Team chemistry no small part of season's dramatic turnaround
ST. PETERSBURG -- Started at the bottom, now we're here.
Over and over, Drake's lyrics bellowed inside the visiting clubhouse at Tropicana Field, over the shouts of glee punctuated with flying corks and flying ice chips. The scent of champagne and beer wafted out into the hallway, down the corridor and around the adjoining tunnel, a victory perfume made sweeter with the Red Sox's own mantra.
Started at the bottom, now we're here. Started from the bottom, now my whole team [sic] here.
The song morphed into more of a chant as the goggled Red Sox ran with childlike glee around the sheets of plastic, spraying and yelling, often stopping to recite a chorus that so easily describes this fun-loving Boston club.
"At the right time, they know when to have a good time," first-year Red Sox manager John Farrell said shortly after his team capped a 3-1 win over the Tampa Bay Rays in Game 4 of the American League Division Series to advance to the AL Championship Series.
"We've got a team full of guys who are willing to work," Farrell said. "They love the attention to detail, they come every day ready to get on it that night. Couple things we set the tone for in Spring Training was how we were going to get out there and play the game, the aggressive nature on the basepaths, but more importantly, it was just setting the tone that tonight's game was the most important thing. And setting the personal egos and agendas aside. But more importantly, that group has bought into the team concept.
"They like to have fun, by evident by the beers and all that stuff. This is a group that loves to be together, and they know how to party together, I know that."
There was no argument with Farrell there, not with veteran David Ortiz dumping an entire bottle of bubbly over his manager's head as he spoke, yelling, "Ain't the beer cold?"
Yes it is for this Red Sox team, one that completed a worst-to-first turnaround in 2013 -- securing the AL East pennant with a 97-win season -- and is now just four wins away from the World Series.
"So much work went into this year," said gregarious outfielder Jonny Gomes, who wore an army hat and referenced his team's battle-tested nature. "It's really not a celebration, more of just a deep breath. You talk about sleepless nights and [people saying] you can't do this and you can't do that. And it doesn't matter. It was just a family affair out there [running out to the mound], it truly was.
"It's wasn't like teammates. It was like a family affair."
"Independent of kind of where we were [last year], when we had guys come to Spring Training, everybody bought in," added reliever Craig Breslow. "There's accountability, and 25 guys who prioritize winning baseball games, beyond any kind of individual achievement or accolade."
The bearded Boston players -- who bonded immediately this spring -- had no problem celebrating Wednesday's feat, although they made it clear that the champagne doesn't stop here.
"Let me tell you, everybody is excited right now. We are playing our hearts out. We are going to keep on fighting, we want to get through [the ALCS]," Ortiz said of the Red Sox's next challenge, which will be the winner of Oakland-Detroit's Game 5.
Added Shane Victorino: "This is a part of baseball that you look forward to, you train every offseason for, you go to Spring Training, you look forward to these kind of times. Again, this is one step. We have two more to go. But it's always nice to be able to move on."