It feels like I've started a million articles by bringing up the last two seasons of Red Sox baseball and the way they ended as background information. So, really, what's another one? You may recall the last couple seasons of Red Sox baseball ended badly. I sure as heck recall. Because they did. Badly. They were fiery messes of putrid awfulness and we should not speak of them again until the opening of my next article or, possibly, the next paragraph.
One of the stated problems with those teams aside from their inability to play baseball well was that they, and I'm paraphrasing here, didn't care enough. They weren't invested enough, they didn't hard enough. Actually, here. This is the Boston Globe's Nick Cafardo on new Red Sox manager John Farrell.
The inmates will be comfortable again, but Farrell won’t be afraid to shake them up if they get too comfortable. But always remember, John: The inmates are in charge. The last two years are proof of that.
You'll note the word "inmates" is used twice to describe the Red Sox players. Inmates is a word used either to describe residents of a prison or an insane asylum, both places where people are held against their will. I'm not sure the analogy works, but the point is at least clear: that the players were their own worst enemy over the last two seasons. The players, not the manager, and certainly not Bobby Valentine, were the real problem. Mr. Cafardo has been making that argument since the beginning of last season and it may be true.
Getting beyond that though, the perception certainly exists both with the fans and the media that the players are the ones who, for a variety of reasons and not working hard enough being prime among them, have failed the Red Sox organization. Many people think that. Certainly Mr. Cafardo does.
If that's true, then it should come as a small relief to hear the news that many Red Sox players have reported to the Red Sox spring training facility in Fort Myers, Florida over a week before they were required to do so. That speaks to a level of dedication that if nothing else qualifies as promising. If you want players to care, well, this is what caring looks like.
Peter Abraham noted and commented on the situation thusly:
There were 19 pitchers on the field today, a pretty large percentage of the spring training roster. Four of the five catchers on the 40-man roster also are on hand. It's fun to see baseball again, but don't get too caught up in which players are here and which aren't. These are optional workouts and plenty of guys are working just as hard (if not harder) back at their homes. Some players have family matters and other things to attend to before they arrive. If showing up early translated to success, everybody would do it. Showing up on time and being physically prepared to play is really all that matters.
I haven't done a study but I'd stake all the money in your wallet on the fact that, over a large enough sample, teams who report to Spring Training earlier don't win more games during the season than teams who report on time. Talent is what wins on the field. But considering the last two seasons and in particular their endings, isn't it nice to see that many of the players care enough to show up for work in some cases weeks before they had to? To me, it's nice to see they want to win badly enough to show up significantly early.
Getting some significant portion of the roster to Fort Myers earlier than required is not going to make the Red Sox eight percent more likely to beat the Yankees on Opening Day. As Mr. Abraham notes, it might not even be preferable to staying and continuing to work out at home. I'm not sure I buy that, but I suppose the possibility exists that it's true in some cases. But still, since much of the problems from the last few years involved optics, the way things looked as opposed to the way they were, you have to like the optics of this if you're a Red Sox fan.
That many Red Sox players are already in Fort Myers ahead of the reporting deadline might not be significant in terms of the final result, but it should mean something to us, the fans and the media (and sometimes both), the arbiters of who is and who isn't giving their all in the name of winning baseball. That so many players are already there probably won't help keep their starters healthy and productive, it won't keep Andrew Bailey from slipping on a skittle and rupturing his body parts, and it won't make David Ortiz's Achilles injury heal any more quickly. But it does speak to a dedication to the franchise, a desire to win, and a yearning to set things right and once again play winning baseball. That should count for something, shouldn't it?