Sports Sportsin partnership with NESN your connection to The Boston Globe

Situation no comedy

Werner recognizes need to address Garciaparra issue

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Turning rough ideas into television goldmines like "The Cosby Show" and "Roseanne" taught Red Sox chairman Tom Werner a few things about dealing with stars. And if the Sox hope to fulfill their professed mission to make Nomar Garciaparra "a cradle-to-grave" member of the organization, they may need Werner to tap all his expertise.

A day after Garciaparra bluntly reminded the Sox brass he has not forgotten the mistreatment he believes he endured in the team's quest for Alex Rodriguez, Werner yesterday indicated he recognizes the challenge the team faces in trying to retain the potential Hall of Famer.

"One of the reasons I've been hopefully somewhat successful in the entertainment industry is that I have enormous respect for talent, and I hope I'm pretty good at picking it out," Werner said as rain forced the first full-squad workout of spring training indoors. "Nomar Garciaparra is enormously talented and I'm sensitive to what he said. I believe we'll continue to talk to him directly and hopefully this will pass quickly."

But since it may not, the Sox are prepared to relax their policy against negotiating with prospective free agents during the season, according to team president and CEO Larry Lucchino. Garciaparra ranks with Pedro Martinez, Derek Lowe, and Jason Varitek as the team's most prominent potential free agents.

"Most of the experience I've had in recent years, we've tried to live with that policy during the season," Lucchino said after arriving in camp with Werner. "But it's a policy we set, so hopefully it's a policy we can adjust."

All four core players have said they have seen little progress in reaching agreements on multiyear contract extensions, though Sox officials expect the talks to heat up in the coming weeks. Still, general manager Theo Epstein has made clear the team cannot afford to re-sign all four franchise players.

The Sox' payroll for this season already has exceeded $125 million, Werner said, surpassing the luxury tax threshold of $120.5 million. And Werner said the players might need to make some market concessions to remain in Boston.

"We hope we can sign most of them," he said. "We also hope we have the benefit of a hometown discount. We're also aware that some of these players are going to want to play out the year. If they play out the year, we still think we'll have a very good chance to sign them at the end of the year. Just because we don't sign them in March doesn't mean that they won't be playing for the Red Sox."

Asked if he believed it would be difficult to strike a deal with Garciaparra involving a hometown discount after the offseason controversy, Werner said, "No, I actually think Nomar wants to play for the Red Sox, so I hope we can get to a deal that is fair to both sides."

While Garciaparra said he wants to focus on baseball rather than business, he hardly seemed eager to accept such a discount Tuesday as he aired his grievances. He made the comments after Werner spent considerable time in recent weeks trying to make peace with the All-Star shorstop.

"I think his feelings were hurt," Werner said. "In some ways, I'm completely understanding of that. I also feel like we've explained to him the process, and I believe he's going to put it behind him. If he hasn't put it behind him by yesterday, he'll certainly put it behind him by the time we play baseball."

Amid reports that the Sox privately are prepared to let Garciaparra go after the season, Lucchino stood by his pledge to try to re-sign him.

"We respect Nomar," Lucchino said. "We've explained to him our regrets over some of the things that happened in the offseason and we'd like him to be a cradle-to-grave member of the Boston Red Sox."

Lucchino and Werner also briefly met behind closed doors with Manny Ramirez to address any concerns the slugger may harbor about the team trying to trade him for Rodriguez. Ramirez declined to speak with reporters, and Werner spoke only generally about the session.

"I'm sure he didn't like to read in the papers over the offseason that he was part of the Rodriguez trade, but this is a business that these people are playing," Werner said. "Once that trade died, I think he moved on."

In other news, Lucchino and Werner met with Janet Marie Smith, vice president for planning and development, to discuss whether to continue long-term renovations of Fenway Park or build a new stadium. Werner is eager to resolve the issue.

"I think we have to make [the decision] in the near future," he said. "I don't think we want to continue to make minor improvements. At some point, we have to say, we're going to stay here under this scenario or we're not going to stay here."

Lucchino said Werner has "his personal foot on the accelerator" to make a decision, though none appeared imminent. Principal owner John W. Henry is expected to wield the most influence in the matter.

Lucchino and Werner also generally sidestepped questions about Henry's recent tiff with Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, which prompted an informal gag order from commissioner Bud Selig.

"I do think it's time to shut up," Werner said, "even if the commissioner didn't ask us to."

Still, Werner has not lost his sense of humor. He joked that the rivalry could develop into a television series.

"Lately, we've gotten enough fodder for a few episodes," he said. "I'm taking notes."

Asked what dramatic form he envisioned, Werner said, "Pretty much a comedy."

red sox extras
Today (free)
Yesterday (free)
Past 30 days
Last 12 months
 Advanced search / Historic Archives