After 21 Years, John Henry Still Doesnt Get It

red sox john henry

Cost-Efficient Analytical Approach

In a game that has almost completely been taken over by analytics, let us not forget the MLB owners who have enabled that to happen. An analytics-driven approach to running a baseball team is cost-efficient, and saving money is the bottom line of most owners, even if it is at the expense of the product on the field. 

Yes, I am talking about the current predicament of your Boston Red Sox. The team’s leadership is headed by owner John Henry, the soft-spoken billionaire who has as much in common with the average Red Sox fan as Marie Antoinette had with 18th-century French peasants.

Instead of “Let them Eat Cake,” Henry may as well say, “Let them buy $17 beer” at Fenway Park. 

John Henry Still Doesn’t Get it 

When Henry bought the Red Sox in 2002, they hadn’t won a World Series in 86 years. The curse was very much still alive. The evil empire in New York still owned the rivalry. The Fellowship of the Miserable was at its peak. This all changed shortly after Henry purchased the team.

Not only did the curse get broken just two years into his ownership, but since then, the once lovable loser Red Sox has been transformed into the most successful team of the 21st century, adding three more titles to their résumé since the 2004 season. 

What Makes Henry Different From Other Owners?

Due to the team’s success, many people have wondered why John Henry isn’t more celebrated in a city that is crazy for baseball. Henry has always given off a whiff of arrogance, as most owners do.

But how has someone like Patriots’ owner Robert Kraft managed to gain the love of Boston sports fans for so long? His team has also had tremendous success, which has been enough for him to be worshiped by so much of the region.

Even so, Kraft still has that whiff of arrogance that Henry does, doesn’t he? It’s hard not to think that when Kraft is choppered out of the stadium as we sit in 3 hours of Route 1 traffic in Foxboro after a Pats game. The main difference that I observe is the tone-deafness of Henry.

Over the past few months, fans have been outraged with Henry and the team for refusing to sign Xander Bogaerts, who is now with the Padres. As Bogaerts gets ready to showcase his talent in sunny San Diego, Boston prepares to suffer through what looks to be another season of mediocrity, even with the long-term signing of Rafael Devers. 

Facing The Music

With fans not happy, Henry decided to face the music twice in the last month. The first appearance came last month at the Red Sox Winter Weekend, where the normally supportive Red Sox faithful mercilessly booed Henry, as well as GM Chaim Bloom. Bloom has also been a target of Red Sox fans.

The fact is, though, he has done exactly what Henry wanted him to do: cut costs using the aforementioned analytics tactics. So please don’t kid yourself: It’s Henry who is indeed pulling the strings here. 

At Winter Weekend, Henry mostly deferred to Bloom and Team President Sam Kennedy. When he did speak, the fans let them know they didn’t appreciate the Sox letting go of homegrown players like Mookie Betts and Bogaerts.

Controlling The Narrative

When your net worth is north of $4.0 billion, claiming that the outrageously high ticket prices are necessary to pay players will not sit well with the fans, especially when you’re not even paying your players.

The booing of Henry could only be seen through cellphone videos taken by fans at the event, as NESN edited it out on the official airing of the event a few nights later. Any guesses on who owns NESN?

Yup, you guessed it. Henry’s Fenway Sports Group owns an 80% stake in the company. Perhaps that could have something to do with the altered version of the event. 

Why So Tone-Deaf?

This is where tone-deafness really comes into play. Henry looks worse editing out the boos than he would keep them in. Did he really think people wouldn’t notice?

Likewise, Henry denies the “narrative” that he was booed at the Winter Classic last month against the Pittsburgh Penguins, which he also owns. Instead, he made it clear to longtime Sox reporter Sean McAdam that the media refused to report the standing ovation he got at the end of the game. Huh? There was a standing ovation for him?

We have not, to my knowledge, heard anyone confirm Henry’s claim, but we have heard people confirm the boos. With Fenway Sports Group owning the majority stake in NESN and The Boston Globe, Henry has made his best Vladimir Putin impression by claiming everything is going great when it clearly isn’t. His media-sponsored propaganda only does more to hurt his image.

It’s hard to blame NESN or The Boston Globe for not criticizing Henry when he’s the one writing their paycheck (how has Shaugnessy not been fired yet?) Thank god we have the fans. 

Henry Can’t Admit Mistakes

The only one who can rehabilitate John Henry’s image is John Henry. He can do this by first admitting his mistakes. A simple “We screwed up” on the Betts’, and Bogaerts’ contracts would suffice, at least for me.

Secondly, he must prove he is still invested in the team. He can do this only through his actions. These actions include signing a big-name free agent, allowing Bloom to trade for a piece at the 2023 deadline or anything else that helps improve the team’s shattered image.

Finally, some discourse with his fans would go a long way with the Red Sox faithful. Ignoring the noise is not a great move in the sports-crazed city of Boston. If he does these things, he can bring back some of the magic he was hugely responsible for in 2002.

This is Boston. The passion for baseball is hiding in plain sight. Henry just needs to find it.

You can follow me on Twitter @jrk899. Thanks for reading!