Reporting Dan Roche
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BOSTON (CBS) – When discussing the Red Sox with a friend a few weeks ago, he uttered these words: “I think you’re simply seeing a market correction.”
I think he’s dead on.
From the first day John Henry, Tom Werner and Larry Lucchino took over, everything went extremely well.
An aging, decaying Fenway Park was judged to be ready for demolition by the previous regime. However, Janet Marie Smith had a different vision. I’ll never forget touring Fenway with her soon after the new ownership took over and was amazed at what she saw; walls that could be removed, windows that could be opened, seats that could be built, clubhouses that could be renovated, etc. Those changes were carried out to make Fenway arguably the best of the old and new, all in one. It became a unique experience, plus, they could celebrate the 100th anniversary of Fenway, too.
The team on the field needed new direction and that was provided by Theo Epstein, Lucchino and the baseball ops department. They brought in players that could play in this city (David Ortiz, Curt Schilling, Johnny Damon, Kevin Millar, Keith Foulke) to go along with those that were here (Manny Ramirez, Pedro Martinez, Derek Lowe, Trot Nixon, Jason Varitek). They also got lucky with many players from Bill Mueller to Bronson Arroyo to Gabe Kapler to Mike Lowell. It all worked and it provided the city with two championships.
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However, winning comes at a price. Front office types were plucked away by other teams; the likes of Josh Byrnes, Jed Hoyer, Peter Woodfork, Jason McLeod and eventually Epstein all left. Still, there are many great baseball minds at Yawkey Way, but the more minds the better. The manager, Terry Francona, also ran out of gas in arguably the toughest place in all of baseball to manage. Ownership lost faith in him and his players took advantage of him. He made some mistakes along the way, too.
The Sox also were able to jack up ticket prices and payroll due to the success of the club. Everyone wanted in on the Sox. Fans couldn’t get enough. Charles Steinberg took advantage of it by creating a “kids nation” and a “Red Sox Nation” to go along with plenty of theme songs (Sweet Caroline, Tessie), and merchandise (shirts, bricks, and more).
Revenue poured in. Vice president of sales and advertising Sam Kennedy had money flying in from companies lining up to get in the run. Things got so good that Fenway Sports Group was created so that revenue could be spread out. There was a racing team, an internationally known soccer team, plus hockey, soccer and concerts at Fenway.
It all worked so beautifully and the fans ate it all up. Plus, the Red Sox — the centerpiece of it all — kept winning and contending.
However, it couldn’t be expected to last forever. No sports franchise can keep winning year after year after year. The Yankees, Canadiens, Celtics and Lakers have been consistent winners, but they have had their years when they struggled.
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The key for those franchises, though, has been righting the ship during the rough times.
That’s where this Red Sox franchise is at in 2012. And, more importantly, that’s what John Henry, Tom Werner and Larry Lucchino face. Or, do they? Do they want to?
The wheels have fallen off the mighty baseball franchise. Injuries (yes, injuries) and a few bad decisions along the way have caused this team to hit the skids.
The Market Correction has occurred.
What happens now?
Principal owner John Henry turned 63 on Thursday. On that same day a story came out that he was perhaps looking to sell the team. I think that was only fitting. It was a great time to pause and figure out what he wants to do for the rest of his life.
I think John Henry hasn’t enjoyed being owner of the Boston Red Sox this season. He says he is writing a book to maybe show what he has gone through. The landscape has changed in Boston and he is no longer looked at as the brilliant owner of the Boston Red Sox. There is anger out there, with fans feeling Henry hasn’t paid as much attention to his ball club as he once did. Not only does he have his finance business that he’s always had, he also owns mighty Liverpool FC. Many see it as too much on his plate.
In my opinion (and maybe John’s too), sports radio has also changed things here. There is venom on a seemingly daily basis which fires up the masses. Yes, it can help in many ways as in being a “watch dog” of the franchise, but it seems to have taken away a lot of the fun part of baseball. There’s a constant “no matter what you do it’s not good enough” and “you just can’t lose, there has to be scapegoats” in this town.
You just can’t simply have a bad year or a bad few years. It has to be personal.
We put these players, GMs and owners on a pedestal and then enjoy knocking them down.
It’s baseball! This is not life or death.
So, why wouldn’t, or shouldn’t, John Henry look into seeing what the team is worth? It may have been to simply set up who would inherit the team should anything happen to him. It may have been more than that. If it’s no longer fun and you don’t need to own the team, why not look into it?
Henry, Werner and Lucchino may also want to now own this club more than ever. Maybe they are saying it’s time to roll up our collective sleeves and turn this team back in the right direction. They cleared out $250 million of payroll to set things up. Maybe they will back off a bit and let Ben Cherington drive the bus from a baseball standpoint. Now, they still would do what they always have done: make huge and final decisions as a group. However, maybe Ben has a bit more final say.
I’m not sure what will happen. My guess is John Henry isn’t going anywhere. However, if he does sell the team I don’t blame him for it. I won’t be angry.
I will simply say “thank you” for an incredible ride while he was here.
Follow WBZ-TV’s Dan Roche on twitter @RochieWBZ.