McAdam: Sox offer encouragement in small sample

McAdam: Sox offer encouragement in small sample
April 9, 2013, 12:00 pm
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This Red Sox team has only been together for a couple of months, but already they're showing how they're different than the less likable groups of years past.

(AP Images)

BOSTON -- It's been seven games.
      
Six of those games came against an injury-ravaged Yankee team and a Blue Jays squad that was cobbled together over the winter and are still searching for its identity.
      
And yet, this Red Sox team is better than expected. Easier to root for. More -- dare we say it? -- likable?      

Admittedly, we're just a week into the season. There will be slumps and injuries to overcome, challenges ahead that this team may prove incapable of meeting.
      
But already, the signs are positive.
      
If you were looking for signs, there was one in the ninth inning, eight days ago in Yankee Stadium, when Jonny Gomes, making like a locomotive, charged from second base to home on a groundball that barely left the infield dirt. When he popped up out of his slide and punched the air in celebration, it was as if he was knocking out the last two seasons -- the entitlement, the whining -- and declaring a fresh start.
      
Just for good measure, the dugout exploded with him, infected by his enthusiasm. Gomes would later shrug off his hustle, calmly noting that he been motivated merely by tacking on an insurance run and giving a teammate an RBI.
      
You could see signs of this "one-for-all, all-for-one" spirit take root in spring training. It was there when John Lackey, not scheduled to throw and off for the day, traveled to a back field one afternoon to watch -- and support -- Jon Lester as he threw a minor-league game.
      
It was there, too, in the support that Red Sox players offered Lackey in his comeback spring, and again in the concern they showed in Toronto Saturday when the pitcher grabbed his biceps in pain and trudged off the mound, his future then uncertain.
      
And it was there at the home opener Monday when a former player paid a visit to the clubhouse shortly before gametime and sensed an esprit de corps, a sense of excitement mixed with purpose, that had been all too rare last year.
      
Evidently, it's catching on. Television ratings through the first week have been on the upswing, with the team's game against Toronto last Saturday afternoon easily outdistancing the numbers for a key, late-season Bruins-Canadiens game later that night. Such a discrepancy would have been unthinkable only a few weeks ago, when the only news concerning the Red Sox that resonated in New England was the status of David Ortiz's heel and some kid named Bradley.
      
In the clubhouse, you hear more regard for one another, even if some of it takes the form of time-honored ribbing. You see Dustin Pedroia jokingly encourage young shortstop Jose Iglesias to go buy himself some expensive jewelry being hawked by a vendor outside following a multi-hit Grapefruit League game, with Pedroia reminding Iglesias that he had already bought himself an expensive sports car in the offseason "for hitting one [expletive] homer last season.''
      
Iglesias smiled sheepishly at the good-natured taunt, knowing Pedroia's barb was a sign that he now belongs.
      
There's the unbridled enthusiasm of third-base coach Brian Butterfield Monday, a native New Englander, readying for his first home spent in a Red Sox uniform after a lifetime in baseball.
      
And there's the way in which the Sox rally around their manager, drawn to play to get him a win after the Toronto fans turn him to Canada's Public Enemy No. 1. But their devotion only goes so far: As John Farrell answered questions in his office following another win -- and a series victory -- Sunday afternoon, an unidentified player walks by the media-packed office and serenades him with "Faaaaaaaarrrrrr-ellllllll . . . Faaaaaaarrrrrrr-ellllll," the same chants which rocked Rogers Centre on Friday night.
      
Again, seven games do not a season make. Not even close. And baseball seasons are littered with teams who sprint out of the gate briefly, only to trip and fall around the first turn.
      
We don't yet know how good they're going to be, to say nothing of how resilient or durable.
      
But a week in, they sure are likeable. And that's a start.
      
A good start indeed, given how they finished last year.