John Henry, the principle owner of the Red Sox, completed an intense Q&A session with the Boston Herald this week via email. The extremely private owner rarely speaks publicly but when he does it's along the same lines as a Bill Belichick press conference. All that to say that this was kind of a big deal - Ron Burgundy style.
Let me be the first to say that I actually like John Henry as an owner, but as with anyone Mr. Henry has some "ticks" about him. In the spirit of successful businessmen everywhere I decided to give my spin on John's answers to the questions asked by the Herald. I guess you'd say I gave the "what's he really saying" version (Cliff Notes) of John's actual answers. If you want to read Steve Buckley's column for yourself you can do so here.
My Cliff Notes version of John Henry's Q&A session:
*The last two questions have Henry's REAL answers.
Q. Over the past couple of seasons, Larry Lucchino has taken the lion’s share of criticism from fans and media. Why is that? Has Lucchino been literally taking one for the team?
Q. Have the Red Sox reached a ceiling in terms of major renovations at Fenway Park? If not, in what areas could renovations be made?
A. No foreseeable structural upgrades to Fenway. Only a bunch of electronic ones because we're in the 21st century, son.
Q. Looking beyond the renovations that have been made, how many more years do you believe the park has left?
A. Fenway has another 30-40 years left before complete destruction and total Beantown meltdown.
Q. You have repeatedly stated that the Red Sox are not for sale. But let’s turn the question around: Not counting casual conversations that you, Tom Werner and Larry Lucchino have had with would-be owners, has a group approached you with a serious offer to buy the team? That is, one that raised eyebrows?
A. The Red Sox are not for sale and I'm tired of the "If you every sell call me first" response.
Q. What’s your favorite part of being Sox owner? What’s your least favorite part of the job?
A. John Henry couldn't find a great answer when someone asked him why he bought the Red Sox so he said, "Smart people do dumb things that defy logic." The purchase of the Sox helped him with his agoraphobia and now he's a "people person."
Q. With all of the highs and lows you’ve experienced as owner of the Sox, what have you learned from your experience that you can use as a tool to do a better job in your other business ventures?
A. Henry feels like a manic depressant owning the Sox and that works for him
Q. What are your thoughts on fan and media reaction to your group being business partners with Miami Heat star LeBron James? Do we have it all wrong?
A. We making serious bank on this deal and I'm OK with those who want to complain because I'm getting PAID. I still root for the C's though.
Q. Same with Liverpool: You keep saying that owning a British soccer team has in no way diverted your attention from the Red Sox. Upon reflection, are there steps you could have taken to remove that perception from the dialogue?
A. We're not leaving the Sox high and dry. Larry runs the team full-time but I'm back in the game because I don't want you all to think I don't care, bro.
Q. How could Terry Francona’s exodus from the Red Sox have been handled in such a way that your former manager would not have felt compelled to get involved in a book project that is critical of ownership?
A. I'm not sure but picking Dan Shaughnessy to write the book didn't do him any favors.
Q. You’ve been criticized in recent seasons for not being more accessible to the public and media, yet you were also criticized for your impromptu visit to the “Felger and Massarotti” radio program following the 2011 season. What’s the happy balance there?
A. You can’t own a baseball club and expect not to be criticized. There are no special grants of privacy, fairness or believability to someone who raises their hand and says I’ll buy the Boston Red Sox. There is, instead, a responsibility to be accountable rather than attempting to personally respond to all the stories that constantly emerge.
You have a principal owner, a chairman, a CEO, a general manager and a manager with the Red Sox. You don’t need five people commenting on baseball matters. And baseball matters are what most people want to hear about.
That being said we’ve struggled lately on the field, so beginning with spring training this year I decided to be more accessible. In 2013 you have journalists, baseball people and fans subject to constant, instant and directional populist shouting over Twitter, the radio or even TV just to be heard over the massive amount of voices blogging, tweeting, writing everywhere all the time. We all see it and hear to one degree or another. In sports it’s become a whirlpool.
Journalists have told me how overwhelming it is for them and the pressures it causes for them. So accessibility is very different from the days in which I was much more accessible early on. You make one, single comment among a broad set of points and context is conveniently dropped — and you have something that can be tweeted, re-tweeted, discussed, dissected all within that glorious, recirculating din.
When I see fans, the radio show you reference is still a constant refrain, sort of like this: “That was great. You finally took them on directly.” People love a good fight.
One of the talk show hosts that was on the radio one day back when he was primarily a writer had been taking a viewpoint on a particular issue and had moved so far into fantasy that I was incredulous when I heard about it. I called him after the show to tell him what was actually happening. He said to me, “John, I know all of that, but radio is about entertainment. It’s about ratings. I agree with you on this, but my role on that show was to take the other side and run with it.” I countered, “But fans consider you to be an expert. They believe you believe what you are saying.” He responded, “Look what can I tell you? This is entertainment.”
Q. What’s the craziest or most fun thing you’ve done inside Fenway Park?
A. I remember Tom and I exploring what became the Bleacher Bar in center field. We wanted to see what it might be like to look out from behind the screen there during the game for fans. It was during a day game. Coco Crisp was at bat and saw us open the garage door. He stepped out of the box and then got into an argument with the ump over whether or not time should have been called. That’s the kind of thing that happens when Larry isn’t around.
Follow Scott Levesque on Twitter at @scottlevesque. Scott Levesque 3/24/2013 08:56:00 PM Tweet