What a difference a year makes, especially when talking about the Boston Red Sox.
Exactly one year ago, then manager Bobby Valentine went on Channel 7’s "Sports Xtra" and said the following about third baseman Kevin Youkilis: “I don’t think he’s as physically or emotionally into the game as he has been in the past for some reason.”
The next morning, Patriots' Day in Boston, second baseman Dustin Pedroia spoke about the comment, saying, “I don't know what Bobby's trying to do. But that's not how we go about our stuff here.”
This was the first major sign things just weren’t right with the 2012 club. Why would the manager of a team be making those sorts of comments about one of his players? Why would one of the teams’ leaders say something like that about his manager?
It wasn’t like the team was off to a disastrous start when the comments were made either — their record was 4-5. This was only the beginning of a forgettable season in which many players did not like their manager, according to most accounts. For sure, there was a lack of communication throughout the organization and the team finished with its worst record in more than 45 years at 69-93.
Flash forward one year and look at the 2013 version of the Red Sox. The organization has done a complete 180, which has clearly been demonstrated in the first 10 games of the season. The communication aspect is much different from what it was last year. Players now have an idea of whether or not they will be in the lineup the next day and are not showing up to the ballpark wondering whether they will be playing. This is something numerous players have spoken on and appreciate.
There is also much more camaraderie with the team and that includes the manager, John Farrell. Just look at the second series of the year in Farrell’s return to Toronto. After leaving Toronto to come to Boston with one year left on his contract, Blue Jays fans were not at all thrilled with Farrell.
In the opening game of the three-game set, the Rogers Centre was filled to capacity, something rarely seen besides Opening Day, and all 40 thousand-plus fans chanted “Farrell … Farrell,” every time he stepped onto the field. In as much of a playoff atmosphere as a game could have in April, the Red Sox scored two times in the eighth and ninth innings to defeat the Blue Jays, 6-4. A game for their manager.
“We’re starting to be tight-knit. Go booing any of our guys, we’ve got your back. Go booing our manager, we’ve got your back,” first baseman Mike Napoli said following that game.
Another example came this past week when closer Joel Hanrahan struggled, allowing five runs in the ninth inning Wednesday night and blowing the save against the Orioles, and then walking the only two hitters he faced in a tie game in the ninth inning on Saturday.
After both games, his manager as well as teammates, both pitchers and catchers, showed their confidence in him, saying they know what he is capable of and they are certain he will get it back.
“I still feel Joel’s got some of the best stuff I’ve ever caught, I’ve ever seen — explosive out of his hand,” catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia said. “Even when he misses, usually they go by people. Tonight just wasn’t his night. Nine times out of 10 I guarantee you he closes the door.”
From the manager on down to the players, this is a different team than last year. Although the team may not be as talented as some teams in the past, the team unity and sharing of the same beliefs, along with solid pitching and timely hitting could make this team a fun one to watch each and every night.
“It is a fun group of guys with the same attitude and that is to win,” said right fielder Shane Victorino. “We’ve gone out there with that kind of personality and we’re having fun doing it.”
Follow Metro Red Sox beat writer Ryan Hannable on Twitter @hannable84