BOSTON MA - DECEMBER 11: Carl Crawford poses with his agents during a press conference announcing his signing with the Boston Red Sox on December 11 2010 at the Fenway Park in Boston Massachusetts. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Red Sox principal owner John Henry has come out and said that he opposed the Carl Crawford signing, and that it was the front office's decision.
"[Crawford was] definitely a baseball signing. In fact, anyone involved in the process, anyone in upper management with the Red Sox will tell you that I personally opposed that," said Henry. "We had plenty of left-handed hitting. I don’t have to go into why. I’ll just tell you that at the time I opposed the deal, but I don’t meddle to the point of making decisions for our baseball team."
It's funny - this is kind of the opposite of the whole Rafael Soriano/Yankees thing. When Soriano signed with the Yankees, Brian Cashman came out and said that it wasn't his idea, and that it was ownership's call. Here, Henry is saying that signing Crawford was Epstein's idea, and that ownership - or at least Henry - wasn't really on board.
It is, clearly, curious timing. Epstein's heading out the door, on the verge of making a commitment with the Chicago Cubs official, and here we see the Red Sox's principal owner distancing himself from what's perceived as one of Epstein's bigger mistakes. Right or wrong, it's easy to interpret this as Henry trying to make himself look better at a time when the Red Sox as an organization are kind of sitting at a local minimum.
But aside from the timing, what sticks out to me is: who really cares what an owner thinks about a baseball player? Owners are not talent evaluators. That's why there are front offices, made up of a bunch of talent evaluators. Evaluating talent is their business, not ownership's business, so of course Henry deferred to Epstein and his assistants. It would be stupid and arrogant if he didn't. Look at that quote. "We had plenty of left-handed hitting." Like that's what matters. Does that sound like something that would be said by someone who ought to be building a roster?
This isn't the first time Henry has said that he opposed a move. In the past, as here, he deferred to his front office. That is the right thing to do. An owner should trust his front office and sign off on its decisions. If an owner does not trust his front office, he should put together a different front office.
So there's not much to make of this. John Henry said that he opposed the Carl Crawford signing, but John Henry is not a man who would know best whether or not the Carl Crawford signing was a good idea. In truth, I don't think he's try to save face. I don't think Henry's trying to make himself look better, and I don't think Henry's trying to make Epstein look worse. I think Henry's just being honest, which is fine. What's less fine is the timing. Given what's going on with the Red Sox right now, this isn't going to be perceived very well. And given that Crawford is still on the roster, well, maybe certain things should be kept to oneself.