Front office's hard work pays off
AL pennant culmination of an entire organization's effort
BOSTON -- As the Red Sox paraded around the Fenway Park infield as American League champions late Sunday night, it seemed that all facets of the organization were represented.
Sure, the players -- the ones who came back from 3-1 down to beat the Indians in this American League Championship Series -- were the center of the celebration.
But off to the side was ownership -- represented by principal owner John W. Henry, president/CEO Larry Lucchino and chairman Tom Werner. And the front office, led by general manager Theo Epstein but flanked by several of his lieutenants who do the dirty work behind the scenes. There were also scouts, both at the Major League and amateur level.
Manager Terry Francona and his staff, who put in more hours than a lot of people realize, also looked on with pride.
Winning the pennant was a culmination of an entire organization's hard work.
"It's awesome. All along, we've been trying to win a World Series but establish a Red Sox way of doing things," said Epstein. "Hopefully today was a little bit of an exclamation point, or I guess you could say, the start of things to come as well."
The diverse roster speaks volumes of the way the team was built. Daisuke Matsuzaka, who won Game 7, was scouted for years by vice president/international scouting Craig Shipley and Co. before Henry signed off on a total acquisition cost of $103.1 million. Lefty Hideki Okajima, who got huge outs in relief of Matsuzaka, was an under-the-radar prize.
Dustin Pedroia, who produced a huge homer to help put away what was once a tight Game 7, is symbolic of the work done by the amateur scouting department and by player development.
"I'm proud of the whole organization for drafting that kid and developing him, and I'm also proud of him for all the hard work and defying the odds and not listening to his critics along the way," said Epstein. "Every time he gets criticized for being too small or too something, it makes him try harder."
J.D. Drew, the oft-maligned free-agent signing, hit a grand slam in Game 6.
Jonathan Papelbon, who was part of Epstein's first Draft class in 2003, finished out the ALCS with two dominant innings and is one of the best closers in the game.
"I don't care when they were acquired or anything like that," said Epstein. "Free agent, drafted, traded, they're all Red Sox, they're all our guys. We wouldn't have won without all of those guys contributing, and our scouting and player development people really establishing a Red Sox way that brought us all the way to the World Series."
Henry, an introvert by nature, reveled in just watching the celebration.
"Look at these fans," he said. "Look at them. They're amazing."
Then again, they've had a pretty good product to watch. Under the ownership group that took over in 2002, the Red Sox have made the playoffs four times in six years.
While 2004 will never be forgotten, Henry has already developed a special affinity for this year's team.
"You play 162 games, you win 96, that to me is the biggest thing," Henry said. "That puts you in the position we're in right now, to go to the World Series."
Gone was the bitter taste of 2006, when the Red Sox missed the postseason and vowed to get back there.
"We decided in August [of 2006] that we had to take it to another level, and it worked out," Henry said.
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.