Well, it certainly wasn't dull. The Boston Red Sox's first week of spring training featured at least 27 uses of "it's a dead issue as far as I'm concerned," 16 of "consider the source," 11 of "I haven't read it, and I'm not going to read it," one groping reference to Walt Whitman and uncounted sighs of relief from players that the long-dreaded Margo Adams tell-all had finally appeared in Penthouse and, thank god, included fewer bombshells than expected. On top of that, there was a 270-minute walkout by leftfielder Mike Greenwell, one mute $7.5 million Rocket Man and a calmly laconic New Englander named Joe Morgan, who became the first manager in history to field a question about phone sex.
Oh. And Wade Boggs was on hand too. Boggs, the five-time American League batting champion, with a lifetime average of .356, reported to camp three days early, signed autographs, joked with teammates, tore the cover off the ball in batting practice and generally carried himself like a man who didn't have a worry in the world. At one point he even jogged past photographers while singing Take Me Out to the Ballgame. "Team turmoil?" Boggs said. "Where do you get that? I don't see any black eyes or bloody noses around here. Do you?"
Only on the face of baseball. Truth is, the Red Sox, who have been bracing themselves for the Penthouse article since the middle of last summer, circled the wagons effectively once advance copies of the first installment of the two-part story began to circulate in Winter Haven on Feb. 22. Written by David Shumacher and based on interviews with Adams, who was Boggs's mistress for four years during road trips and who has brought a breach of contract suit against him, the article barely ruffled the feathers of the defending American League East champions, who reacted, if not exactly with sweetness and light, certainly with restraint when the press descended on them. "It's a joke—Laurel and Hardy stuff," said pitcher Bob Stanley, who Adams said was photographed by Boggs and former Sox pitcher Steve Crawford in an embarrassing situation with a stripper.
"I'm not going to react to it," said designated hitter Jim Rice, whose name also appeared. "I haven't read anything, and I'm not going to read that——." Boggs, according to the article, once told Adams that Rice "thinks he's white."
Pitcher Dennis (Oil Can) Boyd had the strongest comment. Alluding to his 1986 suspension for walking out after being left off the All-Star team, Boyd said, "They were talking about banning me out of baseball because I've got a temper. I got to go to a psychiatrist because I got mad. Here's a guy says he's a sex fiend. Now who needs the psychiatrist?"
The article, which purported to "reveal a world of infidelity, partying, kindergarten antics and racial stereotypes," contained little that had not already been leaked to the press, except some of the particularly sordid details of Boggs's infidelity. "What I've read is pretty much what the scuttlebutt was," said Morgan. "It certainly isn't a positive thing, but it isn't all that big a negative. If it gets to be a problem on the field, then it's my problem." Asked if he was engaged in damage control, Morgan responded, "Damage control? That's pretty much what this is, I guess. Who said that, Walt Whitman?"
Whoever said it, Red Sox officials have been putting out one fire after another ever since their team was swept by Oakland in last year's American League Championship Series. The cumulative effect is that Boston's chances of repeating as division champ have been reduced, despite the fact that the American League East looks especially weak this year. In December, star righthander Roger (Rocket Man) Clemens launched this winter of discontent by alienating some Sox fans during an interview with Mike Lynch of Boston TV station WCVB. Clemens made derogatory remarks that sounded as if they were directed at the Boston area as a whole. At the end of January, Clemens attempted to set the record straight—this time in an interview with Mike Dowling of WCVB—but only succeeded in getting himself into deeper hot water when he threatened that "somebody's going to get hurt, and it's not going to be me" if any reporters wrote or said anything bad about his wife or family.
No one knew what on earth he was referring to—there had not been any derogatory reporting on members of the Clemens family—but cartoons of Clemens strangling reporters began appearing in the papers. General manager Lou Gorman, sensing that the tide of public opinion was turning inexorably against his loose-lipped ace, said, "I think maybe Roger should stop doing interviews for a while." Clemens, who signed a three-year contract worth $7.5 million on Feb. 15, did just that. After arriving for spring training a day late, he declared his intention to communicate with reporters only on the days that he pitches and then only through releases issued by the Red Sox public relations department.
One thing that may have contributed to Clemens's dismay was the fact that the Red Sox had allowed lefthander Bruce Hurst to sign as a free agent with the San Diego Padres in December. Hurst's departure leaves a void in the rotation wider than any schism Adams has forged in the clubhouse. After Clemens, the Red Sox rotation comprises four other righties, Mike Boddicker (13-15, with a 3.42 ERA in 1988), Wes Gardner (8-6, 3.50), the newly acquired John Dopson (3-11, 3.04 with the Montreal Expos) and the talented but erratic Boyd (9-7, 5.34), who's even more of a question mark than usual this year because his '88 season was ended on Aug. 31 by the recurrence of a blood clot in his right shoulder. Small wonder that Gorman was saying last Friday, "We've got to figure out how to get [the Seattle Mariners' lefthander Mark] Langston. That would win the pennant for us."
If the Sox are to win the title, they almost certainly have to put the Adams affair behind them. There's still another installment of the Penthouse article to come, plus the possibility of new disclosures if, as now seems unlikely, some of the Sox players give depositions in Adams's case. But Adams's suit was weakened considerably last weekend when Boggs's lawyer, Jennifer King, received word from an Orange County (Calif.) appellate court that all Adams's claims for punitive damages—she was reportedly hoping for millions in such payments—had been tossed out, leaving only two causes of action: compensation for lost wages and for out-of-pocket expenses she incurred while traveling with Boggs. King estimates that the most Adams could hope to win is somewhere between $18,000 and $48,000.
Not that the Red Sox should worry that much about off-the-field problems. After all, they won the division last year, long after her affair with Boggs was made public and after manager John McNamara was fired and after catcher Rick Cerone and rightfielder Dwight Evans got into a shoving match in a Cleveland hotel. "I don't think controversy affects how a team performs on the field," says Cerone, a former Yankee, who has seen plenty of it in his 12-year major league career. One potentially sticky problem was solved on Feb. 21 when Greenwell, who had threatened to skip spring training, decided to end his 4½-hour walkout and sign a two-year contract for $1.75 million.
The Red Sox can also take heart from Boggs's ability to handle adversity. He won the 1986 batting title after his mother was killed in an auto accident that June. Last May 10, according to Boggs, Adams informed him that she wanted a settlement of $100,000 and threatened to send photographs and her travel itineraries to Boggs's wife, Debbie, if he withheld payment. Boggs's average at the time was .310. From then till the end of the season he hit .380, despite the growing publicity about the scandal that led to opposing fans chanting "MAR-go! MAR-go!" when he took the field. "This stuff didn't affect me last year, and it's not going to affect me this year," Boggs says. "When you step over those white lines, you've got a job to do. It's called being a professional."
Boggs has been the subject of trade rumors, but Gorman says he hasn't been given an ultimatum by owner Jean Yawkey to deal Boggs. "In 29 years in this business, I have never been with a club that traded a player because of personality problems," says Gorman. "Ball games aren't won in the clubhouse. In the last 71 years, there've been a lot of happy Red Sox teams, but they've never won a world championship."
Any trade the Bosox make involving Boggs would have to include a third baseman, since there is no one else in the organization ready to play third on a major league level. Boggs is also the best leadoff hitter in either league: He reached base 342 times last season, a total surpassed only by Babe Ruth (three times) and Ted Williams (twice). Boggs had a .476 on-base percentage, led the majors with 128 runs and made only 11 errors. Purely on the basis of performance, Boston would be crazy to deal him without a blockbuster package in return. And he is actively campaigning to stay. "I want to play here for 10 more years," he says. "When I'm 40, I'll retire, and I want to be in a Red Sox uniform."
Many Red Sox fans don't particularly care whether he finishes his career in Boston, regardless of his impressive numbers. Boggs is widely perceived by New Englanders as arrogant and selfish, and there's certainly nothing in the Penthouse article that will alter that perception. One of the few times he expressed contrition over the Adams affair, in an interview on Boston's WNEV-TV, he made the mistake of referring to a Geraldo Rivera show about oversexed people. Boggs said, "Geraldo had psychologists on there...and they were calling it a disease, and I feel that's exactly what happened; that a disease was overtaking Wade Boggs, and it just did for four years."
Boggs was ridiculed in the press for that admission, and by the time he arrived in Winter Haven, he was more callous than contrite. To hear him tell it, he slept like a baby last week, even with the release of the advance copies of the Penthouse article, which he said he still had not read. "My head hits the pillow, and I'm out," he said. "I'm not going to let this person destroy my world. You just have to be a strong person."
Boggs is certainly that. But he isn't an iceman all the time. "I've learned a lot in the last eight months," he says. "The best thing that ever happened to me was getting caught. It's made my marriage so much better. You realize, I could have thrown all this away for nothing. I remember when I first came home to Debbie and confessed the whole thing. I thought, This is it: Now she'll pack the bags and take the kids [he has two, Meagann, 10, and Brett Anthony, 2] back to Tampa. But the first thing out of her mouth was, 'No. We're going to fight this thing together.' I went, 'All right!' It was like a hundred tons was lifted off my back. Then the next thing she said was, 'Go out, get your 200 hits and win another batting title. But win it for me.' And that's what I did. Having the strength of my wife with me after having done something like that to her for four years made me realize, man, love is the strongest thing in the world."
Life goes on. Time heals. Those were two more expressions that were heard about 42 times each last week at the Red Sox training camp. It shouldn't take long before the actions of some other athlete—Steve Garvey, come on down! (page 9)—shifts the spotlight off Boggs, at which time the Red Sox will be able to go back to worrying about starting pitching and whether Rice will make a comeback. "One day all of this will blow over, and I can go out, have fun, hit a baseball and go on with my life," says Boggs. "I can go back to watching the news without seeing my face with some other woman. I can go back to finding out what else is happening in the world. That's the day I'm looking forward to."
That's the day we're all looking forward to.
What Adams told "Penthouse" that Boggs said about three teammates:
RICE: THINKS HE'S WHITE
His affection for Adams bothered Boggs.
CLEMENS: MR. PERFECT
He wouldn't hit the bars like the other guys.
STANLEY: MR. 411
You could go to him for hot Sox gossip.