The 2017 Red Sox won 93 games and finished as AL East Champions. But for much of the season, and certainly after their American League Division Series loss to the Houston Astros, they felt like underachievers.
Perhaps that's because some tension rose behind the scenes. Tension that was felt, but not always seen, by those who followed them.
Both Mookie Betts and Xander Bogaerts admitted as much when they met with reporters at Red Sox spring training in Fort Myers on Thursday. Betts acknowledged that the smiling, dancing outfielder wasn't so loose and happy in the clubhouse compared to the team's "Win, Dance Repeat" image on the field.
"We could have had more fun,” said Betts, via the Boston Herald's Jason Mastrodonato. "I think we still enjoyed it. But we could have had more fun. Through the rough times, I think those are the times when we could have had a little more fun instead of being down so much.
"If we hit a rough patch this year, I feel like maybe we can learn from last year and continue to enjoy the game and maybe get out of it faster."
Bogaerts essentially confirmed the overarching narrative of the numerous stories emerging from the Red Sox clubhouse in 2017. There were some issues, which didn't necessarily manifest themselves publicly too often but now look obvious. And they finally caught up to them in October.
"We had a lot of stuff going on last year, to be honest," Bogaerts said, via MassLive's Christopher Smith. "We all know. We all know what was going on. I don't think I really want to get into details. The quicker we move on, the better it is for all of us. We should look forward to this year."
The easiest targets will take the blame for the Red Sox' tension last season. Ex-manager John Farrell will be chief among them. So will David Price, who was at the center of their most public debacle in his confrontation with Dennis Eckersley.
But the stories of Price's problems with the media aren't the same as the stories of Price as a teammate. So the hope is that the main source of said tension was the lack of control from the now-fired Farrell. And also that new manager Alex Cora can get the most out of the team.
It turns out that the Red Sox weren't having as much fun as they made it seem on the field. Maybe they can turn that attitude around in 2018, and it can translate to more success than the past two seasons. Especially in October.
-- By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com
Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff or email him at [email protected].