Henry credits return to basics for championship
Owner praises general manager Cherington's hard work in rebuilding roster
BOSTON -- The World Series trophy back in his team's possession, Red Sox owner John Henry savored this one, because he knew everything that went into it.
It was the third championship for the Red Sox in the last 10 seasons, but in many ways, this one was the hardest to attain.
The ownership group led by Henry, president/CEO Larry Lucchino and chairman Tom Werner had known mostly good times through their first nine seasons (2002-10) at the helm. But after the worst September collapse in baseball history in 2011 and a 69-win bottoming-out last season, the Sox had to make fundamental adjustments to the organization to get back on top.
"I think we got back to our basics," Henry said. "We got back to the philosophy we had when we started. We had sort of drifted away, I think somewhat because we have the resources to be a little less disciplined than other teams."
And when it comes to the restoration of the Red Sox, Henry gives large amounts of credit to general manager Ben Cherington, who took over for Theo Epstein a month after that 2011 collapse.
"You've got to give all the credit in the world to Ben Cherington in making the decisions he made to bring in the players," said Henry. "It started with the trade in August of last year."
Yes, the trade with the Dodgers. That was the one that sent Josh Beckett, Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford and Nick Punto (which amounted to more than $260 million salary obligations) to Los Angeles.
And with that payroll flexibility, Cherington went after gritty players who fit in Boston, like Mike Napoli, David Ross, Jonny Gomes, Shane Victorino and Ryan Dempster. And after striking out with Bobby Valentine in Year One, Cherington hired the manager who turned out to be the perfect alternative in John Farrell.
Not only did the Red Sox have a team that could win again, they had a group their fans could identify with.
"We reconnected with our fans," said Lucchino. "The bloom was off the rose after that 13-month period, from September of '11 all the way though '12. We had to reboot and reconnect with our fanbase. I think we were successful in doing that, acknowledging the problems we had, making sure they knew how much we wanted to win and how hard we'd work to win."
And for Cherington, who had been one of Epstein's lieutenants for the titles in 2004 and '07, this one had his fingerprints all over it. Cherington first had to endure a tough rookie season as GM in 2012, and that made the odyssey that culminated Wednesday night feel that much sweeter.
"There's a lot of people in the organization -- certainly players, but others from ownership to people in the front office -- that went through some tough times," Cherington said. "We earned some scrutiny. We earned some criticism, and I'm very happy for the group that kind of lived through that and tonight can enjoy a much happier day."
And at least for one night, Cherington could relax. In a couple of days, he'll be right back to work.
"The 2013 Red Sox team is great," Cherington said. "It doesn't mean the work stops. There's still things we need to do to get better and ways that I can be better and the organization can get stronger. But they won their last game of the postseason, so this team is great for 2013."
And, of course, the cherry on top of this third recent championship was being able to win it at home.
"Since I'm a student of history, I love it," Lucchino said. "Nineteen-eighteen is the last time we won it here. What is that, 95 years? That feels very satisfying. That's great. It's also a perfect culmination for the connection between the team and the town. We didn't just win it -- we won it at home for [the fans] to soak it in as well."