David Ortiz

Pedroia, healing well, says he could have handled 2017 differently

Pedroia, healing well, says he could have handled 2017 differently

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Often, Dustin Pedroia is not one to expound on his feelings publicly. His interviews with media can be amusing and witty, but they also can be terse. In 2017, they tended toward the latter. 

A welcome-to-spring session with reporters on Saturday brought out 20 minutes of another side of Pedroia, one that seemed almost eager to expound. He was cast in a poor light last season, the year's troubles started to compound early.

Pedroia said Saturday the knee he had repaired in the offseason had been bothering him since April. He called the surgery “the best decision I could have made.” 

“My knee doesn’t hurt,” Pedroia said. “Last year, waking up and walking around was painful. It’s not fun to live your life like that. Having the surgery, I could tell immediately that I was feeling better. Not one time did I have any pain in the entire process. Now, it’s just building strength and getting back to being athletic and things like that and your body picks that up quick.”

Pedroia, 34, didn’t share a timetable. The initial expectation, at the point Pedroia went for the surgery, was that he would be out until at least May.

He shared how he thinks the Red Sox need greater leadership as a group, not just from one individual.

"I’ve thought a lot about this, you know and I’m thinking, man, you know, you guys write all these stories about how we don’t have enough leadership and all this stuff,” Pedroia said. “I’m like, thinking about it, I’m like, when did the Red Sox start getting successful? From 2002 or whatever on. You know, they had Tek [Jason Varitek]. But not only did they have Tek, but they had David [Ortiz], they had Trot Nixon, they had Johnny Damon. There was a ton of core players that were leaders. 

“And then you look at the next championship they won, they had David, Tek, Mike Lowell, Alex [Cora]. There’s multiple leaders. And then ’13, there’s multiple leaders. So I think our core group, our guys that [are young], it’s my responsibility, I need them and they need me and we all have to work together. Because it’s not one leader. And everybody always says that, it’s not one guy in baseball. 

“We have to go be together and know that. I know David’s gone, but you know when Tek was done, we were okay. Because he built that into David, and David’s built that into me to where I got to do a better job of finding a way to get everybody to realize that it’s not one guy, it’s everybody. And that’s — after thinking about it — that’s what it is."

There was more. A lot more. The team, Pedroia said, became too results-oriented in the short term last year.

“It was more ‘Hey, what are our results today? We’ve got to do good today,’” Pedroia said. “‘Bogey’s got to get four hits today. Mookie’s got to live up to huge expectations,’ instead of being who you are, and that’s especially in this environment that’s how you have to be. You have to understand you’re going to be bad and you’re going to be great.”

Twenty minutes in, the second-to-last question was a brief return to last year’s form. Terse.

Pedroia was asked whether there was a team discussion about the handling of the Manny Machado and Dennis Eckersley incidents.

"Yeah, we talked about those things,” Pedroia said, matter of factly. 

It was by far the shortest answer he gave Saturday and stood out for that reason.

Pedroia and everyone else listening knew well that the question, which he did technically answer, was meant to provide some level of insight into those discussions. 

The conclusion: last year still isn’t easy to talk about. Which may be a positive sign. Consider: Pedroia’s reputation as a team leader was questioned. A prideful person who believes in his work, who cares about his standing and his reputation, would be made uncomfortable by last year’s proceedings.

A follow-up question came, and it was something of a breakpoint. Did those discussions resolve the issues quickly, was anything lingering?

He could have given a similar yes-no answer again. 

He didn’t.

“Yeah, no, I mean, I think as a team, no, we were together all the time. You know, those things happen,” Pedroia said. “I mean it’s baseball. I think when you sit back and look at it. Could it have been handled differently? Without question. I mean, 100 percent. It’s like everything in life. You make mistakes and then you don’t make mistakes. So, you know you learn from it, you move forward, you understand if you’re in another situation like that, if you want to do something different, do something different. And that’s what we all took out of it.”

On Saturday, he did something different.

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A year later, Dombrowski may still underestimate Ortiz's departure

A year later, Dombrowski may still underestimate Ortiz's departure

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Dave Dombrowski’s equation for 2018 seems to be this: New manager Alex Cora, plus a year of growth for last year’s players, equals an acceptable replacement of David Ortiz in the clubhouse. (And at the plate, too, although that could change.)

Dombrowski already underestimated the impact of Ortiz’s departure once. He’s in danger of doing the same again.

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The Sox clubhouse issues last season were real, and hearing the players talk about them Thursday only underscored how badly management missed the mark on replacing Ortiz. 

"I knew it would be kinda tough [without him],” Mookie Betts said at JetBlue Park. “I wasn't sure. I’ve never played without him so I didn't know how it would happen or what would happen. But I think last year was definitely a learning curve. I think this year we're getting to kinda know how it works without him now.

“As a whole group, it's just going to take four or five, six guys to kinda fill that one spot. It just lets you know how important he was.”

The collection of Red Sox players is virtually unchanged from a year ago. There is a new skipper.

Alright, go get ‘em, boys? Maybe. Optimism and intent exists inside the group.

“Hopefully I can be in those shoes one day,” Xander Bogaerts said Thursday, “be kind of like a David personality-wise and stuff like that.”

Bogaerts wants to take Rafael Devers under his wing.

Sox players deserve credit for addressing their issues, as they are now doing to an extent publicly. Those in uniform are indeed the enactors. They have to set a new course and strike a better tone -- an objective their best players this spring readily acknowledge is possible and needed. Dombrowski can’t do that for them.

“I think we still enjoyed it. But we could have had more fun,” Betts said of the 2017 season. “Through the rough times, I think those are the times when we could have had a little more fun instead of being down so much. If we hit a rough patch this year, I feel like maybe we can learn from last year and continue to enjoy the game and maybe get out of it faster.”

And where do they find that fun now?

"I think just tension in the locker room as far as if things are down,” Betts said. “We have to find a way to smile and go out and refocus on the game now, versus kinda what's been going on. I think this year will be a little different. I'm going to approach things a little differently, as far as, if I'm not playing well or if we're losing or whatnot, I can do my best to try and find a way to get everybody back happy, smiling, excited and going to play.”

That's everything you want to hear. But are a year's time and a new manager enough to make it come true?

The potential shortcoming of a near-identical roster would fall not only to the players, but to the person who trotted out the same group two years in a row.

If the Sox fall short of improved leadership in 2018 -- if Cora isn't able to do it all himself, and/or the same cast of players do not blossom -- responsibility falls on Dombrowski. It was his job after last year to find not only the right manager, but the right mix of players to bring the mojo.

When the pieces don’t fit, you don’t keep trying to jam them together. Dombrowski has changed one piece: The manager. 

More than ever, the Sox appear able to acknowledge the struggles of the past. If the alternative is to be closed off or in denial publicly, then the players are now taking the healthier approach, for both their outside perception and their own growth.

“We’re all grown men,” Bogaerts said. “I definitely believe we all learn from last year. We had a lot of stuff going on last year, to be honest. We all live learn and move forward. We can’t just sit back and keep reminding ourselves about the past. That’s not something we want to do.”

Bogaerts didn’t want to elaborate on what he meant by "stuff," however.

“I mean, we all know. We all know what was going on,” Bogaerts said. “I don’t think I really want to get into details . . . The quicker we move on is the better for all of us. We should look forward to this year, this is a new year. New expectations. Try to reach the playoffs again and get over that first round.”

But one winter doesn't forge new leaders.

Betts on Thursday was asked about the sense some have that the Red Sox didn't generate as much buzz as a 90-win team usually did.

“I didn’t know that,” Betts said. “Those are the type of things we can’t really do a whole lot to control. Go out and win 95 games? Nothing we can do about if the fans are buzzing or not but win in the playoffs and take care of business.”

It’s a little surprising Betts never heard that chatter, but perhaps he does that strong a job blocking out the public. Betts, like David Price, is correct to note that winning is the closest thing to a panacea. Few people dislike a World Series-winning team, if that’s what the 2018 Sox indeed become. Go all the way, and it all goes away. 

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But fans gravitate to character, to personality, as well as wins. How the Sox act, how they come off, what perceptions (and misperceptions out of their control) arise, all of it affects how people feel about the club.

The same thing that drives a clubhouse and anything else -- human connection -- can impact a fanbase’s passion as well.

Maybe the Sox do know how to connect now, with Cora's. But with so little rewiring this winter, it's on the engineer if there's still static.

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David Ortiz on slow offseason: 'Who the hell is going to play?'

red_sox_david_ortiz_042816.jpg

David Ortiz on slow offseason: 'Who the hell is going to play?'

MASHANTUCKET, Conn. — Red Sox Winter Weekend began Friday night with most current players lining up on a stage at Foxwoods, ahead of a town hall discussion with fans.

Something was obviously missing: a marquis addition, or any addition at all, really, aside from new manager Alex Cora.

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Before the town hall began, chairman Tom Werner offered the media something that sounded like assurance the assembly of players Friday will be supplemented come Opening Day.

“We’re going to make some more moves this offseason,” Werner said. “So, again, I’m not worried so much about where we are on January 17 as where we are on April 1.”

Werner even dangled a carrot of specificity.

“We are in active negotiations with J.D. Martinez,” Werner said. “People know about that. It takes two to make a deal. I can only speak for the Red Sox, we’re going to have — we will most definitely have the highest payroll that we’ve ever had and you know other teams have to make their own decisions but we expect to be competitive and we expect to improve from our team last year.”

Asked if there was momentum with Martinez, Werner went no further.

“I don’t want to get too into the free-agent discussions,” Werner said. “We’re hopeful to make a deal, but as I’ve said, it takes two people to make that deal.”

Later, it took only a couple questions from fans for Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski to be asked where the 2018 Sox would get their power from. Other fans had similar questions about the pace of the offseason and the competition’s improvements.

“The players want more money than the clubs have been willing to offer,” Dombrowski said. “If you want to play, it’s going to change, and I think it’s going to change very quickly.”

As Dombrowski said at a different point in the night: “the ice is going to melt, and it is going to move very fast.”

David Ortiz, speaking to the media alongside Pedro Martinez, has been a busy man in retirement. But he’s noticed the crawl of free agency.

"I'm just wondering, who the hell is going to play this season?” Ortiz said. “Because nobody has signed yet. I'm wondering, what's going on? It's pretty much everybody. I have tons of guys, a friend of mine [who I asked], did you sign yet? Nope. It's almost spring training, bro. What's the deal?' That’s a question you guys should ask the owners.”

Gathered media indeed asked Werner about the pace of free agency.

“I can only speak for the Red Sox,” Werner said. “We’re going to have — we will most definitely have the highest payroll that we’ve ever had, and you know other teams have to make their own decisions, but we expect to be competitive and we expect to improve from our team last year.”

Martinez and Ortiz stopped short of saying the Sox had to add a bat, but they were naturally supportive of an addition like Martinez.

“You always need a bat like that,” Ortiz said. “A bat like that is never a waste.”

Martinez suggested Ortiz would need to come back if Martinez. 

“I was just talking to David, if we don't happen to get one of those big bats, I'm going to get you some lighter bats,” Martinez said. “And I don't know who's going to make those shoes [to keep you healthy], but we've got to make those shoes.”

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