The Red Sox have been on a wayward path over the last calendar year, the team falling into last place and chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom rightfully having many of his decisions questioned.
Principal owner John Henry and chairman Tom Werner have remained largely silent, dodging reporters by referring all questions to perpetually optimistic team president Sam Kennedy.
That ended Wednesday when Werner attended the press conference at Fenway Park to announce the team’s 10-year contract extension with All-Star third baseman Rafael Devers and took questions afterward.
To start with, Henry (who also owns the Globe) and Werner aren’t selling the team.
“Absolutely no plans,” Werner said. “People should know that not only is our brains into trying to fix the last-place finish but our heart is with our fans.
“I’m 72; John’s 72. We have a desire to win many more World Series here. As long as we’re healthy, we’re going to be hopefully improving the stewardship of the Red Sox.”
Fenway Sports Group now owns Liverpool FC, the Pittsburgh Penguins, and other entities. Werner acknowledged FSG is seeking new investors but insisted that wouldn’t change its focus.
“Our heart and soul is with the Red Sox,” he said.
Tom Werner on hand. First time a Sox owner has attended a press conference in two years and 11 months. pic.twitter.com/1foCwZFdP4— Pete Abraham (@PeteAbe) January 11, 2023
Werner chuckled at the idea that Henry being booed before the NHL’s Winter Classic at Fenway led to Devers agreeing to a new contract a few days later.
“That’s kind of implausible,” he said. “We’ve been trying to sign Raffy for a long time. By the way, owners get booed. That’s part of the deal. If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.”
The Sox remain committed to Bloom, who was hired in 2019. The team is four games over .500 in three seasons since.
“I think that he’s one of the finer heads of baseball operations in baseball,” Werner said. “He had a tough year last year; we all had a tough year.
“I endorse him. I’m excited about his long-term plans.”
Werner then pushed back on the idea that ownership has decreased payroll, pointing out correctly that the Sox have long been in the upper echelon of the game.
“I don’t know if we are four, five, or six, but we’re not a small-market team,” he said. “Our fans expect us to be competitive and we try to be competitive.”
The Sox are, for the moment, sixth in payroll and have plans to spend further ahead of spring training. But even at sixth, they are well behind the Mets and Yankees.
Werner was “very disappointed” the Sox weren’t able to re-sign shortstop Xander Bogaerts.
“I love the guy,” Werner said. “He’s a role model. He’s one of the most impressive guys I’ve ever met.
“He had the right to become a free agent. I’m happy for him he made the deal with the Padres because it’s an extraordinary deal.”
The 11-year, $280 million contract with San Diego takes Bogaerts through his age-40 season.
“A perilous slope,” Werner said, speaking generally about the number of long-term contracts signed this winter around baseball. “One of the reasons that we signed Raffy is that even at the end of his deal, he’s 36. I think he’s got his best years ahead of him.”
I asked Werner if the Sox should have been more aggressive in their negotiations with Bogaerts during spring training last season.
“I love Xander,” Werner said. “I don’t know, maybe there was a moment in time when we could have had a deal with him. But it was also his right to become a free agent and I expected him to test the market.”
Werner said it was “not acceptable” for the Sox to finish last twice in the last three seasons. But he did not classify the coming season as a rebuild.
“No, it’s not,” he said. “We have a core of good players and added to it. I’ve got a lot of confidence in our farm system.”
Bloom, who has endured a cold winter in the arena of public perception, took a victory lap for getting Devers signed.
“He’s not just a star, he’s our star,” Bloom said. “It’s a wonderful thing to retain a homegrown player who loves Boston.”
Bloom then thanked the staff members who played a role in developing Devers before pausing to tell fans that he understands their frustration.
“I’m hoping today when you think about what we always talk about and where we’re going and this vision of a Red Sox organization that every year is consistently contending for championships, I’m hoping that vision is a little clearer for you today,” he said.
Werner is a believer, which was easy to say on a day when Devers had on a sharp suit and everybody was smiling.
Check back in six months.
Peter Abraham can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @PeteAbe.