Baseball is back. No more Red Sox batting practice, intrasquad scrimmages, or exhibition games after Wednesday night. No more watching the last game of the 2000 World Series. No more painful replays of the Dent Game, the Buckner Game (“behind the bag!!!”), or the Grady Game.
Nope. This is the real thing. And as the Red Sox prepare for their season opener Friday night at Fenway Park against the Orioles, here are some thoughts, questions, and observations about the much-anticipated return of our national pastime:
▪ If you can stand the pain, tune into the Giants-Dodgers opener from Los Angeles Thursday night on ESPN at 10 and get your first look at Dodgers right fielder Mookie Betts.
Betts is going to be a Dodger for 12 more seasons, after agreeing to a $365 million contract on Wednesday. The Red Sox’ inability to pony up for their best player will haunt them for years to come. Their party line will be the tired old “he wasn’t going to stay here anyway,” but he could have been a Red Sox player for life if they had been willing to pay for his services.
▪ Chaim Bloom has more meatball artists on this Sox staff than Mother Anna’s Italian restaurant in the North End. Righty Dylan Covey was added to the Wasdin stable Tuesday. Covey’s 7.98 ERA last year was 340th of 341 big league pitchers with at least 50 innings. Where is Andrew Cashner when you need him?
▪ Can’t wait to see those first designated hitters in a National League game. I witnessed the first DHs in an American League game, at Fenway in April 1973. Ron Blomberg for the Yankees and Orlando Cepeda for the Red Sox.
▪ The worst part about having no fans is that no one is going to have a chance to boo the Houston Astros as they make their way around AL West and NL West cities the next two months. There should be some good frontier justice when they play the Dodgers.
▪ Unfortunately, it looks as if “Sweet Caroline” lives at Fenway. The Sox played it before the home half of the eighth at Tuesday’s exhibition game against the Jays. Happily, there was no prerecorded, moronic “so good, so good, so good!” piped through the empty stands.
Wonder if the folks in the audio room have some canned “Yankees suck” chants for us when the Bronx Bombers visit Fenway Sept. 18.
▪ I was hoping we’d have a situation where visiting teams would be commuting to the ballpark wearing their uniforms, like when I traveled to high school games back in the day, but I am told there will be makeshift visiting clubhouses where players can change.
“We will have staggered buses so we don’t all get there at once,‘' texted Cleveland manager Terry Francona.
Too bad. I would have loved to see Tito hopping off the bus outside Fenway in full uni, already wearing his Valvoline-changing windbreaker, ready to manage.
There’s nothing like the sound of players’ cleats clacking in the ancient underbelly at Fenway as they make their way to and from the field.
▪ Some guys wear a mask when batting but not in the field. Sox second baseman Jose Peraza does it the other way around.
▪ This is going to be the first season without games in Canada since 1968, the year before the expansion Montreal Expos began play in the National League.
▪ Giants manager Gabe Kapler is taking a knee for the playing of the national anthem. Something tells me Gabe’s former teammate Curt Schilling might have a problem with this.
▪ Ron Roenicke and Jerry Remy could have a great conversation about Dick Williams. Both played for the drillmaster manager early in their careers.
Remy still breaks out in hives talking about the stare he got from Williams after getting picked off first base.
Williams, who made his managing bones as boss of the 1967 Impossible Dream Red Sox, employed Roenicke in the late innings of Games 4 and 5 of the Padres’ loss to the Tigers in the 1984 World Series.
Roenicke never batted in the Series. He played left field late in Game 4 and was sent in to pinch run for Bruce Bochy (he of the massive dome) in the ninth inning of the Tigers’ Game 5 clincher.
▪ Holy Cross ace Dr. Anthony Fauci will throw out the ceremonial first pitch at the first game of the season at Nationals Park Thursday night. Former Sox pitching guru Joe Kerrigan reportedly is working with Fauci to get him to flatten his curveball.
▪ Dustin Pedroia has yet to officially retire, but it feels as if he last played in the days of Chuck Schilling and Mike Andrews. Horrible end to a great career.
▪ Welcome back to the Butch Hobson years. Twelve baseball scribes from the New York Post picked the AL East, and none of them had the Red Sox qualifying for as much as a wild card. Three had the Sox third, three had them fourth. The Sox are officially in the bottom half of USA Today’s MLB Power Rankings: 16th out of 30.
▪ The Yankees are hoping to have Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez, and Giancarlo Stanton all healthy at the same time. Stanton has played in only 176 of 324 games since coming to New York. Sanchez and Judge have missed an aggregate 239 games over the same two seasons.
▪ Another tradition gone: Nobody has to skip school to make it to the Red Sox home opener in 2020.
▪ Will there be red-white-and-blue bunting hung from Fenway’s fences and facades?
▪ Can’t wait to discover how much it’s going to cost to park the car around Fenway Friday night.
▪ Sorry, but if somebody hits .400 in a 60-game season, Ted Williams is still going to be baseball’s last .400 hitter.