Larry Lucchino on the state of the Red Sox
|02.14.13 at 4:48 pm ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — Red Sox president/CEO Larry Lucchino, in a 30-minute media session, fielded questions on all things Red Sox. He expanded on comments made earlier in the week by team principal owner John Henry, who suggested that the team had shifted away from the core philosophy that had yielded six playoff appearances in seven seasons between 2003-09, and that a course correction is now in effect.
Lucchino highlighted the team’s basic emphasis of on-base percentage and long at-bats that drive up the pitch counts of opponents as centerpieces of the philosophical drift.
“[Henry] feels pretty strongly that we deviated from a basic philosophy of grinding relentless at-bats deep in the count, on-base percentage, some of the fundamental things that got us to the success we had. We have fallen considerably,” said Lucchino. “We used to have incentives in contracts relating to on-base percentage to show you how important we thought it was. I think there was kind of a deviation from that, somewhere along the way.”
Asked why that deviation occurred, Lucchino offered the following.
“I think it kind of grew gradually, and if you’re not ever-vigilant, that can happen to the organization. That’s one factor,” said Lucchino. “Perception that everybody now gets it, everybody now understands it, and don’t we have to look for some new metric or approach? And we in some ways outsmarted ourselves. Those are two of the factors.”
Among other topics:
— While there may be some drop in ticket revenue, Lucchino underscored the commitment of Red Sox ownership to invest robustly in the baseball team, with a focus on winning. He said that even if there is a decrease in ticket revenue, other revenue streams will continue to yield “substantial” funds for the Sox to plow into the ballclub.
“We are in it to win. We have spent our money. We are concerned about generating revenue. We are not embarrassed or apologetic for that. But the revenue goes into the ball club. It goes into the payroll. It goes into the amateur signing bonuses. It goes into the machinery of the club. It doesn’t go out into private bank accounts,” said Lucchino. “We’re not the largest market in baseball. As a television market, we’re, like, 22nd in terms of all TV homes. But we overproduce, generate revenue beyond that television market size and use that money to go into the franchise.
“You should have a body of evidence that demonstrates that. You can look at the payroll for the last 11 years. You can look at the increase in amateur signing bonuses. You can look at the increase in foreign player signings. You can look at the size of the baseball operations staff, we’ve hired scouts when we’ve needed them. We’ve generated money because we need to to have the kind of winning baseball team we want to have. We’ve historically played against the Yankees and their giant market, but now there are a lot of other teams with tremendous TV revenues and other sources of revenue who will be coming to win.”
— While the Sox removed their three most expensive contracts from the books in last August’s blockbuster deal with the Dodgers, Lucchino praised GM Ben Cherington for his reinvestment of the liberated payroll.
“In terms of talent, I think Ben Cherington has done a sensational job of going out and signing I believe seven free agents and making a big trade for a closer,” he said. “We have redeployed the money that was saved from the Dodger transaction quite actively and, I think, successfully, and we will have more money in future years to redeploy.”
— Lucchino said that he’s enthusiastic about the idea that the Red Sox are committed to an increased reliance on homegrown players.
“I love it. I love it,” said Lucchino. “I learned a long time ago from a general manager I worked with in Baltimore named Roland Hemond that one of the most interesting dynamics you can follow in baseball is watching a young player rise through the system and a young player break into the big leagues and see what happens to him. And we have a whole lot of interesting stories like that. I also learned that most organizations tend to overvalue their own prospects, and you’ve got to be very diligent about making sure that your assessments are realistic. But I do think there are some talented young players who are going to have an impact. Some may even have an impact, I think, this year.”
— The CEO/president said that the team would like to retain Jacoby Ellsbury, eligible for free agency after the 2013 season, as one of its core members going forward, and might consider discussing a contract extension either before or during the coming year.
— Asked if he had any regrets about players whom the Sox did not land this winter, Lucchino cited the failure to bring back one of the team’s better performers in 2012.
“I was always a big Cody Ross fan. To be honest, I would say, at one point we were joking in a meeting in baseball that I should wear a Cody Ross jersey to the next meeting because I was so eager to see us reach out to him,” said Lucchino. “And I do have a great fondness for him and a lot of respect for him. I’m not surprised that an old general manager that I worked with, Kevin Towers, talked him into playing out there. That’s not to say I’m not excited about Jonny Gomes and the other outfield prospects that we have here. I think our fans are going to fall in love with Jonny Gomes.”
— Lucchino said that he had not read “Francona: The Red Sox Years,” the book that former manager Terry Francona co-authored with Boston Globe columnist Dan Shaughnessy.
— He declined to comment on the comments of former Sox first baseman Adrian Gonzalez that the Red Sox’ problems stemmed from issues within management.
— Lucchino praised both John Farrell and the working relationship between Farrell and GM Ben Cherington.
“I think that the tandem, the dynamic, the tandem, the friendship, the working relationship between the general manager and the manager is pretty fundamental,” said Lucchino. “I think this one is as strong as it could possibly be. I think that augers well for what’s ahead of us.”
Lucchino also spoke highly of the early signs of players of high character in the clubhouse.
— The early signs regarding pitcher John Lackey, Lucchino said, are promising.
— Lucchino declared the Red Sox underdogs entering the year, while pinning the label of the favorites (and winners of the offseason) on the Blue Jays.
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