BALTIMORE — In the aftermath of this week’s Yahoo! Sports story of a reported mutiny by Red Sox players against manager Bobby Valentine, there were strong denials from players and owner John Henry Wednesday, and emerging as a major issue for upper Sox management is concern over the sources cited in the story and their motivation.
“We are very concerned about a breach of confidence in this matter because in the 10 years we’ve held these meetings, we’ve never had information leak like this,” said Larry Lucchino, the team’s president and CEO.
The report, which detailed a meeting between ownership and a group of players in New York late in July, prompted Henry to issue a statement Wednesday in which he, too, expressed concern about the leaks and insisted that no player called for Valentine to be fired.
“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,’’ Henry wrote. “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. Over the decade we have made great strides as a result of these meetings in a number of ways, including improvement in training facilities, protocols, safety, resources, travel issues, clubhouse issues, and trust within a cooperative framework.
“But more than anything else 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?
“What Tom, Larry, and I heard in the player meeting was one overriding sentiment. Players felt responsible for the record. 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. No one in that meeting at any time took the position that Bobby should be or needed to be replaced.”
Lucchino reiterated Henry’s assertion that at no time did players gang up on Valentine and call for his firing. A team source said someone “definitely had an ax to grind” with the manager.
According to a team source, Dustin Pedroia and Adrian Gonzalez, the two players cited in the Yahoo! story as the most vocal at the meeting, asked to speak to Valentine prior to Tuesday night’s game to explain what happened and to assure him that they were not trying to get him fired and in fact enjoyed playing for him.
Before Wednesday night’s game, Valentine expressed confidence that his players were not trying to get him fired, while also wondering about the motivation of the sources used in the story.
“It’s a shame that someone would do that and spread wrong information,” Valentine said. “It hurts our team. If you really care about our team, why would you do something like that, no matter what your agenda is?”
Said a prominent Red Sox player, “If I knew it was one of my teammates, we’d have a big problem. A big problem.
“We’re supposed to be together. We’re supposed to be in this together. To spread gossip like that about important players on this team who have been falsely accused is just horrible. That person should be ashamed of himself.”
“I think that bothers everyone,” said DH David Ortiz. “We’re supposed to be a baseball team. We’re supposed to come in here and think of the best way to win as a team. Not this other crap.
“I hope it’s not someone on the team. Maybe it’s coming from outside. A lot of this stuff comes from outside, from people who we never see here. It doesn’t come from the reporters who cover the team because they know what’s going on.”
Regarding Henry’s statement, Valentine said, “As I said before, I regret the fact that he has to be out there. If we were 10 games over .500 or in first place, I don’t think he’d have to make any statements. I appreciate John coming out and saying that.”
Asked if this latest drama to hit the clubhouse was beginning to weigh on him or the team, Valentine said, “I don’t know if it’s weighing on me, but the guys are upset that every time we win a game, something else pops out of the bag of tricks.
“I guess this guy was sitting on the story for about three weeks and decided to wait right before the Yankees series to pop it out there. Great stuff, really good stuff.”
When apprised of remarks Pedroia made after Tuesday’s game, in which he stated that the players, and not the manager, bore the brunt of the responsibility for the team’s record, Valentine said, “I feel bad that he has to have that kind of comment. Dustin’s the warrior of warriors, one of the greatest players that I’ve ever been around. To say that he’s to blame for something? I don’t blame him for anything.”
Valentine thinks the end result could be the team coming together.
“I think we’re in it together, personally, and I think we’re going to get hot,’’ Valentine said.
According to a team source, among the things discussed in the July 26 meeting were Valentine leaving Jon Lester in a July 22 game to give up 11 runs, and a sarcastic comment Valentine made to rookie Will Middlebrooks after two misplays in an inning. Regarding the July 22 game, Valentine said he had apprised Lester that the lefty would have to pitch because the bullpen was thin, and that Lester agreed.
There was also a team meeting in May, according to a team source, in which Valentine called out both Pedroia and Gonzalez in front of the entire group. Valentine had made comments about Kevin Youkilis, to which Pedroia responded, “It’s not the way we do things around here,” and according to the team source, Valentine told Pedroia at the May meeting, “Maybe we need to do things differently around here.”
Since then, according to both Pedroia and Valentine, they have gotten along very well.
Before Tuesday’s game, in fact, Valentine came over to Pedroia in the dugout, put his hand around his neck, and kissed him.
“It’s an Italian thing,” Valentine said. “This kid is one of the greatest people I’ve ever managed. He’s a warrior. He gives you everything he has every day.
“I feel so bad that his name has to be dragged into a story like that, and I know what Dustin said at the meeting. In no way was he blaming me for the season. He put the blame on everyone equally but mostly on the players. You don’t want to see his name used like that because he’s the ultimate professional and we have a great relationship.”
Pedroia and Gonzalez have denied that they ganged up on Valentine in the meeting, and that they wanted him out as manager. Pedroia said Tuesday that “nobody wants Bobby to be fired” and Gonzalez told WEEI.com that Valentine “knows exactly what happened. He knows the truth. This happened a month ago, and so that’s all been cleared. Somebody decides to write about it. It’s already old.”
Gonzalez also told the website that communication between the players and the manager has been improving, but former Sox catcher Kelly Shoppach, who was traded to the Mets, was quoted in the New York Daily News as saying, “There is a disconnect in communication between the players and upper management.”