5 Things the Boston Red Sox Can Learn from the Baltimore Orioles, Oakland A's
Going into the 2012 season, the Boston Red Sox were expected to make their typical playoff run, while the Oakland Athletics weren't thought of as contenders and most had the Baltimore Orioles pegged for 100 losses (including myself, though for the record, I never lost hope).
But then, that's why the games are played on the field and not on paper, as all three teams surprised the baseball world.
With the way the O's and A's performed this season, it's easy to say that many teams around the league could learn from them.
Yet, no team could benefit from some note-taking of these two more than the BoSox.
Don't believe me? Keep reading and I'll show you.
A Tight Clubhouse
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A key factor to any successful team is having a good sense of team unity. If your clubhouse is happy, then your team has a better chance of winning games.
The A's and O's very obviously had a happy clubhouses.
On the flip side, we all know of the troubles and drama the Red Sox experienced throughout the season.
To their credit, Red Sox management got rid of the main source of the problem when they fired ex-manager Bobby Valentine. With the headache that is Valentine out of the equation, it'll be much easier for the players to again focus on winning.
For the Sox to fully recover and become a good team again, they'll need to improve their clubhouse and forget about the distraction that Valentine brought to them.
Something the O's hadn't had for a while before this season was quality depth on the bench and in the minors.
This season, however, both the O's and the A's thrived off of their depth, as injuries hardly fazed then due to guys stepping in and providing key replacement performances.
The Red Sox, on the other hand, had many, many injuries this season, but they didn't have the guys to step in to help keep the team afloat like the O's and A's did. When guys like Jacoby Ellsbury went down for extended periods of time, there was no one adequate to step in for the team.
No successful baseball team is without good depth. It's one of the tougher things to build in a baseball team on a year-to-year basis, but it's absolutely necessary.
Winning in the Clutch
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How many walk-off and late go-ahead wins did the Athletics and Orioles have between the two of them?
Way too many to count.
And on the Orioles part, a handful of them came against the Red Sox.
This season, both the A's and the Birds knew how to get it done in the clutch. During the regular season, the O's were an amazing 16-2 in extras, and both those losses came again the Yankees during the second series of the season.
Winning late in the game definitely goes back to having a strong clubhouse, so the sooner the Sox rebuild their team morale, the sooner they'll go back to being a clutch team.
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To win in the clutch, you also have to be able to hold a lead late in a game and shut down the opposing team's offense, no matter how pressurized the situation.
Enter the bullpens of the Orioles and Athletics, two of the best in baseball in 2012.
Like building a strong bench and team depth, trying to piece together a solid bullpen is one of the harder things to do in the sport, and requires a bit of luck on a year-to-year basis. Heck, this is the first time the O's have had a good bullpen for years.
If the BoSox can put together a dominant bullpen like the O's and A's did, that will help them significantly in making their team a winner once again.
Picking a Good Manager
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As mentioned earlier, Bobby Valentine wasn't exactly the best presence in the Boston clubhouse, to put things mildly.
However, the club was smart in recognizing that and got rid of the problem right after the season came to a close.
This time around, the Red Sox will probably be looking for a manager with not only a very nice and extensive baseball resume, but someone who their players will respect and enjoy being around, much like the O's Buck Showalter (pictured) and the A's Bob Melvin, both of which deserve Manager of the Year honors.
I feel as though Boston has probably learned from their mistake in taking the biggest-name manager available, and this time around, will actually take the time to examine the candidates more closely and make a wiser decision.
That will make all the difference for the team going into 2013. They have the talent on the field, but regardless of talent, no team can win with poor leadership.