Players thank Red Sox ownership for offseason moves

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Players thank Red Sox ownership for offseason moves

By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Ordinarily, when management and ownership address the Red Sox players prior to the first full squad workout, it's an upbeat affair.

Optimism reigns and the season is full of possibilities. But Saturday morning, at the Red Sox' Player Development Complex, it was a virtual love-in. Players gave principal owner John Henry, chairman Tom Werner and president Larry Lucchino a standing ovation, in an apparent thanks for the moves made and the money spent this offseason.

In all, it was a morning of high hopes and good feeling all around.

"We're tremendously excited,'' said Werner.

"There's very definitely a sense of confidence, a sense of optimism,'' echoed Lucchino. "You feel it when you first walk into camp and talk to individual players. The meeting today had that kind of feel to it today. But everyone knows that hope springs eternal every spring. We've got to make sure we're healthy and that the good luck and randomness in the game work in our favor as well.

"But there's an atmosphere here that is extremely positive, confident and upbeat that's very encouraging.''

Other items of interest:

Lucchino said the the Red Sox paid about 85 million into the MLB central fund in revenue sharing last year, a figure topped only by the Yankees. That figure doesn't include another 1.3 million in luxury tax assessments for going over the payroll threshold.

With the final round of renovations of Fenway Park nearing completition, the Sox have invested about 285 million over the last 10 years.

Lucchino said structural engineers told him that Fenway, which celebrates its 100th anniversary next season, can last another 40-50 years.

"That's the life expectancy,'' said Lucchino. "Whether somebody chooses in 10 years time to make a change would be up to a different ownership.''

Disputing the commonly-held belief that the Sox are the clear favorites to win the American League East, Henry said: "I don't see us as the clear favorites. I see the teams fairly evenly matched. We've got our work cut out for us if we hope to win our division.''

"I feel the same way,'' said Lucchino. "This is just not a mano-a-mano, two-team match. We've got other teams that are building solid teams and making substantial commitments. So the American League East will still be the rough and tuble American League East -- make no mistake about that.''

"We're confident,'' added Werner, "but the Yankees are every bit as strong as they always are.''

Asked about the future of general manager Theo Epstein, John Henry said: "We haven't had any substantive conversations recently. I always ask him how he's doing. Things are going extremely well from his vantage point and our vantage point.

"I really don't know when his contract is up. So we haven't discussed contracts. But the important thing is that we're all extremely happy working with Theo.''

Werner said the Red Sox might look into bringing Liverpool to Fenway for a friendly match and would be receptive to having the Red Sox play in an international venue.

But ownership went to great pains again to point out that the club's various investments -- NASCAR, Liverpool soccer -- are separate.

"They're all stand-alone entities that have their own management,'' said Werner. "We have a firewall between them so that's clear.''

Lucchino said the Sox have enough financial flexibility to add payroll if the need arises during the season.

"We always save some amount of money, to be determined each year,'' said Lucchino. "We will certainly look to make improvements if the team is in the hunt and there's a specific need and a specific opportunity. I think that's part of an obligation of ownership.

Commissioner Bud Selig's contract is up in November 2012 and he has said he intends to retire. Occasionally, Lucchino's name surfaces as a possible candidate for the position.

"Speculation -- the little bit of it that's been -- is flattering,'' he said. "I'm really very content where I am. If you're a baseball executive, this is the best place to be. I love Boston, New England. My family loves it. It seems like the rest of my career was sort of building up so that this could be the final stage of it.

"That's not something I spend any time thinking about. First of all, I don't know that the other clubs will feel a commissioner change is desirable. It's flattering, but it's not realistic.''

Sean McAdam can be reached at smcadam@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Sean on Twitter at http:twitter.comsean_mcadam

White Sox suspend Chris Sale over uniform flap

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White Sox suspend Chris Sale over uniform flap

CHICAGO - The Chicago White Sox were set to wear throwback uniforms. Chris Sale had other ideas.

The White Sox suspended their ace five days without pay for destroying collared throwback uniforms the team was scheduled to wear.

The team announced the punishment on Sunday after Sale was scratched from his scheduled start and sent home the previous night.

The suspension comes to $250,000 of his $9.15 million salary. He was also fined about $12,700 - the cost of the destroyed jerseys - according to a person familiar with the penalty. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because no statements were authorized.

"Obviously we're all extremely disappointed that we have to deal with this issue at this time both from the standpoint of the club as well as Chris' perspective," general manager Rick Hahn said. "It's unfortunate that it has become this level of an issue and potential distraction taking away from what we're trying to accomplish on the field."

Sale was not expected at the ballpark on Sunday. He is eligible to return Thursday against the crosstown Cubs at Wrigley Field, though Hahn would not say if the left-hander would start that game.

The Major League Baseball Players Association declined comment, spokesman Greg Bouris said. Sale could ask the union to file a grievance.

FanRag Sports first reported Sale was protesting the 1976-style jerseys, which were navy and sported unusual collars on a hot and humid night.

Sale then cut up an unknown number of jerseys before the game and was told to leave the stadium. With not enough usable 1976 jerseys available, the White Sox wore white throwback uniforms from the 1983 season.

The incident comes with the White Sox in a tailspin after a 23-10 start and Sale's name circulating in trade rumors.

"The actions or behaviors of the last 24 hours does not change in any aspect, any respect, our belief that Chris Sale can help this club win a championship and win multiple championships," Hahn said. "It does not move the needle one iota in terms of his value to this club, his value to any other club that may be interested in his services or the likelihood of him being moved or kept whatsoever. None of that stuff is impacted at all by these events."

The incident does raise some questions in general about throwback uniforms, how players feel about them and whether they should be forced to wear jerseys that aren't comfortable - particularly starting pitchers.

"If I'm playing with Chris Sale I want him to pitch," Colorado Rockies outfielder Carlos Gonzalez said. "If he wants to play with no shirt, we play with no shirt. I just want him to pitch."

New York Yankees pitcher Chasen Shreve said: "Pitchers like their stuff. Me, it doesn't bother me, but for him, obviously it does. It's crazy. I don't think I'm that bad."

White Sox pitcher James Shields wouldn't comment on whether players should be made to wear throwback jerseys. But he did say: "I don't really mind the throwbacks. I haven't had any issues with that."

Manager Robin Ventura said players occasionally wearing uniforms they don't like comes with the job.

"But you wear it," he said. "If you want to rip it after, you can rip it up after. I've seen guys rip it up after."

Hahn said throwback uniforms the White Sox wore last season were a bit baggy so the team took measurements in spring training so they would fit the players better. He also mentioned the money the uniforms generate.

"Part of the element of being in position to win a championship is the revenue side of the operation and respect for their reasonable requests to increase revenue," Hahn said.

This wasn't the first flare-up involving the 27-year-old Sale, who is known for his competitive streak and strict training regimen.

He was openly critical of team executive Ken Williams during spring training when he said Drake LaRoche, the son of teammate Adam LaRoche, would no longer be allowed in the clubhouse. Adam LaRoche retired as a result, and Sale hung the LaRoches' jerseys in his locker.

He was also suspended five games by Major League Baseball last season for his role in a brawl at Kansas City that started with a flare-up between teammate Adam Eaton and the Royals' Yordano Ventura. Sale went to the Royals clubhouse after he got tossed and was seen pounding on the door.

Hahn said the punishment was unrelated to previous incidents. He also said the two had a "very candid" meeting in his office with Sale after the pitcher had some exchanges with staff members in the clubhouse and that both "expressed remorse." They spoke again on Sunday.

"At that point last night Chris stood by his actions," Hahn said. "Part of what makes Chris great, part of what makes him elite, is his passion and commitment. We've seen that sometimes spill out from between the white lines. Yesterday was one of those instances and it unfortunately led to events that required discipline."