Online Extra: Who Needs Johnny Damon?
John W. Henry made baseball history when he led a team of partners that bought the Boston Red Sox for a record $690 million in early 2002. Since then, he has achieved immortality -- at least in Boston -- by guiding the Sox to a World Series Championship in 2004, ending an 86-year drought. Henry has also become well-known for applying to baseball the same statistical acumen that made him a fortune in the futures market.
Although a well-known fixture at Fenway Park, the soft-spoken principal owner keeps a fairly low profile in the media, letting Red Sox CEO Larry Lucchino or recently reinstated general manager Theo Epstein do the talking about the big decisions involving players. But in a recent interview with BusinessWeek's Boston bureau chief, William C. Symonds, Henry offered his take on the highly controversial exit of All-Star center fielder Johnny Damon to the New York Yankees during the off-season.
Not surprisingly, he calls it a good move -- especially from a statistical point of view. Henry also made some predictions about how the Sox will do in the 2006 season. Edited excerpts of their conversation follow:
What trends do you see developing in baseball?
Parity. The amount of money that's being transferred [from rich to poor teams] has radically altered the game for the better. So there will be more teams competing for the playoffs.
You've finished second to the Yankees in the American League East for eight years in a row. Will that trend continue this year?
No. We've been gaining three games a year on the Yankees, and last year we ended up in a [virtual] tie. So we should win by three games this year.
Wouldn't it have made good business sense to match the Yankees' offer for your All Star center fielder, Johnny Damon, given how many female fans he attracted?
The White Sox saw season ticket sales double this year after winning the World Series last year. But in our case, we're already selling out every game. So we look at deals only from a baseball perspective. And our biggest concern was that last year, we had the oldest team -- among both hitters and our pitchers -- in our history. So during the off season, we made moves to get younger, including replacing Damon  with Coco Crisp .
But won't the loss of Damon hurt your ability to score runs?
I think we'll score more runs than people think, and our defense should be measurably better. We will be very good.