|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: Read the rest of this entry »
FORT MYERS, Fla. — It has been nearly a decade since the Red Sox announced anything short of a sellout crowd at Fenway Park. Since May 15, 2003, every game at Fenway Park has been announced as a sellout in a remarkable 793-game streak that has become increasingly controversial thanks to the swaths of green seats that characterized the park (thanks chiefly to no-shows) last September.
The streak, however, appears to stand on the brink of its demise. With ticket sales down following a 69-93 disaster of a 2012 season, Red Sox CEO/president Larry Lucchino acknowledged on Thursday at JetBlue Park that the streak of packed houses is expected to conclude in April.
“It’s going to rest in peace, I think, sometime in April I suspect. That’s not such a terrible thing,” said Lucchino. “It’s an extraordinary accomplishment.”
Lucchino defended the legitimacy of the streak. The Sox currently use the same definition of a sellout that has been in use for decades, dating prior to the current ownership group’s assumption of control of the club in 2002. The standard for a sellout is that there are more tickets sold than there are seats in the ballpark. Lucchino said that the Sox haven’t twisted either numbers or definitions to sustain their run of sellouts. Read the rest of this entry »
|Red Sox COO Sam Kennedy: ‘We are paid to do one thing, and that’s to win’||01.17.13 at 11:35 pm ET|
Red Sox executive vice president and chief operating officer Sam Kennedy, in an interview on WEEI’s Red Sox Hot Stove Show, disputed the suggestion found in published excerpts from former Sox manager Terry Francona‘s that the franchise’s baseball decisions started to be shaped by marketing concerns. Instead, Kennedy stated that the Sox’ mission is defined by the team’s on-field success, with marketing (and concerns such as NESN’s broadcasting success) serving that goal, rather than vice-versa.
“Great sports organizations, great ownership groups like ours, have one goal, and that is to win baseball games. We’ve been here for 11 years together. Our group’s won two world championships, we’ve had six postseason appearances, we’ve won over 1,000 baseball games,” said Kennedy. “The business side, the baseball side and the community outreach side all need to work together to achieve that common goal of winning games.
“To be clear, the way that I view the world, I can speak for myself, is that we on the business side are here to support and provide the necessary resources to the baseball operations group to do everything in their power to field a team that does one thing, and that is win. Winning baseball games is and always has been the central mission of the Boston Red Sox since we’ve been here, and I think that John Henry and Tom Werner and Larry Lucchino have demonstrated an incredible track record of doing that. I know that I’m really proud to be a part of the organization. I know that [former GM Theo Epstein] was proud to be part of this organization, as was Tito. I certainly wish them both well.”
Asked if he’s seen a change in the team’s operating philosophy in recent years, Kennedy suggested he had not. He said that the biggest change in the organization has been its performance on the field rather than what is transpiring inside the team’s offices. Read the rest of this entry »
|Closing Time: Red Sox get an assist from rain in washing away Tigers||07.31.12 at 11:17 pm ET|
For the first 2 2/3 innings of Tuesday night’s game at Fenway Park, Josh Beckett was in complete control of the Tigers. In fact, he was perfect, and it seemed as if the right-hander was well on his way to one of his better outings of the year.
But as the theme has carried on throughout Beckett’s disappointing campaign, it was not the case. After retiring the first eight Tigers in a row to start the game, Beckett wouldn’t record another out. He gave up an infield single, hit a batter and then walked a pair — the last one to force in a run — and was ultimately pulled after team doctors discovered he had a back spasm. On a rainy night at Fenway Park, boos showered on Beckett.
Luckily for Beckett, however, his teammates picked him up and caught opposing Tigers ace and reigning Cy Young Award winner Justin Verlander on an off night in which he, like Beckett, struggled to command the baseball while fighting the conditions. The Red Sox offense put together a four-run outburst in the fourth inning to take a 4-1 lead they wouldn’t relinquish as the they beat the Tigers for their fourth consecutive win after the game was called due to rain in the sixth inning.
Though he allowed three walks, Clayton Mortensen relieved Beckett and pitched extremely well to help the Red Sox pull out the victory. The 27-year-old righty, called up Tuesday as roster filler after the Sox traded Matt Albers (with Craig Breslow still making his way across the country to Boston), pitched 2 2/3 innings, allowing one hit and no runs. He picked up the victory — first first of the year — and exited the game in the sixth to a standing ovation from the fans.
The victory was the fourth straight for the Red Sox, who are now two games over .500.
WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX
• Beckett started the game exceptionally sharp, retiring the Tigers side in order in the first inning and second innings. First, he struck out Austin Jackson looking before forcing Quintin Berry and Miguel Cabrera into fly outs. In the second, Beckett generated three consecutive fly outs.
It was Beckett’s first clean first inning (no runs, no walks) since June 30 and the second straight game he hasn’t given up a run in the first inning. With the clean inning, he improved his 2012 first-inning ERA from 10.06 to 9.50.
|A look back at Kevin Youkilis’ time with the Red Sox||07.16.12 at 4:38 pm ET|
For years, Kevin Youkilis was a fan favorite among the Fenway Faithful, punctuated by his hard play, flair for the dramatic and consistency as a member of the Red Sox. On Monday night, only less than a month after being traded, he’ll make his first appearance at Fenway Park as a visitor.
Drafted by the Red Sox in the eighth round of the 2001 MLB draft, Youkilis spent three seasons in the minors before getting called up to the Red Sox in 2004. He spent nine seasons with the club, posting numbers of 133 home runs, 564 RBIs, 494 walks with a .287 batting average, .388 on-base percentage and .875 OPS. He was also named an All-Star three times and earned a Gold Glove before being dealt to the White Sox last month.
As Youkilis returns to Fenway for the first time as a visitor, here’s a look at some of his most memorable moments during his time with the Red Sox:
– Youkilis earned the affection of the Red Sox fanbase within the first game that he donned the uniform on May 15, 2004. With regular starting third baseman Bill Mueller placed on the disabled list, Youkilis was immediately called up from Triple-A Pawtucket to take his place in Toronto.
Batting eighth against Blue Jays pitcher and 1996 Cy Young Award winner Pat Hentgen, Youkilis connected in his second at-bat for his first major league hit, a solo home run to left field in the fourth inning to give the Red Sox a 3-0 lead that earned him the silent treatment when he returned to the dugout. With the homer, he became the seventh player in club history to hit a home run in his first game. He finished the game 2-for-4.
– Youkilis had always been a poster boy for hard work ethic, whether it was working counts, fouling off pitch after pitch or legging out hits, which earned the admiration of Red Sox Nation. Never was that more apparent than during a game against the Indians on May 28, 2007, when Youkilis smacked a fastball to the triangle in centerfield at Fenway. After the ball made a strange bounce, Youkilis turned on the jets and motored his way around the bases for what turned out to be the first inside the park home run of his career to give the Red Sox a 4-1 lead.
“It was just funny watching him run,” joked Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia after the game.
– Youkilis turned in his best statistical season with the Red Sox in 2008, when he finished as one of the best hitters in the league. He completed the year batting .312 with 29 home runs, 115 RBIs and a .958 OPS. He earned his first All-Star team selection (starting at first base) in his first year on the ballot, won the Hank Aaron Award – which is annually given to the top hitter in each league as voted by fans and media – and even finished third in AL MVP voting.
The first baseman was also at the top of his class defensively. During his impressive 2008 season, Youkilis broke the major league record for most consecutive games without an error by a first baseman (194 games). He also later set a new record that season when he fielded his 1,701st consecutive defensive chance without an error on April 27, 2008, a record previously held by Stuffy McInnis from 1921 to 1922.
– A sensational Red Sox career wasn’t without controversy for Youkilis, however. On June 5, 2008, tensions rose between Youkilis and Manny Ramirez in the dugout, leading to a scuffle that forced them to be separated. One grainy piece of footage caught by the cameras at NESN revealed Ramirez apparently taking a swing at Youkilis, but no reason as to why the two confronted each other was fully explained.
Ramirez was later traded that season and Youkilis took his spot in the order as the cleanup hitter.
“We have two different approaches to the game. Winning and losing isn’t life and death to Manny,” Youkilis said of Ramirez in 2009.
In 2009, Youkilis was again involved in a scuffle, this time involving him and an opposing player. On Aug. 11, 2009, Tigers pitcher Rick Porcello nailed Youkilis in the back with a pitch, prompting the first baseman to charge the mound and a bench-clearing brawl to ensue. Both players were ejected from the game and Youkilis was handed a five-game suspension.
– Timely hits were also a part of Youkilis’ Red Sox resume. On April 29, 2008, he broke a scoreless game with a game-winning walk-off single in the ninth inning against the Blue Jays that scored David Ortiz for the 1-0 victory.
Then, on April 24, 2009, Youkilis delivered more heroics. In the bottom of the 11th inning of a 4-4 game against the Yankees, Youkilis turned on an offering from Damaso Marte and sent it over the Green Monster seats for a walk-off solo home run that gave the Red Sox a 5-4 victory.
– During the 2011 offseason, during the height of Youkilis’ popularity, car dealer Herb Chambers put together a commercial that included Youkilis and singer Biz Markie in which they sampled his song, “Just A Friend,” to include the lyrics, “Youk, you got what I need.”
– Youkilis wasn’t just clutch during the regular season. In fact, he was arguably at his best during the postseason, where he was a big factor in helping the Red Sox claim their 2007 World Series championship. Mostly a bystander during the 2004 title run, Youkilis set records in 2007. In the 2007 ALCS against the Indians, he set records with a .500 batting average, 10 runs and 14 hits in the seven-game series.
In 29 career games and 125 career plate appearances in the postseason as a member of the Red Sox, Youkilis hit .306, six home runs and 17 RBIs with a .944 OPS.
– Youkilis’ most memorable moment may have saved itself for last. With trade speculation mounting in light of third baseman Will Middlebrooks’ breakout rookie season, Youkilis had one last memory for the Fenway Faithful in what turned out to be his final game in a Red Sox uniform.
In the seventh inning against the Braves on June 24, Youkilis displayed the heart he had showed Boston for so long as he raced around the bases for an RBI triple. Manager Bobby Valentine – who was told earlier in the day by general manager Ben Cherington that a trade involving Youkilis was looming – then pulled him out of the game, prompting an emotional farewell and curtain call as he exited Fenway Park as a member of the Red Sox for the last time.
|Pedro Martinez, Kevin Millar reflect on Fenway Park: ‘There’s nothing you can compare it to’||04.20.12 at 5:36 pm ET|
Pedro Martinez once again brought a jolt of electricity to Fenway Park with his presence, as his entry onto the field through the tunnel in center field drew one of the most emotional reactions of the day from the crowd, with the three-time Cy Young winner returning the affection by pointing to several parts of the park to express his affection for the place of his most lasting baseball memories.
Few players have ever had the affair with Fenway Park that Martinez did. Indeed, as Martinez noted, he is one of the few Red Sox stars who left town as a free agent yet continued to be a beloved figure in the city and region.
“I don’t want to curse this — and I don’t think I can anymore, because I’m not going to be playing anymore, and my love for Boston is always going to be in my heart,” Martinez prefaced. “I might be the only player that has gone away from Boston and still had the same support from the fans. Gone and being here, has the same support I got. I’m very privileged to the be that player that was never booed and never left a sour grape in Boston.”
That being the case, the pitcher’s affinity for Boston and for Fenway Park remains undampened, as fresh now as it was during the seven seasons he spent with the Sox from 1998-2004. The Sox recognized that in selecting Martinez (along with Kevin Millar, another member of the iconic 2004 team that claimed the first Red Sox World Series in 86 years) to deliver the pre-game toast to Fenway Park. After the toast, Martinez described the magic that he feels inside of the ballpark that celebrated its 100th birthday on Friday.
“My feeling is unique toward Fenway, unique toward the city, unique in every aspect. Fenway has a way that you can’t find it anywhere else,” said Martinez. “You might find [it in] Chicago, with a little bit of tradition. But when it comes to Fenway, there’s nothing you can compare it to. I have been in many other fields and I have been all around the leagues, played in the National League, too. Even the old Yankee Stadium, there’s nothing that can be compared to Fenway. It must be the closeness that the stadium gives you. If you messed it up, you’re going to hear it. They’re going to let you know. And you can hear it. The same way when you do something good for Boston, you’re going to hear it and they’re going to embrace you. You’re going to feel, sometimes, people breathing close to you. That’s how close they are to you at Fenway. Fenway’s the only stadium that can give you that. Fenway becomes a unique place, and it should remain that way.” Read the rest of this entry »
|Friday morning with Bobby Valentine: Jon Lester needs his rest, ‘concern’ about Andrew Miller, next steps for Daisuke Matsuzaka||at 1:04 pm ET|
It is an extraordinary day in the life of a ballpark, as Fenway Park prepares to become the first American sports venue to observe its 100th birthday. It is a day when an address and a building will relegate to parentheses the two big league teams with the largest payrolls (the Yankees and Red Sox).
“It’s the baseball land of Oz,” Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine said of the ballpark that he now calls home. “People dream about this place.”
Valentine recalled how, when he visited Fenway as the manager of the Rangers (in the ’80s and early ’90s) and again with the Mets (who came to Fenway for interleague games between 1997-2002, when Valentine was their skipper) that Fenway Park felt “old.” No longer, he suggested. The park has undergone renewal and feels vital, no more so than on Thursday, when over 54,000 fans came to the open house to wander through the park and connect with its many nooks and crannies.
“I would say that this ballpark has created as many memories for people in this area and around the world as any venue in the world,” said Valentine. “Today, there’ll be a memory created for me and everybody else who’s here today.”
As for the nuts and bolts of the Red Sox roster…
– The Red Sox gave some thought to having Jon Lester start on Sunday, which would have been the scheduled day for Daniel Bard to start. However, the Sox are going to stick with Bard as the scheduled starter for Sunday night (a day with heavy rain in the forecast) with Lester slated for Monday. A couple factors weigh into that. Part of the equation is the desire to keep Bard on a regular starter’s routine as he adjusts to his new role. More significant, however, was the fact that Lester required 80 pitches for just two-plus innings in his most recent start on Tuesday, and the Sox wanted him to have an extra day of rest.
“Throwing 80 pitches in two innings, that’s like throwing 150 pitches in eight, or more. It might even be more strenuous,” said Valentine. “To have him throw a bullpen yesterday, I don’t think that was the proper thing to do. I think that extra day of rest is exactly what he needs at this time. It’s a combination. I think if it was a rainout, it would be a much bigger, easier situation.”
– Left-hander Andrew Miller, coming off an outing on Thursday in which he threw just 20 of 50 pitches for strikes, will remain in Triple-A Pawtucket. He will no longer work on scheduled days, but instead be used whenever PawSox manager Arnie Beyeler sees fit. Read the rest of this entry »
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