Strikes Back, But Will Won't Quit
1.6.03 8:35am EDT:
Larry Lucchino (LL) on with on with Dennis (JD) & Callahan (GC) on
The Dennis & Callahan Show on WEEI:
- LL: By the way I live in Boston, this suggestion in the football
writer's column that I live in Cal. is among a variety of
inaccurate things he said (GC: We thought you were getting up at
5am to talk to us all year).
Washington. D.C. team claim, that's unfair, nonsense, and
McDonough called our PR dept last week as a source had indicated
that. They tracked me down on vacation, said to him completely
false, have no connection to Washington D.C., have no interest in
going to Washington D.C., really where I want to be. Like the job,
city, Red Sox. He didn't even mention the denial did he?
- Gordon Edes wrote a much more even handed piece the next day
(GC: Oh we don't have time to get to that :-) from a baseball
reporter not an out of date football reporter.
- RE: Commissioner/Boston vote/pocket. "Callahan I've been in
baseball 24 years, 15 of those at CEO level, earned my share of
criticism and critics along the way but McDonough is one that I
just inherited. He's had his knives sharpened since his pals
didn't prevail in the auction. This guy has more personal axes to
grind than your local hardware store and I think you've got to
keep that in mind when you read this. Not going to talk about that
(broadcasting entity question) but I think there are personal,
family issues that relate to this. Anyway I must say I developed a
new favorite newspaper Callahan.
JD: He called you "invisible" LL:" What?!?! JD: You can be called
a lot of things but I don't think invisible director of baseball
JD: Invisible? I'm sort of sick of seeing you actually
GC: He also calls you a chameleon, they're not invisible but they
do change colors.
LL: What he's referring to is when I was with the Pads I had a
small market perspective and when I'm w/ the Red Sox I have a
certain large market perspective, and I wouldn't call that
chameleon-like, I'd call that a sense of fiduciary responsibility.
GC: What's your reaction to those who say you were a strong
advocate of a system that doesn't work so well for the team which
you now own?
JH/TW and I all recognize that we had a certain fundamental
obligation to the Red Sox, while we were in different places when
this process began, we certainly made known our interest in
protecting the Red Sox situation during the course of this and we
tried to balance that with some sense of change that was necessary
for the good of the game. So every club has a kind of
two-headedness to it that has to think about the good of the game
but it's also fundamentally, has to think about the good of the
We're in the same position, and quite frankly all three of us
started from a small market perspective before we came to the Red
Sox, but we made known during the course of that process our
interests, concerns, matters and we did the best we could.
JanfromWellesley: Ask Larry about Jonathan Haymen's piece in
Newsday (12/31) "Yanks invent new ways of thumbing their nose"...
he writes "the Red Sox are the world champions of whining, not
that the Yankees are above visiting a winery either, it was they
after all who once whined about the unfairness of the CBA, but
they soon realized that this toothless CBA will not hurt them as
intended but helped separate them from the pack."
Larry is the new CBA backfiring on you and the Red Sox?
LL: Much too soon to know. Does it go far enough in dealing with
the inequality of the NY market, curbing some of the excesses? No
not really, much too early for definitive comments.
One thing I would say about this general issue of challenging New
York, or challenging the CBA, or challenging George Steinbrenner,
the suggestion by the Globe writer that "I should be smart enough
not to challenge the Yankees".. I mean what are we supposed to do
cower, and run and hide and be afraid?!? C'mon guys, that's
paragraph one of my job description.
GC: Do you think that somehow you elicited a different
reaction/strategy from the Yankees that you would have had you not
fired a shot across the bow of George Steinbrenner? LL: Absolutely
not. GC: Is it your fault that they signed Contreras? LL:
Absolutely not, the notion that we're somehow rivals of the
Yankees, and that somehow we're in competition over Contreras, all
of that was well-known, well-established, there was a lot of
positioning going on for months. But the whole notion that
somehow... there's something a little crazy, I leave for a little
holiday vacation and I come back and I find this football writer
in Boston siding with George Steinbrenner against the Red Sox, I
find that a little hard, and then I realize the sort of personal
issues and history of supporting other entities in the acquisition
process, I realize he's got his own personal agenda.
JD: When you look at what the Yankees are doing, payroll $165M+,
%80M in pitching staff, does piper at some point have to be paid?
Does luxury tax hurt enough to curb this wild spending enthusiasm?
LL: Well as I said earlier, it's too soon to know, but it doesn't
seem to be, remember one of the last issues that we fought for was
a payroll tax level that was realistic and a payroll tax that was
high enough to curb excessive behavior. We had to compromise.
We'll see if the compromise is proving to be at the right levels,
doesn't appear. We have a system in place that works well for 28
of 29 teams, it's the outsized NY market, I refer to it as the
'Empire' but I've been joking and playing around with the 'Evil
Empire' and those comments all season, so the idea that somehow
this would trigger this response is a little mystifying to me.
JD: I'm sure the company line for "do you do your business based
on what Yankees do?" would be no, but is Colon or Vazquez not more
coveted based on what the Yankees have done this far in the
LL: I think there's no question that improving the starting
pitching through the Montreal route or some other route is an
enormously high priority and it's made even higher by the
activities of the Yankees. And I would say John, on the first
issue, we do do our business with an eye on the Yankees. Make no
mistake, they are the big enchilada, they're the largest sports
market in the nation, they have the history of success that
they've had, they're in our division, there's an incredibly hot,
intense rivalry that's gone on, preceded me and will follow me
here with the Red Sox. So we do keep an eye on the Yankees
activities and maneuverings and they do have an impact on ours.
GC: Should we expect another starting pitcher in this rotation,
perhaps a guy we've heard of, maybe a guy who makes a lot of money
and has a lot of cache, would you be disappointed if there weren't
a guy like that added to this rotation?
LL: I would say yes, I'd be a little disappointed if we couldn't
strengthen the starting rotation because Theo Epstein and the
people working with him in baseball operations have done such a
good job I believe in strengthening the bullpen, which was the
area most in need of an immediate infusion of talent. That was the
major problem last year, I remember some post mortems we did about
what went right and what went wrong, but you can always use more
starting pitching. Our rotation is pretty solid right now but I
know Theo is determined to find another starting pitcher, the
problem is availability, there aren't top of the line starting
pitchers all over the place and that's why there's such focus on
Montreal and the possibilities there, but Theo's going to try but
having Casey Fossum and Wakefield, two guys that weren't in the
starting rotation all of last year come up to be in the starting
rotation next year, that strikes me as pretty good assistance.
GC: While I know there was a lot of competition for Contreras, do
you know who was competing for Roger Clemens and why the Yankees
felt compelled to give him $10M bucks?
LL: I don't know that. The agents were calling teams trying to
generate some competition. We did kick it around a little bit
internally, at least Theo and some of the baseball scouts did and
did mention it to John and me in one conversation, but I don't
know if there was a lot of bidding, the system requires us to
conduct an auction in the blind.
you were away on vaca one of the hot topics is a school of
thought, looking down the Red Sox financial road, they cannot
afford to keep Pedro, Nomar, and Derek Lowe together. One of those
people, perhaps Nomar, who has most value, might be let go, bring
in young talent, save the payroll, save the day.
LL: I'm so exasperated about these rumors that we're going to
trade Nomar Garciaparra, there's been no talk about that, there's
been a lot of speculation that somehow our payroll will be so
small that we can't afford Nomar in 2004, that is just not our
plan, that's not our expectation, now we're going to sit down and
negotiate contracts here so everything has a reasonable price to
it, but our goal, our hope is that Nomar Garciaparra plays
shortstop for the Red Sox for a long time to come, preferably for
his whole career. I'm a big believer in the importance of the
franchise of having franchise players who spend their whole career
there but you know it takes two to tango, we've got to agree on
numbers, we've got to go through negotiations and all that, but
our payroll this year is going to be in the, let's see 9-figure
range, that's over $100M, that's a sizable number, so this notion
that somehow we are headed to some trivial payroll that will
prevent us keeping the quality players that we have I think is
the problem with Shea Hillenbrand is that he doesn't have patience
at the plate? I know you've got a GM for this but he's apparently
on the market and other than the fact that he's very tradable b/c
he doesn't make a lot of money, a lot of fans want to know trade a
guy like this?
LL: Well I like him a lot, just personally, I like his style of
play and I think he was a clutch performer at times for us last
year, but there is a definite philosophy, point-of-view with the
Red Sox that Theo has articulated it over and over and it does
have a lot to do with plate discipline and offensive walks and
some of those characteristics that you guys know about so that is
an issue. And we know that Hillenbrand has considerable trade
value these days, he had a good year, he was an All-Star
selection, and he is someone of value. You cannot pick someone's
pocket today, you cannot get the kind of starting pitching or the
kind of help we would like to see in other areas if we're not
willing to offer someone of some talent in return. The idea of
picking someone blind, that just doesn't work, so we've got to
trade someone of value. We're happy to have Hillenbrand here, he's
one of my favorite players, but the fact is we have to do what's
best for the franchise, if he's back playing third base or he's
back playing first base, I won't be at all disappointed.
you addressed Will McDonough's charges, but he's pretty much
echoing the same thing that Steinbrenner said a few days ago,
you're a chameleon, you'll bail out on John Henry, you've done it
before... LL: Oh that's nonsense... GC: You can at least say, the
'Evil Empire' you said it tongue in cheek and with a smile, but he
was pretty serious in lashing back at you...
LL: Yeah, there is a history there, speaking of histories,
McDonough has a history here with respect to this sale process and
the fact that his boys didn't succeed even though he predicted
that they would, Steinbrenner and I have a history too, we've
battled on issues, economic issues in baseball and political
issues in the American League, but I must tell you the
Commissioner gave me a call over the weekend, and said that he had
talked to the Yankees and now to me now with the Red Sox and
thought that it was time for the kind of public, personal attacks
to stop. I said 'actually it only came from New York Commissioner
in terms of petty, personal punches, but if you want us to cease
and desist, we'll cease and desist, just make sure the Yankees
GC: That's it? I mean this guy ripped you, didn't leave a spec of
meat on your bones, oh man...
LL: I know you'd love to see a catfight or a public brawl over
this but Steinbrenner has a history and reputation and track
record, and so do I, we'll just let it stay at that.
GC: You haven't seen Howie Spira fishing through your trash or
LL: I would... oh no
never mind no comment, that did result in a, oh nevermind there I
go talking about suspensions.
GC: He might have some spies out there Larry?
LL: Well, listen I've kept an eye over my shoulder since I got
into baseball. When you're in a public position like this you're
going to make some critics, going to have some enemies, that just
comes with the territory, but if I can't take a few punches here
and there then I'm in the wrong job.
GC: Hey you know what I just realized, at the same time that you
were working with Hillary Clinton, your buddy Hillary, and William
Weld to impeach Richard Nixon, George Steinbrenner was giving him
an illegal campaign donation (LL: Yeah
I know that), you think it could go back to that time?
LL: It's even more incestuous, my old law firm represented
GC: Did you pork him on the bill? JD: Yeah, those $200 phone calls
just to say 'yeah we've got the documentation.'
LL: I hope so.
Isn't McDonough Yet:
morning Willie... (WM: reading the paper trying to stay out of
trouble)... whew, man oh man... Larry says you have a personal
agenda against him (WM: What was it? -- my sidebar: give me a
friggin' break that he wasn't hanging on every word just moments
ago) that your guys didn't get the Red Sox ownership as you
predicted they would in the paper?
WM: Well I didn't predict they would. I just said they were the
better group. I think everybody who's seen what's happened since
would agree with that, as did everybody else in Boston by the way.
GC: I had a problem with Larry and his people of course until he
came over and started appearing on my show, you know how it is
Will, we all root for ourselves.
WM: That's why I figure... good things are going to come of
this... Larry's back in town. I'm sure he flew all night to get in
here so he could say he was in Boston, which he did. And number
two, now he'll push Theo to get a big trade and make a splash.
GC: Tell us when you first had a problem with Larry, was it
WM: I don't have any problem with Larry... GC: Well when you first
learned of his ulterior motives, was it before he got the team, or
was it something that you learned when Steinbrenner made his
attack on Larry a week or two ago?
WM: Oh no... I met Larry about 30 years ago when he worked for
Edward Bennett Williams, EBW famous lawyer, owned Red Skins for
time, sold to Jack Kent Cooke, Larry was a young lawyer in his
office and EBW would never come to the league meetings but would
send Larry to do the business side. He referred to himself then as
the guy who carried the bag, he walked around all day carrying an
attaché case. So if the Red Skins wanted to do any league
business, Larry would sit in on the meetings and if they were
doing football business, at the time I believe Bobby Bethard,
would sit in on the football. And then what happened is EBW sold
the Red Skins to JKC and bought the Orioles in baseball, and he
shipped Larry over there, to keep an eye on the Orioles, and then
when the Orioles were sold to Angelos, he moved Larry out of
there, and Larry moved to San Diego, and of course we all know he
was there until a year ago August. I have no problem with Larry, I
never had any problem with Larry. My column yesterday was, you
know, all of us, John played sports, you grew up with it Gerry...
you never want to aggravate your adversary, and I thought it was
one of the dumbest things I've ever seen when on two occasions he
went after George Steinbrenner.
JD: Well he just said on this program Will, the first paragraph of
his job description is to take on the Yankees head on.
JD: Well he didn't say verbally, literally, or figuratively... WM:
Imagine writing someone a contract for a million and a half bucks
a year and say well the first thing you gotta do is take on the
GC: But he said the 'Evil Empire' thing, he's been saying that for
years... tongue in cheek...
WM: Have you heard him say it before about a month ago? GC: uhh no
WM: He's been on your show how long? GC: I don't think he's ever
said it no, to us. WM: That's right.... Gerry, why isn't
Philadelphia Phillies 'Evil Empire'? They've spent more money than
GC: Well they're not in the same division...
WM: I'm tellin' you, the 'Evil Empire' thing is all supposed to be
about hey we're all supposed to be in this thing together in
baseball uh reduce the amount of money were spending here and
George is the guy that goes overboard, and the Yankees will win
the pennant on us this year because they outspent us. Well the
very first time I ever met John Henry he told me 'there is no way
we can compete with the Yankees... they take in $50 - $60 million
more dollars a year, so we're going to have to rebuild this
franchise through our farm system and try to compete that way,
because we can't compete financially.' Everybody in baseball knows
that, so why aggravate Steinbrenner, and get him to the point
where I think now no matter what you do, as a Red Sox
organization, if he's having a problem with Larry then he's going
to try to top him, and that isn't going to do the Red Sox any
GC: Don't you think, and it's a charge I made for months, was that
they were awarded this franchise essentially by Selig, so they are
indebted to the Commissioner (WM: That's right) and thus they
vote, not necessarily in the best interest of their team because
they owe Bud their support.
WM: Well that's what happened. I mean, I remember walking by
Larry's office, and you can ask him this one, at Fenway Park this
year, and I said to him, how can you vote, for this Collective
Bargaining Agreement when it hurts the Red Sox the way it does...
and he just shrugged his shoulders and smiled. I was going in
there to see John Henry, because he had said publicly two days
before with the baseball writers here, that this CBA is terrible
for us, it really punishes us, and yet the Red Sox went out and
voted for it, now why would you do that? Because you owe Bud your
JD: Will I'm wondering how strong the rumors are that his ultimate
goal is to get involved with one of the groups trying to bring
baseball back to Washington, D.C.?
WM: Well I had two different people, last week, call me, and you
know both of them, but I won't say who their names are, one is
very well politically connected in Washington and he told me that
he had dinner the previous night with sombody from down there
that's very well politically connected and said that he was
aggressively trying to get himself involved with one of the
ownership groups in Washington, D.C. People just assume or feel
the Montreal Expos are going to end up in the D.C. area, either in
the city itself or somewhere in Virginia. And it makes sense
because Larry is you know like I pointed out to you that's where
he started out in the sports business with Edward Bennett Williams
law firm. Here's what I say, if I were John Henry, and I was
paying a guy $1.5 million a year to run the baseball operation, I
would want him to run the baseball operation. You don't need 20
guys in a room in a league meeting, if you know what you're doing,
and you know something about baseball, to make a decision for you,
correct? Now you guys have talked to Larry, you think he knows who
the left fielders of the Milwaukee Brewers are?
GC: How do get to be a baseball guy, he said he's been on the
baseball end of things for 25 years.
WM: He's a lawyer... Gerry. He's a lawyer. He's been on the legal
end of things in baseball. You know, his claim to fame is he
helped them get Camden Yards built, you know, he's not a baseball
JD: You think Theo was a good hire, a bad hire, or the jury's
WM: Oh I think Theo was a loyal hire, because if you're going to
spend your time down in La Jolla, or down the Cape, or Europe...
and not going to be here, you need someone whose loyal to you,
whose endebted to you... (JD: He wanted to make it clear that he
lives here though Will)... that's why he flew in last night to be
here... this is gonna produce good things... or ruin his winter
'cause he'll have to stay here now.
GC: He also implied Will that there's a family matter here that
perhaps you weren't happy with the way... he... treated... Sean?
WM: He didn't have anything to do with Sean. What does he have to
do with Sean (JD: I don't know) That's right, he's in charge of
baseball... I was understood that Tom Werner was the guy who took
care of the television end of it.
JD: Do you believe that to be true? Don't you get the sense that
Larry fingers are in all things good or bad? (GC: Yeah, they are)
WM: I don't know, but I do know that when the end of last year
came that Tom Werner's the one who Sean had the conversation about
with his future on TV. This is... Larry I guess, likes to paint
enemies... like George Steinbrenner... I think the first thing
George basically said was 'well who is he?' Isn't that what he
said? You know Larry likes to... everybody's against him... or
there's always some kind of an enemy... this isn't hard here...
you know, you take in a lot of money with the Red Sox, you have
the ability to spend money and build a farm system and run a team
and you just have the unfortunate situation where you're going up
against a guy in baseball who wants to win badly and has more
money than you do, so you have to find a way to beat that guy. It
isn't by aggrevating him, it isn't by insulting him and wanting to
take him on. I would go the other way and placate him, let him
think you're his buddy but at the same time you're trying to beat
him. Now Larry has to understand when he gets this job that the
Red Sox by far have the highest price ticket in Major League
Baseball, by far. They have the highest concession prices in the
year 2002, had the highest concession prices of any stadium or
arena in the country according to Sports Business Daily, and now
they just jacked the cable rates up on NESN, which they own, now
probably have the highest cable rates of any people watching games
on television in America, most of this stuff is on baseball anyhow
so... you should give people back what they're paying for, and
that's the best team in baseball.
GC: How long do you think H/W/L or at least Henry and Werner will
WM: Well I think the key for them is three years, because as we've
read, and heard, many of their chief investors, like the NY Times
which is the Boston Globe, and a guy named Philip Morse out of
Maine, and Tom Werner... three or four biggest investors all have
what they call a three year put, at the end of three years if
they're not satisfied, they can walk away and get their money back
immediately. Well if you put those three together, that's up in
the $150 million range, and that's what the team is going to have
to pay them, right away, or in a reasonable period of time, so I
think at the end of three years here you'll see whether they're
going to be in it for the long run or whether they just decided
'well, we took our shot, we thought we could make it work,' the
number one thing Larry has got to do here, is what he was brought
in to do, and that will make him a success here, and that is get a
new stadium (JD: That's not going to happen) Well that's what he
was brought in here to do. That's his calling card in baseball is
supposedly had a lot to do with Camden Yards, and he had a lot to
do with the new stadium that's being built in San Diego, and
that's his expertise, and that's what his mission is here.
JD: Do you think their entire acquisition and everything they
projected was based on that and they didn't have a plan B in mind
if indeed they found the political landscape, i.e., Menino,
Finneran, City Hall, State House unwilling to accept that, they
had no plan B in your mind?
WM: Well John my own personal speculation is that they were sold a
bill of goods, that the Red Sox are so popular in New England,
Boston area, if you come in here and you purchase this club, you
won't have any trouble finding investors, and it really won't be
your money you're putting up, it will be somebody else's money,
and once they got in here and had the team they found out it
wasn't true, and I think they had to put a lot more money of their
own in, these various investors that they figured at the beginning
and then all of a sudden it looked like something that might be a
reasonable investment to something that's really very risky
GC: And they thought they had the political connections to get a
stadium built, or at least...
WM: Well they thought the popularity of the Red Sox would help get
a stadium built and for them, it's really bad luck, you couldn't
pick a worse time in the history of Massachusetts, I think we have
the greatest amount of debt we've ever had, at this point in time,
and nobody's going to give them any money right now to help them
build a stadium, and when you look at it in retrospect, how lucky
Bob Kraft, the Patriots were, that right now if they were trying
to do it and get the infrastructure out of the state house that
would never happen.
JD: So Will, do you want to do 'The Larry Lucchino Show?"
love to, but I think he's overmatched. You better go hold Larry's