FORT MYERS, Fla. — Until Monday, when he mentioned how pleasant the weather is here, John Henry’s last Twitter post came on July 16.
“Jacoby and Carl On the field together. Finally. Should be a great second half,” wrote the owner of the Red Sox.
Jacoby Ellsbury and Carl Crawford were indeed on top of the order that day and the Red Sox beat the Chicago White Sox. But the losses came at an unrelenting pace after that and the Red Sox fell into last place, never to escape.
Crawford, Josh Beckett, and Adrian Gonzalez were traded, manager Bobby Valentine was fired, and Henry stayed quiet throughout. There were no Twitter messages or news conferences, only occasional e-mails to reporters, often in the dead of night.
Henry finally emerged from his media seclusion on Monday, speaking for 25 minutes. The Red Sox planned to have him sit on a bench in the direct sun outside of JetBlue Park. But Henry opted to grab a seat on a nearby picnic table under an umbrella.
In previous years, Henry held such news conferences with team chairman Tom Werner and president Larry Lucchino flanking him, Lucchino using his skills as an attorney to deflect questions he judged unworthy.
But this time Henry was alone and occasionally feisty.
Henry mocked reports, which mainly came from the Fox Business Network, that he planned to sell the team.
“They didn’t turn out to be true,” he said. “I’m very happy. The last 12 years have been the best years of my life. Tom and Larry and I have had a tremendous working relationship. We’ve always been on the same page. It’s fun working with talented people.
“You just don’t get an opportunity to own something like the Boston Red Sox. As long as we can do it, the three of us are committed to being here. These thoughts that we’re somehow selling, those are just erroneous.”
That the Red Sox and NESN could be worth billions doesn’t change the equation. The 63-year-old Henry said he gets more joy from running the team than he would from selling it.
“Tom and I made a lot of money over the years. That doesn’t drive us,” he said. “If it was a driving factor, yes, I’m sure that would be a consideration. But quality of our lives is what drives us, and our competitive spirit. We’re determined to be successful.
“From Day One here, that hasn’t changed. The value of these assets is just something we don’t think in terms of. We think in terms of our day-to-day lives.”
Henry said he is “intimately involved” with the activities of Fenway Sports Group, the corporation that owns the Red Sox, Liverpool Football Club, and a share of the Roush Fenway Racing team.
Henry disputed the notion that his ownership of the English Premier League soccer team contributed to the demise of the Red Sox as a contender.
“I think it’s affected perceptions. I mean, everything affects you. But the things that have been said, repeated over and over again, are fairly ludicrous,” he said. “The last time I was in Liverpool, I think, was in May of last year. I don’t know where this fraction comes from. You can say every major league owner is distracted, if you want to try and make a case for it, because they all have other businesses, other endeavors.
“Imagine if I had nothing else to do other than run the Red Sox? What do you think would be different?”
The bigger issue, Henry said, is the Red Sox drifting away from a “core philosophy” for success.
“When you have a certain amount of success you generally don’t tend to change your philosophy. In our case, there was a very profound shift, I think, of what we were trying to do,” he said “Why? That’s a good question. I would only speculate why. But there was a shift and I don’t think it ultimately, with hindsight, proved to be [right].”
Former general manager Theo Epstein and manager Terry Francona have suggested that ownership contributed to that shift by pushing for the signing of high-profile free agents to fuel NESN’s ratings.
“I have to laugh. That’s just laughable,” Henry said. “It’s ludicrous to say that we signed any player since we’ve been here for PR purposes.”
The Red Sox maintained a high payroll this season by signing seven free agents to shorter-term contracts. But Henry said he would not rule out pursuing high-profile free agents next season and beyond.
“There’s no doubt that we will continue to be a part of the free agency market, but I think you’ll see a more disciplined approach,” he said. “Again, we had such a financial advantage that we weren’t necessarily as disciplined as we could’ve been.
“It used to be you could just outspend everyone, and that’s much more difficult to do these days.”
Henry said he believes the Red Sox can contend this season, pointing to improved roster depth, the addition of John Farrell as manager, and better clubhouse chemistry.
“I think last year was definitely a setback. Finishing in last place was something I never thought would happen while we owned the team,” he said.
“Winning is fun. Losing isn’t fun. Again, for us, despite what you may read or see in the press, the joy of this is being successful on the field.”