I can’t complain about the past 20 years as a Red Sox fan.
The Curse of the Bambino was broken, opening the door to four World Series titles.
The team fielded perennial All-Stars with lovable personalities, from Ortiz and Manny to Lester, Pedroia, and Mookie.
Ownership made multi-million dollar improvements to Fenway Park, saving America’s Most Beloved Ballpark for future generations of fans to enjoy.
But was this the plan the Red Sox expected to put in motion?
As Y2K approached, the team’s 2000 calendar, entitled “Red Sox in the New Millennium,” painted a different picture of what they believed their future would look like.
The New Fenway Park
One of the major focuses of this calendar was to promote “New Fenway Park”, which was announced on May 15, 1999.
According to the plan (and the calendar), the new ballpark would provide easier access, more restrooms, and a wider variety of concessions while replicating the field dimensions and the iconic architecture of Fenway.
Home plate would be moved back just 206 yards, and the new ballpark would be built just across the street, with the original Fenway infield preserved as a public park.
In addition to adding 10,000 more seats, the new ballpark would offer wider aisles, more spacious seats, and no obstructed views.
Of course, this vision never came to fruition. The proposal was highly controversial because of the strain on public funds and the projection of fewer than 15 years of usable life for the new park. Eventually, it was revealed that the owners were executing a disingenuous scheme to up the value of the team before putting it on the market.
After an unsuccessful attempt to build a “Sports Megaplex” that would include both a baseball and football stadium, the Red Sox ownership group announced in 2005 that the team would stay at Fenway Park indefinitely.
What We Were Stuck With
The new plan became to pump as much money into Fenway as possible, and in 2011, team president Larry Lucchino announced the completion of a 10 year, $285 million dollar renovation to the park. According to Lucchino, engineers have said that the park’s structure is viable until at least 2060.
As a wide-eyed child, I may have been ecstatic to hear that Fenway Park would be saved. Now, the news that Fenway has 40-50 years left in it makes me want to puke.
Despite hundreds of millions of dollars in renovations, Fenway is still plagued by terrible sightlines, uncomfortable seats, and a tiny capacity contributing to ticket scarcity and inflated prices.
Fenway is a great museum, but it’s a terrible place to watch a baseball game, especially for the common folk who can’t afford dugout seats or luxury boxes.
There are some cool new additions – the Pavilion Club seats along the first and third base lines are a great take, but those tickets go for $200 a pop. Same with the right field roof deck, where you are relegated to standing room only unless you shell out for a Sam Adams deck table.
Stars of the Future
In addition to sprinkling facts about the upcoming ballpark, each month of the calendar featured a “Future Star,” someone that Red Sox brass deemed promising enough to let the fans know about them. This could also create a cool nostalgia piece if and when these players turned into Red Sox legends.
I thought it would be fun to see who they featured, and how those Future Stars turned out.
January: Dernell Stenson – 1B
MLB Career: Cincinnati Reds (2003)
Notable Stats: Appeared in 37 games, batting .247 with 3 home runs in 81 at-bats.
Biggest Achievement: Unfortunately, Stenson’s career and life were tragically cut short. On November 5, 2003, Stenson was brutally murdered in what initially appeared to be a carjacking, though was later thought to have had more sinister motives.
In 2004, the Arizona Fall League created the Dernell Stenson Sportsmanship Award, given to a player who displays the values of perseverance and humility.
Star Rating: Tragically, we will never know what Stenson could have become, though it doesn’t look like his career would have been with Boston.
February: Jim Chamblee – OF
MLB Career: Cincinnati Reds (2003)
Notable Stats: 2 Career At-Bats, 0 Hits, -0.1 WAR
Biggest Achievement: Probably appearing in the Red Sox 2000 Calendar
Star Rating: At Least He Made it to the Show.
March: Steve Lomasney – C
MLB Career: Boston Red Sox (1999)
Notable Stats: 2 Career At-Bats, 0 Hits, 0.1 WAR
Biggest Achievement: Winning the Greater Boston League championship and becoming a local hero as a football and baseball star in Peabody, Mass. (Go Tanners!!)
Star Rating: Hails from the greatest city on Earth, but just like Chamblee, went 0-2 in the Bigs.
April – David Eckstein – 2B
MLB Career: Five Teams from 2001-2010, most notably Anaheim (2001-04) and St. Louis (2005-07)
Notable Stats: 10 Seasons in MLB, 1,414 Hits, 701 Runs, Career .280 hitter, 123 SB
Biggest Achievement: Won World Series in 2002 with Angles and 2006 with Cardinals, where he was MVP. MLB All-Star in 2005 & 2006.
Star Rating: The Sox got this one right, but unfortunately he never sniffed the field for Boston.
May: Jeff Taglienti – RHP
MLB Career: No appearances. Six seasons in MiLB, only getting as high as AA.
Notable Stats: Career minor league record of 19-4 w/ 3.35 ERA. 58 Saves
Biggest Achievement: Attended Tufts University (Go Jumbos!) Also in 1998 with Class A Michigan, he had 30 Saves w/ a 1.89 ERA. 111 K’s and just 17 BB in 76.1 IP.
Star Rating: I’m from Peabody, went to Tufts and never made it to the majors. Seems like I should be on this list too.
June: Sun-Woo Kim – RHP
MLB Career: Boston Red Sox (2001-02), Expos/Nationals (2002-05), Rockies (2005-06), Reds (2006)
Notable Stats: 13-13 career record, 5.31 ERA, 211 strikeouts
Biggest Achievement: Was the starting pitcher for the Montreal Expos’ last game in Montreal, on September 29, 2004.
Star Rating: Not a world-beater, but on this list, Kim is a pretty big name.
July: Jason Sekany – RHP
MLB Career: No appearances in the big leagues. Six seasons in MiLB, including 3 at AAA
Notable Stats: Career minor league record of 38-42, 4.85 ERA, and 487 K’s in 666 IP
Biggest Achievement: 14-4 Record with 3.35 ERA in 1999 with AA Trenton Thunder
Star Rating: Who was this guy again?
August: Paxton Crawford – RHP
MLB Career: Boston Red Sox (2000-01)
Notable Stats: 5-1 Career Record, 42 Strikeouts with a 4.15 ERA
Biggest Achievement: In 2006, after leaving baseball, admitted to using steroids and, in an ESPN The Magazine article, revealed an open drug culture in the Red Sox locker room.
Star Rating: Spent his entire career with the Red Sox. Then ratted out the team.
September: Michael Coleman – OF
MLB Career: Boston Red Sox (1997, 99), New York Yankees (2001)
Notable Stats: 67 AB, 13 Hits, 1 HR, .194 BA, -0.7 WAR
Biggest Achievement: Coleman’s only career HR came with the Yankees at Kansas City on April 10, 2001. With one out in the ninth and the Yankees down 5-4, Coleman hit a solo shot to left field to tie the game. That sparked a five-run inning as the Bronx Bombers came from behind for a 9-5 win.
Star Rating: Seems like his only notable achievement came with the Yankees.
October: Tomo Ohka – RHP
MLB Career: On and off from 1999-2009, including the Red Sox (1999-01), and Montreal Expos/Washington Nationals (2001-05)
Notable Stats: Career Record of 51-68, 4.26 ERA. Three seasons with 10+ wins
Biggest Achievement: Ohka was a successful major league pitcher, but he was a monster in 1999 when he appeared in 24 games for AA Trenton and AAA Pawtucket. He went 15-0 with a 2.31 ERA, and a K/BB of 3.22. When he went back for a stint Pawtucket in 2000, he made International League history by throwing the first nine-inning perfect game since 1952, throwing only 77 pitches along the way.
Star Rating: Maybe the player on this list who had the most impact for the Red Sox organization.
November: Wilton Veras – 3B
MLB Career: Boston Red Sox (1999-00)
Notable Stats: Appeared in 85 games over 2 seasons, Went 74-282 at the plate with 2 HR, 27 RBI, and a slash line of .262/.297/.340
Biggest Achievement: At one point, Veras held the Taiwanese Chinese Professional Baseball League single-season record for hits, collecting 176 in 2009 for the Sinon Bulls.
Star Rating: Good, not great.
December: Juan Pena – RHP
MLB Career: Boston Red Sox (1999)
Notable Stats: 2-0 record, 0.69 ERA, 15 strikeouts in 13 innings of work
Biggest Achievement: His cup of coffee in 1999 made him a promising prospect who was projected for the fifth spot in the rotation in 2000, but he was hit in the elbow by a line drive during spring training, tearing his MCL, and effectively ending his major league career.
Star Rating: It wasn’t crazy for the Sox to pump him up as part of the future, but it didn’t pan out.
How Did It Turn Out?
Envisioning the future is hard. It’s easy to be idealistic about a beautiful new ballpark, or exciting prospects.
It’s even easier for me to look back and point out what didn’t happen and who didn’t pan out.
In the end, the results are all that matter.
The Red Sox have had a fantastic past two decades, but not the two decades they imagined.
Aside from a few homegrown products like Mookie, Jon Lester, and Xander Bogaerts, the Sox acquired their talent from outside of their system. Names like Manny, Pedro, Schilling, Ortiz, Beckett, Sale, and JD Martinez would not have appeared on a calendar touting the organization’s future stars, but that road worked out fine.
Fenway is better than it was, and if you can afford it, there are great seats from which to watch a ballgame. But looking back at the prospect of a new, comfortable park with modern amenities makes me wish that this part of their vision for the millennium turned out to be true.
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