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John Henry on M&M: 2012 ‘an anomalous year’ for Red Sox

07.18.13 at 2:49 pm ET
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John Henry's Red Sox are in first place coming out of the All-Star break. (AP)

John Henry’s Red Sox are in first place coming out of the All-Star break. (AP)

Red Sox owner John Henry joined Mut & Merloni on Thursday after to discuss the Red Sox’ success through the first half of the season and what makes this year’s team different than the Red Sox of last season.

Henry credited the success to the team getting back to the formula that helped it win championships in 2004 and 2007 — something he thinks the team got away from.

“The way we look at it, we took a certain turn back in 2008 away from our core philosophy,” Henry said. “I would say in May of last year we decided that we — there was some emphasis that we needed to get back to that.

“I think a lot of it was centered on the at-bats and on the approach for pitchers as well. I think Bill James termed it the collapse of the center, which is — you start to press, things aren’t going well, there is dissension and you’re losing. Everyone wants to win the game with every at-bat, so instead of having what we had here for a decade here, which was grinding out at-bats and attacking the hitter if you’re a pitcher, we had people not doing that and some of the worst at-bats that I have ever seen consistently.”

One part of the reason for the Red Sox’ demise last year was the epidemic of injuries. Henry said the team’s focus during the last offseason was not necessarily to go out and get the best player like it had in years past, but to have a more disciplined approach at spending its money.

“We needed greater depth. In order to have greater depth, you can’t necessarily go out and spend — go after Josh Hamilton, for instance, and spend $25 million on one player. You spend $100 million on four players and it makes it difficult to have depth. Every team has to rely on staying healthy to one degree or another. But I think every team has a tendency to underestimate how much depth means.”

Henry said that while many had counted the Red Sox out at the beginning of the season, he knew that last year’s performance was not representative of what the Red Sox could do this season.

“Last year in my mind was an anomalous year,” Henry said. “People seem to be surprised that we are in first place and that we are a decent team. I think everybody predicted us last, almost unanimously. I think that is because you get — when you have a bad year, you assume that it’s going to continue. I heard a lot of feeling as if the good days were over with the Boston Red Sox as a franchise. We had a great run of 11 years or 10 years, but last year was certainly an anomalous year.

Ben [Cherington] did a great job to make a transaction to move players that were unhappy, and we now have a group — we brought in a new group of players that are thriving in this market. This is a market that other players at least in the past seen this as a really tough media market to try to play in and deal with. You don’t see that at all this year. It’s not just the change in managers, it is the change in personnel. You have to give Ben Cherington a lot of credit for what is going on.”

Following are more highlights from the conversation. To hear the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page. For more Red Sox news, visit the team page at weei.com/redsox.

On the success of John Farrell: “He has been everything you could ask for in a manager from a teaching point, his man management so to speak and his day-to-day approach. This is a very resilient team, and you can see it in the manager’s office as to why that might be the case. It is not just the individuals that take the field, but it is a certain methodology from our manager and his coaching staff. This is a really strong coaching staff he has put together.”

On if hiring Bobby Valentine was a mistake: “In retrospect, it certainly was a mistake. But I thought he did everything he could from his perspective or from what he should have done, but Bobby is a force of nature. He is a strong personality and it did not work with that group.

“He had been out of major league baseball for a decade, so we thought he would have mellowed, and he had mellowed to a certain extent. I guess you could say that he hadn’t mellowed, but I don’t blame Bobby for last year. There were a number of factors involved last year. You can blame us as much as anyone for what happened last year.”

On if he has attempted to reach out to Terry Francona following the former Sox manager’s book that was critical of team ownership: “I’m not sure I want to get back into the whole ‘attempt’ thing, because I had a long discussion with him about it, and as far as I’m concerned he mischaracterized that aspect. To me, he wrote a book that really attacked Tom [Werner] and Larry [Lucchino] unfairly. So, how can we have much of a relationship at this point.”

On if his relationship with Francona can ever be repaired: “It may be difficult, because the things that were said, some of these things were so below the belt. Maybe you can blame Dan Shaughnessy for that. … It’s about the book. There’s not much more to say about that.”

On his overall view of Francona: “He had eight tremendous years and was tremendously supported, even after the collapse of September — which, we made it clear, we did not blame him for that collapse. But this is an argument you can’t win. Really, what reason would I have to go on about this situation. He was the best manager we ever had. We had eight great years, great teams. He was a great manager. He was the best manager we’ve ever had. And I appreciate what he did. He suffered as much as any manager I’ve ever seen — even through the good times. He did everything he could to win for this organization.”

On the surprise success of Jose Iglesias: “Jose has been amazing to watch at shortstop. He has played a great third base and he is still hitting .380. That is remarkable based on the at-bats we saw last year compared to the at-bats we have seen this year, his patience and his strength at the plate — but mainly his patience and his ability to have great at-bats. I mean, they have been great at-bats. As if he was 32 or 33 instead of 23.”

On his interest in purchasing The Boston Globe: “I’ve had an interest in what’s been going with our newspapers since 2000. But I really can’t talk about the process or anything associated with the bid. … It’s a big decision, getting involved with a newspaper. We all know what newspapers are going through, why this one’s for sale. So, it’s a big decision for any group. If we happened to move forward on this, it wouldn’t be just me on this.”

On if the Red Sox are for sale: “No. We went though that a year ago. … No. Remember [the reporter's] impeccable sources? He was misled. When you’re going through a bad time, as we were last year, you get all kinds of things bubbling up to the surface that aren’t necessarily accurate.”

On if owning the Liverpool soccer team is more challenging than owning the Red Sox: “I think English football is more challenging than any sport that I see. It’s like the Wild West. Here owners sometimes can complain about agents. But the agent phenomenon, the way it works, it’s difficult to know who represents who in English football.”

On the Patriots’ Aaron Hernandez situation, and if the Red Sox hired a private detective to follow Carl Crawford before signing him as a free agent, as has been reported: “I don’t believe that we had a private eye on Carl Crawford at all for six months. But we’ve had players — and you have to feel for the Patriot organization, because I know the Kraft family very well. They are community first, organization first. It’s just unfortunate what happened.”

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