There's only one thing worse in sport than when a floundering team holds a "Players Only" meeting and that is the dreaded "Vote of Confidence" placed upon a manager or coach whose team is struggling when expectations remain high. The so-called votes of confidence often come too late in the season. Yesterday, only weeks after the All-Star break and 110 games into the 162-game Major League Baseball season, the Boston Red Sox hierarchy thought it was time to back up their oft-maligned manager, Bobby Valentine.
In a pregame salvo that the might call for a modern-times update to the Interstate Wire Act of 1961, the votes of confidence and job security came in many ways from many voices. Red Sox GM Ben Cherington met face-to-face with media in the dug-out at Fenway Park, team owner John Henry sent a statement via electronic mail and Red Sox Chairman Tom Werner was tracked down by phone, telling ESPN Boston's Gordon Edes, "I do think we all take some responsibility that the team is not playing up to expectations, but we're not going to make a change in manager." Werner also defended the ownership group, which has come under scrutiny by fans and local media for a perceived lack of interest in the team's fortunes.
In his pregame dugout chat, Cherington spoke from the same Psychology 1.0 Self-Efficacy playbook, stating, "When the performance isn't there, we're all going to be criticized and we've earned that criticism." He continued, "I don't think it's fair to direct it at any one person. We're collectively responsible and Bobby's one of those people, so am I, so are the players, so are the coaches and so is everyone."
Meanwhile, Red Sox principal owner John W. Henry gave Valentine a vote of confidence via email. "In baseball, managers often get too much credit and too much blame for what happens on the field," Henry wrote electronically.
He's our manager. I'm not going to get into timelines. I'm not going to get into timelines for myself, either. We're just doing the job right now. We're doing the job the best we can and we're focused on making it better. I support Bobby.
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
"We are not making a change in manager," stated Henry.
"Winning and losing always has more to do with players than anything else," the team GM, Cherington, said to media later. "I don't question the effort of the players; I think our players have fought, battled, worked hard, played hard and fought out of tough things. It's not a question of effort."
Of course, the key to the situation is the effect the move had in the clubhouse. After the Red Sox trounced the A.L. West-leading Texas Rangers 9-2 in the first game of a three-game home series, When Valentine was asked if his employers had informed him of the vote of confidence public relations campaign.
"Yes," said Valentine, seeking a question on some other topic.
The follow-up in the NESN televised and Boston Globe columnist-led interrogation provided some perspective, "I regret they had to do it," added Valentine, watching his words. "If our record was better, they wouldn't have to do it. I totally appreciate it though and if they felt it was necessary... and, if they think it's good for the guys (players).
Asked about Henry's wordsmithing of his email to select media, "in regard to the notion that we have somehow not empowered Bobby, you should ask him directly about that."
When asked, Valentine balked like Steve Carlton, "I don't know about the 'notion,'" said Valentine, coyly. "I can't even fathom what that refers to?
"Whoever 'they' is? asked the manager. "There's a very expensive payroll, Ben (Cherington) had worked 24/7 and been in my office everyday, there's never been anything that we've had any major disagreements with, so I don't know how I can be more empowered?
Maybe a "Magic Wand at times?" "Maybe I can use that in games somehow, if I can find out where to get one."
Should Valentine wander over to WWNorth's Glenda and wave his wand, he might start by bottling the magic from his last two starting pitchers. On Sunday, Franklin Morales threw a three-hit, one run gem over the six innings he pitched in a 6-4 Boston victory over the Minnesota Twins. Then tonight, Aaron Cook allowed six hits but only one run in Boston's 9-2 dismantling of the AL West division honchos from Texas. While Cook has recorded quality starts in five of his nine starts this season, the victory was only his third which come coupled with five losses.
"Anytime I have my sinker working and the guys are playing great defense behind me, that's a recipe for success," said Cook after the game. "I was focused on staying on the bottom of the (strike) zone tonight. I like to stay on the bottom of the zone and get the good defense behind me. That's, pretty much, my approach every time I take the mound."
While Cook was complimentary of a strong defense, it must be noted that the top of the Red Sox order came alive for the second straight game. After Texas starter began the game with two consecutive strikeouts, fanning Jacoby Ellsbury and Carl Crawford, the top four hitters in the Boston line-up went a combined 11-for-16 (.688 avg.) with an RBI sacrifice fly and a base on balls to boot. Second baseman Dustin Pedroia reached base four times, including his three doubles, an RBI, a run scored and a stolen base. Outfielder Carl Crawford, finally looking near 100-percent, went 2-for-4 with two doubles while first baseman Adrian Gonzalez went 3-for-5 with one 2-base hit and three RBIs. The Red Sox hit eight doubles on the evening, tying a season record from July 7, vs. the New York Yankees.
Remarkably, it was the first time in Boston Red Sox history that the club had its first three batters in the starting lineup all record at least two doubles.