Manager Bobby Valentine
Much of the winter in New England was spent wringing our collective hands over the revealed facts that while the Sox collapsed in September, certain starting pitchers retreated to eating chicken and drinking beer in the clubhouse during games.
Various badly-informed baseball etiquette mavens sputtered and speculated about this outrageous behavior. And all of it was wrong.
What those admissions of carbohydrate loading meant was simple: the team was splintered, without a core identity to absorb the challenges that inevitably emerge down the stretch in the AL East pennant race. They were not the big, gregarious personalities of the past, and the 2011 Red Sox found no way to come together and support each other. Remember Kevin Millar wandering around the field before Game 4 of the 2004 ALCS, trying to convince everyone (as well as himself) "Don't let us win Game 4".
As Theo Epstein was inclined to remind us on his way out of town, the 2004 group performed more egregious outrages than beer and chicken. But they did them together, in all sorts of ways, including shots of Jack Daniels, Pedro's shower room antics, and Manny being Manny to reduce the tension and stress of overcoming 86 years of failure.
The 2011 team did not have those larger than life personalities. The Schilling's, Millar's, Martinez's, Ramirez's, and Damon's were all gone. More introspective, quieter and possibly more fragile personalities like Ellsbury, Lester, Gonzalez and Crawford had taken their place.
Which brings us to Terry Francona. Tito brought the Nation two championships, in part because he protected the privacy of 'The Idiots' and allowed them the freedom to act out enough to persevere through that 2004 season. That group did not need a manager with a big personality like Mike Scioscia or Joe Maddon.
But his style of managing, both in game and in clubhouse may have been too passive to bring the 2011 collection of socially withdrawn but highly talented players together, particularly because Terry had some private pain of his own.
Bobby Valentine is a much better match for this group. He has already (playfully) criticized Ozzie Guillen and Joe Girardi. He will be the story when the Sox need someone to take the attention away from the players.
Even in spring training we see a very active style of in-game managing, running first to third with everybody including Ortiz, bunting, bringing in the infield in the first inning, etc. He will be that kind of attention-seeking, boisterous personality in the clubhouse as well, and that might be his biggest contribution to the Red Sox chances in 2012.