It’s amazing what a difference a year can make.
After Memorial Day Weekend the Boston Red Sox are currently sitting on top of the AL East at 32-20. At this time last year the Sox were cellar dwellers in the AL East at 24-24. They would ultimately stay in the cellar in 2012 finishing the year in last place at 69-93.
The turnaround up to this point is certainly a welcomed sight to Sox Nation. And it is certainly good news for a franchise that had lost a vast amount of goodwill amongst its fan base.
The ineptitude that the Red Sox exhibited all of last season led many to question the true priorities of the franchise. In particular, the intentions of ownership and upper management came under heavy scrutiny. There was a feeling amongst fans and the media that the team had lost its desire to win. And it led to John Henry, Tom Werner and Larry Lucchino being chastised on a daily basis.
There is definitely a different feeling surrounding this year’s assembled group of players. It is apparent that they play for one another. And opposed to last year, fans actually feel as though they enjoy playing the game. For the most part, the focus has been placed back on the field.
Credit for this about-face should be given to the same ownership and upper management that was vigorously questioned last year. This may be a hard proposal for some to accept. However, it must be remembered that this franchise allowed itself to get out of its own way stemming back to last season.
The now infamous trade that sent Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, and Josh Beckett to the Los Angeles Dodgers was the first step in the recovery process. The Red Sox were able to rid themselves of unwanted salaries and a core of players who simply did not fit the mold of Boston. This showed that the team recognized some obvious problems that needed to be addressed. And as we all know, the first step to recovery is admitting that you have a problem.
It was also obvious that former manager Bobby Valentine was not the right man to lead the Red Sox. The organization does not deserve credit for swiftly ridding itself of his incompetence at the end of last season. They should be criticized for hiring the guy in the first place.
What they ultimately should be praised for is going out and aggressively pursuing the guy that this team needed. Manager John Farrell has clearly been a calming influence in the clubhouse. His presence has provided stability and consistency for a group of players that desperately required both. And although it is still too early to tell if he will be a long-term solution, he has been a breath of fresh air for Sox Nation so far.
Staying away from flashy free-agent Josh Hamilton this offseason is also praiseworthy. It signaled a few things that fans have been looking for. First, it was a clear sign that this team has recognized the error of its ways. And second, it indicated that player personnel decisions have been fully handed over to general manager Ben Cherington. This was a necessary step to ensure that the roster was being built for the purpose of winning baseball games rather than garnering television ratings.
It will be hard for many fans to get the taste of 2012 out of their mouths. Clearly it took them way too long to address the problems that manifested themselves. However, credit should be given where credit is due. Sox ownership and upper management recognized a problem and decided to fix it.
Forgiveness should not come easy. The greatest collapse ever being followed by historically one of the worst seasons in the history of the franchise is not an easy thing to forgive. But if the Red Sox continue onward with their early season success, fans should at least come one step closer towards being able to embrace ownership again.