John Henry’s Globe Deletes Unflattering Line About John Henry’s Red Sox

Did Fenway Park staff confiscate signs supporting Don Orsillo or not?

Photo via AP

Photo via AP

Update: Tuesday, 9:30 p.m

Since the publication of our story, the Globe has issued a clarification on Shaughnessy’s column:

Because of a reporting error, an earlier version of this story made reference to signs being confiscated at Fenway Park. The reference has been removed because the Globe could not independently verify that any signs were confiscated at the ballpark. This story has been edited to describe the degree to which NESN intended to keep the news of Don Orsillo’s departure confidential. The network did not intend to keep the information from Orsillo until January.

“Hopefully this clears up any confusion,” Globe managing editor of digital David Skok tweeted.

Previously:

NESN decided to part ways with longtime Red Sox play-by-play man Don Orsillo last week, in a universally panned move. On Monday night, Sox fans loyal to Orsillo, currently in his 15th year with the team, brought signs showing their support for the broadcaster to Fenway Park.

Boston Globe columnist and one of Boston magazine’s “82 Faces to Watch in ’82” Dan Shaughnessy captured the scene outside as the Red Sox readied themselves for some meaningless late-August baseball.

To prevent a potentially embarrassing scene, NESN moved its pregame show from Yawkey Way to a more secure spot near the Red Sox dugout. Two Sox employees told the Globe that workers at Fenway turnstiles were ordered to confiscate any signs supporting Orsillo as fans entered Fenway.

Not long after, that last line about the confiscation of signs was deleted without any correction or clarification. Globe managing editor of digital David Skok said there was nothing nefarious here, just a little editing on the fly:

Of course, this raises the question of whether the line should have been included at all if the sourcing was weak. Shaughnessy never reported seeing the confiscation of signs first-hand; he cited two unnamed Sox employees. So what changed about Shaughnessy’s sources, and what was weak about their information? Either two sentient humans told Shaughnessy something, or they didn’t. Where’s the confusion? Shaughnessy, questioned about the removal of the line by Northeastern/WGBH media critic Dan Kennedy, said only: “It is part of the Globe editing process.”

What the Globe is essentially admitting is that it allowed one of its most prominent columnists to publish a scandalous and—if you believe the Globe—patently untrue allegation about the local professional baseball team. And that when the allegation was determined to have no basis in fact, the removal of the allegation did not merit even a hint of a correction. This isn’t as if Brock Holt was described as wearing stirrups in one version, and without in the next. This was a major detail.

As Deadspin and Kennedy have noted, Shaughnessy and Globe sports media critic Chad Finn have spent the past week lambasting NESN’s handling of the Orsillo situation with total freedom. John Henry owns both the Globe and the Red Sox, who in turn, own a majority stake in NESN. Why would the Globe‘s corporate overlords suddenly step in over something as silly as signage?

You can understand why fans and some sportswriters were skeptical of the Globe‘s explanation—it’s the same reason the Globe and the Red Sox are pushing back so hard against the inference that the Sox were silencing their fans. This is different than any personnel decision in the clubhouse or the broadcast booth. The powers that be at NESN and the Red Sox front office know that in spite of any searing critiques of flaccid-armed albatross Rick Porcello’s four-year, $82.5 million contract or the unceremonious dismissal of beloved Bruins rinkside reporter Naoko Funayama, diehard fans will still show up and tune in. Acrimony fades. Ask the NFL.

But imagine the PR nightmare if fans felt they were being censored in any way, and told what not to do by the team they bought tickets, $10 Bud Lights, a commemorative brick from?

This, just like everything else with this ownership group, is about the guest experience. Remember, this is the same team that traded for Adrian Gonzalez and signed Carl Crawford because its marketing group said that the casual female Sox fan is “drawn to the ‘soap opera’ and ‘reality-TV’ aspects of the game,” and “interested in good-looking stars and sex symbols.” (That is, if the memoirs of ex-skipper Terry Francona—and co-author Dan Shaughnessy—are to be believed.)

Red Sox Director of Media Relations Kevin Gregg dismissed Shaughnessy’s initial report in a statement to Deadspin:

Our gameday staff was advised to treat any signs about Don just like any others that come into the ballpark provided they didn’t include offensive language, weren’t displayed during play, or wouldn’t obstruct any fan’s enjoyment of the game.

Therein lies the fundamental irony of this ownership group. The big things—like treatment of the man who near-singlehandedly kept Red Sox telecasts from running off the rails despite his partner’s poor health and murderous son, and just plain bad teams—are treated with the flippancy of a video game simulation. Meanwhile, the little things are overinflated into forced relevancy, as we find ourselves celebrating the 674th retrograde orbit of Neptune’s ice moon of Triton since the 2004 World Series championship with yet another Kevin Millar bobblehead.