Red Sox

Henry: Red Sox are not for sale

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Henry: Red Sox are not for sale

FORT MYERS -- A somewhat defiant John Henry, speaking for the first time since the end of last season, again reiterated that the Red Sox are not for sale and insisted that ownership was properly focused on returning the team to contender status after three straight non-playoff seasons.

"The last 12 years have been the best years of my life," said Henry in an interview with reporters. "You just don't get an opportunity to own the Boston Red Sox, so as long as we can do it, the three of us (chairman Tom Werner and CEO Larry Lucchino) are committed to being here. These thoughts that we're somehow selling, those are just erroneous."

Henry also stressed that Fenway Sports Group's ownership interest in Liverpool's soccer club has not taken attention away
from the Red Sox.

"I think it's affected perceptions, really," said Henry. "Everything affects you. But the things that have been said and
repeated over and over again are fairly ludicrous. The last time I was in Liverpool was, I think, in May of last year. So I don't know where (this talk of) distraction comes from.

"You could say that every major league owner is distracted if you want to try to make a case for it because they all have other business and other endeavors. I think the major thing has been the perception.

"Last year's losses on the field weren't the result of Liverpool...I would say that all three of us are intimately involved every day with everything that goes on in Fenway Sports Group."

Henry expressed frustration that the Sox haven't won in each of the last three seasons and acknowledged that team's fans have to be won over by a return to success on the field.

"I don't think of it so much as winning the fans back as much as it is winning," he said. "For me, the question is, how long is it going to take to get back on the winning track and back in the playoffs.

"Last year was a definite setback. To finish in last place is something I never thought would happen while we owned the team."

Asked if the team is positioned to win this year, Henry answered without hesitation: "Yes. It's hard to know at this point and we may not be finished, but I definitely think we will contend for a playoff spot."

He also referenced the team deviating from its "core philosophy" of mostly developing from within to an approach where the team relief too heavily on free agency.

"We moved away from that philosophy and it's hurt us," he said. "It's definitely hurt us. Last year was the beginning of trying to put us back on that track...I think that when you have a certain amount of success, you generally don't tend to change your philosophy.

"But in our case, there was a profound shift in what we were trying to do. We made a shift. I think the things that we did when we first got here and started is something that we need to get back to."

But Henry took issue with an assertion made by Terry Francona that the team was driven by market research and focused too heavily on obtaining star players.

"I have to laugh," said Henry. "That's just laughable. It's ludicrous to say we signed any player, since we've been here, for PR purposes. I don't think anybody would assert that. And if it's asserted, it's just ludicrous."

Changes in the CBA -- with tougher financial penalties for spending and restrictions on the draft -- have made it more difficult for big-market teams to dominate as they did a decade ago.

"You've got to be smarter," said Henry, "and you have to make sure that if you're seeking to have an edge, that it better have validity."

This past off-season, the team didn't pursue some of the higher-priced free agents. But despite unloading three big contracts in the deal with the Dodgers last summer, Henry vowed the Sox would still be players in the free agent market.

"You always want to focus on building internally," said Henry. "But it's harder now to build through the draft than it was if you're successful. So there's no doubt that we will continue to be part of the free agency market. But I think you'll see a more disciplined approach."

In John Farrell, the team begins 2013 with its third manager in as many seasons, and restoring a sense of stability is paramount.

"I think winning is what's important," said Henry, "and with that will come stability. We had tremendous stability. Who was more stable than we were for eight or nine years. But we had issues last year and you're going to make changes when you have issues."

Reflecting on the failed season under former manager Bobby Valentine, Henry said "it's always hard to say how much a manager impacts performance. I think of Bobby Valentine as a great baseball manager, a great baseball mind. It's clear, in retrospect, that he wasn't the right man for that group last year. But I don't think you can blame Bobby for that. You can blame us. You blame me, Larry, Tom.

"In a perfect world, he probably would have done some things differently. If you ask him, I think he would have done some things differently. But it just didn't work."

ALCS: Judge home run sparks New York, Yankees beat Astros 6-4 to even series

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ALCS: Judge home run sparks New York, Yankees beat Astros 6-4 to even series

NEW YORK -  With a soaring shot headed for Yankee Stadium's Monument Park, Aaron Judge got New York back on track for another memorable October.

Judge ignited a rousing rally with a home run, then doubled during a four-run eighth inning to spur the unflappable New York Yankees over the Houston Astros 6-4 Tuesday night and tie the AL Championship Series 2-2.

The Baby Bombers trailed 4-0 against starter Lance McCullers Jr. until Judge homered leading off the seventh. He tied it with a line drive that nearly left the park in the eighth and scored when Gary Sanchez hit a go-ahead two-run double off loser Ken Giles.

The Yankees overcame three errors and have roared back from a second straight 0-2 series deficit - they beat Cleveland in the Division Series by winning three in a row to take that best-of-five matchup.

Aroldis Chapman struck out two in a perfect ninth to cap a three-hitter. New York improved to 5-0 at home in the playoffs and won for the 18th time in their last 21 home games.

Yankee Stadium will be rocking again when Masahiro Tanaka pitches for New York against Dallas Keuchel in Game 5 Wednesday. It's a rematch of the series opener, when Keuchel outdid the Japanese right-hander in a 2-1 Astros win.

An AL MVP candidate marred in a sluggish October, Judge sparked the Yankees by chasing McCullers, who baffled the Yankees with his power breaking ball.

Except for the last one.

Judge launched a curveball into the netting above center field's Monument Park for New York's second hit.

"Once we're within striking distance like that, anything can happen," Judge said.

Houston manager A.J. Hinch pulled McCullers after 81 pitches, Didi Gregorius tripled off Chris Devenski and Sanchez brought Gregorius in with a sacrifice fly.

"I thought Aaron's home run just lit a little spark," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said.

Todd Frazier led off the eighth with a double to left, and pinch hitter Chase Headley then did the same - only after falling between first and second base, taking one step back, then heading for second and sliding in ahead of Jose Altuve's tag.

"Panic," Headley recalled. "I went from one of the best feelings of my career to one of the worst in just a matter of seconds, but fortunately it worked out."

Brett Gardner brought in Frazier on a groundout, and Judge came to bat with the bundled crowd on its feet.

He reached down to stay with a slider and drilled a double high off the left-field wall as a fan in a longsleeve yellow shirt reached down and touched the ball. Gardner came home with the tying run, and Gregorius grounded a single just beyond shortstop Carlos Correa's reach to put runners at the corner. Sanchez, who had been 0 for 13 in the series, scored them both with a slicing drive that skipped to the wall in right-center.

Houston had not lost consecutive games since Sept. 8-10 at Oakland and the major leagues' best road record during the regular season. The Astros had just three hits and are hitting .153 in the series.

Yankees starter Sonny Gray pitched one-hit ball through five innings but again had no run support. His teammates have yet to score for him in four career postseason starts while he's still on the mound, including twice with New York this year.

Houston took a 3-0 lead in the sixth after George Springer walked leading off, and Josh Reddick reached on catcher's interference by Austin Romine - inserted into lineup for his defense.

Robertson walked Altuve and struck out Carlos Correa before Yuri Gurriel lined a three-run double past Frazier and all the way to the wall. Gurriel got hung up between second and third as Altuve scored, and he was tagged out by Judge to end a rundown.

Houston added a fourth run when second baseman Starlin Castro misplayed Brian McCann's grounder in the seventh, allowing Marwin Gonzalez to score from second. It was Castro's second error of the game.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

Ron Gardenhire to interview with Red Sox Wednesday

Ron Gardenhire to interview with Red Sox Wednesday

BOSTON — Diamondbacks bench coach Ron Gardenhire's interview for Red Sox manager is scheduled for Wednesday, a baseball source told NBC Sports Boston. He'll be the third to interview for John Farrell's old job, following favorite Alex Cora on Sunday and Brad Ausmus on Monday — and may be the last to interview as well. 

The Sox could move quickly from here. Announcing hiring is tricky this time of year, because MLB doesn't want personnel moves to detract from the playoffs. 

But if Cora ends up the choice, as is most likely, his introduction is further complicated by the fact that his team, Houston, is still playing — and could be playing in the World Series.

MORE:

Cora, who would be a first-time manager unlike Ausmus and Gardenhire, is close with Red Sox second baseman and leader Dustin Pedroia and is drawing interest across the game.

Gardenhire would be something of a safe hiring, considering his 13 years as manager of the Minnesota Twins. A few days shy of his 60th birthday, Gardenhire would have to prove he could handle a vastly different market than Minnesota, and also connect with players despite being older than both Ausmus (48) and Cora (41). 

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE