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


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.

Haggerty: So what exactly has happened to the Bruins-Habs rivalry?


Haggerty: So what exactly has happened to the Bruins-Habs rivalry?

BRIGHTON, MASS -- It didn’t take last season’s embarrassing Winter Classic result to figure out something has been missing from the storied, legendary Bruins-Canadiens rivalry over the last few years.

The last traces of the latest, great incarnation of the B’s-Habs rivalry were clearly still there a couple of seasons ago when the two hockey clubs met in the second round of the playoffs. After falling short the last few times the teams met in the postseason, Boston was summarily dismissed by Montreal in Game 7 on their own home ice during that series. The following season the B’s simply had so many of their own players struggling to put out a consistent effort, so the games against the Habs didn’t really register highly on the importance scale, and last season both Boston and Montreal suffered through subpar seasons that saw them each fall short of the playoffs.

Since the second round loss to the Habs in the 2013-14 playoffs, the Bruins are 2-7 while being outscored by a 31-18 margin in nine regular season meetings over the last two seasons in an incredibly one-sided chapter in the two teams’ shared history. The real lack of competitiveness has been a noticeable lack of deep emotion or ill will on the ice between the two hockey clubs, and that is very different from the recent past when signature players like Milan Lucic, P.K. Subban and Shawn Thornton were card-carrying members of healthy hate that regularly spilled out on the ice between the two rival NHL organizations.

Instead it will probably be new blood that breathes glorious, hard-edged life into the history between the two Original Six teams, and new personalities like David Backes, Shea Weber and Andrew Shaw are likely to do just that. Certainly the Canadiens wanted to be much more difficult to play against in recruiting players like Shaw and Weber, and, their presence along with the offensively explosive Alex Radulov, could make it a tough matchup for the Black and Gold.

Either way, the Bruins are curious to see what the matchup looks like this season with the electric P.K. Subban removed from the mix as one of the classic Habs villain-type characters from a Boston perspective.

“It’s always fun to play Montreal at home, or in Montreal. This will be our second time counting the preseason, and our first time at the Garden. It’s going to be pretty cool,” said David Krejci. “When you say any NHL team there are a few names that pop out for that team, and [P.K. Subban] was definitely one of them [for Montreal]. But P.K. is gone, and now it’s Shea Weber. So it’s going to be a little different, but he’s a hell of a player as well so it isn’t going to be any easier.

“It’s a big game. It’s a division game. We don’t want to take any game lightly within the 82 games because you don’t know what can happen at the end. When those games against [Montreal] are done you always feel like you’ve played two games, and not just one. It’s high intensity, and it’s obviously a rivalry that you get up for.”

As Bruins head coach Claude Julien would say it, things are a bit too civilized between the two enemy teams when thinking back to the days of Georges Laraque chasing Milan Lucic around the ice challenging him a fight on the Bell Centre ice, or the awful epoch in B’s-Habs history when Zdeno Chara clobbered Max Pacioretty with a dangerous, injury-inducing hit into the stanchion area.

Nobody is looking for players to get hurt on borderline plays when the two teams suit up on Saturday night, but something to introduce a new chapter into the Boston-Montreal rivalry would be a good thing for both teams, a good thing for the fans and a potentially great thing for an NHL that prides itself on good, old-fashioned rivalries.

“We need to make sure that we’re ready to play [on Saturday]. I like the way that we’ve played so far, and except for Toronto we’ve managed to compete with all of the teams that we’ve played against,” said Julien. “I don’t know if it’s going to stay that way, but I’m going to use the word that [the rivalry] has been more civilized for the last few years. There hasn’t been as much of the sideshow as there has been [in the past].

“I think there’s still a lot of hatred between the two organizations when they meet, but I think the way the game is trending, and how costly that penalties can be in a game, both teams are a little cautious in that way. I still think there is great intensity and both teams get up for the games, so hopefully that happens tomorrow, and the fans get to see a good game.”

One thing that should ensure a good, familiar showdown with plenty of hard-hitting and honest-to-goodness rivalry-like behavior: both the Canadiens and Bruins are off to strong starts at the top of the Atlantic Division in the first couple of weeks this season, and there are some new faces that are undoubtedly going to want to announce their presence for these Bruins-Habs tilts with authority.

Let’s hope this happens because last season’s Bruins-Habs games needed a pair of jumper cables and 1.21 jigowatts of electricity to shock them back into their elevated level of intensity, and that’s when hockey is served best after all.