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Larry Lucchino on Red Sox payroll, Carl Crawford, David Ortiz, Jason Varitek, Tim Wakefield and more

02.10.12 at 7:26 pm ET

Red Sox president and CEO Larry Lucchino rebutted claims that his team is scaling back its spending this offseason, saying in multiple settings that his team plays on blowing past the $178 million luxury tax payroll and suggesting that the Sox will exceed the $189 million franchise payroll record, which was set last season.

In an appearance on Sirius/XM MLB Network Radio’s “Inside Pitch,” Lucchino painted a picture of a far-reaching commitment by team owners to the payroll, both over the duration of the group’s tenure (which began in 2002) and in 2012.

“Look at what we’ve done and not what we say. Since we have been here — we are now beginning our 11th year — our payroll has consistently been at the top end of Major League Baseball,” said Lucchino. “It has not been No. 1. That position has been reserved, probably permanently, for the New York Yankees, but it has been second most every year, and we have invested lots of money in amateur draft picks. We sign our draft picks at a much higher percentage than used to be the case. We’ve invested in international signings — you can look at some of our Cuban players and some of our Japanese players — and so we have invested dollars into this franchise because we recognize that the fundamental question about a franchise and about its ownership is, is there a commitment to winning. I think that our track record demonstrates that there is that commitment.

“Now, this year, if you want to talk specifically about 2012, we will have the highest payroll in the history of the Boston Red Sox in 2012,” Lucchino continued. “Will we eclipse the luxury tax threshold? To be sure, we will — once again. So I think the talk of us not spending needs to be viewed in the context of real facts and in comparisons to real dollars.”

In earlier comments to MLB.com, Lucchino also disputed the notion that the Red Sox’ spending has been impacted by the Fenway Sports Group’s ownership of the Liverpool Football Club.

“That has not been the case,” Lucchino said of the idea that the Red Sox ownership group was channeling its resources towards soccer players. “There has not been a situation where that was cited for a reason for us not to do something here.”

Asked for how he feels when his team is characterized as being “cheap,” Lucchino suggested amusement.

“It makes me laugh. It just proves the old adage that you can’t please all of the people all of the time. You certainly can’t please all of the sportswriters much of the time. But that’s OK,” said Lucchino. “What’s important to us is that our fans realize that we are in this to win it, and we operate accordingly.

“Are there financial constraints from time to time? Of course there are. No one has an unlimited budget to do absolutely everything they want to do. But with some common-sense parameters, as I said, we’re going to have the highest payroll in the history of the Boston Red Sox this year, and the commitment to winning from the very highest levels — John Henry, Tom Werner — throughout the entire organization, there is a powerful sense of obligation that our job is to commit to win, provide our fans with entertaining, competitive, winning baseball.”

(For a detailed look at the Red Sox payroll, click here.)

Lucchino also touched on a number of additional topics. Among them:

The status of free agents Jason Varitek and Tim Wakefield, who remain unsigned but have been offered minor league contracts with invitations to major league spring training by the Sox: “We’re hopeful that those guys will make decisions before spring training starts as to whether they would like to come back. They have each been invited to come to camp. But Tim is approaching his 46th year I think. Jason Varitek is approaching his 40th year. Those things are hard decisions. They have both been enormously valuable to the club,” said Lucchino. “Whenever they choose to retire — and retirement is inevitable at some point, obviously, whether it’s this year or its next year — we will always have a place of respect and admiration in the Red Sox organization. But the decisions are now kind of in their hands as to what they’d like to do in this particular season.”

On the scheduled arbitration hearing for David Ortiz: “It will be an interesting arbitration, because we both love and admire David Ortiz — both sides do,” said Lucchino. “No one is going to deny David Ortiz is a key part of this franchise and has been in many ways the face of the franchise for a long time. We love the guy and our fans respect him enormously as well.

“There was a difference of opinion between his agents and our people as to what the market would suggest would be a fair contract. In circumstances like that, baseball allows players to avail themselves of this arbitration mechanism. … It looks like we’re going to do that barring some last-minute settlement, and then we’ll move on. But he’s a signed player for the Red Sox no matter what happens. It’s just a question of whether he gets paid X or he gets paid Y for 2012.”

On whether he regrets the team’s decision to sign Carl Crawford to a seven-year, $142 million contract last offseason: “Life is a motion picture, not a still photograph. Don’t take a still photograph of year one of a seven-year deal and use it to conclude that the deal has been a success or been a failure,” said Lucchino. “We have enormous success for Carl Crawford. We know well the body of his work over several years in the big leagues. And he is going to be a key player and a key performer for this team both in 2012 and for several years thereafter. We still have a lot of optimism about the Carl Crawford who will take the field in 2012.

“Performance is not a linear thing. Players don’t perform better in year five than they did in year four and better in year six than they did in year five,” he added. “There is some variation that’s inevitable in human conduct and human performance. We just prefer to rely on the body of work that Carl has behind him. I think he’s going to make an enormous contribution and become a very popular player here in Boston.”

Read More: carl crawford, David Ortiz, Jason Varitek, Larry Lucchino
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