Chemistry can?t be created artificially. It must evolve naturally within a clubhouse.
The 2013 Boston Red Sox learned the benefits of a good rapport among teammates, as their season culminated with a World Series title, largely because each member of the club strove toward one goal. The Red Sox are hoping for a similar development in 2015. The early signs are encouraging.
?A lot of the conversations, and many of the conversations this offseason, have been somewhat reminiscent of that of pre-?13,? Red Sox manager John Farrell said Friday at the team?s annual Town Hall. ?The returning players are eager to get started because of the finish of the previous year.?
The Red Sox?s 2014 season was anything but satisfactory. Boston zombie-walked its way to a 71-91 record and a last-place finish in the American League East just months after achieving championship glory. Chemistry wasn?t the issue — injuries, underperformance and overreliance on young players were — but there?s certainly an advantage to everyone being on the same page throughout a 162-game grind, even if the exact impact can?t be quantified.
?It?s important to have that element,? Farrell said. ?We spend nearly eight months every day together. It can get repetitive, obviously, so to have characteristic and have personality and have the drink be stirred, so to speak, we need that in a person, and we have those guys on the roster.?
The Red Sox?s pre-2013 acquisitions included Shane Victorino, Mike Napoli, Koji Uehara, Jonny Gomes, David Ross, Ryan Dempster and Stephen Drew. Each player added value to the Red Sox — on the field and in the clubhouse — and contributed to Boston?s overall success despite arriving to little fanfare.
The Red Sox?s approach this offseason is far from a carbon copy. Boston spent nearly $200 million on Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez — two of the top free agents available — and made a strong push to re-sign Jon Lester, whom they traded to the Oakland Athletics last season. The splurge came on the heels of outbidding everyone for Cuban outfielder Rusney Castillo (seven years, $72.5 million) in August.
There are some similarities between the offseason tactics, though. For one, Boston isn?t overlooking the potential impact of clubhouse chemistry, even if it isn?t a top priority amid the team?s roster reconstruction.
?There?s going to be so many different opinions or definitions of what chemistry is, and does it come before winning or does it come after you win as a team?? Farrell said. ?I think the most important thing is that our guys need to sacrifice for one another, they need to have one another?s backs.
“They don?t need to go out to dinner with everyone each night on the road, but I think it?s important that we sacrifice for one another and have one another?s backs, and that means on and off the field.?
The Red Sox have added the likes of Rick Porcello, Wade Miley and Justin Masterson in addition to signing Sandoval and Ramirez this winter. More moves could follow. But while even the players acquired last July, like Joe Kelly and Allen Craig, still are getting their feet wet, there?s a distinct buzz that makes it?s hard to believe the team is coming off its second last-place finish in three seasons.
?Everyone hanging out eating dinner together. It?s basically just a lot of fun so far,? Kelly said Saturday at the Red Sox?s Baseball Winter Weekend event at Foxwoods Resort Casino. ?These guys are awesome, and I feel like we?re already team-bonding really, really well. Chemistry is huge.?
?If the team gets along and you have good team chemistry, you?re going to go out there and strap it on, and you know you want to play for the guy that?s out there,? Kelly added. ? ? It?s just fun like that when you get good characters, good people. It?s fun to see those guys and if they?re willing to go out and work. Everybody here wants to win.?
For an extra push, the newcomers can turn to veterans like Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz, who have been around for the organization?s highs and lows. The duo certainly can speak to the benefits of chemistry, which sometimes translates to on-field success not-so-coincidentally. (For example, Pedroia on Saturday pointed to understanding former Red Sox leadoff hitter Jacoby Ellsbury?s stolen base tendencies while batting in the No. 2 hole.)
The Red Sox?s 2015 lineup and rotation aren?t etched in stone. Far from it. Things are taking shape, though, and team-bonding has been at the center of Boston?s recent offseason developments.
?That?s everything,? Ramirez said Saturday of the Red Sox?s chemistry. ?I think it?s not going to be a problem because we?ve got Papi, we?ve got Pedroia, we?ve got a bunch of guys that love to play.
?It?s one goal every day: just win. We are all going to be (on the same page). We?re going to have each other?s back and not try to do too much.?
The Red Sox can?t show up to spring training in February and expect to replicate 2013 to a tee. It?s a new year, a new team and there are new faces. But the club can bond together in its own unique way in pursuit of a common goal.
Thumbnail photo via Tim Heitman/USA TODAY Sports Images