SBD/February 12, 2013/Franchises

John Henry Defends Liverpool Ownership, Denies Red Sox Are "Brand-Oriented"

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Henry spoke without the presence of Tom Werner and Larry Lucchino
Red Sox Owner John Henry in addition to denying reports he will sell the team yesterday during "an uncharacteristically loquacious 25-minute session with the press," also supported his ownership of EPL club Liverpool and "even defended himself against the idea that he doesn't love baseball," according to Tim Britton of the PROVIDENCE JOURNAL. Henry said that Fenway Sports Group's ownership of Liverpool has affected its "perception much more than its or the team's performance." He added, "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. Last year, I think was the beginning of trying to put us back on that track. ... 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." Henry continued, "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. All those revenues have gone into the team; they haven't gone into the pockets of partners. Revenue here is about one thing; it's about winning" (PROVIDENCE JOURNAL, 2/12). In Boston, Scott Lauber notes this was Henry's "first public appearance since the end of last season," and he admitted that the Red Sox "have lost their way" (BOSTON HERALD, 2/12). Also in Boston, Peter Abraham notes Henry in previous years has held such news conferences with Red Sox Chair Tom Werner and President & CEO Larry Lucchino "flanking him, Lucchino using his skills as an attorney to deflect questions he judged unworthy." But this time Henry "was alone and occasionally feisty" (BOSTON GLOBE, 2/12). Henry spoke on "several matters, but was adamant about keeping the rebuilding Red Sox, despite reports to the contrary" (AP, 2/11).

MORE THAN WORDS: ESPN BOSTON's Gordon Edes noted Henry "shrugged off the perception" that FSG owning the EPL club has "negatively impacted the Red Sox." Henry said, "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" (ESPNBOSTON.com, 2/11). In Boston, Dan Shaughnessy writes of Henry's pledge that he will not sell the team, "I believe him." Henry admitted that some of his Red Sox partners "are not happy with Liverpool, but blamed it on the media." He said, "Some of them are not OK because they read the same stuff that you write and probably some of them think we are distracted, but we aren't. Last year's losses on the field weren't a result of Liverpool" (BOSTON GLOBE, 2/12).

FOR THE LOVE OF THE GAME: Henry said of former Red Sox manager Terry Francona's suggestion that he does not love baseball, "I don't want to be defensive, especially about stuff that really is ridiculous. That's ridiculous" (BOSTON HERALD, 2/11). In Boston, Nick Cafardo writes it is "obvious Henry didn't care for a lot of things Francona had to say," and Francona's comments "definitely" got to him. Henry said of the assertion that he does not love baseball, "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" (BOSTON GLOBE, 2/12). The BOSTON HERALD's Steve Buckley writes, "I'm still troubled by the perception ... that the owners are cash-crazed buttinskis who do not love baseball" (BOSTON HERALD, 2/12).

PERCEPTION VS. REALITY: The HERALD's Lauber writes, "Fairly or not, Henry’s image has taken a pounding." Henry at best is perceived as "being preoccupied by his other ventures," and he is at worst "mocked as a cartoonishly eccentric and reclusive billionaire who is hopelessly out of touch with the frustrated fan base" (BOSTON HERALD, 2/12). The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Brian Costa writes the Red Sox have "recommitted themselves to player development." The "collapse of 2011 is over." The "epic debacle that was the Bobby Valentine era is done." For the "first time since Henry bought the team, the Red Sox are rebuilding." Costa: "Unlike some other big-market owners, Henry doesn't cringe at the sound of the word" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 2/12). Henry said of the competitive landscape for wealthy teams such as the Red Sox and Yankees, "It's gotten more difficult. There are a lot more restrictions on spending now. There are more restrictions on the draft. So the Red Sox and Yankees have to be smarter. It used to be you could just out-spend everyone, and that's much more difficult to do these days" (N.Y. POST, 2/12).
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