McAdam: Beckett, Lester admit faults; time to move on

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McAdam: Beckett, Lester admit faults; time to move on

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- With varying degrees of success -- and, a cynic might add, commitment -- Jon Lester and Josh Beckett attempted to, at once, acknowledge the horrendous finish to the 2011 Red Sox season while simultaneously burying it.

Neither Lester nor Beckett is in his element in dealing with the media. Lester, who has a stubborn streak to him, habitually answers many questions the same way ("Yes and no"), flashing a contrarian nature.

Beckett, meanwhile, has little patience for the reporter-athlete exchanges that are, like it or not, part of the routine for any major league starting pitcher once in every five days.

Beckett can be witheringly self-deprecating in assessing his starts, but also curt and dismissive. He would surely prefer a root canal rather than his weekly Q-and-A.

But Lester and Beckett seemed to understand the task at hand yesterday. To be sure, this was not your standard "How I spent my off-season" recital Sunday, with promises of being in the best shape ever.

No, this was a reckoning of all that had gone wrong last season, particularly at the end when the Red Sox collapsed in the standings, and along the way, behaved so unprofessionally in the clubhouse their putrid 7-20 play on the field was very nearly the least of their sins.

Lester and Beckett knew there would be a day for explanations for all of that and that they would be squarely in the cross-hairs, having been identified as two of the beer-swilling, chicken-chomping starters who lounged in the clubhouse while, out on the field, the season slipped away.

Over the winter, Lester made a round of phone calls to reporters in which he expressed regret for his actions and bemoaned what might have been. Beckett stayed almost entirely under the radar, and when he finally surfaced days before the Super Bowl, seemed more intent on rationalizing the behavior while scapegoating whomever had leaked the details in the first place.

It's unclear whether the two were advised by team officials to take a more contrite tone Sunday as pitchers and catchers reported to camp, but that was the net effect.

At times, Lester seemed to be standing at the head of a grade school English class, tasked with conjugating the verb "to stink" in every form imaginable.

"I stunk, we stunk," Lester recalled at least a few times.

He allowed that had it had been "a long winter." He revealed that he thought about the nosedive "a lot. It's one of those things I don't think you'll ever forget," and, showcasing a pro athlete's competitive DNA, vowed that just having endured it "will make us better, make us stronger."

Perhaps the first step in that direction was the accountability and responsibility that Lester and Beckett demonstrated Sunday.

"I've learned from it," said Lester. "It's something I'm not proud of."

Most memorably, Lester seemed to show keen understanding of what that month had done to fans.

"There should be," he said of the perceived anger of the fan base. "We didn't play very good. And with all the other stuff added on top of that, it's obviously going to make it worse. I don't blame them for that. We stunk. I stunk. And I take complete responsibility for it."

Befitting his famously stubborn nature, Beckett warmed to the topic more slowly. He blamed himself for pitching poorly in September but seemed to tip-toe away from the "clubhouse" issue.

"I'm not saying we didn't make mistakes, because we did make mistakes in the clubhouse," said Beckett. "But the biggest mistake I made was not pitching well against Baltimore (twice in the last 10 days)."

Fairly or not, Beckett became the face of Beer-and-chickenGate, owing more to his age and stature on the staff. He said he couldn't control that perception while confessing "I had lapses in judgement."

He cryptically referred to "things going on . . . I got distracted," but wouldn't explain further. He adamantly maintained that he never missed a between-start conditioning workout and seemed perplexed that, yes, he had gained some weight.

But like Lester, Beckett warmed to the talk of responsibility to the fans.

"Absolutely," he said when he asked if he understood the fans' wrath. "I've been a fan of (teams), too. It stinks whenever things don't go the way they're supposed to go . . . It sucks the way things ended. We're just as let down as they are."

If there was a disappointment, it was that Lester and Beckett failed to see the connection between their behavior and their on-field performance. Both, to varying degrees, suggested that if the Sox had only won more, none of this would have been an issue.

But that ignores the obvious: had they (and others) been in better shape (i.e. chicken and beer, more conditioning) and more committed teammates, the team's play wouldn't have suffered as much.

Still, there was value to the day. Even in sports, confession is good for the soul.

"We're moving on," concluded Lester. "I'm sure that's going to be a big theme for this spring training for a lot of guys -- that we're moving on and we're looking forward to 2012."

But first, a look back at 2011 was necessary and Lester and Beckett delivered with their first pitches of the spring.

Celtics offseason focus is an All-Star frontcourt addition

Celtics offseason focus is an All-Star frontcourt addition

WALTHAM, Mass. – No matter how an NBA team’s season ends, change is inevitable.
 
And while there’s no doubt that the Celtics are on the right track in terms of their ascension in the NBA, it's too soon to tell how many players on the Celtics’ 15-man roster that Danny Ainge, the president of basketball operations, will bring back next season.

MORE CELTICS

 
“One thing I do know. He’ll make the best decisions for the team and if players don’t end up being back here, I wish the best for them,” said Avery Bradley.  “Those are my brothers. We all had a special year. I appreciate everything, all the time I had with them. I’d love for all those guys to be back. We’ll see.”
 
And with Boston coming off its first trip to the Eastern Conference finals since 2012, adding just any player won’t cut it.
 
The Celtics’ mindset now isn’t just to improve, but get good enough to where they can better compete with the likes of Cleveland, which just ended the Celtics’ season with a Game 5 thumping.
 
The most significant move made by the Celtics last offseason was the signing of Al Horford to a four-year, $113 million contract.
 
Like most of his Boston teammates this season, Horford is eager to see what changes are in store this summer.
 
“We just have to wait and see,” Horford said. “We had such a good year. A lot of positive things. It’ll be interesting to see what Danny, the organization feels is going to be the next step.”
 
Multiple league sources have told CSNNE.com in recent weeks that the Celtics are focused on landing an All-Star caliber talent in the frontcourt.
 
That makes sense when you consider how guard-dominant the Celtics were this season and how that had a negative impact on the team’s rebounding and, to a lesser degree, their defense as a whole.
 
Gordon Hayward has emerged as a target, but all indications – for now at least – point toward him returning to Utah.
 
The Celtics may pursue Los Angeles Clippers big man Blake Griffin. Although like Hayward, he too is expected to re-sign with his current team for a max contract (for Griffin that would be five years, $175 million).
 
While trades are certainly in the cards for Boston, at this point the Celtics seem more inclined to improve their overall talent base via the draft and free agency.
 
“It’s always a good thing when you have the opportunity to add value to your team and don’t have to change your team too much,” said Celtics’ reserve Gerald Green, who will be a free agent this summer. “I’m going to be very interested to see what they do as far as building a team. We’re in a good place right now as far as being where we want to be organization-wise. I feel like we’re one or two steps away from actually being at the Finals. I think Danny has some things to think about, but I’m sure he’s going to do the job. I’ve seen Danny go to work in these situations. He always makes the team better. I’m pretty sure he’s got something planned that, at the end of the day, is going to make this organization better.”
 
Indeed, the Celtics could very well strengthen their position for next season by simply locking up some of their core players who may hit the free agent market soon.
 
Boston may look to work out an extension with Isaiah Thomas before the start of this season. Because if he hits free agency in the summer of 2018, he will be poised to command a salary that in year one would be worth more than the entire four-year, $27 million deal he signed with Phoenix in 2014.
 
“Boston’s changed my career, changed my life,” Thomas said. “I would love to be here long-term and win championships here. But as you guys know, it’s a business and anything can happen. I know that and understand that. But I would love to be here. This has been everything to me. This city, this organization … it’s been good.”

Price on his return to Red Sox: ’There’s not a better feeling’

Price on his return to Red Sox: ’There’s not a better feeling’


BOSTON — Red Sox left-hander David Price is set to make his season debut in a holiday matinee Monday on the road in Chicago against the White Sox. 

Price, 31, starting the second season of a $217 million, seven-year contract, has been recovering from a strained pitching elbow since spring training.

“Excited, just to be back here,” he said Thursday. “There’s not a better feeling. You can’t replicate it anywhere else.”

Price allowed nine runs — six earned — and 12 hits in 5 2/3 innings in a pair of less-than-impressive injury rehabilitation starts at Triple-A Pawtucket. He struck out eight and walked two.

“A lot of pitches, in a short amount of time. I think that is more of a test to being healthy as opposed to going out there and throwing five or six [innings] in 90 pitches,” he said. “To do what I did in both of my rehab outings, I don’t think you can do that if you’re not healthy.”

The Red Sox (24-21) have won four in a row heading into their weekend series against the Seattle Mariners at Fenway Park.

“He’s eager to get back to us and physically he feels great,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said. “His return to us will give us a definite boost but that’s not to de-emphasize he needs to go out and perform.”

Farrell hopes Price’s return has a trickle-down impact.

“It’s not based solely on the name on the back of his jersey,” Farrell said. “Hopefully it allows us to even out some of the performances within the rotation.”

© 2017 by The Associated Press.