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Larry Lucchino Discusses Bay, A.L. East Race

07.02.09 at 9:15 am ET

Red Sox President and CEO Larry Lucchino, during an interview on Thursday morning on the Dennis & Callahan Show, addressed the dynamics of the American League East race between the Red Sox, Yankees and Rays — both during the season and the winter. Lucchino suggested that there is little surprise to find that the division race is nip-and-tuck, with all three teams performing well, and also said that there would be no surprise if the Yankees went after Sox outfielder Jason Bay in free agency this offseason.

Here are some highlights from Lucchino’s appearance:

Are you surprised that the Sox do not have a lead of more than 2.5 games?

We expected at the start of the season that there would be three teams in the American league East that would be battling, and that there would be very slight differences in the win column among the three teams. That seems to be the way it’€™s developing right now…(The Yankees) aren’€™t going anywhere. They’€™re going to be around all season.

Our view at the start of the season was that there were some teams that would be winning in the mid-90s in the number of games won, and the differences between them would be very slight. I’€™m not very surprised that this is the way it’€™s played out…There won’€™t be much breathing room for the rest of the season, in my opinion.

If you were a team that had spent almost a half-billion dollars in the offseason, would you be upset not to be in first place?

Not yet. I think I would look to see that the differential of a couple of games can disappear in a few days’€™ time…If the team were somehow out of the race, if the team had turned into an utter disaster in terms of morale and performance, that would be a different matter…Some kind of patience and stability are essential during the course of the pennant race.

Given the Yankees’ offseason spending, is there satisfaction in being ahead of them after a winter in which the Sox spent their resources on short-term contracts and extensions for homegrown players?

They are definitely two different approaches. No question about that. We don’€™t rule out the significant free-agent signings. Make no mistake about that. We were out there trying to sign Teixeira. We look at the best free agents to come onto the market every year. It’€™s just not our primary course of action. It’€™s not the preferred way to operate. But you should never, and we never, foreclose any options to make our team better.

I do like the fact very much that we have a different approach. The Yankees seem to do things one way. We try to do them another. They’€™ve built the eighth wonder of the world as a ballpark, as a grand stadium, a grand edifice. We just have a nice little ballpark here. They’€™re also in the largest market in the world. We are in the most avid or passionate market in the world. There are real differences between us, and I like to be reminded of those from time to time.

Would you be surprised if a team with the resources of the Yankees made a run at Jason Bay in free agency this winter?

They have a track record of doing exactly that: signing the best players to come onto the free-agent market…Jason has the kind of track record that will establish him as one of the better free agents on the market as a position player. I think that it’€™s quite likely that they may do that, as a general rule. But who knows? I don’€™t know how rich their farm system is in terms of coming outfielders, but that doesn’€™t seem to deter them in most years.

Do you continue to try to negotiate with a player during the season even if he’s declined an offer?

There’€™s no one-size-fits-all. There’€™s no single rule. It depends on who the agent is, how forceful the declination is. It depends how strongly our baseball operations people feel about the player. There’€™s no simple rule that applies across the board.

Internally, what kind of measures were you considering when David Ortiz was struggling?

Patience. Patience. Patience. We felt that he deserved every second chance imaginable given his track record, given his role with the team and given the surprise that his decline represented. It wasn’€™t a slight fall-off. It was a drop-off of significant proportions. I heard no one, in no meetings, was there discussion about doing something about David Ortiz’€¦There was never any disaster plan enacted.

Have you had to reconsider the notion that you can never have too much starting pitching?

I still believe you can’€™t have too much.

You have too much — ask Clay Buchholz.

I think we’€™re going to have to come back at the end of this season and see what kind of injuries we have in July, August, September, and see what kind of role Buchholz has for us. Will he win some key games for us this year? Most likely, yes. You just can’€™t decide, after 78 games, that you have enough. The cruel irony is disposing of some of this pitching and finding out that you need an arm because someone goes down unexpectedly.

My view is you stockpile it. That doesn’€™t mean you don’€™t use it judiciously if there is a trade that makes you better. But as a rule of thumb, you want to have deep depth, as Earl Weaver talked about it.

Do you think you might re-sign Bay before he reaches free agency?

I don’€™t think there’€™s much utility in talking about possible free agent signings at this point…I don’€™t see how it will help us get something done to talk about over the radio.

Read More: David Ortiz, jason bay, Larry Lucchino,
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