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Lucchino on The End and Denial about Grady

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 owes us.

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 coming spring?"

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 successful one?

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 players.

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 his respect?

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 own manager.

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.

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