Optimism reigns supreme at Red Sox spring training

Optimism reigns supreme at Red Sox spring training
February 21, 2011, 9:51 pm
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By SeanMcAdam
CSNNE.com

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Take a tour of other spring training sites in Florida and it seems chaos reigns.

In Jupiter, home of the St. Louis Cardinals, unsigned free agent-to-be Albert Pujols has an uncertain future. In Lakeland, where the Detroit Tigers are based, slugger Miguel Cabrera is in treament, again, for an alcohol abuse program. In Port St. Lucie, the New York Mets' owners are trying to get past being sued for their association with Bernie Madoff.

Everywhere, the news is negative.

Until you get to Fort Myers and the Red Sox, where instead of chaos, there is abundant optimism.

No scandals, no suspensions, no superstar crises in the making.

Just a richness of talent, a good feeling about 2011, and the prospect of a season to remember.

And don't think Red Sox players haven't noticed the difference.

"We all want to go out and just work hard,'' said Dustin Pedroia. "We want to have a great year. Every team, at some point in the year, is going to have some problems.''

The first exhibition game has yet to be played, and injuries or other unwelcome developments could still visit the Red Sox.

But for now, the Sox can enjoy what they have and be thankful that, insofar as they're concerned, life is good.

This is what spring training is supposed to be about -- easing into form, settling on some roster decisions and preparing for the long, six-month season ahead.

Tell that, however, to the New York Yankees. For the first week, the focus was on out-of-shape players like Bartolo Colon and Joba Chamberlain. Then Monday Hank Steinbrenner, who channels the bluster and outrage of his late father far more often than his brother Hal, lamented that some players were "too busy building mansions,'' a not-so-subtle shot at Derek Jeter.

Jeter spoke to reporters over the weekend and wouldn't revisit his contentious contract negotiations from the winter. Time to focus on the game, and all that.

Then, Hank spoke and Jeter was in the cross-hairs again.

"You don't want to deal with any of that stuff at this time of year,'' said Pedroia.

Contrast that to the scene here Saturday, when Red Sox ownership was greeted with a spontaneous standing ovation from the players, in recognition of the spending spree which netted the club Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez in the span of a week last December.

"It's nice that we're not having those issues like so many other teams are having,'' said Tim Wakefield. "You can just do your work and get ready for the season instead of worrying about all the other stuff.''

As the longest-tenured member of the Red Sox, Wakefield knows better than most that not all springs are this smooth. There were years when superstars defiantly reported late to camp. There was the tumultuous spring of 2002, when, in the span of two weeks, the general manager was fired, the manager was fired and ownership changed.

Now that was a distraction.

"There was so much unknown that year,'' said Wakefield. "I think it impacted us in spring training because we didn't know what the future was going to be like. Then, once everything was settled (with Mike Port being named interim GM and Grady Little hired to manage), we could focus. But until then, it was kind of a big deal.''

The biggest deal in Red Sox camp this year is probably this: Who's going to be the seventh man in the bullpen?

"I don't like to get overly confident,'' said Wakefield, "but everything's pointing in the right direction.''

That direction, clearly, is up, regardless of what is happening elsewhere.

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