BOSTON — Their teams may be in a state of flux, but the general managers of Boston's four major league clubs expressed optimism last week that changes will bring better performances.
"Before we come back and open next spring we'll have changed some faces on this ballclub to improve it," said Lou Gorman of the Red Sox. "The nucleus of the ballclub is still sound."
"We're struggling right now," said the New England Patriots' Patrick Sullivan. "We're going to be very patient with (Coach) Raymond Berry. We feel we made the right decision (in hiring him) and he has the unabiding respect of his players, which, I think, is critical."
Harry Sinden of the Bruins said the return of defenseman Gord Kluzak and center Barry Pederson, who were injured last season, should help, while new coach Butch Goring "played in the style that we hope will rub off on the players."
The Celtics nearly won the National Basketball Assn. title last season, but "we think this is a better team" after offseason moves produced at least a 33% roster turnover, said Jan Volk.
All four officials spoke at a forum sponsored by the Boston Herald.
The Red Sox ended their season last Sunday in fifth place in the American League East with an 81-81 record. The Patriots are 2-3 while struggling with the new offense implemented by Berry, who became coach midway through the last National Football League season.
The Bruins, who recently were sold, were eliminated in the first round of last season's National Hockey League playoffs. The Celtics, who have replaced Cedric Maxwell, M.L. Carr, Quinn Buckner and Ray Williams with Bill Walton, Jerry Sichting, Sly Williams and Sam Vincent, open their season Oct. 25 at New Jersey.
"We were two games away from an NBA championship," said Volk, whose team lost the title series in six games to the Lakers. "However, upon reflection, we felt that we could make this a better basketball team not just for this year but for several years to come."
He said Walton, a center-forward acquired from the Clippers for Maxwell, will help that process. He also said Maxwell wasn't traded as punishment for not attending the Celtics' summer rookie camp.
"It did tell us that there was a certain motivational problem" concerning Maxwell's new role as a substitute, said Volk. "Max's ability is only, or was only, manifest when he was motivated. He is not a player who can play at half speed and be effective."
Sinden said two keys to the degree of success the Bruins will have are goalie Pete Peeters and right wing Rick Middleton, both coming off subpar seasons.
He also acknowledged that the Bruins, apparently last in popularity among the four teams in recent seasons, do not have a big box-office star.
"Certain players are income producers for a team and sometimes some of you ayers don't fall into that category," he said. "At the moment, such a player hasn't emerged with the Bruins."
New England's players, who had a reputation of having some of the best talent in the NFL in recent years, haven't fallen into the category of winners with only three playoff appearances in 15 NFL seasons.
Sullivan said raw talent and exceptional individual performances in college are not the only criteria for professional success.
"We have to evaluate the way we evaluate players," he said. "Do they have that ability to blend themselves into a team and, in effect, become team players? I think that those are the things we're working on this year."
Gorman said some of the Red Sox' most talented players might not be immune from being traded.
"We know we've got to change some faces," he said. "If we have to make a dramatic trade or a big trade, we'll do that."
He said the team has three options with American League batting chamnpion Wade Boggs, who won a $1 million salary at arbitration last year. It could sign him for one year, possibly after arbitration, try to tie him down to a multi-year contract or trade him.
Gorman added that if pitcher Roger Clemens and outfielder Tony Armas avoid injuries which plagued them this season and if the team can improve its bullpen and bench strength, "we can come back next year and compete again."