BOSTON -- One day at a time.
That's how the Boston Red Sox are going to take the final 25 games of the regular season, even knowing that they have a spot in the playoffs virtually wrapped up.
OK, it's a cliche. Tim Naehring admits it.
But for this year's Red Sox, that's the only way to play, just as it has been all year, even with players being shuffled in and out with amazing frequency.
And as far as Naehring is concerned, that is a major difference in the clubhouse.
"I've seen it before here," said Naehring, who, along with the rest of his teammates, enjoyed Monday's day off in preparation for last night's opener of a two-game series against Oakland at Fenway Park.
"Guys might come in, have a tough couple of days, and then they'd crawl in a hole," he said. "The next thing you know there are cliques. Guys are struggling, and there's a negative attitude that grows in the clubhouse.
"That hasn't happened here," he said. "Obviously, it's easy to say that because we're 14 1/2 up, but that's the way it has been all year. The chemistry here is outstanding, and that comes right from the top, from Roger [Clemens], Greenie [Mike Greenwell], Mo [Vaughn] and [Jose] Canseco.
"They keep saying, 'Take care of today, and you'll be one step closer to what you want tomorrow,' " said Naehring. "We still have a lot to prove to ourselves and to others, too."
Especially the fans, whose emotions have been toyed with for a long time. The Red Sox have not won a World Series crown since 1918, and there are those who would blame the trading of Babe Ruth for that drought, a.k.a. The Curse of the Bambino.
But Naehring has a message for those fans.
"Don't get caught up in that curse stuff," he said. "Enjoy us being so far up. Enjoy the season knowing that, win or lose, there are guys out there hustling and playing hard all the time for the Boston Red Sox."
Not that Naerhing and the Red Sox are satisfied with their season just yet. Their goal is to win the World Series. And Naehring realizes the Red Sox haven't officially clinched the American League East title just yet, though the magic number is creeping toward single digits.
"No one here is taking anything for granted," he said. "And if anyone does, there are plenty of us here to go up to him and tell him we haven't gotten there yet. We've worked too hard to get to where we are to lose that intensity now."
While Naehring was talking about the team, he very well could have been talking about himself.
He has worked hard to get to where he is, which happens to be the starting third baseman for a team heading to the playoffs, and a top 10 hitter in the AL.