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Baseball economist Andrew Zimbalist: ‘Francona’ filled with ‘petty,’ inaccurate portrayals of Red Sox owners 02.03.13 at 2:00 pm ET
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Smith College professor of economics Andrew Zimbalist, in a podcast interview with Kirk Minihane to discuss the portrayal of Red Sox owners in “Francona: The Red Sox Years,” suggested that the book (co-authored by former Red Sox manager Terry Francona and Boston Globe columnist Dan Shaughnessy) offered a dramatic misrepresentation of the strong work done by Sox owners during their almost 11 years in charge of the team.

“I felt like a lot of the book engages in these kinds of petty accusations where Francona and Shaughnessy would cite a presumed sentence that [Red Sox CEO Larry Lucchino] uttered or that [chairman Tom Werner] or [principal owner John Henry] uttered. My reaction to that stuff is, ‘€˜Come on ‘€“ all of us are human beings and during the course of a week, all of us probably say a couple things we wish we hadn’€™t said or we wish we could have said it better,’€™ ” said Zimbalist. “When you’€™re sitting around in a meeting and you’€™re brainstorming about what should we do to deal with flagging ratings on NESN or issues with potential drops in season tickets or whatever the meeting might be, you’€™re sitting around and you’€™re brainstorming and you say something. It’€™s just trying to, it’€™s off the top of your head. You’€™re trying to have a discussion about an issue. . . .

“To take out certain things like that, to take them out of context, I thought it was petty. Some of the more strident things that were said about Henry and Werner not understanding the intricacies of baseball or that they don’€™t love the game, they only like the game, just seem to be me to be terribly inaccurate and mischaracterizations, and also not representative of what I think is really a terrific job overall that this ownership team has done. Obviously, any Sox fan who waited 80-plus years for the World Series know that they brought us two World Series over the course of 10 years, which is phenomenal, and except for the last few years, practically every year the postseason experience. They invested almost $300 million of their own money in Fenway Park, which is up against the plan that John Harrington had to tear down Fenway Park and build a new park that was down the street from Fenway Park, primarily with a plan that had hundreds of millions of dollars in public money as opposed to private money. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: andrew zimbalist, John Henry, Larry Lucchino, Terry Francona
Red Sox COO Sam Kennedy: ‘We are paid to do one thing, and that’s to win’ 01.17.13 at 11:35 pm ET
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Red Sox executive vice president and chief operating officer Sam Kennedy, in an interview on WEEI’s Red Sox Hot Stove Show, disputed the suggestion found in published excerpts from former Sox manager Terry Francona‘s that the franchise’s baseball decisions started to be shaped by marketing concerns. Instead, Kennedy stated that the Sox’ mission is defined by the team’s on-field success, with marketing (and concerns such as NESN’s broadcasting success) serving that goal, rather than vice-versa.

“Great sports organizations, great ownership groups like ours, have one goal, and that is to win baseball games. We’€™ve been here for 11 years together. Our group’€™s won two world championships, we’€™ve had six postseason appearances, we’€™ve won over 1,000 baseball games,” said Kennedy. “The business side, the baseball side and the community outreach side all need to work together to achieve that common goal of winning games.

“To be clear, the way that I view the world, I can speak for myself, is that we on the business side are here to support and provide the necessary resources to the baseball operations group to do everything in their power to field a team that does one thing, and that is win. Winning baseball games is and always has been the central mission of the Boston Red Sox since we’€™ve been here, and I think that John Henry and Tom Werner and Larry Lucchino have demonstrated an incredible track record of doing that. I know that I’€™m really proud to be a part of the organization. I know that [former GM Theo Epstein] was proud to be part of this organization, as was Tito. I certainly wish them both well.”

Asked if he’s seen a change in the team’s operating philosophy in recent years, Kennedy suggested he had not. He said that the biggest change in the organization has been its performance on the field rather than what is transpiring inside the team’s offices. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Fenway Park, John Henry, Larry Lucchino, Sam Kennedy
John Henry says Red Sox aren’t for sale, reveals Larry Lucchino has signed extension 09.13.12 at 3:32 pm ET
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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.”

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Read More: adrian gonzalez, carl crawford, Dustin Pedroia, John Henry
John Henry on M&M: Bobby Valentine picked his coaching staff at 2:10 pm ET
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Red Sox principal owner John Henry, in an interview on the Mut & Merloni show, said that Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine was permitted to pick his own coaching staff after accepting the position in early December. At that time, hitting coach Dave Magadan, bullpen/catching coach Gary Tuck and then-third base coach Tim Bogar were under contract, while Bob McClure — who had been hired by the organization in a scouting and player development position about a month before Valentine’s addition — also was in the organization.

But while Valentine ended up having all four as members of his coaching staff, Henry suggested that the decision to have Bogar as a bench coach, Magadan as hitting coach, Tuck as bullpen/catching coach and McClure as pitching coach was not a mandate from the front office.

“I don’t think you can say he wasn’t allowed to pick his own coaching staff,” Henry said. “He inherited a group of guys, and he had to decide whether they had to stay or go. … I believe that he decided to survey the situation and I’m not sure if he made any changes.”

Read More: Bobby Valentine, John Henry,
Larry Lucchino on D&C: Red Sox won’t fire Bobby Valentine this season 08.16.12 at 10:14 am ET
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Red Sox president and CEO Larry Lucchino appeared on Dennis & Callahan to talk about the meeting the team had, Bobby Valentine and some of the other issues Red Sox management is dealing with this season. To hear the interview go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

Before Lucchino could even get into conversation he had to answer the question of whether or not Valentine would finish the season with the team. The response was a simple, “Yes.”

Ownership had a meeting with players last month, though the content of the meeting has been discussed and debated, Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports reported Tuesday that players came to management — via a text from first baseman Adrian Gonzalez — with concerns over Valentine.

“We’ve been doing these meetings and sessions with our players since 2002,” he said. “And the practice goes back before that for some of us. So this has been going on here in Boston for 10 and a half years and one thing that’s been consistent is we haven’t talked about the content or the participants. … John Henry said that the point of these meetings is simply to improve communication and to find out if there are additional things we could do, or should be doing to win. I think people need to know that this is been going on for some time and whatever report came out about it is the first of its kind over 10 1/2 years. More than that the report is exaggerated and inaccurate.”

The media scrutiny in Boston is intense and often has been cited as a reason that some players struggling in this city.

“I do [underastand that sentiment]. I do a little bit,” Lucchino said. “I think we all should have a little blame for it. There might have been some things that we could have done earlier and better, me, myself as well to make sure that it didn’t develop to quite the level that it has. … There is an intensity and a breadth of the media coverage here that is different from most other places.”

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Read More: Bobby Valentine, John Henry, Larry Lucchino,
Opinion: Time for Terry Francona to move on 07.30.12 at 11:54 am ET
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Terry Francona is better than this, isn’t he?

Look, we all get it. We really do. Francona is still Level 5 pissed about all that happened last year — the failure of ownership to pick up his options during the season, agreeing to play along with the idea that his exit was a mutual decision and not a firing, and of course the natural suspicion that Someone Upstairs was one of the leaks to Bob Hohler. He was embarrassed, his reputation was injured, and no one in ownership (particularly the now-reclusive John Henry) jumped, walked or even raised a finger at the chance to publicly defend the character of the most successful manager in franchise history.

Yup, no checks were bounced, no contracts were violated. Understood. The Red Sox paid Terry Francona millions and millions of dollars to manage a baseball team until they didn’t want him to manage anymore. It happens all the time. But let’s be fair: Lots of times we don’t know who is right and who is wrong but not on this one. Ownership v. Francona is a battle the Sox will never win. And, at 51-51 with chaos rife in the organization — you can’t handle things worse than the Sox did with Carl Crawford on Saturday, total amateur hour — Francona looks better every single day. I had no problem with Francona losing his job last year for all the reasons that have been laid out a million times, but I think we all, on July 30, now know that last September wasn’t really Francona’s fault.

And that’s why I was stunned to read about Francona walking into the Sox locker room at Yankee Stadium on Saturday afternoon, pulling up a chair and holding court with a dozen or so players as if the last nine months had never happened. Bizarre at best, calculated and fueled by revenge at its worst.

Listen, obviously there are occasionally familiar faces in the clubhouse before games. But this isn’t Kevin Millar or Sean Casey or Nomar Garciaparra. Francona is hugely popular with a significant voting block on that team, many if not most of whom aren’t thrilled with the guy who took Francona’s job. Also, there’s the very public matter of serious acrimony between ownership and Francona, and that’s not in the past tense. There have been recent tales of more phone calls unanswered and disrespect and confusion and promises broken and all the drama that has made for thousands of hours of hideous country music over the years.

Francona is clearly affected by this, understandably. He’s hurt. But it’s time to stop, to stop talking about his feelings to the media, to stop making a case that has already been judged and rendered many times over. We get it, there’s no new ground to cover. You’ve won and it’s not even close. No one thinks the owners are right on this. Quit while you’re ahead.

But it seems he can’t do that. Don’t be confused, what Francona did on Saturday was done only to symbolically give ownership the middle finger. He put Valentine in a terrible position, made him look weak (he sent Valentine a text message to apologize the next day) in front of players who don’t mind Valentine looking weak. It was a power play that was completely unnecessary, a bully move made out of frustration for allowing himself to be bullied. When you get divorced, you lose the right to go back into your old house, put your feet up and have control of the remote.

Terry Francona needs to move on. He’s not going to get an apology from John Henry or Larry Lucchino or Tom Werner. If that was going to happen it would have happened already. If he really doesn’t know who the leak (or leaks) are in the Hohler story, he’s not going to find out from those guys. Fool me once and all of that. Nothing is going to change, and he has to accept it. It’s still OK, I guess, the wounds are still fresh, but how much longer until Francona’s semi-regular pity parties become pathetic?

The moral high ground is a wonderful thing (I’m told). Francona, in the  public eye at least, owns it against Sox ownership. In a perfect world that should be enough, right?

Guess not.

Read More: John Henry, Terry Francona,
Fenway at 100: Park holds special memories for oldest living former Red Sox employee Al Rocci 04.17.12 at 9:34 am ET
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Throughout his life, no matter how poorly things went, Al Rocci knew he could never complain. Regardless of what direction his life was headed, he always knew that his retreat from everyday realities and struggles, Fenway Park, was never far away.

His official job title at the ballpark was usher, but after manning the gates, aisles and concourses of Fenway for 39 years, from 1936 until 1975, a more fitting title would be historian. It was where he watched Ted Williams step up to the plate and Johnny Pesky take the infield, where he watched the Red Sox make pennant runs, only to inevitably break the Fenway faithful’€™s collective heart.

What was once a chance to make some extra money in 1936 became a powerful presence in his life, one that left an indelible impact on the man that he is today.

With Fenway set to celebrate its 100th anniversary Friday, the 95-year-old Rocci stands as a remarkable and important relic of the ballpark’€™s storied history, as the Medford resident has the unique designation as the oldest known living Red Sox employee.

Rocci’€™s time and connection with the Red Sox is one that has spanned decades and one that has seen the drastic changes with both Fenway and the Red Sox organization itself.  But Rocci’€™s long and well-defined connection with the Red Sox began in humble enough circumstances.

Growing up in the perpetual economic struggle and turbulence of the Great Depression, a time in which Rocci said that his family had to ‘€œscrimp and scrape’€ to get by, Rocci was forced to go to work before and after school in order to make money for his family. Matters were complicated by the fact that Rocci’€™s father passed away when he was just 3 years old, something he described as ‘€œone of my worst setbacks’€ in his life.

Though a part of Rocci’€™s early life was characterized by a series of setbacks, things quickly started to change as he was unknowingly about to begin a 76-year relationship with the team he grew up idolizing.

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Read More: Al Rocci, Bill Monbouquette, Bud Selig, Carlton Fisk
Fenway to host Liverpool-AS Roma soccer game July 25 03.28.12 at 12:59 pm ET
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Fenway Sports Management announced Wednesday that the English soccer team Liverpool will play the Italian club AS Roma at Fenway Park on July 25 as a part of Liverpool’s preseason North American tour.

Liverpool is owned by Fenway Sports Group, and the group’s principal owner, John Henry, said he is excited about the opportunity for Liverpool to play at the iconic ballpark.

“During its 100-year history, Fenway Park has hosted some of the best in athletic competition, and a match between Liverpool and AS Roma — two of the world’s most well-known and respected clubs — is an appropriate way to help celebrate Fenway’s 100th anniversary and showcase our ballpark to an international audience,” Henry said in a press release.

Liverpool last traveled to the United States in 2004 for a tour that included games in Connecticut, New Jersey and Toronto. The club’s 2012 North American tour will begin in July and will last 12 days, with the team playing at least two matches in that time.

The match will be a part of Fenway’s 100th anniversary celebration. Tickets for the event go on sale April 28. More information can be found at lfctour.com.

Read More: AS Roma, Fenway Park, John Henry, Liverpool
Tito returns: Not ‘just another day at the office’ for Terry Francona 03.22.12 at 5:29 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — The arrival was treated with enthusiasm and curiosity by Terry Francona‘s former players. Dustin Pedroia chastised his former cribbage partner for talking to the media “now that you’re one of them.” David Ortiz stopped in for a hug. Darnell McDonald likewise wanted to see Francona, the man who gave him his most meaningful big league opportunity.

This is Francona’s new job. He is an analyst for ESPN, and so he is making the rounds among big league ballparks for broadcasts. But his arrival in the city where he spent the previous eight springs as Red Sox manager was…different.

‘€œIf I sat here and said, ‘€˜Yeah, this is just another day at the office,’€™ that wouldn’€™t be true,” said Francona. “I’€™m excited to do the game, but I’€™ll be a little glad when the day is over. It’€™s a little awkward for me.’€

That is in part because his Red Sox experience remains something of an emotional tangle, something that became clear when Francona was asked if he would consider returning to Fenway Park if asked for the celebration of the ballpark’s 100th anniversary. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: alfredo aceves, Daniel Bard, felix doubront, John Henry
Carl Crawford accepts John Henry’s apology 02.25.12 at 10:17 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — Before heading out to the batting cage to take 30 swings, Carl Crawford sat down with John Henry to hear an apology from the Red Sox principal owner about remarks he made last October, indicating he never wanted to sign Crawford.

“It went extremely well,” Crawford said of their meeting that lasted over 10 minutes. “He was apologetic and I accepted his apology and we both agreed to just move and go from there.”

A career .293 hitter, Crawford batted just .255 last season, including .155 in April, with 11 homers and 56 RBIs, after signing a seven-year, $142 million deal prior to the 2011 season.

“When someone is genuinely sorry for something, you can tell,” Crawford said. “I think he was genuinely sorry for it. I apologized for the season I had. Had I played better, he wouldn’t had to say that so we just both exchanged words that were good. I thinke we were able to clear the air and now it’s just time to move on.”

Crawford said he felt very comfortable talking with Henry during the early afternoon meeting.

“It felt really good. I like those kind of meetings where you just kind of clear the air and make everything better,” Crawford said. “I think it’s best for the organization and best for everybody that we all get along and that’s the way it should be. He’s the kind of guy who is really soft-spoken, really easy to talk to. He actually came in with a smile on his face so I knew things were going to be good from there.

“He handled it really well and made it really easy for me. It wasn’t nothing I had to get off my chest. It wasn’t like I hated the guy or nothing like that. It was just like ‘I accept your apology, let’s move on. I have no hard feelings for you or anybody else around here.’ I think we both share the same goal which is to help the Red Sox win. We’ll be better off. We’ll become stronger and the bond will be closer from his saying that. That’s the way I look at it.”

Meanwhile, Crawford said he’s been taking swings in the cage all week and hopes to be ready for opening day after offseason wrist surgery. Manager Bobby Valentine said Crawford is at about 80 percent, taking 30-35 swings a day and did not rule out Crawford being ready for the April 5 opener in Detroit.

Read More: carl crawford, John Henry,
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