BOSTON — Once staid and often surly, for years the Red Sox were known as a team without personality. The Paul Revere statue down the road had as much life as Red Sox players. You want fun, go to Faneuil Hall. You want base hits, come to Fenway.
Boy, are times a changin'. No longer a group of businessmen with attache cases and foul outlooks, the Red Sox actually seem to be enjoying themselves. What's more, they even seem to like each other.
"The old stuff about 24 cabs for 24 players is far from the truth now," Mike Greenwell said. "It's one cab, 24 players. If we could all get in one cab, we would.
"Before, we had a lot of the old school. They'd go out and do a job and that's it. They were not rah-rah types. We have a little bit of a college atmosphere now."
Together, they are in first place, well ahead of the Blue Jays. Together, they are joking and laughing, probably all the way to the playoffs. Greenwell is behind some of the fun, along with recent imports Tom Brunansky and Tony Pena.
For the first time, the Red Sox have a kangaroo court. It's an old baseball tradition whereby fines are instituted for goofball mistakes, on and off the field. The Red Sox may be the last team to have instituted one.
When they change, they really change. On Aug. 11, the Red Sox engaged in the ultimate battle of rally caps, the silly baseball superstition in which players wear their caps wrong; it's supposed to ignite the offense. The Red Sox won that game, 3-2, in Seattle's Kingdome on Dwight Evans' home run in the 13th inning.
Just as important to them, Greenwell claims the rally-cap battle was won, too. "We cut holes in the caps and put shaving cream all over our faces," Greenwell said.
Greenwell, who instituted the court, introduced a seance-like atmosphere in Milwaukee July 24 when he held "a candle ritual" in an effort to revive sagging Red Sox bats. Greenwell placed the bats in a darkened clubhouse, then put 150 candles in a circle and lit them. Also present was a rubber chicken.
It was weird, but it worked. The Red Sox hitters are doing almost as well as their pitchers. There's the other change. Red Sox pitchers, formerly a necessary evil, are this team's strength. Of course, there's Roger Clemens (20-5). But it's not Roger, over and out anymore. Mike Boddicker (13-8) is a solid No. 2 pitcher, but hardly anyone expected they'd also get contributions from Greg Harris, Tom Bolton and Dana Kiecker.
Holding the Red Sox back in the early going was their offense. They are at or near the bottom of the league in stolen bases and home runs, a deadly combination that has been overcome by their league-leading .274 batting average. Last week, they pitched three straight shutouts against the Blue Jays.
Some say the Blue Jays possess more talent, but Ellis Burks said, "Up and down the lineup, we're the best team."
Not all of his teammates agree. Evans said, "If you were to write our team and their team on a piece of paper, I think I'd take their team."
Not that this team is without ability. Far from it. Wade Boggs, Evans and Clemens are potential Hall of Famers and Greenwell and Burks are All-Star quality, at least. Togetherness would be nothing without talent. As Boggs pointed out, "You could have 25 Peter Pans where everyone sleeps together and still not win. You still have to cross those white lines."