The second baseman opened up about John Farrell’s time in Boston.
Dustin Pedroia has never felt timid to speak his mind; last year was evident of that.
“It’s not me, it’s them,” were the controversial words spewed by the second baseman from the opposing dugout at Camden Yards, irking nearly every Red Sox fan.
Or the famous “Nothing is going to divide this team,” the then 33 year old told reporters three months later. “For whatever people say from the outside — ‘We don’t have a leader’ — I’m standing right here. I’ve been here for a long time.
If last season seemed tense and a bit pretentious, it’s because it was. Former manager John Farrell‘s approach didn’t age well with the club house. Pedroia told WEEI’s Mike Cole that Farrell was part of the reason the Red Sox didn’t enjoy themselves last year.
"“The overall approach, every day, would wear on guys. It wasn’t people not liking each other. We all love each other. Trust me,” Pedroia said Monday morning on WEEI’s “OMF.”"
This should come to no one’s surprise, as these reports were already leaked by Mookie Betts and Xander Bogaerts. However, hearing it from Pedroia — a player who was rarely critical of his former manager — admit it to the media says a lot about how much emotion the team held in last season.
"“There’s the mindset of, ‘You show up to the yard, you put your work in, you have your approach that day, and you try to execute it. If you don’t, guess what? You’re going to show up tomorrow and still be in the lineup. We’re all going to have confidence in you. We’re all going to show up and try to win and accomplish the same thing.’ That’s what wore on guys and made the season that much more grueling — when everything that day was more magnified. It put a lot of pressure on our young guys, it put a lot of pressure on our veteran guys. That’s the part, when you hear Mookie (Betts) or (Xander Bogaerts) say they weren’t having much fun, you don’t ever have a chance to enjoy yourself if you don’t go 4-for-4, throw a complete game shutout, or we don’t win by 10. You don’t look ahead to the end of what we were trying to build for.”"
Although Pedroia’s comments don’t fully explain the situation, it sounds like Farrell emphasized winning in a robotic fashion, over attention to detail and player happiness. While winning is important, perhaps Farrell pushed the Red Sox a bit too hard to win without any emotion or passion attached to each game.
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Winning is the most important thing to any fan base in sports. Some fans will be engulfed in Red Sox nostalgia, while others won’t follow closely until September (aka Pink Hats).
But winning isn’t the only important thing, and the players who are sacrificing their bodies daily for the entertainment of others need to be physically fresh, mentally stable and emotionally pleased to be able to produce on the field. There aren’t many professions that have thousands of people watching your every move, only to criticize you every time you fail. Even if you’re paid an astronomical amount to do so.
John Farrell deserves his share of both credit and criticism. Whether fans want to believe it or not, Farrell brought this team a World Series title in 2013 and managed the team well. His act wore out the following years and his decision making and game management were subpar at best.
Combine this with the lack of happiness in the clubhouse, and the perfect storm was created in his last season as Red Sox manager.
The Red Sox want to get back to enjoying the game. They want to play the game with grit, passion and swagger, and want to win games with a smile on their faces. The players know the past two years came to a disappointing ending, but have bought in on the approach by new Red Sox manager Alex Cora.
"“It’s more put your work in and stick with the process, don’t worry about results that day because, over the course of the season, you’re going to be the type of player you are throughout 162 games,” Pedroia said on WEEI. “You don’t stay away from what your strengths are. If you’re facing a tough pitcher that day, and my strength is pulling the ball, and he throws every pitch on the corner away, and I go 0-for-4, it’s not panic, show up the next day and try to become a guy who hits the ball the other way all of the time. It’s more process oriented than result-that-day oriented.”"
This may be the most positive buzz the Red Sox have had in two years. The theme of redemption is echoed by players who failed to live up to expectations last year, and all are dedicated to produce a special season for the fans.
But the expectations for Cora are exceptionally high, and only through adversity, will we see what he and this team are made of in 2018.