Some of the Boston Red Sox players who met with ownership about Bobby Valentine on July 26 are extremely media savvy. They've played in big markets and speak off and on the record at length to various reporters, and they had to know, as they gathered that day, that eventually word of this summit would get out.
Sure enough, less than a week later, Joel Sherman of the New York Post became the first to make reference to the players' discussion with their bosses: "Outside officials say the clubhouse dislike for Bobby Valentine is so intense, players lobbying ownership for a change is not an overstatement."
More details are out now, reinforcing for all to see the reality that has been in place for months: The Red Sox players don't want to play for Valentine, not in the way that the Chicago White Sox want to play for Robin Ventura or the Los Angeles Dodgers want to play for Don Mattingly.
The roots of Boston's sub-.500 performance are more deeply tied to the pitching of Josh Beckett and Jon Lester and the injuries to John Lackey, Daisuke Matsuzaka and Andrew Bailey. The Red Sox have $52 million invested in those five pitchers, and in return they've gotten 11 wins, 23 losses, just 225 innings and a 5.36 ERA.
But the poor relationship between Valentine and some of his players and some coaches is a daily virus for this organization, like a flu that never goes away. On a given day, they can all get their work done, but probably not to the best of their abilities. It is, as reported in June, a toxic mix. Red Sox ownership has been taken aback by the level of discord, and John Henry is on record as saying he doesn't believe Valentine is responsible for the team's play, so it may be that the manager will last the season -- especially given that in Boston, the players have taken the brunt of the criticism in the last 24 hours. Ownership may be leery of the perception that the inmates are running the asylum.
But there will be a day when Henry must decide what direction he wants to take and whether it's smart to continue with Valentine as the manager for the 2013 season. Henry should draw from an example set by his old friend George Steinbrenner, in the last years of Steinbrenner's life.
In the fall of 2005, the contract of New York Yankees GM Brian Cashman was set to expire, and he was ready to leave after spending seven years fighting to operate through the maze of advisors and friends and office politics that Steinbrenner created with his manic management style.
As part of what Cashman thought was his exit conversation with Steinbrenner, Cashman gave his recommendation to the man who had given him his first job in baseball. The Red Sox had surpassed the Yankees with the strength of their organization, Cashman told Steinbrenner, in their player development and evaluation, and if the Yankees wanted to keep up, they needed a more defined chain of command, with others answering to a general manager who answered to Steinbrenner.
By that fall, Steinbrenner had started to fail, with his memory and his cognitive abilities in regression; he was uncertain in a way he had never been before. But after hearing Cashman's vision of the changes needed, Steinbrenner told Cashman he wanted Cashman to make those recommended alterations, not a new GM.
Steinbrenner and Cashman had a tumultuous relationship, with the two men sometimes screaming at each other. But Steinbrenner trusted Cashman and longtime Yankee Gene Michael in a way he didn't trust others, because he believed no matter what happened, Cashman and Michael would make decisions with clean motives: They would do what was best for the organization, for the Yankees. There might be arguments, there might be fights, there might be disagreements, but Steinbrenner thought that, at heart, Cashman and Michael were loyal to the Yankees, and that they were not basing their suggestions on an effort to curry favor with Steinbrenner or to strengthen organizational alliances or weaken enemies in the office.
This is why Henry should turn to general manager Ben Cherington in the same way that Steinbrenner turned to Cashman. Henry should give full control of the team's baseball operations to Cherington, because the owner should know that above all else, Cherington is devoted to doing what's right for the Red Sox.
In Henry's decade-long stewardship of the team, Cherington has steered clear of Boston's thick culture of palace intrigue. There has been so much in-fighting, joked an AL executive, that interns are probably asked to take the first drink from each chalice -- for fear of poisoning.
For example: As soon as Theo Epstein departed as general manager last fall, leaving a power vacuum in the baseball operations, president Larry Lucchino stepped into the process of the managerial hiring and served as Valentine's patron saint -- something that never would have happened if Epstein had remained.
Cherington's short track record of decisions isn't flawless, because the GM with a perfect record doesn't exist. But Henry can trust that as Valentine's situation is evaluated, Cherington will make a fair-minded recommendation on whether the manager should be retained. Cherington would weigh the clubhouse culture and, moving forward, he could present a clear-headed array of options from which Henry could choose.
Cherington is known among rival general managers as a good and decent person; he's known for his honesty.
This is the type of perspective that Henry should be grabbing for, as he tries to figure out how to pull the Red Sox out of an ugly chapter in their history.
Beckett had another bad outing, and the Red Sox were crushed.
Christopher Gasper thinks Valentine should be fired.
By The Numbers
From ESPN Stats and Info
5: Wins, in as many starts, for Chad Billingsley since the All-Star break; Billingsley was 4-9 before the break.
6: Shutouts on Tuesday, the most on any day this season. The last time there were at least six shutouts on one day was May 14, 2011 (six).
9: Consecutive 100-RBI seasons for Miguel Cabrera, the 10th player in MLB history to accomplish the feat.
45: In-season hit streaks of 10-plus games in the career of Derek Jeter, the fourth-most double-digit in-season hit streaks since 1903 (Ty Cobb, 66; Hank Aaron, 48; Tris Speaker, 47).
Moves, deals and decisions
3. Kevin Gausman was promoted to high Class A.
8. Mike Butcher was suspended.
Dings and dents
AL East notes
From ESPN Stats and Info, how Kuroda shut out the Rangers:
A) Seventeen of the 22 balls in play against Kuroda (77 percent) were hit on the ground, his highest percentage in the last four seasons.
B) Kuroda matched a season low by going to only two three-ball counts.
C) Twelve of the 14 balls in play (86 percent) against Kuroda's fastball were hit on the ground. Kuroda threw only 18 percent of fastballs in the upper third of the zone or higher, his second-lowest percentage of the season.
D) Kuroda threw 35 percent sliders, his fifth-highest percentage of the season. Ninety percent of Kuroda's sliders were in the outer third of the strike zone or further outside.
• The Rays' winning streak ended, and they had their guts ripped out.
AL Central notes
AL West notes
From ESPN Stats and Info: Parker's ascension was a big reason for the Athletics' success this season, as he went 5-3 with a 2.46 ERA in his first 13 starts. He has a 6.15 ERA in his last seven starts and failed to make it through five innings Tuesday. Perhaps most important, he's now at 121 1/3 innings, and he's never exceeded 135 2/3 in his professional career.
NL East notes
• Washington was shut down.
• The Mets had another bad day, as Andy Martino writes.
NL Central notes
NL West notes
• Chad Billingsley was outstanding, as Dylan Hernandez writes.
• Ozzie Guillen says aggressive play is hurting the Marlins.
• Strasburg has a little chip on his shoulder.
• The Nationals are making the right call, writes Troy Renck.
• Mike Scioscia is looking for relief.
• It may get worse for the Astros, writes Randy Harvey.
• The Angels are sinking toward a dark day, writes Jeff Miller.
• Richard Sandomir writes about when Sandy Koufax was better at basketball than baseball.
• No one really knows how the Pesky Pole came to be named.
And today will be better than yesterday.