As a beleaguered Red Sox nation absorbed the news of a monster trade, opinions at Fenway Park on Saturday were split about whether the loss of a handful of star players was an opportunity to reconstruct a team that has fallen from grace or another botched management decision in a season marked by strife on and off field.
The Red Sox forged a deal to send Carl Crawford, Josh Beckett, Adrian Gonzalez, and Nick Punto — along with their massive salaries — to Los Angeles to play for the Dodgers.
“I think it was a deal they had to make,”said Dave Owens, who had driven up from Connecticut with his wife to see Saturday’s game to celebrate her 49th birthday.
“Everybody’s waiting for them to rebound from what happened last year, the collapse — that hasn’t happened [this season],” he said.
Owens and his wife, Wendy Herrick, come to Fenway Park every year for her birthday. This season, they said as they stood on Lansdowne Street, has been disappointing.
“They don’t have a solid foundation anymore,” said Herrick, a die-hard Sox fan wearing a blue Sox T-shirt. “The spark’s not there.”
She is hoping for that spark to return next year, she said, but the trade was not the way to do it.
Getting rid of Gonzalez was a bad move, she said, though Beckett’s been fading and Crawford was a bad acquisition in the first place. If the Red Sox were going to jettison anybody, she said, it should have been the manager.
“I think the person they should have gotten rid of was Bobby Valentine,” she said.
The trade comes as the team drifts further out of contention with just weeks left in the season.
But around Fenway Park on Saturday, die-hard fans heading to the Royals vs. Red Sox game were optimistically looking to better seasons ahead.
“I think they’re building, I don’t think they’re crumbling,” said Bill Marchand, 61, who was waiting on Lansdowne Street with his son hoping to score tickets to the Saturday game.
A Sox fan for more than 50 years, Marchand said lately he has been shutting the TV off early during games — but he’ll never stop loving the team.
Across the street, Tony Graziano, 46, of Ware, decked out in a bright red Crawford shirt, said, “They had to do something to shake things up.”
Watching the games this season, he said, has been tough.
“I scream at the TV all the time, every night,” he said.
For Graziano, a self-described “psycho-fan,” news of the trade was bittersweet — the new players might have some promise, but he will miss Crawford and Gonzalez. Maybe less so Beckett, he said, who is a bit of a malcontent.
Inside the Fenway sports bar Cask’n Flagon, fans further dissected what the trade would mean for the team.
“I didn’t want to see Gonzo go,” said Peter Tomczuk, 38, a firefighter and Red Sox fan from Chicago, as he waited for Saturday night’s game with friends and his fiancé. “He’s an awesome first baseman and totally built for hitting in Fenway.”
But losing the other three players, said Tomczuk, would not hurt the team.
“Beckett was dead weight. He’s been dead weight since ’08,” he said. “Crawford’s done. After his surgery, he’ll be subpar.”
He pinned a lot of the blame on Valentine.
“Valentine should have never been the manager,” he said.
While Tomczuk said he was disappointed with the trade, the money it frees up will help the Sox acquire better players.
Asked if he thought the trade could be compared to the Sox’s infamous Babe Ruth trade, Tomczuk scoffed.
“Player-wise? No way. This is all about the money. Baseball-wise, Ruth was the biggest trade ever. There’s no way they can compare [the two].”
Inside the Red Sox pro shop, fans bought Red Sox clothing, hats, and banners before the game — merchandise bearing the names of traded players was half off.
“You always miss what you don’t have anymore,” said pro shop manager Brian Maurer, 27. “It’s been good today. [The trade] is fresh on everyone’s minds.”
It was too early to know how much the trade would affect sales, he said, but items were starting to move quickly.
For scalpers, however, the trade stood to have little effect.
The weak season, they said, has been brutal on their business.
“You can‘t give a ticket away,” said a man selling tickets at Yawkey Way and Brookline Avenue who declined to give his name. “It’s bad, it’s bad. Believe me, it’s bad.”
Though it has been a rough season, for some young fans, the loss of several star players was too much to bear.
Told of the trade for the first time, 9-year-old Kyle Dionne stood on Lansdowne Street and shouted “Noooo!”
“I want Crawford to stay here!” he said.
Still, the trade of Beckett could be good news for Dionne, an aspiring pitcher.
“My dream is to be on the Red Sox,” he said.