This is getting old and tired, thus the reason – after this column – I will no longer address the allegations of Red Sox starting pitchers drinking beer in the clubhouse and dugout, and eating fried chicken and playing video games in the clubhouse during games when they were not on the mound.
To a certain degree, the reports are true. Whether or not the pitchers drank a glass of beer, or chugged a six-pack, is irrelevant. What’s done is done. The pitchers were wrong to drink beer and loaf around in the clubhouse instead of supporting their teammates from the dugout. However, that cannot be reversed.
What is most important is that three of the pitchers reportedly involved – Josh Beckett, Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz – return to spring training in prime physical condition, refrain from the alleged behavior and demonstrate that they can be model teammates. As for John Lackey, who by many accounts is the ringleader of the shenanigans, chances are the ownership group will eat a bulk of his contract and find another clubhouse to sully in 2012.
Naysayers like most media members and Yankees fans continue to pile on the negative stories and comments. As I predicted when these reports first surfaces in early October, the media will make sure to sensationalize Boston’s September collapse and the clubhouse dysfunction as long as possible.
If you are sensible and rational, then you will agree that it makes little sense to break up the trio of Beckett, Lester and Buchholz. Sure, Buchholz was injured for much of the 2011 season and Beckett and Lester flopped in September. True, Beckett and Lester showed poor conditioning habits and gained weight during the season, which likely contributed to their awful performances in September. Yet all three pitchers are among the best starters in baseball, and there is not one ballclub that wouldn’t want them in their rotation.
When healthy, Beckett, Lester and Buchholz form one of the best 1-2-3 punches in the majors. Fueled by the negativity from the September collapse and the scrutiny from their beer drinking, Beckett and Lester will likely be driven during the off-season to get in shape and prove the naysayers wrong in 2012.. Buchholz is expected to be fully recovered from the stress fracture in his lower back that derailed much of his 2011 campaign.
Likely, soon-to-be general manager Ben Cherington will acquire another arm for the rotation, and even sign a low-risk, high-reward veteran (like Chris Young, Brandon Webb or Ben Sheets). Promising left-hander Felix Doubront (who is one of my favorite prospects) and versatile right-hander Alfredo Aceves are expected to be stretched out as starters in spring training. Likely, one will be in the rotation and the other will serve as the No. 5 starter. With Beckett, Lester and Buchholz, plus what Cherington does to fill the remaining two spots, Boston’s rotation should be strong in 2012.
Predictions of the Red Sox’ demise for 2012 and subsequent seasons are just wishful thinking from sensationalistic media hacks like Dan Shaugnessy, Bob Ryan and just about everyone at WEEI.
Remember, before the September slide, the Red Sox owned the best record in baseball. In 2012, the core players will still be nearing their prime or in their prime, the lineup will be loaded as usual, the rotation should be formidable for the reasons mentioned above and the bullpen looks to be strength (as long as Jonathan Papelbon is brought back) with the arms the Sox already have.
It is a no-brainer to remove Lackey. That will be addition by subtraction, and even though it will be an expensive transaction, I’m certain that John Henry and Tom Werner understand this. Just as they surely also recognize that keeping Beckett, Lester and Buchholz in the rotation is a key to the Red Sox accomplishing in 2012 what they were expected to do this year – winning it all.