Here's the bad news for the Red Sox: It took them 163 games to figure out they had a problem.
The good news? They have finally figured it out.
To understand what we're talking about when it comes to the issues facing the Red Sox, a good place to start is listening to reliever Joe Kelly explain how he viewed things.
"We won 93 games and we came in first-place in the A.L. East and I swear to God I felt like I was in last-place," Kelly said while appearing on the "Bradfo Sho" podcast. (To listen to the entire podcast, click here.) I was like, 'Man, how many games back are we? Oh shoot, we're in first?' It just felt like that. It was kind of weird. We would win like four games in a row and we're like,' Man, we're not even playing good. What's going on?' It felt like that the whole year."
The feeling was born from an assumption that those Red Sox were so talented that the ultimate solution to making the team feel like a first-place club was just around the corner. It's why speeches weren't made, and desperation wasn't felt.
That was until it was pretty much too late.
Both Kelly and Rick Porcello explained on the "Bradfo Sho" that the Red Sox did finally find that moment where a mirror was found, allowing for a good hard look at themselves. What they uncovered was an imperfect team and an a clubhouse dynamic that wasn't what it should be.
Unfortunately for that group, that signature moment came just 18 innings before they packed their bags for good.
"I think we had a moment after Game 2," Porcello explained. I think we kind of all … Everyone settled into their role, I guess. There was something that happened after the second game where as a group we weren't passive in Game 3 and Game 4 and we played our best baseball, and we played hard. We came up a little bit short. But all the clubhouse atmosphere and all the culture and the things that you try and create over the course of the year is so you can go into a playoff game and play like that. Like Game 3. Like Game 4. Your backs are against the wall and you have to answer the call. That's what is challenging, especially when you lose a guy like David Ortiz and have won championships with him as the leader. Finding that balance of guys who are going to settle into those roles, create that culture and that atmosphere. Everyone has to be comfortable with it and then bring that brand of baseball when it matters most. It all leads up to that."
"It does suck to go through a whole season essentially and then it was almost like one of those last-resort type of things. Why didn't this come to anyone's attention if we all thought it and why didn't we bring this up before the All-Star break?" Kelly said. "It might have been a little different. We still won all the games but it just didn't feel right."
The players' only meeting was the first one of the season for the Red Sox, and came after the Astros had absolutely walloped John Farrell's team, beating the Red Sox in back-to-back, 8-2 blowouts in the first two games of the American League Division Series.
While the result of the attitude adjustment simply led to a single win before being eliminated, the importance of the meeting stretched far beyond those final two games. First, it was a realization of where the Red Sox had gone wrong in 2017.
"We didn't have that last resort type of feeling," Kelly said. "Let's have that before September hits. We should have had that feeling that we are going to win or go home."
More importantly for those who are left in 2018, it represented the blueprint they previously thought they didn't need.
"One hundred percent because it gives you identity or purpose as a ball club, or whatever you want to call it," said Porcello when asked if he believed that meeting would impact how the Red Sox approached 2018. " And that's what is going to drive you over the course of the year. You're not going to just go out there and win by talent. You can get by on talent, especially in the regular season, but then you have to answer the call and you have to have some type of personality as a ball club where you're going to punch back. We did. We obviously came up short and that sort of stuff, but we found some fight in Game 3 and I think we showed us something we need to build off of. If we're fortunate enough to get into the postseason this year -- not even the postseason, Game 1, Opening Day -- go out there and if you get nicked up a little bit and they punch you a couple of times in the nose you get up and punch back, and we need that. That's a tough division you're going to go through with peaks and valleys and those valleys are when you have to have that chip on your shoulder and want to be in the fight."
"It's a whole new regime now, obviously, with the coaches. Now the young guys have that feeling. Some of the veteran guys know, 'Hey, you're not doing it the right way, let's go. This is what we do.' I think going into this year I think there will be a little bit more accountability," Kelly said.
"I feel like coming into this year it's going to be a little bit different. It's something I'm looking forward to."