Rich Levine: I want my Sox back

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Rich Levine: I want my Sox back

By RichLevine
CSNNE.comColumnist Follow @rlevine33
An open letter to the leaders of Fenway SportsGroup:

Dear Leaders of the FSG,

You dont know me from a hole in your yacht, but I wanted to send you this quick note a message from a Sox fan. Call it therapy for me, a little unsolicited advice for you. Just know that I ask for nothing in return. (Although if you wanted to send over one of those Fenway bricks, thatd be cool. Ive been looking for somewhere to rest my official Red Sox Nation membership certificate.)

I guess the first thing I want to make clear is that I dont blame you for the collapse. Even more, I dont blame you for firing Terry Francona. Given the circumstances, it was either the manager or the players, and we all know how that goes. (For the record, Mr. Henry: I imagine you reading that last sentence and nodding emphatically, while smoking a pipe and wearing a sweater vest.)

But while I understand why you let Tito go, the way you handled was more pathetic than John Lackeys ERA. Im not sure if you realize this. In fact, something tells me that you're so far removed from reality that you cant comprehend how poorly this has all been received, or how badly your reputations been hit. If thats the case, please know once and for all: Were smarter than you think, and youre far more transparent.

But thats not why Im writing.

Im writing you with one simple demand:

Give me back my Red Sox.

For a little background: I was born in 1980, and spent the first 24 years of my life (especially those later years) loving the Sox more than just about anything in the world. I was a proud member of what you now call Red Sox Nation before you turned the phrase into an incredibly lucrative marketing campaign, and ultimately, a lame joke.

Im serious, though. I loved the Sox. Their season was everything to me. I took every loss to heart, celebrated every win. I was invested in every game from April to October. In many ways, I was the fan who the Farrelly brothers butchered so miserably in Fever Pitch. I was the fan who youve spent the last seven seasons patronizing and alienating. In those years leading up to the title while you guys were off buying, selling and rooting for the Yankees, Marlins, Orioles and Padres I was here. Living and dying with this team.

That all changed in 2004.

There are a lot of theories about what happened to Sox fans after the World Series.

(And when I say Sox fans, I mean the people who cared when Red Sox Nation was a muddy hole in the ground, and not a hokey theme park. People who cared when Red Sox Nation wasnt even a thing. Im talking about the fans who can spell Naehring, who know Oil Can Boyds real name, who can pick Don Baylor out of a lineup. What happened to them?)

Some said that winning ruined us. That somehow we not only missed the misery, but actually preferred it. That never made sense. For instance, lets say that every year, around September or October, a 250-pound, roided-out linebacker came to your house and punched you in the face. Every. Single. Year. Sometimes hed come later than others, but you always knew he was coming, and you spent every summer (no matter how great it was) bracing yourself for his arrival.

Then one year, instead of cleaning your clock, the guy shows up with two suitcases full of cash, says hes sorry and permanently moves to Chicago. Would you miss him? Even a little? Of course not. I mean, you might think about him every now and then, like, Hey, remember how awful that was? but youd never miss him. And Sox fans will never miss the misery.

But winning did change us. How could it not? Winning was salvation. It took away the fear. It erased the urgency. There was no need to live and die with every pitch, because now we could die in peace (someone should write a book about that). In real life, Jimmy Fallons stupid character woke up in 2005 and was a pretty normal guy. He kept his season tickets; he still loved the Sox. But he didnt want to cut himself after every loss or get blacked out drunk after every win. He had a much healthier outlook on things. He was just happy.

And he would have hated you guys.

Because, in real life, while winning changed Red Sox fans, it possessed ownership.

We saw it as salvation, you saw it as alvation and neither of us looked back.

You became a collective Walt Disney, and built this fictional happy-go-lucky-now-pay-us-more-money society around a team that didnt need it.

Do any of you watch Seinfeld? (Mr. Werner, something tells me youre the only one.) Anyway, theres this one episode where George wants to move into a new apartment, but has to convince the condo board that hes more deserving than a survivor from the Andria Doria shipwreck. So George goes in and tells them all these sob stories about his life. He blows them away. And at the end he says:

In closing, these stories have not been embellished, because - they need no embellishment.

You guys did the exact opposite. The Red Sox were a team, a fan base and an institution that needed no embellishment especially AFTER the winning the World Series but you embellished the life out of them. You turned Red Sox Nation into a soulless circus. You built this new world, with new fans, and ran with it. To your credit, you (along with Jerry Remy) made a ton of money. As businessmen, you seized the moment and hit a home run. But as guardians of the Red Sox name, you failed. And in the process, you pushed away the original fans. The fans who carried the load for 84 years before you swooped in.

(Now seems like a good time to add that I'll always be appreciative and respectful of your role in bringing a World Series to Boston. I cant really imply that swooping in was a bad thing, when it resulted in two rings. So, thanks for that. I mean it. But that doesnt excuse where we are today.)

Believe me, I want to ignore it. Ive really tried to. But its impossible to follow this team without constantly being assaulted with lameness. It kills me to see the Sox like this. Youve turned the team and its fan base into cartoon characters in your merry little fairy tale. Where everyones always smiling. Every games STILL a sell out. The Sox are down 11 runs in the eight? Fire up Sweet Caroline!

(By the way, I dont hate Pink Hats. I respect their right to enjoy the Red Sox. Im just sick of you pandering to them, and blatantly ignoring everyone and everything that came before.)

Youve destroyed NESN. Mr. Werner, youre literally one of the most successful producers in television history. How do you allow Jim Rice on TV? How have you let NESN unravel into such a shameless disaster?

I know, I know. Youre busy.

So heres my advice: Just stop.

Stop treating your fans like idiots. Stop pretending that your demographic is the cartoon character you drew up in a marketing meeting. During Sox season, make shows for people who like baseball, not people who drink your Wally-flavored Kool Aid. Try a year without Rice as your lead pre- and post-game analysts. I promise, what he brings to the table as a Red Sox legend is far outweighed by the fact that he doesnt speak English. Call off the sellout streak. To be honest, its actually a little psychotic that you still pretend it exists. Or even if it does technically exist, just stop bragging about it. No one cares but you.

Guys, after this September collapse and Titos ugly exit, theres no use pretending that anythings right in Red Sox Nation. The veils been lifted. The fairy tales over.

So please stop.

Give us back the Red Sox.

Or sell the team. Seriously, and go buy another one. Whats it even matter?

Listen, I know you have a lot on your plate this offseason. In fact, it may be the most significant offseason of your ownership. Youll have to find a new manager and (probably) a new general manager. Youll have to make decisions on Jonathan Papelbon and David Ortiz (two major faces of the organization). Youll have to deal with John Lackeys head, Carl Crawfords bat and help get to the root of the club house soap opera. On top of that, you have a soccer team to worry about. A racing team. And lets not forget about the centennial. Next year marks Fenways 100th anniversary, and I know you have all sorts of crap on tap.

On one hand, you still have a good team. Its hard to imagine they wont continue to be competitive. At the same time, the organizations at a serious crossroads. Who knows what will happen next?

But either way, it will be far easier to swallow if you just cut it out. Stop the charade and treat Red Sox fans with the respect they deserve.

Because much like your bricks, this fairy tale wont sell.

Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com.Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrlevine33

Are Red Sox entering spring training with fewer questions than ever?

Are Red Sox entering spring training with fewer questions than ever?

BOSTON -- Every year it seems like there are major issues or question marks to start spring training where the answers are up in the air.

In 2015, the Red Sox lacked an ace, had Hanley Ramirez moving to left field and Pablo Sandoval coming to town.

In 2016, Ramirez was moving back to the infield, but at a new position, and his bat was in question. Sandoval was coming off a year where he couldn’t hit his weight (he hit .245 and he last weighed in at 255 pounds). How would the starting rotation look after David Price?

This year, there seem to be three questions, but in a way, they’ve already been answered.

How will the Red Sox make up for David Ortiz’s absence?

Well, for one, the Red Sox have three Cy Young-caliber starting pitchers (Price, Chris Sale and Rick Porcello) in their rotation.

And two, Hanley Ramirez is coming off a career year with his highest career output in RBI (111) and second-highest home run total (30). And while Mitch Moreland isn’t the greatest hitter, he’s good for 20 or more home runs. Plus, it seems he’s holding a spot for a certain Red Sox prospect who’s bouncing back well from an injury.

 

Will Sandoval earn the starting third base job back?

The weight loss is a good sign, not only for the physical reasons, but it shows he’s mentally committed to being better.

However, that doesn’t guarantee he gets his job back.

“I’m not going to say [third base] resolved itself,” John Farrell told CSNNE.com, “but you know Panda’s done a very good job of committing to get himself in better shape and we’re looking forward to seeing that play to in spring training.”

Even if Panda can’t put it all together, Farrell told reporters before Thursday’s BBWAA dinner, both Brock Holt and Josh Rutledge would be competing for the job as well.

Holt as plan B -- in the infield? Who wouldn’t take that?

Who’s going to start at catcher?

Sandy Leon, Christian Vazquez and Blake Swihart each have their pros an cons.

Leon did it all last year, but went from hitting .383 in his first 39 games to .242 in his last 39.

Vazquez has Ivan Rodriguez-esque abilities behind the plate, but couldn’t keep the staff under control last year and cannot hit.

Swihart, who turns 25 April 3, is the youngest of the three, has the most potential at the plate, but is far and away the worst of the three defensively at the most important defensive position -- excluding pitcher -- on the field.

They all have their drawbacks, but they’ve all shown at some point why they can be the Red Sox starting catcher in the present and future.

Everywhere else, the Red Sox seem to be in a comfortable position as pitchers and catchers reporting to camp draws ever nearer.

“I think the fact that we’ve got veteran players that have done a great job in staying healthy [and] young players that are getting more establishing in their return, we’re in a pretty good place in terms of the overall status of our position player group,” Farrell told CSNNE.com.

And it seems some players are confident in the team’s options as they ready for camp.

“We’re looking good in a lot of areas,” shortstop Xander Bogaerts told CSNNE.com. “Especially the pitching staff, [since] we just got Chris Sale one of the best in the game.”

“Pablo’s definitely going to bounce back, especially with the weight he’s lost."

Francona, Epstein receive grand ovations at BBWAA dinner

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Francona, Epstein receive grand ovations at BBWAA dinner

BOSTON -- “I didn’t feel that love after I made a pitching change in the sixth inning,” Terry Francona said after a 45-second standing ovation from Boston fans upon receiving the MLB Manager of the Year award from the BBWAA Thursday.

It’s without question the love for Francona runs deep in the city. Why wouldn’t it? He was the leader in breaking the 86-year old curse, and wound up winning another World Series title for Boston three years later.

Actually, he was more of a co-leader, working alongside the same person who won the MLB Executive of the Year honors from the BBWAA for 2016.

Theo Epstein -- who received an ovation 17 seconds shorter than Francona, but who’s counting -- reminisced about the Red Sox ownership group that took a chance on a young kid who wasn’t necessarily the ideal candidate to take over as GM of a team, but now that’s helped him build the Chicago Cubs into a winning franchise and establish a great working environment.

This October marks 13 years since the ’04 championship, 10 years since ’07 and six years since the pair left Boston. Without question they’ve left their mark on the city and forever changed Red Sox baseball.

And while the fans showed their undying gratitude for Francona with an ovation almost as long as his acceptance speech, the Indians manager recognized the favor the current Red Sox brass has done for him.

“I’d like to thank Dave Dombrowski and the Red Sox for getting Chris Sale the hell out of the Central Division,” Francona said.