Eric Patterson are just not setting off any viewer fireworks. But, this can’t be the major reason. No matter what anybody says, this is a baseball town. Close to 38,000 still cram the near-100 year old relic on Yawkey Way with Pink Hat enthusiasm every game. We don’t care if they’re boring, they’re ours.

I think the real reason is a lackluster NESN broadcasting product. The Red Sox telecasts are so over-burdened with “drop-in” advertising schlock that you can barely keep up with the balls and strikes. You can literally hear Jerry Remy more often hyping the New York Life “safe at second” pop-up ad than the actual double that got the player to that base. It seems there is a different and more annoying ad after almost every pitch. Literally. It’s getting ridiculous. And it’s getting in the way of enjoying the game. I know they have to make money from advertising–but have some degree of proportionality, for crying out loud.

There’s also another dynamic going on. As more and more fans get the MLB TV package, other team’s broadcasts are seen as more interesting, less ad-heavy and more high-tech. For example, several team broadcasts (even the lowly Pirates games) have Super Slow-Mo replays–which are light years better than the 1990s technology still employed by NESN. This is basically the same phenomenon that makes Fenway Park look so dated and old after you’ve seen Safeco and AT&T.

So, if the Sox want to re-open the money spigot, they has better get up to speed on the technology and cut back on the dumb drop-in ads. That would be a good start.

Is Francona Manager Of The Year?

Red Sox manager Terry Francona
Red Sox manager Terry Francona
(Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

I’ll be the first to admit that when the Red Sox named Terry Francona as their new manager, I cringed. He seemed way too giddy for Boston at his introductory news conference. My first thought was,’This guy will be eaten alive within a year”. I could not have been any more off-base.

And despite nabbing two World Series rings already, this year–2010–could be Francona’s most impressive yet. From the outset, the spectre of the dreaded “Bridge Year” hung over this team and colored fan expectations. A slow start, fueled by poor starting pitching, pumped up the angst level even further. On top of all this, Tito had to manage the bruised egos of Jason Varitek and Mike Lowell, two veterans who were being handed diminished roles.

After a bit of a surge in the standings, the injuries struck. A total of 11 bodies hit the DL–several of them of the indispensable variety. Would the Rays and Yankees be as swaggering with that many key players sidelined? On came the Navas and the McDonalds and the Pattersons. Somehow, this team has managed to stay on the periphery of contention.

No matter how the Olde Towne Team finishes up this year, I say Terry Francona deserves serious consideration as Manager of the Year.