Provided the plows have done their jobs, the Red Sox equipment truck heads south next Tuesday and images of baseball drills being conducted on Floridian grass hits our TV each night starting Feb. 13. If that tease isn’t enough to get you through the latest dose of Old Man Winter, here are nine items related to the Olde Towne Team, your latest edition of the Red Sox Lineup.
1. If you missed the first Red Sox Town Hall, held Monday night at the WGBH studios, you can find many of the best moments right here. It was a wonderful opportunity for fans to hear from the guys that make this whole thing run. Terry Francona, Theo Epstein, Larry Lucchino and Tom Werner were there, and each is justifiably excited about the upcoming season. Several topics were discussed, from the Fenway Park renovation to possible playoff expansion to on-field matters such as the number of doubles Adrian Gonzalez will hit in Fenway. The topic often meandered back to the excitement level, and each panel member discussed what it was like to perform their duties in a baseball-mad town like Boston. Francona may have summed it up best when he talked about his early years and getting to know just how passionate the fans are: "I was a little naïve. … I had no idea. Now that I do live here, I understand how important it is to these lunatics. If you care about baseball, there’s no other place to be.”
2. The town hall preceded the latest snowy mess, and multiple references were made to how spring training can help pull New Englanders through winters like this one. It also brought to mind some snow-related baseball events over the years. One occurred 15 years ago this April, when the Red Sox had Opening Day against Minnesota snowed out. That came on the heels of a 1-5 road trip to start the season. Can you imagine the anger if that replayed itself in 2011? We are already snow-weary, and it’s safe to say there are higher expectations now than there were 15 years ago. Having a miserable road trip followed up by a snow-out would elicit more than a handful of four-letter words.
Boston opens with three games at Texas and three more at Cleveland before starting the home schedule against the Yankees on April 8. In 1996, it played three games at Texas and three at Kansas City before the snowout, which also came on April 8.
3. By now you’ve all heard that Manny Ramirez and Johnny Damon are officially members of the Tampa Bay Rays. They were introduced to the Tampa media on Tuesday. Call me nuts (many of you already have), but I feel as if the Manny signing might end up being a pretty solid one. He is extremely cheap and will likely be a full-time DH for the first time in his career, excluding that short stint with Chicago last season and an 87-game set in his first season in Boston. While playing through a hernia issue in 2010, Ramirez still had a higher OPS than everyone on the Rays except Evan Longoria.
This won’t be the Manny of old, but it won’t just be an old Manny.
4. Speaking of Tampa Bay, it has reportedly finalized a minor league deal with former Red Sox infielder Felipe Lopez, shattering Boston’s hopes for another supplemental round pick in the upcoming draft. It might seem like small potatoes, but it was just about the only thing that didn’t go right for the Sox this offseason. Lopez, a Type B free agent, was signed late last season for the sole purpose of hitting free agency, declining arbitration and netting the Sox a draft choice in the sandwich round. By not signing a major league contract, that pick is wiped away. The Red Sox do not receive any compensation. Boston will enter the draft with the No. 19 pick, the No. 26 pick and two supplemental round picks for the losses of Adrian Beltre and Victor Martinez. The club’s original pick, No. 24, was given to Tampa Bay as compensation for the Carl Crawford signing.
5. On the subject of former Red Sox infielders, Nick Green signed a minor league deal with Baltimore, and by making the major league roster will complete his American League East tour. Green, who played in 103 games for Boston in 2009, has also played with New York, Toronto and Tampa Bay in his six-year career.
Green will always be remembered for two things here in Boston. One was his walk-off home run to beat Atlanta on June 21 of that year and the other was his lone pitching performance as a major leaguer on Aug. 27.
6. The Sox announced on Wednesday the 20 non-roster invitees to spring training. The group includes 11 pitchers, three catchers, four infielders and two outfielders. The most intriguing names on the list are rising catching prospect Ryan Lavarnway, former first-rounder Andrew Miller and Cuban outfielder Juan Carlos Linares. The first full workout at spring training will take place Feb. 19.
7. Just to stir things up a little bit, we thought you would be interested in one man’s take on the Red Sox’ new stadium in Fort Myers, slated to be opened next year. Here’s a tease: the Sox are cursed!
8. For those of you planning a Texas two-step in March/April with exhibition games in Houston and then the season-opening series in Arlington, you should know that the second game against the Astros at Minute Maid Park has been cancelled. The Sox and 'Stros will still play March 30 at 8:05 p.m. before Boston takes a day off to get ready for the April 1 opener. If, for whatever reason, you were dying to see Minute Maid Park and thought that was your opportunity, keep in mind that the Sox head to Houston again for a three-game series July 1-3.
9. In case you missed it, there was a nice piece on the recovery of one-time Red Sox outfielder and pinch runner extraordinaire Dave Roberts. He is one of the genuine good guys of the game, and it’s wonderful to read how excited Roberts is to be back doing what he loves.
I’ve only had the pleasure of meeting Roberts once and it was in a Starbucks, of all places. Here he was in Boston for treatment for Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and he was easily the happiest guy in the place. All smiles. The lady wanting some half-and-half from an empty canister was peeved.