The clown car that is the Boston Red Sox started the 2020 season Friday night at Fenway Park.
The Red Sox had a rough week heading into the start of their 60-game dash to the eighth playoff spot in the American League.
Their best pitcher, Eduardo Rodriguez, is still dealing with potentially serious health concerns following a COVID-19 diagnosis.
Their best all-around player of the past 40 years, Mookie Betts, signed a $365 million deal that keeps him in Dodger Blue through the 2032 season.
The player they got from Los Angeles to replace Betts in right field — Alex Verdugo — didn’t start Friday because the manager doesn’t want him batting against left-handed pitchers.
And Gov. Charlie Baker was definitely not throwing out the ceremonial first pitch on Friday — until he was.
The Red Sox had a surprisingly low-key, socially distanced, social-justice themed Opening Day ceremony Friday. The pumped-in crowd noise added little emphasis.
Baker was joined by Mayor Marty Walsh and BASE founder Robert Lewis Jr. as they each tossed balls from the center field bleachers down to players in the outfield.
Dr. Anthony “Wild Thing” Fauci wishes he had it that easy.
If the Red Sox players had any unified social justice statement to make Friday, it was lost in translation. Prior to the national anthem, every member of the Baltimore Orioles kneeled, while the Red Sox offered a mixed reaction of standing and kneeling. Jackie Bradley Jr. and Verdugo kneeled during a spectacular rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner” by Springfield native Michelle Brooks-Thompson. Verdugo and Bradley were joined by coaches Carlos Febles and Tom Goodwin. Everyone else in a Red Sox uniform stood. None locked arms. Meanwhile, all of the Baltimore Orioles stood as they linked arms.
The First Amendment is still alive — at least for some of us.
The Red Sox organization is woker than ever. The team placed a 254-foot long, 27-foot high “Black Lives Matter” banner along the rear of Lansdowne Street facing the Mass Pike. The virtue signal is visible from the International Space Station. The banner serves as a potential shield from the current pandemic for those gathered in or around Fenway Park. No one protesting in the name of social justice under the BLM mantra or those who have participated in the affiliated riots has yet to be afflicted by coronavirus — or so I’ve been told by Twitter.
Here’s the hypocrisy. The Red Sox had more “Black Lives Banners” in and around Fenway Park Friday night than they had Black ballplayers on their 2020 roster.
The 1950 Boston Braves, 1960 Boston Red Sox and 2020 Boston Red Sox each had one Black ballplayer in their Opening Day starting lineup.
Say their names: Sam Jethroe. Pumpsie Green. Jackie Bradley Jr.
We’ve seen absolutely zero progress when it comes to real-life Black ballplayers on the Red Sox in 60 years. The 2020 Red Sox have multiple Latin, Asian and Hispanic players. But the subject at hand is Black lives. That only 7.7% of the MLB ballplayers in 2019 were Black only heightens the hypocrisy of the other 29 MLB teams joining the Red Sox in this crusade.
Red Sox players wore “Black Lives Matter” T-shirts before the game on Friday. Perhaps the team should have handed out “Luxury Tax Matters” shirts and dropped a 500-foot long sign from the top the Prudential Tower echoing the same sentiment.
Two of the Black players on the 2019 Red Sox — Betts and David Price — were shipped out of town because of payroll concerns, so we’ve been told. That the team used one player (Betts) to leverage the other was even more devious.
The Red Sox reacted to Betts’ long-term deal with the Dodgers as if they had a wedding scheduled with Mookie this winter. Team president and CEO Sam Kennedy, in several media appearances this week, admitted he was surprised, to be diplomatic. All Tom Werner could do on NESN before Friday’s game was wish Mookie well and vow to “deploy the money elsewhere.”
Does that include Liverpool FC, the Globe newsroom and upgrades on John W. Henry’s $90 million, 253-foot long yacht?
Of course, the Red Sox had Betts under their control for nine years since drafting him in 2011. They consistently failed to offer Betts market value each time they tried to make a deal. They took the superstar to arbitration before the 2018 season over a lousy $3 million difference. Think about that while you check the social justice tips and reading list offered on the Red Sox Foundation website or click on the link posted to donate to the Nationwide Bail Fund.
Betts took a knee during the national anthem before the Dodgers season opener Thursday for the first time before a game. He had once said he would always stand to honor his father’s military service. “I wasn’t educated,” Betts said. “That’s my fault. I need to be educated on the situation. I know my dad served and I’ll never disrespect the flag, but there’s also gotta be change in the world, and kneeling has nothing to do with those who served our country.”
Given how much oxygen LeBron James has exhausted from the Sports Sphere in La-La Land, Betts can pursue any cause on or off the field and receive neither static nor grief for it. It’s all good. Having Betts and Mike Trout share the baseball stage in New York or Chicago would be electric. In Los Angeles, it merits mention only after the latest Instagram videos from the NBA bubble.
Betts undoubtedly generated much more of a reaction — positive and negative — for taking the knee by fans in New England than those in SoCal.
In Boston, every move is examined, questioned and criticized.
Whether it happens at Fenway Park or 3,000 miles away.
Bill Speros (@RealOBF) can be reached at [email protected]