Thursday, August 16, 2012

Wealth Can Buy Privacy and Peace of Mind, But Only If You Let It

How many pies will John Henry have to throw directly in his own mush before he wises up and gives up on public relations as a hobby? After a decade, hasn't Henry noticed that his attempts at Red Sox damage control always result in more damage to the Red Sox?

The e-mail message Henry sent out in response to an article by Jeff Passan at Yahoo Sports this week is the ultimate case in point. Henry's description of the events in Passan's story put the Red Sox and Henry himself in a far worse light than Passan's reporting did.

Passan's version: Prominent Red Sox players met with Henry to complain that Bobby Valentine is a lousy manager. If so, this was a grievous violation of traditional baseball etiquette. Everybody knows ballplayers who hate their managers should only vent in off-the-record confessions to sportswriters.

But the idea a clubhouse agitating to get rid of a skipper is some kind of new low in player deportment is as hilarious as it is erroneous. Players have loathed their managers on big winners, let alone on the commonplace mediocrity that is the 2012 Sox.  And players have found many many ways to make their displeasure felt. For instance, when Bill Veeck fired Rogers Hornsby as manager of the St. Louis Browns in the early 1950s, the players gave Veeck a trophy. If Michael Felger had been a St. Louis talk show host, he'd have been dead for 60 years now from a Hall of Fame aneurysm.

Henry's version: Nothing to see here. None of the players complained about Valentine in what are irregularly scheduled informal meetings between players and management we've been holding almost as long as I've owned the Red Sox.

First, this explanation defies credulity. Strike that, it clubs credulity to death with the hybrid clubs Josh Beckett is probably using this very afternoon. A meeting between players and ownership and the manager never comes up as a subject? Sure.

Second, Henry's explanation makes him look like the most clueless boss this side of "Dilbert." Setting up a process as part of your business where employees can bypass the chain of command may sound like hands-on innovative mogulship, but all it accomplishes is to destroy said chain of command. If a player knows that he's bound to get an audience with the guy who signs the checks, why should said player bother to talk to and more relevantly listen to Valentine at all?

Henry's spin, in short, makes Henry look like a dope. Last November, his franchise's efforts to spin the team's late season collapse made Henry and his cohorts look like rats. Back when Grady Little got fired in 2003, management's contention they'd wanted to fire Little long before Game Seven of the ALCS made Henry look like a ditherer at best and a coward at worst.

Henry is not a dope. But like most of us, deep emotion makes him more prone to stupid decisions. When it comes to crisis communication and damage control, Henry is too strung out by criticism to follow the procedure recommended by every expert in those two fields.

It's simple advice. STFU.


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