FORT MYERS, Fla. — He is a “new” owner no more. He can take questions from the carnivorous Boston media without help from ubiquitous wingmen Tom Werner and Larry Lucchino. He no longer wears the Curious George Man-In-The-Yellow-Hat lid when he walks around the Sox spring training site. He has a newborn son to go with his two daughters and he still thinks owning the Red Sox is a swell gig.
John Henry says he doesn’t want to sell the Red Sox. He pledged that he will not sell the team this year.
“Tom and I have made a lot of money over the years,’’ said Henry. “That doesn’t drive us. . . . But quality of our lives is what drives us, and our competitive spirit. We’re determined to be successful. From Day One here, that hasn’t changed. The value of these assets is just something we don’t think in terms of.
“I’ve said it categorically [we won’t sell the team], so yes.’’
I believe him.
Given the winter calamity back in Boston, and the trainwreck Sox season of 2012, it was nice to see the owner in good spirits on a sunny day. It hasn’t been an easy time to be owner of the Red Sox.
Two years ago the Sox were baseball’s signature franchise, the “Best Team Ever,’’ and there was heady talk of 100 victories. The Sox were consensus kings of October. Now they are a punch line, mocked from coast to coast. A model of dysfunction.
The Red Sox are losers. They are at the bottom of the Boston sports barrel. Since Sept. 1, 2011, the Red Sox are 76-113 — a whopping 37 games under .500. Boston fans are mad at the Red Sox. They are mad at John Henry. Spring training 2013 is the kick-start of the BoSox Redemption.
Henry got off to a weak start Monday, blaming injuries for the Sox 2012 season.
“I should be optimistic in comparison to last year,’’ said the owner. “You have to be optimistic that if nothing else, we’ll be healthier than last year.’’
Sorry, but this is no time to be blaming 2012 on injuries. It’s like saying the Titanic went down because White Star chose the wrong shade of battleship gray.
Back on message, Henry said, “I’m very happy. This is our 13th year. The last 12 years have been the best years of my life. Tom, Larry, and I have a tremendous working relationship and we’ve always been on the same page and it’s fun working with talented people. As long as we can do it, the three of us are committed. The thoughts of somehow selling are just erroneous.’’
He went on script when asked about Liverpool. He talked about Liverpool and the Sox as separate entities, insisting that dual ownership is a not issue.
“The major thing has been the perception,’’ said Henry. “Imagine if I had nothing else to do other than run the Red Sox.’’
OK, fine. But it’s folly to think that Liverpool hasn’t taken Henry’s eyes off the Red Sox. A guy with a house in Melrose and a summer house in Maine can claim these are separate entities, right up until he misses a payment on Melrose because Maine got wiped out by a hurricane. When you get out of college, are your school loan and car loan really separate?
He admitted some of his Red Sox partners are not happy with Liverpool, but blamed it on the media.
“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.’’
Henry acknowledged the Sox had gotten away from the philosophy that helped bring two world championships to Boston, but he rejected the notion that it was done in the name of television ratings.
“That is just laughable,’’ said the owner. “The shift in philosophy. I created a lot of news by being honest about it [presumably, this is a reference to his appearance at 98.5 the SportsHub when he said he was not in favor of signing Carl Crawford]. It’s ludicrous to say that we signed any player since we’ve been here for PR purposes. That is just . . . I don’t think anybody would assume that. It’s just ludicrous.’’
OK. But even Theo Epstein has admitted the Sox lost their way and threw money at the problems. What else was John Lackey?
“We had, I think, the right philosophy,’’ said Henry. “We spent more money than anybody other than the Yankees. It’s gotten more difficult. There are a lot more restrictions on spending and more restrictions on the draft. We had a core philosophy for a lot of years and we moved away from that philosophy and it hurt us.’’
Henry disputes the notion that the Sox care most about sellouts, pink hats, and NESN ratings.
“People can say that we’re brand-oriented or revenue-oriented. The fact is that we’re win-and-losses-oriented and we have been from Day One. Revenue here is about one thing and that’s about winning . . . I think winning is what’s going to do it [create stability]. With that comes stability. We had issues last year so you’re going to have changes. When you finish last you’re going to make changes.’’
“Winning is fun. Losing isn’t fun. Despite what you may read and see, for us the joy is being successful on the field.’’
Pitchers and catchers have reported. John Henry has reported. Today is the first workout of the 2013 Red Sox season.