Do the Red Sox need to apologize?

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Do the Red Sox need to apologize?

Pitcher and catchers report to Ft. Myers on Sunday, marking the unofficial start to the 2012 Red Sox season. But, five months after the fact, it seems a lot of people in this city aren't ready to say goodbye to 2011.

Yesterday on the radio, Tony Massarotti screamed about the need for Red Sox players to still address and take responsibility for what happened in September: "My gripe is with the players, and players exclusively at this point, he said. I dont feel like the players have faced the music. This is not about Lucchino or Henry or Cherington or anyone who is gone. It is soley, 100 about the players on the field. That is what this is about now for me.

Later in the show, one of Felger and Mazz's callers added: "We should keep the pedal on the metal and not let these guys even think about 2012 until they answer the leftover questions from 2011!"

And he wasn't alone. Over the course their four hours on the air, an unbelievable number of people called in to say that "the Red Sox", or "these players" or "those guys" need to be held accountable for their actions down the stretch. That this team is a disgrace and shouldn't be forgiven until they accept responsibility for everything that happened!

I disagree, and offer the following question:

Which Red Sox still need to apologize?

Who still hasn't "faced the music"?

Is it Jacoby Ellsbury?

He hit .358 in September, and led the majors with eight homers. He has nothing to apologize for.

Carl Crawford?

I'd say Carl needs to apologize for the entire season, except he already did.

Dustin Pedroia?

Obviously not. Pedroia hit .304 in September. He hit four homers knocked in 19 runs and scored 18 of his own. Outside of July, September was Pedroias most dominant month.
McAdam: Sox must address 2011 before starting 2012

For another indicator of how hard he was trying: Between April and August, Pedroia averaged 104 at-bats and 16 walks a month. In September, he had 112 at-bats and six walks. Pedey wasn't sitting back and letting the season slip away, he was out there trying to make things happen. Was he trying too hard? Maybe, but considering all that was going on around him, it's understandable.

David Ortiz?

Ortiz hit .287 with one homer, and eight RBI in September, which was ugly. Even uglier compared to his August output of .411 with eight homers and 20 RBI.

Yeah, he could have been better. And yeah, maybe if he was a little less concerned with RBI and contracts and whatever else had his stirrups in a bunch, Ortiz could have been a more unifying force behind the scenes. But so could have everyone, and at least he spoke to the media after. He didn't have the most glowing words about the season or the Sox in general, but at least he addressed the drama:

"We had that when we won the World Series in 2004," he said. "We had that when we won the World Series in 2007. Beer in the clubhouse, it's always been there. Video games, that's always been there; guys eating fried chicken, that's always been there."

So there you go. Maybe not the "Oh my God, I'm so sorry. Can you guys ever forgive me?" apology everyone was looking for. But then again, from what we know, Ortiz wasn't the one of the main culprits. Still, he faced the music and stated his case. Even if you don't respect Ortiz the same way you did in 2003 and 2004 or even 2007, is he really worthy of all that anger?

What about Kevin Youkilis?

Youk appeared in only 10 games in managed only 36 at bats in September. Maybe he wasnt the most popular guy in the clubhouse, but has he ever been? Plus, I think we should take it easy on Kevin. It's already been a rough month for the Brady family.

Clay Buchholz?

He didn't even pitch.

Daniel Bard?

He didn't pitch either!

OK, he did. But his case breeds more sadness than anger. The kid choked down the stretch, and can hopefully find comfort in his new role in the rotation.

Adrian Gonzalez?

Certainly September wasn't Gonzalez's best month, as he played through a calf injury of which we still don't really know the severity. But unless you expect him to apologize for loving God, Im not sure what he has to say.

One knock on Gonzalez is that he was a little too complacent down the stretch. He drew 21 walks in September, compared to seven walks in May (when he was tearing up the league) and an average of 10.6 walks over the first five months. On one hand, maybe teams were pitching around him. The guy spent most of the month hitting in front of a struggling David Ortiz, and over the last six games of the season, Gonzalez hit in front of Mike Aviles, Conor Jackson, Jed Lowrie, Jed Lowrie, Ryan Lavarnway and Ryan Lavarnway, respectively. Still, you would have loved to see Gonzalez press a little harder, and I guess that gets back to a bigger problem.

Gonzalez approaches baseball with a mentality that not everyone can relate to. The fact that he would prepare for a game in the midst of the pennant race with the same aggression and intensity that he does a Thursday afternoon in May is confusing and frustrating, and will never sit well in Boston. But on the list of problems in the Sox clubhouse, Adrian Gonzalez's lack of intensity is hardly worth losing sleep over. The guy hit .338! And while he didn't exactly excel in some of the bigger games, I don't think his faith, and "Nothing I do matters, it's all up to God" mentality means that he can't come through when it matters most. After all:

It doesnt matter if I hit a home run. It doesnt matter if we win a game. It doesnt matter if I go four for four. Whatever happens at the end of the day, as long as I glorify His name, thats what its all about. Albert Pujols

Jon Lester?

Lester was 1-3 over six September starts, and boasted a 5.40 ERA and 1.61 WHIP. He was awful. But on October 18, he called around to numerous media outlets (must have lost my number) and set the record straight.

"You know what? We didn't play good baseball," he said. "People are making us out to be a bunch of drunk, fried-chicken eating SOBs, playing video games. You can ask my wife, for the last 10 years I don't think I've played a single video game, and Josh (Beckett) and Lack (John Lackey) are the same way. But one person writes an article, and things have gotten blown way out of proportion, almost to another planet. We're getting crushed."

Again, maybe he wasn't as apologetic as everyone would have liked, but come on. Do we really even know what happened? Do we know how much Lester was actually involved? Sure, maybe he wasn't as focused as he needed to be, and he definitely wasn't as effective, but how many details does anyone know after that?

Lester stood up and answered questions, faced the music and admitted that the Sox didn't play well enough. Given his track record, isn't that enough?

OK so who's left who else from last year's team could anyone possibly still want to speak up and take responsibility for his role in the collapse

Oh, right. Josh Beckett. And honestly, I can't argue with that.

While the rest of his teammates have, for the most part, gone out of their way to stand up and address what happened, it's almost like Beckett has taken pride in avoiding it. And considering that he's one of the perceived ring leaders, it makes the situation that much worse. But here's the thing with Beckett he clearly doesn't care.

If he was really sorry for anything that happened, he would have come out and said it already. It wouldn't have been that hard for him to get out some sort of apologetic message. But he didn't do it, and again, that's because he doesn't care. So tell me: Is a fake apology from Josh Beckett really going to make anyone feel that much better?

Is that really the deciding factor in whether or not your willing to move on from last year's disaster and look forward to 2012?

I'm not saying that Beckett should be forgiven. I'm not saying you have to think he's a great person. After all, have you ever really liked the person Josh Beckett is off the field?

Even when he was winning 20 games and a World Series, did you ever think to yourself: "Wow, that Beckett, he's a great guy!" No way. And you shouldn't this year either. But let's say it's June, and Beckett's sitting with a 7-2 record and 2.23 ERA. Will you still care so much about September. Will the rallying cry be: "He still hasn't owned up to last year BOO THIS MAN!"

I don't think so. It will be the same as always, meaning that everyone will overlook the fact that Beckett is kind of a jerk, and just appreciate him for the dominant pitcher that he can be.

And if you don't think that will be the case this year. If, in your mind, Beckett was so deplorable that you'll never root for him or respect him again, then I ask you again: What is a fake apology going to do?? How does this make you feel better?

It doesn't and it won't.

So let's just move on.

I'm not saying we should forget what happened last year. I'm not saying that we should unconditionally love every guy in that clubhouse, because frankly, this isn't the most likable team. I just don't understand what good it does to keep harping on last year when at the end of the day, there's nothing you, me, Josh Beckett or Tony Massarotti can do to change what happened.

Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrich_levine

NCAA TOURNAMENT: South Carolina headed to Final Four, beats Florida 77-70

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NCAA TOURNAMENT: South Carolina headed to Final Four, beats Florida 77-70

NEW YORK - It's only right that South Carolina's first trip to Final Four was earned through its defense.

A team known for a swarming zone used it effectively down the stretch to beat Florida 77-70 on Sunday and win the East Regional at Madison Square Garden.

Sindarius Thornwell scored 26 points for the seventh-seeded Gamecocks (26-10) against the fourth-seeded Gators (27-9) in the all-Southeastern Conference matchup.

South Carolina will face Gonzaga, the No. 1 seed from the West Regional, in the Final Four on Saturday at Glendale, Arizona.

"Gamecock Nation, we heard you loud and clear," coach Frank Martin roared as the team prepared to cut down the nets. "We'll see you in Phoenix."

The game was as close as expected until the final minute. There were 14 lead changes and 10 ties. The last lead change came on two free throws by Thornwell with 2:24 left that made it 65-63. Florida managed just three field goals over the final 3:55.

Thornwell, the regional MVP, followed the deciding free throws with a nice assist to Maik Kotsar for a 4-point lead. It seemed Thornwell, who scored eight straight points for the Gamecocks, was always where he needed to be including making a steal with 40 seconds left that turned into a 73-68 lead.

"I just made plays," Thornwell said. "Plays needed to be made down the stretch and I stepped up and made plays."

"Thornwell was just being Thornwell," Florida coach Mike White said of the SEC player of the year. "He's one of the best players in the country."

PJ Dozier added 17 points for the Gamecocks, Chris Silva had 13 and Kotsar 12.

It all totaled to a Final Four trip for Martin, he of the booming voice and terrifying faces.

Justin Leon had 18 points for the Gators who managed a 40-33 halftime lead on 7-for-12 shooting from 3-point range. But that was it. Florida was 0 for 14 from beyond the arc in the second half, a lot like the 0-for-17 effort the Gators had in their first meeting with South Carolina this season.

South Carolina, which forced Florida into 16 turnovers, finished 23 for 31 from the free throw line, including a 9-for-10 effort from Thornwell.

Nash stepping up when Bruins need him most

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Nash stepping up when Bruins need him most

BROOKLYN -- It took most of his first season in Boston, but Riley Nash is hitting his groove with the Bruins at exactly the right time.

Nash came up huge in a must-win game Saturday night against the Islanders, scoring both goals in a 2-1 win over the Isle. The unheralded Nash and equally unheralded backup goalie Anton Khudobin were the two most important performers in the tight, playoff-style win that snapped a four game losing streak while pushing the B's back into playoff position.

"That's part of [a big win], right? Big performances,” said interim coach Bruce Cassidy. "Generally you look to your best players, but [Nash] did a really good job. He's got a sneaky shot, so hopefully he uses it a little bit more. You can't say enough about those goals. We needed them tonight.

"Generally our top guns have been good offensively and have come through. But tonight it was the lesser lights for us in terms of offense, so good for us.”

Both Nash goals were titanic. The first came on the first shift following the Islanders goal in the first period. The fourth-line winger stripped Isles defenseman Scott Mayfield in the neutral zone and then flipped a shot past Thomas Greiss to the short side that tied the game at 1-1. Then in the third period, Dominic Moore hit Nash in stride as he sped into the offensive zone, and Nash weaved through defenders before sneaking one past Greiss for the game-winner.

The two goals give Nash four goals and six points in 21 games since the All-Star break, in line with his normal offensive output during his NHL career, and a step up from the three goals and nine points in his first 52 games this season.

The affable Nash was more than happy to contribute in a big win, and enthused at seeing the offense finally starting to flow on a semi-regular basis when the Bruins can really use it.

"It's quite the output as opposed to the season I've had so far, so I'll take it and be happy that we won the game,” said Nash. "I think everyone in here knew that was the biggest game of the year. It was going to be a really big uphill battle if we lost that one.

"Both teams came out desperate in a pretty tight, playoff-style game, but that's what it's going to be like for the rest of the season. So we've got to hunker down and take it one game at a time as the saying goes.”

With the Bruins third line fading a bit in these tight, physical games where players have to battle for their ice, it's been vital that Boston's fourth line step up and provide big minutes at both ends of the ice. Nash and Co. did more than that on Saturday night by potentially saving the season with his biggest, best game in a Bruins uniform.