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A year removed, the differences continue to compile

Posted by Eric Wilbur, Boston.com Staff  August 13, 2013 11:13 AM

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One year ago today, Red Sox legend Johnny Pesky passed away. A few days later, four players went to his morning funeral.

That’s one more than showed up to the A’s-Blue Jays game in Toronto Monday afternoon.

Of course, the rub with regards to the Pesky funeral is that most of the 2012 Red Sox did, however, find the time to attend Josh Beckett’s charity bowling event later that evening. There were excuses made about arrival times and it being a player’s day off (they only get so many of those, right, Josh?) but the episode confirmed what we had already known for months.

What a group of despicable slugs.

One can only imagine what the likes of Beckett might have thought when he noticed Dustin Pedroia, Jonny Gomes, and Jarrod Saltalamacchia sitting behind home plate during Monday’s Athletics-Blue Jays game in Toronto on Boston’s off-day. As the eternally-injured pitcher preached last May, “We get 18 off days a year. I think we deserve a little bit of time to ourselves.” If that means playing 27 holes of golf even when you’re sidelined with an injury, well, there’s a reason Beckett went from World Series hero to the most detested athlete in Boston this side of Alex Rodriguez.

The fact that a trio of Red Sox players chose to use their off-day in Toronto, where Boston and the Blue Jays begin a three-game series Tuesday night, speaks to the mirror image of character this franchise has witnessed in just under a calendar year.

Not that it’s expected that players attend a game on their day off. After all, how far away do you stay from work when you have a few hours to yourself? But even if their sole intent was to razz the competition, it shows a semblance of passion for the sport, when the last couple years in Boston a seeming desire for anything other than the clubhouse spread was lacking entirely.

Their presence there, just seats away from Geddy Lee, was just…

Refreshing?

The next six weeks will dictate where this Red Sox team will be in terms of the postseason, but in reality, their mission for 2013 is already accomplished. They made baseball something we can get behind and root for again, a year after Bobby Valentine and company made it impossible not to loathe anything to do with the floundering franchise. Ben Cherington put together a likeable group in the wake of the most hated Red Sox team in a generation, and yes, I am including the 2001 catfish in that assessment.

Coincidentally, the Red Sox face the Dodgers the weekend of Aug. 23-25, which just so happens to be the one-year anniversary of the Beckett-Adrian Gonzalez-Nick Punto-Carl Crawford salary dump. Both teams are in first place in their respective divisions, with the Dodgers on the hottest streak LA has seen since the better days for Jim Carrey. Meanwhile, the Red Sox will try to rediscover their identity against the Blue Jays after struggling in Houston and Kansas City, a stretch in which they went 3-4, yet gained two games on the Tampa Bay Rays in the standings.

Sometimes, when it’s going well, it just goes good.

Concern is beginning to waft though. Clay Buchholz is still sidelined with something or other. John Lackey, Jake Peavy, and Felix Doubront were all shaky in their last starts. Mike Napoli strikes out more than Ralph Wiggum, and John Farrell has the ultimate job of not screwing up like his last (legitimate) predecessor did two years prior by blowing a first-place, playoff season.

If a similar situation happens in Los Angeles under Don Mattingly, would you really be surprised?

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About the Author

Eric Wilbur is a Boston.com sports columnist who is still in awe of what Dana Kiecker pulled off that one time in Toronto. He lives in the Boston area with his wife and three children. Comments and suggestions for the best Buffalo wing spots are encouraged.

Contact Eric Wilbur by e-mail or follow him on Twitter.

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