Some 14 hours after having had their season ended in unceremonious fashion by the Cleveland Indians in the ALDS, the Red Sox gathered at Fenway to pack belongings, say goodbyes, and reflect on the 2016 season.
Even in the light of day and the benefit of a night's sleep, a three-game sweep seemed no more palatable. But the day after, it was easier for the Red Sox to recognize what had gone well over the course of the long season.
"It kind of sucks that it ended the way that it did,'' said lefty Drew Pomeranz, "but it's part of the game. I'm very confident in the future; this team is great. This is probably the closest team I've been on. There's a lot of great young people. They all care about each other and they all want to win.''
Indeed, the foundation for a competitive team is in place. The Red Sox entire outfield returns, with only Chris Young older than 26.
In the infield, the Sox are set with Dustin Pedroia and Xander Bogaerts in the middle of the infield. Veterans Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval return, as does the five-man rotation and three catchers under 30.
"We have a lot of good young players,'' said Bogaerts, "good teammates, good guys. We have a lot to be optimistic about.''
Losses -- with the obvious exception of David Ortiz -- will be minimal. A few veteran relievers (Koji Uehara, Junichi Tazawa, Brad Ziegler) are eligible for free agency, but the vast majority of the roster remains under team control.
It should help, too, that a number of veteran players have now had the benefit of a season or two in Boston and know what to expect.
"If you come in here and you perform and you play hard and you play well,'' said David Price, "they're going to love you. And if you don't play up to their standards, it's definitely a different feeling because of the expectation of our fans. They expect almost as much as we do from ourselves and that's not very common in the sports world.''
Price, Rick Porcello, Hanley Ramirez and Craig Kimbrel now have a greater sense of what playing in Boston requires.
And disappointing as the quick first-round exit was, the Sox will likely reap the benefits of its core of young players (Mookie Betts, Jackie Bradley Jr., Andrew Benintendi, Christian Vazquez, Travis Shaw) getting their first exposure to the demands of the postseason play.
"This is the first time I've been in the playoffs, personally,'' said Pomeranz. "Some of the other guys on the team, it's their first time. You definitely learn and you don't want (a disappointing loss) to happen again. I think a lot of guys will really be thinking about this during the off-season, including myself.''
"You learn from stuff like this,'' said Bogaerts. "Hopefully, next year, you're better prepared.''