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.