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RED-FACED SOX : Amid the Turmoil and Embarrassment Is This Question: Can Boston Repeat?

Times Staff Writer

On the day that Margo Adams, his former mistress, was conducting a New York news conference to promote her Penthouse magazine article chronicling their four-year relationship, Wade Boggs walked off the field here after a Boston Red Sox workout singing, “That’s Amore .”

He sat at his locker, pulled off his jersey, patted the head of his 2-year-old son, Brett, reflected on the lingering residue of the affair and said:

“I’m tired of seeing my name in the paper, but I don’t think I’ll ever be able to get away from it. It’s a giant headache, but it was there last year, too, and I hit .393 over the last part of the season. I raised my average 40 points after all this came out.

“I did it then and I can continue to do it. It’s easy. Once I cross the lines I’ve always been able to block everything out. Baseball has always been my outlet.”

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Boggs will be trying to extend his unprecedented streak of 200 or more hits to six straight seasons and win his sixth batting title in the last seven years.

The Red Sox will be trying to win titles in consecutive years for the first time since 1915-16 and to become the first American League East team to win consecutive division titles since the New York Yankees in 1980-81.

But does anyone remember the stunning Sox comeback of last year?

Has anyone heard if they have found a replacement for Bruce Hurst or help for Lee Smith or what the plans are for Jim Rice?

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Does anyone know if the other Joe Morgan is still the manager or was he only an interim successor to John McNamara?

Has anyone read a Red Sox media guide or does the publicity department only have to distribute that Penthouse story?

Can anyone say for sure if the Boggs-Adams liaison--and other diversions--will continue to drop acid rain on the Red Sox parade, disfiguring the memory of their 1988 accomplishment and the attempt to build on it?

Is this a team of triumph or turmoil?

Are the Red Sox, as the Winter Haven News Chief headlined the other day, “sitting on a time bomb?”

“I don’t see it as a time bomb, not at the moment,” Haywood Sullivan, co-owner and general partner, said during a recent workout. “We do have deep concern and will keep our eyes open to see if the tension deepens or recedes.”

In the meantime, Winter Haven has become Florida’s answer to Geneva.

If Boggs isn’t meeting with players he ripped or demeaned, according to Adams’ Penthouse recollections, then Sullivan is measuring the daily temperature in discussions with players and club employees, or Morgan, whose contract was extended through 1989 last August, is being asked about his own recent team meeting.

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“I told them that it’s up to Wade to confront the people whose names were mentioned on a man-to-man basis,” the manager said. “If I feel the team starts going badly because of this, then it becomes my worry.

“A team of lesser ability might not be able to handle it, but we’ve got too much talent, we’re too good a team, for that too happen.”

Said Sullivan, who reportedly indicated that he would trade any player who continued to make an issue of the Boggs’ situation:

“I haven’t handed down any ultimatums, but I’ve made it clear that I want any problems left here when we go North. If we’re going to have a fight, let’s have it here and not on a bus at 2 o’clock some morning.

“I know we’re going to hear about this all year, but once we leave here I don’t want to hear about it from the players.

“I’m not trying to sweep anything under the rocks, but I’m not going to let it keep festering. I’m also not going to hire a consultant or public relations firm. We have to solve this as a family. If we can’t do that, then we’ve failed as an organization.”

One thing is certain: The Red Sox, indeed, will keep hearing about it. Consider:

--Adams, of Costa Mesa, is on an eight-city tour to promote the article, and Part II, including a semi-nude layout, is scheduled for next month’s issue.

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--Her attorney, James McGee of Irvine, has indicated that he still intends to take depositions from several Boston players and will attempt to re-file the harassment and punitive portions of Adams’ suit, recently invalidated by an appeals court.

“The law gods have been shining on me,” Boggs said at his locker, but he may face new charges of abuse of process, false imprisonment and malicious prosecution, according to McGee, citing the FBI’s interrogation of Adams as a result of Boggs’ claim that she attempted to extort money from him.

--The media won’t let it die--the Boston Herald is currently conducting a poll, asking readers whether Boggs’ wife, Debbie, should seek a divorce--and Boggs figures to hear from bench jockeys and fans, though he said he has received nothing but support so far.

In fact, the Womens Club of Malden, Mass., recently wrote General Manager Lou Gorman, pledging continued support of Boggs.

“The fans respect what I’ve done on the field,” Boggs said. “I don’t see that changing. I still get kids asking for autographs. I still expect to be regarded as a role model. I didn’t commit a crime or take drugs. I made a serious mistake and said I’m sorry about it.

“I’ve got a job to do and I intend to do it. I can’t hide in a shell. Margo is out to ruin my life and other people’s lives, but I don’t care what she does or says. It’s been all said and done. The Ping-Pong game is over. We’ll eventually meet again in court.

“I’ve talked to the guys here and I think they understand what’s going on. No one has taken a bat to the back of my head. We haven’t had any shouting matches. Naturally, for every one baseball question, there’s five of the others, but you block it out. Everybody here is focused on what he has to do.”

Then there’s Dennis (Oil Can) Boyd. In the space of three days recently, the combustible Can called Boggs a sex fiend; criticized the organization for not demanding that Boggs get a psychiatric evaluation as Boyd was ordered to do after staging a clubhouse eruption and walkout when he wasn’t selected to the 1986 All-Star team; cursed a sportswriter, and emerged from a meeting with Morgan and Sullivan to say, “I ain’t apologizing to no . . . “

Generally, however, there seems to be an attempt to maintain the peace, even if some see it as the calm before the inevitable storm.

Rice and Dwight Evans may be in the eye of that storm.

What does Boggs think of Rice?

“Thinks he’s white,” Adams said in Penthouse, quoting Boggs.

Rice refused comment for this story. He recently told Claire Smith of the Hartford Courant, however, that he thinks Boggs will have to deal with more problems from his family than from Rice and that he’s going to assume that Boggs was joking. He added, however, that Boggs may joke one time too many and someone will snap, but for now “it won’t be me.”

Evans and Boggs reportedly exchanged words and shoves last year when the firestorm began to spread through the threat of depositions.

In Penthouse, Adams said: “Wade felt that Dwight didn’t approve of his drinking and partying. He felt that Dwight went to management about him and Wade was spoken to about it.”

Evans has denied he went to management, and Boggs has denied that he was ever spoken to by management.

Evans stood at his locker the other day and said of Boggs:

“The man has said he’s sorry and that’s good enough for me. When you make a mistake, you say you’re sorry and get on with your lives. That’s what he’s trying to do and that’s what we’re trying to do.”

Said second baseman Marty Barrett:

“I honestly think it’s been beaten to death. It’s old news. We may keep getting asked about it but there’s nothing new we can say.

“The bottom line is that everybody in this business has been mad at someone else at some point in their careers, said something about it to their wife or a friend and had it come back to that other person through the grapevine.

“Dewey (Evans) has heard it said that he’s tight with management before. Roger (Clemens) has been called Mr. Clean before and I’ve heard it said before that I talk too much. Big deal.

“The only thing new is that a lot of things have been opened up to the public. Other than that, everyone in baseball has been aware of it all.

“I mean, the only person drastically affected is Wade Boggs, and there’s been no sign of that at all. He’ll go out and hit his .360 again. If anyone is capable of handling it, it’s Wade.”

For that and other reasons, Barrett said the Red Sox can handle it as well. He said there are considerations more important than what some players and wives think about the Boggs affair.

“I think it’s been a relatively quiet camp because of the way we won it last year,” he said. “There’s almost a feeling like we didn’t win.

“I mean, we won the division by playing well for three weeks. We were unconscious in that time, but we were under .500 for the rest of it.

“There’s a feeling that we have to go out and have a great year to show we deserved to win. We have something to prove, and I get the feeling that we know we’re good. I think the Red Sox and (Toronto) Blue Jays are the teams to beat.”

In a three-week spree after Morgan’s appointment as manager, the Red Sox won 19 of 20 games and eventually set an American League record by winning 24 straight at Fenway Park.

They were 70-72 overall if that 19-1 explosion is eliminated from their 89-73 record. Now they must cope with the loss of left-hander Hurst, who was 18-6 and signed with the San Diego Padres as a free agent.

Said Barrett: “If we had Hurst and the people we’ve acquired, and there’s no reason we couldn’t have since Bruce wasn’t involved in any of those deals, you could start printing (playoff and World Series) tickets now.”

Hurst rejected a three-year, $5.5-million offer from the Red Sox to sign with the Padres for three years at $5.25 million.

Barrett said he thought Hurst was wounded by his arbitration loss to the Red Sox after his significant contributions during the 1986 playoff and World Series and by the club’s refusal to make a multiyear proposal after the 1987 season “when he could have been signed for $500,000 less than they had to offer after last season.”

Sullivan, however, said he believes that family and environment were more important considerations and that Hurst, a devout Mormon, was disturbed by the Boggs-Adams fallout.

“Being of the moral character he is, I think it definitely bothered him,” Sullivan said.

On the day after Hurst accepted San Diego’s offer, the Red Sox traded reserve shortstop Spike Owen to the Montreal Expos for John Dopson, a 25-year-old left-hander who had a 3.04 earned-run average and a hard-luck 3-11 record, and shortstop Luis Rivera.

They then traded first baseman Todd Benzinger to the Cincinnati Reds for left-handed relief pitcher Rob Murphy and first baseman Nick Esasky.

They also re-signed free agent pitchers Dennis Lamp and Mike Smithson and signed Danny Heep, former Dodger free agent, as outfield and pinch-hitting insurance.

“I don’t see anybody in the league having bettered themselves more than we did,” Sullivan said. “People will ask how I can say this after losing Hurst, but I think we’ll be a better club than last year.”

Sullivan said he believes he can say it because of:

--The expected continued development by Dopson and former reliever Wes Gardner--"I think he’s going to win at least 13 or 14 games every year now,” said Barrett--in a rotation that includes Clemens, Boyd and Mike Boddicker, who was 7-3 after leaving the hapless Baltimore Orioles.

--The hope that Boyd, who has been hampered by shoulder problems and has won only 10 games since winning 16 in 1986, is physically ready and mentally prepared to return to form. As Barrett said: “Oil Can is the bottom line. If he wins 15, that counteracts the loss of Hurst right there.”

--The belief, as Sullivan said, that Mike Greenwell, Ellis Burks and Evans comprise the best outfield in baseball and that Greenwell, who drove in 119 runs at 25, and Burks, who drove in 92 and stole 25 bases at 24, are still improving, along with 26-year-old shortstop Jody Reed, who hit .293 after Morgan made him the regular in his first move as manager.

--The feeling, Sullivan said, that catcher Rich Gedman will improve on his .230 average and nine homers of last year, that Rice, the 36-year-old designated hitter, can still do better than his 15 homers of last year, that Esasky, admittedly unhappy playing for Pete Rose, may fulfill more of his promise now, and that Murphy, who appeared in 76 games with the Reds, provides a solid left-handed complement to bullpen closer Smith.

“I’m confident of two things,” Morgan said. “Our home run production should improve and we should be a better team in the first half (of the season). Even if we improve six or seven games, that should carry over to the second half.”

There are concerns, of course. Other diversionary hot spots. How much will the Red Sox miss batting coach Walt Hrniak, who defected to the Chicago White Sox? What kind of pressure will Clemens experience from fans and reporters after alienating both groups over the winter?

First, Clemens said:

“Travel, road trips and carrying your luggage around isn’t all fun and glory. There are some things going on in Boston making it a little bit tough, as far as your family. There’s too many obstacles.”

Clemens tried to explain that he was talking about problems with the Red Sox and not the city or life style there, but no one heard the explanation. The Boston Herald ran a picture of Clemens speaking on his car phone with a caption reading:

“No one said it would be easy: Roger Clemens claims the life of a baseball player in Boston is rough and rigorous. He finds it grueling when he drives his telephone-equipped 928 Porsche, and it angers him when he and teammate Bruce Hurst actually have to carry their own luggage.”

A Boston radio station reported that 80% of Red Sox followers wanted the club to trade Clemens, rather than continue contract negotiations.

Clemens responded to the negative avalanche by saying that any reporter who writes about his family “may get hurt.” He is not talking to reporters now and, in fact, did not sign his three-year, $7.5-million contract until last Wednesday, having first demanded an opportunity to meet with Sullivan and General Manager Lou Gorman to air the grievances that led to his initial comments.

In his meeting with Sullivan and Gorman, one more of the many here at Little Geneva, Clemens is said to have cited the need for improved seating and security for wives at Fenway Park, improved parking for players and wives, more charter flights and a phone in the clubhouse.

There was more on Clemens’ shopping list, but it all pales in comparison to the continuing soap opera of Wade and Margo.

Will the story line find Wade being traded or will his agent, Alan Nero, be successful in his current attempt to get the Red Sox to extend a contract that expires at the end of this season?

Boggs makes $1.7 million. Nero has reportedly told the Red Sox he wants a no-trade clause in the extension or will demand a salary that makes Boggs the highest-paid player in baseball.

What else? What will Adams reveal in the next installment? How many contact hitters has she dated besides Boggs and Steve Garvey? What will Wade next learn from Geraldo, having already determined that he is a sex addict? How will all this play in New England?

“I’m embarrassed to have the club associated with it,” Sullivan said. “I’m embarrassed to have people abuse the image of the club and gain profit through it. I’m embarrassed for the sport and disturbed to think kids may feel this is condoned because it isn’t.”

No, but that’s amore.


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