BOSTON -- They liked the photo so much, it’s on page 43 of the team’s 2012 media guide, at the end of Bobby Valentine’s bio.
Four men have their hands clasped together in front of them: from left to right, Red Sox CEO Larry Lucchino, GM Ben Cherington, Valentine and principal owner John W. Henry.
Tuesday afternoon at Fenway Park, only two men sat at the dais: Cherington and the new manager hired by the Red Sox, John Farrell. Lucchino sat to one side with other team officials and Farrell’s wife, Sue. He could not have sent a more obvious message had he posted it on the center-field scoreboard: This was Cherington’s hire, even though Lucchino and Henry had played central roles in negotiating with Toronto CEO Paul Beeton the compensation for Farrell.
That compensation, incidentally, began with Beeston asking for center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury, according to a baseball source. The Blue Jays also brought up the names of Red Sox pitchers, including Clay Buchholz, before yielding and taking shortstop Mike Aviles.
Henry, meanwhile, was not present at Tuesday’s press conference, nor was chairman Tom Werner. Whenever their absence is noted at such affairs, often in snarky fashion, it is accompanied by speculation that they are becoming increasingly disengaged from the business of the club. That, in turn, feeds rumors that Henry is looking to sell the club.
Sam Kennedy, the team’s executive vice president and chief operating officer and president of the Fenway Sports Group, has heard it all before.
“That’s an easy one to address,’’ Kennedy said Tuesday. “He’s absolutely not looking for a buyer. He’s absolutely not looking for a partner. I don’t think he could have been any more clear about the fact that he’s committed to the Red Sox. I think he says, it’s what I do, sort of who I am.
“John is as actively engaged and committed to the Red Sox as he ever was. I either speak to him on the phone or e-mail with him every day. I know Larry probably multiple times a day, Ben probably multiple times a day.’’
It was just over a month ago that Henry strongly denied a report by the Fox Business Network that he was thinking of selling the team, but the whispers persist.
“I think John has a philosophy of hiring -- and I’ll leave myself out of this -- world-class executives to run his businesses day to day,’’ Kennedy said. “He’s involved in every major decision and has been since we got here in 2002.
“I understand (the absence of Henry's physical presence), people can take that and say, ‘Well, he’s not as committed.’ It’s just that he has other business interests and you just can’t be in one place when you have other things going on. Sometimes things come up.’’
Henry has stated on numerous occasions that Lucchino is in charge of the Sox.
“I think John and Tom look at Larry Lucchino as the president and chief executive officer and owner. He runs this club day to day,’’ Kennedy said. “Are they involved in major decisions? Absolutely. I think they’re unfairly criticized for not being physically at every single thing that happens at Fenway Park.
“Trust me, they’re just as committed. I hear from them all the time. We’re working on a couple of things right now, some business issues related to MLB. I know Ben is in constant communication with John and Tom and Larry. There are regular conference calls and meetings.’’
Kennedy said it was appropriate that Cherington introduced Farrell at his introductory press conference. Henry and Werner were at Lucchino’s house Saturday night sharing Chinese takeout with Farrell.
“At the end of the day, governance (of the Red Sox) works in a manner where the buck ultimately stops with John. He is the principal owner, so at the end of the day the buck stops with John.
“They really haven’t changed their management style over the years. It’s understandable when you have other high-profile sports assets and then when you don’t perform, people are going to say, ‘Have they taken their eye off the ball?’
“No, that’s on us. We -- management -- have made poor decisions that haven’t worked out because we’re not playing baseball in October. That’s our central mission and focus. That’s on management. That’s not on John and Tom, that’s on us to fix it. We need to do a better job.’’