For the most part, the Red Sox will break camp next March looking very much like they did in March 2011. There could be a new designated hitter. There's a chance there's a new closer. You may not see the captain on board anymore.
Then again, all three could come back and many of the remaining roster members will probably be around, barring any major offseason trades.
In a lot of ways, that's a great thing. Few teams have as much talent and ability position-to-position as Boston. Many of the stars are still well within their prime years. And one figures there will be some motivation in that clubhouse after what occurred in September.
When the team makes any personnel moves between now and then, it may just be cosmetic. Perhaps the Sox can take on another veteran to bolster the bullpen or the back end of the rotation, or a candidate to compete for time in right field, or a new backup catcher — something along those lines.
However, those bit players could have a transformative effect if they have one thing: Personality.
Boston has players with personality. Spend five seconds around Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz and you know that to be true. As a whole, however, it never had the feel of a team that was onto something special, even during some of the hot streaks. It was business-like, which can be a good thing, but all too often, the club lacked the little doses of nuttiness that can make all the difference in a 162-game grind.
As Terry Francona said upon his departure, there was never a real galvanizing moment that brought this group together. That doesn't always need to come in the form of a dramatic walk-off win — they had eight of those. It can just be something introduced to the clubhouse in a quirky manner. It's not imperative, but it can't hurt.
There's no way to quantify the impact of quirkiness, but there are examples of how a little bit of levity goes a long way. The 2004 Red Sox were a wonderful example. The wackiness that is Nyjer Morgan has been a big part of what Milwaukee is doing. The club's "Beast Mode" is another.
In 2009, the Yankees made the leap from third place to World Series champs after a vital (also expensive) influx of personality to a staid clubhouse. The very smiley CC Sabathia came aboard. A.J. Burnett has been an underwhelming addition to the rotation, but he did reintroduce the shaving cream pie, a staple of innumerable walk-off wins for that team. Nick Swisher, also brought into the fold for that first year in the new Yankee Stadium, has a motor that doesn't stop.
There are countless other examples throughout baseball history of wacky traditions on winning teams. The Rally Monkey, Sister Sledge, The Mustache Gang, the Rally Karaoke Guy, mullets, whatever it takes. Sometimes a team needs a galvanizing force. The Red Sox in 2011 had nothing of the sort.
There was a Ric Flair presence. Pedroia had a new nickname for a bit (The Muddy Chicken), but even that dried up. Mike Cameron's departure is barely recalled, but it did deprive the clubhouse of its maestro. After he was gone, satellite radio was a popular choice, several times remaining stuck on a bland classic rock channel.
Before a big game on a Sunday afternoon at Fenway Park, "Hotel California" was often getting players pumped up.
It is low on the priority list right now for the Red Sox, but finding some personality this winter, whether from within or without, cannot hurt the cause.
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