Giardi: Sox clubhouse became a poison center

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Giardi: Sox clubhouse became a poison center

What happened in the Red Sox clubhouse this season was reminiscent of the dark days of 2001, when this franchise was a barren tree, fruitlessly and incompetently searching for a title that eluded them for decades. The problems that developed this season -- players against players, players versus management, and now, in typical fashion, the brass sniping and scapegoating everyone but themselves -- brought back those dark memories.

In conversations with sources both inside the locker room and in the front office, some disturbing stories emerged:

Carl Crawford kept more and more to himself as the season progressed, largely because the clubhouse culture here was unlike any he'd experienced during his decade with Tampa Bay. A consummate pro, Crawford had once grabbed Pat Burrell and thrown him up against a wall, angrily telling Burrell that his unprofessional ways were not accepted in the Rays' clubhouse. Tampa Bay management had their speedy outfielder's back, trading Burrell a short time later. That's the kind of cache Crawford had in that room, and with that organization.

But in Boston, Crawford apparently felt he couldn't exert his influence because he wasn't one of the veterans who understood what the Sox organization considered acceptable and what had led them to victory. Finally, late in the season but before the team entered its death spiral, Crawford had had enough. He launched into an impassioned speech, imploring teammates to get it together. It fell on deaf ears.

As for the now-infamous "Go ask the captain" line, Crawford had an issue with the reporter who asked the question -- about that person's relationship with Jason Varitek -- and not Varitek himself. What followed, with 'Tek going over and hugging Crawford, was considered as nothing more than a dog-and-pony show, done to put a happy face on an unhappy locker room.

Crawford wasn't the only newcomer marginalized by the Sox' toxic culture. The other big offseason acquisition, Adrian Gonzalez, was dumbfounded by the lack of professionalism that surrounded him, and couldn't believe it was allowed to continue. And while he struggled with a variety of injuries that sapped him of his power, Gonzalez still showed up, still worked, still competed. The same couldn't be said of some of his new teammates.

If there's anyone who epitomizes what Theo Epstein tried to build in Boston, it's Dustin Pedroia. A blood-and-guts guy, one who took groundballs on his knees a year ago with his broken foot in a cast, Pedroia lives to play, lives to compete. Yet Pedroia became more and more like an island unto himself, isolated by veterans who believed that, because of his relationship with former manager Terry Francona, he couldn't be trusted. It was often joked that Francona was Pedroia's father, but that joking apparently led to the point where Pedroia found his influence on the clubhouse minimized.

The Boston Globe's characterization of Jacoby Ellsbury is incomplete. Yes, he was more distant this season than in the past, and some of that stems from his distrust of the organization (resulting from his misdiagnosed rib injury a year ago) and of some teammates (who called him out for it). But the root of that mistrust goes much deeper. Ellsbury has always been viewed as private, a one-man corporation, and aloof to a degree. No one can argue with the performance he had this season, how hard he played, but he's not a universally loved figure in that locker room.

In the days that followed Francona's dismissal, very few Sox players stepped to his defense. Francona was understandably hurt by that, but it wasn't as if he didn't see it coming. Players whom Francona had defended (Varitek), supported through difficult times (David Ortiz) and considered to be almost like a son (Jon Lester) had already tuned him out long before the late collapse.

Their silence was just a reinforcement of how bad the Red Sox clubhouse had gotten and -- sources reiterated -- how it will remain until those responsible for it are moved out or held accountable for their failings, both on and off the field.

Brian Johnson: 'Awesome feeling' after five-hitter vs. Mariners

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Brian Johnson: 'Awesome feeling' after five-hitter vs. Mariners

BOSTON - Brian Johnson had quite a turnaround in his second time on Fenway Park's mound.

Johnson pitched a five-hitter in his first big league appearance at Fenway, and the Boston Red Sox stretched their winning streak to a season-high six games with a 6-0 victory over the Seattle Mariners on Saturday.

The 26-year-old left-hander became the first Red Sox pitcher to throw a shutout in his first Fenway start since Pedro Martinez on April 11, 1998. In Johnson's first start in Fenway - his fourth as a professional - he sustained a season-ending facial fracture when he hit by a line drive while pitching for Class A Lowell in 2012.

"The last time I walked off the mound here was 2012 and I made two pitches," Johnson said. "Today I went nine innings. Today was pretty cool."

Johnson left Triple-A for a little over a month last season to get treatment for an anxiety issue.

"Obviously with some stuff that I've been gone through in my career, it's an awesome feeling" he said.

But despite the stellar outing, Johnson was optioned back to Triple-A after the game.

"That's the reality of the game," Red Sox manager John Farrell said. "We had a chance to congratulate him and yet option him back to Pawtucket, with David Price coming here Monday."

Brought up from the minors for the start, Johnson (2-0) gave up five singles, struck out eight and walked none. His only previous big league starts were at Houston on July 21, 2015, and at Toronto on April 18 this year.

Johnson was helped by a semi-leaping catch by center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. at the wall in the sixth, Bradley's diving grab of Nelson Cruz's sinking liner in the ninth and Bradley's game-ending running catch of Kyle Seager's drive.

Xander Bogaerts' RBI single triggered a three-run first inning and Bradley hit a two-run homer in the sixth

Shut out for the second straight day, Seattle has lost seven of eight.

"Their guy threw the ball over the plate. He threw strikes," Mariners manager Scott Servais said. "I won't take anything away from what he did, but we're not swinging the bat very well."

Rob Whalen (0-1) gave up five runs and seven hits over 5 1/3 innings in his Mariners' debut, his first big league start since Aug. 23 for Atlanta. He is Seattle's 12th starting pitcher, the most in the major leagues.

Andrew Benintendi and Sandy Leon also had RBI singles in the first, when the Red Sox had two batters hit by pitches, two walks and two runners thrown out on the bases - Dustin Pedroia at third for the first out and Hanley Ramirez at the plate for the last.

Johnson beats Mariners 6-0 for Red Sox' 6th straight win

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Johnson beats Mariners 6-0 for Red Sox' 6th straight win

BOSTON - Brian Johnson pitched a five-hitter in his first big league appearance at Fenway Park, and the Boston Red Sox stretched their winning streak to a season-high six games with a 6-0 victory over the Seattle Mariners on Saturday.

Brought up from Triple-A Pawtucket, Johnson (2-0) gave up five singles, struck out eight and walked none. The 26-year-old left-hander's only previous big league starts were at Houston on July 21, 2015, and at Toronto on April 18 this year.

Johnson became the first Red Sox pitcher to throw a shutout in his first Fenway start since Pedro Martinez on April 11, 1998. In Johnson's first start in Fenway - his fourth as a professional - he sustained a season-ending facial fracture when he hit by a line drive while pitching for Class A Lowell in 2012.

Johnson was helped by a semi-leaping catch by center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. at the wall in the sixth, Bradley's diving grab of Nelson Cruz's sinking liner in the ninth and Bradley's game-ending running catch of Kyle Seager's drive.

Xander Bogaerts' RBI single triggered a three-run first inning and Bradley hit a two-run homer in the sixth

Shut out for the second straight day, Seattle has lost seven of eight.

Rob Whalen (0-1) gave up five runs and seven hits over 5 1/3 innings in his Mariners' debut, his first big league start since Aug. 23 for Atlanta. He is Seattle's 12th starting pitcher, the most in the major leagues.

Andrew Benintendi and Sandy Leon also had RBI singles in the first, when the Red Sox had two batters hit by pitches, two walks and two runners thrown out on the bases - Dustin Pedroia at third for the first out and Hanley Ramirez at the plate for the last.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Mariners: RHPs Hisashi Iwakuma and Felix Hernandez, both on the DL with right shoulder inflammation, threw bullpen sessions. Hernandez said he "felt really good."... LHP James Paxton (strained forearm) is set to come off the DL and pitch at home Wednesday.

Red Sox: Pedroia was back at second base after getting Friday off to rest his sore left knee and not play on a wet field. He was hit by a pitch on the right forearm his first time up and went 1 for 3. ... 3B Pablo Sandoval, on the DL with a sprained right knee, was expected to play nine innings Saturday night in a rehab assignment with Triple-A Pawtucket. Manager John Farrell didn't rule out that he could be activated next week.

UP NEXT

Mariners: RHP Christian Bergman (1-2, 6.30 ERA) gave up 10 runs and 14 hits over four innings in a 10-1 loss Tuesday at Washington.

Red Sox: RHP Rick Porcello (3-4, 4.35) has gone at least six innings in eight of nine starts.