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."