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Long-tossing around some random thoughts

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Picked up pieces from the first 10 days of spring training.

* The Red Sox go to the White House Wednesday. They'll no doubt make up a Sox shirt for the president. Wonder what it will say. Maybe something like, "Sorry, we were only kidding when we campaigned for John Kerry in New Hampshire." We're counting on Curt Schilling to be front and center as always. Hope the prez can get a couple of words in.

* Sneaking out of town with "the" baseball was one thing and Doug Mientkiewicz probably did something a lot of players would have done. But did you begin to wonder about the guy when he said, "That [Sox-Yankees rivalry] wasn't all it was cracked up to be as far as I was concerned . . . I still say the Twins-White Sox series were just as intense as that one." Twins-White Sox? Yo, Doug. Where were you last October? Did they traditionally ring the Metrodome field with police in riot gear at the end of those Twins-White Sox jousts?

* Speaking of Doug's ball, Major League Baseball has its independent authenticator at Sox camp (and every camp). A young man sits in the Sox lunchroom, where there are boxes of new baseballs waiting to be signed. The authenticator notarizes each item after a player signs it.

* It's going to be fun watching Pedro Martinez from afar. Here's Adam Rubin in the New York Daily News: "Martinez eventually spoke to the media, 5 hours and 38 minutes after he was scheduled to do so." . . . Days later, Rubin wrote, "When one aggressive heckler blurted, `Who's your daddy,' Martinez wasn't amused and grabbed his crotch."

* Best sign in the spanking-new, fan-friendly public bathroom trailer at the Sox minor league complex: "No cleats in rest room."

* Speaking of signs, the Sox continue to honor Ted Williams. His "Science of Hitting" baseball grid is still on the wall of the minor league complex locker room.

* David Wells says he enjoys watching the sunset over the ocean in San Diego, waiting for the "green flash." "You see it sometimes just as the sun drops over the horizon," he said. "That last moment. It doesn't happen every time, but I've seen a lot of 'em."

* Al Nipper is a Sox minor league pitching instructor, has 3-year-old twin sons, and lives in St. Louis. He attended the final two games of the World Series at Busch Stadium, sitting in the top row of the upper deck -- alongside Wilbur Smith, the former mayor of Fort Myers. Few in attendance knew Nipper started Game 4 of the 1986 World Series for the Red Sox and also pitched in Game 7.

* Employees at the Yankees souvenir shop in Tampa are not allowed to comment to the media.

* Barry Bonds said, "Babe Ruth ain't black, either. I'm black. Blacks, we go through a little bit more." Is that supposed to mean that Barry had it tougher growing up than the Babe? Whoa. Barry was pampered from birth, the child of a millionaire big league ballplayer. He lived in the finest homes and hotels, traveled first class, and used the best equipment. The Babe grew up over a barroom and later lived in an orphanage.

* Barry on steroids: "I don't believe steroids can help you -- eye/hand coordination -- technically hit a baseball. I just don't believe it . . ." We know that, Barry. No one is saying that steroids will help a hitter put the bat squarely on the ball. We're assuming most professionals can do that. The steroids increase bat speed, which allows a hitter to wait longer before putting the bat on the ball. And naturally, upon contact, the ball goes farther.

* There's a feel of McCarthyism around the steroid issue. Fans see players who look smaller this spring and wonder. They see players with big heads and they wonder. Everything is suspect now. It stinks.

* While we're at it, what's up with Tony La Russa? He knew about Jose Canseco . . . and he said nothing? Not even to then-general manager Sandy Alderson, now a high-ranking MLB official? The 1989 A's, led by Jose and Mark McGwire, represent Tony's only World Series championship. His apparent involvement in the steroid coverup is alarming, given the way he has presented himself to us for all these years.

* Hitting coach Ron "Papa Jack" Jackson led all Sox personnel in public appearances last year. Jason Varitek was the clubhouse leader. The Red Sox Community Report, now bigger than the old Sears catalog, will be released March 6. Sox players and alums made 520 appearances in 2004.

* Spring training is for batting practice, fielding practice, bullpen sessions . . . and driver's ed? There seems to be car accidents involving baseball people every spring. Last week, Sox manager Terry Francona got into a crash in Jack E. Robinson fashion as he was talking on a cellphone. Through the years, reporters have been involved in more crashes than the ballplayers.

* Tom Werner likes "Wait Till Last Year" and you may see it on a bumper sticker.

* The ghost of Nomar Garciaparra reared its head in Fort Myers when veteran Sox players realigned the lockers at the minor league complex. The object was to get away from the pack of reporters coming through the door near where the veterans used to sit. Tim Wakefield, Schilling, Keith Foulke, and friends moved to the far side. Manny Ramirez stayed at the busy end.

* The quest for autographs has been out of control for a long time, but there was a particularly disturbing moment at the Sox training complex when a man toted a sign that read, "Son who has cerebral palsy wants autographs please."

* The best part about the first week of spring training 2005? Sox fans no longer walk around asking, "Is this going to be the year?"

* Hunter Thompson, R.I.P. He was the Warren Zevon of literature. If Bill Lee still pitched for the Red Sox, he would have taken the day off Monday out of respect for Uncle Duke.

Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. His e-mail address is

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