Just ask David Ortiz, whose absence over the past month correlated to a 12-18 record for the team entering Saturday.
Ortiz says just don't blame Bobby Valentine. But the manager, relenting somewhat on Saturday, said his performance in his first season "has not been a good job."
Ortiz, on the disabled list since July 17 with a strained right Achilles tendon, stuck up for Valentine before Friday's game as news simmered of a late-July players meeting with ownership in which the manager's status was reportedly brought into play.
"Who cares if a player's against a manager? We've got to deal with the manager anyway," Ortiz said to reporters in the dugout. "A manager is not something you can go and change like you change your underwear. It can happen at some point, but the possibility of it happening, especially in the middle of the season, is a small percent, so that's not our case."
But Valentine, speaking before Saturday's game at New York, expressed disappointment in the results.
"I'm not doing a good job. I didn't get paid to do anything other than get to the playoffs, win a lot of games, be in the thick in things right down to the end, even be in first place," Valentine said, according to The Associated Press. "The team I'm managing is not there. Simple. So my job has not been a good job, if I had to assess."
Entering Friday's game, the 30th Ortiz had missed, the Red Sox were averaging almost a half-run less per game (4.6) than before he was hurt (5.0), and the team's OPS is .753, compared with .771 prior to the injury.
Ortiz, who leads the team in batting average at .316, home runs with 23 and on-base percentage at .414, did not attend the July meeting and continues to back Valentine, saying he should remain on the job.
"I think Bobby's doing great, man," Ortiz said. "He had to deal with so many things through the season, a lot of guys' injuries. I guarantee if we don't have that many guys go onto the DL this year, history would be different this year, and all the talks and negativity that have come out against him, I don't think it would be there.
"Because what does it mean if you're playing well? He can't manage the team and at the same time go and play for us. All he can do is make moves and make decisions. But if you don't have your squad out there providing what you expect -- because of injuries or bad games or whatever -- I don't think people should be looking at it like it's his fault we struggled the way we have this year."
Red Sox president Larry Lucchino said Thursday that Valentine would "unequivocally" remain as manager for the rest of this season, declining to go into detail about the meeting, saying only that the Yahoo! Sports report that players were calling for Valentine to be ousted was "exaggerated and inaccurate."
Lucchino also said he shared owner John Henry's disappointment that sources leaked information about the meeting to Yahoo! Sports.
And the frustration about the report extends to Ortiz.
"It affects the players," Ortiz said. "The other day, (Dustin) Pedroia was playing baseball out there pissed off and not focused on what he wants to do because that report came out saying he was against the manager.
"How do you think he's going to feel out there? ... That kid, he wants to do nothing but play baseball no matter who his manager is, no matter who's the umpire, who's the fan -- he don't care. He wants to go out there and beat the crap out of whoever he's playing against that day."
Valentine is under contract for next season. If he is fired before then, the team would have to pay him what he's scheduled to make next season or work out a compensation settlement.
"It's my first year," Valentine said Saturday. "Everyone tells me it's standard operational procedure. Life in the big city or the -- it's not the big city."
"Province?" a reporter suggested.
"Provincial town," Valentine said.
Asked how he keeps players' spirits up, Valentine responded: "Tell a few jokes. We made sure that the eggs were served properly this morning in the breakfast room."
But Valentine said given the lack of success, he wasn't expecting
morale to be exceptional.
"These guys are pro guys," he said. "They're supposed to be down. When you lose, you're not supposed to be happy," he said. "I don't want anybody to think it's a good thing."
Information from ESPNBoston.com's Gordon Edes and The Associated Press was used in this report.