Sometimes, the presentation of something is just as important as the actual content being presented. Sometimes, it’s even more important. For instance, Jeff Passan’s most recent piece for Yahoo! Sports in which he reveals through the use of unnamed sources that several players on the Boston Red Sox “blasted” manager Bobby Valentine to owners John Henry and Larry Lucchino in a closed-door meeting, is presented with a sense of importance I’m not sure it truly possesses.

Terms like “exclusive” and references to sources that have been “granted anonymity because they were not authorized to speak about internal matters” tend to prompt our curiosity, which in turn cause the revelation of information to carry more weight than it truly does. In this sense, Passan’s piece on turmoil between Red Sox players and their manager is a rousing success.

However, with regard to the revealing of new information and providing readers with meaningful content, it’s something of a failure.

In fact, as ESPN’s Buster Olney points out, this very same bit of news was presented two weeks ago by Joel Sherman of the New York Post in a less incendiary manner that didn’t involve a search engine optimized URL that looks like this:

http://sports.yahoo.com/news/bobby-valentine-red-sox-mutiny-text-dustin-pedroia-larry-lucchino-john-henry-adrian-gonzalez-.html

Several reports out of Boston have hinted at a measure of unhappiness between the players and their manager. It’s no surprise to learn that a meeting took place in which players described their frustrations to the upper echelons of management and ownership. However, as Mr. Sherman quite rightly explains in his piece from July 31st:

Outside officials say the clubhouse dislike for Bobby Valentine is so intense, players lobbying ownership for a change is not an overstatement. However, many of the clubhouse/organizational problems pre-date Valentine and the manager is not likely to be fired anytime soon.

While this assessment is likely more accurate, it’s not as much fun as the gossip and salacious descriptions that Mr. Passan provides in his piece on August 14th. To read Mr. Passan’s account of the meeting that occurred, one might be left to imagine masks and passwords and the direction of Stanley Kubrick. However, the quotations of General Manager Ben Cherington, without the benefit of Mr. Passan’s context-setting tell a different tale:

The intent of the meeting was to provide a forum for people to express whatever frustration needed to be expressed at a time during the season when things were not going exactly the way we wanted to on the field in hopes that we could put whatever issues were there aside and focus on playing games the rest of the season. That was the intent of the meeting. That was the focus of ownership. It was a productive meeting.

I don’t think it’s that uncommon for complaints to be made during the season. I’m not going to comment specifically on those complaints. Our owners felt, given where we were at that time in the season, given the collective frustration, we had not accomplished what we wanted to. It was time to get together and hash things out. There were no ultimatums issued. There were concerns expressed. Some very positive things expressed, too. We felt that it was an opportunity to get things off people’s chests and move forward.

If the internet was a sewing bee, the seat beside Mr. Passan would be a much-sought after chair. The revelation of the meeting at The Palace hotel in New York serves as justification to reveal the following items, again, very few of which represent new information:

  • Valentine leaving Jon Lester in the game for 11 earned runs against the Toronto Blue Jays served to upset Red Sox players;
  • Valentine sarcastically praising Will Middlebrooks with a, “Nice inning, kid,” after the rookie third baseman further diminished the respect of players on the team;
  • The existence of a picture of second baseman Dustin Pedroia with his tongue wagging and both thumbs up in front of an asleep Valentine with the caption: “Our manager contemplating his lineup at 3:30 p.m.”
  • Valentine barely speaks with some of the coaching staff.
  • The trade of Kevin Youkilis rubbed some players the wrong way.

These are all rather petty examples, just as common in office environments as they are in baseball clubhouses.

There’s no doubt as to the existence of a problem with the Boston Red Sox. While Mr. Passan would have us believe that this is the result of a new manager who refuses to learn from the mistakes of his past, I’d suggest that it’s the past that frees Bobby Valentine from anything more than an equal share of blame with the players losing games on the field and a media environment that’s easier to liken to a shark tank than what is typical around baseball.

Last season, instead of Valentine leaving Lester in too long, it was former manager Terry Francona popping pills. Instead of put downs aimed at rookies, it was veterans eating chicken, drinking beer and playing video games. Instead of Pedroia taking mocking photos, it was David Ortiz not being a very good club house leader. These things tend to get overblown in Boston, and I see nothing to suggest from the content of Mr. Passan’s article that the latest finger pointing at Valentine is anything more than the manifestation of a pre-existing condition.

The blame game is continuing in Boston.

Comments (12)

  1. Whenever I feel down about the problems with Toronto, I cheer myself up by reading the sports page editorials in the Boston Globe.

  2. Wet dream: Boston holds a fire sale in the offseason to unload disgruntled veterans. Jays pick up some good parts on the cheap.

  3. Not that it was Valentine’s fault, but the Youkilis trade was pretty stupid. I’m not surprised players are upset.

  4. There are things that happen in baseball that don’t have to relate back to the Blue Jays. Excellent work here Parkes. You destroyed yesterday.

  5. Pedroia is a rat faced punk, Beckett is just a flat out a-hole, Lester looks likes he’d rather be hunting with Cletus…Screw the Redsox…I’d love nothign more than to see them lose every remaining game this season

  6. While I think Valentine was the wrong hire, and he has to shoulder some blame here, I don’t think it’s all his fault. The whole Red Sox franchise has really fallen into total disarray with everybody sniping at each other. I’m surprised Valentine has lasted this long, but not because anyone would fire him: I figured he’d quit in disgust around the all-star break when he saw the state of the Red Sox (and he still might, you never know). We’re seeing the beginning of a slow and painful decline, and I don’t see how any amount of money can fix it this time. With all of this circling around the team, is any top free agent really going to want to sign there and become part of this craziness?

    The Sox are turning into our generation’s version of the “Bronx Zoo” Yankee teams, and of course by the time all of that was done the Yankees fell into total mediocrity for most of the 1980s (save for the one year when Mattingly won MVP and they almost caught the Jays in 1985). It didn’t matter that it was Yankee Stadium with the hallowed pinstripes of Ruth and Gehrig, nobody wanted to go play for Steinbrenner and his revolving door of managers back then. It’s a similar tailspin for Boston right now, and opposing players will see it and say, “Yeah, it’s Fenway and the Red Sox, great history, but is it worth that much money to play inside the name-calling and garbage for 7-10 years?” I can’t see the Sox getting out of this hole for awhile.

  7. Bullet points 2 and 3 are not petty – though I agree this is manifestations of a pre-existing condition.

    The problem is they need a manager who can command the respect to fix whatever conditions exist that truly are a problem.

    • They need to blow the team up and start all over. To think a management change would rid them of the festering cancer in their clubhouse is a joke.

  8. Whoever they brought in as manager after last season was onto a hiding to nothing. The clubhouse was a mess and the hard feelings abounded. A lot of people wanted John Farrell back and Sox Nation were arrogant enough to believe that they just had to wave at the Jays and he would be instantly let go in order to benefit his old team. The next manager–who might be Farrell–has a decent chance. But Valentine was cannon fodder from the get go.

    I will be interested to see if the Jays make an attempt to keep Farrell or not. They might just believe he’s turned out not to be the guy they need for the job here. (Not that I think Valentine is!)

  9. At the end of the day, it may be true that Valentine was cannon fodder-I tend to agree- but the old adage is more apt than ever: Managers are hired to be fired.

  10. It has to be more than the blame game. Blaming occurs in any organization when disastrous things happen. The shift in who is to blame is because new opportunities to find meaning opened up. There is nothing dysfunctional about the blame game in and of itself. But there is something dysfunctional in Boston.

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