FORT MYERS, Fla. - The Red Sox are nine days into spring training at a sparkling new facility under the direction of an energetic new manager. But the ghosts of their disastrous 2011 season stubbornly refuse to fade away.
Former manager Terry Francona and righthander Josh Beckett have dredged up the past with inflammatory comments related to the clubhouse drinking scandal. It left Bobby Valentine wondering how much time would have to pass before the team fully turned its attention to the coming season.
On Saturday, Valentine announced the Red Sox no longer would provide beer in the clubhouse, joining 18 other teams that have banned alcohol.
Francona, appearing on ESPN Radio yesterday, said the move was for the sake of appearances.
“I think it’s a PR move,’’ Francona said. “I think if a guy wants a beer, he can probably get one. I don’t think it’s a surprise that they put this in effect, or the fact they announced it. It’s probably more of a PR move just because, you know, the Red Sox [took] such a beating at the end of the year.’’
Valentine at first said he didn’t have a comment. Then he paused.
“That means that  teams were looking for PR and that’s why they’re making good decisions?’’ he said.
Valentine then took note of Francona’s new job as an analyst for ESPN.
“Remember, you’re getting paid there for saying stuff. You get paid over here for doing stuff,’’ Valentine said. “I’ve done both.’’
Beckett also stoked the embers of 2011 during an expletive-filled interview with WEEI.com by claiming there were clubhouse “snitches’’ who revealed his misbehavior and Francona’s personal issues to the media.
Beckett and other starting pitchers often drank beer during games they were not in last season. Jon Lester confirmed those reports last fall and acknowledged that Beckett took part. Beckett has admitted to “lapses in judgment.’’
But in the interview, Beckett said: “Somebody made that stuff up, just like somebody made up that we were doing stuff . . . This is stupid. I don’t understand what the big deal is. Somebody was trying to save their own ass, and it probably cost a lot of people their asses. The snitching [expletive], that’s [expletive]. It’s not good.
“There’s two things with the clubhouse thing that I have a problem with: If I’m going to say something about the clubhouse, my name is going to be on it. The second thing is you never want to be remembered as that guy because that will follow wherever you go. It’s just mind-boggling to me.’’
Beckett’s angry words and attempt to portray himself as a victim have turned the issue into something Valentine might have to deal with before the end of spring training.
“I’m not sure about addressing it. Maybe,’’ Valentine said. “Maybe as the group gets smaller, if it seems like that’s a situation that is festering, that it hasn’t come to a head by the time March whatever comes around, maybe. I don’t know.
“Teams are built on trust, right? And teamwork, they are probably the two most important things that championship teams have. If there is distrust, I think it eventually would have to be addressed. In my experience, those things usually present themselves.’’
As the Red Sox try and focus on the future, Beckett’s preoccupation with the past has Valentine concerned. As a former player, he knows that clubhouse discord can undo a team.
Valentine said he has spoken to players who feel the same way Beckett does.
“I don’t think you turn the page on it, personally,’’ Valentine said. “I don’t know if I ever said that. If I did, give me the right to change my mind. You work through things and time is a great healer. But it’s not the only healer. If someone was burned in there, it’s going to take some time for the sting to leave and it’s probably going to take some actions, too.
“I don’t know if they have to be in a meeting form or caucusing or small groups, big groups. As I say, usually they present themselves and when they do, you’ll find the true spirit.
“Saying ‘forget it’ is like saying ‘relax.’ Those words mean nothing. It takes breathing and confidence and all those wonderful things to relax. It takes time and possibly at times apologies. But apologies come with actions to heal. I don’t think you can just [say], ‘OK, we’re going to have a meeting. OK, forget it. Now we’re turning the page. That’s it. It’s over.’ No thank you. I don’t particularly believe that.’’
David Ortiz said he had no problem with the atmosphere in the clubhouse.
“I come here to play baseball. [Snitching] ain’t something I worry about,’’ he said. “Hopefully, as an organization they take care of business with that.’’Peter Abraham can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @PeteAbe.