Henry: Red Sox are not for sale

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Henry: Red Sox are not for sale

FORT MYERS -- A somewhat defiant John Henry, speaking for the first time since the end of last season, again reiterated that the Red Sox are not for sale and insisted that ownership was properly focused on returning the team to contender status after three straight non-playoff seasons.

"The last 12 years have been the best years of my life," said Henry in an interview with reporters. "You just don't get an opportunity to own the Boston Red Sox, so as long as we can do it, the three of us (chairman Tom Werner and CEO Larry Lucchino) are committed to being here. These thoughts that we're somehow selling, those are just erroneous."

Henry also stressed that Fenway Sports Group's ownership interest in Liverpool's soccer club has not taken attention away
from the Red Sox.

"I think it's affected perceptions, really," said Henry. "Everything affects you. But the things that have been said and
repeated over and over again are fairly ludicrous. The last time I was in Liverpool was, I think, in May of last year. So I don't know where (this talk of) distraction comes from.

"You could say that every major league owner is distracted if you want to try to make a case for it because they all have other business and other endeavors. I think the major thing has been the perception.

"Last year's losses on the field weren't the result of Liverpool...I would say that all three of us are intimately involved every day with everything that goes on in Fenway Sports Group."

Henry expressed frustration that the Sox haven't won in each of the last three seasons and acknowledged that team's fans have to be won over by a return to success on the field.

"I don't think of it so much as winning the fans back as much as it is winning," he said. "For me, the question is, how long is it going to take to get back on the winning track and back in the playoffs.

"Last year was a definite setback. To finish in last place is something I never thought would happen while we owned the team."

Asked if the team is positioned to win this year, Henry answered without hesitation: "Yes. It's hard to know at this point and we may not be finished, but I definitely think we will contend for a playoff spot."

He also referenced the team deviating from its "core philosophy" of mostly developing from within to an approach where the team relief too heavily on free agency.

"We moved away from that philosophy and it's hurt us," he said. "It's definitely hurt us. Last year was the beginning of trying to put us back on that track...I think that when you have a certain amount of success, you generally don't tend to change your philosophy.

"But in our case, there was a profound shift in what we were trying to do. We made a shift. I think the things that we did when we first got here and started is something that we need to get back to."

But Henry took issue with an assertion made by Terry Francona that the team was driven by market research and focused too heavily on obtaining star players.

"I have to laugh," said Henry. "That's just laughable. It's ludicrous to say we signed any player, since we've been here, for PR purposes. I don't think anybody would assert that. And if it's asserted, it's just ludicrous."

Changes in the CBA -- with tougher financial penalties for spending and restrictions on the draft -- have made it more difficult for big-market teams to dominate as they did a decade ago.

"You've got to be smarter," said Henry, "and you have to make sure that if you're seeking to have an edge, that it better have validity."

This past off-season, the team didn't pursue some of the higher-priced free agents. But despite unloading three big contracts in the deal with the Dodgers last summer, Henry vowed the Sox would still be players in the free agent market.

"You always want to focus on building internally," said Henry. "But it's harder now to build through the draft than it was if you're successful. So there's no doubt that we will continue to be part of the free agency market. But I think you'll see a more disciplined approach."

In John Farrell, the team begins 2013 with its third manager in as many seasons, and restoring a sense of stability is paramount.

"I think winning is what's important," said Henry, "and with that will come stability. We had tremendous stability. Who was more stable than we were for eight or nine years. But we had issues last year and you're going to make changes when you have issues."

Reflecting on the failed season under former manager Bobby Valentine, Henry said "it's always hard to say how much a manager impacts performance. I think of Bobby Valentine as a great baseball manager, a great baseball mind. It's clear, in retrospect, that he wasn't the right man for that group last year. But I don't think you can blame Bobby for that. You can blame us. You blame me, Larry, Tom.

"In a perfect world, he probably would have done some things differently. If you ask him, I think he would have done some things differently. But it just didn't work."

Felger: Crazy can be good, but Sale needs to harness it

Felger: Crazy can be good, but Sale needs to harness it

Chris Sale brings with him to Boston some attitude. He also brings a measure of defiance and, perhaps, a little bit of crazy.

All of which the Red Sox starting staff just may need. And if Sale pitches as he has for much of the past five years, he'll probably be celebrated for it.

I still wonder how it will all play here, especially if he underachieves.

What would we do to him locally if he refused to pitch because he didn't like a certain kind of uniform variation the team was going with? What would we say if he not only refused to pitch, but took a knife to his teammates' uniforms and the team had to scrap the promotion? Sale did exactly that in Chicago last year, after which he threw his manager under the bus for not standing by his players and attacked the team for putting business ahead of winning.

All because he didn't want to wear an untucked jersey?

"(The White Sox throwback uniforms) are uncomfortable and unorthodox,'' said Sale at the time. "I didn't want to go out there and not be at the top of my game in every aspect that I need to be in. Not only that, but I didn't want anything to alter my mechanics. ... There's a lot of different things that went into it.''

Wearing a throwback jersey would alter his mechanics? Was that a joke? It's hard to imagine he would get away with that in Boston.

Ditto for his support of Adam LaRoche and his involvement of that goofy story last March.
 
LaRoche, you'll remember, retired when the White Sox had the nerve to tell him that his 14-year-old son could not spend as much time around the team as he had grown accustomed to. Sale responded by pitching a fit.

“We got bald-face lied to by someone we’re supposed to be able to trust,'' said Sale of team president Kenny Williams. ``You can’t come tell the players it was the coaches and then tell the coaches it was the players, and then come in and say something completely different. If we’re all here to win a championship, this kind of stuff doesn’t happen.”

On what planet does allowing a 14-year-old kid in a clubhouse have anything to do with winning a title? In what universe does a throwback jersey have anything to do with mechanics? If David Price had said things that stupid last year, he'd still be hearing about it. And it won't be any different for Sale.

Thankfully, Sale's defiance and feistiness extends to the mound. Sale isn't afraid to pitch inside and protect his teammates, leading the American League in hit batsmen each of the last two years. He doesn't back down and loves a fight. And while that makes him sound a little goofy off the field, it should play well on it.

In the meantime, the Sox better hope he likes those red alternate jerseys they wear on Fridays.

E-mail Felger at mfelger@comcastsportsnet.com. Listen to Felger and Mazz weekdays, 2-6 p.m. on 98.5 FM. The simulcast appears daily on CSN.

With trade rumors finally over, Sale shifts attention to dominating in Boston

With trade rumors finally over, Sale shifts attention to dominating in Boston

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. -- Chris Sale had been the subject of so many trade rumors for the past year that he admitted feeling somewhat like "the monkey in the middle.”

On Tuesday, the rumors became reality when Sale learned he was being shipped to the Red Sox in exchange for a package of four prospects.
    
It meant leaving the Chicago White Sox, the only organization he'd known after being drafted 13th overall by Chicago in 2010. Leaving, he said, is "bittersweet.''
     
Now, he can finally move forward.
     
"Just to have the whole process out of the way and get back to some kind of normalcy will be nice,” said Sale Wednesday morning in a conference call with reporters.

Sale had been linked in trade talks to many clubs, most notably the Washington Nationals, who seemed poised to obtain him as recently as Monday night.

Instead, Sale has changed his Sox from White to Red.

"I'm excited,” he said. "You're talking about one of the greatest franchises ever. I'm excited as anybody. I don't know how you couldn't be. I've always loved going to Boston, pitching in Boston. (My wife and I) both really like the city and (Fenway Park) is a very special place.”
     
It helps that Sale lives in Naples, Fla., just 20 or so miles from Fort Myers, the Red Sox' spring training base. Sale played his college ball at Florida Gulf Coast University in Fort Myers.
     
"Being able to stay in our house a couple of (more) months,” gushed Sale, “it couldn't have worked out better personally or professionally for us.”
     
Sale joins a rotation with two Cy Young Award winners (David Price and reigning winner Rick Porcello), a talented core of mostly younger position players and an improved bullpen.

"There's no reason not to be excited right now,” said Sale. "You look at the talent on this team as a whole... you can't ask for much more.”

Sale was in contact with Price Tuesday, who was the first Red Sox player to reach out. He also spoke with some mutual friends of Porcello.

That three-headed monster will carry the rotation, and the internal competition could lift them all to new heights.
     
"The good thing in all of this,'' Sale said, "is that I can definitely see a competition (with) all of us pushing each others, trying to be better. No matter who's pitching on a (given) night, we have as good or better chance the next night. That relieves some of the pressure that might build on some guys (who feel the need to carry the team every start).”

But Sale isn't the least bit interested in being known as the ace of the talented trio.

"I don’t think that matters,” he said. "When you have a group of guys who come together and fight for the same purpose, nothing else really matters. We play for a trophy, not a tag.”

Sale predicted he would be able to transition from Chicago to Boston without much effort, and didn't seem overwhelmed by moving to a market where media coverage and fan interest will result in more scrutiny.

"It's fine, it's a part of it, it's reality,” he said. "I'm not a big media guy. I'm not on Twitter. I'm really focused on the in-between-the-lines stuff. That's what I love, playing the game of baseball. Everything else will shake out.”

After playing before small crowds and in the shadow of the  Cubs in Chicago, Sale is ready to pitch before sellout crowds at Fenway.

"I'm a firm believer that energy can be created in ballparks,” he said. "I don't think there’s any question about it. When you have a packed house and everyone's on their feet in the eighth inning, that gives every player a jolt.”