Henry: ‘We’re stronger than last year’

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FORT MYERS, Fla. — Red Sox owners John Henry, Tom Werner, and team president Larry Lucchino conducted their annual spring training Q&A with the media in Fort Myers this morning and addressed a number of issues relating to the 2010 ballclub, payroll, Fenway Park, the soon-to-be-built spring training complex in Lee County, and more.

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“I think it’s a very strong team,” Henry said. “People have been talking about offense and Theo reminded us today that we were… essentially the Angels and Red Sox had the second best offense in baseball last year, so we think this is a very strong team, I think stronger than last year. Last year when we went into the playoffs we felt we had a team that was going to be very strong for the playoffs. We had three top starters and this year, again, we have six very strong starters and perhaps and perhaps the six strongest starters, we always come into camp it seems like with six knowing that sometimes it’s hard to have four strong starters out there for an entire season.”

Lucchino was equally as enthusiastic about this year’s club. “This is our ninth year, and one of the things we’ve been saying since day 1 is that our obligation is to field a team that’s worthy of the fans’ support, year in, and year out,” Lucchino said. We think we’ve done that. We think Theo [Epstein] and the baseball operations people have done a sensational job this offseason to ensure that we have a team that’s worthy of the fan support and it has some interesting features. There’s a balance to this team that’s really important. People are focusing on offense. We’ve been saying from the beginning, it’s all about balance. You’ve got to have defense, you’ve got to have baserunning skills, you’ve got to have some power, you’ve got to hit for average, you’ve got to walk and work the count. You’ve got to have it all, and this team has that and I hope that that will be enough to make it successful.

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“Secondly there are some new players, some new faces, and I think our fans are going to be very interested in seeing and getting to know these new players, who obviously are going to play and important role in the success of this team at some critical positions.”


Regarding payroll, Henry said the team is keeping pace. “We spent significantly more than we did last year,” he said. “We didn’t know for sure we were going to spend as much as we did because we didn’t know if opportunities would present themselves, to be able to go out and get a pitcher like John Lackey, we didn’t know the opportunity would come to fruition. It was really driven by events.”
Henry said he doesn’t consider the season a failure if the Sox don’t win the World Series. “I’ve never thought that way,” Henry said. “Our goal every year is to make the playoffs. If we make the playoffs, we’re going to win at some point in the postseason. We’ve been fortunate to do that twice but there’s too much, in a short series in the postseason, it’s too much, I hate to use the word ‘luck’ but you guys write about it all the time. It’s tough to predict what going to happen in a short series. A good team can easily lose to an inferior team in a short series, so our goal really is to make the playoffs and to try to win.”
Lucchino quantified the goal. “We always get fixated on ’95,’ that’s a nice round number [of wins] that we like and achieved last year of course.”
Heading into their ninth season of ownership, Henry, Lucchino, and Werner are proud of their accomplishments. “One of the things we were focused on early on was creating a certain atmosphere inside the clubhouse so that players would want to come play here. That’s an important part of having a competitive, winning franchise is to create an atmosphere and Larry has a tremendous job of doing that, Theo and the whole organization… every year I think the organization as a whole has gotten stronger. We lose good people because of our success and that happened in this offseason, but every year, including this season, I feel we keep getting stronger, medically, in all areas, we continue to strengthen.”
The Sox brass was asked to comment on the Yankees payroll ceiling. “I don’t think we can comment on what their ceiling may or may not be. We just have to do what we’ve done since we arrived here and is try and build revenues, maximize revenues, and try as best we can to compete with them financially but we’ll never be able to do that. People tend to clump us together but there’s a wide gulf financially between the two teams, and that’s going to continue. … it’s exacerbated by the new park [creating] tremendous revenues.”
“The wide gulf is also in size of the market,” Lucchino added. “They’re in the largest market in the Western world and we are in New England and our television market pales in comparison to theirs, so lumping us together, which too often happens, is somewhere unfair.”
Henry was asked if owning the Red Sox was a lifelong commitment for him. “We’re not going anywhere,” Henry said. “We adore, we love this franchise. We speak every day on the phone, seven days a week, talking about [the team]. We are so committed to this franchise… we’re having so much fun. These eight years have been so much fun, so rewarding… we went out to dinner last night. It’s a celebration. That’s how much we enjoy what we’re doing. We love this franchise.”
The Sox brass also said they were disappointed that Boston wasn’t awarded the All-Star game on the 100th anniversary of Fenway Park in 2012. “They felt that we had the All-Star game in 1999 and that there were other people who were also requesting it,” Werner said. “We did make a valiant fight because we all thought it was the right thing to do, not only for the Red Sox, but for baseball, but we don’t win all the battles and turn the page.”
On the possibility of a new ballpark in Boston generating more revenue, Henry said that was never the plan. “We didn’t want a new ballpark in Boston,” Henry said. “From Day 1 we wanted to renovate Fenway, but we didn’t know if we could do that in the beginning because we didn’t know if it was going to be structurally sound but there was price to be paid for staying. To stay there… there was a price to be paid for it and that was that we are limited in our revenues, but we determined that we have to try to maximize, and we’ve done that, the revenues there, and we’ve successfully done that.”
Other highlights from the 32 minute press conference:

  • The Fenway grass has to be re-sodded after the Winter Classic, and they’ll know in two to three weeks how the field is coming along.
  • Lucchino said it will be a challenge to continue the sellout streak (550 games and counting), but he thinks the fan loyalty is “so broad and so deep” that there’s a good chance it will continue.
  • Lucchino said the team is roughly where they were a year ago regarding ticket sales, “maybe a tick behind.” But he said they have their work cut out for them in terms of sponsorships.
  • When asked about the desire to have veterans like David Ortiz and Josh Beckett stay in Boston after their contracts expire, the Sox brass were in agreement but would not provide any detailed comments on any particular players. “We’d love to see them stay,” Henry and Lucchino said.
  • The owners said they aren’t sure what to do with the 20 acres of property they own (between the player development complex and City of Palms Park) once a new facility is built, but they would welcome a third team in the Lee County market. Lucchino said he is very excited about the soon-to-be-unveiled final plans for the new ballpark in Fort Myers. “It’s a well-thought-out design,” Lucchino said. “Programatically, it helps to have everything in the same place.”
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