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Some unfriendly Fenway comments

'Baggers react to some Fenway and fan slams

Boston Globe baseball writer Gordon Edes checks in every week to answer your questions on the Red Sox. Ask yours now, and come back next week to see whether it was answered.

How's this for a conspiracy theory? George Steinbrenner is secretly funneling money to Eric Gagne. It's obviously nothing I can prove, just a theory. So far this is a huge bust and has disrupted the chemistry of the best bullpen in baseball. Eat the money and sit him.
Rob K., Scarsdale, N.Y.

A: Rob K, patience my friend, patience. Judging from Franz Lidz's portrait of Steinbrenner in the recent issue of Portfolio magazine, Mr. Steinbrenner's health is in such decline that he is incapable of all but the most basic conversations, never mind conspiracies. All monies coming to Eric Gagne are courtesy of John W. Henry, except for the few hundred thousand the Rangers threw in to make the deal work. He'll begin earning those dollars, too, sooner than later. If Terry Francona had given up on Dustin Pedroia this quickly, the Sox wouldn't have a rookie of the year candidate at second base.

Did you find it funny to hear Manny compare this version of the Sox with the 1998 Yankees? I sure did, since Manny is about as opposite to that team as one could be. Plus, even though the '98 Yanks did not have anyone with 30 home runs they had a two players with 100 RBIs and one with 98 and another with 97. They had what I like to call "professional hitters," or guys who would always seem to do the right thing, like advance runners and get the run in from third with less than two outs. The Sox have a few (Youk, Pedoria, Lowell) but Manny, Papi, and J.D. Drew are nowhere near earning their money the way Tino Martinez, Bernie Williams, and Paul O'Neill did. This year none of the Sox middle of the line up is performing well and now Gagne is making it hurt. Any thoughts?
hil Nudd, Rochester, N.Y.

A: Phil, please enlighten me….. which Manny are you talking about? The left fielder for the Sox? I did not hear Manny compare the Sox with the '98 Yankees. Manny does not strike me as the type who spends much time thinking about such things. But I will say this: For all the admiration you have for that team and their "professional" hitters, I guarantee you that Joe Torre would have found a way to put Manny's name on his lineup card every day if he'd been available to him.

After just watching Eric Gagne do, as the Britney Spears songs says, Oops I did it again, I can't help but wonder what the scouting report was on him. The Sox not only gave up a young pitcher, who to that point had not lost a game, a future and cheap outfielder, and a young man with possible potential.

Now that the Sox are on the cusp of falling out of first place and the pennant race, not 1978 again but 2006, do you think the front office made a big mistake on this rent-a-player? This probably not going to be published, but it helps to relieve some of the tension that has built up, especially since the man in my life is a gung-ho Yankee fan who thinks A-Rod can do no wrong.
Elsie Burke, New Haven.

A: Elsie, tell the man in your life that even if his Yanks should rush by the Sox and win another division title, which is no lock but conceivable, the Sox pitching staff will still have to be reckoned with in October. As for the Gagne deal, Kason Gabbard had to leave his last start after 18 pitches because of forearm stiffness, ominous news for a guy with multiple surgeries. And I would withhold judgment on Gagne a bit longer.

If the Sox are in a situation where if their opponent scores one run, the Sox will lose the game, which relief pitcher do you want to have on the mound? I think most people would say Papelbon, with Okajima as the runner-up. So why, in a tie game in the bottom of the ninth or extra innings away from Fenway, isn't Papelbon pitching? My guess is that Francona is holding him in reserve in case the Sox get the lead, but in that situation, giving up one run won't end the game. The crucial moment is when the game is tied , not when you have the lead. Is this just baseball tradition overriding intelligent decisions? It seemed that at the beginning of the year, we saw Papelbon used in the "Bill James" way, pitching in the most crucial moment in the late innings, and I'm surprised that Francona isn't applying that philosophy to the tie game-extra inning situation.
Adam Kolek, Easthampton

A: Adam, you are correct in assuming that Francona is holding Papelbon until the Sox get a lead. His rationale is this: If you bring your closer into a tie game on the road, you're committing to him pitching at least two innings: one, while the game is tied, and two, should you take the lead on your next at-bat. That's not something you want to do with your closer, especially one whose workload is being closely monitored.

Are we watching the same team? I'm watching the poorly managed, non-clutch hitting, bad-base running, choking Red Sox, not the one with all of your flowering and misleading hitting statistics. How are their statistics from the sixth inning on (when the game is on the line) anyway?
Steven Levine, Reston, Va.

A: Steven, I'm watching the team that has been in first place all season, and with less than one third of the season left to be played, still has baseball's best record. A team that is third in the league in scoring, and second in OBP. This team is batting .257 from the seventh inning on; the league average is .253. Their OBP from the seventh inning on is .347, tied with the Yankees for the highest in the league. And the Yankees are the only team that has scored more runs from the seventh on (205-193).

Fenway Park.... a "toilet"? This according to Orioles radio broadcaster Joe Angel as heard on XM radio today. In the top of the sixth as Tek was fouling off ball after ball into the stands they starting commenting on how he was giving souvenirs to the 48,000 Red Sox fans. He then said that he saw that some Red Sox players were calling Camden Yards Fenway Park South.......and that it was an insult to Camden Yards because Camden Yards is a beautiful park and Fenway Park is a toilet. Pretty sure that the Sox ownership should help him out by not forcing him to work in such horrible conditions. Next time they are in town they should pull his press credentials unless there is an apology.
Schillsock, Sugarloaf, Pa.

A: Shillsock, not everyone shares your opinion. Read on.

Gordon: Sorry but I have to agree with Orioles broadcaster Joe Angel. He's right. Fenway is a toilet. Not that this ownership hasn't tried to make it better, before it was an outhouse so I guess it's been upgraded somewhat. While I've only been to four major league parks (Fenway, Shea, Camden Yards, and Citizens Park) Fenway's still pretty bad. With the exception of some of the right field seats and the concession areas in right-center, the rest of the place is pretty much a mess unless you're in the recently renovated seats. Seems this ownership is only interested in upgrading the premium seating. Too bad McCourt didn't get to buy them instead of the Dodgers; we may have a field on the waterfront a la the San Francisco Giants.
D. Donnelly

Dear Mr. Edes: Just a brief note to let you know I totally concur with the opinions expressed by Messrs. Angel and Matthews Jr. in today's Globe. In my opinion, Fenway really is a toilet. ... It's just a disgusting pit; and it will continue that way with their current beyond-greedy ownership. And additionally, the comment Mr. Matthews makes re: racist and drunken fans reminds me of the busing uprising/riots. It is not safe to go to a game there. Mr. Matthews's comments accurately reflect Boston' s fans. The whole Red Sox experience is disgraceful.
R. Dunbar

Wait….there's more.

I am not surprised to read your column of Aug. 14 regarding the recent comments from the Orioles broadcaster and Angels player (Gary Matthews Jr.) criticizing Fenway Park and the fans. Matthews's comment about the fans: "They're loud, they're drunk, they're obnoxious," could not be more on the money. I have been to several games over the years and I am constantly ashamed of the park conditions and the fans. Last year I took my 8-year-old daughter to a game and we sat in between the Pesky Pole and first base, about five rows up from the field. Pretty good seats where you would think you would be able to enjoy the game, right? Well between the people seat squatting and constantly getting kicked out by the ushers, the foul-mouth, drunken fans, the constant heckling of the players (both visiting and home team), and the never-ending parades back and forth to the concession stands, it is a minor miracle to even catch any of the game. To say my daughter was uncomfortable with the group of rowdy men seated nearby would be an understatement. They showed very little respect for anyone else, never mind the younger fans in the seats. The whole scene is always a big disappointment -- everything from the obscene parking rates to the cramp and dingy concessions and bathroom areas is anything but a "Friendly Fenway" experience. I compare it to a Lowell Spinners game and they are at opposite ends of the spectrum. I also travel quite a bit and always take in a game while in another city and find it much more enjoyable. I know it's not just me because I have heard the same comments from many other people. Does Sox management have any idea of how bad the conditions and fans are and if so, how are they working to improve it?
Paul Justin, Andover

And yet another:

Regarding the Baltimore announcer referring to Fenway as a sewer, I couldn't agree with him more. The truth hurts! The place is archaic and needs to be replaced. When I go to the "concourses" under either the right field or left field areas, it's like stepping into a dungeon. There's no air or light and you can barely move. How about sitting in the right or left field grandstands where the seat is facing directly to the outfield requiring you to turn your head to the plate for the entire game. In addition to the grossly undersized seats how about a bathroom pipe leaking on fans as was the case with myself and family and others in the seating area?

The people who want to preserve Fenway need to visit other ballparks in the league to see what they're missing. How about the Roger's Center where the tile flooring in the concourse areas shines and how about the fact that you can't return to your seat from a concourse area until the batter has either reached base or been retired? Ever notice the continuous stream of people at Fenway trudging through the aisles at all times causing you to strain your neck for a view of the game. How about Camden Yards? No comparison. Anaheim, Dodger Stadium, AT&T Park forget about it. Joe Robbie in Miami?

Wait a minute. How would you know about these inconveniences? You enter Fenway through the VIP gate and sit in the VIP sections with all the "big wigs." What would you know about the "Life in the Sewer?" Have a nice day.
Tom, Northboro

One more:

Joe Angel and Gary Matthews are right. Red Sox fans are loud, drunk, and obnoxious, and to get into Fenway Park itself you have to go through the equivalent of a third-world toilet. The concession area/entrances are dark; they stink; and emerging from every men's room doorway is some drunken yokel still buttoning his pants. I went to the first game I'd been to in 50 years a few weeks ago when the Sox beat the Blue Jays. It was the last game I'll ever even contemplate going to at Fenway. The young jerks around me were dangerously drunk, loud, and "obnoxious" doesn't do justice to what they really were. Who needs that? I wrote to the Red Sox organization, but of course I didn't hear back, they're too interested in selling beer to worry about how drunk the buyers are and how awful they make it for anyone who actually came to see the game. I've been a Sox fan since I was a kid, but my experience at the game told me everything I need to know about why teams hate to come here. We really ought to be ashamed, and the Sox organization should do something about it.
Carolyn Ryan, Marblehead

A: Well, now. It would seem that Mr. Angel has struck a sympathetic nerve with some Sox fans. Wish I knew about that VIP entrance I supposedly use to get into the ballpark, though, Tom. I come in an entrance that's used by lots of fans, walk through the same concourse and stands as the fans do, and sit in a working press box, not a luxury suite, although I would quickly add I'm mighty fond of the view and appreciate the benefits of being there. But at the risk of sounding like a suckup to the current regime, I think that there have been some remarkable improvements to the quality of the Fenway experience -- and not just in the luxury suites -- since the new ownership came in. Janet Marie Smith, the famed architect, said that the team intends to redo the lower bowl at some point in the near future, to improve sightlines and seating comfort, and it seems to me they've done a better job of policing fan behavior. I am not calling into question folks' first-hand stories here. I know that I have had family and friends turned off by the behavior of some of those sitting around them. It takes only one loud foul-mouthed fool to spoil the experience for everyone around them. Used to be people could police their own sections and tell an idiot to knock it off; I know that these days, that often just makes someone confrontational. I suspect Sox executives will be troubled to hear these kinds of things raised in a public setting, and I will raise these matters with them in the future. I love many of the new ballparks, especially Camden Yards, and there is no question that in many ways the fan experience is vastly superior there than at Fenway, which was built to satisfy the needs of an audience almost 100 years ago. The new ownership, had there been public support (and monies) for a new ballpark, would probably have gone that route. But when they say the climate was not in their favor, they did their best to upgrade Fenway. It's imperfect, to be sure, but better than it was, and the history, atmosphere, and intimacy of the place are almost impossible to match.

Since the Red Sox keep "passing everything around" as Tito says, how 'bout if they quit spitting all over the place and keep their stuff (and airborne) viruses to themselves. And a little hand washing might be helpful. Just a thought w/the Yankees closing in.
Clean, Ca.

A: Clean, that would be un-American. No spitting? How un-expectoratriotic of you.

Join Gordon Edes and other Boston sportswriters at the Rock Bottom Brewery in Chicago on Aug. 25 (8-11 p.m.) for an evening of baseball to benefit the Jimmy Fund. Click here for more information.

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