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Fenway history no-contest winner over 'competitive bullpen'

by | CBSSports.com Columnist
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Whatever the actual historical value of Fenway Park -- and let's face it, Boston is one of the last places in America that believes history is actually measured in pre-MTV years -- I was oddly pleased to see that its dimensions could not be changed.

And that the people who basically made the decision were the members of the Massachusetts Historical Society.

Red Sox president Larry Lucchino's reason not to change Fenway's dimensions right now is hilarious. (US Presswire)  
Red Sox president Larry Lucchino's reason not to change Fenway's dimensions right now is hilarious. (US Presswire)  
I don't know why, but the idea that an institution whose title makes it seem like its members are all in their early 300s could keep Red Sox president Larry Lucchino from putting a brew pub into the bullpens just appeals to me.

No, that's not true. I do know why. It's something Lucchino said.

The Red Sox wanted to pull in the right field wall nine feet, from 380 feet to 371, so they could put in a workout facility and a climate-controlled (read: indoor) section. They also wanted David Ortiz to hit 50 homers again, but that's another argument for another time.

But here's what Lucchino said, thereby inspiring our applause for the MHS:

"We're going to re-examine it and see if we can come up with some alternative plans that might give us a chance to have a safer and more competitive bullpen facility, as well as shorten a bit the walls in right field."

"A more competitive bullpen facility?"

"A more competitive bullpen facility?"

"A MORE COMPETITIVE BULLPEN FACILITY?"

Now that's ridiculous. So ridiculous that the MHS should never approve any plan that is spurred by such a hilarious phrase.

Here's a news flash: Bullpen facilities do not compete. They are tracts of land. Dirt cannot compete, except in some vague geological sense that isn't in Lucchino's purview.

Here's another: The Fenway bullpen is one of the most copied bullpens in baseball, which is to say it is one of the coolest in the game. It doesn't have to compete, even if it could. It already won.

And here's a third. There is no pitcher in the history of baseball who has rejected an offer from the Red Sox because their "bullpen facilities" weren't up to snuff. If there is one, we demand Lucchino produce proof. We want written testimonials from great relievers of the past who would say under oath that they wanted to play in Boston but were prevented because the bullpen was a dump.

In other words, competition has nothing to do with it, and Lucchino deserved to be rebuffed by the history board for saying such unmitigated tripe.

Now maybe if he had said, "We want to use the nine feet to install stands which would allow us to sell more things to the customers," the defenders of the 18th century could have said, "Well, that's good enough for us," and there would be no problem. Or if there was a problem, it wouldn't be because he said something moronic.

No, the objection from here is strictly based on Lucchino using the "competitive" line, because the only people owners compete with are other owners. They compete with their local TV and radio packages. They compete with their luxury suites, hence the arguments about revenue sharing. They compete with their payrolls.

But a bullpen? No. That's plainly ridiculous, and we suspect Lucchino knows it. It's just something that owners say when they're around other owners because they want their house to be best.

Well, Fenway's already pretty damned close to best. Yeah, it could fill another 15,000 seats if they were available, but part of the financial beauty of the joint is that it's hard to get into. It can't really grow without walling off streets, which would absolutely drive the Historical Society to overdose on ipecac.

So if Larry Lucchino wants a more competitive bullpen, he should buy a couple more setup men. Hell, the Red Sox own Liverpool FC -- they could make Steven Gerrard and Dirk Kuyt relievers, just to have them earn their money with a useful summer job.

Or stop using the word "competitive" when he means "money-generating." We're not anti-money here. We are, however, anti-posturing. And anti-silly-posturing, absolutely.

Ray Ratto is a columnist for Comcast SportsNet Bay Area.com.

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