Feb 25, 2012; Fort Myers, FL, USA; Boston Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz (34) during batting practice at spring training at JetBlue Park. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-US PRESSWIRE

Leaders on the bench, in the clubhouse, setting new tone for 2012

“That was just one of those things in there that went really well,”

Valentine said of Ortiz’s speech.

The departures of team captain Jason Varitek, the quiet leader, and their oldest player, Tim Wakefield, left a leadership void that desperately needed to be filled. Enter: David Ortiz.

Papi was the one who stood up and supported Valentine’s no booze in the clubhouse (or on Boston-bound flights) and he took another step toward becoming the unofficial captain of the team, he gave a speech that said that the players needed to take pride in being part of a proud franchise and take the primary responsibility for the team’s fortunes:

“It’s like I told my teammates: Wearing the Red Sox on your chest, on your jersey, you’ve got to be proud of that,” Ortiz said. “You’ve got to be absolutely proud of it, because of the history of this organization. Hopefully everybody takes that personal. Be responsible and know that we’re employees here. We have rules to follow. We have a boss [and] we need to do what he wants us to do.”

Valentine stuck  sharp fork in “laissez faire” pig  and declared it done; he made it clear that he is in charge and will set the pace of the expectations for the team and Papi has made it clear that he will support Valentine and hold his team mates accountable for their their performance and attitude. This tandem of leadership is the perfect antidote to the apathetic, lackadaisical attitude that pervaded the clubhouse last September, like an opium fart.

Pedroia stood up for Captain Tek and said Varitek tried to rally the hands on deck, but that was impossible with Francona suffering emotional stress, distracted and asleep at the ship’s wheel. The “Beer Pitchers” took advantage of the melancholy malaise, went below deck and were out to lunch, and games. But, it’s a new season and it appears that the gamers have read the message: “GAME OVER!”

The new Red Sox theme song is:

“This ain’t no party…this ain’t no disco…

this ain’t no foolin’ around.”

[Talking Heads]

With Valentine and Ortiz on the record, slackers and malcontents are officially on notice: if you are jaking it, you will be noticed and confronted. The specter of Big Papi getting in your face should be enough motivation anyone to do their very best on the field and act like an adult elsewhere.

It has been a team tradition to convene a clubhouse seminar before the first full-squad workout, where representatives from ownership and the front office address the group, as well as the manager. But, for the first time one of the players spoke: David Ortiz:

“I’m one of the older guys here that has been here for the last few years,” Ortiz said. “We had those meetings and we never step up and say things. We just do nothing but listen, but today I think was a good time for us as players to make sure our owners don’t feel guilty about the job that they do.

“I think they [did] a [heck] of a job last year putting a good team together. After that, it’s not on them. It’s on us. I know everybody wants to call them out — Mr. [John] Henry, Larry Lucchino, Tom Werner. At the end of the day, there’s nothing else they can do but do what they did last year and what they did this year: Pick up good players, bring them into the organization. After that, it’s on us.”

Ortiz said it was his idea to address the room.
“I just did it myself,” Papi said. “I think it was time for us to get that monkey off the shoulder of our owners. I saw a lot of heat coming last year to our owners. They can do nothing but put us together. After that, it’s on us.”

Translation: If the team is losing, don’t point the finger at the manager or the management; have integrity, honor the legacy of Pesky, Ted Williams, Lonborg, Evans, Fisk, Yaz, Rice and the others, who represented the city of Boston.

Imagine Ted Williams, Pudge, or Yaz walking into the clubhouse during a game and finding some team mates drinking, eating, and playing video games?  Now, imagine David Ortiz…

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Tags: Ben Cherington Bobby Valentine Carl Yastrzemski Carlton Fisk David Ortiz Featured Jason Varitek Jim Rice John Henry Johnny Pesky Larry Lucchino Tek Tim Wakefield Tito Francona