McAdam: Red Sox ugly finish similar to 2001 mess

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McAdam: Red Sox ugly finish similar to 2001 mess

By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com Red Sox Insider Follow @sean_mcadam
Since the Red Sox' September faceplant became official Wednesday night in Baltimore, it's been fashionable to compare this year's epic collapse to 1974 or 1978, two other seasons in which the Sox coughed up late-season leads and finshed short of qualifying for the postseason.

In 1974, the Sox were in first place by a game on Sept. 1, but tumbled in the standings, finishing in third, seven games back.

The 1978 collapse, of course, was more notorious, as the Sox went from 13 12 games ahead of the Yankees to a one-game playoff game, which they lost.

But the more you think about what happened this season -- and the more sordid details that emerge -- the 2011 season much more resembles another nightmarish season: 2001.

The Sox were thoroughly mediocre in 2001, finishing 83-79, 13 12 games in back of the New York Yankees, who were on their way to a fourth straight American League pennant.

But like the Red Sox of 2011, the 2001 Red Sox soiled themselves with their attitude and behavior.

Players openly mocked interim manager Joe Kerrigan, a former pitcher and pitching coach, who gave edicts to not swing at the first pitch of any at-bat and promised consistent lineups only to change them nightly.

Shortly after 911, at a closed workout at Fenway, Pedro Martinez angrily tore off his uniform and defied Kerrigan.

On a flight to Tampa later that month, when Kerrigan tried to quell a fight brewing between Ramirez and some teammates, Ramirez brusquely dismmised his manager's peace-keeping efforts, telling Kerrigan: "Joe, shut up and sit down.''

Ramirez's humiliation of Kerrigan wasn't complete until weeks later in the offseason when Kerrigan began to visit players across the country and Ramirez refused to allow him entrance onto his property in South Florida.

The season was disappointing enough that manager Jimy Williams was fired in August despite the team's standing among the leaders for the wild card at the time.

But what really resonated was the team's indifferent play, its open defiance of its manager and embarrassing way it responded in the final month.

In other words, much like this September.

(That, in itself, should put this year's debacle into proper context: not since Joe Kerrigan has a Red Sox manager been as disrespected as Francona was this year.)

At the conclusion of the 2001 season, the Red Sox were a laughingstock. They had missed the playoffs for two straight years, fired a successful manager and were saddled with troublesome personalities.

Sound familiar?

The difference was, back in 2001, help was on the way. The team was in the process of being sold to a new ownership group which promised to be responsive to the fans and restore order and pride to the franchise.

Within months, general manager Dan Duquette, whose mostly shrewd personnel moves were nearly cancelled out by his tin ear and poor interpersonal skills, was fired, as was Kerrigan.

The cavalry had arrived.

Now, exactly 10 years later, the cavalry is in place, and frankly, it's part of the current problem.

Reaction to the departure of manager Terry Francona has been overwhelmingly negative. Worse, fans object not only to the move itself but the incredibly clumsy way in which it was executed.

While Francona left with candor and grace, management -- especially CEO Larry Lucchino and chairman Tom Werner -- came off as calculating and disengenuous.

Francona's sole parting swipe, in which he questioned whether he had the support of ownership, has already left its mark. When the dueling press conferences had concluded Friday, Francona, without really trying, had seized the high moral ground.

General manager Theo Epstein, who was honest enough to take at least some of the blame for the season's crash-and-burn, insisted that the Sox didn't need any significant overhaul -- just the right choice as manager and some roster fine-tuning.

In the immediate aftermath of the 2011 debacle, that seems hopelessly naive. Beyond the obvious holes (starting rotation, bullpen, right field), there are now questions about the team's overall direction.

The managerial job is still an attractive one, thanks to the resources available and the team's high profile, but it comes with strings attached, too: huge expectations, constant scrutiny and regular meddling from upstairs.

The two World Series titles can't be taken away, of course, and the way in which the franchise is viewed has been changed, mostly for the better.

But in some ways, the Red Sox have suddenly and unexpectedly gone backwards, all the way back to where they were when the these same owners arrived and there was only one direction in which to go.

Sean McAdam can be reached at smcadam@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Sean on Twitter at http:twitter.comsean_mcadam

Improved Matt Barnes dealing with much more than mechanics

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Improved Matt Barnes dealing with much more than mechanics

BOSTON — Matt Barnes has been coping with more than just a few bad outings on the mound, and he’s asking for help.

The Red Sox set-up man made some mechanical corrections that paid off in the eighth inning Monday night, when he struck out all three Twins he faced in a 4-1 Red Sox win at Fenway Park.

“I just simplified the mechanics,” Barnes said afterward. “Two days ago, I was trying to get with more of an up, down, and out approach. I felt better in that outing. I know I gave up a run and walked the one guy, but I felt better around the zone. And then just kind of went into a slide step, doing what Andrew Miller was doing.”

Barnes allowed four runs spanning his previous three outings, retiring just four batters while walking five. But Barnes has had a lot more to worry about than just a brief professional rut. 

He’s been devoted to helping his girlfriend, Chelsea, through the unexpected loss of her father, who was diagnosed with cancer and suffered a stroke

"Her father passed away [May 27]. That’s why I wasn’t in Baltimore for the two days [in early June], I was at his funeral,” Barnes said. "It’s tough, dealing with that, and she’s obviously having a hard time with it. She’s got her good days and her bad days. But it’s not easy. He was sick for a little while, and unexpectedly passed a lot faster than anybody ever expected him to. So, it’s been tough. She’s been alright, considering.”

There are a ton of medical bills still to be paid. A fundraising page has been set up to help the family with some large medical bills, and Barnes has asked on Twitter for people to spread the word if they’re able to.

“I’ve been able to spend a lot of time with her which is nice,” Barnes said of his girlfriend. “Everybody who’s helped out with donations and spreading the page, I couldn’t be more grateful, and she couldn’t be more grateful.”

Barnes is a big leaguer, but he’s still young and making the major league minimum. For every $1,000 total donated, Barnes plans to send a signed baseball to a random donor.

“I felt like it was a nice way, if they’re going to help me out, I can at least do that in return for them,” Barnes said.

Sale gets 9 Ks, Moreland hits home run as Red Sox beat Twins, 4-1

Sale gets 9 Ks, Moreland hits home run as Red Sox beat Twins, 4-1

BOSTON -- The way Chris Sale and the Boston relievers were pitching, the Red Sox didn't need to score a lot.

Sale went 6 1/3 overpowering innings with nine strikeouts, Mitch Moreland hit a solo homer for the third straight game and the Red Sox beat the Minnesota Twins 4-1 on Monday in a matchup of two of the AL's top teams.

"When you've got him on the mound, all you need is a couple and he's going to do the rest," Moreland said. "Obviously, tonight was another example of that."

Dustin Pedroia had two hits and drove in a run and Moreland added a sacrifice fly for Boston, which kept pace with the New York Yankees atop the East.

The Red Sox started fast, grabbing a 2-0 lead just four batters into the first.

"When the guys score early for you, it's nice," Sale said. "It settles you down a little bit and allows you to throw strikes."

Coming off a three-game sweep in Cleveland that had jumped them over the Indians into first in the Central, the Twins' offense was stymied by Sale and three relievers. The loss coupled with Cleveland's win over Texas moved the Indians back a half-game ahead.

Sale (10-3) gave up one run and four hits, increasing his major-league strikeout total to 155. Craig Kimbrel pitched the ninth for his 21st save after Matt Barnes struck out three in the eighth. Heath Hembree faced one batter, getting a double play.

The 6-foot-6 Sale relied on his usual sharp-breaking slider and fastball in the mid-to-upper 90s to fan eight over the first six innings, getting the initial half dozen with his breaking pitch.

"It's what we've seen many times. He had a nice mix," Twins manager Paul Molitor said. "I think the biggest trouble we had was with that slider, especially down and in to righties."

Jose Berrios (7-2) allowed four runs and eight hits in 6 1/3 innings. Chris Gimenez had a solo homer for Minnesota.

"When you go against a guy like Chris Sale, you try to give 110 percent," Berrios said through a translator.

Boston jumped ahead when Moreland homered into the first row of Green Monster seats after the first run scored on a double-play grounder.

Berrios had given up just two runs in each of his previous four starts, and six of eight since being promoted on May 7.

Gimenez's homer completely left Fenway Park over the Monster.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Twins: Molitor said RHP Phil Hughes, on the 10-day disabled list since late May with biceps tenderness, "felt good" but the pitcher had hoped his velocity would be a bit higher. ... LHP Glen Perkins, on the DL with a shoulder strain, is expected to resume throwing again Tuesday after a setback about a week ago.

Red Sox: DH Hanley Ramirez was out with a sore left knee after getting hit by a pitch Sunday. ... 3B Pablo Sandoval, on the 10-day DL since June 20 with a left inner-ear infection, is slated to start a rehab stint with Triple-A Pawtucket on Tuesday. Manager John Farrell said there's no planned date for his return. ... Moreland fouled a ball that bounced and hit near his right eye.

NICE START, KID

Red Sox 3B Tzu-Wei Lin singled to right in his first major-league at-bat and first career start.

The 23-year-old from Taiwan played third on his country's national teams in 2009 and 2010. He's the second Taiwanese-born player to make Boston's major-league roster. Outfielder Che-Hsuan Lin was the other, in 2012.

RUNNING AROUND

Twins LF Eddie Rosario made three nice running, over-the-shoulder catches.

WELCOME ABOARD

Infielder Jhonny Peralta reported to Triple-A Pawtucket on Monday. Boston signed him to a minor-league deal after he was released by St. Louis earlier this month.

The plan is to alternate him at third and DH with Sandoval.

ROSTER MOVE

The Twins sent RHP Dillon Gee back to Triple-A to make room for Tuesday's starter LHP Hector Santiago.

UP NEXT

Twins: Santiago (4-6, 5.26 ERA) will be activated off the DL Tuesday. He's been sidelined since June 7 with a strained left shoulder.

Red Sox: LHP Drew Pomeranz (6-4, 4.07) looks to snap a three-start winless stretch.