Lucchino predicts sellout streak will 'rest in peace'

Lucchino predicts sellout streak will 'rest in peace'
February 14, 2013, 9:29 pm
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FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Earlier this week, principal owner John Henry addressed the media and gave his thoughts on the Red Sox' recent past, present and future.

On a rainy Thursday afternoon, it was president and CEO Larry Lucchino's turn to address a wide range of topics, at times defensive, and other times defiant.

Among the highlights:

On the future of free agent-to-be Jacoby Ellsbury: "Would we like to have him here? Yes. Do I think there will some negotiations that will take place during the course of the year or perhaps sooner? Possibly. I wouldn't rule anything out. But we'd very much like to have him here and like to have him be part of a core Red Sox team. But I don't think it's appropriate to have too much of a discussion about the negotiation process right now and in this forum.

On the club getting away from its core philosophy: "I think there was a kind of deviation from that somewhere along the way."

On new manager John Farrell: "He commands respect. He also has a skill set that's particularly important to this team -- his pitching expertise. He's an honest guy. I think he'll be an outstanding Red Sox manager."

On the persistent sale rumors: "We tried to say to those who asked that it was a false rumor. We didn't know where it came from. But if it's repeated a couple of times, it tends to gain a little credence. It's never been a consideration. I've never been in a meeting where anyone discussed with John or Tom the idea of us selling this team. (Owning the Sox) is a labor of love."

On ownership's commitment to the team: "We've spent our money. We're concerned about generating revenue, make no mistake about that, and we're not apologetic or embarrassed about that. But the revenue goes into the ballclub. It goes into the payroll, it goes into the amateur signing bonuses, it goes into the machinery of the club. It doesn't go out to private bank accounts . . . You can look at the payrolls, the increase in signing bonuses, the increase in foreign player signings, you can look at the size of the Baseball Operations staff when we needed them. We generate money because we need to to have the kind of winning baseball team that we want to have."

On defying expectations and exceeding what some expect for the club in 2013: "I actually like being the underdog. The fact that the media and the sports pundits picks us in the lower reaches of the American League East is in some ways challenging and comforting. Because it wasn't that long ago that some people in this room talked about (the Sox being) the greatest team of all time, a hundred victory season and all of that. They were wrong then, as many of them are wrong now. We're going to be a competitive team."

On the sellout streak at Fenway: "It's going to rest in peace sometime in April, I suspect. But that's not such a terrible thing. It's an extraordinary accomplishment . . . I would point you to one fact: Over the last 11 years, we have sold 99.6 percent of the available seating capacity over the last 11 years . . . That, by itself, putting aside definitions, semantics -- that by itself is extraordinary."

On ticket sales: "Ticket sales are more challenging this year than they have been since the very first year we were here. There may be a reduction on ticket revenue. I don't think that's going to affect us. If we have the successful team that I think we'll have, I do think people will jump back into the ballpark, albeit at a later time than they have historically. I don't want to predict too much of a downturn yet, but I do know it's a possibility."

On competing for high-end free agents: "We certainly can shop there and we'll always shop there. The question is how active will we be in that market? We'll look for deals that make sense. And we'll make exceptions, too. But one of the lessons we learned from recent years is that we'd rather pay a little bit more on a short-term deal than a multi-year contract that goes out five, six, seven, eight years. We appreciate the flexibility and we think it's better for the inevitable kind of reloading that eventually a club has to do periodically."

On off-season regrets: "I was always a big Cody Ross fan. At one point, we were joking at a meeting that I should wear a Cody Ross jersey to the next meeting because I was so eager to see us reach out to him. I have great fondness for him and a lot of respect for him and I do wish him great success."