Kicks off the Season Ticket, Sean Topic.
Larry Lucchino (LL) on Sports Radio 850AM WEEI with John Dennis (JD) and
Gerry Callahan (GC):
JD: Sox unveiled new plans, Monster seats, 87 new seats behind home,
extended scoreboard, pitchers charts, etc. Larry Lucchino joins us, what
did the Gallop polls say overnight about the changes?
LL: Didn't see a Gallop poll, but did see fairly positive reviews in the
newspaper today (of new seat plans). I was planning on talking to you.
Baseball season kicks off after the Superbowl. Press briefing was
coincidental but generated an enormous amount of interest. People care.
JD: Revenue streams and more dollars to compete. Of all the new things, a
bunch of ideas must be too outrageous, e.g. Naked Fan of the Night where
you said no, no, not going there?
LL: Well, let's see, first a much larger section of seats behind the Wall
was suggested at one point, wanted relatively modest. Scoreboard in
Centerfield, too much.
JD: Naming rights of Monster itself been explored. No, not yet.
LL: Yes signage has been considered, plenty of pictures from the old days.
History is complete with signs of different local companies. Some signage
this year with National League scoreboard added back for first time in 27
years. When I said, we're not embarrassed to be pursuing additional
revenue streams, that is part of our job. You need revenue not just for
major league payroll but you need it for a lot of other things. We have a
much bigger budget for the signing of draft picks this year, larger by
several million dollars. You get revenue for scouting and player
development as well by the revenue you can generate at the ballpark.
JD: Speaking of ideas floated, what has there been discussion of variable
ticket pricing, e.g. pay more for Yankee game, less for Tampa game?
LL: There has been discussion of that. Number of clubs trying that this
year. Thought about it, fact of life in many ballparks. Something
illogical of Tampa Bay game on Tuesday versus a Yankee game on Saturday
JD: Yankees would have to go up, while Tampa Bay night go down a little
LL: If a change took place that would be likely one. We are aware that our
prices are high, we don't have as many cheap seats. We have some, lowered
price in bleacher section to $10 this year. Adding surcharge didn't seem
appropriate thing to do.
JD: Studies done on optimum number of seats. If you build 45-48,000 might
not sell out.
LL: Have to study your market. Market here would support a lot more than
33 and change. 45-48 is another question.
GC: When you first got into this Larry, when you first joined forces with
Werner and Henry, you thought a new ballpark was going to be part of the
deal didn't you?
LL: No, I didn't, and that's called a leading question Mr. Callahan. We
did not think a new ballpark, there was talk of a new ballpark. Ask
O'Donnell group, they were inclined toward a new ballpark, and we were
inclined toward renovation.
GC: Must admit, you thought people just loved Fenway, wouldn't let it go.
In fact, you've learned since you've gotten here though that there's not
quite that much affection for the old ballyard?
LL: Boy does he lead the witness, it's unbelievable...the fact is I have
not... the first part had a semblence of truth to it. That Fenway was held
in high esteem universally, but is in a majority. I ask question in places
I go. More than slight edge for renovation of Fenway. Yesterday gave a
talk and it was 50/50.
GC: But how many of them go to games. People who don't go to games always
want renovation. People who go to games regularily and stuff themselves
LL: Aha, Callahan, the rare valid point, I do agree with you there. The
fact that people who go to the games most often, particularly the media,
they do have a different perspective on it. They know how great new
ballparks can be and they are not among the most fervid supporters of
GC: How can we get seats on the Wall, do you have to be a close personal
friend of George Mitchell to even get a sniff of one of those seats?
LL: Selling those on a group basis. You can call in now. Group of 20 or
more get deduction. About 75 on an individual tickets per game available
JD: Will there be another net behind the seats?
LL: Plans now do not, some of us are suggesting we put some kind of
JD: Can you make sure someone is in charge of telling Manny these seats
are up there so he won't be frightened on the first inning of opening day?
LL: Yeah, we'll take a picture and show it to him in spring training.
GC: He's still trying to figure out the voices come out of the Wall,
"there's people in there?"
LL: By the way the National scoreboard is coming out, many people desired
that information, and the Fleet boards in left center field. Pitching
data, and hitting data.
GC: Sean McDonough is widely regarded as one of the best play-by-play guys
around, certainly has a great reputation in this town, and part of that is
based on his candor and his strong opinions. Is he a little bit too candid
and opinionated for you?
LL: Uhh... pffftt... well that's a tender topic these days because Sean
has been fairly critical in the last few weeks, but this is obviously a
difficult time in his life, so I'd rather reserve on any comments except
to acknowledge that he has been highly critical of the club in ways that I
think are inaccurate. I mean to suggest that somehow the ownership of this
club cannot afford this club is just wrong. It's just flat-out wrong. And
some of the other comments he's made I disagree with, but he does have a
point of view, make no mistake about that.
GC: Philosophically, are you opposed to your play-by-play guy having a
point of view and not being a team guy?
LL: Well that is a difficult topic. I don't think that philosophically one
can take that position. I think the credibility of the play-by-play guy is
important, and he's gotta have positions on what happens on the field, the
performance of players... he's got to be free to make those comments as he
sees them, call 'em as he sees them. But when it comes to other political
issues, that he may not have full information on, I think one's got to be
a little more circumspect.
JD: Did the criticism of the deep pockets or as he describes it a lack
thereof, bother you more, or the fact that he's taking Theo to task about
not trading Fossum and getting Bartolo?
LL: No, the second area is fair game for most journalists, and Sean is
sometimes a journalist and sometimes a play-by-play employee for the club,
he has an ambiguous role, but I would say, the things that he knows least
about, the ownership financial situation, the politics of the acquisition
of the team and whether another group was better financed, most of those
things are just wrong.
GC: So you're still in Boston, you haven't taken the job in Washington
yet? LL: Now there's an example... GC: Or are you in La Jolla?
LL: I live in Boston. I love living in Boston. I've got two kids going to
school in Boston. The notion that I'm running this by remote control from
La Jolla is just preposterous and going to Washington. When that rumor
surfaced. We sent out a quick response saying I hadn't spoken to anyone in
Washington, no one's trying to get me to go, I'd rather be in Boston. So
there's no story there. The denial issued prior to the publication never
JD: Larry, pitchers and catchers report couple of weeks, what keeps you up
LL: I would say, one is health problem. This team is better than the team
that went to spring training last year, the coaching staff is better, the
manager is obviously more certain. I think we've got a better revamped
bullpen. I think we've got a deeper, more reliable bench. So there are a
lot of good things that I see. But I certainly go to sleep with visions of
Kevin Millar dancing through my head. I certainly worry about the
contractual situation long term with Pedro and Nomar, but those are a
couple of the issues that are on our mind. We hope to keep Pedro and Nomar
in Boston and keep them happy and productive for as long as we can.
JD: How about a mid-term grade for Theo Epstein, last six weeks.
LL: Obviously I have a bias. I was part of the selection. He's shown a
definite philosophy, a point of view with respect to OBP and the power
players that he's acquired. Suffused the organization with an overall
philosophy. The minor league coaches and instructors that have come in and
the effort to put everybody on the same song sheet. He's been honest and
available to the press. And he's stuck to his guns in negotiations. I give
him very high grades, and I think the public does as well.
GC: Are you comfortable with the Bill James philosophy? Have you always
been a numbers, a rotisserie, a stats guy? Or did you have to learn that
and wade into those waters?
LL: I think the latter is true Gerry. I had to come to it slowly over
time. I became president of the Orioles in '88. One of the first things I
did was hire one of those statistical geeks, we got him an office. I was
open to the idea that there were different ways to look at baseball. More
susceptible to it. I have great respect for the traditional point of view
but I believe there are different ways to analyze it. Over the course of
many years, conversations with Sandy Alderson and others who shared a
curiosity about the effectiveness of the statistical approach to the game,
I became more and more of an advocate. Every year I've been president,
I've had someone in the organization who's a sabermatrician. It's really
John Henry's idea in the off season to hire Bill James himself. I came to
it slowly over time.
JD: As the fruits of James labor may relate to the Red Sox this year, the
closer by committee thing. If it works, doesn't mean it's correct. If it
fails, doesn't mean it's wrong.
LL: I would agree with that. You have to have a sufficient N, a sufficient
number of events to reach a conclusion in one season with a certain cast
of characters doesn't mean that the approach will work or won't work. One
season not enough to reach lasting conclusion.
GC: Steve Buckley on Tony C. retired number...
LL: It's not that easy Callahan. We did meet on Monday for a long and
spirited debate. We learned a lot. One of the positive things is we took a
look at the policy where there was some rigidity there and we may not feel
that we need to be guided by. We're spending a lot of time talking about.
Meeting with some baseball people, some politicians spoke about it. How do
you guys feel?
GC: I say you do it right after you retire Johnny Pesky's number.
LL: There's the issue. Once you do one, there's two or three others whose
names come to mind very quickly.
JD: Not high on my radar screen to be honest, don't lose sleep over it.
Just want Buckley off our backs. Larry could you give the cliffnotes
version of the ripple effect of the season ticket holder's being able to
purchase additional seats?
LL: I think the issue was blown out of proportion by the media. Last year
there were 700,000 tickets put out for sale on individual game basis. This
year 800,000 tickets, new seats, manage process better, tickets put out
earlier... Season ticket holders, in an experiment to give them some
benefits of being season ticket holders, may take 50 or 60,000 of those
tickets so as a net-net matter they'll be more tickets available. But this
is an experiment, we'll see if it induces some people to become season
ticket holders. And if it causes terrible problems, we'll change it in
JD: Jan from Wellesley email - Michael Weiner lawyer for Player's
Association filed a request for management documents about negotiations
with Free Agents during this off season, supposedly this move could be a
prelude to a possible collusion grievance. So what comes next Larry, and
do you think MLB's independent arbitrators will find that team owners have
violated the anti-collusion provision? (GC: Oh God)
LL: Oh God is my reaction too, you and I are on the same page... GC:
Collusion's a good thing, we want you to collude, just do it secretly this
time... haven't you learned anything? JD: Black operations...
LL: It's certainly not collusion that's resulted in a change in the
marketplace, we've got a whole host of issues and factors -- a new CBA,
considerable downturn in the economy, clubs losing money acting like it.
Tempest in a teapot, nothing to this but they have the right to kick the
tires and explore the issue.
GC: I don't think Jeff Loria got the message on the Pudge Rodriguez
LL: Yeah I was shocked by that one too, said "it was one year!"... heading
down the 14th, 15th, 16th weekend (spring training).
GC: That's a long trip from La Jolla.
LL: I live in Boston!
Lucchino called back D&C to go into greater detail on the season ticket
take; same sell as Dee here