The historic collapse that left the Red Sox out of the playoffs last year is the sort of thing that lingers. While the pain has already faded with time, and will continue to do so, it will never be completely gone. Whenever someone mentions 2011, it will come back to us as 1978 must to those of you who lived it.
2011 is over, however, and nothing that the Red Sox do now can change what happened then. All they can do is push forward into 2012 with an eye to erase bad memories with good ones. It will be difficult to do so, however, if 2011 is still managing to get in the way, and to this point it doesn't seem quite ready to fade into the background. From the media's continued reliance on chicken and beer jokes, to Josh Beckett's comments on snitching, the collapse continues to haunt the Red Sox.
Could this possibly be a good thing?
Most failures double on some level as a learning experience, and the 2011 season has provided some lessons to the Red Sox. David Ortiz and Adrian Gonzalez are coming into the season looking to take a greater leadership role with the team, Bobby Valentine has already banned alcohol from the locker room and is trying to build a stronger team dynamic, and while the budget did not allow for quite the fixes we would have liked, whatever the rotation ends up being it will be backed by an abundance of minor league depth that would hopefully be able to outdo the "contributions" of Lackey, Miller, et al. down the stretch.
And, if you're looking for motivation, there's plenty to be found in showing up the journalists who spent the last five months questioning your drive, commitment, and professionalism.
With that being said, however, it's hard to see the "fire" shown by Josh Beckett in recent days as much of a positive force. In an expletive-laced rant on WEEI, Beckett railed against the "snitch" who leaked information to the media last fall following the collapse. Not only does this keep the story going, but it's also a passion that's directed inward, not outward--the sort that can lead to a paranoid or stressful clubhouse rather than a motivated one.
I don't think many people are happy that Terry Francona's personal information--true or not--was leaked to the media. And as much as the clubhouse activity of Beckett, Lester, and Lackey doesn't look good, I also don't think booze and birds are to blame for the downfall of the Sox. But Beckett playing the victim here isn't good for anyone, especially after he had owned up to his actions just days earlier.
Bobby Valentine, for his part, realizes the danger here, and is trying his best to walk a very thin line:
"I'm not sure about addressing it. Maybe," Valentine said. "Maybe as the group gets smaller, if it seems like that's a situation that is festering, that it hasn't come to a head by the time March whatever comes around, maybe. I don't know."
"Teams are built on trust, right? And teamwork, they are probably the two most important things that championship teams have. If there is distrust, I think it eventually would have to be addressed. In my experience, those things usually present themselves."
It's a tactful answer for a delicate situation, and probably the right one given the circumstances. It's also a plea to Josh Beckett--and one I would reiterate here--to please just let it drop. It's not clear how much of an impact the clubhouse situation had at the end of 2011, but it certainly can't help to have a negative one to start 2012. It's why Bobby V. is doing what he's doing, but it can't work so long as Beckett or anybody else continues to fuel the flames.
They need that clean slate.