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John Henry not owning up to it

Posted by Eric Wilbur, Boston.com Staff  October 5, 2012 08:55 AM

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Should we care?

For the second-straight season of October manager-sacking, Red Sox principal owner John Henry failed to face to the music at Fenway Park. Last year, we were told it was because he slipped and injured himself on his yacht in the midst of what became the day-long dog and pony saga of Terry Francona and the club "parting ways."

Thursday, on the day the Red Sox mercifully fired Bobby Valentine over breakfast at CEO Larry Lucchino's Brookline home (hope Henry's ham was cooked and there was brown sugar for Valentine's oatmeal this time), the owner made himself noticeably absent from the ridiculous media roundtable sessions with Lucchino and general manager Ben Cherington.

"The job of dealing with the press, for better or worse, falls with Ben and me," Lucchino said.

You be the judge if that was a thinly-veiled reference to Henry's impassioned invasion of the 98.5 The Sports Hub studios last fall in the wake of Felger and Mazz relentlessly bashing an ownership group that had turned pixie dust into mud over the span of just four years. It was an impromptu appearance that had to have Lucchino's blood vessels popping like bubble wrap. But give Henry credit, he decided to face the music and gave fans the answers they were desperately seeking. A few may have even been the truth.

Then, minus the spring training picnic table and last month's phone call into WEEI to deny rumors of the team being on the block, it's been mostly radio silence from Henry, save for the carefully crafted press release when drama ensues. Still, his absence Thursday was glaring, particularly for a franchise that has gone from Camelot to Ishtar.

"Let's not forget," Dan Shaughnessy points out, "that the big Liverpool-Udinese match from Anfield was unfolding while Lucchino and Cherington explained the firing of Valentine. Victims of a dreaded 'own goal,' Liverpool lost, 3-2."

Wonderful.

Should we care though? The heads of state at Fenway Sports Group insist one team has nothing to do with the other. If you argue the point, you'll be dismissed with a denigrating superiority that speaks to much of the attitude on Yawkey Way. Should we care that on one of the most pivotal days in his stewardship of the Red Sox, Henry was holed up watching big brother?

I'm not sure that's it. The concerning thing is that this may have more to do with Lucchino than Henry. Whether or not you believe him, the Red Sox owner is passionate in his answers, oftentimes unable to keep himself back in revealing something of a controversial nature. It seems pretty clear that on a day when the Red Sox did their best to control the news cycle, with their duplicitous deli counter process, Lucchino and Charles Steinberg, whose increasing involvement with the franchise has to be near the top of the list of concerns, wanted no part of any off the cuff remarks that Henry is wont for. It's as if the Maestro and the Bandit muted the owner, slapping him on the wrist for going rogue last fall.

Change may be forthcoming, but Red Sox fans are still being duped at every turn, led by a manipulative duo who turn simple answers into an episode of "The Practice." If anyone thinks there's going to any shred of humble pie in Lucchino's soul after his choice to hire Valentine backfired historically, he or she already has a credit card out for this year's brick push.

Should we care though? Should we care that the owner of this club, the man who ultimately should have final say on decisions for the long-term stability of the Red Sox is either hiding out or hidden away by his colleagues in order to limit the noise? It was only a 69-93 season, after all, the worst since 1965. It's not like the paying customers don't deserve answers and assurance, something they get from Lucchino, of course, with the added caveat that everything he says is likely the twisted truth at best.

"In our meeting with Bobby today, he handled everything with dignity and class, and it is deeply appreciated," Henry "said" in Thursday's statement. "Ultimately, we as owners are responsible for arming our organization with the resources -- intellectual, physical, and financial -- to return to the levels of competitiveness to which we aspire and to which our fans are accustomed. Our commitment to winning is unwavering. It is a commitment to this team, to this city, and to these fans who have supported us through thick and thin.

"We have confidence in Ben Cherington and the kind of baseball organization he is determined to build."

That sounds much like Henry's open letter to Liverpool fans this past summer. It sounds like Henry's statement backing Valentine in August. Copy and paste.

It's not enough. Red Sox fans deserve to hear from the owner. For all his greedy exploits these days, it's something Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs finally learned to some degree. It's something Lucchino simply can't suppress. He'll have to be let out of his cage when the Sox hire John Farrell, right?

"Larry Lucchino runs the Red Sox," Henry said last fall. Hope he didn't mean "into the ground."

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About the Author

Eric Wilbur is a Boston.com sports columnist who is still in awe of what Dana Kiecker pulled off that one time in Toronto. He lives in the Boston area with his wife and three children. Comments and suggestions for the best Buffalo wing spots are encouraged.

Contact Eric Wilbur by e-mail or follow him on Twitter.

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