Monday, November 29, 2010

Public Enemy #1

Boston baseball fans have an unlikely villain as November turns into December and still very little has happened with the baseball team or in baseball at all. I mean, there's only so much you can say about Derek Jeter (and we've said it). But Public Enemy #1 in Boston right now isn't Alex Rodriguez. It's not Scott Boras. It's not Derek Jeter.

It's John W. Henry.

This fall from grace, obviously with different circumstances, rivals that of David Ortiz, Bernard Madoff, and Tiger Woods. It was not long ago that almost everybody in this town loved John Henry. He was devoted to the Red Sox, he was devoted to the Red Sox' winning consistently, and he was devoted to Theo Epstein. He gave Epstein the keys to the private jet, basically, when it came to baseball operations. He seemed pretty hip, as the smug NESCAC graduates who have replaced Sully from Medford, Murph from Somerville, and Mikey from Everett loved the fact that Henry sat in his one-man Popemobile box wearing Joe Maddon glasses and typing into a MacBook. The Sox were making money and they were spending it to enhance the ballpark and the team that plays in it. People didn't even resent the fact that he married a girl half his age - they said good for him and wrote articles in the Boston Globe Magazine and Boston Magazine about how awesome he was for it.

Cheap marketing ploys such as acquiring a second-tier NASCAR team and shoving that down our throats...producing cringeworthy, obnoxious stereotype-enforcing television shows like Pocket Money and Sox Appeal...and somehow tying a regional identity to a Neil Diamond song including the words "touching me, touching you" but inspired by a picture of an 11-year-old on a horse...were all okay.

But something went bad, and it went bad in a hurry. When did John Henry lose you? Here are a few choices:

1. When he bid very high on Mark Teixeira despite the fact that he already had a first baseman, a third baseman, and a DH performing at high levels...just to pinch pennies at the last minute and watch the player go to the Yankees.

2. When the team was still in the 2010 pennant race and was just one bullpen arm away from at least having a chance to get back into it. Rumors circled about the team being unwilling to exceed the luxury cap limit. They wouldn't sign Kerry Wood to a $500,000 contract, letting him go to New York instead.

3. When, during a monsoon-like August afternoon, he and his boys opened up the Fenway Park gates, just to cancel the game later on. This is not an uncommon occurrence. However, his wife Twittered the rain-out twenty-five minutes before it was officially rained out. During those 25 minutes that the owners knew it was going to be rained out, countless hard-working families shelled out $40 to park in a Commonwealth Avenue parking spot, and some of the remaining Sullys and Murphs bought two more $8.50 beers apiece. But they took their sweet-ass time to announce it despite the fact that Henry's wife knew about it for at least 25 minutes.

4. When the owner decided that Kerry Wood was too expensive but a soccer team in England wasn't. He shelled out nearly $500 million for Liverpool, and slowly but surely started to shove that down our throats. Eric Wilbur reported this week that Liverpool now has a devoted link on NESN.com but the local team, the New England Revolution, do not. Henry also shared that he spent nearly every waking moment of the last few months on the soccer team.

5. When Theo Epstein essentially said that bringing back David Ortiz for $12.5 million was the decision of "ownership" several times.

6. The Neither Will Your Readers article. On Henry's private jet, he answered a Q&A with responses ranging from bitching about the 48% luxury tax, bragging about his company's success in a recession, thanking God that nobody's acting like the 2004 team, and saying the Boston Globe's readers wouldn't understand why his company was so successful. His sidekick Tom Werner, the brains behind shows such as Normal, Ohio, That 80's Show, God, the Devil, and Bob, Frannie's Turn, Cybill, and Whoopi, said that he enjoyed putting out TV shows as much as he enjoyed winning the 2004 World Series. Let's reiterate the part that it was on Henry's private jet.

7. When Victor Martinez walked last week. Once again, ownership's willingness to spend on good talent was called into question, though their willingness to spend on Mike Cameron, and Ortiz is clearly there. As Felger said, "What's wrong with Victor Martinez?" We discussed here last week why Victor walking is probably good for this team in the long term, but you can't help to ask questions about this guy.

I didn't really like the guy to begin with, but numbers 3 and 6 really solidified it for me. But what a dbag. It stinks to see the Red Sox go to crap, but it's nice to see that Henry, Werner, and Lucchino are going right with them.

3 comments:

TimC said...

Not sure how the BCS would rank these moments...maybe #7 due to impact, then #4, although I would like to see #2 get it's shot...wasn't that the kind of move the Sox specialized in back in the early years of this ownership? Although on the Revs, Kraft is just as guilty...

Part of what is going on here might not really be a 'fall from grace' but just a realization that, unlike what Dennis Green might think, the owners 'just aren't who we thought they were'. Maybe we thought they were devoted to winning- the reality is they might just be devoted to making money, and in baseball winning tends to go with it. Maybe we thought they were devoted to tradition, preserving the living museum that is Fenway- the reality is they might just have calculated that the margins were higher on renovation, not rebuilding. Maybe we thought they were sharp baseball minds- the reality is they may not be able to pick these faces out of a lineup, instead knowing them only by OBPs, BIPs, and other processed numbers, based on recent personnel decisions.

The entries to NASCAR and the EPL are telling- these guys are in it for the buck, or perhaps, the pound, and these two leagues represent the most logical ones for a rich American to enter if his goal is profit maximization, thanks to the play-by-merit structure of these competitions. With the Red Sox likely hitting their money-printing ceiling in recent years it is probably going to be the case that they try to tread water with the team in these coming months and years, avoiding added costs that would not positively change their ticket sales, ad revenue, or other income streams. I suppose that's what you get when your owners and management are value, value, value guys.

the gm at work said...

Tim,

Regarding the Revs, it's completely different. The Revs are the local soccer team. Liverpool is not local. Liverpool is not regional. Liverpool is 3,000 miles away. I know they're your boys, I'm not sure how that came to be, but seriously? Why is this on the NESN website?

Not sure if it was in the Wilbur article or elsewhere, but what if Henry had bought the Phoenix Coyotes or something instead? Would we be asked to root against the Bruins? That's stupid. And that's partially why I root against the guy who illegally drills holes in his car and all of his teammates in NASCAR. I root for the Red Sox because they're from Boston and I'm from the W; I don't root for John Henry's freaking business interests just because he owns the team. Should I watch Roseanne reruns at 5:30 in the morning to increase Tom Werner's royalties from his hit TV shows that bring laughter to the world? Am I supposed to be rooting against the American dollar, too, because John's holding another currency?

Actually, I don't understand that, and neither will my readers. What a dbag.

TimC said...

DV, I think something got crossed up there. I don't think Liverpool needs to be on NESN- what I was referring to was that Robert Kraft owns the Revs and as the owner he has done nothing beyond the bare minimum to get people behind the team locally. It is a real shame because with some extended effort the Revs could be one of the more realizable sources of entertainment for many in the area, particularly when the cost is factored in. And John Henry and NESN have no obligation to boost their popularity, particularly when the seasons run during the exact same time of the year.

As for Liverpool being involved in NESN, I guess it'll just have to be ignored by those who care less- that's been my Favre strategy on ESPN and it is effective. Still, I tip my cap to an owner who does what he can to improve his team's prospects from the revenue side. Everything I have seen and read so far from his Liverpool involvement gets a thumbs up from me- this makes it all the more evident what he now lacks on the baseball side. A real shame. Sox fans will feel it and I don't blame them for their outrage if some money goes to a back-up midfielder or a new stadium in Liverpool.

As for how I got into Liverpool, a long story for another day, but I think I went about it the right way given the circumstances.