Martone: A toxic clubhouse? Maybe this is why . . .

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Martone: A toxic clubhouse? Maybe this is why . . .

If you follow ESPN's Buster Olney on Twitter, you saw this early this morning:

There are a lot of good people with the Red Sox, but it's hard to imagine another group with more tension than what they have right now. Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) June 18, 2012

This came on top of an ESPN Boston report in which Olney described the Red Sox clubhouse as "toxic".

So maybe this next little bit has something to do with that and maybe it doesn't, but . . .

You know by now that, when it was determined Josh Beckett needed to go on the disabled list, the Red Sox asked Clay Buchholz to start in Beckett's place Sunday night. (Because the team had an off day on Thursday, Buchholz would have been pitching on normal rest.) But Buchholz said no, that after throwing 228 pitches in his last two starts (and 437 in his last four) he needed -- or wanted -- the extra time.

You know this because Bobby Valentine told the story to the media, thought he was careful to add, "I totally understand it."

So here's my question:

Why'd he even bring it up?

By saying, basically, that Buchholz had refused to pitch when the team needed him -- even with the caveat at the end -- he allowed the Red Sox' numerous critics to resurrect the chicken-and-beer, what-a-bunch-of-selfish-jerks story line . . . as Michael Felger starts to do in the attached video at about the 1:30 mark.

Lou Merloni, however, goes in the complete opposite direction.

"If Bobby wants to call out a pitcher, he should just do it," Merloni said, later adding: "Either call him out, or don't . . . put your pitcher in that position."

And Merloni's right.

This sort of passive-aggressive sniping isn't appreciated by anyone. (How'd you like it if your boss did something like that to you?) Regardless of whether or not Buchholz' decision was right or wrong -- that's a different topic entirely, though I'm not entirely unsympathetic to Buchholz' position -- Valentine has put the onus for something he knows is going to be unpopular with the chicken-and-beer crowd and placed it squarely on the player's shoulders. And his little "I totally understand it" coda does nothing to change that.

If you have a problem with a player and you want to make your displeasure known, then say it. Clearly and openly. Don't throw rocks and then go scurrying back into a hole. Otherwise, keep it behind closed doors. Acting this way means the public -- already none-too-enamored with these Sox to begin with -- is going to get even more angry with the players. And that helps things . . . how? That calms the waters around this troubled team . . . how? Isn't a manager's job supposed to be to create an atmosphere in which it's possible to get the most out of everyone? Throwing someone under the bus publicly does that . . . how?

This isn't the first time Valentine's acted like this, and -- since past performance is the best indicator of future results -- we can be sure it won't be the last.

But if you're wondering why the Red Sox clubhouse is "toxic", well, maybe we just saw a reason why.

Offseason just like any other for Bogaerts

Offseason just like any other for Bogaerts

BOSTON -- At first, 2016 seemed like the “Year of Xander.” It turned out to be the “Year of Mookie,” with Bogaerts dropping off a little as the season progressed.

The Red Sox shortstop saw his average peak at .359 on June 12. At that point he’d played in 61 games, hit eight home runs, 20 doubles and knocked in 44 runs. Although Mookie Betts had six more home runs and three more RBI in that same span, Bogaerts had six more doubles and was hitting 69 points higher.

The two were already locks for the All-Star Game and Bogaerts still had the edge in early MVP talk.

Then things took a turn after the very day Bogaerts saw his average peak.

Over the next 61 games, Bogaerts still managed seven homers, but only had six doubles and 27 RBI, watching his average drop to .307 by the end of that stretch. At first glance, .307 doesn’t seem like an issue, but he dropped 52 points after hitting .253 in that span.

And in his remaining 35 games, Bogaerts only hit .248 -- although he did have six homers.

But throughout it all, Bogaerts never seemed fazed by it. With pitchers and catchers reporting in less than a month, Bogaerts still isn’t worried about the peaks and valleys.

“You go through it as a player, the only one’s who don’t go through that are the ones not playing,” Bogaerts told CSNNE.com before the Boston baseball writers' dinner Thursday. “I just gotta know you’re going to be playing good for sometime, you’re going to be playing bad for sometime.

“Just try to a lot more better times than bad times. It’s just a matter of trusting yourself, trusting your abilities and never doubting yourself. Obviously, you get a lot of doubts when you’re playing bad, but you just be even keeled with whatever situation is presented.”

Bogaerts level head is something often noted by coaches and his teammates, carrying through the days he finds himself lunging left and right for pitches. That’s also carried him through the offseason while maintaining the same preparation from past seasons -- along with putting on some weight.

“I don’t know how much I put on, but I feel strong,” Bogaerts said to CSNNE.com “I mean, I look strong in the mirror.

“Hopefully, I’m in a good position when the season comes because I know I’ll lose [the weight].”

Sandoval’s offseason transformation doesn't guarantee he's Sox starting third baseman

Sandoval’s offseason transformation doesn't guarantee he's Sox starting third baseman

BOSTON - The weight room, as much as Instagram, has been Pablo Sandoval’s home in the offseason leading up to the 2017 season.

His change in diet and routine have clearly led to visible results, at least in terms of appearance. His play is yet to be determined. But his manager and teammates have taken notice.

“Compliments to Pablo,” John Farrell told reporters before Thursday’s BBWAA dinner. “He’s done a great job with the work that he’s put in, the commitment he’s made. He’s reshaped himself, that’s apparent. He knows there’s work to be done to regain an everyday job at third base. So, we’ll see how that unfolds. We’re not looking for him to be someone he’s not been in the past. Return to that level of performance.”

Farrell noted that Brock Holt and Josh Rutledge are the other two players in contention for time at third base and while others, such as prospect Rafael Devers, may get time there in the spring, those are the only three expected to compete for the job.

“The beauty of last spring is that there’s a note of competition in camp,” Farrell said. “And that was born out of third base last year [when Travis Shaw beat out Sandoval at the third base]. That won’t change.”

Sandoval's 2016 season ended after shoulder surgery in April. 

While the manager has to be cautiously optimistic, Sandoval’s teammates can afford to get their hopes up.

“Pablo is definitely going to bounce back,” Xander Bogaerts told CSNNE.com “Especially with the weight he’s lost and the motivation he has to prove a lot of people wrong, to prove the fans wrong.

“He’s been a great player for his whole career. He’s not a bad player based on one year. Playing in Boston the first year is tough, so, hopefully this year he’ll be better.”

Prior to Sandoval’s abysmal 2015, his first season in Boston, when he hit .245 with 47 RBI in 126 games, the 2012 World Series MVP was a career .294 hitter who averaged 15 home runs and 66 RBI a year.

If Bogaerts is right and Sandoval can be that player again, that will be a huge lift in filling in the gap David Ortiz left in Boston’s offense.