Larry Lucchino’s Letter to Red Sox Season Ticket Holders

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If Red Sox fans weren’t overly concerned about their club’s mediocre first half, clear lack of a coherent plan and inability of organizational factions to get on the same page, then the latest news should wake them up with the cold fear of a premonition of an oncoming natural disaster that they can neither avoid nor stop.

Team President/CEO Larry Lucchino sent the following letter to season ticket holders.

Dear Season Ticket Holder:

As we cross the midpoint of our 2012 season, we thank you for your loyal support thus far. We met many of you at our new spring home, JetBlue Park at Fenway South, and renewed more acquaintances as we opened the 100th Anniversary season at Fenway Park.  We sensed that the nostalgia touched you, and we hope to continue to celebrate this special anniversary from time to time throughout the year.

Our play on the field has at times tested the mettle of the faithful.  It could be maddening one day, enthralling the next day.  Along the way, we have seen our bullpen gel, young players emerge, and veterans lead.  We have watched the team coalesce into a close group.  Personalities are enhancing the chemistry, such as the cheerful Cody Ross, the friendly Mike Aviles, and the inspiring story of Daniel Nava.  Jarrod Saltalamacchia has shown power, in the clutch, worthy of an All-Star.  And as the talented Will Middlebrooks forced his way into the lineup, we bade farewell, with gratitude, to Kevin Youkilis, who helped us win two World Championships.

The one constant on the field has been our beloved Big Papi, David Ortiz.  How thrilled we were that our gregarious leader reached the 400-home run plateau in a career that we hope will forever be with the Red Sox.

The one constant off the field is that we have had a veritable All-Star Team on the disabled list.  As we begin the second half, we look forward to the return of the “varsity,” including Jacoby Ellsbury, Carl Crawford, Andrew Bailey, and the ever-dirty Dustin Pedroia.

While this infusion of such talent in late July may make other General Managers green with envy, you can be sure that Ben Cherington and his Baseball Operations Staff will approach the July 31 trading deadline with their tireless work ethic.  If someone can further help this club, and if the deal makes sense, we will be aggressive.  We want to play October Baseball this year.

Meanwhile, as you come to Fenway Park throughout this season, we hope you will come early—the secret to fully enjoying a sports venue.  Now “A Living Museum,” Fenway Park probably leads the league in bronze plaques and commemorative displays along the concourses.  Enjoy them at your leisure early, well before the escalation of excitement as game time approaches.  And as always, if you have reactions, suggestions, or ideas that will make the ballpark experience even better, we invite you to send them to fanfeedback@redsox.com.

By the way, if we’re in your neighborhood for a visit during “Acts of Kindness Month” this month, please come over and say hello.  We enjoy listening to you, and we enjoy talking baseball with you.  We’re your biggest fans.  So, on behalf of John Henry, Tom Werner, our partners, and our entire organization, we thank you again, and we look forward to seeing you at Fenway Park.

Keep the Faith,

Larry Lucchino

I’ll ignore the obvious laughlines like “cheerful Cody Ross,” “friendly Mike Aviles,” and “the return of the ‘varsity’”. What would concern me if I were a Red Sox fan is that Lucchino is sending a letter like this out in the first place and is implying that the Red Sox are going to be “aggressive” at the trading deadline in order to play October baseball this year.

There are times to be aggressive and there are times to hold one’s fire, wait and let things play out without chasing the past—a past that had the Red Sox in legitimate title contention for almost the entire decade of 2000 to 2011. I don’t see this letter as an organizational boss assuaging the concerns of an angry (and somewhat spoiled) fanbase. I see it as the man behind the scenes putting his voice out there in the public and pulling levers to make sure he’s having a significant influence in team construction.

This is a problem that’s been ongoing since the departure of Theo Epstein and will continue until owner John Henry steps in and lets someone—anyone—take charge as he did with Epstein. The letter is not baseball related and coincides with the series of decisions that were made last winter to try and patch over the issues that caused the self-destruction on and off the field of a club that, before the fact, was compared to the 1927 Yankees.

There’s no one in charge and willing to say, “I’m in charge.” Cherington’s certainly not running things because if he was, Bobby Valentine would not be the manager. And that’s not a defense of Cherington’s preferred choices because neither John Farrell nor Dale Sveum are lighting up the world with their baseball brilliance as the respective managers of the Blue Jays and Cubs.

Lucchino wanted Valentine, again, to have a “name” to replace Terry Francona and lay down the law that the lack of discipline that was blamed for the club’s demise last season wouldn’t happen again. Naturally Valentine has butted heads with the veterans and his almost immediate battle with Youkilis greased the skids for Youkilis’s departure from the team. Not that that’s a bad thing. Even though they gave him away, they probably should’ve traded Youkilis over the winter to shake things up before the inevitable happened with Valentine.

Lucchino sending out this letter to keep the season ticket holders happy is indicative of a fanbase that’s gotten so greedy that they’re blind to the reality that they’ve become mirror images of that which they despise more than anything: the Yankees. Do they need to be given assurances that the Red Sox are going to try and win? Wasn’t the breaking of The Curse in 2004 and another championship 3 years later enough to keep them happy for awhile? To maintain loyalty and, even if the team isn’t performing up to expectations and lofty payroll, ensure that the season ticket holders will keep their plans intact due to reciprocal appreciation?

Like him or not, Lucchino helmed the rise of the Red Sox and was a major part of turning Fenway Park into a rebuilt place to be where the tickets were hot rather than an aging and dilapidated relic with players, coaches, managers and front office people who only cared about themselves. If a lean year or two is necessary for the greater good and to prevent the whole thing from crashing to the ground, isn’t it worth it to accept that and say, “We’ll take an 81-81 season if it means we’ll be contending for a title in 2014 or 2015”?

Epstein was a check on Lucchino. Cherington can’t be that same check. Now there’s no one in command and no single voice to put a stop to a lunatic maneuver designed to steal the headlines for a week, perhaps help the club win 2 more games than they would have otherwise and wind up in the exact same position they would’ve been in had they been prudent and held onto whatever assets they surrendered to make that incremental and meaningless “improvement”.

As the head of the organization, Lucchino is addressing fan concerns and trying to please his customers, but the customer isn’t always right and because the fans want the Red Sox to do something drastic doesn’t mean it’s wise. There’s a difference between compromising within reason for the constituency and compromising for expediency and self-immolating in the process. If he’s going to try and make sure his word is proven true and Cherington and the baseball people are forced to do something they don’t want to do, it’s only going to make the current predicament worse. Except now it won’t be short-term, it will be long term, deep and that much harder to dig their way out of.

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Viewer Mail 3.14.2011

Books, Management, Media, Players, Spring Training

Jane Heller at Confessions of a She-Fan writes RE Chuck Greenberg and Cliff Lee:

Seeing Greenberg get the boot from the Rangers made me smile. And btw, he didn’t “fire back” at the Yankees; he was the one who fired the first shot and the Yankees responded, at which point he meekly apologized. As for Lee, I agree that his responses are honest and that his straightforward, no-nonsense attitude is part of what makes him such a great pitcher.

Tying the responses to the Lee/Greenberg comments shows an interesting dichotomy. Jane’s a (mostly) rational fan, but Greenberg’s pokes at the Yankees struck a nerve. I don’t think Greenberg was sorry; he was apologizing because of pressure from MLB itself and, obviously given his ouster, Nolan Ryan.

In the realm of rationality, I doubt most Yankee fans are going to share the grudging admiration for Lee; he’s persona non grata at Yankee Stadium because he refused the Yankees money and isn’t shy about saying why—all the more reason to believe him when he says the spitting incident in the ALCS had nothing to do with anything; clearly he had a list of reasons why he spurned the Yankees that superseded his wife being spit on. And that’s not good.

Joe writes RE the luck/intelligence argument with Johan Santana, the Red Sox, Jacoby Ellsbury and Mike Cameron:

Well “lucky” only has so much to do with it. I don’t know that they knew anything anyway. But it is obvious the risk associated with pitchers on long-term deals. The problem with that, is the Red Sox handed out long, expensive contracts to Lackey and Beckett after that. And the Yankees to CC and Burnett. And Johan at the time, was better than at least 3 of those guys. So their philosophy either changed some, or well, I don’t know.

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I am not sold on Ellsbury offensively or defensively either. But I think he can be a decent player this year. And Cameron offers much more flexibility playing in RF and DH’ing against some lefties. And he can play some center too, of course. Also, he is 37 now. So having him play sometimes, rather than everyday, should benefit him, keeping him healthy and fresh.

Of the names you mention, the only contract comparable to Santana’s is C.C. Sabathia‘s; in fact, the Red Sox got both John Lackey and Josh Beckett for close to what the Mets gave Santana in guaranteed money. Lackey’s contract is nearly identical to that of A.J. Burnett.

I still hold to the argument that neither the Yankees nor the Red Sox wanted Santana. They knew they’d have to surrender Jon Lester/Phil Hughes and then give Santana that contract to keep him. The fears regarding any hindsight-laden “expertise” have conveniently coincided with Santana’s injury.

Regarding Cameron/Ellsbury, the logic is that they have Ryan Kalish, Darnell McDonald, Josh Reddick and Daniel Nava so they can afford to move Cameron.

The same argument holds for keeping Cameron and dealing Ellsbury; in fact, they’d get more in a trade for Ellsbury than they would for Cameron and the reasons are more applicable to those you imply are in favor of keeping Cameron—age and wear; plus Ellsbury costs nearly nothing financially for the foreseeable future.

The Other Mike in The Bleacher Seats writes RE the Marlins:

Do you think the Marlins are contenders? Or are you just saying that they’re ahead of the Mets?

The Marlins are talented but flawed.

Their defense is atrocious and unless they take the reins off Matt Dominguez and shut their eyes, they’re relegated to either using Wes Helms or some configuration of Chris Coghlan, Omar Infante and Emilio Bonifacio at third/second base; using Coghlan would require a panicky shift of positions as they have Coghlan in center field—a position he’s never played as a professional.

I’m not a fan of the drastic bullpen alterations they’ve made.

The rotation is young a supremely talented; the lineup will score.

But do you see the mismatched puzzle pieces of the Marlins?

They have a starting rotation that, for the most part, gives up an even number of hit balls to the outfield and infield and a terrible outfield defense; they have a lineup of mashers and an inexperienced manager—Edwin Rodriguez—on a 1-year contract who, in his brief time last season, preferred small ball to going for the big inning.

It doesn’t fit.

They are contenders for the Wild Card at least, but it all has to go right. For everything to go right, there has to be continuity from the front office to the manager to the rest of the roster.

It’s not there.

Given their looming questions and the new ballpark set to open next year, I still believe that Bobby Valentine will be managing the Marlins at some point, but by the time that happens they’ll too far out of first place to be factors in the division race.

As for the Wild Card? They can hang around and hope for a hot streak to swipe it.

But I don’t see it.

And yes, the Marlins are better than the Mets.

The above bit about the Marlins is what you can expect (albeit in greater detail) based on stats and rational/deep-strike analysis from my book.

Paul Lebowitz’s 2011 Baseball Guide is available now. Click here to get it in paperback or E-Book on I-Universe or on Amazon or BN.


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