Boston followers at CoolToday Park for Friday’s game against the Braves question this year’s team

NORTH PORT


Making their first of three visits to CoolToday Park to face the Atlanta Braves, the Boston Red Sox were joined on Friday by some of their most fervent followers.


There was 73-year-old Bud D’Amato, born in Jamaica Plain, a neighborhood in Boston, who once worked "pulling beer" at Fenway Park in the early 1970s.


"Got to see a lot of the action," said D’Amato, sitting with his buddy from Falmouth, Massachusetts, 72-year-old Mike Moran, before the Braves’ 7-5 victory over a no-name Red Sox squad before a crowd of 7,045. "(The Red Sox) weren’t very good."


Sixty-one-year-old Jim Thompson is a rarity — a Red Sox fan from upstate New York.


"I’m a smart New Yorker," he said. On his first tour of Fenway Park, Thompson sat on the Red Sox bench and slid from one end to the other. His daughter asked her dad what he was doing.


"I said, ‘I want my butt where Babe Ruth was, where (Carl Yastrzemski) was, where Ted Williams was,’ " he said. The former teacher installed a Red Sox clock in his classroom and told his pupils, "If you’re going to watch the clock, you’re going to watch my team."


And when he dies, Thompson wants his ashes deposited somewhere inside Fenway. "Part of me will wind up somewhere in Fenway."


The father of 67-year-old John Meyer would carry his son, still too young to walk, into Fenway to watch their beloved Red Sox. For Bud, Mike, Jim and John, the recollections remain fresh, their love of the Sox still strong.


But 2020 may test their love and patience. It was an offseason that produced the firing of manager Alex Cora in the wake of his role in the sign-stealing scheme of the Houston Astros; the trading of Mookie Betts and David Price to the Dodgers in what was essentially a salary dump; a 1.7 percent rise in ticket prices, the fourth-straight year of an increase; and lastly, a lingering elbow injury to star pitcher Chris Sale that ultimately could force the left-hander to undergo Tommy John surgery.


The dealing of Betts, which saved Boston $27 million, was greeted with howls of protest from Red Sox fans. Normally one of baseball’s biggest spenders, the Red Sox were dubbed "Tampa Bay North" and the "Boston Rays" by one Boston sports columnist.


Trading a generational player to save money while simultaneously raising ticket prices – the top ticket at Fenway now costs $164 – is a terrible look for a team valued by Forbes at $3.2 billion.


"I think they’re capitalizing on the Red Sox Nation that they’ve built and now they’re taking out their equity," said 70-year-old Jeff Jonaitis, a Red Sox fan from Pennsylvania. "Hopefully (improvement) will be in the next year or two, but I don’t expect much this year. I would say third place is most likely and they’ll be lucky to get 90 wins. Lucky.


"I’m not seeing the enthusiasm to really get it back up. I’m 70 years old, so my window is closing, too."


D’Amato said the trading of Betts and Price was strictly a business decision.


"They were never going to get a lot for [Betts]," he said, "but (Red Sox owners) are businessmen. It’s strictly a business decision to them. There’s nothing here (tapping his heart)."


"They had to get under the luxury tax," said New Hampshire’s Chris Murphy, at the game with his parents. "They didn’t want to lose 20 more spots in the draft, but they’re the Red Sox. You expect them to spend."


With the Red Sox knowing Sale’s history of arm woes, Thompson wondered why they didn’t beef up their starting rotation. Without Sale the Red Sox’s top two starters are Eduardo Rodriguez and former Ray Nathan Eovaldi.


"They knew it was coming and they really should have done some things ahead of time to prepare for it," he said. "I don’t know why they didn’t focus on pitching."


As for Meyer, he wasn’t above hiding his displeasure.


"Very disappointed," he said, "and (the team) won’t admit it’s a bridge year. I know a couple of guys who have season tickets who are disappointed. If we got something back for Betts, you don’t mind. But what the hell?


"I think third or fourth (place). The only one I think they can beat is Baltimore. It’s going to be a real interesting year."


Friday’s loss dropped Boston’s Grapefruit League record to 4-9. Indeed, a real interesting year.