Red Sox seek peak in roller-coaster division ride
Worst to first a possibility for second time in four seasons after offseason boost
BOSTON -- Fresh off the Patriots winning their fourth Super Bowl in the 21st century, anything seems possible when it comes to the Boston sports scene. With another snowstorm sweeping through the area on Monday, it seems like an appropriate time to envision more thrills that could be created by the Red Sox.
It might be a bit early to be bold enough to suggest the Sox will win their fourth World Series title since 2004 -- not to mention the ninth championship by a Boston major sports team since 2001. But another significant achievement seems there for the taking.
Could the Red Sox become the first team in baseball history to go worst to first to worst to first? The table is at least set for that occurrence. The American League East, on paper anyway, lacks a dominant team and seems wide open.
No team had even gone worst to first to worst in its division before the 2012-14 Red Sox.
But the 2015 season represents the fun part of that topsy-turvy equation -- the rebound. And nobody enjoys the challenge more than Dustin Pedroia, Boston's emotional leader.
"I don't worry about the year before. Every year, I show up there trying to win the World Series," said Pedroia. "I don't care what we did the year before. Obviously it's in the back of your mind that we didn't play good. We finished in last place. But every year, you're always motivated to win the World Series."
One thing that was key in the dramatic turnaround the Red Sox had from last place in 2012 to a World Series championship in '13 was a blend of fresh faces to go with the strong core. That same dynamic is in place this year, as general manager Ben Cherington added two strong hitters to the lineup in Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez, as well as starting pitchers Rick Porcello, Wade Miley and Justin Masterson.
The remarkable thing about the 2013 squad is how quickly the players came together from a chemistry standpoint. With Pedroia and David Ortiz still setting the tone, perhaps that can happen again.
"That's everything," said Ramirez. "I think it's not going to be a problem, because we have Papi, we have Pedroia, we have a bunch of guys who love to play and it's one goal every day: to win. We're all going to be on the same page. We're going to have each others' backs."
Team camaraderie was very evident at the recent Red Sox Winter Weekend Event at Foxwoods Resort and Casino, at which a large majority of the team showed up and bonded for a couple of days.
"You have to be around each other," Pedroia said. "I think that's one of the things, in 2013 we were close, still are. I talk to those guys all the time. If you build a team like that and you bond with each other and you always have each others' backs, you don't just play better, you do everything better together. Once you form that, it's pretty special."
Though manager John Farrell wasn't with Boston for the last-place finish of 2012, he was front and center for the turnaround the following year. That experience will give Farrell some obvious talking points as he addresses his team both individually and collectively this spring.
"Well, our roster shows we have a very likely and legitimate chance to turn around," said Farrell. "This is a talented and deep group. Ben has done a great job addressing our needs by bringing these players in."
Thus far, the feedback Farrell has received from his players has been just what he hoped for.
"I think talking with guys in small groups as they've come through Fenway or talking to them individually, this is a group, even though we're not together yet, that's growing in confidence even though we haven't stepped on the field yet," said Farrell.
Sandoval certainly brings some championship clout, having won the World Series three times with the Giants. And each time San Francisco won it all, it was coming off a season that didn't include a postseason berth.
"When we were struggling, we always stayed together to try to get better the next year," Sandoval said. "I'm going to try to bring those experiences here."
While New Englanders will revel in the accomplishment of the Patriots for a few more days at least, the Red Sox will soon gather under the warm sun of Fort Myers, Fla.
"Everybody here wants to win," said right-hander Joe Kelly. "There's nothing better than winning. There's nothing better than when an organization top to bottom wants to win."
And once again, Boston hopes to go from the bottom right to the top.