Red Sox Chairman: maybe we shoulda signed Nelson Cruz

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I don’t think anyone could’ve predicted that Nelson Cruz would go off this year like he has. And the Red Sox’ plan heading into the season looked solid enough that a great number of people, including this writer, thought that they’d be the favorites in the AL East and a pretty decent bet to repeat as far as such bets go.

But when you’re struggling like the Red Sox have struggled thus far, the second-guessers come out of the woodwork. It’s natural and understandable. Usually the guys who run the team being second-guessed stick to their guns and deny that they might have done something differently. But Red Sox chairman Tom Werner offered a good bit of candor in his interview with the Boston Globe over the weekend when he was asked about the Sox’ offseason moves:

“Obviously we made some mistakes and we cop to them. But we didn’t expect Shane Victorino to be on the disabled list for as long as he has been. We knew that Jackie Bradley had the potential to be a superstar but his season hasn’t been as robust as we all imagined. We’re still very confident about his potential and his defense has been fantastic. But should we have gone after Nelson Cruz? I guess so.”

That’s not an insane statement and it doesn’t represent Werner repudiating the offseason plan or anything like that. But it’s rare to see someone in his position acknowledge that, hey, maybe we could’ve done something else. Pretty refreshing to see someone like him operate in the reality all fans do when it comes to these things rather than stick to some script.

All in all: a good interview that all Sox fans should check out if they haven’t already.

Consider the Concrete Donut

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Ben Schulman wrote a long, interesting article about stadium architecture over at The Hardball Times today. He asks us to consider the old concrete donut stadiums — multipurpose parks like Three Rivers and The Vet — and to think about what we have gained by their near-extinction. And what we’ve lost.

The article starts out with what I feared would be too much misplaced nostalgia for the Brutalist, functional places that no longer exist outside of Oakland, with the now de rigueur references to astroturf and weird 1970s baseball. It backs away from that early on, though, and presents what I feel is a thoughtful look at the various approaches to building a ballpark. Stadium geeks and architecture geeks will find much to love here.

From a personal perspective, I have a love/hate relationship with newer parks. I spent a good deal of time going to places like Riverfront Stadium when I was a kid and do not miss them at all. But I also think there have been a lot of missteps in the last 25 years or so too.

Most new parks are pleasant and comfortable places to take in a ballgame, but so many of them are totally unimaginative and uninspiring from an architectural point of view. I am not fan of nostalgia, and so many of them — particularly the ones built in the 90s — were fueled by a great deal of misguided retro-ism that looks backwards. I suspect this is the case because either (a) no one had the guts or vision to look forward; and/or (b) they felt they could make easier bucks by catering to people who think everything went to hell once Eisenhower left office than by doing something bold. To be fair, there are examples of newer parks that eschew the faux old-timey vibe to greater degrees — Target Field in Minneapolis and Marlins Park in Miami come to mind — and I tend to prefer those to more backward-looking places. Again, architecturally speaking.

I think the sweet spot — and the linked article touches on this a bit — are ballparks which think bigger than the bland and dreary functionalism of the 1960s and 70s but which eschew derivative, traditionalist approaches. Parks which were built with then-modern sensibilities and saw their vision through without compromise. Dodger Stadium is a fine, modernist example of this. So too is Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, about which I wrote a few years ago. They had a great opportunity to do this in Chicago in the late 80s but muffed it. I think Marlins Park could fall into that category if (a) there is ever anything approaching memorable baseball there; and (b) if they stop being afraid of its bold aspects and stop trying to turn it into a vanilla monument to its vanilla owner. The common denominator, I suppose, is that these parks weren’t and aren’t trying to cater to the childhoods of local fans.

Anyway, good read on a slow news day.