Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Red Sox Selling Pieces of Tarp

The subject line of the email reads "Own a piece of Red Sox history." Intrigued, I opened the email and what I saw made me laugh out loud. The Red Sox are selling tote bags that are made from pieces of the infield tarp used during the 2010 and 2011 seasons.

A piece of Red Sox history? Really?

So the giant sheet of canvas that was rained on for two seasons is now considered a piece of history? It's not even an old tarp. And it was used during two of the most forgettable Sox seasons this side of 2002.

The "Fenway Boat & Tote" costs $59.95. There was a limited edition of 2,012 available. And they're already sold out online. Anyone dumb enough to pay $60 for this deserves, well, a tote bag made out of used canvas.

I hate tote bags anyway. Any bag that can't be closed is a useless item.

But this is the latest example of the absurd lengths the Sox have gone to monetize the team and turn Fenway into a brand-name. This is getting silly, and a little bit embarrassing. The Sox are actually selling infield tarp as tote bags.

When the Sox sold Red Sox Nation Membership Cards, I got one. It gave me access to buying a pair of Monster Seats (when they were only a year old and very highly sought after), a free subscription to MLB radio on the internet (I lived in Ithaca, NY at the time and this allowed me to listen to Sox games), and discounts on merchandise. I felt silly being a "card-carrying" RSN member, but it paid for itself and then some.

Then they redid seats in Fenway, and are selling the old seats they removed. The price is steep (this pair on costs $1,600, marked down from $2,300), but I could see such a thing as an eccentric piece of furniture in a living room or on a porch. An actual part of Fenway Park in your own home. Sounds okay.

Then they sold bricks. The silliness was increasing. Then again, you could buy a brick to dedicate to your grandfather or one that your future grandchildren could look at 50 years from now. Not for me, but I understood the appeal to some.

Now this. A piece of tarp from 2010. "A piece of Red Sox history." Remember those historic rain delays? That torrential summer storm of August 24, 2010. Then in 2011, the tarp really became historic. Rainouts on April 10, May 17, and September 23. There was even that Tropical Storm that forced the Red Sox to move a game up from Sunday to Saturday. The tarp has seen it all, been there in the biggest weather delays the last two seasons.

This tarp was truly a big part of Red Sox history. And 2,012 people paid $60 to own part of it, and stuff it full with that shirt they just bought which says "Liverpool" in the Red Sox font, that brand new Sox hat that's been artificially faded so it looks worn, a collection of Mike Barnacle books, a lock of Dan Shaughnessey's hair, and this completely blank 1918 throwback jersey which costs over $100:

There is no number on the back. It's a completely blank jersey.

I'm sure these tote bags will also carry books like this one, an essential part of the Pink Hat Collection:

So what can the Red Sox sell next? I'm thinking game-worn ground's crew polos. These are the guys that actually handle the historic tarp that covers the field. They tend to the grass, they keep the warning track clear, they moisten the infield to reduce dust. And now you can buy their used shirts that are soaked in the perspiration that keeps Fenway beautiful.

Or how about taking burnt out spark plugs from the ground's crew's lawnmowers and turning them into Christmas ornaments? They can even be used as candles in a Menorah. These are the spark plugs that run the engine that mows the grass that the tarp covers.

Maybe the Sox can take the troughs that were once in the bathrooms, slice them up, and turn them into wheel barrows. You can tend to your garden with the scrap metal that thousands of drunk Sox fans have left their mark on. It's a part of Red Sox history.

I can't complain too much about the Sox trying to make money. It's working. People bought these tote bags. They paid twice as much as they would have for a normal LL Bean tote bag.

However, it's still embarrassing that this is what the Franchise is focused on doing. It's a marketing firm, using Fenway Park as a brand-name (Roush-Fenway Racing, Fenway Sports Group, Fenway Sports Management).

They've turned Fenway Park from a Field of Dreams to a field of revenue streams.

If you brand it, they will buy.

Euro 2012 Violence

After years of playing nothing but soccer, some of these Europeans have no idea how to use their hands in a fight.

It was a randomized process that selected the groups for Euro 2012. And it was an arbitrary scheduling that determined the dates that games would be played on. And when this resulted in Poland and Russia being matched together in a group, and playing their game on Russia Day (equivalent to a Russian Independence Day), I'm sure many organizers of Euro 2012 collectively said "oh shit" in their native languages.

Russia and Poland have a long and complex history. Poland and the USSR fought a war against each other from 1919 to 1921. Over 100,000 people died. In 1939, the Soviet Union invaded Poland as part of an agreement with Nazi Germany. Germany and the USSR then divided and occupied Poland.

In 1944, Polish nationalists rose up against the German occupiers (who had conquered all of Poland in 1941) of Warsaw. They'd hoped this uprising would be assisted by Soviet troops, who were less than 10 miles from the city. The Russians stopped their advance and refused to aid the uprising, which was eventually crushed. An estimated 200,000 Polish civilians died in the failed uprising.

After World War II, Poland was politically dominated by the Soviet Union until 1989.

There's a very long and very recent history between these two countries. Even now, Poland is paranoid about Russia attempting to violate their sovereignty, and Russia is wary of Poland's close ties to NATO and the West.

Before Russia and Poland played to a 1-1 draw yesterday, 5,000 Russian fans marched through Warsaw and to the stadium as a celebration of their team and to celebrate Russia Day. They had permission from Polish authorities to do so. But considering the history between these two countries, maybe it was more than a little insensitive of the Russians to stage such a display of Russian pride on Polish soil. Then again, Russians have never been noted for their sensitivity.

Sporadic fighting broke out between Poles, Russians, and police during the march. Over 50 were arrested, and more than 10 people were hospitalized.

What's aggravating me is that it could have been avoided, and it's overshadowing what should be a great soccer tournament, with battles being fought by 22 men on a field with a ball, not a few dozen thugs in ski masks throwing chairs at each other.

The Polish authorities probably shouldn't have let the Russians march. Then again, maybe they figured that having all the Russian fans in one place would allow them to focus their Police in those areas.

The Russians shouldn't have staged the march at all. It was very antagonistic of them.

Some countries in Europe, Germany for instance, acknowledge the horrible things they've done in their history. Some countries, Russia for instance, don't spend much time discussing the unpleasant things they've done in their history. Russia were partners with the Nazis in conquering Poland in 1939. They didn't help the Poles in 1944 because they wanted to install their own communist government in Warsaw, and not allow the Polish to form their own government. And for 45 years Moscow ran Poland as subservient to the Soviet Union and Russian interests.

So I can't blame the Poles for being angry that a few thousand Russians decided to march through Warsaw. It doesn't excuse the violence, but I understand the rage.

Buchholz Buckles Down

The Sox offense continues to struggle but Buchholz didn't need much support to beat the Marlins. He struck out 9 in 7 innings, allowing just 5 hits, 1 run, and walked only 2. The run he allowed came from a solo homerun. My favorite stat from his performance is that he threw a first-pitch strike to 20 of the 26 batters he faced.

Buchholz has been an Ace lately. In his last 4 starts he's pitched 31 innings, and allowed only 5 earned runs (1.45 ERA). He's struck out 28 and only walked 7. He has a WHIP of 0.968 over those 4 starts.

The Sox truly needed a great start last night because the offense was once again almost completely absent. The first 5 hitters in the Sox lineup combined to go 1 for 18 with a single and a walk.

Kelly Shoppach was 2 for 4 with a pair of doubles. One of them knocked in a run. Mike Aviles had an RBI single that knocked in Shoppach. Both Sox runs were scored in the 7th. The Sox only had 6 hits, 5 of which came from the bottom of the order, and only 1 came with runners in scoring position.

The Sox avoided wasting yet another good outing by a starting pitcher. Nevertheless, scoring 2 runs a game is not part of a formula to win consistently. Pedroia and Youkilis continue to slump. The offense is being carried by guys like Kelley Shoppach. And how long can they bear the burden? How much production can you hope to squeeze out of these support guys while stars like Gonzalez struggle to do what they're paid to do?

The Sox have scored the second most runs in the Majors. But they come in bunches, not as a steady flow. There's stretches of pouring rain then extended periods of drought. It's a streaky lineup, sometimes scoring 8 runs with ease, sometimes struggling to score more than 2.

The rubber game with the Marlins (the Sox' interleague "rival" for the year) is tonight. Felix Doubront faces Ricky Nolasco. Both these pitchers might give up a couple of runs so it's important that the Sox take advantage of offensive opportunities.

Photo Credit:
AP Photo