Henry: Players blamed themselves
Boston Red Sox owner John Henry on Wednesday vehemently denied a Yahoo! Sports report that players had called for a managerial change at a July 26 meeting with ownership in New York.
"No one in that meeting at any time took the position that Bobby (Valentine) should be or needed to be replaced," Henry wrote in an email to a number of media outlets.
Valentine said Wednesday in Baltimore that he felt bad that Henry felt compelled to weigh in on the situation, but was thankful all the same.
"As I said before, I regret the fact that (Henry) has to be out there," Valentine said. "If we're 10 games over .500 and in first place right now, I don't think he'd have to make any statements. I appreciate John coming out and saying that."
On Tuesday, Yahoo! Sports reported that a group of players ripped Valentine at the meeting, some even telling ownership they no longer wanted to play for him. Among the biggest Valentine critics at the meeting, according to unnamed sources cited in the report, were first baseman Adrian Gonzalez and second baseman Dustin Pedroia.
Pedroia on Tuesday night denied he called for Valentine's firing at the meeting and laid blame for the team's struggles this season primarily on the players, a sentiment echoed by Gonzalez on Wednesday.
"The source is inaccurate," Gonzalez told WEEI.com. "He says that I was animated and one of the most vocal guys in the meeting and that's false. If somebody's going to try to be an unnamed source, they better be right with what they say, because this is putting our integrity and everyone about us out there and that's just unfair."
Valentine said he appreciated Pedroia's statement.
"I feel bad that he has to have that kind of comment," Valentine said Wednesday in Baltimore. "Dustin is the warrior of warriors, one of the greatest players that I've ever been around, and to have to say he's to blame for something? He's not to blame for anything. I think we're in it together, personally."
Valentine also said he was puzzled why the story came out now and the players are getting frustrated at having this topic emerge again and again.
"The guys are just, you know, they're upset that every time we win a game that something pops out of the bag of tricks," Valentine said. " (I guess) this guy's been sitting on the story for, what, three weeks and decided to wait right before the Yankee series or whatever and pop it out there. It's great stuff. It's really good stuff."
Henry said the meeting was called at his behest and was similar in tone to roundtable meetings he says he has hosted throughout his tenure as Red Sox owner, meetings he says have often resulted in improvements to "training facilities, protocols, safety, resources, travel issues, clubhouse issues and trust within a cooperative framework."
"But more than anything else," wrote Henry, "these meetings have been about the same thing the meeting in New York was about -- what it takes to win -- what can we all do to improve our ability to win?"
Valentine said Wednesday he wasn't sure whether it was the players who demanded a meeting with ownership or whether the meeting was ownership's idea, but said that doesn't mean he's out of touch with his team.
Valentine also rebutted the part of the story that said he didn't interact with the players enough and remained in his office too much.
He said, while not reading that part of the story, he used to sit in the clubhouse more and go out to dinner with players. But baseball life is different now.
"I was supposed to change my style," Valentine said in Baltimore. "Things have changed, so I give them their space. They know when they need me, I'm right here. I'm with them every day, every minute, every second of their lives."
Earlier Wednesday in his weekly interview on Boston sports radio station WEEI, Valentine elaborated on his style.
"I just don't want you to think that I show up every day at game time and I sit in the corner of the dugout and when the game is over I fly away on my broomstick. I'm here at 2 o'clock. I'm continuously talking with guys. We'll talk about their stance or their pitch grip or the catcher's signs or anything else they want to talk about."
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Valentine was asked specifically whether he feels ownership has empowered him to do what he needs to do as manager.
"I'm trying to do things as best I can," Valentine told WEEI. "At the end of the day, teams are judged by their record. The record is not where we want it to be right now. I am totally responsible for the record."
He later added: "We're three games under .500 and that's my problem."
When asked whether he has had to adjust his managerial style because of a perceived lack of support from ownership, Valentine did not directly answer, instead speaking generally about still trying to figure things out 118 games into his first season as Sox manager.
"I'm not a dummy. I go through things with open eyes," he said. "I'm trying to figure out -- and again, this is four months into a very trying situation -- I'm trying to figure out what does work best to get the results we need."
The drama surrounding this Red Sox team has been a constant throughout the season. Valentine was asked whether he thought all the noise has been a distraction for the players.
"From what I gather, it's what happens here," he said. "One of the things I was discussing with one of the players was that all of this noise or whatever is one of the reasons why players don't like to sign here. They don't have to deal with it in other markets, they don't have to deal with the drama-of-the-day type of situation, that they can just go out and play baseball. But what I said to them is, 'Hey, this is what we all signed up for. We're not going to change the outside situation but we can definitely change the internal situation.' "
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Is it a climate that's conducive to winning?
"I think it really needs fine-tuning," Valentine said. "They might have brought me in to adjust some of the culture that was existing."
Henry confirmed ownership held three separate meetings in New York, one with players, one with coaches and a third with Valentine, "separating groups so as to have frank discussions about what was wrong."
He said there was one "overriding sentiment" at the meeting with players, which took place at a New York hotel on the team's day off before a series against the Yankees.
"Players felt responsible for the record," wrote Henry. "They weren't blaming injuries or anyone but themselves. At the same time, they openly spoke about what could improve in addition to their play. They made substantive points. We addressed those points."
He called that meeting similar to one the team had "about eight years ago," which if his timetable is correct puts it sometime during the 2004 season. That was Terry Francona's first season as manager in Boston. The team scuffled through much of the season, but turned it on after trading Nomar Garciaparra on July 31 and went on to win its first World Series in 86 years.
It would take a much bigger turnaround to save this year's Red Sox team, four games under .500 (57-61), 13½ games out of first place and 6½ back in the wild-card race. It's been a season filled with reports of discord, miscommunication and questions of trust between the manager, coaches, ownership and players. The team is 8-11 since the meeting with players.
"I understand that when the team isn't playing up to our standards that issues are going to be sensationalized," wrote Henry. "But what is important for Red Sox fans to know is that ownership, players and all staff, especially Bobby Valentine, are determined to turn around what has thus far been an unacceptable, failed season. We are all on the same page in that regard and will not waver."
There were 17 players at the meeting with ownership in New York, according to ESPN.com. Henry wrote this was the first time he remembers any information from one of the team's roundtable meetings has been leaked to the media.
"First of all, for more than a decade we have had a code among players, staff and ownership that our meetings are private and do not leave the room," he wrote in the opening sentence of his email. "There is one reason for that. It enables all of us to openly discuss important issues. For more than a decade not one person in any of those meetings has gone to the media with private information."
"Let me be very careful, and I think maybe this is as far as I'll go with it, too: There is a disconnect in communication between the players through the upper management," Shoppach told ESPNNewYork.com on Friday in Cincinnati.
Meanwhile in Baltimore, Red Sox pitcher Clay Buchholz spoke briefly about the situation and said a lot of false information is getting out. He still has plenty of confidence in Valentine and isn't worried.
"It is what it is," Buchholz said. "It's hard for a player to sit here and say that (reports are) not true because everybody thinks you're backing up your guys -- but he's doing a good job."
Then Buchholz explained things in a simple manner.
"It's a game, man," he said with a smile. "It doesn't always work."
Information from ESPNBoston.com special contributor Jeff Seidel was used in this report.
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