Originally posted on NESN.com  |  Last updated 10/23/12
A lot has changed since last December, and that was no more clear than it was Tuesday on a sunny October day in Boston. Just 11 months ago, Bobby Valentine was in front of the podium at Fenway Park, speaking about how excited he was to have another chance at managing again, let alone leading the Boston Red Sox. "This day is a special day, and it's more than a special day," Valentine said at his introductory news conference. "It's the beginning of a life that I think is going to extend beyond anything else that I thought of doing. The talent level and the players that we have in this organization, I think, is a gift to anyone. And I'm the receiver of that gift." It was more about the man, not the team, and not the reclamation project in front of Valentine and the Red Sox. The veteran manager even felt the need to defend his character ("I'm not the monster that breathes fire that some people have referred to me as" as well as his reputation ("I am not the polarizing guy the people refer to me as"). The video board once again welcomed a new manager at Fenway Park on Tuesday, but that's where the similarities ended. Where Valentine was happy just to be back in managing, you got the feeling Tuesday that John Farrell always expected to be back in Boston. The Sox went in a completely direction with this managerial, nabbing the man who was presumably the guy they wanted when they ended their relationship with Terry Francona in 2011. Farrell was unable to escape Toronto, though. Valentine was supposed to bridge that gap between the two, but that bridge was faulty, collapsing early in his tenure. The Sox went for the splash and ended up drowning.  Now they turn to Farrell, who made his triumphant return to Boston on Tuesday afternoon. He was impressive, presidential even, as he was reintroduced to New England. He never wavered in his tone, speaking sternly and confidently about what he can do to help the club win ball games Farrell laid out a plan, and that plan coincides with the theme of this ongoing Red Sox cleansing. When the club parted ways with Valentine, the need for a "cultural change" was stressed, and the Sox certainly have that with Farrell.  It's fairly clear that Farrell is going to put his stamp on this ballclub. He spoke with confidence and authority on Tuesday, driving home the belief that he is a no-nonsense leader. It's safe to assume that "passive-aggressive," a term used to describe Valentine, won't be placed in front of Farrell's name any time soon. Farrell preaches preparation -- always has -- and he made a point to mention that multiple times on Tuesday. It's clear that the preparation and planning has already begun, the vision that Farrell has for what he wants his team to be is clear. He spoke of how he wants the ballclub to employ an "up-tempo, aggressive style of play." That change is pivotal to changing the culture, he says. "To play that style of game, it does create an attitude with I think is critical to win at the major league level," he said, also preaching the importance of hustle. "That is non-negotiable. Our effort is controlled. It's controlled every night and that is a minimum. I expect professionalism at the major league level and in this organization." Farrell's familiarity with Boston, whether it's with Ben Cherington, the baseball ops department, the players, the fans, the market, etc., will make all of this easier. Yet, Farrell is not taking the relationship with his players for granted. Despite his no-nonsense ways, Farrell said more than once that a team's success is ultimately rooted with the players, noting that cultivating successful relationships will lead to that success.  "I will work my butt off to earn their trust, to earn their respect," he said. "If that's being described as a players' manager, then that's what I am." And where Valentine faltered as a communicator, expect Farrell to flourish. "I can't speak to what the clubhouse was last year, but I think it's important to communicate with the players, we outline expectations and we have to hold players accountable for what we're trying to get done," he said. "That's leading people." The Red Sox' culture change is under way, and that was abundantly clear on Tuesday. However, that cultural change is not exclusive to the manager's office. It has to continue into the offseason, where the manager-general manager relationship will be crucial. "Ben you said an awful lot of nice things," Farrell said upon taking the podium, "but we know it's going to come down to the quality of the players on the roster." That much is certainly true, and there is a ton of work to be done for Farrell, Cherington and everyone else who calls Yawkey Way home. But if Tuesday is any indication, it appears that the Red Sox are finally headed in the right direction.
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