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July 19, 2013

Sox winning with better approach ... and fans are back

There are some valuable lessons to be learned from these 2013 Red Sox about how to put together a winning baseball team.

We have to start with a quick look back at the philosophy behind assembling the utter failure of a team that preceded them. The driving force behind that team was star power and ticket sales. Abstract things like character and clubhouse chemistry played no role.

The result was an assembly of marquis players with glitzy stats and mega-contracts. For most of these guys it was me first, the Red Sox second and baseball third. Management doubled-down on this by hiring a field manager who was a headline-grabbing ego-maniac.

This year, GM Ben Cherington did just the opposite in every respect. The first thing he did was ship out the self-absorbed, big contract guys. Then, he hired John Farrell, a solid baseball man who understands his players, cares about them and knows how to communicate with them. Together, they brought in solid ballplayers who love the game and go out there everyday and try to find a way to win.They built these new Sox around starting pitching, and although there have been some major setbacks, the rotation of Clay Buchholz, Jon Lester, John Lackey, Ryan Dempster and Felix Doubront came out of the gate 20-8 with a 3.25 ERA.

Buchholz hasn’t pitched in over a month because of a neck injury and Lester has hit a major rough spot.

But Lackey has had nine quality starts, his ERA is 2.78. And Doubront gets better every time he goes out there, now 6-3 with an ERA of 3.91 and falling fast.

On offense, they kept a solid core of veteran ballplayers headed by Dirt Dog Dustin Pedroia, David “Big Papi” Ortiz and Jacoby Ellsbury. They added two frontline ball players in Shane Victorino and Mike Napoli (frontline but by no mean superstars), then filled in with guys no one else wanted, a la Billy Beane — players such as Jonny Gomes, Daniel Nava and Mike Carp.

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