McAdam: Sox must address 2011 before 2012 can begin

McAdam: Sox must address 2011 before 2012 can begin
February 17, 2012, 4:57 pm
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FORT MYERS, Fla. -- They don't play their first game of consequence for almost another seven weeks. They won't play their first exhibition game for another 10 days.

In all likelihood, we won't know how good they are for several months.

But sometime in the next few days, we'll find out an awful lot about the 2012 Red Sox.

We'll learn about their character and resolve and humility and honesty. Who plays right field and who fills out the rest of the starting rotation -- and other honest-to-goodness baseball questions -- in due time.

For now, there are more important issues.

At some point in the next week, a parade of Red Sox players will take to the famed "picnic table," and answer questions from reporters. Naturally, there will be some inquiries about last season, about the September nose-dive that saw the Sox turn a 9 12 game lead in the wild card standings evaporate, and about the unprofessional behavior in the clubhouse.

How the Red Sox answer these questions will be revealing.

If there's a lot of defensive responses, and dismissive "That-was-last-year-I'm-focused-on-2012," answers, it will not bode well. If players angrily suggest that beer-swilling and chicken-chomping was, you know, not really that big of a deal, it will mean trouble.

And if some follow the lead of Josh Beckett and suggest that none of the frat-house activity was anybody's business and never should have been reported, then it could be a long season.

Before the Sox begin 2012, they need to finish 2011. They need to show some accountability and remorse. Maybe an apology is too much to ask, but some humility wouldn't hurt.

Understand, no one should be calling for players to publicly flog themselves as an act of contrition. What's needed here is closure, a recognition that, at the very least, things were not handled well in the dying weeks of the 2012 season.

They owe the loyal fan base that much.

The players can argue all they want that the spectacular crash-and-burn was about pitching poorly and hitting feebly, and to an extent, that's accurate. A few more timely hits and a handful of additional quality starts, and perhaps we never would have learned about the clubhouse hijinks in the first place.

But it's too late for that now. The secret is out and it can't be ignored.

All winter, as the players retreated from sight, there were consequences for others.

The manager for the last eight seasons was, depending on your perspective, either forced out or made to quit. The strength coach who was powerless to reverse the laziness of some marquee players was fired. The loyal bench coach, tainted by association, was not given consideration for the managerial vacancy. A clubhouse manager was demoted and re-assigned.

Meanwhile, there have been few ramifications for the players themselves. Blame it on the nature of the business, where guaranteed contracts present something of a protective force field for embarrassing misdeeds.

Others have spoken. The owners seem alternately incensed and contrite, vowing to repair the damage done to the franchise's brand. New manager Bobby Valentine has promised a fresh start and has seemingly visited every hamlet in New England to deliver the message.

But none of it will matter until the players involved take public responsibility and demonstrate that, yes, mistakes were made and lessons have been learned.

Through their attendance at Fenway and their loyal viewership on TV, Red Sox fans have made a huge investment -- both emotionally and financially -- to the team. They'd like to know that the players, too, care, and that what happened last season -- off the field, especially -- won't happen again.

Again, no self-flagellation is required, no teary soul-cleansing is necessary. But some taking of responsibility would seem to be to be order, an acknowledgement that, yes, in retrospect, professionalism was in short supply last year and that can't -- and won't -- happen again.

In other words, before the new season starts, some closure about how poorly last season ended is in order.

That hardly seems like too much to ask.