Did Dustin Pedroia insist he can't play for Bobby Valentine?
Perhaps you've heard that there have been some problems in the Boston Red Sox clubhouse this season. (Actually, this goes back to last season.)
That is, unless the Red Sox aren't your team and you just stick to reading about your guys and how they're doing. In that case, you probably aren't reading this article right now.
However, for anyone else who follows baseball, reading the countless local and national outlets that cover the Red Sox, along with whatever scuttlebutt pops up on Twitter, rumblings of the tensions among Boston players and coaches are unavoidable.
The latest stuff to hit the fan is Jeff Passan's story on Yahoo Sports about players sending text messages to ownership to complain about manager Bobby Valentine and the angry meeting that ensued. The piece is dripping with rumors of dissension and displays of insubordination among disgruntled Red Sox players.
But is Valentine really the sole problem with what ails the 2012 Boston Red Sox? If it was that simple, ownership probably would make a managerial change with two months remaining in the season, a drastic move that is rarely made.
There are many more issues with this Red Sox team. This is an attempt to rank them in order of importance and culpability. Here are the five biggest problems currently going on at Fenway Park.
No, Bobby Valentine isn't the sole reason the Red Sox are losing—though some players would reportedly like us to believe otherwise.
Valentine isn't the presumed ace of the pitching staff who's compiled a 6-10 record and 5.20 ERA, as Jon Lester has. Nor has he notched the 5-10 record and 5.19 ERA that Josh Beckett is currently sporting.
Valentine isn't batting .255 with runners in scoring position, like Dustin Pedroia is.
Valentine hasn't blown six saves, as Alfredo Aceves has, or rung up a 7.28 ERA in 28 appearances, like Mark Melancon.
But Valentine also isn't completely absolved of accountability in overseeing the mess that the 2012 Red Sox have become. Valentine is who he is, and if someone asks him a question, he's going to answer it honestly.
That got him into trouble when he said Kevin Youkilis wasn't "physically or emotionally into the game."
Whether or not he was trying to motivate Youkilis, the tactic backfired terribly, showing that Valentine had a poor understanding of his clubhouse.
The manager lost many of his players in April, with five months to go in the season. Reportedly, he doesn't have much support from his coaching staff either. Clearly, it's only gotten worse since then.
John Lackey by himself is not a reason for the tumult within the Boston clubhouse. But he represents something that the Red Sox should have worked harder to clear out of Fenway Park after last season.
Lackey has been a disaster in two seasons with the Red Sox, putting together a 26-23 record with a 5.26 ERA. He's been contentious with Boston media and fans. And he was one of the perceived ringleaders of the fried-chicken-and-beer follies that occurred in the clubhouse late last season.
Unfortunately for the Red Sox, an MRI exam after the season revealed enough damage in Lackey's right elbow that Tommy John surgery was deemed necessary. That killed any chances of Boston getting rid of Lackey through a trade.
So Lackey has stayed around the Red Sox this season, traveling with the team so he can presumably work with the training staff while he rehabs from surgery. His presence caused more controversy in early August when he was seen "strutting around the clubhouse with a can of Bud Light in each hand," according to CSNNE.com's Joe Haggerty.
Perhaps this was blown out of proportion, but the perception has developed that many Red Sox players go into the clubhouse and start cracking open beers when the losing is too much to bear. Lackey double-fisting Bud Lights after a tough loss in Cleveland certainly does nothing to change that belief.
Is Dustin Pedroia the "heart and soul" of the Red Sox? Is he the face of the franchise?
As MLB.com's Ian Browne wrote before the season, Pedroia sets the tone for the team on and off the field. If so, he certainly set an adversarial tone in the Red Sox clubhouse against Valentine, one that has apparently gotten far worse over the past five months.
It could be argued that the clubhouse mutiny against Bobby Valentine began in April after he questioned Kevin Youkilis' attention to the game. Pedroia stuck up for his teammate—as a clubhouse leader should, by the way—and took issue with Valentine's more accusatory approach.
But in doing so, Pedroia articulated the problem with the Red Sox, one that's continued throughout the season.
"I don’t really understand what Bobby’s trying to do," Pedroia told Boston reporters, "but that’s not the way we go about our stuff around here. I’m sure he’ll figure that out soon.''
While Pedroia was right in letting his manager know that he needed to do a better job of getting to know his players, "the way we go about our stuff" is something that obviously needed to change.
"The way we go about our stuff" led to the Red Sox's blowing a nine-game lead in the AL wild-card standings last September and losing out on a playoff bid.
"The way we go about our stuff" enabled an atmosphere in which players felt comfortable going into the clubhouse to pound fried chicken and beer while a game was still being played.
"The way we go about our stuff" has resulted in constant leaks to local and national media about the tension and dissatisfaction in the Red Sox clubhouse, creating weekly stories about how toxic and chaotic the team is right now.
"The way we go about our stuff" has to change next season. And Pedroia has to be an active participant in making that change happen, rather than reportedly pose for pictures in front of his sleeping manager.
John Henry is the principal owner of the Red Sox, and he's ultimately responsible for the mess that his baseball team has become.
Though he could be seen as attempting to solve the vast communication problems between Red Sox players and their manager, Henry is also enabling his players' behavior by giving them a voice and catering to their complaints about "the way we go about our stuff," to use Dustin Pedroia's words.
Henry e-mailed the Boston Globe, saying that "we have had a code among players, staff and ownership that our meetings are private and do not leave the room."
But isn't he the same guy who threw former general manager Theo Epstein under the bus when he told a Boston sports radio show that he "personally opposed" signing Carl Crawford? Publicly stating that a player wasn't wanted by ownership is an excellent way to boost clubhouse morale and get one of the team's highest-paid players on management's side.
Team president Larry Lucchino can't be absolved here either. He's the one who pushed for the Red Sox to hire Bobby Valentine as manager, pulling rank on new GM Ben Cherington, who saw Dale Sveum—and later, Gene Lamont—as a better fit for the team.
Yet Lucchino wanted a flashy name to replace the popular Terry Francona. He wanted someone who would supposedly whip his spoiled, entitle clubhouse into shape. He interfered rather than let his baseball people make an important decision.
How has that worked out for the Red Sox?
With all of the disharmony going on in the Red Sox clubhouse, perhaps it was inevitable that reports of the heightened friction would eventually come out.
Writers that cover the team see these players and their manager every day and if the discord is as apparent as it appears to be, that kind of conflict can't be hidden over the course of a long baseball season.
Yet someone—perhaps more than one person—is so fed up with what is happening with the Red Sox that reporters keep receiving word of conversations and meetings that were supposed to remain private.
Kevin Youkilis was believed to be the source of the fried-chicken-and-beer story getting out. But he's with the Chicago White Sox now, and gossip is still being leaked to the press.
(If Youkilis was the one who told the Boston Globe's Bob Hohler about the chicken-and-beer escapades, who stabbed Terry Francona in the back by revealing that he was estranged from his wife and possibly abusing pain medications?)
Who are the sources that tipped off Yahoo Sports' Jeff Passan for his explosive story this week about text messages being sent to ownership expressing dissatisfaction with Bobby Valentine? Who told Passan about John Henry holding a meeting with a group of players that included Dustin Pedroia and Adrian Gonzalez?
Who told ESPN's Buster Olney about the dissension in the Red Sox clubhouse, prompting him to write about the "troubled marriage" between players and coaches back in June?
Questions about who the leak might be have created suspicion among players, compelling them to wonder who's violating clubhouse confidentiality. Is this coming from someone in the front office in hopes that the players and coaching staff will be seen as creating this mess, absolving upper management of responsibility?
Don't get me wrong: These leaks have been fantastic for baseball writing and juicy gossip around the blogosphere watercooler (otherwise known as Twitter). It all makes for a fantastic soap opera to follow when actual games aren't being played.
But for the Red Sox to air the toxic fumes out of their clubhouse and try to repair this thing that is so clearly broken, management will have to find out who the leak is and shut it down. (Not in a black-ops, CIA sense. Just fire someone.)
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