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Red Sox: Redemption tour 2012

A quick start will be vital to this team’s ultimate fate in 2012.

In short sample sizes, the Red Sox of the past two decades have shown remarkable resiliency.

They were down 0-2 in 1999 and '03, down 0-3 in 2004, down 1-3 in 2007, and almost again in '08.

But those comebacks were all performed in October. The one facing the 2012 Red Sox will require six months to complete.

When last we saw them on the field on that wild Wednesday night in
Baltimore, the Red Sox completed the worst September collapse in
baseball history. The shockwaves reverberated for months, with tales of
clubhouse malfeasance, the sacking of the manager and abdication of the
GM.

And if history is a guide, those were the best of times.

Everyone remembers the 1978 Red Sox, the 1964 Phillies and the 1996
Angels. No one remembers, '79, '65, '97. Those three postcollapse teams
dropped between 6 to 16 games off the pace of the year before and were
noncontenders.

And in 2012, even with the addition of a second wild-card spot, the
Red Sox are faced with a similar scenario, especially in a
hypercompetitive AL, where the Yankees, Rays, Rangers, Angels and Tigers
all pose formidable obstacles to returning to the postseason for the
first time since 2009.

But don't tell that to Bobby Valentine, who suddenly, after a decade
out of the dugout, found himself manager of the postapocalyptic Red
Sox.

"Motivation is all self-motivation," said Valentine. "That stuff
doesn't come from the manager, it doesn't come from the press, it
doesn't come from the fans. The individuals are motivated by needs and
desires."

How motivated are these Red Sox? How motivated are Josh Beckett and
Jon Lester to put the chicken and beer saga behind them? How motivated
is Carl Crawford, once his wrist is fully healed, to overcome the worst
season of his professional career? How motivated is Adrian Gonzalez to
shake a self-inflicted reputation for a laissez-faire approach to big
games?

And motivation aside, how will Daniel Bard fare as a starter,
especially after being questioned by his outspoken manager? How
effective, and for how long, can Mike Aviles be as the starting
shortstop, with Jose Iglesias on standby?

So many questions. So much time.