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John Henry Sets Things Straight, Calms The Nation?

As you may have heard by now, the Red Sox' principal owner, John Henry, showed up on 98.5 today unannounced and addressed pretty much all the gossip and grievances thrown about by Sox fans over the past few weeks, and even all the way back to 2010.

It's a 70-minute interview, and a lot to take in, so let's try breaking it down piece by piece.

On Bob Hohler's Article

First and foremost, Henry vehemently denied that the inside info--particularly the apparent smear campaign against departing manager Terry Francona--had come from ownership. When pressed on why he hadn't come out and condemned the story or denied the involvement of ownership earlier, Henry could only say that he didn't really see the point, since he didn't expect them to believe him.

Sure enough, it is hard to believe ownership had no part in the story. Unfortunately, Felger and Mazz didn't really press the fact that this isn't an isolated occurrence. If it had just been Tito, then maybe one or two guys in the organization just had a bone to pick with the long-time manager. But whenever a major member of the team leaves--or in some cases even seems to be in danger of leaving--it's the same old story. Unless they've got one of the leakiest organizations in baseball history--which seems quite unlikely given the stealth with which the Lackey and Crawford signings were completed--then there's good reason to think this is coming from the top, even if none of them are talking directly to Hohler. 

I probably don't even need to mention the prime suspect. 

We'll hit the rest post-jump.

On Liverpool

Oh, God, are we really doing this again?

It seems like Henry is damned if he does, damned if he doesn't here. Henry denied that the purchases after the 2010 season were done as a response to the fears that Liverpool would drain money from the Sox. But that he has to go into any of this is just ridiculous. Henry is a businessman who expects both clubs to be profitable and will put what's needed into them to get those results. 

So if Henry doesn't spend, he's called out for putting money into Liverpool. But he did spend, so instead he's called out for...spending for spending's sake? 

The biggest piece of contention here, however, seemed to be...


On Carl Crawford

Who Henry said he wasn't particularly in favor of accquiring:

We had plenty of left-handed hitting. I don't have to go into why. I'll just tell you that, at the time, I opposed the deal. But I don't meddle to the point of making decisions for our baseball team.

Heaven forfend! 

This doesn't seem to me like John Henry is trying to distance himself from Crawford. In fact, if he were trying to make himself look good when it came to the Crawford deal he should have said that he fell right in line, led astray by the wicked Theo Epstein. After all, Henry is never going to be the man in charge of choosing who does and does not join the team. If he is, then the Sox are in serious trouble. The Owner's job is to sign the checks and reap the financial benefits, and the GM's job is to tell him who he's paying.

Ownership's only role in baseball decisions should be deciding which individual is in charge of making them. We've seen far too often in baseball what happens when things work the other way around. Kudos to Henry for making the statement that, yes, he allowed to go the Crawford signing to go through, and he was right to do so.


On Terry's Departure

Not really much to see here. Henry pointed out that option years are just that--optional years--and stressed that Francona wasn't fired or "let go" somehow. Whether or not this split was as amicable as Henry says we may never know, but the suggestion by Felger and Mazz that their failure to force Tito into managing or quitting with his option years shows some sort of malice is kind of laughable. Are they firing Theo for letting him go where he wants to go?


On Clubhouse Unrest

Henry claimed, quite believably, that he was unaware of Beergate until after the season, but that all this stuff in the clubhouse is just a media-made riot. As far as scheduling complaints are concerned, Henry defended the Sox all the way, saying that their biggest concern wasn't being overworked, but the competitive disadvantage that stemmed from it.

No, I wouldn't be surprised if the players were actually just annoyed about not having enough time off. And yes, when they're paid as much as they are, that's annoying. But regardless, this isn't really an issue when we move on to:


The Collapse

Because Henry said what we all pretty much know, whether we like to put clubhouse and human stories first:

It came down to the starting pitching. Not Ellsbury being a loner, or Youkilis being meddlesome, or Francona being ineffective.

It was the starting pitching.

The issue that Henry did admit has some validity was conditioning. When asked about Beckett's weight seemingly increasing as the year went on the owner did acknowledge that it was something they were looking at, but refused to throw anyone under the bus, and made it clear that it was not for a want of effort in conditioning: 

Unless our training people are lying to me directly...[the starters] did [their exercises].

Felger and Mazz harped on Josh Beckett's physical appearance, and Henry stressed the injury, but the take-away form all this is that, at least as far as Henry is concerned, the drama is almost irrelevant, if not a complete fabrication:

I think the chaos that's going on is much more external than internal...There's not a sense of desperation. We're going to be successful next year.

And you know what? He's probably right. All this doom-and-gloom over 2012? Yes, the team has problems to fix, but it's hardly as dramatic as it's being made out to be. The Sox know they need more rotation depth than they had this year, and if they have that and manage to bring back the same bunch, then there's no reason they can't make it back to that level of being one of the best in recent memory.

Yes, there's questions over who will repeat their performance, who will be injured next time around, and who will or will not be back. But there's not one year I can remember since 2007 that the Sox didn't start the season with a roster that made me think they'll contend. And I don't think that's about to change for 2012. 

The biggest wild card in all of this is Ben Cherington, to be honest. If Henry, God willing, mostly put this to rest today and Papi/others aren't going to be driven away from the Sox by all this drama...then it's something that can just be moved past. When it comes down to it, this is a team with some tremendously talented players. If Cherington can address the real issues, then there's no reason that 2012 can't be everything we'd hoped for from 2011.