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Larry Lucchino on D&C, 12/11

12.11.09 at 1:24 pm ET
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Larry Lucchino made an appearance on the Dennis & Callahan show to talk about the Red Sox’ offseason moves ‘€” or lack thereof. After Lucchino reminded fans that tickets go on sale Saturday, he engaged in some hot stove talk. To hear the interview, click on the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page. Highlights are below.

If I said to you, To bridge or not to bridge, do you know what I’m talking about?

I think there’s been a gross overreaction to one word, and that word is bridge. Just look at our track record, don’t listen to what we say. It’s demonstrated that we are a competitive bunch. Theo, John Henry, Tom Wener, myself, the whole organization is animated by a very strong commitment to winning and a personal sense of competition. And if you look at the last seven years, we’ve been in the postseason for six of them. And we don’t intend to shift or change our philosophy. I think that was a terrible overreaction to a word that’s misunderstood.

Does it take some discipline to resist the urge to make a splash just to convince everyone that you’re trying, that you’re not rebuilding?

I don’t think we should have to crow about our commitment to winning. It’s there. Our goal is to play baseball every October. While other teams are going home to play golf, our goal is to play baseball. We’ve done that six out of the last seven years. For those who may have been alarmed by one particular column yesterday, I would say to you if you want some different perspective, look at Nick Cafardo today in the Globe, where he writes about the fact that there’s plenty of time in the shopping and the building season in this offseason for next year’s team. Players are non-tendered beginning tomorrow. [Mark] Texeira, for example, the big signing last year, wasn’t done until Christmas. There’s plenty of activity that remains because the market has actually been rather slow in developing this offseason. The market has a different personality.

The payroll has gone down the last two years, will it go down again?

Our payroll has not gone down the last two years. The newspapers may report that our payroll has gone down the last two years, but that is just not accurate. And our payroll will be higher this year. We don’t discuss publicly what are payroll is because we think there’s a competitive disadvantage in telling the other teams in our division and our league what we’re going to spend and not spend because they may be able to do some guesses and calculations about how active we’ll be in the market. We’re always pleased when other teams announce that they’re payroll will be X or Y, and we just sit quietly and don’t say anything. But it is inaccurate to say our payroll has gone down, and our payroll will go up this year.

You can talk about any [free agent] you want.

We try to live with a certain kind of discipline about this. Premature publicity and speculation about free agents ‘€” where they may go, what they may do ‘€” can tip a hand, can inform your opponents of what you’re thinking. I think that makes common sense, guys. I know you have a job, and that’s to get as much news and information as you can possibly get ‘€” or, in your case, opinions. The fact is we don’t have a similar obligation to inform you guys because that same information can be disseminated to people who are waiting to see what our plans, what are perspectives are on many of these players. Just look back at the last few years and tell me which teams have been very active the last several years. We’ve been quite active in the offseason and among the most active teams in baseball year-in and year-out. And I think at the end of this offseason we’ll fall into that same pattern again.

If I can say a word about the word “bridge,” what we’re talking about is a bridge to young players that will be available. That means we’ve got to find other ways to be competitive in the next couple of years. And that can mean trades, that can mean free agents. What we don’t have a is a set of reinforcements at Triple A ready to jump in to the big league team next year, in 2010. We have some that we’re already planning for in 2011, 2012 more likely. So the word could have been “alternatives” ‘€” we’re looking for alternatives to the influx of young players. But I can tell you definitively that John Henry, Tom Werner, Theo Epstein, people in our organization, our entire partnership wants to win, we’re committed to winning. And we’re doing everything possible to field a team that’s worthy of fan support year-in and year-out.

Does commenting on the chronology of left fielders offend your sense and sensibilities?

I just don’t know what’s going to happen. When one guy’s represented by [Scott] Boras, you can guess that that’s going to be a longer and more protracted negotiation.

And more expensive, too.

Potentially, but free agents, many of them are expensive. And other agents do a good job of driving the price up as well. I think if you look at our track record, you guys can reach your own conclusions at the scenario. … It’s just speculation on our part because the schedule is more dictated by the agent than the player when you’re in the free agent period than by the clubs or the market.

Have the Sabremetricians re-thought their rules of engagement, and defense is much more at a premium than it was a year or two ago?

Well, there have been more efforts in recent years, as you probably know, to quantify defense, to find a metric or a set of metrics that will help quantify defense. Because it has always been fundamentally important. Traditional people have always been talking about pitching and defense. And even the Sabremetricians recognize that defense is an important component, and I think they’re a little frustrated in their inability to define it and to quantify it as they would like. I think there has been some effort to do that. But in our case, we recognize that one of our deficiencies we had last year, and Theo talked about this with some regularity, is our defense. We had a very good offense despite it being less good than years before, still it was one of the top two or three offenses in the league. We had very good pitching for most of the season. But we had some defensive issues, and I think that’s something that any team does in the offseason’€” assess your strength and your weaknesses and you try to address your weaknesses.

So the first thing you did was get rid of Alex Gonzalez. That’s going to shore up the defense [sarcastic].

Well, you have your opinion about Gonzalez vs. Scutaro. And we’re talking about 2010, we’re not talking about 2005 in terms of players’ evolution or the changes that take place. It takes a while for the facts to catch up to reputation.

What’s your opinion in general of Adrian Beltre? Have you always been a fan?

I’ve heard and seen how outstanding a defensive player he is. But to say I’ve always been a fan is overstating it.

Is the Mike Lowell deal done?

No. I’m not going to comment on that. If we have some announcement to make, we’ll make it.

Will [the Padres] trade Adrian Gonzalez? Will they have to?

There’s an example of a team that has identified where it’s payroll will be. They have said their payroll will be at $40 million, That’s very nice for us to hear that. We see now from published reports that their payroll currently is at about $36 million. So, we can calculate how severe the economic pressure may be on them to move players one way or another. Now, I’m giving you published numbers because I don’t have the internal calculations that we have right in hand. That’s a reason why we don’t crow about that the fact that our payroll in 2010 will be higher than our payroll in 2009, and we don’t issue specific comments about what that number will be. There’s a method to analyze other teams’ payrolls to determine whether there are some compelling economic reasons why they may want to make a certain move or not make a certain move.

Is the rationalization [to paying contracts of players that have been traded] that’s just the cost of doing business? Are there rankings as to which teams in Major League Baseball are spending more money with other teams with [traded] players that you are?

Actually, there was a ranking that came out recently from the league regarding just what you’re talking about. Part of it had to do with the efficiency of contracts, the length of contracts entered into and whether there were dead years at the end of them. And despite the reference you make to the [Boston Globe chart] today, the Red Sox came out at the very high end of that, and were cited as being particularly efficient with respect to contracts. I think that’s a testimony to Theo and the way he has managed and negotiated contracts in recent years. We have certainly made some mistakes, we would certainly admit to that. What we are able to do because of the intensity and loyalty of our fan base ‘€” 550 consecutive sellouts, tremendously high ratings on NESN ‘€” what we are able to do is make up for those mistakes when we have them, and they don’t require us to dramatically cut the payroll in some major way for years and years in order to make up for a bad year or a set of bad contracts. We have the financial wherewithal and we use it. We don’t take money out of this team. The money that’s generated we put into major league payroll, we put into amateur signings. We’re about the most active teams when it comes to boldness in amateur signings. We’re at the top of the league when it comes to international signings. We spend the money to field a team worthy of the fans’ support.

Hypothetically, if a slugging first baseman with a checkered past was available, would be there an extreme hesitancy on the team’s part to pursue this said slugging first baseman.

Hypothetically, that is? I hate to overuse a phrase that I’ve used twice already in this conversation. But our obligation, in terms of our fundamental obligation as the ownership of this team, is to field a team that’s worthy of the fans’ support, and that means a team that is competitive year-in and year-out on the playing field, but it also means fielding a team that has players that has players that our children, our community can be proud of, that are not likely to cause problems off the field, or do to embarrass the name and the reputation of the Boston Red Sox. So, we scrutinize very carefully players who are available to us, to a ‘€” I want to good citizenship test ‘€” but to do a sort of personality assessment to see if they’re going to be troublesome or helpful in the clubhouse, and if they’re going to be players whose behavior would cause us some sleepless nights.

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