Sox owners make surprise visit, blame media

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Sox owners make surprise visit, blame media

BALTIMORE Just so theres no misunderstanding that it was a super-secret squirrel organizational assessment meeting to discuss anybodys job security, the Red Sox ownership group was very public in their surprise appearance at Camden Yards on Thursday night.

This was no cloak-and-dagger meeting that all participants needed to swear a Secret Skull Society oath not to discuss afterward. Because its the snitches, the leaks, the whistle blowers and the menacing media that are to blame for everything that ails the pitiful Red Stockings.

Larry Lucchino stood near the visiting dugout steps at Camden Yards and held court with reporters for 10 minutes in a State of the Soggy Sox Address. The Sox CEO managed to both spring up some eternal hope for his flailing, nowhere ballclub while also chastising the jaded, cynical media for being too mean to his players as they embarrass themselves nightly with conduct unbecoming a ballplayer.

The cynical and jaded media do not necessarily capture the voice of the fan base, said Lucchino in a thought that could be described as both admirably earnest and thoroughly out-of-touch.

While the Red Sox ownership group would much rather take people on a chaperoned stroll around Fenway to gaze at the historical plaques and offer up Fenway bricks at a reduced price, they also now hope that the local media will take a baseball laughingstock out for Little League sundaes after the games.

Tom Werner, John Henry and Lucchino are looking for the good job, good effort treatment from the Boston media and Sox beat reporters as they sink lower into the abyss.

Thats simply not how it works when things are working correctly in the checks and balances system.

At least not from anybody thats actually watching the wretched, uninspired games.

Apparently holding the second-highest payroll in Major League Baseball and sitting 13 12 games back in the AL East is something worthy of praise or admiration. Things would be much better after a few puff pieces about how great a player is to hang out with, or because he always picks up the tab.

Because thats the point of sports, right?

The kid gloves treatment from those around the Sox has been as big a factor in their slow decline from a World Series contender as age, injuries, complacency, arrogance or anything else surrounding this Band of Blowhards.

Bobby Valentine passed off a notion in an interview with WEEI this week that the tough media scrutiny in Boston could dissuade some attractive free agents from coming to play with the Red Sox in the future. It certainly didnt hinder big-time free agents such as Manny Ramirez, Carl Crawford and J.D. Drew from signing with the Sox over the years, and the Sox will always have the money to make up for it.

Lucchino also disputed that notion while testifying to the media.

"I don't think that's a long-term danger," said Lucchino. "I do think there's probably a little bit of a reservation on the part of some players perhaps with respect to the grueling media coverage. You've just got to make sure you pick the right people and personalities to come here to be able to withstand that."

"Every franchise, every brand goes through rough times. No one is immune to the hills and valleys. We've had a long run of success. We've created very high expectations for the franchise. Sometimes those high expectations are not met, and the result is a reduction, a hit to the brand and to the team and to the fan base. If it's broke, we'll fix it."

The bigger danger to the Sox is exactly what Lucchino referenced in the last two sentences. As the dysfunction and ugly flaws of the Boston baseball organization ones that were so well hidden and extinguished by Theo Epstein and Terry Francona in the golden years of World Series titles come floating to the surface one day at a time, players are going to pass on the Sox.

Why choose an employer that seems to really need to get its house in order, and has become a punchline around the baseball world?

Thats not jaded or cynical. Thats just reality.

What isnt reality, you might ask? That would be realistically thinking that this bunch of unlovable misfits has even a punchers chance at the Wild Card spot or the playoffs. But Lucchino was doing his best Lloyd Christmas impersonation from Dumb and Dumber on the Camden Yards field prior to the game Thursday.

He was sayin theres a chance for his Olde Towne Team.

"There are still 44 games left, so technically we are still alive," said Lucchino. "I said to someone recently that you can go to St. Louis and Tampa to get a sense of what can happen after this point of the season. I know it's a bit of a long shot, but it's still interesting baseball."

Perhaps the Sox ownership group should worry less about what theyre saying in St. Louis and Tampa, and worry much more about what theyre saying in Boston. Its something along the lines of were paying some of the highest prices in Major League Baseball, and not getting their moneys worth.

The Sox fan base wants sweeping change at all levels of the organization, they want the chicken and beer crew gone for once and for all this winter and they want a baseball team that they can root for once again like they did in 2004 and 2007.

Because this current group of Sox is largely detestable with a few exceptions and worsening by the day.

The voice of the fan base is furious, and theyre using language thats far too colorful for any member of the jaded, cynical media to get away with these days.

Ramirez, Leon homer, Red Sox beat Angels 9-4 on Papi's night

Ramirez, Leon homer, Red Sox beat Angels 9-4 on Papi's night

BOSTON - David Ortiz became one of the most celebrated players in Red Sox history during his storied 14-year run in Boston.

On the night he returned to Fenway to have his No. 34 take its place among the franchise's other legends, his former teammates did their part to make sure it was a memorable one.

Hanley Ramirez and Sandy Leon hit two-run homers and the Boston Red Sox beat the Los Angeles Angels 9-4 on Friday to cap a night in which Ortiz's number became the latest retired at Fenway Park.

It was the 250th career home run for Ramirez, a good friend of Ortiz who was also born in the Dominican Republic. Leon finished with three hits and four RBIs.

Ramirez said he played with Ortiz on his mind.

"He's my mentor, my big brother. He's everything," Ramirez said. "Today when I saw him on the field crying, it made me cry."

He said his home run was in Big Papi's honor.

"Definitely, definitely, definitely," he said. "I was going to do his thing (pointing his hands in the air) but I forgot."

The homers helped provide a nice cushion for Rick Porcello (4-9), who gave up four runs and struck out eight in 6 1/3 innings to earn the victory. It was the 13th straight start Porcello has gone at least six innings.

"It was vintage Porcello," Red Sox manager John Farrell said. "A couple of pitches that cut his night short, but he was crisp throughout."

This could serve as a needed confidence boost for Porcello, who had been 0-4 with a 7.92 ERA in his previous five starts, allowing 47 hits and 27 earned runs.

He had command of his pitches early, holding the Angels scoreless until the fourth, when a catching error by Leon at home allowed Albert Pujols to cross the plate.

Porcello said he isn't sure if he has completely turned a corner yet after his slow start, but he has felt better in his recent starts.

"Today was a step in the right direction," he said.

Alex Meyer (3-4) allowed five runs and five hits in 3 1/3 innings.

Los Angeles scored three runs in the seventh, but cooled off after Porcello left.

Boston got out to a 3-0 lead in the first inning, scoring on an RBI double by Xander Bogaerts and then getting two more runs off wild pitches by Meyer.

Ramirez gave Porcello a 5-1 lead in the fourth with his two-run shot to right field.

Ortiz: 'A super honor' to have number retired by Red Sox

Ortiz: 'A super honor' to have number retired by Red Sox

BOSTON —  The Red Sox have become well known for their ceremonies, for their pull-out-all-the-stops approach to pomp. The retirement of David Ortiz’s No. 34 on Friday evening was in one way, then, typical.

A red banner covered up Ortiz’s No. 34 in right field, on the facade of the grandstand, until it was dropped down as Ortiz, his family, Red Sox ownership and others who have been immortalized in Fenway lore looked on. Carl Yazstremski and Jim Rice, Wade Boggs and Pedro Martinez. 

The half-hour long tribute further guaranteed permanence to a baseball icon whose permanence in the city and the sport was never in doubt. But the moments that made Friday actually feel special, rather than expected, were stripped down and quick. 

Dustin Pedroia’s not one to belabor many points, never been the most effusive guy around. (He’d probably do well on a newspaper deadline.) The second baseman spoke right before Ortiz took to the podium behind the mound.

“We want to thank you for not the clutch hits, the 500 home runs, we want to thank you for how you made us feel and it’s love,” Pedroia said, with No. 34 painted into both on-deck circles and cut into the grass in center field. “And you’re not our teammate, you’re not our friend, you’re our family. … Thank you, we love you.”

Those words were enough for Ortiz to have tears in his eyes.

“Little guy made me cry,” Ortiz said, wiping his hands across his face. “I feel so grateful. I thank God every day for giving me the opportunity to have the career that I have. But I thank God even more for giving me the family and what I came from, who teach me how to try to do everything the right way. Nothing — not money — nothing is better than socializing with the people that are around you, get familiar with, show them love, every single day. It’s honor to get to see my number …. I remember hitting batting practice on this field, I always was trying to hit those numbers.”

Now that’s a poignant image for a left-handed slugger at Fenway Park.

He did it once, he said — hit the numbers. He wasn’t sure when. Somewhere in 2011-13, he estimated — but he said he hit Bobby Doerr’s No. 1.

“It was a good day to hit during batting practice,” Ortiz remembered afterward in a press conference. “But to be honest with you, I never thought I’d have a chance to hit the ball out there. It’s pretty far. My comment based on those numbers was, like, I started just getting behind the history of this organization. Those guys, those numbers have a lot of good baseball in them. It takes special people to do special things and at the end of the day have their number retired up there, so that happening to me today, it’s a super honor to be up there, hanging with those guys.”

The day was all about his number, ultimately, and his number took inspiration from the late Kirby Puckett. Ortiz’s major league career began with the Twins in 1997. Puckett passed away in 2006, but the Red Sox brought his children to Fenway Park. They did not speak at the podium or throw a ceremonial first pitch, but their presence likely meant more than, say, Jason Varitek’s or Tim Wakefield’s.

“Oh man, that was very emotional,” Ortiz said. “I’m not going to lie to you, like, when I saw them coming toward me, I thought about Kirby. A lot. That was my man, you know. It was super nice to see his kids. Because I remember, when they were little guys, little kids. Once I got to join the Minnesota Twins, Kirby was already working in the front office. So they were, they used to come in and out. I used to get to see them. But their dad was a very special person for me and that’s why you saw me carry the No. 34 when I got here. It was very special to get to see them, to get kind of connected with Kirby somehow someway.”

Ortiz’s place in the row of 11 retired numbers comes in between Boggs’ No. 26 and Jackie Robinson’s No. 42.