Do you hear what I hear?
It’s Larry Lucchino taking to the airwaves again. Last weekend on television with CBS4’s Bob Lobel, and Saturday it was on the radio. The Red Sox president took a few minutes to speak on air with Boston sports radio WEEI’s Craig Mustard and Larry Johnson at the Christmas at Fenway ticket sales event. Excerpts from some of his comments follow, including his statement that an announcement regarding the “restructuring of the Red Sox baseball operations department” will come this week.
Where have you been?
“I’ve been working every day,” answered Lucchino. “I haven’t really been on (WEEI) in the offseason, so I really haven’t changed my schedule at all.”
“I think we were one of the most active clubs in Dallas, and actually we were the most active club in the week before Dallas with the Florida trade involving Beckett, Lowell, and Mota,” said Lucchino. “So that momentum continued. I want to say publicly a… offer a compliment to what’s been called the Gang of Four, The Four Horseman, Bill Lajoie, Craig Shipley, Ben Cherington, Jed Hoyer. They functioned together beautifully as a harmonious and productive team. They were complimented by Jeremy Kapstein, Brian O’Halloran, David Jauss, a number of other people in the baseball operations world, Zach Scott, Bill James, and I think that group worked together very well and produced some very serious moves, and what I think, some very promising transactions.”
Now is it the Gang of Four or Gang of Five… there’s another name floating around?
“I did see that, I did see it (the Globe story on the possible return of Theo Epstein),” said Lucchino. “I read the Shaughnessy piece on palace intrigue and it’s been interesting, since the Greeks and Romans, and through Shakespeare, now up to a certain Boston columnist, there’s always been a lot of speculation about palace intrigue, but we are going to have some announcement to make next week about the restructuring of the Red Sox baseball operations department. But I think that’s the time to do that, not during this Christmas party here…”
“I was less willing to talk about our failure to sign Theo to a long-term contract. And there were a bunch of reasons, let me say first, I have been available, the media’s been calling me every day, I get emails, I respond to every one of my emails… it is better in many ways to do live radio and live television, but there were some sensitive topics, even Theo Epstein himself said it at what was to be his press conference, that there were a variety of issues, many of which were quite personal, and he did not want to comment on them and it just seemed to me that it was not appropriate for me to be commenting on them. I certainly did take a hit. And I like to think a part of my job is to take a hit for the team. In fairness, I think there were some sensitive issues that Theo, myself, others in the organization were eager to talk about to the extent we ‘no commented’ on those things or really didn’t address them directly, I think that suggested to people that we were less available, but we were very available on virtually every other subject and believe me my telephone log and my computer suggests a whole lot of traffic from the media people over the last several weeks.”
“I think that because I didn’t go to Theo’s press conference, and I didn’t go for a combination of reasons, not because I wanted to avoid you guys, but because first of all it was supposed to be Theo’s conference, for him to speak, but when I was contemplating going, at the last minute John Henry said ‘you shouldn’t go, you’re taking hits for this and it’s time for me to stand up and defend you and make clear how we work together on this things, and how this was a combination effort, and it will be easier for me to say positive things about you if you’re not sitting in the first row looking up at me,’ and so that was the last minute recommendation he made and he is my boss and he said ‘you shouldn’t go, let me handle this one,’ and so I did. But as a result of having been so visible for the first four years that we’ve been here, I think people did take note of that.”
“I think it’s interesting that when the sign went up, there’s going to be a fire sale if you will at the Florida Marlins, we were the first team in line, we were there before anybody else. There were players in that deal that a number of other teams were eager to get, you can image Josh Beckett, Guillermo Mota, Mike Lowell, although there was an issue about Mike’s contract to be sure. But in any event, our front office team was first in line and we worked over Thanksgiving. That deal was done with several of us putting off Thanksgiving celebrations in order to get that deal done at 10:00 o’clock at night. …I was out there as you may remember for the Curt Schilling event as well. I was there over the Thanksgiving holiday when we signed Curt, so there’s a little bit of a Thanksgiving tradition starting here.”
How much concern about Beckett’s shoulder?
“There is some, there were some medical examination of it to be sure, “ Lucchino said. “You don’t make any of these deals without some kind of scrutiny. In fact every trade we have has a physical requirement in it a time for medical examination. So he did finish with a stiff shoulder. He is feeling great now. He’s working out in the offseason. But it is something we will keep an eye on. We were pleased at our ability to expand the deal as well and get Guillermo Mota as a… that was a nice little addition, (we were) saying ‘let’s wait a second here, if we’re trying to get this done by 10:00 tonight, maybe we need to adjust.’ …There was internal debate to be sure.”
Sounds like you’re not going outside the organization for a GM, ‘restructuring’ sounds like an internal situation going on here?
“Yeah, I think that’s … it doesn’t necessarily have to mean that in my opinion,” said Lucchino. “It can mean, I mean if you brought somebody in from the outside you could restructure the way things are done in terms of who has what roles and responsibilities or titles, but I think it’s fair to say we are focused on internal alignments, internal structuring or restructuring and we did this time what we did the last time and that is, in 2002 I went out and interviewed lots of people all over baseball to see who some of the best people were, some of the most available people, we did that and we said specifically we weren’t going to have any comment on any internal candidates or any internal options and we haven’t had any, and what we did was look, surveyed the field, see what’s there, see if there’s a better way to run the railroad out there and then we looked inside and that’s what we’re engaged in right now.”
How much debate over Renteria?
“Well, it was a, I think it’s fair to say, a great unanimity over the Atlanta transaction,” said Lucchino. “It developed very quickly, but that’s not to say that Renteria isn’t a terrific baseball player and he is, and we would not have gotten the kind of talented player that Andy Marte coming back if he were not as gifted as he is, but there was such excitement about Marte, the Braves top prospect. In fact, the Braves front office people have told us that, Dayton Moore in fact, the guy that we were talking to at one time, Dayton Moore said that Marte is the single best player the Braves have ever traded in the whole time he’s been there and there was some gnashing of teeth on their side with regard to this transaction because he’s 22 years old, he’s performed, and he immediately becomes I guess the best prospect in our system as far as a position player.”
“They had a major hole they had to address. They lost Furcal earlier in the week in a very hotly contested free agency competition with the Dodgers, and they bid a lot of money. They were eager to have Furcal. They wanted him desperately and they lost him. And they want to contend every year in Atlanta as we do. And you can’t contend, in their view, in ’06 without having dealt with that big hole at shortstop. And if you add to that Chipper Jones very firm determination to stay at third base and not move around, play other places, it seems to me that there were a couple of factors that came together quite well this week to enable them to make that move. … I suspect he’s (Renteria) going to have a very good year. He’s back in the familiar confines of the National League; it’s a much less pressurized situation. They had trouble selling out their playoff games… it will be a different setting. Bobby Cox is someone I’m sure is comfortable with Renteria and I hope vice versa.”
On being criticized:
“People in my position need to have a thick skin, particularly if you’re going to have this position in Boston you may need an especially thick skin,” said Lucchino. “I do want people to remember that I was being criticized to a fare-thee-well in a number places in November of 2002 when I was the one who wanted to hire a 28-year-old assistant to move up and be general manager and they said ‘what is he doing?’… so I was criticized when we hired him, I was criticized when we didn’t succeed in having him accept what I think was a very attractive offer, so it’s just part of the territory.”
How feasible is it that Manny will be here?
“Manny is pretty determined to look around with us, have his agent and others look around, try to find another spot for him,” said Lucchino. “And we are doing that. He has been willing to be very flexible about possible locations.”