Happy anniversary to John Henry, Tom Werner, and Larry Lucchino

by Bill Chuck on February 27, 2013

On February 27. 2002, John Henry, Tom Werner, and Larry Lucchino assumed ownership of one of baseball’s crown jewels: the Boston Red Sox.

On that date Gordon Edes (now of ESPNBoston.com), writing for the Boston Globe, led his column from Ft. Myers, the Red Sox spring training home:

Red Sox fans should not expect instant gratification when team ownership passes today from the hands of Yawkey family interests for the first time since 1933.

The last time the Sox went to the World Series in their first season under a new owner was 1912, the year Fenway Park opened and the Sox won under former Washington Senators manager Jimmy McAleer, who became club president as part of a group assembled by American League president Ban Johnson.

After the signing of dozens of legal documents and electronic financial transactions to close the $700 million deal, a group headed by Florida money manager John Henry and his principal partners, attorney Larry Lucchino and Hollywood producer Tom Werner, is scheduled to assume full control of the franchise they purchased Dec. 21. The Henry group, like McAleer before them, had backing from powerful industry interests, in this case commissioner Bud Selig.

 The rest of that column dealt with the two most pressing issues at the time:

But finally unencumbered by the restraints placed on them by outgoing Sox CEO John Harrington – who ran the Sox for the Yawkey trust as virtual owner since 1992 and leaves without the team advancing to the World Series under him – the new owners are preparing to move forward on changes they have been discussing for weeks, beginning with the dismissal of general manager Dan Duquette.

The new management team consisted of Lucchino, Duquette’s two principal aides, Mike Port and Lee Thomas; former Rangers general manager Doug Melvin, and Theo Epstein, who was described by Edes as “the Brookline native who is the Padres’ director of baseball operations and a Lucchino protege. Epstein’s hiring was still awaiting an OK by the Padres.”  

That same day, Jackie MacMullen, wrote about John Harrington, the accountant who had been in charge of the Sox on behalf of the Yawkey family. In her piece she wrote:

His will not be a storybook ending. Harrington is leaving amid charges that he fixed the sale of the Red Sox, ducked responsibility for last season’s collapse, and hindered his beloved ball club by refusing to allow John Henry and his incoming ownership group to make personnel changes with Opening Day barely a month away.

Harrington nods at the litany of accusations. He has grown accustomed to them, and has rarely responded. But yesterday, in a lengthy interview, he said the fix was not in, and commissioner Bud Selig had “absolutely no influence” in the sale.

“People have this idea Bud Selig called me up and said, `Give the team to John Henry,’ ” said Harrington. “Never. Nothing like that happened.”

He also dismissed the theory that Selig favored Henry, Larry Lucchino et al because they are supporters of revenue-sharing.

“We’ll see what their position is when they find out the Red Sox are due to pay out $24 million in rev-enue-sharing,” said Harrington, chuckling. “I worked with Larry Lucchino on the first revenue-sharing deal. At the time, Larry was with Baltimore, and he was a great ally.

“But three or four years later, when he went to San Diego, suddenly the plan wasn’t so great. I don’t mean to knock him. It’s just that positions change.”

Harrington’s position on freezing personnel moves remains firm. He insisted it would be “totally inappropriate” to allow Henry to replace general manager Dan Duquette, manager Joe Kerrigan, or anyone else until the sale is officially completed.

“I was not going to allow any irrevocable deals,” said Harrington. “You have to buy the home before you move in. You can’t go in and tear out the kitchen until you actually own the place.”

Once the dismissal of Duquette (now the successful architect of the Baltimore Orioles return to the postseason, just like he was the designer of much of the 2004 Red Sox championship team) took place, the next issue was what to do about manager Joe Kerrigan. Kerrigan had been promoted from pitching coach on August 16, 2001 when Jimy Williams was fired.

On March 5, after days of waiting for the inevitable axe to fall, Kerrigan was fired.

Candidates considered to replace Kerrigan included Felipe Alou, Duquette’s original first choice, former Sox bench coach Grady Little, former Pawtucket manager Ken Macha, and former Phillies manager Jim Fregosi.

The next day, Dan Shaughnessy in the Globe wrote,

Kerrigan, a.k.a. the Nutty Professor, was doomed from Day One. He took over Aug. 16 (the 53d anniversary of the death of Babe Ruth), unable to resist an offer to be a big league manager after a quarter- century in professional baseball. Who among us would have turned down the opportunity? Kerrigan got a two-year contract, more money than he ever thought he’d make, and he had a chance to live out the dream of everyone who ever wanted to fill out a lineup card.

But he walked out of his introductory press conference and onto a Fenway lawn sprinkled with land mines. One by one they exploded. Injuries. Petulant stars. Quitters. The preposterous Carl Everett.

The Sox went into a freefall after Kerrigan took over the team, losing 26 of 38 before winning five meaningless games against Tampa Bay and Baltimore at the end. They disgraced themselves on and off the field. This was a team that couldn’t figure out a way to donate to the 9/11 fund, so they donated nothing. This was a team that could not be bothered to stand on the top step of the dugout and salute the flag in those emotional days after the attacks. This was a team that was immersed in ego while the rest of the nation attempted to heal.

It was on March 8 that Bob Ryan, the basketball Hall of Fame Boston Globe columnist (hey, Cooperstown get this guy in now!) chimed in as only he can.

He thought he knew, but he didn’t know.

What John Henry now knows is just exactly what level of madness he has bought for himself.

Owning the Florida Marlins was strictly bush league stuff. No offense to the good people of South Florida, but what is baseball to them? Just another so-called “leisure activity,” that’s what. The idea of those people recently having a championship team to savor is more than merely maddening. It is some sort of fiendish cosmic practical joke.

John Henry wasn’t the owner in 1997. The man who dismantled the team was Wayne Huizenga, and the man who relieved him of his financial misery was John Henry. But Henry owned the Marlins long enough to see what Greater Miami wasn’t, and that’s a real baseball town.

He knows that for sure because he’s now involved in one.

“Your paper is a great example,” he said, referring to this very publication. “If there’s a change in the manager, it’s on the front page. If there’s a change in the general manager, it’s on the front page. If you raise ticket prices 7 percent, it’s on the front page. And it’s the same with local television, which I’m now starting to watch. These stories lead the news. There’s no other city like that in the US. Am I correct?”

Yup. Yes, John, you are correct.

As the famed leather-lunged fan boomed out to a certain newly acquired defenseman lo those many years ago, “Hey Pahk, welcome to Bahston!”

Ryan continued by writing about Henry’s plans (which proved to be brilliant) to resuscitate Fenway Park worried how the fans would react when they  “discover that the rookie owner has already tampered with our Baseball Basilica.”

“I have worried about that,” he admitted.

The owner said he is torn. “I have two passions,” he declared. “I love Fenway Park and I love revenue, revenue so we can be competitive. I’m not sure yet if the two things are compatible.”

Ryan continued that hiring a manager was the immediate need, “but deciding what to do with or about Fenway is the No. 1 Big Picture concern of the Henry/ Tom Werner/Larry Lucchino administration. Keep in mind that these people entered office with a firm campaign promise of exploring thoroughly the Save Fenway option.”

Ryan ended his column about Henry with this:

Just think of all the things we know that he doesn’t. I mean, you think he’s ever been to a major league game that started at 11 a.m.?

Hey, John . . . Welcome to Bahston!

Here’s the 10 year record of the Henry/Warner/Lucchino triumvirate

Rk Year W L W-L% Finish Playoffs Managers
1 2012 69 93 .426 5th of 5 Bobby Valentine (69-93)
2 2011 90 72 .556 3rd of 5 Terry Francona (90-72)
3 2010 89 73 .549 3rd of 5 Terry Francona (89-73)
4 2009 95 67 .586 2nd of 5 Lost LDS (3-0) Terry Francona (95-67)
5 2008 95 67 .586 2nd of 5 Lost ALCS (4-3) Terry Francona (95-67)
6 2007 96 66 .593 1st of 5 Won WS (4-0) Terry Francona (96-66)
7 2006 86 76 .531 3rd of 5 Terry Francona (86-76)
8 2005 95 67 .586 2nd of 5 Lost LDS (3-0) Terry Francona (95-67)
9 2004 98 64 .605 2nd of 5 Won WS (4-0) Terry Francona (98-64)
10 2003 95 67 .586 2nd of 5 Lost ALCS (4-3) Grady Little (95-67)
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 2/27/2013.

 

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