Bearded Red Sox rejoice over turnaround season

Wed Oct 2, 2013 3:51pm EDT
 
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By Larry Fine

(Reuters) - They went from 93 losses last year to 97 wins this season with a new manager and new players who helped transform a dysfunctional clubhouse with some frat-house bonding and a Boston Red Sox battle cry of "Fear the Beard."

The hirsute band of brothers have flipped the standings upside down and last year's American League East cellar dwellers enter Major League Baseball's postseason as the AL's top seed.

Mainstays such as slugging designated hitter David Ortiz and scrappy second baseman Dustin Pedroia remain as Red Sox lynchpins, but new life sprung with a synergy triggered by the likes of new additions Mike Napoli, Shane Victorino and Jonny Gomes and nurtured by skipper John Farrell.

It started in the spring when slugging platoon player Gomes arrived at spring training with a big bushy beard and first baseman Napoli decided to join him in putting away the razor.

Soon Pedroia joined in, the movement gained momentum and the doldrums of the previous year faded under a mantra of "Fear the Beard," as the Bostonians borrowed the war cry popularized by San Francisco Giants' bushy-bearded closer Brian Wilson in their march to the 2010 World Series crown.

"It fit us because we're representing a blue collar approach," catcher Jarrod Saltalmacchia told the Boston Herald. "We're a bunch of guys who go to work and do the best we can. We're not clean shaven and we want to get our hands dirty."

The beards come in various shapes and density, but virtually every player on the team has joined in and beard-tugging is part of the dugout celebration after Red Sox home runs.

FIGHT CLUB   Continued...

 
Boston Red Sox' Mike Napoli reacts to a called third strike during the fifth inning of their MLB American League baseball game against the Tampa Bay Rays in St. Petersburg, Florida, September 11, 2013. REUTERS/Steve Nesius