McAdam: Williams changed culture at Fenway

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McAdam: Williams changed culture at Fenway

By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com Red Sox Insider Follow @sean_mcadam
BOSTON -- Think of Red Sox history as a movie, say, like The Wizard of Oz.

Through 1966, they were drab and mostly uninteresting, as though seen in black-and-white.

Then, suddenly, everything changed. In 1967, almost overnight, they appeared in color -- vibrant, bold and captivating.

What we now know as Red Sox Nation was born during the season of the Impossible Dream, when Carl Yastrzemski won the Triple Crown and Jim Lonborg won the Cy Young Award.

But Dick Wililams called the shots. Every last one.

"Even with the years Carl and Jim had,'' said former second baseman Mike Andrews, "we never would have won the pennant without him. No way. He put all the parts together and he orchestrated everything.''

Williams went on win two straight World Series with the Oakland A's in 1972 and 1973 and won another pennant with the 1984 San Diego Padres, but for a generation of New England baseball fans, he will forever be identified with the 1967 Red Sox when the franchise permanently captured the hearts of the region.

A surprise choice to manage the Red Sox in the winter of 1966, Williams, true to his bold nature, made a startling prediction upon his hiring: "I'll say one thing -- we'll win more than we lose.''

Today, such a statement would be a given for a franchise whichlast had a losing season in 1997. But pre-1967, it was heresy. The previous year, the Sox had finished a half-game out of last place in a 10-team league. The Sox had last won a pennant in 1946.

The notion of contention was, at best, far-fetched. But not to Williams.

"At the time, I thought, 'He's right, because he won't have it any other way,' '' said Andrews. "That kind of confidence was exactly what Boston needed at the time.''

Before Williams's arrival, the Red Sox were an underachieving bunch, a collection of individuals rather than a true team. Discipline and accountability were non-existent and owner Tom Yawkey, wary of losing, had grown detached.

Williams established a new tone right from the beginning. He stressed hard work and fundamentals and played no favorites.

"To turn around the franchise, they needed someone tough,'' said Andrews. "Dick was the toughest they could get. He was unforgiving.''

The new manager's demanding style was a shock to the veteran players, even after they had been warned by those who'd spent time under Williams in the minors --Andrews, Reggie Smith, Joe Foy and others -- about what to expect.

Williams wasn't above clashing with players, or publicly chastising them. He famously likened talking to first baseman George Scott to "talking to cement.'' And late in the summer of 1969, when he benched Yastrzemski, a favorite of Yawkey, for a perceived lack of hustle, he probably wrote his own pink slip, delivered two months later.

But Williams got results. Young players such as Andrews, Smith and Rico Petrocelli blossomed. Veterans such as Yastrzemski took their game to the next level.

"I remember talking to a ('67) teammate once,'' said Andrews. "I said, 'Isn't it amazing that we all had our best years playing for him?' He would just prod you to be the best.''

Williams wasn't much for communicating with players. It was a different era with few guaranteed contracts and little player security. He didn't feel the need to explain his actions.

He could be gruff and intimidating. Red Sox broadcaster Jerry Remy remembers his rookie season of 1975 with the California Angels, when Remy made the mistake of being thrown out trying to steal third base.

"He wouldn't talk to me for two weeks,'' recalled Remy.

He constantly used the threat of a return trip to Triple-A on young players and wasn't afraid to wield his authority.

But few could match his baseball acumen.

"He was the most knowledgeable guy I ever played for,'' said Remy. "A lot of the things they do now with video, he did on his own. He was way ahead of everyone else. He was always two innings ahead, very sharp.''

And despite his crusty demeanor, Williams could be principled and loyal. When Oakland owner Charlie Finley attempted to fire Andrews for committing two errors in the 1973 World Series, Williams strongly backed his player over his owner . . . and resigned in principle over the incident when the Series was over.

"The way he stood up for me was just wonderful,'' marveled Andrews. "He had character. He was his own man. I just loved the man.''

He managed into the late 1980s, but by then the game -- or more accurately, the culture of the game -- had passed him by. Players wanted explanations and Williams wasn't the explaining type.

"I don't think he ever would have changed,'' said Andrews with admiration. "He was who he was.''

In the end, Williams didn't manage the Red Sox for as long as Butch Hobson, who got to finish his third season. He managed far fewer games than Eddie Kasko, who replaced him but never took the team to the playoffs. But his impact was incalculable.

Without Williams, there would have been no Impossible Dream. And without the Impossible Dream season, the Red Sox, as we know them, would be very, very different.

Said Andrews, who may well have played more games under Williams than any other major league player: "He turned the whole tide from that point on.''

Sean McAdam can be reached at smcadam@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Sean on Twitter at http:twitter.comsean_mcadam

Quotes, notes and stars: Pedroia was focused on winning, not streak

Quotes, notes and stars: Pedroia was focused on winning, not streak

BOSTON -- Quotes, notes and stars from the Red Sox’ 8-3 win over the Royals:

QUOTES

“I hadn’t really thought about it. Trying to win games. It’s late in the year . . . I don’t really have time to sit back and pat myself on the back for anything. We’re trying to win as a team.” - Dustin Pedroia on the importance of the 11-for-11 stretch in his career.

“It’s fun. It’s why you go to work in December, January, February. It’s all the work you put in up to this point. It feels good to go out there and get the results you expect to get, especially against a team like [the Royals] who is hot as they are right now.” - David Price on pitching meaningful games with a playoff-like atmosphere.

“Yeah, yeah we [knew about the streak] . . .  It was an awesome roll and it was fun to see . . . Every time I went up to hit, I let Salvador Perez know.” - Xander Bogaerts on Dustin Pedroia’s 11-for-11 streak.

“I think we’ve been able to handle velocity very well. We’ve got good bat-speed in out lineup, and we’re able to handle that.” - John Farrell on the offense thriving against good pitching.

 

NOTES

* David Ortiz played in his 1,000th game at Fenway Park, becoming the fifth player to do so.

* Ortiz also became the first player ever to play 2,000 games as the designated hitter.

* Mookie Betts scored his 100th run of the season off his 29th home run of the year, joining Fred Lynn, Johnny Pesky and Ted Williams as the only players to reach 100 runs before turning 24.

* The Red Sox hit back-to-back home runs for the fourth time this season with Betts and Hanley Ramirez going yard in the fifth.

* With his 2-for-4 day at the plate, Jackie Bradley Jr. improved to 34-for-94 (.362) batting ninth.

 

STARS

1) Dustin Pedroia

Pedroia finished 4-for-5, extending his streak to 11 hits in 11 at-bats, finishing one shy of tying the MLB record.

2) David Price

Price logged his fourth straight quality start with his six-inning, two-run start. He also dropped his ERA below 4.00 for the first time since his Opening Day start with Boston.

3) Salvador Perez

Perez finished 2-for-3 with two home runs. Saturday marked only the second multi-home run game of his career.

First impressions: Price, Pedroia lead Red Sox to 8-3 win over Royals

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First impressions: Price, Pedroia lead Red Sox to 8-3 win over Royals

BOSTON -- First impressions from the Red Sox 8-3 win over the Kansas City Royals:

 

David Price has found a groove.

Price finally brought his ERA below 4.00.

He’d been about that mark since his second start of the season. Twenty-six starts later, he finally reached the mark.

Saturday’s start marked Price’s fourth-straight quality start. Price will soon eclipse the 200-strikeout, reaching 186 K’s with his seven-strikeout performance.

Although the lefty hasn’t been at his best throughout much of the year, he’s caught fire of late.

Possibly at the most important part of the season, too.

 

Dustin Pedroia just missed making history, can’t buy an out.

Boston’s second baseman entered Saturday with seven hits in his last seven at-bats. He stretched that streak to 11-for-11 with a 4-for-4 game.

He had the chance to go 12-for-12 in the eighth, but weakly grounded into a 4-6-3 double play.

He’s also the first Red Sox player with three straight four-hit games at Fenway Park since 1913.

Boston’s second baseman continues to prove that his struggles in recent years were directly related to injuries, not diminishing performance.

 

The offense passed a big test.

It might’ve appeared that Danny Duffy was a middle-of-the-road pitcher with the way Red Sox hitters tattooed him in Saturday’s win.

But the right only had one loss in 19 starts, with a 2.66 ERA (2.61 as a starter).

Between the long balls and Dustin Pedroia’s incessant ways of late, they ballooned his ERA to 3.01.

A respectable number, still, but a jump of nearly a half of a run.

 

Sandy Leon’s in a minor cold spell.

Possibly the greatest story of Boston’s 2016 offense, Leon hasn’t had too many struggles along the way.

But after finishing 0-for-4 Saturday night, he’s only 2-for-21 (.095) in his last five games.

Saturday also marked only the third time all season where he was held hitless in back-to-back games.

These things happen to everyone, but it was starting to look like Leon didn’t fall under the category of “everyone.”