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Thinking Outside the Batter's Box: There's no "I" in "Beard," upgrade in character key to Sox' success in 2013

Thinking Outside The Batter's Box is a blog about baseball published every week.
Thinking Outside The Batter’s Box is a blog about baseball published every week.

by Jacob Gurvis

What do you value when it comes to teamwork and being part of a team? Sox skipper John Farrell discussed this concept with the media, and when talking about the type of people the Red Sox looked for prior to this season, he said they strongly considered “how they respected the name on the front of the jersey more than the name on the back.”

That is a great way to put it.  I had never thought of that. He’s absolutely right. Players need to put their team before themselves.

We all know the phrase “There’s no ‘I’ in ‘team.’” Teamwork is an important value when it comes to sports. But how much does the idea of teamwork come in to play nowadays? Well, actually, quite a lot.

The Boston Red Sox are the 2013 World Champions of baseball. This we all know. How did they do it, though? That’s the real question. Going from worst to first, winning 97 games, beating the Tigers and Cardinals in six games, and winning the World Series. What a year. In a sense, it wasn’t so much what the Sox did on the field, but more what they did off the field, and how they did it that really counted.

If Farrel and General Manager Ben Cherington looked for this value of maturity and altruism in the players they signed, then they hit the jackpot with their acquisitions of Ryan Dempster, Stephen Drew, Jonny Gomes, Mike Napoli, Jake Peavy, David Ross, Koji Uehara, and Shane Victorino. This year’s team is the perfect example of how teamwork and fraternity can have an effect on a team’s success, and in this case, completely turn around a franchise. Athletes perform better when they’re having fun and don’t have to stress about clubhouse issues or problems with team chemistry.

If any one thing can symbolize the 2013 Boston Red Sox, it’s the beards. The beards that every player (with only a few exceptions) had been growing for months show the team’s camaraderie and sense of togetherness. They were truly a team. Nay, a family.

Earlier in the season, Sox veteran Ryan Dempster said, “I’ve never had so much fun playing with a group of guys.” He’s not the only one enjoying himself. Dustin Pedroia was able to boil it all down to one sentence. “Yeah, everyone loves each other — that’s it,” he said.

In an eight-month, 162 game season, players on the team spend an enormous amount of time together. Over the course of a season, players bond and become friends, and sometimes, it can have a positive effect. With this Red Sox team, it has made all the difference.

Yes, this team is special. They just won the World Series. After their historical collapse in September 2011 and their horrific 69-93 2012 season, they have gone from worst to first, and are the World Champs. They have proven all doubters wrong, and did it honorably and respectfully. Many players attributed their newfound success to the restructuring of the team’s character, and the happier and laid-back (yet still extremely hard-working and focused) attitude of the players and coaches.

Sox President and CEO Larry Lucchino said, “It’s cliche to talk about character, but sometimes it’s just true. These guys play for each other, they play for a city and a region they care about, and they deserve an enormous amount of credit for the chemistry that they created and for the performances they brought out in each other.”

Perhaps the beginning of this brotherhood came on Patriots Day, April 15. The Boston Marathon Bombings, while a terrible and sad event, unified the entire city of Boston. The Red Sox created the slogan “Boston Strong,” and from then on, they were closer than ever. Tragedy brings people together, and the Boston Strong Bearded Sox certainly experienced that.

Before the season, many reporters and fans were concerned with the team’s new focus on character and personality. “Nice guys finish last” they all said. Well, this group of nice guys are the best, and they proved it from day one. The improvement of character and integrity that this team experienced was integral to their success. They are all honorable, sportsmanlike, talented athletes who came together and brought their healing city a championship. The 2013 Boston Red Sox is a team that will be remembered for its leadership, charisma, honor, and bearded success.

Jarrod Saltalamacchia really nailed it when he reflected on the impact playing on this team has had on him. “When you step on the field with that Boston jersey, it’s a whole different feeling. Whether they boo or cheer for you, they love you. It’s the only city I’ve ever been in that’s that way. The city is one, and we have to be there to support them. At the end of the year, yeah, we’ll fly to different places. But we’re still a team and still a family, and we’ll always remember this.”

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