Season's Greetings from Fenway Park, where the Red Sox are hosting a ticket-buying event for lucky fans who were randomly selected in a lottery to attend today's ninth annual Christmas party.
Red Sox president Larry Lucchino kicked off the festivities with a few remarks, saying, "I stand here in front of you to say that this is one healthy baseball team, this is one healthy baseball franchise in Major League Baseball.
"It's healthy and solid and strong for a number of reasons,'' Lucchino continued. "I've been in baseball for many years before I came to Boston, but it all felt like preparation for the big leagues coming here to Boston and the Red Sox and the entire experience. We got to improve on the legacy that preceeded us and the 100 years plus of Red Sox exsistence.
"It's a legacy and tradition that goes back a long, long way and that's one of the foundations of this franchise,'' he said. "The second foundation of this franchise is what you're standing in or sitting in today -- Fenway Park. This is an extraordinary baseball facility. It's an antiseptic way of putting it.''
This season, Fenway Park will celebrate its 100th anniversary.
"This is a park, this is an institution, this is a part of Boston, of Massachusetts, the entire New England region and indeed the entire nation,'' Lucchino said. "As long as we're playing here in Fenway Park, with its charm, it's eccentricity, it's inherent appeal, we have another strong part of our foundation with the Red Sox.
"I saved probably the best for last and that is our fan base,'' Lucchino said. "We have here one incredible fan base. I know it's commonplace all over baseball for people to say we've got the best fans in baseball ... well, we have the proof. We have the proof of 712 consecutive sellouts. We have the proof of a fan base that goes back with its passion and support for a long, long time with the kind of broad, deep, intelligent, knowledgeable fan base this franchise is in strong and healthy condition.
"We look forward with you to the 2012 season and we can do it I think with some optimism,'' Lucchino said. ``Was there a [7-20] collapse in September? You bet there was. Did it disappoint us, did it anger us? Yes it did.
"But did it fire us up? Did it motivate us? Did it tell us we have an obligation to bounce back from that? Yes it did,'' he said. "You will see this is going to be an exciting year in 2012, because there's a whole lot of baseball players who feel they've got a whole lot to prove to some skeptical media members and a whole lot of fans as well.
"So there's a key motivation on their part going into 2012.''
One of those players who will be motivated to turn the page on 2011 will be starting pitcher Jon Lester. The big lefthander went 15-9 with a 3.47 ERA last season. However, he was part of a pitching rotation that exacerabated the Red Sox 7-20 September collapse.
Lester wound up going 1-5 with a 5.40 ERA in his six starts in September, losing the last four in a row, including a ruinous 4-3 setback at Baltimore Sept. 28 that ended the Sox' season.
Lester will address fans at 11:30 a.m. Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine will speak later this afternoon at 3:30. We'll try to update you with their remarks.