We used to complain about long baseball games, but now there are no games at all. Nobody likes that, so let’s do a quick review and take another look around the Red Sox spring training camp via a series of photographs taken before Major League Baseball suspended spring training and delayed the start of the season.
In January, manager Alex Cora and the Red Sox parted ways. In February, the Mookie Betts/David Price trade was met with as much enthusiasm as a root canal. The starting rotation looked questionable and baseball fans were restless.
Sox camp looked different this year too. Veteran photographers complained that the most photogenic Red Sox subjects were gone by the start of spring training.
Mookie with his electric smile, pouty Price, dirt dog Pedroia; fan favorite Holt and the charismatic Cora.
Once the Sox players hit the fields, baseball’s natural rhythms kicked in.
The clickety-clock of spikes walking on the cement walkways leading to the practice field was music to a baseball lover’s ears.
It’s a soothing sound, like the pop of a Nate Evoldi fastball into a catcher’s gloves, or the crack of a home run from the sweet spot of Rafael Devers’s bat.
Let’s look at the positives. Nobody on the team is waving a white flag. The core lineup is still formidable and the team vibe is still as sweet as the Dubble Bubble gum in the dugout.
Before the shutdown, there was actually fun being had and hope hung in the air like a lazy fly ball.
Andrew Benintendi said he is going to grow his hair longer this season, hoping that like Samson, he would have more power. J.D. Martinez told bold tales of surviving a Tanzanian animal safari adventure in a vehicle with no doors. Devers’s papa proudly showed off pictures of his new granddaughter.
Big Papi counseled younger hitters to not to drive themselves and teammates crazy during inevitable slumps.
“Trust me, it will just get worse,” he said. “Don’t panic. All you’ve got to do is have the right mechanics and don’t worry. It’s going to happen.”
New outfielder Alex Verdugo selected Manny Ramirez’s old Dodger uniform number 99, and signs an autograph for every kid in sight. He also declared that he would be loose, in a Manny-being-Manny way.
Brandon Workman, the closer who was lights-out with a 10-1 record and a 1.88 ERA last season, said he likes to be low key about his success. The tall Texan wants to fly under the radar.
“I like it that way,” he said.
Michael Chavis launched several baseballs more than 415 feet away into the ponds behind the practice fields, where he has seen an alligator sunning itself. “You’ll be OK out there, unless you fall,” he said.
All was not work. Mitch Moreland proudly showed off an iPhone photo of a wide-mouth bass he caught beyond the center field fence.
But there was still some residual resistance to talking with the media, even before the coronavirus scare. Even Moreland, with a personality as sweet as the iced tea in his native Mississippi, was guarded.
When the Sox social media folks asked him to wear a microphone during a workout, he agreed, but then he was shunned by his teammates
“This is what happens when you wear the mic in spring training,” he said on a video posted to the Red Sox’ Twitter account. “You get to stand by yourself all day. Nobody talks to you, everybody points fingers at you. It’s awesome. Thanks a lot, mic..”
Stan Grossfeld can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.