McAdam: Beckett, Lester admit faults; time to move on

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McAdam: Beckett, Lester admit faults; time to move on

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- With varying degrees of success -- and, a cynic might add, commitment -- Jon Lester and Josh Beckett attempted to, at once, acknowledge the horrendous finish to the 2011 Red Sox season while simultaneously burying it.

Neither Lester nor Beckett is in his element in dealing with the media. Lester, who has a stubborn streak to him, habitually answers many questions the same way ("Yes and no"), flashing a contrarian nature.

Beckett, meanwhile, has little patience for the reporter-athlete exchanges that are, like it or not, part of the routine for any major league starting pitcher once in every five days.

Beckett can be witheringly self-deprecating in assessing his starts, but also curt and dismissive. He would surely prefer a root canal rather than his weekly Q-and-A.

But Lester and Beckett seemed to understand the task at hand yesterday. To be sure, this was not your standard "How I spent my off-season" recital Sunday, with promises of being in the best shape ever.

No, this was a reckoning of all that had gone wrong last season, particularly at the end when the Red Sox collapsed in the standings, and along the way, behaved so unprofessionally in the clubhouse their putrid 7-20 play on the field was very nearly the least of their sins.

Lester and Beckett knew there would be a day for explanations for all of that and that they would be squarely in the cross-hairs, having been identified as two of the beer-swilling, chicken-chomping starters who lounged in the clubhouse while, out on the field, the season slipped away.

Over the winter, Lester made a round of phone calls to reporters in which he expressed regret for his actions and bemoaned what might have been. Beckett stayed almost entirely under the radar, and when he finally surfaced days before the Super Bowl, seemed more intent on rationalizing the behavior while scapegoating whomever had leaked the details in the first place.

It's unclear whether the two were advised by team officials to take a more contrite tone Sunday as pitchers and catchers reported to camp, but that was the net effect.

At times, Lester seemed to be standing at the head of a grade school English class, tasked with conjugating the verb "to stink" in every form imaginable.

"I stunk, we stunk," Lester recalled at least a few times.

He allowed that had it had been "a long winter." He revealed that he thought about the nosedive "a lot. It's one of those things I don't think you'll ever forget," and, showcasing a pro athlete's competitive DNA, vowed that just having endured it "will make us better, make us stronger."

Perhaps the first step in that direction was the accountability and responsibility that Lester and Beckett demonstrated Sunday.

"I've learned from it," said Lester. "It's something I'm not proud of."

Most memorably, Lester seemed to show keen understanding of what that month had done to fans.

"There should be," he said of the perceived anger of the fan base. "We didn't play very good. And with all the other stuff added on top of that, it's obviously going to make it worse. I don't blame them for that. We stunk. I stunk. And I take complete responsibility for it."

Befitting his famously stubborn nature, Beckett warmed to the topic more slowly. He blamed himself for pitching poorly in September but seemed to tip-toe away from the "clubhouse" issue.

"I'm not saying we didn't make mistakes, because we did make mistakes in the clubhouse," said Beckett. "But the biggest mistake I made was not pitching well against Baltimore (twice in the last 10 days)."

Fairly or not, Beckett became the face of Beer-and-chickenGate, owing more to his age and stature on the staff. He said he couldn't control that perception while confessing "I had lapses in judgement."

He cryptically referred to "things going on . . . I got distracted," but wouldn't explain further. He adamantly maintained that he never missed a between-start conditioning workout and seemed perplexed that, yes, he had gained some weight.

But like Lester, Beckett warmed to the talk of responsibility to the fans.

"Absolutely," he said when he asked if he understood the fans' wrath. "I've been a fan of (teams), too. It stinks whenever things don't go the way they're supposed to go . . . It sucks the way things ended. We're just as let down as they are."

If there was a disappointment, it was that Lester and Beckett failed to see the connection between their behavior and their on-field performance. Both, to varying degrees, suggested that if the Sox had only won more, none of this would have been an issue.

But that ignores the obvious: had they (and others) been in better shape (i.e. chicken and beer, more conditioning) and more committed teammates, the team's play wouldn't have suffered as much.

Still, there was value to the day. Even in sports, confession is good for the soul.

"We're moving on," concluded Lester. "I'm sure that's going to be a big theme for this spring training for a lot of guys -- that we're moving on and we're looking forward to 2012."

But first, a look back at 2011 was necessary and Lester and Beckett delivered with their first pitches of the spring.

Julien: 'A lot of problematic things' in Bruins loss to Avalanche

Julien: 'A lot of problematic things' in Bruins loss to Avalanche

BOSTON – The Bruins simply weren’t ready to play on Thursday night when the puck was dropped against the Colorado Avalanche at TD Garden. 

They fell down quickly by a 2-0 score, had a couple of completely inept power plays in the first period that sucked all the game’s momentum away from them and received some subpar goaltending from Anton Khudobin on the way to a 4-2 loss to the lowly Avs. About the only B’s person above reproach in this one was David Pastrnak after scoring a pair of goals in the second period to get Boston back into the game, but it all fell short in a very frustrating, lackadaisical loss to a Western Conference team that isn’t very good. 

Needless to say B’s coach Claude Julien wasn’t too happy after a loss where the Bruins might have had more success with a smarter approach to holding the puck. 

“There were a lot of problematic things [in the loss]. No doubt that the power play could have helped us in the first period, and failed to do that. They’ve got to be better,” said Julien. “We needed some saves tonight, and we didn’t get them. [Anton Khudobin] has got to be better. 

“A lot of things here that we can be better at, and take responsibility [for]. But at the same time, you got to move on here.  It’s one of those nights that had we been smarter from the get go, we would have had a chance.”

Clearly it was about a lacking group effort when dissecting the loss, and the minus-3 for David Krejci on Thursday night marked back-to-back negative performances from the playmaking Czech center in big spots. The goaltending was shoddy with Anton Khudobin allowing four goals on 22 shots for Colorado, and unable to make plays on a couple of Colorado shots from outside the painted area that built up the Avs lead in the first place. 

But it was also very much about the inability of the Bruins to generate consistent offense outside of David Pastrnak’s offensive burst in the second period, and the complete breakdown of the Boston power play in the opening 20 minutes. The Bruins struggled to enter the zone in their first PP possession of the game, and then allowed a Nathan MacKinnon shorthanded goal after Torey Krug futilely dove at the blue line to try and keep the puck in the offensive zone. 

The Krug misplay at the offensive blue line gave MacKinnon a clear path the net, and he buried a wrist shot past Khudobin to get the one-sided loss rolling. Beyond the costly mistakes that ended up in the back of the net, the Bruins looked sloppy and slow-reacting in their breakouts and more than willing to settle for outside perimeter shots.

That doesn’t exactly make for a winning combo even when it comes against a flawed, underachieving team like Colorado, and especially when it comes less than 24 hours after a hard-fought road game in Washington DC. 

“I think we were still sleeping there early in the game and they were able to capitalize on their opportunities. We couldn’t claw our way back,” said Brad Marchand, who picked up an assist on David Pastrnak’s second goal of the night on a perfect dish for the one-timer. “I think it was definitely a mental [block]. You’re able to battle through that physical fatigue. It was more the mental mistakes and not being prepared right off the hop of the start of the game. Again, that’s kind of where we lost it.”

The sleepwalking Bruins lost Thursday night’s valuable two points as soon as the opening puck was dropped against the Avalanche, of course, and the Bruins never got out of lollygag mode at a time when intensity should have been automatic. 

THURSDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL: Chiefs hold off Raiders 21-13 to take control of AFC West

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THURSDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL: Chiefs hold off Raiders 21-13 to take control of AFC West

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Tyreek Hill had touchdowns receiving and on a punt return, Kansas City's defense made life miserable for Oakland quarterback Derek Carr, and the Chiefs beat the Raiders 21-13 on a frigid Thursday night to take control of the AFC West.

Charcandrick West also had a touchdown run for the Chiefs (10-3). They moved into a first-place tie with Oakland (10-3) but holds the tiebreaker with two wins over their longtime divisional rival.

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