Red Sox Still Smoking From Burnout in Series

The Washington Post

Every day they go to places like Dunedin and Orlando and Fort Myers, and every day the questions aren't normally the ones asked of a team that celebrated winning a pennant only five months earlier.

The Boston Red Sox are asked about Cy Young Award winner Roger Clemens, who is in Houston, holding out.

They are asked about catcher Rich Gedman, a free agent who is still unsigned and presumably returning to the Red Sox on May 1.

They are asked about first baseman Bill Buckner, who still has trouble running, and pitcher Bruce Hurst, who has a sore groin, and pitcher Oil Can Boyd, who has a tender shoulder.

They are asked about a team that was one pitch away from winning a World Series last November. At the moment the ball rolled through Buckner's legs and Bob Stanley's wild pitch skipped past Gedman last October, the wheels began to come off the Red Sox.

And they are still coming off.

"So far, it hasn't been much fun," Red Sox designated hitter Don Baylor said. "Last year, when we won, the Red Sox were 'we.' Over the winter, it was completely different. It was, 'This guy didn't catch that ball,' 'This guy didn't throw the right pitch.' All of a sudden, everything was 'I,' and that's not the way you do things."

Stanley doesn't disagree.

"I'll never forget it," he said. "I had an opportunity to be a hero, and it didn't work out. But that was last year, and this is this year."

The problem for the Red Sox is that this year isn't yet this year. Clemens, who made $340,000 last year, has turned down what amounts to a one-year, $600,000 deal and says he may sit out the entire season.

Gedman turned down a three-year, $2.65-million contract, but is expected to accept it on May 1 when he's allowed to again negotiate with the Red Sox. In the meantime, spring training doesn't mean much.

"We're getting ready as a team, just like we're supposed to," second baseman Marty Barrett said. "But I'm sure in the back of a lot of people's minds there's the thought, 'We've got to get Roger back.' That would only be natural. It's the same for Gedman, but I'm treating that like a spring-training injury that'll keep him out until May."

Not all the Red Sox are so understanding. Baylor is mad at the owners for taking free agency away from the players and mad at his teammates for not accepting the loss to the New York Mets.

The matter might have been cleared up on the first day of spring training when Red Sox Manager John McNamara called his team together and asked them to get their differences out in the air.

"No one said a word," Baylor said, "so I guess the differences are still there. I would have said something, but, at that time, I didn't think it would be right. It wasn't my position (since he hadn't been the one criticizing his teammates)."

The differences are from Game 6. Depending on whom you believe, Gedman either should have caught Stanley's pitch or Stanley didn't throw the pitch that was called and completely fooled the catcher.

Stanley declined to point a finger at Gedman, but, Baylor said, "Gedman hasn't criticized anyone. He wouldn't do that, either. It's not his style."

Buckner, too, has pointed a finger at Stanley, saying he made the error after looking up because he knew Stanley had failed to cover first.

How does Baylor, the designated clubhouse enforcer, handle all of this?

"I don't have to go out to dinner with certain people," he said. "But I know we all still wear the same uniform, and we still have to play for us. Hey, some of the guys who caused the trouble may not be on the roster opening day. We may have some younger players, and they don't know a thing about any of this."

Even if all the clubhouse differences get ironed out, there's still the matter of getting a team on the field. Boyd and Hurst each believe they will be healthy by opening day, which is important.

Along with Clemens, they were the nucleus of the best first three of any starting rotation in the American League. When Clemens and Hurst started, the Red Sox went 43-15, and their starting pitchers finished with 77 victories--most in the AL.

The best news for the Red Sox is that reliever Calvin Schiraldi, nine saves and four victories in the last two months, will be available for a full season. There also is Wes Gardner, a pitcher acquired in the Bobby Ojeda deal with the Mets.

Gardner has looked good enough that McNamara has moved Stanley into the starting roation. If he only had Clemens back.

"Things are a little up in the air--to say the least," McNamara said. "We'll definitely name a starter for opening day by Saturday. I hope Roger is back, but that's out of my control. We have to assume now that he won't be here."

Buckner had operations on both ankles at the end of last season. He's still wearing the high-top shoes he modeled during the World Series, and he still runs as if on eggshells. But if Clemens and Gedman don't return, it may not matter.

"Right now, we don't even have a big part of our team," Baylor said. "We play in one of the toughest divisions in baseball and we don't have our horses. These things are out of a player's hands, but they're impossible not to think about."

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