Red Sox

Why did Joba Chamberlain hate pitching at Fenway Park? 'Sweet Caroline'

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Why did Joba Chamberlain hate pitching at Fenway Park? 'Sweet Caroline'

Baseball fans who remember the Game 5 of the 2007 ALDS know that Joba Chamberlain had some issues with bugs swarming him while he was on the mound in Cleveland. Chamberlain blew the lead and the Yankees lost the game.

But do you know what really bugged the former Yankees reliever? A song that's a fan favorite in Boston... but decidedly not so for Chamberlain.

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On a new episode of the Balk Talk podcast from NBC Sports Bay Area, the 10-year MLB vet detailed his absolute disdain for Neil Diamond's "Sweet Caroline," a song that became an unofficial Fenway Park anthem in 2002. While Red Sox Nation delights in belting out the "So good! So good! So good!" refrain in the middle of the eighth inning, let's just say Chamberlain feels otherwise.

"Ugh, the worst. And the worst is my son and his buddies terrorize me. Legitimately, they'll play it on their phones," Chamberlain told NBC Sports Bay Area's Jessica Kleinschmidt. "We were having a end-of-the-year watch party or something at one of my bars or restaurants and they played it on the jukebox and I lost my mind.  Like I lost my mind. I was like, 'Karter, you know that bugs me. Like, I hate that song.' Is it catchy? Yes. I won't deny that. But at the same time, I had to hear it all the time, every time I came into the game against Boston. I don't want to hear it."

And for a reliever who routinely pitched in the late innings as a set-up man for Mariano Rivera, that meant Chamberlain heard the song quite a lot, sometimes as he was coming in from the bullpen. Chamberlain recalled a particularly infuriating experience where he didn't think Caroline was that sweet — Opening Day at Fenway Park in 2010.

I'm coming into the game when it's about to hit the fan. So I'm ready to get locked in and I remember... Steven Tyler sang (God Bless America during the 7th inning stretch) and then Neil Diamond sang (Sweet Caroline) live and I'm like, 'Dude, are you done yet? I'm ready to pitch!' ... Of course, you're going to hear this damn song and you're like 'All right...' And you try to block it out, but you can't because all the fans go crazy. I won't take anything away from the song, but I can't stand it.

Chamberlain had entered the game with the Yankees trailing 8-7 in the seventh, but after getting the final out of the inning, he had to wait through Diamond's rendition of the song before going back to the mound for the eighth, where he promptly gave up another run for the final margin in a 9-7 Red Sox victory.

So whether he woke up on a "September Morn" or any other time of year, Chamberlain didn't enjoy being a "Solitary Man" on the Fenway Park mound when he had to listen to a song that Red Sox fans think of as "Beautiful Noise."

"I don't like Neil Diamond," Chamberlain said. "I don't know him, but I don't like him. And it has nothing to do with anything other than I just hate that song."

Red Sox' Alex Verdugo bristles at notion of 'replacing' Mookie Betts

Red Sox' Alex Verdugo bristles at notion of 'replacing' Mookie Betts

Alex Verdugo has some big shoes to fill after trading places with Mookie Betts. Just don't tell that to Alex Verdugo.

The Red Sox right fielder was the only major-league-level player the Los Angeles Dodgers sent to Boston in their offseason trade for Betts and David Price.

Considering he and Betts play the same position, it's natural to wonder how Verdugo feels about taking over for one of the best right fielders in Red Sox history. 

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But after hitting two home runs and robbing a Blue Jays long ball in Boston's 5-3 win over Toronto on Friday, the 24-year-old didn't want to hear his name alongside Betts'.

"I’m not replacing him," Verdugo told reporters, via WEEI.com's Rob Bradford. "Yeah, he played here but this is a game. This is a business. He decided to go elsewhere. I’m not replacing him. That’s what you guys say; that’s what everybody else says.

"I’m going out there and playing right field. I’m playing my game. I don’t think about Mookie."

Verdugo views Betts as a "great player" who's "going to do a lot" for the Dodgers. But the fourth-year outfielder already seems tired of the comparisons to his predecessor. 

"It’s not a comparable thing. I don’t like comparing it," Verdugo said. "I don’t like when people bring it up, but obviously the nature of the trade, it’s going to happen. People are going to say it.

"I’m going to play my game, I’m going to go out there and compete and bring the energy that I bring. That’s how I’ve always been and I don’t care about shoes to fill, anything like that. I’m playing my game."

Verdugo indeed plays with an energy that's rare to find in Major League Baseball, and his stats to date are matching that energy: He's hitting .294 with three home runs, four RBIs and a .297 OPS through 11 games with the Red Sox.

Of course, Betts is enjoying a stronger start for the Dodgers: .307 with three homers, seven RBIs and a .983 OPS. But don't mention those numbers to Verdugo, who's out to define his own legacy rather than to try to soften the blow of Boston trading its franchise cornerstone.

Red Sox' Alex Verdugo robs home run, celebrates with awesome reaction

Red Sox' Alex Verdugo robs home run, celebrates with awesome reaction

Alex Verdugo made best play of his young Boston Red Sox career Friday night, and he was well aware of it.

With the Red Sox leading the Blue Jays by two runs in the ninth inning, Verdugo leaped in front of the right field bullpen at Fenway Park to rob Toronto's Travis Shaw of a home run.

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The play was impressive in its own right, but the 24-year-old outfielder punctuated it with a great reaction.

Verdugo's scream of celebration was audible on the game broadcast (even above the fake crowd noise), a sign of just how fired up he was about the catch.

"I would say I’ve never screamed like that before,” Verdugo said after Boston's 5-3 win, via the Associated Press. “I used to be a pitcher back in the day. I was pretty hyped up."

Verdugo had two other reasons to be hyped up: He also blasted a pair of solo home runs, giving him three on the young season and earning a spot alongside legendary left-handed slugger Mo Vaughn.

The Red Sox aren't expected to make much noise this season, but it appears the former Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder will do his best to raise the decibel level.