BOSTON — Boston isn’t for everyone. (Looking at you, Carl Crawford.) But it’s for these guys.
The players that the Red Sox brought in over the offseason have embraced the challenge of playing in front of a passionate — and sometimes critical — fan base. As a result, Fenway Park is once again a difficult place for opponents to play.
“The one thing that stands out is that our guys respond to the environment in here,” manager John Farrell said Friday. “Any time that you come off the road — either after a long road trip — that energy that is created in here, our guys thrive on it. I’m not going to say that we do things differently from an offensive standpoint to play to the ballpark, but I think our guys love playing in this ballpark and this city and in front of these people.”
The Red Sox were awful last season, no matter where they played. Their 34-47 record at home was especially disconcerting, though. Boston fans have always been known for creating a lively atmosphere, yet the team struggled to embrace the competitive edge that Fenway Park typically provides.
The Red Sox’ 2012 problems ran deep, and general manager Ben Cherington was forced to overhaul the roster. Cherington and the Red Sox front office made it clear that both talent and character were factors in their 2013 roster construction, and those claims were supported by the reputations of the players that they acquired. The Red Sox weren’t just seeking players who would contribute to a laid back, productive clubhouse atmosphere, though. They wanted guys who were as passionate about the game as the fans that they’d be playing in front of on a nightly basis.
“[Shane Victorino] is probably the only one when it comes down to specific skill set and how does it match their position,” Farrell said when asked whether a player’s ability to adapt to Fenway played in role in the Red Sox’ offseason moves. “But the bigger picture was who would embrace the environment here and the challenges that are presented, and that’s probably common through the eight or nine free agents who were signed.”
The Red Sox enter Saturday’s game against the Yankees with an AL-best 48-25 (.658) record at home. They trail only the Braves (51-21, .708) when it comes to a home-field edge this season, and they’ve won 14 of their last 19 home contests. The Red Sox have shown an ability to win both at home and on the road, but playing well at Fenway Park should serve them well as they head into the playoffs. The Sox own the best record in the majors, meaning that home-field advantage throughout the postseason is well within reach.
The Red Sox, who own an AL-best 18-7 (.720) record since Aug. 17, could probably win on the moon right now, assuming everyone could deal with the whole gravity issue for nine innings. But Fenway suddenly has the feel of a park that could be hellacious for whoever the Red Sox are matched up against in October.