John Henry says Red Sox aren’t for sale, reveals Larry Lucchino has signed extension
|09.13.12 at 3:32 pm ET|
Red Sox principal owner John Henry called in to Mut & Merloni on Thursday to refute Fox Business reporter Charlie Gasparino‘s report that he and the Red Sox ownership group have held discussions about selling the team.
“I’m disputing his sources,” Henry said. “Whatever his sources are telling him, I’m completely disputing anything they’re saying along those lines.”
The biggest piece of news to emerge from the conversation is that president and CEO Larry Lucchino will return to the team next season after signing an extension.
Here are some bullet-points of the conversation, which could be heard here:
• Henry said that Gasparino’s source, which Gasparino said minutes earlier in an interview with Mut & Merloni has “direct knowledge” of the situation, is incorrect.
“I guess one response I have is that sometimes journalists have sources that just are completely off-base and don’t know what they’re talking about,” Henry said. “I guess that’s what I would have to say having listened to the interview, that whoever he’s talking with, especially when he mentions that there’s been talk with a buyer and so forth, it’s just so far apart or out of the horizon of things that have been going on, as are a number of things. For instance, that all of our time is spent on Liverpool, and that we spend our time at Fenway with Red Sox people talking about Liverpool. It’s just not true.”
• Henry adamantly disputed that there were internal discussions about selling the team.
“I think that if there have been any discussions, they certainly haven’t included Tom [Werner] or Larry or I, so I don’t know who’s discussing it. Certainly not minority partners, because we’ve had changes in ownership among minority partners even this year. As you probably know, The New York Times was a significant owner at one point. They owned 17 or 18 percent, and they now own zero. That’s been going on, and others have changed the ownership interest, but there’s certainly been no discussion. We have quarterly partner meetings, and there’s been no discussion among partners, even in executive sessions about a sale of any kind. I don’t think there’s anyone in the partnership who’s interested in selling any of the aspects of Fenway Sports Group.”
• He was then asked if he ever gauges the value of the organization even without the intention of selling.
“No, but at least annually you see Forbes take guesses at what things are worth,” Henry said. “Even their best guesses are usually way off the mark. I’m part of baseball’s executive council and we dealt with the bankruptcy and the sale of the Dodgers, and we all had ideas. We all thought the Dodgers might go for a billion and a half dollars, and they went for $2.15 billion, so you never know exactly what these things are worth, but you have an idea based on the sale prices on other clubs.”
• Henry noted that this news may be emerging because of how ugly a season the Sox have had.
“I think whenever things aren’t going according to plan, with all the turmoil we’ve had this year, that people are going to speculate about this sort of thing, but to say that some buyer’s been approached — investment bankers do a lot of things,” he said. “Maybe one investment banker talked to a potential buyer and decided that if he could get a bid he might be able to create an interest on our part or something. Maybe that’s a possibility, but it certainly it hasn’t come from us. We’re committed to this franchise for the long term. When we get up in the morning, we don’t think about anything other than, ‘What can we do?’ We’re having meetings here at Fenway about 2013 and beyond.”
• Henry said that the ownership group has “separate budgets” for each organization it owns, so Liverpool or any outside interests do not impact the finances of the Red Sox.
“When you have a particular point of view, you look for ways to justify it,” he said. “That’s all that is. I have an investment company that’s actually a very small company. What happens in that company has very little impact upon me financially or otherwise. It’s a small company. The Red Sox, on the other hand, are a large company. Since we bought Liverpool, there has been this continual back and forth in Liverpool about the money we spend in Boston, and in Boston about the money we spend in Liverpool.
“I don’t think we anticipated that. I think that’s been the biggest issue. There hasn’t been a financial issue, but there’s really been an issue between fanbases about where money is spent. Of course, right after we spend $476 million to buy Liverpool, which many people think is a bargain price, I guess, we spent how much on Adrian [Gonzalez] and Carl [Crawford]? That provoked such an outrage in Liverpool. We were shocked about that. The fact that we went out and signed these free agents caused that. Then we went out and spent $150 million or so on buying players in Liverpool, and it provoked that here. That’s really a mistake on our part, not to recognize that that was going to create issues with both franchises.
“They’re independently run organizations, just as Roush Fenway is independently run. What happens at Roush-Fenway is we tied for the NASCAR championship last year and lost on a tiebreaker, but whether we win or lose there, it doesn’t impact the Red Sox from our perspective. These are individual units.”
• The trade of Gonzalez, Crawford and Josh Beckett to the Dodgers shed major salary, but Henry said freeing up money was done for the sake of baseball operations.
“I know that no matter what I say people will continue to speculate, but that’s why I wanted to come on, just to answer any questions you have, and that’s a great question,” he said.
“We did it for one reason and one reason only: to provide payroll flexibility. We didn’t have a lot of payroll flexibility. Neither the Yankees nor the Red Sox, as you’ve noticed over the last year, have had great financial flexibility. There’s a new collective bargaining agreement that has come into existence over the last year. It sort of informs how clubs have to behave. The draft is no longer even close to what it was a year ago or two years ago, certainly. So, the amateur draft and the budget with regard to signing international free agents, baseball has changed economically, and we needed payroll flexibility.”
• Henry was asked if he sees Bobby Valentine as the manager of the future for the Sox, a topic he danced around.
“I think that when we look at what happened this year, again, I know I said it before. I don’t blame Bobby Valentine for this,” he said. “I think we have a lot of culpability ourselves at the highest levels of the Red Sox.
“One of the things that we should have been looking at is how much injuries are playing a part. If not in baseball, at least in Boston, how much injuries have played a part with this club since 2006, and we still continued to concentrate on high-ticket players, so to speak, rather than depth. I think that really hurt us this year. You can’t use injuries as an excuse, and therefore I would say we weren’t as prepared and didn’t realize and hadn’t caught on I think quickly enough to how important it is to have — what Earl Weaver used to talk about and Larry talks about this year — deep depth. He used to call it deep depth. That’s something that we’re focusing on much more going forward.”
• There has been plenty of talk about the team’s chain of command and the power that general manager Ben Cherington has. Henry was asked whether the chain of command needs to be reviewed:
“I think chain of command issues have been something that we have focused on over the last more than a year now,” he said. “We’ve always been chain of command guys. What you do is you make sure you have the right people in place and then give them the resources in order to be successful. We’ve been questioning that, talking to Jack Welch, a great CEO and Larry Lucchino, a great CEO. These guys have been known as micromanagers. I think some of the criticism is that we’ve been too hands-off at our level. Obviously we’re not going to make baseball decisions, but I think there’s validity to some of that criticism that we perhaps have relied too much on others and we need to be more involved and we have been more involved as this year has gone on.”
• Henry said he feels that Valentine was given a “fair shake” by the players this year. Pressed about Dustin Pedroia publicly disagreeing with Valentine early in April, Henry wouldn’t comment.
“I don’t think it’s productive for me to get into whether or not I agree with everything that’s been said by everyone, whether it’s the manager or players at this point,” he said. “I think the main thing we have to do is make sure that going forward that we’re doing the kind of things, that we’re playing the kind of baseball that we need to be playing. That hasn’t happened.”
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