By TERRY LYONS
SPRINGFIELD – “Everything’s going to be all right,” former Sox ace and Hall of Famer Pedro Martinez sang to the crowd gathered at the annual Boston Red Sox Winter Weekend festival.
This week, the Boston Red Sox, the Houston Astros and the New York Mets were all rocked by a sign-stealing scandal addressed by Major League Baseball and its Commissioner Rob Manfred. Just as the “Hot Stove” season was heating up and the annual Boston Professional Baseball Writers Association awards dinner was about to be staged, Manfred issued a conclusive nine page report that detailed the findings of Baseball’s investigation into cheating the game, using technology.
The Office of the Commissioner came down hard on the Astros with fines, suspensions to GM Jeff Luhnow and manager AJ Hinch and docking of draft picks. As it’s been widely reported, especially in Boston and New York, the hammer fell on former Red Sox Manager Alex Cora (also a former Astros coach and longtime MLB player) and former New York Mets manager Carlos Beltran (former MLB player and recent member of the Astros). All of the management types highlighted in BOLD above were subsequently fired or agreed to “mutually part ways” with their clubs. Additional discipline, including more suspensions and fines would be forthcoming, pending MLB investigation of the 2018 Red Sox and from evidence unearthed as this scandal unfolds.
There wasn’t much the Red Sox could do, as Monday turned to Tuesday and the club made the tough decision to accept Cora’s “take the high road” approach and walk in opposite directions. Each knew Cora was facing additional discipline from MLB and the Red Sox would then be reeling without a skipper and not really knowing what the future would bring in terms of Baseball’s next steps, in a Sonny Curtis and the Crickets kind of way.
Starting with Wednesday’s press conference where team owners John Henry and Tom Werner were joined by Sox club president Sam Kennedy and new head of baseball ops Chaim Bloom, the team messaging was matter of fact. They had to move on, make plans and as Bloom noted, the club remained quite bullish on the assembled group of players and talent level assembled.
Interestingly, there was no PUSH BACK against the MLB ruling. Not one club person or media member denied the validity of the charges, nor the heavy fines and suspensions levied. While there was a somber, almost dull pain in the air around the ballpark, there were only a few who used the “everyone is doing it” defense and we joked that Baseball might simply start the next draft in the third round, after docking every club its first two draft choices.
Personally, as I arrived at the ballpark and took an elevator up to the State Street Pavillion with WBZ-TVs Dan Roche, it was one of those surreal experiences, like walking into a wake. For this reporter, it was the first time in my life – personal and professional – that I didn’t want to be at Fenway Park. I had never experienced that … not wanting to be at my favorite place in all of New England – Fenway Park.
At the annual (now in its sixth rendition) Winter Festival, held this year in Western Massachusetts outpost Springfield where the team’s massive sponsorship deal with the MGM casino rang true, the messaging to the loyal fan base was to weather the storm, just as fans have plowed through other disappointing seasons, injuries and transgressions.
“For me, this is my family, this is my base,” Martinez said at the Winter Festival. “This is where I feel safe,” he added.
“I would just say to our fan base, don’t listen to whatever is going on around us. We’re going to be there for you just like you have been for us. We love you. We care about you.
“Everything is going to be all right,” preached Pedro, quoting the “Three Little Birds” lyrics former Sox OF Shane Victorino brought to the Fenway faithful in 2013.
Don’t listen to anything to distract you from being the most loyal fan base in all of baseball. I believe we’re going to be here next year doing what we’re supposed to.”
David “Big Papi” Ortiz joined Martinez in the outlook, noting the team’s ownership – often self-described as stewards of the franchise – would figure out how to guide the ship.
“There’s not a better combination than the Red Sox fans and the Red Sox owners,” said Ortiz. “When I played, there was one thing I always noticed walking into Spring Training from the offseason. That was that our (team’s) owners, Mr. John Henry, Tom Werner, those guys absolutely care about how much fun you guys (the fans) are going to have in the season.
“They teach us as players how to be part of the community and how to be family for you guys and how to learn from you guys. Like Pedro said, ‘We’re going to be all right.’”
Realistically, for the Red Sox, there isn’t much of a choice, unless they want to fight the law.
Here Now, The Notes: Despite the sign-stealing scandal, inevitably the conversation turned to baseball and the rivalry between the Red Sox and the New York Yankees. If there was an award for best offseason, the Yanks would step up to the podium, largely because of the club’s $324M offer and signing to pitcher Gerrit Cole.
The Red Sox trotted out NESN TV analyst and former 2B Jerry Remy to talk some baseball, along with NESN studio host Tom Caron.
“Right now, everyone is going to pick the New York Yankees,” said Remy. “They’re a great team. They got better by signing one of the best pitchers in the game. But the fact is, nobody wins in the offseason.
“If Chris Sale can come back healthy, if David Price can come back healthy and our pitching is good, we have as good a chance as anyone else to win the division and if not, the Wild Card,” concluded Remy.
Diamond Dust-Ups: Also in the wake of Major League Baseball’s sign-stealing scandal, Astros star third baseman Alex Bregman denied that he or his teammates wore any devices to help them detect which pitches were coming. … Speaking at the Astros’ version of a team FanFest today, in his first public comments since MLB came down hard on the Astros in a ground-breaking punishment earlier this week, the two-time All-Star Bregman was understated and spoke in general terms in acknowledging the controversy — although he emphatically denied wearing any buzzer as had been rumored on social media in recent days. … “The commissioner came out with a report, MLB did their report and the Astros did what they did,” Bregman said to reporters, also saying allegations of wearing a pitch-detecting buzzer were “stupid.” … As rumors picked up on social media about Astros players possibly wearing electronics beneath their team uniforms — even during the 2019 season and playoffs, All-Star second baseman Jose Altuve released a statement through his agent, Scott Boras, that vehemently denied ever doing so. … “Jose Altuve called me and said he wants it known that he has never, ever worn an electronic device in a major league game — ever,” Boras told Sports Illustrated. “He never received any form — of a trigger or any information — via an electronic product that was on his body or in his uniform. He has never worn any electronic device. Ever.”
Baseball wasn’t the only sport under siege this week. A one-man NFL wrecking crew, a.k.a Odell Beckham Jr. or OBJ, wreaked havoc in the CFB Playoffs champion LSU locker room, first mocking the NCAA rules against paying players, as he reeled-off dollar bills (real or fake?) on the field, post college football championship. … We’ll spare you the dozens of pop-up ads from new SI parent “Maven” but will post a CLICK HERE to see the video of OBJ slapping a New Orleans-based security guard.
The security guard chose not to press charges on what prosecutors called a battery charge, and the case was dropped (rescinded), according to New Orleans Police Department reports.
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