9.26.02: Larry Lucchino (LL) from Thursday's 'Executive Report' on WEEI's Dennis
and Callahan Show with John Dennis (JD) and Gerry Callahan (GC):
JD: Today is the morning after as they say, playoff hopes
dashed. What's first on your things to do the day after your
out of the playoffs list.
LL: Get through this interview.
I was actually hoping we could stay in it until the end of the
year, for all the fun that would come from that and the whiff of
hope that had been generated the last several days. On a
personal note I was hoping to be here on the last Thursday with
the team still in the hunt, making a last dash for it. It
would have been fun talking to you guys about the probabilities.
That ended last night and it's time to start planning for next
year, the first item of business for us will be the selection of
a permanent General Manager.
GC: What's the timetable on that
Larry and does Mike Port have a shot?
LL: Well Mike Port is definitely a
candidate for the position, we've talked to him about it and he
would like to have the job on a permanent basis. But we
said in March when we hired Mike for this that we would defer
further consideration of the permanent GM position until after
the season and that's still our schedule, we're going to wait
until our season ends and begin an interview process. MLB
requires us to have a fairly broad, extensive search and we
intend to comply with that process.
GC: Larry, did Doug Melvin call you
and say 'I've got his opportunity in Milwaukee, what are my
chances in Boston?' before he accepted the job which he
apparently accepted yesterday.
LL: Yes he did, he accepted last
night he accepted. He did not but we had had previous
conversations when he came on as a consultant that his ultimate
goal was to return as a GM and we understood that as a condition
of his coming on as a consultant... a bird in the hand was worth
two in the bush was always the understanding between. While he
did not call I certainly intend to call him today and
congratulate him, he's earned another chance at this role with
the Brewers, I think he's going to be a very good fit there...
GC: And maybe someday he'll get back
to the big leagues?
LL: Haa, now, now that's not fair...
(GC: they're one game ahead of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays) Well
they've got a pretty good tradition there, and a pretty good new
ballpark, and a hunger to get back to where they once were after
about 8 or 10 years of finishing with a losing record, it's a
great opportunity for Doug and I intend to call him and
congratulate him and make sure he gives us that last report he
JD: Larry to your way of thinking and
in your world, how much clout and cache does a new GM have in
hiring a 'his own manager'?
LL: I think that's the appropriate
chain of command for a baseball organization. The manager
reports to GM and there is a need for a real compatibility
between them, that's not to say that they shouldn't disagree
from time to time as I think they inevitably will, but I do
think that is the normal course of events but this is not a
conventional circumstance, we came in a halfway point in the
real baseball year, an October to October calendar, so we're not
going to have a situation that is conventional in that regard so
while I do think that's the conventional approach, that's not
the circumstance here necessarily. We have a manager who's in
the middle of a two-year contract.
GC: Do you know who the candidates
are or will be Larry and I'm wondering are any of the candidates
currently employed as general managers of other teams?
LL: Boy that gets pretty close to
tampering line Gerry, can't name names, I can't identify them...
what we are going to do is send the message out at the end of
the season that we are engaged in the process that the
Commissioner requires of us, a broad effort to hire the best
person for this position, and we'll see what names surface too,
we have some people in mind but we can't necessarily talk to
them, we can't talk to them at all in fact while they are
employed by other organizations in whatever capacity.
GC: Alright, here's question, how
about next week at this time, will they still be busy with the
playoffs, those candidates, or will their seasons be over?
LL: Ha, ha, ha, you're getting close
to the line here. I'm going to talk about that Gerry, that
starts to narrow it down to one or two people who are easily
identifiable, that gets too close to the line. I will say that
we are going to look at people with major league experience
currently or previously, but we're also going to look at people
who don't have major league general manager experience as well.
We have no parameters, no limitations on the search.
JD: Would you be inclined or
disinclined to say 'no, no, no we're going to keep Grady in the
final year of his contract if a new guy comes in and says "I
really feel strongly that I need manager X running the team this
LL: It'd be a... it'd be a incumbent
upon the General Manager to make one hell of a showing for us to
uh... deviate from the contractual arrangement we have.
GC: Let's just say you might win 95
games, 92-93, and finish ten games out. Is it a good year
in your mind Larry. Was your first season here a
LL: I believe it was. You guys have
to reach your own conclusions and our fans have to reach their
own conclusions. I think that if you take a broad view of
the season, I think we're pointed in the right direction in a
lot of different areas, we made improvements in a lot of areas.
I think that... I know that a lot of Red Sox fans, despite
winning 93-94-95 games feel a sense of disappointment at not
playing in October. I'm a Red Sox fan as well, I feel a sense of
disappointment about that too, but I do think we need to focus
on a lot of the positive things that came out of this season.
And remember this is a year for us that began in March, for the
new organization. It began in March, which is about six months
into the baseball calendar year as we define it, so I think that
there are a lot of positive developments this year both on and
off the field.
JD: Larry, if you were able to waive
your Lucchino magic wand and could fix just one thing that went
wrong this year, would it be, and you can only pick one, would
it be the disappearance of Rich Garces? The Manny injury? The
inability to get it done in one run or extra inning games? Or
the total lack of production at first base? Which one
would you waive the wand at?
LL: Those four, boy (JD: no, no,
nominate another one if you'd like) no, those are the four key
elements, you summarized it perfectly, those are the four
factors. Of those I think I would focus on Garces and the
shortage in the bullpen. But we had five, at least,
players or positions, where we had a reasonable right to expect
more productivity, and that's 20% of the 25 man roster. And
we're talking about Tony at first, and we're talking about the
bullpen, who would have anticipated that Garces was going to
have the kind of disappointing, collapsing kind of year that he
had. He had been a keystone to the bullpen before. Dustin
Hermanson was not going to pitch an inning until mid-August
really. That's three, and we had Jose Offerman who didn't have
the kind of bounce back year from him. And Darren Oliver,
is another guy. So you add those together and you're up to
close to $30 million in players where you had a reasonable right
to expect a more significant contribution.
GC: Will the market correction that
we're all anticipating, will that include non-tendering of
arbitration eligible players?
LL: I suspect it will. I suspect more
clubs are taking advantage of the system... hard to say system,
because the system is so stacked in terms of player's rights and
prerogatives with respect to contracts, but by 20th of December,
clubs have got to tender contracts to players for the next
season and that includes the players in their fourth, fifth, and
sixth years who are arbitration eligible. Because arbitration is
such a loaded gun, they'll be more clubs who are not tendering
GC: And aren't they working on the
old numbers if you're sitting down with an arbitrator. I'm
talking about Trot Nixon, I'm comparing him to someone who
landed a big contract last year, and I'm saying "I'm worth $5
million, I made $2.7 this year, I'm worth a nice raise, I drove
in 90 runs, I hit 20 home runs, are you afraid that an
arbitrator is going to award Trot Nixon $5 million and you'll be
stuck having to pay a relatively modestly productive right
fielder that kind of money?
LL: I don't want to focus in on Trot
Nixon who is a particular favorite of fans and me... I like the
way he plays game. (GC: But is he worth big money?)
Let's go back to arbitration question in general, there is a
problem with arbitrators applying numbers from previous years,
that's what they're trained to do and if this indeed is the
market correction year that we anticipate it will be, and
starting out to be, obviously that presents a problem for us.
The stock market was in a different place, the economy was in a
different place, baseball teams were in different places.
I think you will see that kind of correction and I think it will
happen at the free agency level, although perhaps less so in
terms of the absolutely cream of the crop free agents, but I
think it should happen at every level.
JD: Does the price of mediocrity go
down or the price of superstars?
LL: We hope both, we had a system out
of whack, reserve clauses. It should affect the average,
or as you say mediocre, players that annoys fans so much.
GC: Have your lawyers put the
finishing touches on Pedro's contract yet? So he can get
LL: Wolfs closer to the sled.
November 2003 is when we have to deal with it. Good
article by Shaughnessy today, urging us not to overreact today.
GC: The option is not exactly bargain
basement. $17.5 even for Cy Young.
LL: Ordinarily it's not difficult.
Pedro is one of the most mature, interesting players I've
come across... absolutely proud... some discussion over the
winter, think he deserves that. These dates are negotiated
as part of the contract. If you're going to reopen that
element of the contract, you might as well open other elements.
GC: Why would a new GM not want their
LL: I don't think so, winning 92
games is quite an accomplishment, a lot of respect in the game
for Grady Little, and someone could come here aware of that.
JD: When allocating your valuable
time... 1918, curse, or Babe... put it down, only selling
GC: I did like Tony Masserotti's
column in the paper. The paper of your choice.
LL: Still a little pissed at Terrance
Long... one of the pivotal events, a handful of events.
The absence of late inning comebacks. A lot of things
stick in my mind. Plenty to chew on this weekend.