In a blog post early Sunday, ESPN.com’s Buster Olney wrote about the 180 he observes in the Red Sox clubhouse this season compared to the toxic atmosphere that existed when Bobby Valentine ran things in 2012.
David Ortiz noted the chemistry as well as a primary reason the first-place Red Sox are one of the biggest surprises in baseball. The only player to have rings from the team’s 2004 and 2007 World Series victories credits both John Farrell and the new “character" guys in the clubhouse -- Jonny Gomes, Shave Victorino, Mike Napoli -- for the turnaround.
Ortiz said he noted the atmosphere changing on Day 1 of spring training, where Farrell set a tone that was much less rigid and more supportive than Valentine did the season before.
“You see a guy like John [Farrell] just coming in and making sure you’re good to go, making sure ‘Hey, we have rules, you know I’m saying? I’m not here to babysit nobody. You are employees, you know what your rules are and you know what you gotta do. It’s up to you if you want to violate it. I’m here to support you, I’m here to build up confidence for you because I want you to go out there and give 100 percent,’” Ortiz explained to Olney in a podcast posted Monday morning.
The 37-year-old All-Star said Farrell is the type of manager players want to go all-out for.
“Every time John told me ‘Hey I’m going to give you a day off today,’ I’m like ‘Hey, I’ll be ready if you need me,'” Ortiz told Olney. "I want to play for him. He has shown us a lot of respect. He has shown that he cares about us. He has shown that we’re going to find a way to win ballgames. When you have a manager like that you want to lay your skin out there for him, know what I’m saying? He’s not only doing that with me. He’s doing that with everybody, doesn’t matter if you just called up, doesn’t matter if you’ve been here 20 years.”
Ortiz said he and his teammates -- especially spark plug Dustin Pedroia -- were quick to embrace the new guys.
“I’ll tell you what, at spring training, there was some point in time this group of guys looked like we were playing together for the past five years for some reason,” Ortiz said. “I don’t even know how to explain it. When you come in from another team and you see a guy like Pedroia screaming all over the place in the clubhouse, being there even before the security, and then a guy like myself that I’ve been here a long time. I walk in and hug you without knowing you. It just makes you feel comfortable.”
The Red Sox are in first place by 4½ games and are currently on pace to win 97 games. Does Ortiz think this team has a chance to go deep into October?
“If everybody stays healthy, I think we can do something special,” Ortiz said. “I know we still have the second half of the season coming up and I know that we need a little help in some places, but being healthy, it gives you the opportunity to win games."