Friday, December 6, 2013
By MICHAEL SILVERMAN Boston Herald
BOSTON -- He said it ain't so.
Hopefully, John Henry isn't kidding.
That report from Fox Business Thursday, the one that hinted at the prospect that the Red Sox were "quietly shopping" the team around and "mulling" a sale, sure stirred up a hornet's nest.
It deserved to, and the fact that it touched a nerve deep in the core of the Red Sox was a good thing.
If it serves to keep the current Red Sox owners from selling the team and sticking around so they can try even harder to build it back up again would be an even better thing.
The report, after all, comes at a bad time for a franchise that's in a bad rut.
The team is in a free-fall of a season, going on a three-year playoff drought and four-year winless playoff drought. It still has bad seeds in the clubhouse and a manager that can't get a vote of confidence without a three-week expiration date.
That doesn't mean that the team has bad owners, guys that everyone should want to sell the team for $2 billion or so and just get out of town already.
What fun would that be?
More importantly, what good would that accomplish?
Yes, Henry, chairman Tom Werner and president and CEO Larry Lucchino need to be held responsible for overseeing the team's woes and current state of collapse, and yes, if you've been listening, they understand how big a responsibility it is.
It is fair to describe the current situation as a crisis. Certainly it's been a disaster. But let's not confuse the issue and say that it's been so bad that the owners who couldn't prevent the team from getting into this mess should not be trusted to take their best shot to get the team out of it.
That line of thinking conveniently leaves out that these guys have a track record.
Remember in December 2001, when Henry, Werner and Les Otten -- remember him? -- won the team with a $700 million bid? The Red Sox were in a shambles not that dissimilar to the one they are in right now.
There were stars -- Manny Ramirez, Pedro Martinez, Nomar Garciaparra -- but the clubhouse was rife with bad guys. The manager, Joe Kerrigan, got no respect and the general manager -- here the similarities end -- Dan Duquette still thought he'd survive the transition.
Two years later, everything had changed. The team was in the ALCS and a year later they won their first World Series in 86 years. Three years after that, they won another World Series.
I know 2007 is ancient history and the 2008 ALCS appearance feels only slightly less stale.
The last four seasons have been getting progressively worse in terms of expectations not being met and the wrong kinds of moves made.
The club went off the rails, and everyone, including Theo Epstein, Jed Hoyer, Ben Cherington, Bill James and the big three are responsible. The retro-style blame and spin game that has begun to pick up steam lately is predictable and not really offering teachable moments. It's also getting old.
The owners never stopped spending money for what they thought were the right reasons and the right people. That's their job: Spend the money to bring in a winner. Hire the right people and pay the right players.
Did they fall down on the job the last couple of years? Yes they did. After inheriting one mess and cleaning it up, they created another one.
The clean-up process for this one will be fascinating. I want to see how well the owners handle it. I'd give them an A-plus for Act One -- the Nick Punto deal with the Dodgers -- but the really good acts are yet to come. I want the original cast to finish it out. Save the applause or the catcalls for later.
Henry sounded engaged, clear-headed and committed to using this do-over opportunity as a time to rebuild a team, not put a "For Sale" sign on it.
"At this point in my life, (money) doesn't drive me," said Henry. "We love doing this. (Werner and Lucchino) and I love doing this.
"We're having meetings every day at Fenway about the future, not what it's worth. That will mean more to our heirs than it will to us."
Don't sell Henry short. Give him a couple more years. By then, we'll all know how much his word, and the franchise, are really worth.