PAWTUCKET – Who better to clarify any myths regarding the perceived toxic environment that is the Red Sox clubhouse than a player who spent a hearty amount of time inside the ropes?
Ladies and gentlemen, we give you Darnell McDonald, the former part-time Boston outfielder whose access to the team was short-circuited upon getting designated for assignment in late June. Fortunately for this particular exercise, McDonald is seen as the perfect go-to guy to set the record straight in a Red Sox season that has taken on the tenor of a soap opera in terms of firestorms and drama.
These days McDonald is an outfielder with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, the team he joined following a short-lived stint with the New York Yankees. For a couple of minutes Friday, the 33-year-old explained that the turbulence the Red Sox have endured is merely a side effect of the sub-.500 on-field product.
“There’s nothing wrong with the clubhouse; everything boils down to wins and losses,” McDonald said. “When you’re winning, no one talks about the clubhouse. Even last year, if we had won more games, no one would have talked about all that other stuff.”
Extracurricular activities aside, McDonald offered a surefire remedy guaranteed to place the talk of chicken and beer or whether the manager is fortunate enough to survive the season on the backburner.
“It’s about winning games,” he deadpanned. “When you don’t do that, that’s when all the finger pointing starts.”
He then jumped to the defense of his former teammates, saying, “They talk about the leadership and things like that … it all comes down to the players and how you perform on the field. The problem comes from injuries and a lot of different lineups, which prevents you from gelling together.”
As for the perception that the Red Sox players are not enthralled with skipper Bobby Valentine, McDonald offered, “People have jobs where they may not like their boss. At the end of the day, though, you to do what you have to do.”
Even though McDonald wasn’t with the big-league Yankees for very long – he totaled four plate appearances in four games – he quickly realized things were different from how business was conducted at his previous port of call.
“Despite the record in Boston, there were a lot of good people over there,” said McDonald, who was forced to shave his trademark dreadlocks in compliance with the Yankees’ strict policy regarding length of hair. “With New York, it’s a corporate world. You go, do your job and that’s it.”
From an individual standpoint, this hasn’t been the easiest season for McDonald to digest. From the pain that goes with the oblique strain that sidelined him in May to the pain that comes with realizing you were DFA’d twice in less than a month’s time, this personable sort has had to navigate through some choppy waters.
Entering Friday McDonald’s average at the Triple-A level stood at .165 in 26 games, 20 coming with Scranton.
“I still have a lot of friends over there (meaning Boston), but my focus is getting my bat going,” McDonald noted. “I feel that I’m a big-league caliber player and can help a lot of big-league teams, but you have to keep fighting, which is how this game works sometimes.”
To Alex Wilson, Mark Prior was a valuable resource, hence why it was tough for everyone in the PawSox clubhouse to say goodbye to the 31-year-old Prior, who was released following Thursday’s game. Taking Prior’s place on Pawtucket’s roster was Pedro Beato, the reliever Boston acquired in the Kelly Shoppach deal.
PawSox skipper Arnie Beyeler was quick to note the Prior was a good guy, yet when it came right down to it, the former prized prospect of the Chicago Cubs had control issues. He walked 23 in 25 innings, though he did strike out 38 with a fastball that generally resided in the low 90s.
Prior will now continue his quest to return to the major leagues for the first time since 2006 with another organization.
“When you have a guy like that, it kind of makes you realize how fast things can go bad. He was on top of world and now he’s fighting just to have a job,” Wilson said. “Mark provided insight for me once I hopefully get (to the majors) and what to expect and why you should do this in a certain situation. He was always willing to give you advice.”