Sox players see something special in their team

Sox players see something special in their team
October 2, 2013, 9:00 am
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BOSTON – Almost any observer who had spent any amount of time around the Red Sox last season could tell, from the moment they first convened their full team in spring training, that things were going to be different in 2013 than their last few seasons had been – from the embarrassing meltdown in 2011 to the dysfunctional and chaotic 2012 season. The clubhouse, cleansed of malcontents and the noxious atmosphere they produced, had a different – healthy – vibe.
Just how that new attitude would translate into wins and losses was unknown back in February. But it had to be better.
Jake Peavy, though, could tell the moment he arrived just before the trading deadline in July, from the White Sox who would go on to finish last in the American League Central this season. He wasted little time using the word "special" to describe his new team, and has used it often since then.
“The biggest thing is the chemistry in this clubhouse,” said Peavy, a veteran of 12 seasons. “I know that people, some people in the game will tell you that chemistry’s overrated. But that’s absolutely bogus. I promise you in baseball there’s a direct correlation with how guys play on the field and how they feel about each other off the field. And when a team goes to dinner, the way this team goes together and this team gets in hotel suites and talks about the game and talks about stuff that we can get better at and has fun off the field and the looseness in the clubhouse yet the preparation. It’s very loose as you guys see it in here. We’re always prodding each other and getting on each other. But at the same time, there’s always that edge there, when [game time] starts creeping, that’s what the day’s about.
“When you see all that come together, you understand why this team in the regular season accomplished what it accomplished. I obviously come from the complete opposite this year of that, so when I got in the mix and saw this happening -- with the talent in this room – I said this is obviously a place where something special could happen. That along with the fan base, too. Even when you have a bad day you’re going out here in Fenway and there’s going to be 30-plus thousand pulling you on that care as much as you care. That means a lot as well.”
The turbulence of the last few seasons has made this season all the more rewarding.
“It’s been a blast,” said Jarrod Saltalamacchia. “This has been the most fun I’ve ever had playing baseball. It’s not because of me doing well or anything like that. That's what’s great about this team. We root for the next guy. It’s  [Mike Carp] hitting that grand slam in Tampa. We were happy because he hit the grand slam. It was him, a guy who doesn’t get a lot of playing time but when he does he succeeds. You feel good for him. That’s what you need to have, guys who are here for each other not just selfish going out there for themselves. There’s not one guy here like that.
“It’s a bunch of guys going out there and enjoying the game of baseball, talking about baseball, just being about baseball all the time. Beards aren’t something we said hey, yeah, let’s go ahead and do this, let’s go [shave] lines in our heads. It’s just this team talking about things. That’s what we end up all doing, because we’re all together, we’re all talking. It’s not one or two guys doing it. It’s everybody. We’re a bunch of baseball junkies.”
John Farrell, who returned to the Sox -- where he had been the pitching coach for four seasons, including his first season in 2007, when the Sox won the World Series – from two years as manager in Toronto, was charged with leading the team out of the remnants of the last two seasons to its first playoff appearance since 2009.
There were several milestones along the way, he said, that made him think his team might be on its way to something special.
“To single out any one, any one moment, that might be difficult because it’s continued to evolve throughout the course of the year,” Farrell said. “Spring training was one. We knew that this was a very good collection of individuals, good collection of talented players.
“The one moment that stands out in my mind is standing during the moment of silence in Cleveland following the bombing here [at the Boston Marathon finish line]. And it wasn’t so much about on-field performance. We had gotten off to a good start, the first two, three weeks of the season. But we saw some things come out of the individuals that spoke to their understanding that they were in a special place and showed some characteristic at a very difficult and unique time. And whether that was the galvanizing moment for this team, I can’t say that, but it was a moment in time where guys showed a different side of them that this was a special group. What the  performance was going to be, the total number of wins achieved, we didn’t know. But there as a characteristic that showed through in that moment that was special.”
For Jonny Gomes, one of the newcomers this season who has helped to change the clubhouse culture, it was that. And more.
“You could say so,” said Jonny Gomes. “I think there’s a lot more that you play for in between those lines. You obviously play for your manager, you play for the identity of the team, you play for the city you represent. We represent the Red Sox, we represent Boston. The professionals in side here, the guys with huge hearts and heavy bats are willing to take that load. But I don’t think it’s a win-loss record that determines that ‘Boston Strong’ that we’ve built. I think it’s almost like a lifestyle and way you go about things. Fortunately for us, we’ll continue to represent that.”