FORT MYERS, Fla. — Until today, 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 press conferences, only occasional emails to deny reports he wanted to sell the team.
Henry emerged from his media seclusion on Monday, speaking for about 25 minutes on a cement patio outside of JetBlue Park.
Henry mocked reports, which mainly came from 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 [Werner] and Larry [Lucchino] 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.”
Henry also addressed, again, the idea that his owning the Liverpool Football Club in England distracts from his duties with the Red Sox.
“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. I think they all do. The major thing is the perception.
“Imagine if I had nothing else to do other than run the Red Sox? What do you think would be different?”
Some of the Red Sox limited partners, he admitted, have concerns.
“I would say some of them are not OK because they read the same stuff that you write and probably some of them think we are distracted. But we aren’t. Last year’s losses on the field weren’t the result of Liverpool,” Henry said.
“I would say all three of us are intimately involved every day with everything that goes on at Fenway Sports Group. But every day is different. You have different issues that come up just about every day.”
The Red Sox as an organization, Henry said, got away from the values that led to two championships, the last in 2007.
“We had a core philosophy for a lot of the years and we moved away from that philosophy and it’s hurt us. It’s definitely hurt us. Last year, I think, was the beginning of trying to put us back on the right track,” he said.
“When you have a certain amount of success you generally you 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. 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].”
Henry also disputed the notion that as part of that shift, the Red Sox signed star free agents to help the team’s television rating.
“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. That is just … I don’t think anybody would assert that. If it’s asserted it’s just ludicrous.”
Henry on some other subjects:
On the 2013 Red Sox: “It’s hard to know at this point and we may not be finished. I definitely think we will contend for a playoff spot.”
“We haven’t had the kind of depth that it turns out that we need. That’s one thing that he’s worked on and we’ve been working on this year. I think more in terms of depth, we’ve planned more for injury. But it’s difficult when you have your best players injured. Even when you have sufficient depth it’s hard to be a playoff team.”
On John Farrell: “I think a lot of him. I think everybody in the organization, from the time that he was here, had tremendous respect for John. We’re very happy that he’s here.”
“I think last year was definitely a setback. Finishing in last place was something I never thought would happen while we owned the team.”
“The whole thing about revenue has been about trying to attract the best players. We haven’t been able to stay with the Yankees as far as the payroll. But when we got here there was such a wide gulf between the two teams. We had to concentrate on revenues. But all those revenues have gone into the team. They haven’t gone into the pockets of partners. I think it’s well known and if you ask any of our partners that in 12 years they haven’t received a penny in profit. They’ve gotten some tax distributions. Revenue here is about one thing, it’s about winning. For us, that’s why we’re here.”
On restoring some stability to the team: “I think winning is what’s important. With that will come stability. We had tremendous stability. Who was more stable than we were for eight or nine years? We had issues last year. You’re going to have changes, you’re going to make changes when you have issues.”
On whether he’s still having fun: “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.”
Could they sell one day, given the high value of MLB franchises? “Tom and I made a lot of money over the years. That doesn’t drive us. 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.”
On the job GM Ben Cherington is doing: “We always hold everyone to a high standard. When you finish last, you’re going to make changes. That’s something we started to do with the big trade [with the Dodgers].”
On Bobby Valentine: “It’s always hard to say how much a manager impacts performance. I think of Bobby Valentine as a great baseball manager, a great mind. It’s clear in retrospect he wasn’t the right man for that group last year. I don’t think you can blame Bobby for that. You can blame us. You blame me, you blame Larry, Tom. I think he should manage again. He’s a great manager for the right team. I think he came in and didn’t want to be disruptive. So he didn’t have his own coaches. In a perfect world he would have done some things differently. If you ask him he would have done some things differently coming in. It just didn’t work.”
On PEDs in baseball: “Baseball has done a lot, especially recently, about the PED situation and we finally have been able to address those issues.”
Are the Sox hoping the free agents they signed have bounceback seasons: “Usually that’s a pretty good bet as opposed to the other way around. Usually free agents are signed and don’t do well. Historically free agents are overvalued over the last 15-20 years. There’s a regression to the mean in baseball that’s well known. We don’t have a lot of long-term contracts. In transition, it makes a lot of sense to have flexibility going forward. It will be an interesting year for baseball.
On changing the chemistry of the team: “Ben addressed that last year with the trade. On paper we looked great. We didn’t really transition well on paper.”
Is Bill James more involved in decisions: “It’s not so much that Bill goes out and makes recommendations. If you ask Bill a question, you get a detailed analysis that is extremely well done. It’s something that we’ve gotten away from to our detriment over the years.”