BOSTON -- Prior to holding a "Town Hall'' meeting with fans last night, four members of the Red Sox' braintrust -- chairman Tom Werner, CEO and President Larry Lucchino, general manager Theo Epstein and manager Terry Francona -- answered questions from the media on a variety of topics.
Werner on the team's decision not to go to a premium pricing structure for games against in-demand opponents: "We're certainly looking at what other teams are doing. I'm cognizant, myself, of the high ticket prices we're charging in Boston. We feel that's justified to see a competitive team.
"But I think if you're paying a lot of money for a ticket, to say, 'Now you're going to have to pay two dollars more . . . ' It's something we monitor. But I think that our ticket prices are fair and appropriate.''
Werner on whether fans are still concerned about the diversion of resources to the Liverpool soccer franchise Fenway Sports Group purchased:
"We made this investment in order to diversify and we felt it made FSG healthier and stronger and that it would allow us to weather a rough sea from time-to-time.
"It's ironic because when we acquired Liverpool, I think there was a a lot of concern in New England that we were going to in some ways be diverting resources for players from the Red Sox. But after the two acquisitions we made to stock the player roster (Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez), those kind of comments were less in Boston but more in Liverpool.''
Werner on declining TV ratings on NESN:
"It's a tough environment. We root for the Celtics and we root for the Bruins, but they're very competitive programming in April and May and it's important for us to get out of the box early.
"I think there's an enormous excitement and anticipation and if we don't play well in April, it's not the end of the world. But it sure would be nice to come out strong.''
Werner and Lucchino on the state of labor negotiations in the sports world:
Werner: "I'm a member of the baseball labor policy committee, so we're obviously looking at the negotiations in the other sports. As a fan, you want these negotiations to end amicably. We all know how baseball suffered through their past work stoppages.
"There's a lot of money in professional sports. Hopefully, the owners and players can solve these problems . . . We're obviously monitoring the NFL discussions and we know those negotiations proceed ours.
"I'm very confident that MLB's negotiations will conclude amicably. I think there's a very healthy give-and-take already between management and the players union.''
Lucchino: "It's really at the embryonic stages right now . . . Baseball is now soliciting input from clubs on the expected issues and that's sort of the preliminary stage we're at right now.''
Werner and Lucchino and Yankee GM Brian Cashman saying last week that the
Red Sox were, for now, better than the Yankees.
Werner: "That might just be reverse psychology. They're a tough team. I'm very excited about our season, but you should never take the Yankees lightly.''
Lucchino: "Cashman's a very honest, forthright kind of guy, but he's also not above playing games, too. They're always the favorite, come on -- they're the New York Yankees. They're in the biggest market in the world. We're happy to be those guys they worry about, looking over their shoulder.
"If it were anybody but Cashman, I'd say that might be some gamesmanship. But I think in this case, he was saying something that he believes. I hope he has some respect for us, because we have plenty of it for them.''
Lucchino on the Red Sox "winning the winter'' over the Yankees:
"Yeah, there's some hormonal satisfaction. But it passes pretty quickly once the games start.''
Lucchino on Fenway Park capacity after the final round of ballpark renovations:
"Capacity is going to be up this year, but not much -- roughly a hundred seats but we won't know until we complete the right-field renovation. It will be somewhere around 37,500 for night games. That's seating capacity. Standing room can be anywhere from 500 to 1,500 some nights . . . Sellouts are still going to be somewhere in the 37,000 range.''
Lucchino on the liklihood of the Fenway sellout streak continuing:
"I'm encouraged because there's been a lot of excitement this offseason. I think there's a decent probability that we can sell out much of the season. But a lot of it has to do with the team's performance late in the year. If the team is not in the hunt, that makes a big difference.''
Epstein and Francona on the health reports on Dustin Pedroia:
Epstein: "Pretty good. He went through a period where he was having some pain in a slightly different part of his foot. Doctors determined it was basically a result of having the foot being immobile for so long, which is reassuring. He's healing really well, working out . . . not wearing cleats yet, but we're going to be smart about it in spring training and we don't expect him to be limited when the season starts.''
Francona: "I think from talking to him and the people who are running his rehab, he's going to come through with flying colors. Saying that, we may not let him do the shuttle runs in spring training. We're going to try to take care of our guys. It would be crazy not to.''
Epstein on Daisuke Matsuzaka's offseason training:
"It's not markedly different than past years. I think he might have started throwing a little bit earlier, but in moderation. We're trying to apply the lessons that he and we learned from the previous year, preparing and focusing on certain body parts that ached last year and make sure that he's better prepared this year.''
Epstein on Josh Beckett's winter:
"Very positive. He's been attacking the offseason, working really hard and getting in good shape. He has a personal trainer and the trainer and club trainer Mike Reinold have been in very frequent contact . . . He's raring to go.''
Epstein on the possible ramifications of the Albert Pujols contract negotiations and the impact it might have on extending Adrian Gnozalez's deal.
"Any time one of the best players in the game, probably the consensus best player in the game signs, it's noteworthy. But I don't know how relevant it is. Every negotiation is different. His track record is pretty unique. It's hard for anyone out there to compare himself directly to Albert Pujols. We're watching from afar, but it's not really our concern.''
Epstein on the signings of Johnny Damon and Manny Ramirez by the Tampa Bay Rays:
"With those guys, the demise of the Rays is greatly exaggerated. Even before those moves, we never erased them at all from our radar. I think they're uniquely positioned to lose players and keep their status as one of the best teams in baseball, given the strength of their farm system and the players they have ready to step in . . . They're going to be really tough.''
Francona on David Ortiz's struggles against lefthanded pitching:
"I see his numbers against lefties -- believe me, I do. But for David to be successful, you can't just sit him because I don't know that he would have as much success against righties. I think there probably are times when it will do him and maybe our team good to give him a break against somebody he struggles with.''
Francona on improving Ortiz's tradionally slow starts:
"He actually got a lot of at-bats last spring. He wanted more. He's really good about communicating with me in spring training about his at-bats. There will be games where I ask him, 'Have you had enough?' and he'll say, 'No, I need another one.' He's pretty good about gauging it.
"If I thought he needed more, I'll tell him. No, for whatever reason, the last two years, he's had horrendous starts. Thankfully, he's pulled out of it. There's no getting around it -- last April was awful. We had to fight our way through it. But we did.''
Francona on Beckett's disappointing season:
"Guys are still human. Whether they make a lot of money or no money, sometimes things don't go right. It was hard for him last year. Regardless of who he is, it was a hard year. You can either penalize him or you can try to show confidence in a guy that he's going to bounce back because that's how we're going to be a better team.''
Francona on whether Beckett needs to re-make himself as a pitcher:
"No. I think he tried to last year. He had time to sit last year when he was hurt and he was watching Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz throwing those cutters and all of a sudden, he started doing that. He'd throw one good and kind of fall in love with it, then three bad ones. He's human.''
Francona on Jason Varitek's workload:
"Developing Jarrod Saltalamacchia into a front-line catcher, I don't know that that means catching him every day right out of the chute. 'Tek swings the bat so well right-handed. We'll try to match them up where it makes sense offensively, because I don't think defensively it will matter who's playing.''