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Larry Lucchino on D&C: Red Sox’ success ‘an early vindication’ of front office’s offseason approach

04.25.13 at 10:53 am ET

Red Sox president and CEO Larry Lucchino checked in with Dennis & Callahan on Thursday to discuss Saturday’s emotional pregame ceremony at Fenway Park, the possible closer controversy that lies ahead, and many more important topics from early in the season.

The Sox sit atop the American League East at 14-7, and one of the most memorable victories was on Saturday against the Royals. In that contest, Daniel Nava hit a game-winning home run in the eighth, hours after the ceremony honoring the victims and heroes of the Boston Marathon bombings and manhunt.

“We talk a lot about the importance of Fenway Park as a community meeting place and the importance of a baseball team in bringing a community together, a sense of unity and connection and connectedness,” Lucchino said. “All of that came together last Saturday in a beautifully orchestrated event. I call it a ceremony because I think it was a celebration of those who passed away — at least a recognition of them, a moment when people could remember them and also celebrate the first responders and the action that we all took so much pride in last Thursday and Friday.”

The Sox front office and management focused this past offseason on bringing in good clubhouse players, but also ones who could perform in Boston. This was a sharp contrast to a year earlier, when they brought in highly touted stars Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford who turned out to be awkward fits in Boston.

“It is in some sense an early victory, an early vindication of all of that approach,” Lucchino said. “Just as I said to you guys before, we were never trying to get the coolest guys in the class to form a fraternity in the clubhouse. What we were trying to do is get good teammates who could perform in the crucible that is Boston and make this team likable but also good. Talent is always a part of it. But Ben Cherington and his staff made a concerted effort to consider the personalities — there should be a noun for teamsmanship — the kind of people we were getting. That’s proven to be at least part of the very successful start.”

There have been a number of factors in the team’s early season success. The offense has been led by new acquisitions Mike Napoli and Shane Victorino, new manager John Farrell seems to be succeeding greatly in his return to Boston, and David Ortiz is back and playing well. Lucchino, though, said that the pitchers’ success has been the key.

“For me, it starts with pitching,” Lucchino said. “The key to this team this year was going to be pitching. We knew we had a bulked-up bullpen. We knew we had some depth and some talent in that bullpen, and of course that’s one of the keys to winning baseball in the modern era. … But the revival of the starting rotation is really I think probably [the] most important factor among those that you cited — the leadership that they provide, the sense of momentum that they provide when they take the field and just the quality of their stuff. The stuff may not be contagious, but the winning is contagious and the example that they set at the top of the rotation is contagious, and baseball is, after all, a game about pitching.”

Since Joel Hanrahan‘s hamstring injury, Andrew Bailey has stepped into the closer’s role and pitched very well. With Hanrahan due to come off the disabled list soon, a closer controversy may await the Red Sox.

“I think that there will be a controversy, yes,” Lucchino said. “I think the fans and the media will be fascinated by this question. But as I just said a minute ago, without you posing the question, is that it’s not such a bad thing to have a couple of closers. Hanrahan goes down and Bailey is ready to step in without missing a beat.”

Following are more highlights from the conversation. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page. For more Red Sox coverage, visit weei.com/redsox.

On Alfredo Aceves‘ demotion to Pawtucket: “I don’t want to talk publicly about a personnel decision like that. Ben Cherington and John Farrell spoke with him privately yesterday in the clubhouse about the move that was being made and the reasons for it. I think I should just leave it there. I will say one thing, and that is that this is a game of performance, of measurement. And you look at the way people have been performing, and not just by one example but over a stayed period, is there a trend that suggests that perhaps some kind of intervention or mid-course correction is required.”

On Neil Diamond’s Saturday performance: “Diamond on his own chose to come. He didn’t actually necessarily intend to perform. He wanted to be in Fenway Park is what he told us, and just a minute or two before the event was to begin on Saturday, people were running around somewhat frantically trying to get into place and make sure any last-minute arrangements were taken care of. The switchboard operator says, ‘Neil Diamond’s wife is on the phone and they want to come to Fenway right now.’ ”

On team chemistry: “I don’t think you can draw too many conclusions, but one conclusion you can draw is that the people who are in the clubhouse feel a certain connectedness to each other. It’s not just the players, it’s the other guys in uniform, too. The coaching staff and of course John Farrell the manager have done a terrific job in bringing these personalities together and feeling a sense of unity themselves and how they’ve interacted.”

On David Ortiz’ F-bomb: “We understood that by giving a microphone to David Ortiz in an emotionally charged moment, or at any time, there’s a high possibility or probability of an F-bomb being dropped. But we did think it was something that he wanted to do and something that someone with a uniform on should do.”

On the current homestand: “I said to someone, ‘In the last week I think I have experienced every possible human emotion,’ and it ended with the excitement and excitation of Saturday. But I’ve certainly experienced them all and that can be kind of draining. But the baseball team has helped my spirits and I know it’s helped the community’s spirits.”

Read More: Andrew Bailey, daniel nava, David Ortiz, joel hanrahan
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