Red Sox majority owner John Henry has been understandably chastised for reportedly leaking information about Terry Francona’s alleged marital problems and prescription drug issue.
Along with co-owner Tom Werner and CEO Larry Lucchino, Henry has also drawn criticism for his handling of Francona’s departure, and the September collapse that saw the Red Sox go from a possible American League East title to a second consecutive non-playoff season.
Like the reputations of guys like John Lackey, Josh Beckett and Jon Lester, Henry’s reputation has taken a beating in recent weeks. Part of the reason for Red Sox Nation’s growing disdain for Henry is that he has said little publicly regarding the current mess in which the Red Sox themselves. Today, he broke his silence.
Henry told 98.5 The Sports Hub that the signing of Carl Crawford to a seven-year, $142 million contract last off-season was solely for baseball reasons and not about NESN’s declining TV ratings.
Henry also said that he opposed the signing, but that he chose to defer to the opinions of his front office, which is a wise move for any owner.
“It was definitely a baseball signing. In fact, anyone involved in the process, anyone in upper management with the Red Sox will tell you that I personally opposed that,” Henry said . “We had plenty of left-handed hitting. I don’t have to go into why. I’ll just tell you that at the time I opposed the deal, but I don’t meddle to the point of making decisions for our baseball team. … It wasn’t a PR move. Neither was the (Adrian) Gonzalez signing.”
Henry also told the Sports Hub that general manager Theo Epstein will be departing for the Cubs and that Lucchino, whose 10-year contract expires this year, is expected to sign a multi-year extension. Epstein will not officially join the Cubs until the Red Sox and Cubs can agree on compensation since Epstein has one year remaining on his deal with the Sox.
Media reports indicate that the Cubs want to give Boston cash but the Sox prefer prospects. The latter makes sense for Boston, especially considering that Epstein has a year left in his deal. The Sox should insist on top prospects, and not just mid-range minor leaguers.
Henry also told the Sports Hub that ownership for the allegations published in a Boston Globe article earlier this week that Francona was distracted by personal issues, including marital issues and a prescription drug problem.
Alex Speier of WEEI.com wrote:
Those revelations have subsequently been characterized as a smear campaign. Henry said that the issue was a significant one, but insisted that he was not the one responsible for such allegations, and to the best of his knowledge, the rest of his ownership group had similarly not been involved in such claims at Francona’s expense.
“Ultimately, if there were team sources involved they do work for us. Did it come from John (Henry), Tom (Werner) or Larry (Lucchino)? No,” said Henry. “I don’t condemn the story. I condemn personal things coming out. I condemn people who tell personal things about medication, about marital issues. … It’s terrible. I’m ultimately responsible for everything that goes on there, and I’m sorry for some of the things that have gone on there.
“[The issue] is big. It’s huge,” he added. “[But] the author of the story has gone on the record to say that we did not participate in it. I don’t know what more there is to say. The problem is that once somebody says the Sox ownership smeared Tito, it never goes away.”
That Henry appeared on a Boston radio station to address these subjects is just another example in a long line of reasons why the Red Sox are currently in a state of disarray.
Henry, Werner and Lucchino should be held accountable for the September collapse, and the subsequent negative publicity for the Red Sox that has transformed the organization into the Yankees of the 70s.
The Red Sox are staging their own circus that needs to be shut down.
What has happened with the ballclub in October is embarrassing for the fans, and it should also be embarrassing for the players, the front office and the ownership group.
Personally, I am not embarrassed about the September slide. That happens in professional sports. Teams lose leads and fail to meet expectations. However, until this season, the Red Sox had been known as a true professional organization that was operated the right way under the Epstein/Francona era. That is no longer the case with numerous reports of clubhouse turmoil, personal attacks on Francona, the lack of conditioning and accountability of Red Sox players and the questionable way Henry and his colleagues have reacted.
Naysayers are predicting doom and gloom for the Red Sox, claiming that the team will be set back for several years. That is wishful thinking for people who like to see the Red Sox suffer. The Sox will once again be a World Series contender in 2012, and with the right managerial hiring, some tweaks to the roster (like removing Lackey and not bringing back Jason Varitek and Tim Wakefield), retaining David Ortiz and Jonathan Papelbon, and some minor additions (like a reliable back of the rotation starter and a right-handed hitting right fielder), this team can feasibly win it all next season.
And the Sox will win the right way – with professionalism, Dirt Dawg-style hustle and fundamentally-sound baseball. I have no doubt that the new general manager, who is expected to be Ben Cherington, the new manager and the new coaching staff will to that happens.
As for now, for Henry and his cronies, some image repair is needed. They are partially responsible for the embarrassment this team is currently enduring, and it is time for them to start restoring credibility and pride. This can begin by making sure that no more negative news is leaked about Francona, and that Epstein can depart Boston with his dignity.
Even though the tenures of Francona and Epstein ran their course – and changes needed to be made – they should be embraced and respected for what they accomplished with the Red Sox. Though Henry denies his group was involved in leaking information about Francona, I don’t believe him, and neither should you. Henry and Werner are rich businessmen who seem to be more interested in pointing their fingers and smearing reputations than accepting responsibility and focusing on returning the team to the right direction.
Like Red Sox players, Boston’s ownership group has to regain trust and respect for the fan base through their actions, and not words, because their words have shown to do nothing but cause trouble for what is a storied and proud organization.