Late last season, the Red Sox collapsed and missed the playoffs. The problem was that the pitching wasn't good, but because bad pitching doesn't make for compelling copy, the story was that the Red Sox had crippling clubhouse concerns. Pitchers were eating chicken and drinking beer in the clubhouse on days they didn't pitch, and this was supposed to show a lack of commitment that contributed to the catastrophe.
There will be no such tales in 2012. Bobby Valentine is Boston's new manager, and he has banned beer from the clubhouse. There are certain teams that have beer bans and certain teams that don't, but Valentine apparently wants to change the culture, or what he thinks might be a part of the culture.
Terry Francona was Boston's manager last season and for several seasons before. In talking about Valentine's beer ban, he had some words:
"I think it's a PR move," Francona, now an ESPN analyst, said Monday morning on ESPN Radio's "Mike and Mike in the Morning" show. "I think if a guy wants a beer, he can probably get one. You know, it's kind of the old rule ... If your coach in football says no hard liquor on the plane -- I mean, you serve beer and wine -- somebody's going to sneak liquor on the plane.
"If you furnish a little bit, it almost keeps it to a minimum."
"I don't think it's a surprise that they put this in effect, or the fact they announced it," Francona said of the alcohol ban. "It's probably more of a PR move just because, you know, the Red Sox (took) such a beating at the end of the year."
Said Valentine when he heard about Francona's remarks:
"How is it a PR move?" Valentine shot back, according to a tweet by ESPNBoston.com's Gordon Edes. ''Were 20 teams looking for PR when they made good decisions?''
It's hard to say who's in the right and who's in the wrong, here, probably because neither side is absolutely right or absolutely wrong. There probably is a PR element to this, but it's not like there's any obligation on the Red Sox's part to provide alcohol for their players. On the other hand, let's not make too much of a guy having a beer when he isn't playing, or when a game's already over. Joe Maddon said that he wouldn't implement a beer ban, saying that he sees "nothing wrong" with a player having a drink when he's finished.
Bobby Valentine and Terry Francona are two different managers with two different sets of philosophies, and beer in the clubhouse happens to be one area where they disagree. That's fine, and it's up to the Red Sox's players to adjust, because with Valentine, a lot of things are going to change. Those who want to drink will still be able to drink, if a little more inconveniently, and while Valentine will get credit for his discipline if the Red Sox bounce back and make the playoffs, ultimately the clubhouse beer policy isn't going to be the reason. I wonder how much longer we're going to be hearing about this story. I'm hoping that the answer is "not".