A year before their championship season, the 2012 Red Sox were an infamously disengaged group: manager Bobby Valentine publicly questioned the commitment of one of his best players two weeks into the season; pitcher Josh Beckett played golf two days before missing a start with a muscle injury; and in July, a story surfaced that several players secretly implored the owners to fire their manager, and then denied all reports of this supposed mutiny. An ESPN reporter described the team’s culture as “toxic.”
But twelve months later, the Red Sox had ascended from last place in their division to World Series champions. While there are many reasons why the Red Sox won the World Series, higher engagement is one of the biggest. A stronger culture, greater team cohesion, and a more purposeful mission all boosted the team’s performance in 2013, even while the team cut its payroll by $15 million from the year before.