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Lucchino: Sox a 'different animal' than Yankees

Posted by Peter Abraham, Globe Staff  February 21, 2014 02:56 PM

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FORT MYERS, Fla. — Team president Larry Lucchino said it's "Camp Good Vibrations" for the Red Sox so far.

"There's a very good vibe emanating from the place. We hope that continues throughout the season."

Lucchino then answered assorted questions for 20 minutes. Here are some highlights:

On David Ortiz's extension request: "We are obviously not going to talk about the negotiations in any public way. But we did have a chance to see David yesterday and have a conversation with him. Other than that, we're going to give it the priority that it deserves."

Lucchino said the Red Sox want Ortiz to end his career with the organization. "I know it's a great thing for us and I think it's a great thing for David," Lucchino said. "He feels connected, he's committed. He's certainly one of the most important faces in baseball as well as the franchise. We're eager to resolve something if it can be done."

Lucchino said it's "not impossible" Ortiz could play for another team.

"My mind is facile enough to envision something like that. But do I anticipate it happening? No," he said.

On the Red Sox potentially starting Xander Bogaerts, Jackie Bradley Jr. and Will Middlebrooks: "I like the idea. I really look forward to it. We've been saying for a long time particularly in recent years, that this is a game for young players. You can't make it a game for young players unless they play. I think historically we've had a more conservative view towards player development.

"The idea of having young players playing such pivotal roles and watching their careers develop and escalate and watching them perform at higher and better levels is one of the most interesting dynamics in the game."

On the contrast between the Red Sox and Yankees: "We're very different animals. I'm proud of that difference. I always cringe when people lump us together. Other baseball teams sometime do that. They are still, this year at least, relying heavily on their inimitable old-fashioned Yankee style of high-priced, long-term free agents. I can't say I wish them well. But I think we've taken a different approach.

"If you compare what we did last year in the offseason to what they've done this year, there's quite a contrast there. I'll quickly say we do keep open the prospect of signing a long-term deal with a free agent, paying a sizable amount of money to attract a star in his prime. We haven't ruled that out. There's just a rebuttable presumption against doing that. But you can rebut it. The circumstances can allow for you to go ahead and do it. The Yankees do it more often it seems to me as a matter of course."

Yankees president Randy Levine, of course, immediately fired back at Lucchino.

“I feel bad for Larry; he constantly sees ghosts and is spooked by the Yankees,” Levine told the New York Daily News. “But I can understand why, because under his and Bobby Valentine’s plan two years ago, the Red Sox were in last place. Ben Cherington and the Red Sox did a great job last year winning the World Series, but I’m confident Cash and Joe and our players will compete with a great Red Sox team to win a world championship this year.”

Why didn't Jacoby Ellsbury fit that standard? "Well, within reason. There are exceptions but the proposal they made to him was obviously very appealing to him. Sometimes you have to say good-bye to people you would like to keep here because the appeal of the economics are so great."

On Jon Lester wanting to extend his contract: "Certainly, for me, one of the highlights of the offseason were the comments Jon made about the organization, wanting to stay here. He was so forthright and blunt about it. No game-playing or whatever. It was really nice to hear when you're in our position. We will explore that matter as well during spring training."

On commissioner Bud Selig planning to retire after the season and whether he would seek the job: "I challenge the premise the commissioner is retiring at the end of this year. ... It's a fantastic position for people who love baseball. Any baseball executive would probably enjoy it. But I really love where I am and what I'm doing right now. I love being in Boston. I love the New England life and lifestyle. I don't want to go anywhere else. I don't feel I'd be anybody first's choice anyway."

Lucchino said it's too soon to name a leading candidate other than to say he would not restrict the pool to only people already in the game.

"I teased the commissioner yesterday about his departure date. It's kind of an open secret, he knows that some of us believe the pressure for him to stay will be so great that he will have to accede to them."

Lucchino later echoed the words of principal owner John Henry that Fenway Park has at least 30 years left and that any plan for a new ballpark would come after his tenure with the club.

"It's off my table," he said.

On the slow pace of games: "I think that's kind of — and I don't want to be overly dramatic here — but kind of a dagger pointed at the heart of baseball and we can't afford to avert our eyes from it."

Lucchino said the commissioner's office has asked some teams, including the Red Sox, to come up with ideas about how best to increase the pace of play. He mentioned enforcing the rule-book definition of the strike zone as one method. Or shortening commercial breaks.

"The game is a beautiful game. The randomness, the dailiness, the unpredictability of it makes it such a great game. It's history makes it a great game. But that doesn't mean we couldn't change a few rules here and there every once in a while without it being such a dangerous road to hoe."

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