The overall chemistry and personality of the 2009 club is starting to take shape. So far that shape is, generally, young, homegrown and hilarious.
For evidence of this, the official site's featured video of Sox photo-day outtakes is not to be missed. Dustin Pedroia...the guy is just ruthlessly funny. He never lets up on the funny. And I may never get tired of hearing Youk try to pronounce 'recyclable bottles'. (I'm also thrilled the Youk-Fu will be perserved for posterity on the Jumbo-Tron this season).
Meanwhile, today Justin Masterson (the largest man ever to drive a Mini Cooper) opened his press conference with some impromptu beatboxing.
They're as carefree a team so far this year as any I can remember (including the 2004 Idiots--they played up their devil-may-care attitude, but tension lurked in the background for that team all year).
But there's also a serious side to all this talented youthful exuberance. In the midst of the lazy lack of meaning of today's Spring Training game against Tampa Bay, NESN broadcasters Don Orsillo and Gordon Edes--in the booth today in Remy's continued absence*--discussed their surprise at how the Sox had sewed up both Youk and Pedroia this off-season. Even as they spoke, reports (still maddeningly unconfirmed) surfaced about an extension to Jon Lester's contract.
At the end of their contemplation, the announcers concluded the boys have taken a hometown discount because they just plain like playing here. Or maybe because they don't know anything else.
If so, the team reaps another benefit from its strong farm system--players bred and selected for thriving in the Boston environment. Players now as 'born into it' as some of the fans.
That said, in contrast to yesterday's WBC, we rejoined the Red Sox today on a downright sleepy afternoon in Ft. Myers. Up here in Massachusetts, even, it was a balmy high-50's day with bright sunshine, taking some of the edge off losing an hour to Daylight Savings Time.
Papelbon's 4th was a prime example of the easy pace--the Sox fireballer was tossing at a lackadaisical (for him) 93 mph, and gave up two looping hits in his inning, one of which came off the bat of Evan Longoria. I don't care if you are Jonathan Papelbon and it's March, Evan Longoria's gonna punish a 93 mph fastball.
(Yeah, I'll admit to some serious covetousness toward Tampa Bay vis a vis Mr. Longoria. In fact, Tampa Bay's players have been the objects of my covetousness probably more than any other team, including Scott Kazmir and Rocco Baldelli. Who is now ours. Justice at last.)
This was part of my surprise at the intensity of yesterday's WBC--all of a sudden all of those players looked like they were playing Game 7 of the World Series, while back here at the ranch everybody's still just warming up.
But that's ok. Even without the hellfire and brimstone routine, Papelbon earned a couple of nifty strikeouts, one with Mr. Splitty and the other with Mr. 93 on the inside corner to get Gabe Gross looking. It's excellent just to see him mixing his pitches like that and having an effective inning. The fireworks can wait.
*Orsillo said today that the Rem-Dawg will be back on the next NESN telecast. I really hope so. It's been too long and I'm getting worried about him.