FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Red Sox third base coach Brian Butterfield had a group of veteran players kneeling on the grass in foul territory near third base. Butterfield was hihgly animated in his delivery to the group. Manager John Farrell has said baserunning will be a priority this spring training, a message Butterfield was trying to impart.
I try to, he said. I even explained to the players, hopefully you dont get sick of me but spring training is a time when you prepare for the season, who youre going to be, create an identity. So, yeah, the baserunning is a lot of effort, its a lot of intelligence, and its a lot of attentiveness. Sometimes thats a tough sell with players because thats not what makes them money. Hitting balls in the seats, hitting the ball, catching it, striking people out, thats what makes these guys money. And more power to them. But this is a phase of the game where you dont really go to the bargaining table with it. Its for us.
The Red Sox as a team stole 97 bases, getting caught 31 times for a 76 percent success rate. Not bad, though they had more stolen bases than just four other American League teams and were 20th overall.
But its not just about stealing bases.
Its important for us as coaches and John wants us to try to sell the importance because we want to be a real good baserunning team, Butterfield said. And we try to impart to them that during the course of the season were not always going to be swinging the bats. This guy may be struggling or were facing an outstanding pitching staff where now how are you going to win games if youre not swinging like youre capable of?
"Well, you got to catch the ball consistently, you got to pitch, and if we have that extra vehicle of being able to manufacture something with our legs, well be a better club for it. We try to grind the importance of baserunning to help us win games. Theyre going to get sick of hearing me within the next 10 days but Im going to keep going.
Its an aspect of the game that can be undervalued. Butterfield knows if he can get certain people to buy into the philosophy, it can be an easier sell overall.
Without a doubt, he said. And I think that everybody in baseball has the intentions of doing everything right, running the bases right, going hard 90 feet, always going into second base and sliding, threatening the next base. But somewhere along the lines when one of your veteran players, one of your core guys, whether hes hurt or hes mad and doesnt give that good effort, then all of a sudden, the next guy follows suit.
Theres certain people on your club that the young and guys and veteran guys look up to follow, I feel like on this club -- I even mentioned to the guys yesterday -- Im feeling real good about the possibilities of us being an outstanding baserunning club not because of our speed. But because of the veteran leadership that we have, I feel like we have guys who can carry the torch, guys are going to look to, whether theyre young guys or veteran guys, theyre going to look and they say, 'Jeez, I better fall in line because this is the way this guy does it, this is the way they want them to do it, so Im going to follow suit.' So I feel good about that.