|Larry Lucchino, president, chief executive Boston Red Sox (Yoon S. Byun/Globe Staff)|
Is Fenway affordable for the faithful?
Larry Lucchino, president and chief executive of the Boston Red Sox, has led the team through a glorious decade marked by two championships, a renovated ballpark, and the wicked expansion of Red Sox nation. The Sox are in the playoff hunt again. Lucchino recently spoke with Globe reporter Jenn Abelson.
The Red Sox have really ramped up the luxury component of the Fenway experience in recent years, with all the club and premium seats. Do you worry that you are pricing ordinary fans out of the game?
We think a lot about affordability and accessibility. The price increases in recent years have been more modest than those in the years before we got here. One of the things we are pleased with is the range and variety of ticket options. There are tickets as low as $12 in the bleachers.
Fenway Sports Group, which owns the Red Sox, has taken on other sports franchises in recent years, such as Roush Fenway Racing and the Liverpool FC soccer team. Are the Red Sox getting enough attention? (The New York Times Co., owner of the Globe, owns just over 7 percent of Fenway Sports Group.)
The Red Sox will always be the lead pole in the tent. Proof is in the pudding. John [Henry], Tom [Werner], and I have been running the Red Sox with the support of partners. They’ve had other business opportunities present themselves. Some have been incorporated into our company. But the Red Sox are still alive and well and winning and growing.
What is the likelihood of the Red Sox playing an exhibition game in England in the future? And what about a Liverpool game at Fenway?
We’d love to see that cross-pollination. Preliminary discussions are going on. I’d love to see it sooner than later.
How has the recent saga around steroid use and trials of players like Barry Bonds tarnished baseball?
It’s had deleterious effects on baseball. But I think the commissioner has led the charge to put that era in our rearview mirror with a high degree of success. It bodes well for the continuing growth of the game.
Are the Yankees still the Evil Empire?
In my mind, yes. Part of it is because I think it is meant to be shorthand for an ongoing white hot rivalry. And that’s still the case.
Is the sky the limit for Sox payroll?
I would not say the sky is the limit. You can win a variety of different ways and the time-tested and most efficient way to do so is to draft your own players, grow your own players, and retain your own players through a farm system. Our first and fundamental obligation is to compete and try to win. It doesn’t necessitate being one of the top payroll teams in baseball.
Looking at other leagues and their lockout situations, do you feel baseball has a better hold on its labor situation, and why?
Under Commissioner [Bud] Selig we have had an extended period of labor peace. That has been useful to the growth of the game. The Players Association and MLB have negotiated reasonable deals and reasonable ways and avoided labor confrontations in the recent past.
You’ve claimed a sellout streak of 700 games. But often, we see empty seats in the stands and nonprofit groups getting free last-minute tickets. Can you really call that a sellout?
It certainly is. The measurement that has been used by baseball and the Red Sox for years and years are tickets sold. It’s the paid attendance numbers you hear announced.
Will you ever admit when there is not a sellout? What will that day be like?
You bet. We’ve been threatened a couple of times this year. But for the most part, the sellout streak has been self-perpetuating and requires little focus on our part. It is a barometer of the fan passion and loyalty here. When the streak ends, I think we’re going to open a bottle of champagne and celebrate what an extraordinary accomplishment our fans have brought about.
How many home games do you get to? Do you actually watch them or are you always doing business?
I try to go to all home games. We do some business, some entertaining. It’s necessary sometimes to escape the suite to focus more directly on the game. I spend much of my time walking around the ballpark. I’m down on field with pregame, interact with fans during the course of the game. I like to move around and see the game from different vantage points.
Do you have any superstitions when you watch the games?
I have plenty of superstitions around the game. I’m embarrassed to give them so I won’t recite. But it’s obvious the outcome of the game depends on where I sit.
Some have rumored you’d be a logical successor to Bud Selig as baseball commissioner. Would you ever take that job?
I have no illusions about that. I don’t know what the future holds. I’m loving Boston, Fenway, New England, the Red Sox. And this is home now.