3 to Watch: The 'Red Sox vs. Red Sox (and maybe vs. the Yankees, too)' edition

Remember when a Red Sox-Yankees series used to be about the Red Sox . . . and the Yankees?

Not now.

The Yankees may have taken over the American League East, but the Red Sox have taken control of baseball's news cycle. They move from crisis to crisis, getting only a brief respite while we pause to consider the brilliance of Felix Hernandez or the mess of Melky Cabrera.

The Red Sox are in New York this weekend, but instead of bringing back memories of great battles with the Yankees, it only reminds us that this was the site of the now-famous meeting in which players either did or didn't call for the head of their manager.

The sad thing is that it doesn't really matter whether they went that far.

Anyone who has paid attention has known since spring training that the relationship between Bobby Valentine and his players has been rocky. Anyone who has spoken with anyone who works for the Red Sox knows that the relationship between Valentine and some of his coaches may be worse.

And anyone who has read the newspapers in Boston knows that players have been complaining to ownership about Valentine.

That's not to make light of the July meeting, originally reported by Jeff Passan of Yahoo sports. But it was part of a long and ugly trend, and hardly a shock.

And it's hard to see how it solved anything.

The Red Sox did win four of the next five games after the meeting, but they lost the next four. Meanwhile, ownership provided lukewarm votes of confidence for Valentine, and Boston newspapers alternated calls for his firing with calls to keep him around longer.

Then, after this week's report of the meeting, the Red Sox tried to downplay it, and tried to shift the focus to those who leaked information about it. They announced that Valentine won't be fired before the end of the season, as if that's supposed to make anyone feel better.

They have yet to deal with the only issue that matters.

Either Red Sox ownership believes that Valentine is the best man to manage their team, in which case they need to make it clear that he's in charge and everyone else needs to listen to him, or they need to make a change.

Oh, and they may want to do something about their starting pitching, too.

On to 3 to Watch:

1. The Rays have trouble scoring runs off anyone, even with Evan Longoria back in the lineup. So it hardly seems fair that they had to face Felix Hernandez on a day when he was unhittable. And even less fair that two days later they get Jered Weaver in Rays at Angels, Friday night (10:05 ET) at Angel Stadium. The good news for the Rays is that they're starting James Shields, who in three games since the non-waiver trade deadline has a 1.13 ERA and a .377 opponents OPS.

2. The Cardinals have more or less kept afloat this year without Chris Carpenter, to the point where they woke up Thursday morning tied with the Pirates for the second wild-card spot. They've kept afloat since the first week of June without Jaime Garcia. Carpenter isn't coming back, but Garcia is. After two months out with a sore shoulder, Garcia returns in Pirates at Cardinals, Sunday afternoon (2:15 ET) at Busch Stadium.

3. About that Red Sox starting pitching: You've probably seen the stat showing that the Red Sox are 16-28 in games started by their supposed aces, Josh Beckett and Jon Lester. That just continues the trend from last September, when the Sox went 2-8 in games started by Beckett and Lester. Lester (5.20) and Beckett (5.19) rank eighth and ninth on the lists of highest ERA by an American League starter this year. Meanwhile, Hiroki Kuroda (3.06) ranks seventh on the list of best ERAs. Kuroda faces Beckett in Red Sox at Yankees, Sunday night (8:05 ET) at Yankee Stadium. Two more things about Kuroda: He's an example that not all National League pitchers fail when moving to the American League, and he's the first Yankee with two shutouts in a season since Mike Mussina (2005).

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