On first full day of workouts, Red Sox’ message is to repeat their success
FORT MYERS, Fla. — The 2018 World Series trophy was at JetBlue Park on Monday to serve as a visual aid of what is possible.
The Red Sox had what they like to call their “company meeting” before the first full-squad workout of spring training. But this was not a day for clean starts, turning the page, flipping a switch or whatever other hackneyed phrase people use when they’re not sure what else to say.
The Red Sox return nearly every vital player from a 108-win team that won 11 of 14 games in the postseason. They also have the highest payroll in baseball.
Why start over when you can keep building?
“We’re not closing the door. We’re continuing,” manager Alex Cora said. “The whole turning-the-page thing . . . you turn the page because something negative happened. There’s nothing negative from 2018.
“My life is a book and we have different chapters — family and friends and kids and baseball and school. We’re going to continue what we did last year as far as our principles. We believe if we keep doing that we’re going to be in a good spot.”
Cora also believes in brevity. The meeting started at 8:30 a.m. and broke up an hour later, far quicker than previous get-togethers.
Much of the focus was on thanking team staffers — on the field and off — for their work in fostering a positive environment last season.
“There were four principles that I do believe coming into this situation last year that we had to be on top of: communication, connection, preparation and execution,” Cora said.
“Obviously we executed. We prepared as best as we can. Communication and connection, from top to bottom, it was on point. I just wanted to make a point to everybody that was involved, everybody that was in that meeting, to thank them. Because without them, no chance we win the World Series.”
Principal owner John Henry approved of Cora’s message.
“This is more about writing a new chapter. I thought that was brilliant,” he said.
No team has repeated as champion since the Yankees won three in a row from 1998-2000. Seventeen teams have tried since and failed, the 2004, 2007 and 2013 Red Sox among them.
But these Red Sox, like the dynasty Yankees, have a core group of star players and a manager who has a firm understanding how best to deal with expectations, egos and a demanding market.
Cora has not accomplished what Joe Torre did with the Yankees. But there is the same sense of his being the right person for the job.
And while Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts, Andrew Benintendi, Jackie Bradley Jr., J.D. Martinez, Chris Sale, David Price and Rick Porcello may not offer an exact comparison to Derek Jeter and Co., it’s clear the Sox have built a base of success.
“There’s something good happening here,” Cora said. “The organization has put the team in a spot to win the World Series the last three years. That’s what it’s all about — give yourself a chance throughout the season to make it to the playoffs. You win 11 or you win 12 and you win the World Series.”
Cora plans to address the players further on Tuesday. But his message is already taking hold.
“We’re ready to get back to work. Get back to the fundamentals,” Bradley said. “In spring training you want to get that feel so you can visualize it during the regular season.
“We want to win it again. We get reminded of it, that it’s hard to win, but we embrace repeating. There’s no other way to treat it. We can’t pretend we didn’t win last year. We’re going to do everything in our power to do it again.”
First baseman Steve Pearce, who was acquired via trade last June, said he jumped at a chance to return when the Red Sox offered the same $6.25 million salary he had in 2018.
“This is the environment I want. I wasn’t looking for two years or maybe a chance to get a little more. I wanted to win again,” Pearce said. “There’s something special here.”
Once the Sox got on the field, it was a crisp workout with little wasted time on what was a humid day.
“No excuses. No talk about anything else but baseball, which is the cool part. Everybody is here and ready to work,” Cora said.