Don Draper sat in John Henry’s seat next to the Red Sox dugout for the Yankee finale Thursday night.
Perfect. “Mad Men” comes to Fenway Park for the final days of the train-wreck season of 2012.
“Mad Men.” It works in many ways. The Red Sox owners love money. They love to sell their product and they do it well. They are geniuses of presentation. They are the Ultimate Ad Men of Major League Baseball.
They are also mad men, as in angry. They won’t look in the mirror. They want to blame everybody else for what has happened. They want you to remember that this is all Theo Epstein’s fault.
The Sox bosses also appear to be a little moonstruck. They could be Mad Men on the Dr. Phil couch. How else do we explain hiring Bobby Valentine to manage the local nine? In 10 years at Fenway, John Henry has evolved into the Michael Jackson of big league owners. He is brilliant, talented, distant, awkward, infinitely wealthy, amazingly thin, and the king of abject weirdness. He is Jacko Henry.
Who else could inspect this broken model and decide that what the Red Sox need now is more Bill James?
But Henry is a pretty good owner, and I do not believe he is selling the Red Sox. This is probably a good thing. As bad as the Sox are right now, we are likely better off with Henry, Tom Werner, and Larry Lucchino owning the team. You know the old saying. Be careful what you wish for.
We have had some bad owners here over the years. Boston sports has endured Harry Frazee, John Y. Brown, Buddy LeRoux, Victor Kiam, Thanksdad Gaston, and the inimitable Yawkey Trust.
Jacko Henry goes down as one of the good ones. He’s a fan. He’s not afraid to spend money. He put $285 million into Fenway and turned it into a 100-year-old crown jewel. He delivered a couple of World Series championships and ruled over a franchise that made the playoffs six times in his first eight years of ownership.
The Red Sox have consistently had one of the top three payrolls in baseball. They’ve had serious issues regarding chain of command. They have not been smart lately, but they have not been cheap, either.
A Fox Business report Thursday claimed that the Sox owners have been shopping the team to potential buyers. Henry & Co. denied the Red Sox are for sale. Henry sent a message to Globe reporter Peter Abraham and went on Sox flagship WEEI to knock down the report by Fox Business’s Charlie Gasparino.
Gasparino had his turn on Boston radio and stood by his account, while repeatedly explaining he is not one who regularly reports about sports. In the portion of the interview I heard, Gasparino was unfamiliar with the name “Larry Lucchino.’’
Still, it’s a logical theory. We know that the Fenway Sports Group has been overwhelmed and wildly unsuccessful since Henry spent $476 million for Liverpool soccer two years ago. We know that the Dodgers just sold for $2 billion and the Sox have made themselves leaner with the trade that sent $264 million of future payroll obligations to the Dodgers. We know that this would be a good time to cash out if all you cared about was money.
Henry, Werner, and Lucchino say it’s not true. I believe them. I think they are fans. I think they are men in their 60s and even in bad times like this, this is nothing more fun than owning Fenway Park and the Boston Red Sox. Lucchino has re-upped with the Red Sox for three more years. This will keep him in Boston until he is 70.
Maybe I’m the fool. Maybe Henry is Montgomery Burns, cares only about cash, and will unload the Sox and laugh as he flies to his new home in Liverpool. Maybe Lucchino will bail on Boston.
I’m betting against it.
I tried to talk to Lucchino about this Thursday. We sort of made an appointment for an interview. But I didn’t hear back from him during the day. After batting practice, I saw him on the field, asked about our interview, and was told, “We have a plan for you.’’ Yikes.
It turns out the plan was a pleasant, middle-innings, off-the-record session with Lucchino’s lieutenants, Sam Kennedy and Dr. Charles Steinberg.
Kennedy and Steinberg called themselves “the junior varsity’’ and made a fine case for their bosses.
Which was totally unnecessary.
It’s easy to rip this ownership group in 2012. Henry, Werner, and Lucchino have been hitting below the Mendoza Line for more than a year.
But I don’t think they are selling the team. And I think they’re finally realizing that unrest in Red Sox Nation is not a creation of the media.
One thing is for sure: Chain of command would not be an issue if Don Draper were in charge.