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On The "Toxic Clubhouse"

I couldn't find a good picture related to this, so here's one of the most amazing pictures ever between the Pose and Darnell's very wide eyes. (Photo by David Banks/Getty Images)
I couldn't find a good picture related to this, so here's one of the most amazing pictures ever between the Pose and Darnell's very wide eyes. (Photo by David Banks/Getty Images)
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By now many of you will have heard about Buster Olney's report on Boston's "toxic" clubhouse. To make a long story short, everyone is unhappy, angry, and it's a ticking time bomb of tension waiting to explode.

So nothing has changed.

Frankly, although Olney's piece lacks much in the way of specifics and evidence, it's hardly surprising to discover that this is not a bunch of happy guys. We're less than a year removed from the most dramatic of collapses that left everyone involved the target of media scrutiny, and one would hope either embarrassed, angry, or at least disappointed. Afterwards, we were treated to stories about clubhouse dissension and discontentment.

What happened over the offseason to fix that problem? Not a lot.

The core of the team is largely unchanged, so any personality issues that were there before will remain. The team is still losing--if not as frequently as in September, then often enough that it's well below the threshold required to provide positive feelings in Boston. If there was hope for this bunch, it was that all these injuries would have brought in new faces that could have instilled some positivity, but it's hard for the likes of Daniel Nava, Scott Podsednik, and Will Middlebrooks to really make a difference on a clubhouse built by established veterans.

In fact, if anything, the potential for conflict has only gotten worse. Kevin Youkilis, who has been a source of conflict in the past (regardless of whether it was his fault or not), is now being very publicly shopped. It can't help that he's not exactly been drawing any offers due to his lack of production.

Then there's Bobby Valentine, brought in to instill discipline, but perhaps at the cost of the clubhouse environment. Once again, it's a situation made worse by poor performance, with Valentine having had to apologize for multiple mistakes through his first couple of months that likely led to losses.

But really, that's where the problem lies: losing. When a team like the Pirates loses, the population of Pittsburgh shrugs. It's expected at this point, if not welcomed. When a team like the Red Sox loses, the city becomes downright vindictive. This is a town which breathes baseball, and lives for its team, and over the last decade it's a city that has become used to a certain level of success. When that expectation isn't met, and when the team isn't being given the performances it deserves from its players, that's a good few million people who want not just answers, but scapegoats.

And oh how many there are this year. Because aside from David Ortiz, not a single one of the big-name players--the ones that the fanbase will always focus on, and who often as not determine the atmosphere of the clubhouse--has been playing well enough or consistently enough to avoid coming into focus in turn. And in a place like Boston, that's enough to stress anyone to the limits.

But the good news is that you probably shouldn't care about this, because being unhappy in the clubhouse isn't the reason why the Red Sox are losing. It's not the reason why Adrian Gonzalez can't hit--he did just fine last September, after all--or the reason why Dustin Pedroia is struggling (hint: it's the thumb injury he came back from three weeks early). It's not to blame for Jon Lester's until recently missing cutter, Josh Beckett's fragile shoulder, or the remarkable number of injuries to the outfield.

The only time that something like this should really be a concern is when it comes to constructing future rosters, because players will be less comfortable coming to a team with quite so much negativity surrounding it, but that leaves plenty of time to right the ship, and all that means is winning some games.