It took about two weeks last season to realize the Red Sox’ clubhouse was divided. It took less than that this season to realize everyone is now pulling in the same direction.
The Red Sox squeaked out a 6-4 win over the Blue Jays on Friday. The performance was far from perfect, leaving much to be desired from an execution standpoint, but the energy and camaraderie in the Boston locker room continues to be blossom.
Even before the first pitch was delivered on Friday, the Red Sox were offered up a challenge beyond the night’s game. Manager John Farrell was booed relentlessly by Blue Jays fans, who are still bitter about the way he left town. Farrell’s departure can serve as a rallying cry for the Jays, who are now under the tutelage of manager John Gibbons, but it also brings the Red Sox closer together.
Less than four hours after their skipper nonchalantly tipped his cap to the hostile Toronto crowd, the Red Sox exited Rogers Centre even more cohesive than when they entered the stadium, with the prevailing thought being that they’re in this thing together.
“We’re starting to be tight-knit,” Jonny Gomes told reporters after the game. “If they’re booing any of our guys, we’ve got your back. If they’re booing our manager, we’ve got your back.”
Whether it’s guilt by association or the sense that this season could feature some hard-fought, meaningful battles between the two teams, the booing extended beyond Farrell, building the foundation for what could be a yearlong rivalry. But rather than shy away or fold under the unusually high pressure for an April game in Toronto, the Red Sox seemed to relish the opportunity.
“It was fun. It honestly was,” catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia said after the game. “When you do something good, and they got so quiet. Whenever they did something, they got crazy again, which pumped us up. What they did with Farrell — yelling, screaming — that’s great. That pumped us up. We have his back. It makes it fun for us. Instead of a dull 15-20,000 fans out there where nothing is going on. That is what you play for.”
The Red Sox seem to be playing for more than just that moment, though. They’re playing to prove that last season was a fluke, and that the right pieces are now in place for them to start making noise in the American League East again.
The Sox entered last season on the heels of the September 2011 collapse and vowed to atone for their mistakes, but the team’s chemistry was called into question before reaching the 10-game mark. Then-manager Bobby Valentine had made a comment about Kevin Youkilis prior to the Red Sox’ Patriots’ Day game, and it snowballed into a lingering issue that magnified the level of tension within the locker room.
Many players defended Valentine last season and suggested that he wasn’t to blame for the team’s struggles. On Friday, this year’s version of the Red Sox went out and proved that they’re not only ready to defend their new skipper to the media, but they’re also willing to do whatever it takes to be successful on the diamond.
It’s easy to say Friday’s win was for Farrell. God knows the guy deserved it for the beating he took from the paying customers at Rogers Centre. But in fact, the victory was for everyone in the clubhouse.
For an entire unit focused on the same goal, a win for one is a win for all.
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