A 162-game baseball season is long and arduous. Talent and skill can’t always carry a team without the right mix of guys in the clubhouse.
The Red Sox saw that firsthand in the early 2010s. After the collapse in 2011 and just 69 wins in 2012, Boston bounced back in a huge way to win the World Series thanks to several veteran leaders on the roster.
Arizona Diamondbacks general manager Mike Hazen was in the Red Sox’ front office at the time and knows the importance of having the right veteran presence in a clubhouse.
Hazen joined WEEI’s Rob Bradford on the Audacy Original Podcast “Baseball Isn’t Boring” and talked about the importance of veteran leadership on any team, including the 2013 Red Sox that won the World Series.
“Things come up every day. Problems arise every day during a baseball season. They arise every day in spring training. Having guys in your clubhouse that can take pressure off the staff to deal with those things amongst themselves is a far more powerful dynamic than any staff you could put together,” Hazen said (33:19 in player above). “There’s no disrespect to any – I’m sure most managers would agree with this that freeing the manager up to have to deal with things on a needed basis only and not on an everyday basis is a much more powerful dynamic for me.”
The importance of having “good clubhouse guys” is a narrative for a reason.
“You read about the 2013 Red Sox and it’s like ‘Aw, it must’ve just been all roses for the entire year.’ It wasn’t roses for the entire year, right?” Hazen continued. “It took the guys like Ryan Dempster and Victorino and Napoli and Jonny Gomes and that whole group that adds so much to when we were going through some skids.
“I remember we got pasted in Anaheim, we were flying to Oakland or Seattle, and we were not in a good spot in the middle of the summer. We were kind of meandering along and there were stories about Dempster with the group and the team that I’m not going to get into, maybe some alternate personalities that came out on plane rides and things like that, but again, it gets romanticized after you end up winning.”
Hazen has always appreciated having a good clubhouse culture within his teams while acknowledging that they haven’t always pressed the right buttons.
Having players that can hold each other accountable in the right ways is hugely important for a team. Now, it may not always work out as only one team can win the World Series in any given season, but it certainly helps.
“You’re not always able to accomplish your goals and sometimes your team’s not good enough to have it be ‘Oh, we had great veteran presence.’ That’s not going to win you games necessarily on a day-in and day-out basis,” Hazen said. “That team was ridiculously talented, too, so they were just underperforming their talent at the current moment. Those things can get the ship righted a little bit without putting the pressure on John Farrell to have to right the ship. But it’s definitely a dynamic that has always existed and it’s something we talk about all the time.”
The veteran leadership certainly paid off in 2013 for the Red Sox as it got them back to their winning ways after a pitiful 2012 campaign. That season ended with Boston winning its third World Series in 10 seasons, and of course, the Red Sox added another one five years later in 2018.
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