FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Last spring, after the Red Sox had splurged on free agent Carl Crawford and traded for Adrian Gonzalez, the team was the consensus pick to win the World Series.
This year, many are picking the Red Sox to finish third in the East. And manager Bobby Valentine isn't paying the predictions any mind.
"I have great expectations with this group,'' said Valentine Thursday. "(We're) not the 'best team ever assembled' this year. I don't know if that's good or bad. I know that, over history, that's been good for some and bad some for some.
"It's just what it is.''
Valentine said the fact that many publications and media outlets are picking the Red Sox to finish out of the post-season wouldn't serve as a rallying point in the clubhouse.
"We expect to make the playoffs,'' he said. "Motivation is all self-motivation. Stuff doesn't come from the manager, it doesn't come from the press and it doesn't come from the fans.
"Individuals are motivated by needs and desires.''