McAdam: Sox need a major cleanup

McAdam: Sox need a major cleanup
October 19, 2011, 1:44 am
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What's next?

What else is going to come from the steaming pile that was the 2011 Red Sox season?

What new, sordid tale remains to be told? What tawdry confession is on the on-deck circle?

First, it was beer being consumed in the clubhouse. Then, it was a beer-fried chicken-video game festival in the clubhouse. Now comes a report that three pitchers were drinking beer in the dugout during games.

In a statement released by the team late Tuesday night, all three of the accused players -- starting pitchers Josh Beckett, John Lackey and Jon Lester -- categorically denied the charges, as did former manager Terry Francona.

Now, we're into "he said, she said" territory.

But the fact remains: After all that we've learned in the aftermath of the season, the report seemed, at the very least, plausible.

In other words, even if it's not true, as Lackey, Beckett and Lester maintained, it could have been. We've been conditioned to believe just about anything about these Red Sox.

Drinking in the dugout might have seemed like it crossed the line. But then again, the 2011 Red Sox crossed that line some time ago.

Consider Francona the lucky one. He may be unemployed for the moment and his reputation slimed by some anonymous cowards. But at least he doesn't have to go back and deal with this bunch.

Missing the playoffs with a 7-20 September was just the start, apparently. The Red Sox could have recovered from that. They had a brutal month on the field and their starting rotation failed them miserably. They became a punch line with their final-month freefall.

But that was nothing compared to the revelations that have come since the end of the season.

The Red Sox have gone beyond punchline and headed directly for laughing stock. For the rest of the offseason, they'll be proper fodder for Jay Leno, Conan O'Brien and David Letterman.

Guaranteed, someone will take footage from the World Series winners' clubhouse, with champagne flowing and beer pouring and identify it as the home clubhouse at Fenway during a July game.

In the immediate aftermath of Francona's departure, team officials -- both publicly and off-the-record -- insisted that things weren't as bad as they seemed.

Larry Lucchino told the New York Daily News: "I agree we need to restore some order and rules enforcement in the clubhouse and the new manager will do that. That said, I think the stories have been blown out of proportion by the epic collapse. We have a core of really good, talented, charismatic players."

Blown out of proportion? Wonder if Lucchino would like that one back?

Another Red Sox official admonished me for a column two weeks ago in which I suggested that the final month of this season was every bit as bad the final month of 2001.

In hindsight, of course, that person was correct. This year was much, much worse. It's going to take some time is latest bit of nausea-inducing news from Fenway.

The reclamation project needs to begin soon. Incoming GM Ben Cherington -- and how's this for a cleanup job on Day 1? -- must begin exploring dealing each one of his top three starting pitchers.

Other than Lester, this will not be easy. Lackey has more than 45 million remaining over three years and next-to-no value, after coming off what was, quite literally, the worst season ever for a Red Sox starter. Beckett has 10-5 rights -- 10 years in the majors, the last five with the same team -- giving him the ability to refuse a trade.

Something tells me that's not going to be much of a hurdle now.

As presently constituted, the Red Sox roster is toxic. Laughed at around the country and throughout baseball, they are positively reviled in their own region.

I've lost track of the number of people who have used the word "disgusted" in recent days and weeks about the 2011 Red Sox. And that was before the latest bombshell. Imagine their revulsion now.

Choking, fans can deal with. But that was when no one questioned the players' sobriety.

In addition to a roster makeover, there's plenty of other work to be done this winter.

If ownership has any sense of propriety, they won't dare introduce a price increase in tickets. In fact, a reduction -- the first in, what, decades? -- would be in order. For that matter, how about a modest refund to season-ticket holders who paid full price this past season for less than full effort from the players?

No more, please, about the consecutive-game sellout streak, since that's about to come to an inglorious end anyway, on, say, the fifth or sixth home game next April.

No more reminders that fans are inhabiting "America's Most Beloved Ballpark," and other similar sticky Valentines.

And please, no more institutional unhealthy obsession with the Yankees and repeated vows to outdo them.

The cleanup has to start at the top. It's time for Lucchino, John Henry and Tom Werner to revoke the fraternity charter, and put the players -- like the residents of Delta House -- and themselves on double-secret probation and go about the business of turning this bad joke back into a proud franchise.