Red Sox

Yankees-Red Sox series in London will be played on artificial turf

Yankees-Red Sox series in London will be played on artificial turf

The Red Sox and Yankees will take their rivalry across the pond next month when they play a regular-season series in London.

The new venue in a new country isn't the only thing new. For the first time in more than 2,200 meetings, they'll play on artificial turf.

Major League Baseball concluded there wasn't time to install a new grass baseball field over the grass soccer pitch and track at Olympic Stadium in London, so artificial turf  - similar to what the Toronto Blue Jays, Tampa Bay Rays and Arizona Diamondbacks have at their ballparks - will be put in over gravel that will cover the existing surface.

MLB was granted access to the stadium, built for the 2012 Olympics and home of West Ham of English Premier League soccer, for 21 days before the Yanks-Sox series.

“It’s the first Yankees-Red Sox game out of the country, so why not a lot of firsts?” Yankees pitcher CC Sabathia told the Associated Press. “I think it will be fine.”

Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts said the Sox have some familiarity with the surface because of playing the Jays and Rays in the American League East.

“If we had never played on turf, it would be different, but we’ve played on turf,” Bogaerts told the AP. 

Another first, Boston is designated as the home team for the games but both teams will wear their home uniforms. So, the Yankees pinstripes will be on display against the Sox home whites. 

By the way, the Yankees hold a 1,911-991 all-time series lead, with 14 ties, and lead 12-11 in postseason victories, and 27-9 in World Series titles. Before they meet in London, the rivals play at Yankee Stadium May 30-June 2.

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Fake crowd noise at Fenway Park? Red Sox testing it out

Fake crowd noise at Fenway Park? Red Sox testing it out

While there aren't any fans at Major League Baseball stadiums right now, that doesn't mean that the parks need to sound empty.

One day after the Red Sox held their first intrasquad scrimmage at Fenway Park, the team experimented by pumping in fake crowd noise at Fenway Park on Friday morning.

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It looked like Red Sox President and CEO Sam Kennedy and Chairman Tom Werner enjoyed the noise, but this experiment isn't confined to Fenway.

According to NESN's Tom Caron on Twitter, MLB sent the audio to all 30 teams. Teams in South Korea, Japan, and Taiwan are already using piped-in crowd noise during games without fans amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Forget about Jason Varitek the umpire — let's talk his future as Red Sox manager

Forget about Jason Varitek the umpire — let's talk his future as Red Sox manager

Jason Varitek the umpire drew rave reviews for his performance behind the plate during Thursday's intrasquad scrimmage, his exuberant strikeout calls conjuring images of John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever.

"I had to do a double-take," manager Ron Roenicke admitted.

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"I liked having him behind the plate," said starter Nathan Eovaldi. "I felt like he was making some really good calls for me."

Varitek looked the part of a man in blue, donning full umpire regalia and responsibly wearing a facemask under his umpiring mask in a nod to safety. He volunteered for the role, and has no designs on pursuing the job any further; he won't be back behind the plate for Friday's scrimmage.

And that's fine, because while Varitek's foray into umpiring was amusing, what we should really be talking about is his potential as a manager.

For all the talk of Roenicke simply minding the store for whatever becomes of 2020 before the Red Sox welcome back Alex Cora, we shouldn't discount the possibility of Varitek sliding into the dugout.

There's consensus throughout the organization that Varitek is a future manager, if he wants it. He briefly looked like a darkhorse candidate for Roenicke's job this winter, except the timing wasn't right, especially with a young family at home and the demands of the job surpassing even those of his old responsibilities behind the plate.

What's clear is that Varitek checks virtually every box the organization could want.

He understands and embraces the Boston market. His leadership qualities are well-known and earned him the title of captain, which hasn't been filled since he retired in 2011. Perhaps most unexpectedly, he has embraced the analytics revolution, demonstrating a comfort level in his role as a special assistant not just with advanced information, but how to apply it.

It shouldn't be a surprise, though.

No one studied more in support of his pitchers than Varitek, who spent 15 years in Boston as a backstop, making three All-Star teams, winning two World Series, and earning a Gold Glove and Silver Slugger. The postgame image of Varitek at his locker was indelible, with every joint encased in ice, his thighs bulging like tunnel-boring drills and his shoulders as broad as a granite slab.

But if you looked closely, what stood out wasn't the physical toll of calling a game, but the mental one. When Varitek rotated his chair to face the media, he slumped and exhaled as if he had just finished the LSAT. He believed it was his responsibility to know every facet of every scouting report, so that when he flashed the signs, his pitcher would throw with confidence and conviction.

As he pored over binders before each game, he gave the appearance of a brute-force learner, the kid who scores A's and B's by grinding his pencil to dust.

But translating that relatively rudimentary data in the early 2000s positioned him to thrive today. The most advanced scouting report in the big leagues is of little use if it can't be married to performance, and that's how Varitek made his name. It's why former pitching coach Dana LeVangie wanted Varitek to be more involved on a daily basis in 2018, and it's why he has so many fans in the organization now.

The question is whether he wants it. He just turned 48 and he's raising a grade schooler. The disruption to his home life would be significant, and there's also the issue of taking the helm while the Red Sox attempt to rebuild during a pandemic. The timing isn't great.

That said, he's very much a part of the future, even if it ends up being a little down the road. So while everyone got a kick out of watching him call strike three with a Brad Marchand fist pump on Thursday, don't be surprised if one day he finds a home on the bench.