Editor's note: NESN.com is going to tell the story of the 2012 Red Sox in Bobby Valentine's words. Each game day, we will select a Valentine quote that sums up the day for the Red Sox.
If the Red Sox had a checklist when the season began, it may have included target numbers for wins and player performances.
When Andrew Bailey went down right before Opening Day, "closer" hit the list. Days into the season, "win" was a needed addition.
After the first week, "starting rotation," "offense" and "bullpen" — each with an extended list of subpoints underneath — made the checklist grow evermore long.
The Red Sox have had far more problems this year than they thought they would, but they've also shown that they can counter those problems when they discover them. This Boston team has been moving down its checklist, knocking off the critics' requests slowly but surely.
Not all of the problems are gone, of course, but the three games the Sox took from the Indians at home this weekend did take care of several key areas that have been an issue.
Win at Fenway Park. Check. Win more than once at Fenway Park. Check. Get a good start out of Clay Buchholz. Check. A quality start from Felix Doubront. Check. Daniel Bard. Check. Have the bullpen hold the lead. Check. Get more bats going. Check. Find consistent help from the minors. Check.
The remaining items on the list include lingering questions about the rotation, sustained success by the bullpen and comebacks from injuries for several players, to name a few. But the Red Sox have shown remarkable efficiency working through the list so far, and a sustained effort will have them above .500 and headed toward glory if they can continue to build on their improvements.
Manager Bobby Valentine has said all season that the Sox are hitting well or doing this or that well, but the ball wasn't falling in the right place. It sounded like an excuse for a while, but after the bounces went Boston's way in the recent homestand and the wins rolled in, Valentine's view may have been validated.
Valentine was asked how he felt about the win after Sunday's 12-1 tour de force.
"It's very encouraging, especially at home," Valentine said, "because there were some questions after Game 1 that we'd never play well at home again, and there was a mental state we couldn't break through and la dee da dee da. When you see the guys in the clubhouse, there's a good thing forming, and that's good."
Ah, the clubhouse. If there was ever an item that was on the Red Sox' checklist, it was the clubhouse.
That's why Valentine showed up in the first place. Last year's clubhouse was a wreck by anyone's standard, and when the dust settled after the season was over, that was where all of the fingers were pointing. Valentine was brought in to make a change, and with virtually the rest of the roster untouched, the hope was that this team could right itself.
The funny thing is, that may have happened. The Red Sox are notoriously tight-lipped about what goes on among the team, leaving most surmising this season to those who say things are still cancerous within the clubhouse walls. But newcomers to the Sox have lauded the atmosphere, and veterans have said the team is tight.
Lost in the drama surrounding Josh Beckett's golf trip earlier this week was the pitcher's assessment that the Red Sox are a close group this year. (Fans may have a problem with Beckett, but his teammates don't, he says.)
The clubhouse was the part of the Red Sox that always needed to change, and now signs are showing that maybe it is. No one from the outside will know, but there is one giant indicator that shows whether the team's words truly reflect what's going on inside: wins.
The Red Sox continue to run down their checklist for success and nail the important to-dos one after another. It's been a slower start than they’ve wanted, but they're making progress. And Valentine and his team point to just one place when they need evidence that the good work will continue: the clubhouse is together and wants to make it happen.
If the Red Sox have had their eyes on the key problem all along, chances are they'll be able to fix it, too.