I am here today to celebrate and applaud John Henry.
Words you never thought you would read.
Here’s the deal. The Major League Baseball Network terminated an outstanding reporter, Ken Rosenthal, evidently because MLB commissioner Rob Manfred thought Kenny was being too mean to the commish and his ideas. By any measure, it goes down as one of the most idiotic management moves in MLB Network history.
Rosenthal is fair and smart, universally respected in big league baseball — by fans, owners, players, team officials, and reporters. Rosenthal is the goods. It is incredibly petty and short-sighted for Manfred to eliminate Rosenthal’s podium just because he can.
You can’t fool fans. Or viewers. Or readers. They always get it.
Henry is no Manfred. There no doubt have been plenty of times when the owner of the Red Sox — who is also owner of the Globe — would have preferred that my thoughts not run in his newspaper. Yet I am still here. Unfortunately for MLB Network viewers, Rosenthal didn’t have a boss who understood the role of the media, was willing to take some hits, and let the viewers make up their own minds.
Henry bought the Globe in the autumn of 2013. It was a conflict of interest then, it is a conflict of interest now. From the public’s perception, it clouds the great work our great reporters do. We are in a no-win position. If we support anything the Sox do, we are in the bag. If we get a scoop, it was spoon-fed from the owner. If, on the other hand, we get beat on a story, we are stooges.
I have been covering the Red Sox for more than 40 years. My opinions have been independent of ownership, whether it was Jean Yawkey, Haywood Sullivan, John Harrington, or John Henry. In my view, the Red Sox are a public trust, and we hold the owners accountable to this unique charge. Sox owners always must answer to the great, hard-core baseball fans of New England.
Henry owned the Sox for more than a decade before he bought the Globe. A lot of stuff happened in those years. The Red Sox shattered the Curse of the Bambino and won a couple of World Series.
Henry and I had a good professional relationship in those sweet years of owner/reporter independence. We took a boat ride together to Bainbridge when the Sox were playing the Mariners in Seattle. I went to his house for dinner to watch the Sox play a road game in Kansas City. We regularly went back and forth on e-mail.
It all started to go south in 2009 when David Ortiz’s name surfaced in a New York Times report on MLB players who had tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs in 2003 baseline testing that was supposed to be anonymous. In the wake of that news, I reassessed the championship of 2004, in which Papi and oft-caught-cheater Manny Ramirez overcame Yankee steroid guys Andy Pettitte, Gary Sheffield, Jason Giambi, and Alex Rodriguez and concluded “our cheaters were better than their cheaters.”
Things have never been the same since. Henry stopped returning my calls and e-mails.
Things went downhill in a big way after the Sox fired Terry Francona at the end of the 2011 season. When Francona was out of baseball in 2012, I wrote a book with the ex-manager in which Francona called out his former bosses, saying they do not love baseball.
Henry/Shaughnessy relations were particularly strained after the book, and there was considerable interest regarding the book’s sources. During this time, Henry went on the radio, called me a “ridiculous writer,” and challenged my credibility as a truth-teller.
When Henry bought the Globe in 2013, I swung into action in my office, Argo-like, shredding documents and breaking hard drives to make sure all proprietary information from the book was erased. It probably was unnecessary.
The following spring, after the Boston baseball media had its annual state-of-the-team Q-and-A with Henry and Tom Werner, I playfully asked Henry how Globies should address him now that he was the Globe’s owner.
“Is it ‘John,’ or ‘Mr. Henry,’ or ‘boss’?’’ I asked. “How should we address you now that you own the paper?”
“Well, usually, you call me [expletive],” said Henry.
He wasn’t joking.
It has not gotten better. The owner of the paper and the paper’s veteran sports columnist do not speak. Walls get frosty when we are in the same room.
It is an ongoing situation. The Sox have become fiscally responsible in recent offseasons, and on an almost-weekly basis, I’ve pounded them for cheaping out, not doing right by Fenway fans who pay the highest prices in baseball.
Some of our baseball writers/columnists disagree with many of my takes. Fortunately, there’s no Fox News/CNN one-way agenda in Globe sports. You get multiple viewpoints, even hot takes that the Red Sox owner would never support.
Give this man his props. Henry has allowed me to do my job. He has not done what Rob Manfred did to Ken Rosenthal. He has trusted his faithful readers to make up their own minds.