(Reuters) - Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia has denied reports of a rift between the players and under-fire manager Bobby Valentine, insisting that he and his team mates were to blame for Boston's disappointing season.
Despite boasting one of the highest payrolls in the league, the Red Sox have failed to spark this season and with a 57-60 record, find themselves languishing 12 1/2 games behind bitter rivals and AL East leaders the New York Yankees.
The 62-year-old Valentine has been under immense pressure in his first season at the club due to Boston's poor form, leading to reports that several players had complained about his leadership at a meeting with team owners last month.
"I don't think Bobby should be fired," Pedroia, considered one of the most vocal critics of Valentine, said in a post-game interview given to a regional sports television network on Tuesday.
"We haven't played well. That's the bottom line. I'm not going to blame anything on Bobby. It's on the players."
Valentine replaced Terry Francona in December, who left the Red Sox after the team missed last season's playoffs following a dramatic late-season collapse.
"Last year wasn't on Tito (Francona). I know he took it hard," Pedroia said.
"We were 99.7 percent in the playoffs last year, and we weren't in there. Anything can happen. Baseball's a crazy game.
"We're going to go out and play as hard as we can. We dug ourselves this hole, and we've got to try to dig ourselves out of it. We've got to be professional."
Pedroia confirmed that the players had a meeting last month but denied he had any problems with the manager.
"I had one problem with Bobby earlier in the year and I went into his office and talked to him like a man. He talked to me like a man," he said.
"We've been great, had a great relationship. I'll go out there and play for him any day of the week. I'm playing for all my team mates.
"We had a meeting in New York. The coaches had a meeting. Bobby had a meeting. We all had a meeting. Basically, when I spoke, I said we all need to do better.
"That includes the owners, Bobby, coaches and especially the players."
(Reporting by Sudipto Ganguly in Mumbai; Editing by John O'Brien)