Musings: A Well-Run Team

By Dick Flavin

Boston Red Sox Poet Laureate

and New York Times Best Selling Author

A WELL-RUN TEAM

The Boston Red Sox are the most successful team in baseball. They have won the World

Series four times in this young century; that’s more than than anyone else.

But do the Sox qualify as a dynasty?

Not really. For one thing, they haven’t won as many as two championships in a row. The

Celtics were a dynasty; they won eleven times in thirteen years in the fifties and sixties,

eight of those times in succession. Now that’s a dynasty! In baseball, the Yankees won

the World Series four straight times in the thirties, five times in a row from 1949-53, and

another three consecutive times from 1998-2000. So give them credit (but you don’t have

to give them love).

If the Sox don’t qualify as a dynasty, they do qualify as the best run organization in

baseball. No one else in this century has their record of success. Only the Red Sox have

won four times in the twenty-first century. They have won their championships under

three different managers (Terry Francona, 2004 and ’07; John Farrell, 2013; and Alex

Cora, 2018), three different general managers (Theo Epstein, 2004 and ’07; Ben

Cherrington, 2013; and Dave Dombrowski, 2018), and two different chief executive

officers (Larry Lucchino, 2004, ’07, and ’13; and Sam Kennedy, 2018).

No player or uniformed person has been aboard for all four championships; David Ortiz

(’04-’13) won three rings, and Dustin Pedroia will get his third ring as a member of the

’18 team, but he was on the disabled list for all but three games and was ineligible to play

in this post-season.

There is only one common thread that stitches together all four champion teams – the

owners. The John Henry/Tom Werner tandem has been in place since the beginning of

the 2002 season. There has been some turnover among the limited partners who have

invested in the team, but not much. The ownership group has been extremely stable and it

deserves great credit for what has been accomplished in the past seventeen years.

When principle owner John Henry held his first news conference as the ballclub’s main

man he said, “When you bid on the Red Sox, the challenge you’re undertaking is nothing

short of winning the World Series.” To those of us who were hardened by disappointment

year after year it sounded like pie-in-the-sky fanciful thinking. “Just wait until he’s been

around a few years,” we thought. “He’ll learn soon enough the true meaning of despair

and heartbreak.” But after he’d been around a few years there was a fancy trophy from

Tiffany’s touring the countryside for all to see close up and to pose for pictures with.

Now a fourth such tour is getting under way.

Neither Henry nor chairman TomWerner was new to the experience of team ownership

when he took over the Red Sox, and that helped. Henry had owned the Florida Marlins

(he’d also been a limited partner of the New York Yankees. Ah well, we all have

skeletons in our closets.) And Werner had been majority owner of the San Diego Padres.

In addition, the third member of the triumvirate that took control, Larry Lucchino, had

vast experience and a winning record as president of the Baltimore Orioles, who won the

World Series on his watch in 1983, and as CEO of the Padres, who made it to the Series

for the only time in their history under his leadership in 1998.

It would be foolish to say that no mistakes were made along the way (Hello, Pablo

Sandoval), but the owners have been willing to admit them and to move on. Just think,

only one more season that they’ll be paying millions of dollars owed to the chubby

Sandoval. There was the great collapse of 2011, and that was compounded by the horror

show of 2012 starring Bobby Valentine. Then they managed to bounce back and win it all

in 2013.

We shouldn’t forget that in 2001, when the bidding for the Red Sox was under way, this

was the only group that was committed to retaining and restoring Fenway Park. Twenty

years ago the place was filled with history, but its charm was largely obscured by the fact

that it was tattered, torn, and just plain tired. Now it is all spruced up and it is baseball’s

great crown jewel, prized and envied by all. The owners of the team did that. It took

careful planning, years of hard work, and piles of money, but they did it. Just like they

said they would.

Then of course there is the Red Sox Foundation which, since 2002, has made donations

to over 1,700 charitable organizations and worthy causes and has been named the “Best

Sports Charity.” The ownership did that, too.

But it’s the team on the field that matters most to Red Sox Nation, and in a day and age

of free agency and high turnover that team keeps rising to the top. Talk about an

embarrassment of riches.

What of the future? Well, the Chief Executive Officer, Sam Kennedy, has been with the

team since the current ownership took over; he was well trained by his predecessor,

Lucchino, but he’s his own man and now he has a championship under his belt. In

addition, he grew up only about a mile from Fenway Park, so he understands what the

Red Sox mean to this part of the world. The President of Baseball Operations, Dave

Dombrowski, is one of the most respected baseball executives in the land, and Alex Cora

is the manager with the magic touch. Kennedy, Dombrowski and Cora all possess

different skills but they have one thing in common: they were all hired by the guys who

pay the bills, the owners.

Hiring the right people is one thing. What’s really important is trusting them and giving

them room to do their jobs. That’s what John Henry, Tom Werner, and their partners

have done. The results speak for themselves.

I’d say we’re in pretty good hands.