- Gordon Edes, Red Sox reporter, ESPNBoston.com
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BOSTON -- Red Sox owner John W. Henry fully endorsed manager John Farrell, said that Ben Cherington will be "general manager of this team for a very long time," and characterized the club as a "strong team -- they just have not played up to their capabilities."
Henry met in a rare session with the media before Tuesday night's game against the Minnesota Twins, addressing the electronic and print media in separate sessions. He acknowledged that the team's play has been "terrible ... [and] even worse to be responsible for this, and I feel responsible, I am responsible."
In the spring, Henry said that he had never felt better about the organization, but he admitted he didn't share that same sentiment Tuesday.
"I don't feel that way," he said, "but as far as the team we're putting on the field, it's the right team as far as I'm concerned. And we have the right people to support that team. That's what I would say at this point."
The Red Sox began the night in last place in the American League East, seven games under .500 (22-29) and 4½ games behind the first-place New York Yankees. Nonetheless, Henry said he has not wavered in his support of Cherington and Farrell.
"Why do I believe that?" he said. "Because I have worked with a lot of people over the years, and these are two people I really like working with, respect their commitment, I believe they're very good at what they do.
"John has provided the kind of leadership that we need through a really tough period. I just don't think you can blame management for this. I've watched these games. They've been painful games to watch. To me, it's not the manager's fault, the way we've been playing. I just don't see that."
Henry placed much of the blame for the team's record on its lack of offensive production. The team scored just 82 runs in 29 games while going 10-19 in May, and its .241 overall batting average ranks 12th in the American League. Henry said his belief that the team is capable of having a "great" offense is based on past performances of the team's core.
"They have been anything but [great]. There's no doubt about it. But when you look at the track records of these people, including the young guys who hit at every level, you have to feel good about this team. But I can understand why there's dismay at this point over the offensive production. It hasn't been what it should be across the board."
Henry suggested that the team's hitters may have to make adjustments in the patience-first approach that worked so successfully in the past, especially, he said, because the strike zone has gotten bigger. But he said that this is no time for a drastic shakeup, counseling patience instead.
"Did this whole team become a collection of poor hitters?" he said. "I don't think so. The production has been poor and there are adjustments needed to be made. I hate to keep talking adjustments, but that's baseball. We haven't done the best job of that. I think we will."
The Red Sox entered the season with a $177 million payroll, the highest in team history. The franchise spent $183 million on two players, Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval to bolster their offense, and also retooled the starting rotation, trading for Wade Miley, Joe Kelly and Rick Porcello, and signing Justin Masterson as a free agent. They also invested $72.5 million in Cuban outfielder Rusney Castillo.
Money well spent?
"At this point, you can question that," Henry said. "You should, we should question that. As we look at it, again we're 50 games in. That's a lot of games, but in baseball if you look at history at the 50-game mark, it's not necessarily representative of where you end up. So we feel confident about the rest of it. We've got over 100 games to play, but they're going to have to prove it on the field that we made the right decisions. They'll prove us right or they'll prove us wrong."
Henry said he was not ready to concede that signing Ramirez to play left field was a failed experiment. He blamed "tentativeness," not only for Ramirez's shoddy defense but other breakdowns afield.
"No one wants to make a mistake," he said. "These guys want to win. We're at a point where we're a little bit snake-bitten, but they're a lot tentative and there are adjustments they're in the process of beginning to make."
Henry said he understood his was a minority view, but asserted he feels "pretty good" about the team's starting pitching.
"We all felt good in the organization about what we accomplished in a short period of time," he said, alluding to the offseason moves made. "I feel pretty good where we are right now about the pitching. I feel good about it. I understand there's hardly anyone in New England who feels good about it. But on the inside looking out, I probably feel better than our fans do, no doubt about it."
1hEthan Sherwood Strauss