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Red Sox owner John Henry talks, and this is what he had to say
Posted By Rob Bradford On February 11, 2013 @ 11:34 am In General | 44 Comments
FORT MYERS, Fla. — Red Sox principal owner John Henry spoke to the media at JetBlue Park on Monday, discussing topics ranging from rumors of him selling the team, to reaction to Terry Francona’s book, to the team’s shift in philosophy and why it might have happened.
Following is a complete transcript from the get-together.
On if he’s looking forward to 2013: “I would say in especially in comparison to last year, I should be optimistic. We have to be optimistic we aren’t going to have the same kind of injuries we had last year. I was told we expect to have 15 percent of our payroll on the DL during any given season, and last year was 45 percent. At one point we had seven outfielders on the DL at one time. So you have to be optimistic if nothing else we’ll be healthier.”
On Francona’s book, written by Dan Shaughnessy: “What did I think of Dan’s book? What do I think of Dan? Oh, his book. I read parts of it and was wondering why he was so kind to me. Generally, he’s not that kind. I thought he was unfair with Tom [Werner] and Larry [Lucchino]. You have a Hall of Fame CEO. I was told there was 100 references to Larry but not one positive. Is that true?”
[Shaughnessy: "No way. There are many positive references."]
On if he’s happy owning the team: “I’m very happy. This is what, our 12th, 13th year? The last 12 years have been the best years of my life. Tom and Larry and I have had a tremendous working relationship. We have 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 our committed to being here. These thoughts that we are somewhat selling, those are just erroneous.”
On how owning the Liverpool soccer team has affected the Red Sox: “[Liverpool], I think it has affected perception. Everything affects you. The things that have been said, repeated over and over and over again are fairly ludicrous. The last time I was in Liverpool was in May of last year. I don’t know where this distraction comes from. You can say every major league owner is distracted if you want to make a case for it because they all have other businesses and other endeavors. I think the major thing has been the perception. Imagine if I had nothing else to do other than the Red Sox, what do you think would be different?”
On if the limited partners are upset with the Liverpool dynamic: “I would say that some of them are not OK because they read the same stuff that you write and probably some of them are distracted, but we aren’t. Last year’s losses on the field weren’t a result of Liverpool.
“I would say all three of us are intimately involved every day with everything that goes on with Fenway Sports Group. Every day is different, so there were different issues yesterday. There were issues that came. Just about every day there’s an issue at some level has to be addressed.”
On the difficulties of late: “The thing that’s difficult is when you lose. I don’t think there’s anybody in the organization who doesn’t feel it. Certainly the three of us feel it. When we have a loss it’s painful. So last year we had a lot of losses and that was very painful. I wouldn’t say there are painful things I think we enjoy. I know we enjoy working on this on a daily basis.
“I don’t think it’s so much as winning the fans back. I think of it as winning. For me the question is how much is it going to take to get back on a winning track and in the playoffs.”
On new manager John Farrell: “I think a lot of him. I think everybody in the organization from the time he was here has tremendous respect for John. We’re very happy that he’s here.”
On the approach of the ownership group: “The Francona book is selling. You guys are still here and the fans are still coming. I think that last year was a definite setback. To finish in last place was something I never thought would happen while we owned the team. That’s what we’re focused on. People can say that we’re brand-oriented or revenue-oriented. But the fact is we’re wins and losses-oriented, and we have been since Day 1. The whole thing about revenue has been about trying to be able to attract the best players.
“Again, we haven’t been able to stay with the Yankees in terms of payroll. When we got here, there was such a wide gulf between the two teams. We had to concentrate on revenues. All those revenues have gone into the team; they haven’t gone into the pockets of partners. It’s well known, and if you were to ask any of our partners, in 12 years they haven’t received a penny of 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.
“I think winning is what’s important, and with that will come stability. We had tremendous stability. Who was more stable than we were for eight or nine years? But we had issues last year. So you’re going to change and make changes when you have issues.
“Winning is fun. Losing isn’t fun. Again for us, despite what you may read or see, for us the joy of this is being successful on the field.”
On if he’s talked with Francona: “I actually have — not since the book came out.”
On free agent mistakes: “Well, they have to be smarter. There are constraints that have been placed, so they have to be smarter. It used to be you could just outspend everyone, and that’s much more difficult to do these days.
“Tom and I have made a lot of money over the years, so that doesn’t drive us. If it were a driving factor, yes, I’m sure that would be a consideration. The quality of our lives is what drives us, and our competitive spirit. We’re determined to be successful, and we have been since Day 1. 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 if he would be willing to say he’s not selling the team: “Well, I’ve said it categorically a number of times. Yes.
“But after all these reports came out, I got a lot of phone calls from people, and for the last 12 years, honestly, people have come to me and said, ‘Don’t sell this team without calling me first.’ Those people came out of the woodwork as a result of those stories, which had no basis in anything, any fact.”
On the team’s philosophy: “There’s no doubt in my mind that we had a core philosophy for a lot of 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 that track.”
On the future of Jacoby Ellsbury: “Well, I won’t [discuss that]. Those are better questions for Ben [Cherington]. But obviously, if we could keep Jacoby for the rest of his career, he’s a tremendous force on the field. We’ll work to that end. But there’s no drop-dead date.”
On why the team changed its philosophy: “I think that when you have a certain amount of success, generally, you don’t tend to change your philosophy, but in our case there was a very profound shift in what we were trying to do. It’s a good question as to why. I would only be speculating as to why. There was a shift. We made a shift and I don’t think that ultimately with hindsight, it proved to be … I think the things we did when we first got here and started, which was the basic core philosophy of the Red Sox, was something we needed to get back to.”
On if the team changed because of TV ratings and/or surveys: “I have to laugh. That’s just laughable. The shift in philosophy … no, no, no, I think we’ve been over that ground before. I created a lot of news before by being honest about it. it’s ludicrous to say that we signed any player since we’ve been here for PR purposes. I don’t think anybody would assert that. And if it’s asserted, it’s just ludicrous.
“I think people always look for an edge. Not always, but a lot of people look for an edge. If you think that maybe other people are catching on to your edge, you look for another one. But you’ve got to make sure that whatever edge you’re seeking to have is valid, and there was … we had a big advantage. We had, I think, the right philosophy, we spent more money than anyone but the Yankees. It’s gotten more difficult. There are a lot more restrictions on spending now, there are more restrictions on the draft. You’ve got to be smarter, and you’ve got to make sure that if you’re seeking to have an edge, that it has validity.”
On if he loves baseball: “Uh, we were talking about the senior league when we were walking out here. I don’t think I’ll comment on stuff like that because I would leave that in your hands. You’ve been around us for 12 years. I’m surprised no one — actually I think Gordon [Edes] had a comment — I’m surprised nobody has any comments and then we would have to defend ourselves in that regard.”
On the notion that he doesn’t love the game: “Again, I don’t want to be defensive. Especially about stuff that really is ridiculous. That’s ridiculous.”
On former manager Bobby Valentine: “It’s always hard to say how much a manager impacts performance, but I think of Bobby Valentine as a great baseball manager, a great baseball mind. It’s clear in retrospect that he wasn’t the right man for that group last year. But I don’t think you can blame Bobby for that. You can blame me, you can blame Larry, Tom. But I think he should manage again, and he’d be a great manager for the right team. I think that he came in and didn’t want to be disruptive, so he didn’t have his own coaches. Probably in a perfect world, he probably would’ve done some things differently if you asked him. But it just didn’t work.”
On Curt Schilling’s comments about a member of the Red Sox encouraging him to use performance-enhancing drugs in 2008: “I look at it like baseball has done a lot, especially recently, about the PED situation. We finally have been able to address those issues. Major League Baseball investigated that matter and put a press release out this week about it, so I don’t think there’s anything I can add. Frankly, I didn’t know about it until I read about what he had said.”
On short-term free agent contracts with players coming off down years: “Usually that’s a pretty good bet in baseball, as opposed to the other way around. Usually free agents are signed and don’t do that well. If you look at historically, free agents have been overvalued for the last 15-20 years, because they sign long-term contracts if they have great years and sign short-term contracts if they have poor years. There’s regression to the mean in baseball. It’s well known. We don’t have a lot of long-term contracts. I think the game is in transition. It makes a lot of sense to have a lot of flexibility going forward. A lot of teams, I think, feel the same way. It’ll be a really interesting year for baseball and for the results on the field, not just for the Red Sox but for baseball in general.”
On the importance of having better personalities in the clubhouse: “Yes, I think Ben addressed that last year after the trade. We weren’t the team that we needed to be. On paper, we looked great, but it really didn’t transition well off the paper.”
On if stats guru Bill James will be more involved with the Sox: “Yes. 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 and something that we had gotten away from to our detriment over the years.”
On the team’s philosophy regarding the free agent market: “I think you always want to focus on building internally, but again, it’s harder now to build through the draft than it was. There’s no doubt that we will continue to be a part of the free agency market, but I think you’ll see a more disciplined approach. Again, we had such a financial advantage that we weren’t necessarily as disciplined as we could’ve been.”
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