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DAN SHAUGHNESSY

Henry drives points home

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- He's still a whiter shade of pale and wears a hat that makes us think of the man in the Curious George books. He's still checking on pork bellies and hedge funds at 4 a.m. He's still a notorious low-talker and yesterday he was probably the only person in America who hadn't heard the news regarding Tom Brady and Bridget Moynahan.

"What's that about?" Red Sox owner John Henry asked as he stood with partner Tom Werner near a practice field after yesterday's spring training workout. "I haven't heard anything about Tom Brady."

Clearly, this is a man consumed with stock tables and shortstop OPS.

Finally informed on the Brady matter, Henry expanded on a number of topics, including one that is a little uncomfortable.

In the head-spinning offseason of 2006-07, the Red Sox made baseball history by paying a $51 million posting fee for the negotiating rights to Japanese righty Daisuke Matsuzaka. After weeks of negotiation, the Sox signed the 26-year-old hurler for $53 million, and the club has since done everything imaginable to embrace all things Japan. At the same time, Henry worked out a deal to join Jack Roush's NASCAR group for a tidy sum of $50 million.

In the wake of the Matsuzaka signing, Roush is a curious choice of partners for Henry. While Henry has his baseball people wrapped in the flag of Japan, Roush is loudly and offensively resisting Toyota's arrival on the NASCAR circuit.

Here's Michael Yaki of the US Commission on Civil Rights in the Feb. 17 New York Times: "Japan's biggest car company . . . has entered the hallowed tracks and pit rows of the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing. But to hear some NASCAR fans talk, when those engines fire up, it will be Dec. 7, 1941, all over again. The war metaphors have been brought to the fore by Jack Roush, a prominent racing team owner. Mr. Roush has said that 'we're going to war' and that he's preparing himself 'for siege.' "

According to Yaki, "Opposition to Toyota is rooted not in patriotic pride, but racism."

Roush's anti-Toyota stance clearly contradicts the hands-across-the-ocean mentality that consumes the 2007 Red Sox. Confronted with this conflict, Henry made no apologies for Roush and chalked it all up to business.

"Jack is as competitive a human being as I've ever seen, and it's about competition," said the Sox owner. "It's akin to Curt Schilling going into Yankee Stadium. It has nothing to do with anything more than that. I haven't made any of those statements. I have a very good relationship with Toyota and the people of Toyota."

Motioning toward Werner, Henry added, "Tom has got all these girlfriends, but I'm not responsible for him."

Moving on to another awkward topic, Henry was reminded that a day at Fenway is more expensive than an outing at any other big league park. And yet it's obvious that the Sox could charge more money and still fill the ballpark. How does Henry hold these two thoughts in his businessman's head?

"There's a balance there," he answered. "You know that you could get more. If these tickets are being auctioned off, we know what they go for in the street. It's incredible.

"But there's a line you don't cross. But it's difficult because we need the revenues, especially with baseball taking half of them. We know what the market value is. You can see it every day by what goes on in the outer market -- the secondary market for tickets. So when people do say we're overcharging, I think that's indicative that we're not."

Regarding Schilling's contract situation, Henry said, "I think the main message was that he's playing next year. That was his message. It's fair to ask for anything. It happens all the time. It's our call, Theo's principally. But let's not blame Theo if something goes wrong."

How does Henry justify going for offense (Julio Lugo over Alex Gonzalez) at the shortstop position?

"We have always sought to have a lineup that is relentless," he said. "From top to bottom. And that's one of the things that was wrong with the Red Sox last year. We didn't have that."

What about the J.D. Drew signing? It appeared somewhat corrupt given that Drew -- a Scott Boras client (like Dice K) -- walked away from his Dodger pact with no apparent suitors, only to land a whopper deal with Boston.

"Corrupt?" Henry asked, clearly quarreling with the notion. "Did you see the market this year? There was no market for J.D. Drew? Everybody preferred the lesser players, right? You need to start paying attention to baseball."

You don't think you overpaid for J.D. Drew?

"No.

"I guess nobody wanted him," Henry added, sarcastically. "That's why Scott Boras advised him to opt out [of his Dodger deal]. There was a market for J.D. Drew. We say so."

Did the Lucchino-Epstein split hurt the product on the field in 2006? Any lessons learned from all that?

"I think that had absolutely no impact on the team," said Henry. "People don't always get along. I also learned that at some point you move forward and you don't keep rehashing it with reporters."

Sarcastic and uncomfortable moments over, I lobbed the owner a softball. Does he still love owning the Red Sox? Does it ever get old?

"It never gets old," he said. "It's so obvious. You just see it every day -- how much what we do matters to people. That can never get old, when you feel like you're doing something that matters.

"And look how exciting it is. Look at the team we have this year. This is as excited as I've ever been about a spring. I think we have a playoff team."

He'd better. He certainly paid for one.

Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. His e-mail address is dshaughnessy@globe.com.

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