There will be no drinking in the Boston Red Sox clubhouse this season.
The team will ban alcohol in the clubhouse and on the last plane flight of road trips, new manager Bobby Valentine announced on Saturday.
The move comes in the wake of last season’s September collapse in the AL East, a tailspin that included reports of Boston starting pitchers drinking beer in the clubhouse on their off-days rather than supporting their teammates in the dugout.
It’s one of a handful of new rules that Valentine is imposing in his first season as Red Sox manager, and he laid them out with team ownership by his side in a meeting Saturday morning before Boston’s first full-squad workout of the spring.
”It’s just what I’ve always done, except for when I was in Texas, I guess,” Valentine said when asked why he banned booze. ”I’m comfortable with it that way.”
When asked how the players reacted to the news, Valentine said, ”You mean like standing ovation or booing? I didn’t get either of those.”
Veteran David Ortiz didn’t bat an eye.
”We’re not here to drink. We’re here to play baseball,” the slugger said. ”This ain’t no bar. If you want to drink, drink at home.”
Last season, the Red Sox went 7-20 in September and allowed their nine-game lead in the AL East to swirl down the drain. After manager Terry Francona’s team missed the playoffs, the Boston Globe reported that starting pitchers including Josh Beckett, John Lackey and Jon Lester spent some of their off-days drinking beer and eating fried chicken in the clubhouse during games.
Both Beckett and Lester said last week that mistakes were made last season and both vowed it wouldn’t happen again.
Valentine has made sure of that.
Ever since taking over for Francona, who guided the Red Sox to two World Series titles in eight seasons and had a reputation as a laid-back manager, Valentine has stressed personal responsibility and accountability with his players.
”Each manager has his own style,” team president Larry Lucchino said. ”It worked for Tito very well, his style.
”Bobby has his own style that was born of 20-plus years as a manager in the big leagues and in Japan. He’s got his own philosophies and I think he’ll organize a camp consistent with that. Will there be differences? You bet there will be differences because they’re different managers and different coaching staffs.”
Valentine played down the changes, saying there was nothing groundbreaking in his philosophy, which tells the players ”not to embarrass themselves or the team, the community, their teammates, themselves. I don’t think that’s a new rule. That’s a long-standing rule of life.”
”Basically just everyday life,” new closer Andrew Bailey said. ”Don’t embarrass yourself, that’s the key word. For me, just do the right thing and you’ll be fine.”
Beckett, Lester and Lackey were not available for comment after Valentine made the announcement.
Beckett and Lester each addressed the issue at length when they reported last week. Lester said, ”It’s not something I’m proud of” and vowed to be a better teammate this season.
Both Beckett and Lester were adamant at the time that having beers in the clubhouse did not affect their performances on the mound. Beckett gave up 12 earned runs in his last two starts and Lester went 0-3 with an 8.24 ERA in his last four starts.
”I’m not saying we didn’t make mistakes because we did make mistakes in the clubhouse,” Beckett said last week. ”The biggest mistake I made was not pitching well against Baltimore. I was prepared to pitch every time I went out there. I just didn’t execute pitches when I needed to.”
Plenty of teams don’t allow booze in the clubhouse, including the St. Louis Cardinals, who lost pitcher Josh Hancock to a fatal car accident in 2007 after a night of drinking that began with some postgame beers in the clubhouse.
”I think guys are grown and will be able to make their own decisions,” Bailey said. ”I know there’s no beer on planes, and that kind of stuff, going back to Boston. Just some simple rules that are pretty common.”
Third baseman Kevin Youkilis said the players embraced Valentine’s message of personal accountability and they were relieved to get back out on the field together to start turning the page on last season’s disappointment.
”It was a good meeting,” Youkilis said. ”We got out here and started playing the game on the field and just doing the little things out here. All the different, new intricate things … that was the cool thing.”