BOSTON -- Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington, responding to last week's firestorm set off by Bobby Valentine when he accused an unnamed player of going to management to complain about Valentine's treatment of rookie Will Middlebrooks, rejected the characterization of players "running up the back stairs."
Management encourages players to come to them with their concerns, Cherington said. He also said players have a clear understanding of their accountability.
"I've talked to players plenty this year," Cherington said. "It's no different than any other year. I think, occasionally, it's appropriate for ownership to talk to the players. They have a lot at stake here and they should do that. I don't see it as different as any other year and no players are running up the back stairs.
"I've had conversations with players in the open light of the clubhouse, I've had conversations on the phone, just like any other year. The content of those conversations will be private, but I will tell you that they've been constructive. They've been focused on what's been going on out here and trying to get this better."
Cherington admitted that the clubhouse environment is not what he would like it to be, but blames the team's mediocre record. The Red Sox are 55-55 with 52 games left to be played.
"When the record is what it is, the clubhouse environment will not feel as good as if we're playing a lot better and winning more games," Cherington said. "So, in that light, I'd like to see it better. I'd like to see the performance better, but I think every player in there knows where they stand and know if they have something to express, they can express it. Whether it's to the manager, or anyone else, they have a voice.
"[Players] also recognize, pretty clearly, that they're accountable. Players, to a man, have said whether it's in private to me, or Bobby, or ownership publicly, that they know this is on them more than anything else and that's part of playing here and being a major league player."
While saying that the team is committed to giving Valentine as much support as it can, the primary burden of winning and losing falls on the players.
"Winning and losing always has more to do with players than anything else," Cherington said. "I don't question the effort of the players; I think our players have fought, battled, worked hard, played hard and fought out of tough things. It's not a question of effort."
Likewise, Cherington said he's trying to do all he can individually: "I'm always going to look at myself first when things aren't going well and that's what I'm focused on is what I can do better to help the collective situation be better."
Cherington has met with ownership and with Valentine numerous times.
"I've talked to ownership a lot. I've talked to them every day about the state of things because none of us are happy with our record or the performance of the team to this point," Cherington said. "The focus entirely has been on how to make it better with this group of people, how to make the roster better, prepare the roster to play every night and how to put the players in the best position to play. We've had a number of conversations in that light.
"There's been a lot of focus on it recently because things haven't gone the way we've wanted them to."
Amid various reports that Valentine has had problems with both players and coaches, Cherington admitted that Valentine's relationship with the staff was not fluid early in the year but has changed for the better.
"I think it's improved," Cherington said. "I think, candidly, there were moments early in the season when it wasn't worked as well as it needed to. The collective dynamic between the coaches and Bobby wasn't what we wanted it to be, which isn't entirely unexpected with change, the way it happened, but I do know there's been a real effort more recently, amongst the coaches themselves and Bobby, to put whatever miscommunication had occurred in the past behind them, move forward and do the job that they're all here to do, which is to help the players get ready to play. I believe that effort is being made now."
Cherington praised Valentine for some things he has done well this season.
"I think he's done a good job of evaluating the talent and what he's seeing on the field right in front of him," the GM said. "He's made some good choices as how he's used players, roles, change in roles and playing time. He's gotten some things out of players that maybe, perhaps, others haven't in the past. From an evaluation standpoint there are a lot of good things that have happened. ... Anything I think he can do differently, I've talked to him about and I'll continue to do that."