Red Sox owner John Henry Monday threw his support to manager Bobby Valentine, writing in an e-mail, “we are not making a change in manager.”
Henry had been receiving inquiries about Valentine the past few days, and with media columns and talk-show callers calling for Valentine’s firing, the Red Sox decided to go on the offensive.
“To blame Bobby Valentine for the Red Sox being .500 at this point in the season is simply wrong,” wrote Henry. “A lot has been written about injuries to key players this year. The impact of that on the Sox this year should not be discounted.
“In baseball, managers often get too much credit and too much blame for what happens on the field. 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.”
General manager Ben Cherington also voiced support for Valentine. “Bobby’s our manager and we’re not considering anyone else,” he said in the dugout before the Sox climbed back to .500 by pounding the Rangers, 9-2, Monday night at Fenway Park. “He’s as committed to managing the team as he ever has been and we’re committed to him and trying to do everything we can to support him and make this work.”
Cherington fell short of saying Valentine was the manager for the rest of the season, though team sources indicated Saturday that that was the case.
“I’m not going to comment on that,” Cherington said. “He’s our manager. I’m not getting into timelines. You’re not going to hear a timeline for myself either. We’re just doing the job the best we can and we’re focused on making it better and I support Bobby.”
Cherington said he thought Valentine has done a good job.
“Yeah, I think he’s been faced with a lot of challenges,” he said. “He’s dealt with a lot of questions and we’ve dealt with challenges, on the field, off the field,’’ he said. “I think he’s made some good decisions, good personnel decisions, using guys in different roles and he’s made some good in-game decisions. Both he and his staff manage the bullpen well, so there’s things he’s done well. There’s things hopefully I’ve done well. I know there’s also a lot of things we haven’t done well and we all have to improve.”
Cherington said he has no problem with the criticism of the organization because “when performance isn’t there we are all going to be criticized and we’ve earned that criticism. I don’t think it’s fair to direct it at any one person. We’re collectively responsible. Bobby’s one of those people, so am I, so are the players, so are the coaches, so is everyone else.”
Despite reports of discord in the clubhouse and a disconnect between Valentine and the players, Henry and Cherington both said the players had not quit on the manager.
“There has been no lack of effort from our players and we have had a number of them playing hurt,” Henry wrote. “I watch every game and the effort our players put in night after night is very clear to see. In regard to the notion that we have somehow not empowered Bobby, you should ask him directly about that. 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.”
Cherington said, “I’ve said this before, Winning and losing always has more to do with the players than anything else. I don’t question the effort of the players. I think our players fought, battled, and worked hard, fought out of tough things. It’s not a question of effort. In some level, the players on the team, it’s a reflection of me. It’s a reflection of the front office. So if players win or lose, more than anything else I need to be accountable for that, and I am accountable for that.”
Cherington also said Valentine’s communication with the coaching staff has been better.
“I think it’s improved,” he said. “I think, candidly, there were some moments earlier in the season when it probably wasn’t working as well as it needed to,’’ he sai.d “The collective dynamic between the coaches and Bobby wasn’t where we wanted it to be, which isn’t entirely unexpected given the change and the way it happened. But I do know that there’s been a real effort, more recently, amongst the coaches themselves and Bobby to put whatever miscommunication had occurred in the past behind them and move forward and do the job that they’re all here to do, which is to help the players get ready to play, and I believe that effort’s being made.”
Asked whether he was happy with the state of the clubhouse, Cherington said, “No, but I don’t know that it could have yet, with the way we’ve played. It’s never going to look quite the way you want it to, when our record is less than we want it to be. I think, candidly, the answer is no. But I expect that the better we play and the more we put ourselves in the best position to play, the more it will look like the clubhouse culture that we want.”
Henry told the Globe he never had a conversation with either Valentine or Will Middlebrooks about Valentine’s sarcastic comment (“Nice inning kid,” after Middlebrooks made two misplays) that made its way to the front office.
Cherington said, “I know how strongly Bobby supported Will, going back to spring training, and how much he wanted him in the lineup when he got called up and how much he still wants him in the lineup and how much time he’s spent with Will. So I don’t think it’s a question of whether the manager supports Middlebrooks, which unfortunately we’ve spent a couple of days talking about. I don’t think there’s any question about how much Bobby supports Will and wants him to do well.”
About a player complaining about Valentine, Cherington said, “I think occasionally it’s appropriate for ownership to talk to the players. They have a lot at stake here, so they should do that. I don’t see it as any different than in any other year.
“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, and the content of those conversations will be private, but I can tell you that they’ve been constructive. It’s been focused on what’s going on out here and trying to get this better.”
Henry also addressed reports that his ownership group is not engaged in the team.
“The notion that we are not present and not attending games is misleading to the public,” Henry wrote. “Tom, Larry, and I seldom miss home games. This year is no different. We seldom miss a telecast when on the road if we aren’t there. This is a 365-day-a-year sport for us — as it is for Ben and for Bobby. 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.”
After Monday’s game, Valentine said he was aware of the statements made by Henry and Cherington.
“I regret they had to do it,’’ Valentine said. “If my record was better they wouldn’t have had to do it. But I totally appreciate it. If they felt it was necessary, I think it’s good for the guys.”Nick Cafardo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @nickcafardo