Red Sox team president and CEO Larry Lucchino weighed in on the state of the team on WEEI’s Dennis and Callahan show Thursday morning. Alfredo Aceves, the team’s sellout streak, and the future of the Red Sox ownership group were hot topics of conversation.
Lucchino said he didn’t think the team would raise ticket prices next season.
“My sense is that there’s not a lot of compelling reasons to increase ticket prices,” he said. “I think you’ll see some changes in terms of an approach to ticket selling for next year.”
Lucchino took exception to the notion that Red Sox fans are tired of the team keeping the sellout streak alive.
“I haven’t heard a single fan or received a single e-mail or gotten a single letter where that happens,” said Lucchino. He went on to defend the streak. “The Boston Globe has taken a very different definition. We’re battling definitions. Their definition is a literal one, and that every possible seat must be sold. And the operating definition that was here for years and years and was here long before we got here, and it’s in place for most Major League baseball teams, although there are some variations, but most baseball teams define a sellout as when you have more people in the ballpark, because you’ve sold more tickets and distributed more tickets than there are seats.
“It has been a source of pride. We thought for our fans as well as for the organization. It is what it is. When it ends—and it will end—I doubt this year, because we sold so many tickets in September. We’ve averaged 37,600 people, somewhere around there. That’s an average for every game this year. You can quibble about definitions, ‘Is this a sellout? Is that a sellout?’ But that’s an extraordinarily consistent record. You can quibble that there are some seats behind the post that didn’t get sold. Yeah, well there are several people in standing room instead. “
Things haven’t been cut and dry for the Red Sox on the field, either. Aceves showed up manager Bobby Valentine Wednesday night when he refused to give the ball to Valentine when the manager removed him from the game. Aceves was suspended by the team for three games for an incident earlier this season. When asked if Aceves’s behavior has concerned him, Lucchino replied, “Yes.” When asked why the Red Sox haven’t traded or released Aceves, Lucchino gave a longer answer.
“We are doing things that teams do when we’re they’re out of contention,” said Lucchino. “We had something like four rookies in the lineup the other night. We are watching the development of Lavarnway and Iglesias and Ciriaco. And we are trying to make other moves. Just because we haven’t succeeded in trading a player you think should be traded doesn’t mean there isn’t a full-throated effort afoot to try and find a trading partner to move some of these players.”
The Red Sox had a payroll around $190 million to start this season. After trading Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, and Josh Beckett, Lucchino said that probably wouldn’t be the case next year.
“No, I don’t think it will be,” said Lucchino. “We are very reluctant to discuss payroll numbers prospectively unless we tell the world, including the other competitive teams, where our payroll is going to be, I don’t see any reason to tell them what our activities are likely to include.”
Asked who was to blame for the Red Sox being 19 games behind the Orioles in the wild card race, Lucchino said he wouldn’t air the team’s dirty laundry on the radio. He blamed poor pitching and injuries as part of the problem, but wouldn’t get into the specifics.
On Valentine’s future, Lucchino said, “I understand the obligatory nature of your inquiry about the manager issue, but it’s getting, it’s a little tedious for you guys to keep asking about it because I tend to say the same thing about it. I’ve said all I’m going to say on this issue. We’ll deal with it at the end of the season when we sit down and review the season, and we’ll figure out where we go from there.”
There has been speculation that the ownership group of Lucchino, John Henry, and Tom Werner might be interested in selling the team soon. Lucchino said that wasn’t true.
“Oh nonsense,” he said. “They feel the same kind of competitive juices that I feel, that our fans feel, to put this team back on the track it was on for a decade. For better or worse, we are the guys that you’re going to have to kick around for awhile.”
On his own future, Lucchino said, “I love it here. I love Boston. This is the place I call home. I hope to be here for the foreseeable future. I’ve got no plans to go anywhere else. I enjoy my working relationships with my partners and my colleagues, and the challenge facing us here is a tremendous one. It’s in some ways—this may sound perverse—but it’s very appealing. There’s a fundamental challenge to us, a real opportunity. to get this franchise back where it should be.”