Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Babies of Beantown

When will the Boston Red Sox players realize that what has happened on the field since September 2011 has more to do with them than the managers they play for?

Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports presented a tale of mutiny within the ranks of one of baseball's oldest franchises yesterday and to be frank, it was not surprising. According to Passan, the players requested a direct sit down with the ownership back in late July via a text message from Adrian Gonzalez on behalf of several players, so that they could voice their displeasure over first-year manager Bobby Valentine. The boiling point was Valentine allowing Boston "ace" Jon Lester to continue to pitch in an 11-run drubbing on July 22 at the hands of the Toronto Blue Jays.

Boo-Hoo! The Red Sox players went from beer and fried chicken to milk and strained carrots after they practically ran the anti-thesis to Valentine, Terry Francona out of Boston with their apathetic play finishing out the 2011 season.

This was a team ready to make a mark as it left August last year, but they imploded during the stretch run and have yet to recuperate. They are 64-80 since September 1, 2011 through yesterday's 7-1 loss to the Baltimore Orioles.

Last season, Francona took the fall for "allowing" his players to skimp on workouts and sit in the clubhouse chillin' while the team was on the field trying to win. The Red Sox ownership wanted a change and used the revelation as a reason to go out and sign a difference maker, the ever enigmatic Bobby Valentine.

Valentine's my way or the highway mentality was expected to put the players in their place and rejuvenate a talented ball club. Unfortunately, they had some injuries early on to Jacoby Ellsbury and Carl Crawford that deflated their offense and they rallied against Valentine's demeanor instead of rallying around each other in an effort to win.

Valentine made enemies quickly with his handling of former third baseman Kevin Youkilis' early season slump. Dustin Pedroia flat-out called out Valentine, saying, "That's not how we do things here." At that point the writing was on the wall; unless this team began to win the clubhouse and off-the-field stories were going rule the roost.

Simply stated, the players in Boston have too much power. They inadvertently threw Francona under the bus with their lousy September and now that they're pushed to play hard every day, they cried to the owners about how they are mistreated. Imagine that, multi-millionaires whining when asked to play hard to win.

How about standing up for their play on the field? Lester isn't exactly playing well this season (6-10, 5.20 ERA) though he finally ended a personal five-game losing streak beating a Cleveland Indians team that can't hit their way out of a paper bag. The other "big-time" pitcher for the Red Sox has played no better. In fact Josh Beckett, the order taker for wing night and off-day golfer extraordinaire, has a remarkably similar line of 5-10 with a 5.19 ERA. He's allowed 14 earned runs in his last 10 1/3 innings.

Maybe Bobby Valentine is the one who should be crying? Would any team be able to survive their two best pitchers performing like this? It is highly unlikely.

The rift between the players and Valentine doesn't seem to extend the full length of the clubhouse. According to Passan's sources there are players who are on Valentine's side and feel the vocal stars are wrong in their assessment of the manager and should be more concerned with their underachieving on the field.

Regardless of the side of the fence the players sit. Each and every one of them has a responsibility to play the game. Position players must field, throw, hit and run. Pitchers must take the ball every fifth day or be ready when their name is called on the bullpen phone.

Their readiness and ability to perform should not be hindered by the gruff nature of their manager. Everyone has been waiting for this team to turn the corner and there is no way that Bobby Valentine was impeding the process. Valentine certainly has a tendency to do or say things that ruffle the status quo. It has both worked and then run its course in other organizations; but maybe not as quickly as expected in Boston. His temperament should not have been a surprise.

When ownership in the middle of the season allows the players to congregate in front of them to voice their concerns without the manager there to defend himself, then you know who has the upper hand. The Red Sox players through the meeting disrupted any form of a hierarchy the organization may have had.

While Valentine was given a vote of confidence recently, there are doubts it was nothing but empty words meant to hide the gloom at Fenway Park. The rebellious team continues to show that they are immature beyond their years and if they are not treated with kid gloves they'll run to daddy to tattle.

Of course, they had it the other way last year and got the babysitter fired. It looks like daddy should take a long look at his children and decide if Fenway Park is the right playpen for this group.

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