Time to sell.
Despite all his (or at least Sam Kennedy’s) ferocious denials, it’s clear as Windex that the Red Sox are no longer John Henry’s priority. That’s fine. Henry is a businessman first, and a baseball fan second. It was a nice run, delivering Boston a pair of World Series titles. But the disaster that the Red Sox have eventually become as a franchise, a brand growing more unlikeable by the day, is on Henry’s hands. And it needs to end.
Red Sox fans deserve better than to be a pawn in a portfolio, lied to and suctioned as each pitch travels home. Remember Henry in his early days here? Sure, it was corny, but when he ran the bases at Fenway that December afternoon in 2002, it at least portrayed a semblance of passion and joy for having landed one of sports’ most storied franchises. The fromage level that day was over the top, played for the cameras more than anything, but at least it showed…something, an emotion invisible in 2012.
Where is that guy? He’s overseas with his shiny soccer toy, a team that Fenway Sports Group is more than willing to admit presents the limitless global marketing opportunities that are ultimately limited in Major League Baseball.
So, why are they still here?
It’s no coincidence that in the same offseason in which Henry purchased Liverpool, the Red Sox tossed an obscene amount of cash at Carl Crawford, a player who seemingly didn’t have a proper role on the team, and frankly, still doesn’t. Henry can deny all he wants that Crawford was a baseball decision and not a TV ratings grab. Maybe he’s telling the truth. After all, when have the Red Sox ever lied to you?
Oh, right. Last night was Fenway Park’s 722nd consecutive
Henry’s “vote of confidence” e-mail concerning manager Bobby Valentine last night was a cute gesture by a man trying to prove he still cares. But Henry is a smart guy who has made his own fortune through ruthless dealings and spin. If he can make more money with one team over the other, is it any secret where the bulk of attention is going to go? Good for him. Good for Liverpool.
Unfortunately, that leaves passionate Red Sox fans in a limbo that has reached its breaking point. It’s not a matter of money here or money there. It never was. It was about the concern of absentee ownership, something this town wrung its hands over for years as Jeremy Jacobs sat on his La-Z-Boy in Buffalo, counting his popcorn and hot dog dollars. For decades, there was little accountability in the Bruins organization when things went south, and the exact same situation is playing itself out on Yawkey Way.
The on-field Red Sox have been an unmitigated disaster for about a year now, a direct by-product of the idiotic decisions being made in the front office. Theo Epstein made his mistakes, but John Lackey and Crawford, a pair of moves that happened to coincide with December ticket sales, have CEO fingerprints all over them. Indeed, Larry Lucchino has become a man with far too much power in the organization while Henry and Tom Werner enjoy their crumpets.
As Henry infamously told The Sports Hub’s “Felger and Mazz,” “Larry Lucchino runs the Red Sox.” But freeing themselves of Lucchino and “the Monster,” as Epstein referred to moves being made not necessarily with baseball interests at heart, doesn’t fix the toxic culture that has infiltrated every facet of the organization. The owners aren’t there, and when things go south, instead of holding players accountable, they buy them headphones and toss them a yacht party. Henry and Werner are more enablers than anything else, a pair of businessmen who massage egos and dig deeper crevasses in order to escape any semblance of liability.
“And the notion that we are not present and not attending games is misleading to the public,” Henry wrote in his e-mail last night. “Tom, Larry and I seldom miss home games. This year is no different. We seldom miss a telecast when on the road if we aren’t there. This is a 365-day-a-year sport for us – as it is for Ben and for Bobby. Even when we are away we discuss issues daily. Just because we aren’t answering all media questions doesn’t mean we aren’t on the job. We are.
“Our commitment to winning is unabated. That is our focus. We continue to have the 2nd highest payroll among the 30 clubs. We have been at this for more than 10 years in Boston, and winning is just as much our focus today as it was when we took over.”
No. It isn’t, John.We’re not fools.
Fire Bobby Valentine? Forget it. The only way to fix the malaise that is the Red Sox organization is to fire the owners.
Demand better. You deserve more than being treated like sheep. And nothing the team does in the foreseeable future is going to help fix the cantankerous culture the owners have created. Sweet Caroline. Bricks. Beckett. Dr. Charles. They all need to go away. I want my team back. Don’t you?
This ends with ownership, so let’s just skip the climax and reach the epilogue already. Sell the team, John. It will make you lots of cash. We know you care about that at least.
It was nice when you could say the same about your baseball team.