Monday, October 17, 2011

A Man Needs a Muse

Obviously there's a lot to say about John Henry and the Sox this Monday morning, especially after he gave an impromptu 70-minute radio interview on Friday afternoon.  The title of the post is a jab from this Boston Magazine article about when he married a girl 30 years his junior (after all, personal lives aren't off-limits anymore).  There's a lot I can say about Red Sox ownership and how they are a huge problem.  However, I'm going to try to stay on topic and point to where they came in to partially cause the September collapse.  I'd love to talk Lebron again, but it's only marginally relevant.

The problem with these guys is their priorities.  It's actually similar to big-time corporate America.  I know I have two loyal readers who work for an American division of a European company.  Huge company, and due to the size of the company and the lack of central, somewhat local management, their operations at my readers' facility is rife with inefficiency and incompetence.  And my friends (they'll say it themselves), JD out A LOT.  They're not alone.  But upper-level management at their company is clearly not committed to a well-run machine, because their interests are overseas.  If ownership can't commit to a well-run, efficient machine fueled by hard work, it's hard for the regular old employees (even if they have doctorates) to commit to that cause.

For another example, if an ownership group buys a team and turns the entire stadium into their own frat house, committing not to improving the stadium, not to winning, and not to running the organization efficiently - BUT instead naming trust-fund friends to managerial positions and getting wasted in the luxury boxes - you cannot expect to have a healthy workplace.  I've worked for a team like that, and I've also worked for a team that had ownership committed to healthy, efficient operations and had proper management in place.  It was like night and day.

The ownership group's commitment to winning was dubious at best.  Lucchino, Henry, and Werner can say "nuh-uh" all they want, but if that questionable commitment and emphasis on ONLY the bottom line is going all the way down to the players - after all, the players complained about the Hurricane Irene doubleheader because they thought ownership was valuing the gate instead of winning - there's a problem.  Even if these guys do care about winning (They don't, because if they did, they would have stayed away from Lebron. Another example of lack of focus.), they need to make sure that every employee knows that.  If not, you're creating a toxic workplace that fosters the attitude of "if they don't care, we don't care."  Same goes for the corporate America example and the red-wine-in-luxury-suite example.

Larry Lucchino is also a problem.  Even if John Henry stays (he won a lot of points with me on Friday, by the way), Lucchino should probably be fired.  Having a guy represent one of your business interests when he's interested in settling beefs with people six years later (the Theo/Cubs negotiations are hung up because Lucchino wants to get back at Theo) - or interested in retaliating at Francona from deviating from the script - or really doing of the slimy things he's done the past decade or beyond - makes you look like a dick, as well.  Of course, so does the "neither will your readers" article.

When the Red Sox went down in flames, Carl Crawford most likely didn't feel bad for too many people.  Probably didn't care about how Varitek's career of fake leadership ended this way, and he probably also didn't feel sorry for John Henry as his team had an early series of tee times.  Because other than the fact that he had to interrupt Yacht Week, the Red Sox losing has no immediate effects of JWH being "up 20 percent," which was clearly what Henry's interest was.  When Henry's baseball team finished in third place last year, he had a word-for-word interview in the Globe where he bitched about baseball's luxury tax and boasted that in the rough economy, he was up 20% thanks to mathematical equations.  This interview was conducted in his private jet.

Meddling only when he feels like it is also just plain dumb.  There was absolutely no reason for him to say he didn't want Carl Crawford, other than disproving the "Red Sox are a TV Show" theory.  This disprovement is negated by the fact that later on, revealing his true colors, he said he wanted an "entertaining, winning" baseball team - in that semantic order.  How about this - he should stick to his MacBook and make sure Lucchino doesn't hack anyone up on their way out the door.

Finally, buying the team $300 headphones and taking them on a yacht vacation on a Sunday night to make good for the doubleheader is also wrong on many levels.  It's appeasement and pandering to a bunch of whining children instead of telling them to get their stuff together and start winning again.  It's like feedling dog human food from the table:  They'll stay at the table and whine for the next ten years because they see that it works.  It's not because they're "loyal," it's because they're hungry.  He's empowering them to continue to bitch.  It's perpetuating the country club culture.  Even if the new manager rattles the cages of these animals, if they're getting gifts and boat rides every time they have to do their jobs, it's not going to get any better.

If there is another "Second Base Cup" competition next year, fueled by Tom Werner's interest in creating an entertaining TV show, I am absolutely going to flip.  Werner's the one who said that a World Series was as good as a really successful TV show like Roseanne or the Cosby Show.  Obviously, profits are a byproduct of having an "entertaining, winning" team. 

"Winning, entertaining" probably would have been a better way to put it.


the gm at work said...

The more I think about it (and I hope this post gives a slightly different viewpoint on the Friday interview), I think the most troubling part about the ownership group right now is that not only are the fans fed up with the Schooled/Fever Pitch/Sox Appeal crap, but the guys asked to perform on the field are also questioning this group's commitment to anything except for the bottom line.

If it's true or not, if you have employees who think the only thing their bosses care about is their stock going up a quarter of a point (a Lumbergh reference), they will indeed act like Peter Gibbons ("It's not that I'm lazy, Bob, it's that I just don't care.") This is a serious enterprise-wide problem that goes a lot deeper than chicken and beer.

And, like the entire gaggle of uniformed personnel, these guys totally deserve it. Their shameless plugging of Spooky World, bridal festivals, commemorative bricks, game shows, Fitzy, Sox Appeal, After the Game, Fever Pitch, Liverpool Football Club, Roush Fenway Racing, "Papelbon is so intense on the mound," "We Won't Rest," Second Base Cup, pitchmen coming into the broadcast booth during seemingly every inning of the regular season, Sweet Caroline in the eighth inning, Red Sox coffins, Red Sox urns, Red Sox Nation, Red Sox Nation political heirarchy, Red Sox Nation elections, Red Sox Nation membership cards, and Lebron James has been downright embarrassing and condescending for the last decade. They deserve it. They completely deserve it.

They should probably sell the team.

Anonymous said...

Good stuff and comment DV. I'm not sure they would not sell the team but I think it comes down to, like most things lately around here, the bottom line. When Henry says he wants an entertaining, winning team, I think he assumes that this year is a one-off and the Sox do not need to win much more than 90 games to make the playoffs This is likely correct, with the wild card expansion and all. Given that adding games won is not going to impact playoff participation beyond the 90 level or so, it is probably more valuable on both the day-to-day and team value 'bottom lines' to be entertaining. I think his comment is just economic reality in today's MLB.

The compare and contrast with Liverpool has been very interesting lately. He authorized a $35 million purchase of an unproved but very promising forward on the last day of trading in January, the seventh highest price of all time. It has been a widely discussed, if not criticized, purchase but one bit of speculation that I heard was that a big part of the reason for the price tag was to convince the fans that this ownership group was ready to spend big to bring winning players back to Liverpool. A very strange reason to spend, in my mind, given what is happening on the baseball side and really about the seventh strike in this Mr. Baseball nightmare at-bat that we have going on here.


the gm at work said...

Timmy C,

As you are a fan of LFC (in other words, are you actually give a crap if the team wins), your input should be especially valuable.

Regarding the striker being purchased, what I've read indicates that at the very same time, people over in Not-America are killing Henry for the exact same thing they're killing him for in the greatest country in the world. In Shadow Nation, they're saying that Henry is spending too much time on the baseball team, NASCAR, and Lebron and is more interested in fielding an okay team and cashing in on fan passion than he is interested in winning soccer games.

Their gripe is entirely justified.

As is ours.

Anonymous said...


First, it would be wrong to not mention this: Until John Henry showed up the Red Sox had not won a World Series since 1918. They then won two in the first five years he owned the team. That's a major, MAJOR accomplishment. It can't be disregarded or downplayed. If you had told any of us Sox fans on this blog that once Henry and Co. bought the Sox that they'd win the World Series in 2004 and 2007, we have bought into that arrangement, no questions asked.

The concern is that the owners do not care as much about winning as they once did. I don't know if that's entirely true. They still spend a TON of money--third most in all of baseball this past year. They continue to put money into Fenway Park. They are active in free agency and are very involved in the player development/drafting world. That all suggests that winning is a top priority for this group.

The question is whether they really know how to go about winning. They seem to value raw statistical analysis to a fault (see JD Drew/Edgar Renteria/not bringing back Cabrera, etc) and place no emphasis on character, chemistry, or leadership.

Not for one second do I think that the owners aren't interested in putting out the best team possible--I just don't know if they completely know how to do it.

At these times it makes you really appreciate how awesome it must have been to have George Steinbrenner running your team.

--the Gunn

The GM said...


Fair point on the World Series. If I were Tony Reali, I'd give you one or two in the positive category. Especially considering that the Yawkey group (which enabled several generations of teams to have a country club atmosphere) wasn't really committed to winning either. After 2005 and this winter, though, don't you feel a little dirty about those World Series? I feel like I imagine Arod felt after a date with Madonna - yeah, that may have been pretty cool, but I better take a thorough shower after that.

I do disagree with you about the development of Fenway Park being aligned with winning (as opposed to coldly business) objectives, and it just happens to be my opinion, which is irrelevant to today's argument, that a new stadium would make everyone better off, financially and competitively. But once again, irrelevant.

They are active in free agency and player development, but they have to start changing something. Right now Carmine looks like Windows XP - fantastic back in 2003, but becoming obsolete and useless by this time. Writing checks, however, is like putting the headphones on the black card: Appeasement and making people happy instead of making the best moves.

I'm also glad you mentioned Steinbrenner. We've said this pretty much since George died - he's a stark contrast to these clowns in Boston. He clearly cared about winning, and was so competitive that he let it get the best of him. He cared as much as the fans do.

These guys, while they may be committed to winning, seem to be that way because winning correlates with pounds (not the starting rotation kind). They do not care about it as much as the fans do.

The Yankee fans out there don't know how lucky they in fact were with that guy.

ZWeiss said...

They should just sell this team. Whether or not they actually do care about winning, the bottom line is: if people don't think (especially players) that they care about winning, that's very bad. Obviously, free-agents and other players want to come to Boston because of the history and because they've won, but isn't it a lot different now? Why would a free agent WANT to come to Boston? They're a mess! And it doesn't help when people think "Hey, ownership doesn't give a shit about us."