August 16, 2012
On the Beat
A Clubhouse Scorned
Maybe this is the solution for the Red Sox: Place an emergency call to Popeye's for fried chicken with a side order of red beans and rice, and have it sent to the home clubhouse at Fenway Park. Fried chicken and beer became part of a scandal in Red Sox Nation in the wake of last season's historic collapse, during which the Red Sox blow a sure post-season berth in September while the starting pitchers sat in the cramped Fenway clubhouse eating, drinking, and playing video games when it wasn't their turn in the rotation.
Though the Red Sox were losing on a daily basis at the end of last season, it is hard to believe their clubhouse was as disharmonious as their current ones. A lot of details of their current discord came out in this story by Yahoo! Sports' Jeff Passan. After visiting the Red Sox' clubhouse last Thursday before and after a loss to the Indians in Cleveland, “toxic” would be a mild word to describe the atmosphere.
I have had the privilege of visiting clubhouses for a quarter century, but I have never experienced an atmosphere rivaling the aftermath of the Red Sox' loss. Most of the players sat at their lockers silently, holding a beer in their hand. Another group sat at a round table in the middle of the clubhouse, picking at a post-game dinner. Right-hander John Lackey, who’s on the DL, was eating an ear of corn big enough to win a blue ribbon at the county fair. While Lackey attacked the corn, he glared at the Red Sox' beat reporters, who were quietly waiting for anyone willing to talk about the game.
Things were nearly as tense in the manager's office both before and after the game. The usually loquacious Bobby Valentine gave a lot of one-word answers and seemed weary, the type of weary you sense from someone wondering if his first season on the job after replacing Terry Francona will be his last. Perhaps it was just one loss too many in a season highlighted primarily by injuries, controversy, and disharmony, all of which have the Red Sox sitting on the wrong side of .500 at 57-61 and possibly headed toward their first losing season since 1997.
There was a brief exchange I had with Valentine:
Me: Do you think your club has a run in it, where it can reel off a decent-sized winning streak?