THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING

There are no winners in this blame game

By Nick Cafardo
Globe Staff / August 20, 2012
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NEW YORK — So, Kelly Shoppach denies he was the guy who started the texting campaign to meet with Red Sox ownership to complain about that mean Bobby V.

Who cares whether he was or whether he wasn’t? Shoppach isn’t that important.

If he was the guy, what numbskulls would have followed his lead? One Sox official called Shoppach “a negative force in the clubhouse.”

The day Shoppach was traded to the Mets, no one in the Red Sox clubhouse said a word about him. But according to reports, Shoppach met with Mets manager Terry Collins Sunday to make sure Collins knew he wasn’t the guy, because he wanted to get off on the right foot with his new team.

Shoppach did not attend the July 26 meeting between Red Sox owners and players in New York, and thus could say, “See, it wasn’t me.”

Shoppach is probably a little worried because, after all, what team would want a guy who led a crusade to fire the manager?

The fact the Sox kept him for so long was strange, anyway. Ryan Lavarnway should have been up a long time ago so he could begin to get his feet wet as a major league catcher since he is the future and Shoppach was barely the present. Although, as we pointed out in the Sunday baseball notes, the Sox were 26-16 when Shoppach started, though much of that had to do with Boston’s success against lefthanded starters.

“I can’t add any more to that whole story,” said Sox general manager Ben Cherington. “The meeting happened over three weeks ago now. Time has passed. We’re trying to move on and trying to focus on what’s going on now. There’s nothing more I can add to it.”

Because of a guy like Shoppach, Dustin Pedroia has to take criticism because a Yahoo! Sports story named him as one of the “most vocal” at the meeting, which Pedroia has denied.

Pedroia is coming under criticism in some circles because some believe he was one of the ring leaders. But if you know anything about Pedroia and his relationship with Bobby Valentine, you know that since May the two have become very close, and that it is unfathomable to think Pedroia was part of a texting campaign started by Shoppach, Adrian Gonzalez, or anyone else.

Pedroia remains angry and disappointed about the story, and his name being dragged through the mud for no apparent reason. The New York Daily News reported on Sunday that Shoppach started the texting to owners. Shoppach denied he had anything to do with it, but it’s suspicious because Valentine and Shoppach never saw eye to eye.

And so, the stupidity of the whole story remains. The chaos never goes away.

“Normally when you’re being scrutinized, there’s a reason for it,” Cherington said. “Things aren’t going the way you want them to, that’s normal. We’ve made that bed ourselves, so it’s up to us to make it better. When we make it better, there will be less scrutiny. I’m focusing on trying to make our current situation better. That’s what the players, coaches, and certainly Bobby is doing. We have to deal with the questions because we’re not performing up to the standards we expect, so the scrutiny is going to be there.”

These have been trying times for Cherington. He’s a rookie GM who has had to officiate between Valentine and some of Terry Francona’s holdover coaches, and between the players and Valentine. He did not make any significant moves at the trading deadline and has taken a cautious approach to the waiver period.

It’s no coincidence that the two players he did move were Kevin Youkilis and Shoppach. They were two of the biggest Valentine detractors.

There isn’t anyone who doesn’t acknowledge a bumpy ride at the beginning with Valentine. But that’s not what caused the poor start. They were peripheral issues, things that weren’t anywhere near the seriousness of the injury situation they faced and the poor play that ensued and two starting pitchers who couldn’t get out of their own way.

Have things improved?

“I see really good effort,” Cherington said. “I see positives even after a tough loss, or any time I come to the clubhouse guys are ready to go and ready to play. That’s all I can ask for from this group, to keep getting after it every day. I don’t think that meeting was necessarily a marker because we’ve had good effort all year, but we haven’t gotten it done on the field enough.”

Cherington was asked if winning would make the issues go away? It’s almost like last September. If they had won one or two more games, would the stories about chicken and beer, and the collapse of the clubhouse ever come to light?

“I don’t know,” Cherington said. “I hope we rip off 10 straight and then I could answer that better. When things aren’t going well in a place like Boston there’s going to be attention. Everyone in baseball ops and including the major league team is responsible for making it better. Until we do we’ve earned the criticism and the scrutiny. It’s part of being in this game in Boston. There’s great upside in being in Boston, but when things aren’t going well you have to deal with a lot of questions.”

The main reason for this team’s demise has been the performances of Josh Beckett and Jon Lester, the latter of whom is looking more like his old self.

“I think there’s been a lot of focus on the two of them as the core reason for our underperformance,” Cherington said. “They would both tell you they’re not having years they’d like to have. But they’ve taken the ball every fifth day and they’ve competed. They’ve both kept us in games. Josh has missed a few starts and both have had a couple of games that have gotten away from them.

“Your best pitchers aren’t always going to have high levels of performance. Both guys had a little bit of down years. Those guys have been on the mound for our good times and I think they’re capable of it.”

Cherington agrees “it’s no secret our starting pitching has not been as good as it used to be, if you look at the entirety of then season so far. Part of improving it is to help our guys get back to what they’ve done in the past. If there are ways to improve this offseason, we’ll do that. There’s still a lot of performance upside to guys here without adding anything to it. I know it won’t be for a lack of effort.”

Cherington agreed with the assertion that he traded Shoppach to make room for Lavarnway. But it was more than that. And now Shoppach can spread his cheer in the Mets clubhouse. Good luck with that.

Nick Cafardo can be reached at cafardo@globe.com.

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