PROVIDENCE, R.I. – It has been almost exactly 10 years since John Henry, Tom Werner and Larry Lucchino took ownership control of the Boston Red Sox.
On Dec. 20, 2001, the partners purchased the ballclub, Fenway Park and NESN for a cool $700 million and transformed the organization into a perennial winner. Almost a year after the purchase, Theo Epstein became general manager and prior to the 2004 season, he named Terry Francona as the 44th manager in team history.
The Red Sox won the World Series in 2004 and in 2007. They were again the odds-on favorite to win again in 2011.
Instead, the Red Sox missed the postseason for the second consecutive season after what turned out to be a September collapse of historic proportions. As a result, Francona was out as manager and Epstein departed to begin anew with the Chicago Cubs.
Now, as we approach the group’s 10th anniversary, the Red Sox are beginning anew. Ben Cherington is the GM. Bobby Valentine is the manager. Ownership remains the same, as does the organization’s goal to become a World Series contender once again.
“I’m very proud of what we’ve accomplished off the field, and it’s up to others to say what we’ve accomplished on the field,” Henry said. “But we feel very proud of what has happened in the last 10 years. It’s been the best 10 years of our lives. Tom, Larry and I, the three of us talk about it all the time. We’re hopeful to do this for another 10 years.”
Despite the way the 2011 season ended, ownership’s offseason blueprint is being followed according to plan.
“Absolutely,” Henry said. “The chaos was external. There were changes, but every year we go through changes, this was bigger. When you lose your manager and your general manager, that doesn’t lead to chaos because people leave. But that was the impression.”
The external chaos actually began internally. Cherington was left with a big mess to clean up and so far it’s been a relatively quiet winter compared to a year ago, when the team handed out nearly $300 million in contratcs to a pair of superstars. SO far this offseason, the Sox have re-signed David Ortiz and otherwise have made a few low-cost additions.
Ownership’s plan was to spend low and that’s exactly what Cherington has been doing so far.
“We have a budget and have always had a budget and there are different ways to fit what you need to do into that budget,” Cherington explained Thursday. “Some winters that means being involved in certain free agents, and other winters that means being more involved in trades, and some winters it means both.
“This winter it’s been both. We’re actively exploring ways to make the team better both in free agency and through trades. The offseason isn’t over. We’ve got a lot of time between now and spring training and we’re going to continue to find ways to upgrade the team.”
As Henry, Werner and Lucchino have proven in the past, ownership is willing to make a significant commitment when deemed appropriate.
“If baseball operations has an argument and can present a good argument that something’s going to make us better, then we’ve always been given the flexibility to do that,” Cherington said. “It’s up to us to make those arguments wisely and do things that we feel are in the best interest of the team presently and into the future. We’ll continue to do that and continue to find ways make the team better for 2012 and moving forward.”
Henry, speaking at the Rhode Island State House on Thursday afternoon as part of the Red Sox’s new Rhode Island Red Sox Scholarship Program for public high school students, believes Cherington & Co. have had a successful offseason so far.
“It’s turning into a productive offseason,” Henry said. “We’re going to have a great team this year.”