Sox stuck together through bad times

NEW YORK -- In the moments before the visitor’s clubhouse emptied late Wednesday night at Yankee Stadium, each and every Boston Red Sox player and staff member gave out handshakes and hugs to one another.

Some players were traveling back to Boston on the team’s charter flight, while others were spending the night in New York and traveling to their homes on Thursday morning. For a team that finished the season in last place in the A.L. East with a 69-93 record, there was a sense of relief that it was finally over.

For all the problems both on and off the field for the Red Sox in 2012, the players were a close group.

“Obviously there was a lot of talk going into the season about the clubhouse and I still stand by it until this day that it was a good clubhouse,” outfielder Cody Ross said. “We all got along, we all liked each other and hung out together, not only at the field but off the field. It’s a great group of guys.”

Ross was one of the last players to leave the clubhouse Wednesday night. Despite the difficult season, he remained positive throughout.

“It was tough, obviously,” Ross said. “It didn’t turn out the way we all anticipated during spring training. We had high expectations for ourselves and everybody did for us. Nobody feels worse than we do. As a team, obviously, we underachieved and didn’t play as good as we were supposed to.

“At the same time, a lot of guys worked really hard in here and kept battling, kept fighting and didn’t give up. That’s all you can ask for when you’re having a tough season, or had a tough season like we did. Guys kept going and fighting.”

Many of Ross' teammates agreed with his comments about the team’s unity.

“It wasn’t what we expected, obviously, but we grew to know a lot about each other through all the hard times and sometimes that’s what you’ve got to do to get better,” catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia said. “We’ve seen each other at our worst and we’ve seen each other at our best. Through it all we still stuck together. The last two months wasn’t easy being out of contention, just basically going out there and playing hard every night. We lived and died with each other and that’s exactly what happened.”

“From a team standpoint, we just didn’t play up to our capabilities,” shortstop Mike Aviles said. “You can’t call it a positive season when we’re in last place and we didn’t do the things we were expected to do, or what we expected ourselves to do, or what we should have been. It wasn’t a fun season. It was mentally draining, as well as physically draining, so it wasn’t the most fun of situations.”

Probably knowing his days as manager are over, Red Sox skipper Bobby Valentine sat at the desk in his office and spoke about how bad the season was.

“It was a very disappointing season. Extremely disappointing,” Valentine said. “It was going to end sometime. I’m glad Baltimore lost before our game was over if that’s any consolation, but I don’t think that it is.

“It was trying. I don’t know how it could be more challenging than this season.”

Valentine held one last team meeting before the game and he said his message was simple.

“There are a lot of individual things people can gain from this season and they shouldn’t lose sight of it,” Valentine said. “As I told them, they are not defined as people by their record of a season. They’re defined by who they are and not what they are. They were part of a real lousy season but they gave it a hell of an effort every day.

“I’m proud of all of them.”

Valentine was scheduled to travel back with the team and will be in Boston on Thursday morning. He’ll meet with Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington and ownership at some point in the next day or two.

“My plans right now are to wake up and have a long bike ride,” he said.