Retaining designated hitter David Ortiz is another priority.
“We’d like to see David come back,” said Werner. “He’s the inspirational leader, and one of the first tasks that we deal with is hopefully extending our relationship. We all have the same objective, which is to see his career end with the Red Sox, whenever that is.”
Ortiz has said he wants the security of a multiyear contract, accusing the owners of favoring free agents instead of recognizing his value.
“All I can say is that we want David back and that is something we should get done,” Werner said. “He is important.”
The core of the team, Werner insisted, remains strong despite the recent missteps.
“We had a philosophy, and I think we veered away a little bit from that philosophy. I don’t think that we’re in a deep hole,” he said, before mentioning second baseman Dustin Pedroia and third baseman Will Middlebrooks as players the team wants to build around. “We have a good pitching staff.
“I feel like we have the core there and we’re going to add to it.”
Werner, in fact, expects the Red Sox to contend as soon as next season.
“Of course,” he said. “We’re going to spend the rest of this season and the offseason improving. I see no reason why we can’t contend next year. For one thing, I’m looking forward to the return of John Lackey. I’m expecting that we’re going to add to our starting pitching depth.
“We still have the nucleus with [Jon] Lester and [Clay] Buchholz. I think Rubby De La Rosa [one of the prospects obtained from the Dodgers as a player to be named later] can be a starter for us. I’m very encouraged.”
No soccer talk
A 62-year-old television executive, Werner got his start in baseball when he purchased a controlling interest in the San Diego Padres in 1990. With the Red Sox, he is part of a triumvirate with Henry and team president Larry Lucchino that has been in charge since December 2001.
The trio — or “JTL” in e-mail shorthand used by team employees — became Boston celebrities after the curse-busting championship of 2004 and wire-to-wire domination of 2007. But the failures in recent seasons have bruised their reputations.
When Henry and Werner purchased an English soccer team, Liverpool, in 2010, it was seen as a distraction. That the Red Sox have gone steadily downhill since then only confirms that notion in some eyes.
“It’s ridiculous to suggest that,” Werner said. “George Steinbrenner built ships — did that distract him from the Yankees? We talk about the Red Sox 365 days a year, and usually several times a day. Being with the Red Sox is a huge part of my life.”
Lucchino, who has no involvement in the Liverpool team, prohibits soccer talk when the trio watches games at Fenway Park; offenders are fined, even if they happen to own the team.
“There’s a wall between the two teams,” Werner said. “There is nothing that distracts us from our mission with the Red Sox.”
Werner said he and Henry have tried to be around the team more often on the road this season to better gauge the problems.
“Part of it is the players have said to us that they like when we’re present,” he said. “They feel that we’re on the job. We’ve never been micro-managers. But I’ll have a chat with the manager about certain games.”
Team never quit
In July, news broke about a group of players who complained directly to Henry and Werner about Valentine. A meeting was held in New York before the start of a series against the Yankees.
Werner said players have dealt directly with the owners for years.
“I think the idea of having a healthy relationship with the players, where they feel comfortable talking to you, is generally a positive thing,” he said. “That doesn’t mean you should go around the chain of command.
“I do believe there should be a chain of command, and if there are issues, everybody should know about them. One of the things that we feel is there should be an openness and dialogue.
“I think the more important concern is, how do we get back on a winning track? No clubhouse is perfect. I like the fact that this team never quit. Even when things were going bad, they were giving everything they had.
“Those issues get magnified when you’re not playing well. If our pitching had been a little stronger this year, those issues wouldn’t have been so well-publicized.
“This is a really good group of guys. I’m not going to pretend there weren’t issues in the clubhouse. But there have always been issues in clubhouses.”
The only goal remaining for the Red Sox this season is to finish above .500, and that seems unrealistic given the minor leaguers and backups who now play regularly. If they don’t reach .500, it would be the first time since 1997 they will have had a losing record. The future is more uncertain than ever.Continued...