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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,
John Henry: Terry Francona ‘will always be a part of the Red Sox family’ 02.20.12 at 9:20 pm ET
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FORT MYERS — Two days after a report in the Boston Herald suggested that he had not returned several phone calls from former Red Sox manager Terry Francona this offseason, Sox owner John Henry wrote in an email that he had not been trying to avoid contact since the former manager parted ways with the Sox. Henry said that he did talk to Francona on Monday, in the process dispelling misunderstandings that the two might have had, and that the two plan to get together in Fort Myers this spring.

“I called Tito about this today. We spoke also about a number of things, but regarding what you inquired about, he said he had called on my cell phone but didn’€™t leave any messages. We simply missed each other apparently a few times,” Henry wrote. “Had he left me a message, I would have certainly called him back. We talked extensively and agreed that we had waited far too long in speaking and both of us had probably come to some wrong conclusions as to why we hadn’€™t. We are looking forward to sitting down in Ft. Myers this spring for lunch or a game. He will always be a part of the Red Sox family.”

Henry also praised his former employee, who managed the Sox for eight seasons, reaching the playoffs five times and winning two titles.

“Tito was the best manager the Boston Red Sox ever had,” he wrote. “We won two World Series together. He’€™ll be terrific on ESPN Sunday Night Baseball. And no one can doubt that he will be managing again very soon.”

Read More: John Henry, Terry Francona,
Bobby Valentine thanks Red Sox ownership for giving their blessing to Ben Cherington 12.01.11 at 11:45 pm ET
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Bobby Valentine couldn’t have been more grateful on Thursday at Fenway Park for the chance to lead a major league team, 10 years after his last season managing the New York Mets.

But the opening of his acceptance speech in the State Street Pavilion raised a few eyebrows. He thanked John Henry, Tom Werner and Larry Lucchino for giving their stamp of approval to GM Ben Cherington for hiring him as the 45th manager in team history.

“I’d like to thank Ben and his front office staff. I’d like to thank John and Tom and Larry for giving the blessings to Ben on his decision,” Valentine said.

The irony in that statement is that most are assuming that this wasn’t Cherington’s decision at all but instead a hand-picked choice of ownership.

“I’d like to thank all my friends, family who have supported me,” Valentine said. “Many of you people out there who have said a kind word or two to allow this to happen because this day is a special day. It’s more than a special day. It’s the beginning of a life that I think is going to extend beyond anything I ever thought.

“The talent, the players that we have in this organization is a gift to anyone. And I’m the receiver of that gift. I think we’re going to do this, man. I really and truly appreciate this opportunity.”

Read More: ben cherington, Bobby Valentine, Boston Red Sox, John Henry
Transcript of Larry Lucchino on D&C: ‘You guys might want to live in September 2011 forever, but we don’t’ 10.28.11 at 3:48 pm ET
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Red Sox president/CEO Larry Lucchino joined the Dennis & Callahan show Friday morning to defend his boss, John Henry, talk about the Theo Epstein/Ben Cherington situations, and update the masses on the Red Sox’ managerial search.

Lucchino also discussed how the team is dealing with misbehavior by the pitchers in the clubhouse. Josh Beckett has been identified as one of the key participants, but he has yet to step forward and address the issue like some of his teammates. Lucchino said he has spoke with the veteran right-hander.

“I think he is on the same page, just less willing to deal with the media right now,” Lucchino said. “He craves his privacy I think a little more. But he was a highly motivated guy when I spoke to him. I think he feels like we as a team have something to prove, they as a pitching staff have something to prove. And I think you will see a highly motivated Josh Beckett. I know you will next year.

Asked if Beckett apologized, Lucchino said: “I didn’t ask for an apology. But we spoke about what the circumstances were. I should let Josh speak for himself when he decides to do that. Let’s just say he appreciated that there were some things going on in the clubhouse, but he felt that they were dramatically blown out of proportion by the media.”

Pushed on the matter, Lucchino said he was tired of rehashing the September collapse.

“I don’t want to play the blame game,” he said. “I don’t want to go back. You guys might want to live in September 2011 forever, but we don’t. We want to move forward. I probably made a mistake simply by indulging you guys in the conversation about that. It’s time to move forward. It’s not time to dwell on who drank a beer or had a piece of fried chicken. If you believe that that was the cause of the collapse in September, I think you’re mistaken.”

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Read More: ben cherington, John Henry, Josh Beckett, Kevin Youkilis
The general manager’s goodbye: Theo Epstein’s parting words to Red Sox fans 10.25.11 at 12:34 am ET
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Former Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein, in an op-ed in the Boston Globe, detailed some of the factors that led him to walk away from what he described as his childhood “dream job as general manager of the Red Sox” after nine seasons in order to accept a position as President of Baseball Operations with the Cubs.

Epstein, who was the architect of a Sox franchise that reached the playoffs six times in his nine-year tenure and won two World Series (a prospect that was unfathomable when he was growing up in Brookline), made clear that he still has enormous respect and appreciation for his colleagues and bosses with the Red Sox.

While he described his “close relationships” to principal owner John Henry and chairman Tom Werner, Epstein described a “complicated but ultimately productive and rewarding relationship” with CEO Larry Lucchino. But he dismissed the idea that his move to Chicago is related to “power, pressure, money, or relationships.” He also said that his relocation is unrelated to the Sox’ September collapse, which he said happened “despite [the Sox’ owners], not because of them.”

Instead, he suggested, he had already begun contemplating change as part of the natural cycle of a sports executive. Initially, he planned to leave his position as GM of the Sox after the 2012 season, at the expiration of the four-year contract that he signed with the Sox following the 2008 season.

“Football legend Bill Walsh used to say that coaches and executives should seek change after 10 years with the same team,” he wrote. “The theory is that both the individual and the organization benefit from a change after so much time together. The executive gets rebirth and the energy that comes with a new challenge; the organization gets a fresh perspective, and the chance for true change that comes with new leadership. This idea resonated with me. Although I tried my best to fight it, I couldn’€™t escape the conclusion that both the Red Sox and I would benefit from a change sometime soon.”

This season, Epstein had been grooming Assistant GM Ben Cherington as his successor, a process that the Sox expected to play out after the 2012 season. Yet the late-season collapse, and the following decision that manager Terry Francona would not be back, preceded an offer from Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts to meet and discuss a position running the Cubs’ baseball operations department.

“I wrestled with leaving during a time when criticism, deserved and otherwise, surrounded the organization,” he wrote. “But Walsh’€™s words kept popping into my head, and I recalled how important it was for me as a relatively new general manager to bond with Terry Francona during the interview process back in 2003.” Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: ben cherington, Chicago Cubs, farewell, John Henry
Curt Schilling on M&M: Red Sox ‘have no leadership whatsoever in that clubhouse’ 10.17.11 at 2:09 pm ET
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Former Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling called in to the Mut & Merloni show Monday to discuss the news that Jon Lester acknowledged there was drinking in the clubhouse during games this season, although Lester downplayed the situation and insisted it had nothing to do with the September collapse.

“I mentioned something last week that I had talked to a couple of people that I’m very comfortable [with], are being up front and honest about this. And the one message I got was that Jon Lester never stopped busting his ass to the bitter end from a work perspective,” Schilling said.  “Unfortunately, I asked that when you think about his September, his final run of starts, you just have to attribute that to just lackluster performance. I was kind of hoping that wasn’t the case.

“But as far as Jon goes, I’m happy that the kid I knew, and the young man that I knew, wasn’t kind of dragged into this.”

Schilling said it’s not uncommon for pitchers to have a beer in the locker room after being lifted from a game. But if pitchers were exhibiting that behavior on days they weren’t pitching, that crosses a line.

“I was more concerned that this was something that was happening around guys just because. They were going up and having a beer in the clubhouse,” Schilling said. “I think for some of these guys that’s exactly what it was. But I would bet you that when it had to do with Jon Lester, the beer he was having was after he was out of a game. And given how they pitched in September, there might have been more than one beer.”

Asked if Josh Beckett should be next to come forward and explain his behavior, Schilling said all the pitchers should.

“I think they all have to. I don’t know how you get away from [it],” he said. “I mean, you were directly responsible for the largest collapse in baseball history as one of the pitchers that went down on the ship. As the leader of that staff, I think absolutely, he’s one of the two guys that absolutely has to.

“In my mind, there’s only one way to do this. It’s to sit in front of the media and say, ‘Listen, this is what happened. It’s horrific. It was stupid. I made a bunch of mistakes on top of other mistakes. It cost us a chance to go to the playoffs. It cost our manager his job. And I’m sorry. And I’m going to do everything I can do to make up [for it].’ Unless it’s a complete mea culpa, I don’t know that there’s any other path here, especially for these fans.”

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Read More: carl crawford, Curt Schilling, John Henry, Jon Lester
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