Back in January of 2002, Major League Baseball approved the sale of the Boston Red Sox to an ownership group led by John Henry, who previously had owned the Marlins. By sheer sporting coincidence, the New England Patriots, owned by Robert Kraft, won the first of their five Super Bowls
Back in January of 2002, Major League Baseball approved the sale of the Boston Red Sox to an ownership group led by John Henry, who previously had owned the Marlins. By sheer sporting coincidence, the New England Patriots, owned by Robert Kraft, won the first of their five Super Bowls two weeks later. Since then, of course, Kraft has clearly established himself as one of the great sports owners in history.
But over nearly 17 years, the Patriots have effectively had the same general manager and coach: Bill Belichick. It is different with the Red Sox, who have won four World Series over the same time span, and done so with three different general managers, three different managers and two team presidents.
The only constant has been the ownership group, led by Henry and Tom Werner. The majority owner at the beginning, and now, is Henry, who has proven two things as he has taken his place with the great baseball owners: He is not afraid of spending money to win and not afraid of change. History has now judged that the previous Commissioner of Baseball, Bud Selig, chose wisely when he chose Henry in 2002, knowing that he and Werner were bringing Larry Lucchino, one of the smartest and best sports executives of them all, along with them to Fenway Park.
So Lucchino was team president when the Red Sox started winning the World Series again, after 86 years when they sure did not. Now one of his proteges, Sam Kennedy, is team president.
The Red Sox won the World Series in 2004 and '07 with the combination of Theo Epstein as general manager and Terry Francona as manager. In '13, Ben Cherington was GM and John Farrell was manager as the Red Sox won again. Now they win with Dave Dombrowski in charge of the baseball operation in Boston and Alex Cora as his manager. This is the one about how the more things change, at least with the Red Sox, the more they stay the same.
On Thursday, I mentioned to Henry that with the changes the Red Sox have made in the front office and in the dugout, there has been one constant: His ownership group, with him and Werner out front, and finally back on the stage with four World Series trophies at the end of the Red Sox's duck boat parade on Wednesday.
"[Other constants] are baseball operations and those on the business side who generate our revenues," Henry said.
Even with all that, come on, he is allowed to take a bow as the owner of what he described at Dodger Stadium after Game 5 and said again on Wednesday was the best Red Sox team of all time.
"Bowing to your wisdom on this matter," Henry joked. "It was quite a year."
Quite a year. So many things broke right for the 2018 Sox, in many of the same ways that things broke right for them five years ago, when David Ortiz, in his last great moment in Boston, was one of the great October hitters of all time and carried the Cherington/Farrell Red Sox to their third World Series since '04. The Red Sox fell to last place the next season and the season after that. Cherington was asked to leave first. Farrell was asked to leave after the '17 Red Sox lost in the first round of the playoffs for the second straight year.
So the last five seasons absolutely turned into a theme-park ride in Boston. Dombrowski was brought in to replace Cherington. Dombrowski brought in Cora, who would end up having the best October any manager has ever had, to replace Farrell. Then Dombrowski was allowed by ownership to spend more money on baseball players, nearly $230 million worth, more than anybody else in the sport.
All of that produced a total of 119 victories for the Red Sox. They won the American League East by eight games. They beat the Yankees, 3-1, in the AL Division Series. They beat the defending champion Astros, 4-1, in the AL Championship Series. The Red Sox beat the Dodgers, 4-1, in the World Series, and perhaps were one Ian Kinsler error in extra innings in Game 4 from sweeping their third Series in this century.
Sometimes the model franchise doesn't have to be the Patriots, with all of their continuity at the top. The Yankees pride themselves on the fact that they've had just one general manager since Henry and Werner and their group got the Red Sox and just three managers. And there is justifiable pride in New York that the Yankees never have a losing season.
But they have won just one World Series since Henry's group got the Red Sox and Lucchino let everybody know that the Red Sox weren't trying to win the past from the Yankees, nobody could do that. Instead, the Red Sox were about to start their rivalry with the Yankees all over again. It was Lucchino who first called the Yankees the "Evil Empire." It was another way of saying, "Game on."
Now the Red Sox win again. They have a deep, young, gifted, resilient team. Dombrowski just had the best season of his career. Everybody saw Cora, from the dugout, perform like a total star. They all deserve the praise they have gotten in Boston. So, too, do the owners.
Mike Lupica is a columnist for MLB.com.