Category Archives: Red Sox

Boston mayor proposes ban on chewing tobacco at Fenway Park, other ballfields


Well, right on the heels of my story about the New York Times writing about San Francisco’s ban on ballpark chewing tobacco, the major of Boston, Martin Walsh, is now proposing a similar ban on chewing tobacco at Boston parks and ballfields, which include Fenway Park.

Walsh said he is proposing an ordinance banning smokeless tobacco beginning April 1, 2016, in time for next season (San Francisco’s ban is taking effect Jan. 1, 2016.)

There’s been a big push to ban chewing tobacco on baseball fields since the death last year of Tony Gwynn. Gwynn, a longtime chewer, died of salivary gland cancer in his early 50s. Boston pitcher Curt Schilling also had a very public battle last year with a serious bout of oral cancer. Schilling, likewise, used to chew tobacco.

From the Boston Globe article:

“A lot of times, young people will copy what their sports heroes do, and clearly there is a connection between chewing tobacco and cancer,” Walsh said in an interview. “This sends a strong message throughout Boston, and hopefully many other towns around Boston, and across the country.”

Chewing tobacco is deeply, deeply ingrained in the culture of baseball for some mystifying reason. According to the Globe, 21 out of 58 Red Sox players surveyed at Spring Training said they use smokeless tobacco. That’s pretty close in line with a survey of professional baseball trainers, who estimate that about one-third of ballplayers chew. Meanwhile, only 6 percent of adult males among the general population chew.


According to the Globe, Red Sox owner John Henry supports Walsh’s idea.

Interestingly, Schilling, an openly conservative Republican, also supports Walsh’s idea. From the Globe:

Schilling, who is expected to attend the mayor’s announcement at Joe Moakley Park, said he supports the prohibition on chewing tobacco.

“I have seen cancer take the lives of people very important to me like my father, a lifelong smoker, and I have endured the insufferable agony of radiation to the head and neck,” Schilling said in a statement. “If this law stops just one child from starting, it’s worth the price.

The Boston Globe also added an opinion piece, written by Dr. Howard K. Koh and Dr. Alan C. Woodward, in favour of the ban.  Koh and Woodward point out that not only did Tony Gwynn die likely as a result of his chewing, but Babe Ruth, who chewed and smoked cigars, died in his early 50s from throat cancer.

From this opinion piece:

Despite this progress, the national rate of smokeless tobacco use in high school has stayed disturbingly steady. In the US, nearly 15 percent of high school boys currently use smokeless tobacco. More than half a million youth try smokeless tobacco for the first time. Smokeless tobacco companies annually spend $435 million on marketing. A key message of such advertising is that boys can’t be real men unless they chew. Also, scores of Major League Baseball players who chew or dip in front of fans provide invaluable free advertising for the industry. Impressionable kids stand ready to imitate their every move.

For too long, the tobacco industry has normalized and glamorized products that cause drug dependence, disability, and death. Leveraging the prestige and appeal of baseball has been an essential part of that strategy. It’s time for baseball to start a new chapter that reclaims tobacco-free parks as the new norm — and for Boston, home to so many sports achievements, to lead the way.

Ultimately, in order to really drive tobacco out of Major League baseball, it would take the cooperation and agreement of the Players’ Association. Chew is already banned on the field in Minor League and NCAA baseball. However, the Players’ Association has opposed banning it at the Major League level. The issue is expected to be negotiated during the players’ next collective bargaining agreement with Major League Baseball.

“What is it with Boston signing all these Latino players” — Dan Le Batard is an idiot

Dan Le Batard
Dan Le Batard

I heard something on ESPN Radio last week that absolutely made my head explode.

Last week, the Boston Red Sox managed to snag both Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez as free agents. Dan Le Batard, who is Cuban and has a sometimes entertaining radio show out of Miami, made some mystifying comment to the effect of “Whoa, what is it with Boston signing all these Latinos?”

pablo sandoval
Pablo Sandoval

Some other guy on the show said, “what do you mean?” Le Batard responded with something to the effect of “Well … all the racism in Boston…”

My head exploded. I couldn’t believe what an idiotic statement that was. No one called him on his B.S., so I’m doing it on the Lounge. It’s fairly well known that Le Batard likes to stir the pot and has some grudge against Boston, but this was just too much.

I mean, never mind the fact that Hanley Ramirez started off in the Red Sox system … and was traded to Florida for another Latino … Mike Lowell. Grrrr … my head is exploding from this idiocy.

Hanley Ramirez
Hanley Ramirez

First of all, Le Batard, let me throw several names out to you. By far the most beloved member of the Boston Red Sox for the past 12 or 13 years? A guy who never has to buy a drink anywhere in Boston? David Ortiz. A Dominican. When the Boston Marathon got bombed, who was chosen to speak to Boston Red Sox fans…? David Ortiz. Did Ortiz get ripped by Bostonians when he proclaimed “this is our fucking city.” No. Bostonians adored that, and adored him and will continue adoring him the rest of his life.

Kansas City Royals v Boston Red Sox
David Ortiz

Let me throw another name at you, Le Batard — Luis Tiant. Luis Tiant was a wildly popular Cuban pitcher for the Red Sox during the 70s. Other than Carl Yazstremski, he was probably the most beloved member of the Red Sox during that 70s. Did he have to face a lot of racism when he first joined the team? Perhaps. I don’t know, it was before my time. It wouldn’t shock me if he did. But, if he did, he later became one of the most popular Red Sox of all time.

Luis Tiant
Luis Tiant

Let me throw several other names at you, Le Batard — Tony Armas, Mike Torrez, Luis Aparicio, Pedro Martinez, Mike Lowell, Nomar Garciaparra and even Manny Ramirez. Latino players who played in Boston, were loved by Boston and thrived in Boston — even Ramirez. Boston fans overlooked his flakiness and lousy defence for years and loved him because he was a great hitter. “Manny being Manny” was a big joke in Boston for years. They only turned on him (and rightfully so) after he started faking injuries because $20 million a year wasn’t good enough for him. Now in Boston he is like Stalin in the 1960s Soviet Union. No one speaks of him because of his PED use. But, when he was hitting .330 with 35-40 home runs every year, they loved him in Beantown.

Pedro Martinez

I remember Lowell (a Cuban born in Puerto Rico), had one good year for Boston and Red Sox fans begged the team to pony up and keep him on the team after he became a free agent. The Red Sox listened to the fans and ended up overpaying him, but he happily retired as a Red Sox.

I can also throw a number of other names out there — Adrian Gonzalez, Adrian Beltre, Julio Lugo, Orlando Cabrera, Victor Martinez, Alex Gonzalez and a current Red Sox Xander Bogaerts, Yoenis Cespedes, Rubby de la Rosa and Christian Vazquez. All Latinos. All played (or currently play) for the Red Sox with virtually no controversy over the fact that they’re Latino.

So, it was just such a completely asinine and out of the blue comment on Le Batard’s part. I wish someone had called him on the carpet about it.

Nomar Garciaparra
Nomar Garciaparra

Yes, some knucklehead Boston fans tweeted horrible things about P.K. Subban during the NHL playoffs, but the team and organization apologized. Guess what. Wayne Simmonds also had a banana thrown at him in London, Ontario, are you going to condemn the entire city of London for that?

Here’s what is so stupid about what Le Batard said. Did Jim Rice have to put up with a lot of racist crap from the Yawkey organization and from Boston fans? Absolutely he did — 40 years ago. Does Boston have a racist history? Absolutely. Does Boston continue to this day to have issues with racism? Absolutely. Is Boston worse than a lot of other American cities, especially in the South? Is it worse than St. Louis? Doubtful. I saw all those “we support officer Wilson” t-shirts being worn by Cardinals fans during the postseason.

Yes, the Boston Red Sox used to be a really racist organization — the operative part of that sentence is “used to be.” The Phillies used to be really racist, too. But,  Tom Yawkey died in 1976, all remaining lingering vestiges of the Yawkey family ownership were removed over a decade ago and John Henry long ago addressed the racism within the organization. Yes, there were race riots in Boston over forced busing — 40 … years … ago.

Manny Ramirez

Every community has its share of racism. Let me additionally throw this at Le Batard. Would he have made a similar astonished comment if the Atlanta Braves were signing black guys onto their team? We all know Georgia has a lot of racism. We all know Georgia Republicans are doing their damnedest to stop blacks from voting. We all know the Atlanta Braves are bailing on a 20-year-old stadium in a black section of Atlanta for a stadium in the white suburbs. Why? Because white Atlanta suburbanites don’t want to go into black inner-city Atlanta to attend a baseball game. I know this because Atlanta fans have flat out admitted this to me. So, where is Le Batard’s astonishment at black guys playing for the Braves?

Or how about Phoenix, Arizona, home to the Diamondbacks? This is a city that has elected and repeatedly re-elected an openly racist sheriff into office. This is arguably the most racist state in the nation and Maricopa County might be the most racist county in the nation. Has Le Batard thrown a hissy fit over the Diamondbacks signing Latino players? I seem to remember that Luis Gonzalez is a huge hero in Phoenix. Is Boston really more racist than Phoenix?

Here’s another one. Le Batard is based in Florida, one of the most racist states in the country, a state in which a nominally white guy can blow away an unarmed black teenager and get off scot-free. A state in which another white guy thought he could get away with blowing away a black kid in his SUV because he was playing his music too loud. A state that is doing its damnedest to stop blacks from voting and forces people on Welfare (ie, in the Republican mind … blacks) to undergo drug testing. Remember when a Muslim bought the Jacksonville Jaguars? Jags fans wrote plenty of ugly, racist things on Twitter about that; it was every bit as bad as the P.K. Subban nastiness if not worse. Yes, Boston had its race riots in the 1970s, but Florida had the Liberty City race riots, the Rosewood massacre and lots and lots of lynchings back in the day.

So, Dan, everywhere has its share of racism … even your own backyard. Guess what, if you can play,  very few people in Boston care if you’re a Latino member of the Red Sox.






Haruko’s baseball preview — the already amazing comeback of Grady Sizemore

grady sizemore
Grady Sizemore


The big story coming out of spring training, other than some of the absolutely insane contracts being thrown around by the Yankees, Tigers and Dodgers, is Grady Sizemore making the Opening Day roster of the Boston Red Sox.

Grady Sizemore, in case people have forgot, was one of the best players in all of baseball about 7 or 8 years ago. But, he had a devastating series of major knee injuries that completely derailed his career. From 2005-2008, Sizemore average 27 home runs, 81 RBIs, 116 runs, 41 doubles and 29 steals a year, with an eye-popping OPS over .860 (Sizemore is a not a big hitter for average, but has always walked a lot). Real Hall of Fame type numbers over four years. But, then the injuries starting mounting. He had seven surgeries to his knees and back, barely played in 2010 and 2011, and had not played a single game since as he rehabbed from his multiple surgeries. He has only played 104 games since 2009. There’s almost no comparison to a player missing two full seasons and then actually making an Opening Day lineup.

But, thanks to hitting .333 in spring training, Sizemore will be starting today in centre field. The Red Sox had anticipated Jackie Bradley Jr. would take over in centre for Jacoby Ellsbury, but Sizemore outplayed him in spring training. Expect Bradley Jr. to be back in the Red Sox roster by June or so as a utility player.

Sizemore is still relatively young at 31, so it’s not like he’s a creaky old veteran, though his knees likely must seem like they are 60 years old. He is only making  a base salary of $750,000 this year, though he could make up to $6 million.

Sizemore will not go out and steal 50-plus bases the way Ellsbury can, so he won’t totally replace him. But, if he can play 120-plus games and play at 80 percent at what he produced from 2005-2008, it will go a long way toward helping Red Sox fans forget Ellsbury. He even has a little Red Sox beard started.

Xander Bogaerts


Ellsbury was the only major loss for the Red Sox in the offseason. They also lost Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Stephen Drew, but they expect phenom Xander Bogaerts to take over as their longterm shortstop (the Red Sox have had at least 6 different Opening Day shortstops since trading away Nomar Garciaparra in 2003). And Boston signed A.J. Pierzynski to be their catcher (after losing out in the Bryan McCann sweepstakes, but the Red Sox were never going to offer him 6 years, $100 million like the Yankees did), who is probably an upgrade over Saltalmacchia, while they groom Ryan Lavernway to be their longterm catcher.

I also like the Boston approach, after getting badly burned by the Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford and Josh Beckett deals, to not sign free agents to ridiculous 7- to 10-year contracts. The Red Sox pay handsomely, but other than Dustin Pedroia, no one on their team is under contract for more than the next two years (they are working on a longterm deal for Jon Lester).

On paper, the Red Sox should be equal to or stronger than last year — on paper, at least. On paper, the Red Sox looked like they were going to completely suck last year, but shocked everyone with a scrappy group of scruffy players who hate to lose and a vastly improved pitching staff. Also, remember, the Red Sox were definitely NOT lucky last year. They had an epic rash of injuries. They lost their No. 1 closer for the year, they lost their No. 2 closer for the year, Clay Buchholz, their best pitcher, was on his way to winning the Cy Young but was lost at midseason to a shoulder/neck injury, free agent pickup Ryan Dempster was terrible, Ortiz started the season on the DL, Pedroia played the entire season with a broken thumb, Ellsbury broke his leg in August and Shane Victorino battled a bad hamstring all year. This year, they only have one player — Victorino — on the DL entering the season (again with hamstring problems). They STILL somehow managed to win 97 games.

Yankees starting lineup


The Yankees, after spending an astonishing $450 million this offseason on Ellsbury, McCann, Carlos Beltran and Masahiro Tanaka (who went a frightening 24-0 in Japan last year), ought to be better than last year, if for no other reason than because their lineup was absolutely atrocious sometimes last year with all their injuries.

But, the Yankees are also hoary as the hills. They are really old. Their entire Opening Day starting lineup is over the age of 30. Not one guy 29 or younger in that starting lineup. And their Opening Day lineup averages about 34 1/2 years old (someone told me the 2006 San Francisco Giants managed to be older — they went 76-85, btw). They will have 7 guys 33 or older and 4 guys 36 and older in that lineup (I’m not even counting 40-year-old bench player Ichiro). That’s not a recipe for success in the post-steroid era. Guys that old are going to have a hard time staying healthy.

One thing I saw in the offseason that I am starting to find alarming is the ridiculous money being thrown around in baseball. The Tigers and Angels on consecutive days spent $436 million (Cabrera 10 years, $292 million, Trout 6 years, $144 million). Clayton Kershaw got a $215 million contract and Robinson Cano got a $240 million contract.

I’m not one to get caught up in money or contracts or whine about the old days when the owners treated players like slaves and paid them $50,000 a year while they made millions, but I worry that these outrageous contracts are going to price regular folks out of baseball stadiums. One thing that is nice about baseball is you can still take a family of four to a game for under $200, but I’m concerned that is doomed with the increase in gargantuan contracts out there.





Biggest trade in history? Definitely a monstrous salary dump on the Dodgers


Actually, this really might be the biggest trade in history, at least looking at the dollar amounts involved.

I think the Red Sox fleeced the Dodgers into buying in to the biggest salary dump in sports history. Get this, the Red Sox just unloaded $260 million worth of contracts on the Dodgers, basically in exchange for two hot pitching prospects.

My take on it, the Dodgers got swindled here and will live to regret this trade. They are saddled with $31 million for the next two years to Josh Beckett, who has always been maddeningly inconsistent, never stays healthy and is 5-11 this year with an ERA of 5.23.

The Dodgers get Carl Crawford, who is owed $100 million over the next five years, never did anything in two years in Boston and just had elbow tendon replacement surgery and may not play next year until June or July.

They get Adrian Gonzalez, which was a bit of a bummer. But, truth be told, Gonzalez was a *bit* of a letdown in Boston … a bit. He was definitely not putting up big power numbers, at least not the numbers Boston expected. Gonzalez this year was on pace for only 20 or 21 home runs this year after only 27 last year. His OPS this year was only .812 and his slugging percentage was .469 — those are NOT $21 million a year numbers. He averaged 34 home runs a year for four years in San Diego, and that is a pitcher-friendly park. Truth be told, he had a big drop-off in power in Boston (his batting average was a solid .321, but BA is an overrated statistic.).

This year alone, the Dodgers just got saddled with $56 million in salary for these three guys. The Red Sox just dumped about 1/3 of their payroll. If they can find a way to get rid of the dead weight of John Lackey ($18 million a year, geesh!), that could open up all kinds of possibilities.

I think it became time for the Red Sox to retool. What they were doing wasn’t working. They had the third-highest payroll in baseball and had a losing record, after missing the postseason with the second-highest payroll the previous two years. They have offence, but their pitching is terrible, and they lose too many games 9-8 (in fact, the other night, they lost a game 13-12). Beckett was a big part of that problem (as is Lackey and Dice-K). Too much money for crappy, injured pitchers. Just proves to me that it’s a mistake to throw a ton of longterm money at free agent pitchers. Look at Philadelphia and Cliff Lee and Roy Halladay.

People rail about the Red Sox and their money, but truth be told, they have a long history of splurging a lot of money on bad free agents — other than Curt Schilling and Manny Ramirez, can you name one Red Sox free agent who was really worth it? They have a long and sordid history of terrible signings — Dice-K, Matt Clements, Julio Lugo, J.D. Drew, John Lackey and many more.

Meanwhile, the Dodgers have new, aggressive ownership and are looking to make a big splash. Good luck to them. Gonzalez may work out great for them, but they are going to regret being saddled with Crawford and Beckett’s contracts, I guarantee it.

I think what the trade turned into was the Red Sox were in disbelief that the Dodgers were willing to take the terrible Beckett and Crawford contracts off their hands … and that all they had to give up was Gonzalez and his fat $21 million to get rid of that other $35 million of dead money.

The Red Sox get two solid (and cheap) pitching prospects — Rubby De La Rosa (who will pitch right away) and Allen Webster, who will probably stay in the minors this year. They also get a schmoe, James Loney, but that’s just to fill Gonzalez’s roster spot. The Red Sox desperately need to fix their pitching (23rd in ERA), did not do it in the off-season, and this is hopefully step one in getting a decent staff put back together again.

The Red Sox also free up a ton of money to re-sign free agents Jacoby Ellsbury and David Ortiz, or possibly go after Josh Hamilton. Hamilton would like command a deal similar to Pujols — something on the order of $250 million over eight years.

If the Red Sox get rid of Bobby Valentine, almost guaranteed, there might be hope yet for them to pull out of this tailspin next year.