FORT MYERS, Fla. — When you really start to think about it, the 2014 Red Sox are a lot like “The Lego Movie.’’
Everything is awesome.
Thursday was the much-anticipated first full-squad workout, and the entire Sox organization gathered for the first time since they all came down off the duck boats last November. The Sox released a photo of owners John Henry, Tom Werner, Larry Lucchino, plus Sam Kennedy, Jonathan Gilula, and Dr. Charles Steinberg sitting in Kraft-like high chairs, while general manager Ben Cherington addressed the defending world champs behind closed doors.
It was a sun-splashed 80 degrees under Simpsons clouds when the Sox charged out of their clubhouse bound for the first workout on the back fields of JetBlue Park. It reminded me of 2005, when manager Terry Francona noted, “People were bowing and [expletive]’’ when the defending champs of 2004 made their triumphant return to the minor league complex at the end of Edison Avenue in Fort Myers.
We’ve had executives on parade this week at JetBlue. John (William Randolph) Henry had his turn at the bench Wednesday, Lucchino will speak Friday, and Thursday morning we were treated to the wit and wisdom of club chairman Werner as he took questions from outside the clubhouse door.
The Chairman (Mao, Sinatra, Werner?) had a good reply when he was asked how this year compared with last spring (“last year I think people thought we had taken a stupid pill”), and deftly handled Sam Donaldson-esque questions like, “How tough do you think it will be to top last year?’’
“This is a good group of guys,’’ said Werner. “They perform well on the field, they perform well in the community.’’
The Chairman was at his best when he announced the emancipation of Jenny Dell. The popular sideline reporter was sidelined herself when she and boyfriend/third baseman Will Middlebrooks went public with their relationship at the turn of the new year. She’s been chained to the NESN studios since being taken off the Sox beat.
“She’s moving on,’’ said Werner.
Is she moving on from NESN, we wondered.
“She’s looking for other opportunities,’’ said Werner.
Hmm. My understanding was that NESN was forcing Dell to stick around in its Watertown studios. I asked Tom if Jenny was free to leave for another opportunity.
“Yes, she is,’’ said the Chairman.
Free at last.
While Tom was talking, Mr. Henry, the beloved owner of the Red Sox and the Globe, walked from the clubhouse wearing a black sportcoat, holding an umbrella over his head. It was hard not to think of Gene Kelly, Mary Poppins, or Ray Flynn in the Vatican, but Henry will get the last laugh when the rest of us are peeling sunburned skin off our necks.
The big boss no doubt was pleased at the sight of free Globes for everyone. Snowbirds from New England have been denied the pleasure of reading our vaunted broadsheet in Fort Myers in recent years, but this spring the paper is being printed at a site in Southwest Florida. Globe representatives are literally papering the house at JetBlue. Free Abraham and Cafardo for everyone.
Sox manager John Farrell had only good things to say after the workout. He said he told his players to get back to the mind-set that made the team great last year.
“The conversation was about what we do today, not what we did in the previous year,’’ said Farrell. “We’re hungry to do something similar this year.’’
The manager also spoke of the “overall sign of unity and tremendous amount of trust’’ in his veteran clubhouse.
Cherington was the last executive to speak on Thursday.
“The only thing I’ve heard from our players and staff is the relentless focus on what we get done today,’’ Cherington started.
He talked about building depth and acknowledged there is a glut of young starters (what to do with all those arms?) with big league potential. He deflected a question about Stephen Drew, but said the Sox are willing to discuss a contract extension with veteran slugger David Ortiz.
“I’m sure we’ll get a chance to sit with Fern [Cuza, Ortiz’s agent] and David here at some point,’’ said Cherington. “We prefer not to get into details of those publicly, but David’s a very important guy. We know that. Certain guys earn the right to have a hearing and a conversation and he’s certainly one of them.’’
Ortiz was quiet Thursday. After unleashing a fusillade of F-bombs to multiple reporters Tuesday and Wednesday (Ortiz’s Wednesday eruption came just a few hours after the Sox brought in a special adviser for “media training”), Big Papi kept things on the down low on the day of the first full-squad workout.
Swell. The world champs are back at work and everything is awesome.