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Finneran: The Fan Experience

Friday, October 26, 2018


Fenway Park

You are a cow. You are about to be milked.

The aiding and abetting press refer to certain sports phenomena as “the fan experience”. Normal people call it getting screwed.

Once upon a time, American business operated on the principle that the customer was always right. Try not to laugh in applying that principle to Major League Baseball’s October extravaganzas, otherwise known as the looting and plundering season.

In that bygone era of once upon a time, American businesses also tried to cultivate the next generation of consumers—young kids-- as loyal customers. Think of Ford or Chevrolet or Spaulding creating certain images which youngsters would absorb and remember.

Now think of Major League Baseball’s middle finger gesture to fans of the great game of baseball. The litany is long.

All World Series games will start sometime after 8:00 PM Eastern Time. This self-enslavement to the great god of television guarantees that both old fans and young fans will not be awake for the final innings.
No game will be less than three hours in duration, most likely approaching and surpassing four hours. By then, those old fans and young fans mentioned above will be in a bear-like hibernation-type deep sleep.
Ticket prices are scandalous. And that’s just for regular season games.......go ahead, try taking three or four kids to a game, any game, without calling your banker for an advance on your home equity line. Ticket prices for each of the next four to seven games will be akin to a week’s take-home pay for many fans.
The rest of the “fan experience” would heretofore require the use of a gun to acquire such sums from honest citizens. Food, drink, game programs, hats, and jerseys are marked up to the equivalent of the Four Seasons and Gucci. Consider water—good old h2o---at five and six bucks a bottle.

As a fan of the game I offer a quaint suggestion or two.

*Play at least two day games, one in each city. Fans will tune in, in great numbers. That great god of television will still get to hawk Budweiser, Viagra, and Toyota. Tell the marketing gurus and advertisers that most viewers will actually be alert and awake rather than comatose, drifting off to dreamland. And the players and ballpark fans will get to enjoy daytime temperatures.

*All other games should start at 5:00 PM Eastern Time. Trust me on this one---American workers know how to take care of business while keeping an eye and ear on a broadcast. American output won’t suffer just because the television or radio is turned on. The country is three thousand miles wide and fans from Maine to Oregon, from Napa to Newton, deserve a chance to indulge their passion for the game during normal hours. Indeed, I have a fond memory of an early October afternoon at Boston Latin School---home to the rigor of three hours of homework every single night---where the teacher announced a “study period” and put the radio broadcast on for all of us. Some kids actually studied that afternoon. Other kids listened to the game. All kids appreciated the gesture. It was for me an early example of the work/life balance we all read about in today’s health magazines! That Latin School teacher was decades ahead of his time, probably studying pilates and yoga long before the trendy fashionistas appropriated them for their religion.

Of course the most meaningful remedy against the fan robbery underway is to undertake a fan rebellion in three parts: first, don’t go to, watch, or listen to any of the games; second, don’t buy any fan gear; third, indulge your love of the game by buying the next day’s newspaper, complete with the box score and the different accounts of the game. You’ll be up to speed on the game itself and you’ll have sent an unmistakable message to MLB. When those werewolves of plunder see viewership and merchandise numbers crater, they’ll quickly re-think that middle finger gesture they’re so fond of.

Give a middle finger back to them. They need you more than you need a crappy but expensive T-shirt.

As for the game itself---take it to the bank:

Sox in seven. Go Sox. Beat LA.

Tom Finneran is the former Speaker of the Massachusetts House of Representatives, served as the head the Massachusetts Biotechnology Council, and was a longstanding radio voice in Boston radio.


Related Slideshow: Everything to Know About Red Sox vs Dodgers in World Series - October 2018

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Series Schedule

The World Series schedule is as follows: 

All games will be shown on Fox. 

  • Game 1: LAD @ BOS, Tuesday, 8:09, FOX
  • Game 2: LAD @ BOS, Wednesday, 8:09, FOX
  • Game 3: BOS @ LAD, Friday, Oct. 26, 8:09, FOX
  • Game 4: BOS @ LAD, Saturday, Oct. 27, 8:09, FOX
  • Game 5*: BOS @ LAD, Sunday, Oct. 28, 8:15, FOX
  • Game 6*: LAD @ BOS, Tuesday, Oct. 30, 8:09, FOX
  • Game 7*: LAD @ BOS, Wednesday, Oct. 31, 8:09, FOX
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Red Sox vs Dodgers

The Red Sox and Dodgers last played each other in 2016. 

The two teams last met in the World Series in 1916  (102 years ago for those counting).

The series was won by the Red Sox in five games behind 21-year-old Babe Ruth.

This is the fourth trip to the World Series in the last 15 years for Boston who won championships in 2004, 2007 and 2013.

The Dodgers are in the World Series for the second straight season after losing to Houston last year.

It is the first time in 40 years they have been to back-to-back fall classics.

PHOTO: Francis P. Burke Collection/Wikipedia

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Starting Pitching

The projected pitching matchups are as follows: 

Game 1: Clayton Kershaw vs Chris Sale

Boston's Chris Sale has not pitched since game 1 of the ALCS after he had to miss his game 5 start due to stomach issues. 

"This place is going to be obviously going crazy. We have very passionate fans. It's going to be fun. I think we've all been waiting for this. And our fans, too. Our fans have been there the whole year, just like we've been grinding the whole year, and they've been showing up for us and I think they're just as excited as we are. I don't doubt this place is not going to be getting up and going," said Sale during his press conference on Monday. 

Sale went just four innings and gave up two runs in his ALCS appearance. 

In the NLCS, Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw had an era of 4.09 in 11 innings pitched, giving up 9 hits and 5 runs. 

Prior to that, in LA's NLDS series, Kershaw had an era of 0.00 in eight innings pitched. 

He has never pitched at Fenway Park before. 

Game 2: Hyun-Jin Ryu vs David Price 

Boston's David Price is coming off the first postseason win of his career. 

In game five of the ALCS, Price tossed six innings, while striking out nine batters and giving up just three hits to help the Red Sox get to the World Series. 

Ryu comes into the start after posting an ERA of 8.59 in seven innings pitched during the NLCS. 

In those innings, Ryu gave up seven runs on 13 hits in two games started. 

"With Hyun-Jin he's been very good at Dodger Stadium, but if he's executing pitches and being on the road, we're not concerned. He's had a tremendous year. And pitching in big games, whether it be at home or on the road, his pulse, as we've talked about with a lot of our players, isn't a concern of ours," said Roberts.

Game 3: Walker Buehler vs Nathan Eovaldi

It could be argued that Nathan Eovaldi has been Boston's best pitcher to this point in the postseason. 

Between the ALCS and ALDS, Eovaldi has tossed 14 innings and given up just three runs for an ERA of 1.88. He has a total of ten strikeouts in those two games.

In his first postseason, LA's Walker Buehler comes into the World Series with an ERA of 5.40.

He has given up five runs and 12 hits in just over 11 innings pitched between the NLCS and NLDS.

Game 4: Rich Hill vs Rick Porcello 

Former Cy Young award winner Rick Porcello went from having an ERA of 1.59 in the ALDS to an ERA of 7.20 in the ALCS. 

In his ALCS outing, Porcello went five innings and gave up seven hits and four runs. 

A former member of the Red Sox organization, Rich Hill enters the World Series after posting a 1.50 ERA in the NLCS. 

In his NLCS outing, Hill tossed six innings and gave up four hits and one run. 

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The Red Sox bullpen has been shaky for much of the postseason, so much so, that Cora has used Sale, Porcello, and Eovaldi in relief duty. 

If Cora is not going to a starter, expect to see Matt Barnes and Ryan Brazier used as set up men to Craig Kimbrel with Joe Kelly and Brandon Workman mixed in depending on the situation. 

KImbrel has been shaky himself for much of the postseason, nearly giving away games against the Yankees in the ALDS and then in the ALCS against the Astros. 

Following his shut down performance in game five against Houston, it was reported that he had addressed a pitch-tipping issue. 

The Dodgers bullpen is anchored by closer Kenley Jansen. 

So far this postseason, Jansen has not given up a run in 6.2 innings pitched, giving up only two hits. 

The Dodgers bullpen as a whole has been nearly unbeatable. 

In 41.2 postseason innings, the Dodgers bullpen carries an ERA of 1.30. 

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Key Players - Dodgers

The key players for the Dodgers entering the World Series include Matt Kemp, Yasiel Puig, and Justin Turner. 

Kemp is a bench player for LA, but makes the key player list after Roberts announced that he would serve as LA's designated hitter for games in Fenway Park. 

Kemp batted just .200 in the NLCS, but saw only 10 at-bats. He batted .250 in the NLDS, but in only four at-bats. 

Puig enters the World Series after batting .333 in the NLCS with seven hits, including a home run, and four RBIs. 

Puig has also had his share of errors in the field and on the base paths. 

"Yasiel has had some mental lapses; is that right? Certainly, our job as coaches is to continue to teach players. And there is certainly a lot of upside with Yasiel. There's a lot of energy. There's a little bit or maybe a little bit more of -- there's some recklessness. So my job, the coach's job, is to continue to embrace it to some extent but also harness it. So there is a balance. But certainly with Yasiel the net is certainly a positive," said Roberts.

Turner enters the World Series after batting .241 in the NLCS with seven hits and three RBIs. 

Turner batted .357 in the NLDS with five hits. 

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LA Player to Watch

Former Baltimore Oriole, now LA Dodger, Manny Machado is quickly turning into a "villain" in these baseball playoffs. 

In the NLCS against Milwaukee, Machado stepped on the foot of Brewers' first baseman Jesus Aguilar and also had a questionable slide into second base earlier in the series. 

Being a former Oriole, Machado has history with the Red Sox. 

Last season, Machado made an aggressive slide into second base and took out Dustin Pedroia. 

In response, Red Sox pitcher Matt Barnes then threw at Machado, which sparked a bench-clearing incident. Barnes ended up being suspended for it. 

Pedroia essentially has not played a game since that incident. 

"So I've heard a little bit about the history with the Red Sox, but when you're in the World Series I think that each team's goal is to win four baseball games. So I don't think that the history really has any effect on these next games," said Dodgers manager Dave Roberts.

Machado hit .296 in the NLCS with eight hits, one home run, and three RBIs. 

PHOTO: Wikipedia 

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Key Players - Red Sox

The key players in the Red Sox lineup include right fielder Mookie Betts, left fielder Andrew Benintendi, DH JD Martinez, and outfielder Andrew Benintendi. 

Mookie Betts comes into his World Series after batting .217 in the ALCS with five hits and just one RBI. 

Overall in these playoffs, he is eight for 39. 

Martinez enters his first World Series after batting .278 in the ALCS with five hits and three RBIs. 

He is 10 for 32 in the playoffs to this point. 

Benintendi enters the World Series after batting .2018 in the ALCS with five hits and one RBI. 

However, it was his defense that propelled Boston into the Fall Classic, specifically a diving catch to seal Boston's game four win and put them up 3-1 in the series. 

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Red Sox Player to Watch

Red Sox outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. is one of the hottest players on either team entering the World Series. 

Hitting out of the nine spot, Bradley was named ALCS MVP after recording nine RBIs with a grand slam in game three, a solo home run in game four and a bases-clearing double in game two against the Astros. 

He also drew four walks in the series. 

If Bradley Jr. can keep up this pace, he could be holding a World Series MVP trophy. 

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No DH in LA

When the series shifts to Los Angeles for games three, four and five, the Red Sox will lose the designated hitter. 

This means that Boston manager Alex Cora will have to find another way to get JD Martinez's bat in the lineup. 

One option, arguably the best option, is to put Martinez at one of the corner outfield positions, where he logged nearly 500 innings this season, and move Mookie Betts to second base. 

“There’s always a chance, I guess. Those are the cool conversations that come with where we’re at," said Cora during his press conference on Sunday. 

During Boston's team workout inside Fenway on Sunday, Betts was seen fielding grounders at second base and turning double plays. 

Betts last played second base during a regular season game against the Yankees on August 3 due to in-game injuries. 

No matter what Boston's decision is, Cora added, “one thing’s for sure: J.D. will play."


PHOTO: Boston Red Sox

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Cora vs Roberts

The managing matchup is Boston's Alex Cora against LA's Dave Roberts. 

Cora and Roberts were teammates with the Dodgers during the 2004 season. 

"I know it's going to sound bad, but not really. I love the guy. He means a lot to me but at the same time we have a job to do. And you start looking at my postseason this year, we had Boonie with the Yankees, A.J. with the Astros, and now we've got Dave. And at the end of the day we like each other, we're friends and we respect each other, but at the end they want to win four to win the World Series and we feel the same -- we want to do the same thing," said Cora during his press conferece on Monday. 

In his first managing job, Cora led the Red Sox to a franchise record 108 wins and their first World Series appearance since 2013. 

Dave Roberts is in his fourth season as manager of the Dodgers and has LA in the World Series for the second straight year after they lost to Houston last season. 

Roberts is the former Red Sox player who famously stole second base in the 2004 ALCS to help the Red Sox avoid a series sweep against the Yankees. 

Boston would, of course, come back from down 3-0 to beat the Yankees in the ALCS and go onto win their first World Series since 1918. 

"It is great coming back to this great city. I've got nothing but great memories, even flying into Logan and just this time of year, this city, the leaves changing. And then you drive up to Fenway Park and it all just kind of comes back to you, 2004," said Roberts during his press conference on Monday.


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