Sox brass support Bobby Valentine
BOSTON -- Given an unqualified vote of support from team ownership Monday, Boston Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine gave a qualified response in reaction.
"I regret that they had to do it," he said after the Red Sox beat the Texas Rangers 9-2. "If our record was better, they wouldn't have to do it. Totally appreciated, though. They felt it was necessary. They think it was good for the guys."
Principal owner John W. Henry, in an email sent to reporters shortly after general manager Ben Cherington had expressed his backing for Valentine, declared the team's commitment to Valentine, who has been involved in varying degrees of controversy since being hired to replace Terry Francona last winter.
"We are not making a change in manager," Henry wrote in his email.
With just 52 games left to be played, the Red Sox are at .500 (55-55), 9 games behind the New York Yankees in the AL East and trailing in the wild-card race. But Henry absolved Valentine of having to carry the principal burden for the team's disappointing showing, his comments echoed by chairman Tom Werner and Cherington.
"In baseball, managers often get too much credit and too much blame for what happens on the field," Henry wrote. "That seems to be a constant. There is often the thought in organizations, 'This isn't working so the manager needs to go.' But an organization is much more than the field manager. We all share responsibility for the success and failure of the Boston Red Sox."
Cherington said the team's mediocre performance is a shared responsibility.
"When the performance isn't there, we're all going to be criticized and we've earned that criticism," Cherington said. "I don't think it's fair to direct it at any one person. We're collectively responsible and Bobby's one of those people, so am I, so are the players, so are the coaches and so is everyone."
Valentine is signed to a two-year contract. Cherington stopped short of saying whether Valentine will be here through the life of that contract.
"I'm not going to get into timelines," Cherington said. "I'm not going to get into timelines for myself, either. We're just doing the job right now. We're doing the job the best we can and we're focused on making it better. I support Bobby."
Cherington, responding to last week's firestorm set off by 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."
Henry referred to the team's excessive injuries (23 players have served 27 separate stints on the disabled list) as a significant contributing factor to the team's performance, and took no issue with the players' effort.
"There has been no lack of effort from our players and we have had a number of them playing hurt," Henry said. "I watch every game and the effort our players put in night after night is very clear to see."
Henry also challenged the idea that ownership has kept Valentine from exercising authority in the way he would prefer.
"In regard to the notion that we have somehow not empowered Bobby, you should ask him directly about that," Henry said. "We have been nothing but supportive of him inside and outside of the clubhouse. Stories that imply otherwise are due to speculation that is not warranted at all by the facts."
Valentine said he was unaware of the "notion" to which Henry was referring.
"I don't know about the notion," he said. "I can't even fathom what that would refer to. The ownership? Fabulous. Very expensive payroll. Ben's worked 24-7. He's been in my office every day. There's never been anything we've had major disagreements about.
"I don't know how I could be more empowered. Maybe a magic wand at times. I'll use that during the game if I ever find out where I could get one."
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Both Henry and Red Sox chairman Tom Werner took exception to criticism that they are less committed to the Red Sox than in the past.
"This notion that the Red Sox are not our focus is misleading because we do have the second-highest payroll in baseball," Werner said. "We've been proud of our record, and if we're not doing well our focus is on how to improve."
Henry went further. "This is a 365-day-a-year sport for us -- as it is for Ben and for Bobby," he said. "Even when we are away we discuss issues daily. Just because we aren't answering all media questions doesn't mean we aren't on the job. We are.
"Our commitment to winning is unabated. That is our focus. We continue to have the 2nd highest payroll among the 30 clubs. We have been at this for more than 10 years in Boston, and winning is just as much our focus today as it was when we took over."
Before the game, Valentine appeared unfazed Monday by speculation that his job was in jeopardy. But by that time, he'd met with Henry, Werner and Cherington in his office, and had been informed that they intended to go public with their support.
Asked about calls in the media that he be fired, Valentine said: "Wow. I didn't read the paper or listen to the radio. Thanks for telling me about all that good news. I'm not going to comment on things that are written and said on the radio."
Asked if it was fair, he said: "I don't know what 'it' means. I just come to work trying to do the best I can do. I can't control thought processes, that's for sure."
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