FORT MYERS, Fla. - The Red Sox throw open the doors to their clubhouse this morning for the first time since that final night in Baltimore last September. Later in the day, Josh Beckett and Jon Lester will be made available to the media.
Is it just me or is anybody else interested in a few mea culpas? Perhaps we could hear an admission that things were not quite right by the time the SS Francona sank in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. Can just one guy stand up and say, “We [bleeped] up. We’re sorry. We were unprofessional and we let it get away from us. Sorry we betrayed your trust.’’?
That’s what I’m in the mood for.
Things seemed to be going in the opposite direction last week when Beckett and then Adrian Gonzalez granted interviews to national outlets.
Beckett went on the MLB Network with Kevin Millar (who never will be mistaken for Mike Wallace) and said, “We stunk on the field and that was the bottom line. If we would have played better, none of that [chicken and beer] stuff would have ever been an issue.’’
And of course the tall Texan trotted out the time-tested, “What happens in the clubhouse should stay in the clubhouse’’ line.
Next we had Gonzalez insisting, “We just didn’t play good baseball,’’ and famously uttering, “People gotta eat, whether it’s chicken or steak.’’
People gotta eat. That’s right up there with the long-lasting remark by the late, great Lou Gorman, who once looked up at a clear Florida sky and said, “The sun will rise, the sun will set, and I’ll have lunch.’’
This is an important season that starts today when pitchers and catchers report and the manager holds his first official spring training news conference. The Red Sox have a new manager for the first time in nine years. They have a new general manager for the first time in 10 years.
They have lost their closer, their $142 million free agent outfield bust is going to miss the start of the season after wrist surgery, there is no established fourth or fifth starter, and the Angels, Rangers, Tigers, Yankees, and Rays all got better during the offseason while the Sox got worse.
Meanwhile, now that they have overspent badly over the last couple of years, Sox ownership has decided to operate like a middle-market franchise. Why else do you trade your starting shortstop to recover $6 million in salary?
Sox owner John Henry has shifted his wallet and his heart in the direction of Liverpool and, appropriately enough, seems to have a new Manny Ramirez situation on his hands in the person of Luis Suarez.
If all that is not enough, the Sox are opening a spectacular new spring park and getting ready for the long-awaited 100th anniversary of Fenway Park.
Fans are going to love Fenway South. It you keep your visor pulled down over your eyes, you might think you are sitting in the ancient yard on Yawkey Way. I particularly like the authentic, tinny manual scoreboard in left field. It’s a comfort knowing that Yaz put some of the dents in the old scoreboard that adorns the Fenway South Monster.
One minor quarrel with JetBlue Park: The Sox are in the third base dugout. They were on the third base side at City of Palms Park, as well, but that was OK because there was no attempt to replicate Fenway.
The first big baseball news conference at Fenway South was Friday’s Tim Wakefield retirement announcement. Wake gets high marks for years of great service on and off the field. His willingness to give up his start and come out of the bullpen in the 19-8 beatdown in Game 3 of the 2004 American League Championship Series enabled the Sox to stage the greatest comeback of all time.
Fans may not have noticed a smaller announcement coming out of the Sox offices Friday. Dr. Charles Steinberg was hired as a special assistant to Sox CEO Larry Lucchino.
Steinberg left the Sox after the 2007 championship and went on to work for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Most recently, he was working in the Commissioner’s Office, and the Sox reached out to bring him back for some crisis management.
Ever the maestro/choreographer/spin-master, Steinberg is the man most responsible for the multilayered game-day experience at Fenway today. The Sox would do well to use his skill set on player presentation this week.
What happened last September was unacceptable on so many levels, not a mere slump by a team thin on pitching. It was an across-the-board decay of professionalism and a betrayal of the fans’ trust.
It’s time to put a lid on the stubborn, Texas-bad-ass intransigence. Red Sox fans love their team the way they love their families. Sox players need to be reminded that loving the fans means sometimes having to say you’re sorry.