McAdam: Sox need a major cleanup

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McAdam: Sox need a major cleanup

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.

MLB may make rule changes for '18 season

MLB may make rule changes for '18 season

PHOENIX - Major League Baseball intends to push forward with the process that could lead to possible rule changes involving the strike zone, installation of pitch clocks and limits on trips to the pitcher's mound. While baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred expressed hope the ongoing process would lead to an agreement, he said clubs would reserve the right to act unilaterally, consistent with the rule-change provision of the sport's labor contract.

Union head Tony Clark said last weekend he did not foresee players agreeing to proposed changes for 2017. Under baseball's collective bargaining agreement, management can alter playing rules only with agreement from the union - unless it gives one year notice. With the one year of notice, management can make changes on its own.

"Unfortunately it now appears that there really won't be any meaningful change for the 2017 season due to a lack of cooperation from the MLBPA," Manfred said Tuesday during a news conference. "I've tried to be clear that our game is fundamentally sound, that it does not need to be fixed as some people have suggested, and I think last season was the kind of demonstration of the potential of our league to captivate the nation and of the game's unique place in American culture."

Yet, he also added: "I believe it's a mistake to stick our head in the sand and ignore the fact that our game has changed and continues to change."

Manfred said while he prefers an agreement, "I'm also not willing to walk away." He said he will send a letter to the union in the coming days and plans to continue dialogue with Clark and others in hopes of reaching agreement.

Clark met with Cactus League teams last week, five at a time over Thursday, Friday and Saturday, before departing Monday for Florida to visit each Grapefruit League club - and proposed rules changes were a topic.

"I have great respect for the labor relations process, and I have a pretty good track record for getting things done with the MLBPA," Manfred said. "I have to admit, however, that I am disappointed that we could not even get the MLBPA to agree to modest rule changes like limits on trips to the mound that have little effect on the competitive character of the game."

Clark saw talks differently.

"Unless your definition of `cooperation' is blanket approval, I don't agree that we've failed to cooperate with the commissioner's office on these issues," he wrote in an email to The Associated Press. "Two years ago we negotiated pace of play protocols that had an immediate and positive impact. Last year we took a step backward in some ways, and this offseason we've been in regular contact with MLB and with our members to get a better handle on why that happened. I would be surprised if those discussions with MLB don't continue, notwithstanding today's comments about implementation. As I've said, fundamental changes to the game are going to be an uphill battle, but the lines of communication should remain open."

Clark added "my understanding is that MLB wants to continue with the replay changes (2-minute limit) and the no-pitch intentional walks and the pace of game warning/fine adjustments."

Manfred said he didn't want to share specifics of his priorities for alterations.

"There's a variety of changes that can be undertaken," Manfred said. "I'm committed to the idea that we have a set of proposals out there and we continue to discuss those proposals in private."

MLB has studied whether to restore the lower edge of the strike zone from just beneath the kneecap to its pre-1996 level - at the top of the kneecap. Management would like to install 20-second pitch clocks in an attempt to speed the pace of play - they have been used at Triple-A and Double-A for the past two seasons.

Players also have been against limiting mound meetings. The least controversial change appears to be allowing a team to call for an intentional walk without the pitcher having to throw pitches. In addition, MLB likely can alter some video review rules without the union's agreement- such as shortening the time a manager has to call for a review.

"Most of this stuff that they were talking about I don't think it would have been a major adjustment for us," Royals manager Ned Yost said.

Manfred said starting runners on second base in extra innings sounds unlikely to be implemented in the majors. The change will be experimented with during the World Baseball Classic and perhaps at some short-season Class A leagues. Manfred said it was a special-purpose rule "beneficial in developmental leagues."

Manfred also said Tuesday that a renovated Wrigley Field would be a great choice to host an All-Star Game and Las Vegas could be a "viable market for us."

"I don't think that the presence of legalized gambling in Las Vegas should necessarily disqualify that market as a potential major league city," Manfred said.