Today is a great day to be a Boston sports writer, as long as you don’t write for the Boston Globe. Because if you do happen to write for Boston’s most widely circulated media outlet, the hand that feeds you is now going to be none other than John Henry. Good luck to you if you do, because you’re now in an a really awkward position.
Henry, the principal owner of the Boston Red Sox, completed a deal yesterday to purchase the Globe for $70 million. People like Henry don’t get to where they are without being shrewd businessmen. He saw an opportunity to buy low on the declining media outlet which was valued at $1.1 billion twenty years ago.
The move is a strange one, though. Henry already is principal owner of Roush Racing Sports and Liverpool Football Club. The Red Sox are worth less than both, and Henry certainly doesn’t have a pressing need for such a risky investment in his portfolio.
So, why then is he doing this? That’s up for interpretation. My theory is simple: Henry is a sensitive man, prone to winning, who doesn’t take well to the intense criticism the Boston media has given him after the Red Sox September 2011 collapse, and 69-win season in 2012.
In 2011, Henry stormed the studio of 98.5 the Sports Hub during a live broadcast of the afternoon show Felger and Mazz. Henry, and co-owners Larry Lucchino and Tom Werner are frequent targets of the sports demagogues. For a multimillionaire with so much on his plate on a daily basis, it was shocking to see how sensitive he was toward this criticism. In a broadcast that was over an hour long, he vainly attempted to assure the co-hosts and their millions of listeners that he was being mislabeled as disinterested in the Red Sox ever since his purchase of Liverpool.
After last year’s pathetic hire of Bobby Valentine as manager, and desperate attempts to sell bricks and make more money off of Fenway Park, Henry continued to get slammed by the press. Globe reporter Dan Shaughnessy released his book about the Terry Francona years in Boston, which painted ownership as aloof and only interested with putting fans in the seats and selling the Red Sox brand.
The beauty of sports journalism and blogs, is that you get a fair and balanced viewpoint about all teams, including the Red Sox. Writers have the freedom to be critical and divisive if they truly feel passionate about a topic. It can be assumed that writers at the Globe will no longer have such freedoms. And what reader will ever be able to take a Globe column on the Red Sox seriously ever again? No writer can afford to be critical of Henry or anyone in his favor. After all, you don’t bite the hand that feeds you.