When a person with presence walks into a room, it’s palpable. Their presence is felt, larger than life.

Take David Ortiz, for example.

When Papi was still with the Red Sox, the team was able to rally around his presence. They used it as a centrifugal force. When he retired, however, his absence left a void, not only in leadership but presence.

Perhaps the most frustrating thing about watching the 2017 Red Sox was the blandness of that team. They were about as interesting as staring into a mirror and watching your hair grow. And anything they did off the field of any consequence—demeaning Hall of Famers on a plane, for example—made the team detestable rather than interesting.

I’m not about to argue that presence alone leads to a World Series championship but, particularly in Boston, there is some precedent.

Take The Idiots of 2004 as evidence. While that team was certainly packed with talent, they also took on the presence and personalities of players like Kevin Millar, David Ortiz, Johnny Damon and Curt Schilling, allowing them to comeback after their heads were on the chopping block, awaiting the death knell in the ALCS.

Then look at the 2013 Red Sox, a team that had no business winning the World Series. And while the beard-thing got old and felt like a hipster trope, there were also a core of big personality veterans who helped propel that team—Papi, again, Mike Napoli, Shane Victorino, and even “I am a real American” Jonny Gomes.

This brings us to the 2018 Red Sox. On paper, have the talent to go deep in the postseason, but my question is one of intangibles, particularly chemistry and personality and presence.

Granted, Joe Kelly trolling the security at Fort Myers as Jim Buchanan from JWK Punta Gorda was hilarious, the type of hijinks that has been sorely lacking lately. And Mookie Betts seems to be coming into his own as a clubhouse personality and as a bowler. Chris Sale also showed glimpses of dry humor in some interviews last season. And, for the record, I love the fact that he tore up those God-awful White Sox throwback uniforms.

But is this enough to give the team a presence that will make them fun to watch? The real question for the 2018 is not one of talent; it’s whether or not they can transcend the blandness and play this boys’ game like they love it.

Take the Milwaukee Brewers recently remaking The Sandlot. Let’s see that type of levity and fun coming this year’s Boston clubhouse. To quote Bull Durham, let’s see 2018 Red Sox play with “joy and verve and poetry.”

If the presence is there, the wins will follow.

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Nathan Graziano lives in Manchester, New Hampshire. His books include Teaching Metaphors (Sunnyoutside Press, 2007), After the Honeymoon (Sunnyoutside Press, 2009), Hangover Breakfasts (Bottle of Smoke Press, 2012), Sort Some Sort of Ugly (Marginalia Publishing, 2013), and My Next Bad Decision (Artistically Declined Press, 2014). Almost Christmas, a collection of short prose pieces, was recently published by Redneck Press in 2017. Graziano writes a baseball column for Dirty Water Media. For more information, please visit his website: www.nathangraziano.com.

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