Monthly Archives: November 2012

Translating Larry Lucchino’s Answers During Today’s Boston.com Q&A

Red Sox President and CEO Larry Lucchino stopped by Boston.com on Thursday afternoon to answer fans’ questions. Ol’ Lucky can be an awfully complicated man and his answers aren’t always crystal clear. So Fenway Pastoral ran them through its proprietary BS Detector to help fans better understand what he is actually saying to fans as free agency season heats up.

The chat began promptly at 1 p.m. By 1:05 p.m., the heavy hitters rolled in (questions have been edited for length and are sic’d):

Q: Larry, Why should I renew my season tickets this year? – Joe

Lucky: This is a critical year for this team. We all recognize that we have a lot to prove. Besides the charm of baseball, you will see a younger team with revitalized leadership. “These will be exciting times; you’ve gotta be there.”

Translation: I might as well get the obligatory usage of the word ‘charm’ out of the way early. Also, I know I’ve often talked about how every year is “critical” and all that, but this time I really do mean it. Honest.

That quotation I randomly popped in there at the end of the answer? That’s the final line of the late John Updike’s legendary poem “Hey Boston Fans: Buy 2013 Red Sox Season Tickets Today!” (I think the original manuscript is on display at the JFK Library or something…).

Q. Lavarnway…Ross…Saltalamacchia…how many catchers are we going to end up with? – Frank

Lucky: There’s an old saying in baseball that you can never have enough pitching. Perhaps we’ll expand that adage to say you can never have enough catching. Besides, “deep depth” is one of our overriding goals.

Translation: I dictated the answer to that question to my assistant by bending down and rapidly opening and closing my butt cheeks Ace Venture-style. You like?

Q. Is this ownership group looking to sell the Red Sox? – Adam

Lucky: Absolutely not. Next question.

Translation: Sigh…PR 101, my friends. Deny firmly and move on. Child’s play. Class dismissed.

Q. Larry, do the Red Sox have a set team salary figure in mind for 2013 or is it a “wait and see” approach to feel out the market and save bullets for next year should there not be attractive opportunities to add to the team this offseason? – Guest

Lucky: Yes we do, but it’s not for public dissemination. You can be assured that we intend to write some big checks if it helps the team in the short and long-term.

Translation: Funny you mention bullets, Guest…Because receiving Red Sox tickets as a holiday gift is like getting shot by a slew of bullets fired out of the automatic assault rifle of awesomeness. Instead of 2012’s “We’re all in” slogan, next year’s will be “They’re (as in bullets) all in.” Or would it be “all out” since they’re being fired at you? I don’t know. Whatever.

Q. …Will there be an emphasis placed on developing the “home grown” player such as in the past with the development of players like Pedroia, Lester, Bucchholz, Ellsbury and more recently with Middlebrooks or will the Red Sox continue to aggressively pursue the high priced FA? – Bill

Lucky: The key to success in baseball is drafting, developing, promoting, and retaining homegrown talent. We will never rule out free agency, trades, waiver-wire transactions, or anything else, but scouting and player development will be the rock on which the Red Sox church is built going forward. Btw, it adds an extra dimension to baseball to watch young, hungry players develop and perform.

Translation: Hey Bill, what’s that behind your ear? Here, let me reach back there and see if I can grab that. Ah, there it is…yup, just as I suspected – a coupon for 10% off your entire purchase at the RedSox.com shop! Buy yourself a licensed Will Middlebrooks jersey and shut the hell up.

Q. Larry – it appears that ownership is distracted by its other enterprises – e.g., -Stan Papi

Lucky: John and Tom have made a fundamental commitment to the Red Sox 11 years ago. During that time, they have been engaged in some other activities, but nothing has been as central to them as the success of the Boston Red Sox. They are both passionately committed to winning and determined to get the Red Sox back to our rightful place in the American League.

Translation: Nice try, Stan. But nobody is interested in the details provided after that ‘e.g.’. So I cut ‘em out. Another fundamental rule of good PR – never deal in specifics. Reframe the question so its answer is unassailable.

Q. I never understood why the NFL, a fast-paced winter sport, utilizes cheerleaders while baseball, a slow-paced summer sport doesn’t. How about some Sox cheerleaders this summer? – NeedCheerleaders

Lucky: Not gonna happen. Cheerleaders aren’t part of baseball culture or Red Sox tradition.

Translation: Like the sign says, pal: No Pepper (and No Perverts either…).

Q. Hi Larry, Can the fans expect more trades or free agent signings this off season? It appears we have the assets to gain more in trade than what is currently impactful on the free agent list. – Greg D

We will pursue all avenues to make this team stronger in the short-term yet built for the long-term. That includes more discrete free agent activity, as well as an appetite for trading assets

Translation: Canned answer alert! People have been asking me this question for two months. The words just kind of hiss right out of me like a good long fart.

Q. Larry, is any thought being given to addressing some of the PR pressure to deal in a more straightforward manner with the sell-out streak and to consider using Sweet Caroline in a more limited fashion? – greenmonster05

Lucky: The fans started this sell-out streak in 2003 and will end it. This argument over definitions is a little silly in my opinion. No matter how you slice it, we’ve averaged over 37,000 fans per game over the last ten years. That is an impressive expression of passion and commitment by our fans!

Translation: You don’t get to decide when you’ve had enough Sweet Caroline. We do. Thanks for all your great questions, fans!

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2013 Bill James Projections: Red Sox pitchers

Last week, Fenway Pastoral ran through key Red Sox hitters’ projections based on Bill James’ proprietary system. Today, Boston’s impact pitchers and what James’ system sees in store for them during 2013. The forecasts are undoubtedly more optimistic than not in most cases.

ROTATION

The top three pitchers in the rotation as of this writing – Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz and Felix Doubront – are all expected to pitch over 200 innings and generate ERA results that are roughly a full run better than in 2012. If the front office puts any credence into James’ system or one with a similar predictive methodology, that alone suggests the team may not be all that concerned with the front end of its rotation.

The rotation’s two wild cards at this point are John Lackey as he returns after Tommy John surgery and Franklin Morales. In Lackey’s case, James’ system has him performing much more in line with his career norms than his disastrous 2011 season. If the James projections for Morales are close, he could potentially fill the role of a fifth starter or long reliever out of the bullpen.

Putting it all together, if the Sox rely mainly on the five starters listed above, the team would get a combined ERA and FIP significantly better than the 2012 league average. Again, though, expecting four Red Sox starters to top 200 innings – particularly after the team’s injury history over the last few seasons – is a bit charitable.

BULLPEN

Out of the bullpen, James’ system expects the Sox will get the Andrew Bailey they thought they were getting based on his 2011 stat line. The forecast for Daniel Bard is based on the presumption that all of the jerking around done with him during 2012 did not do the righty any permanent damage. Bard is probably the best case in point on this list for the general limitations of projection systems since they can’t possibly account for a pitcher’s confidence level.

Alfredo Aceves, Junichi Tazawa, Andrew Miller and Mark Melancon all project as key cogs in the middle relief arsenal. As relievers, however, expectations for their final statistical lines are useful mostly just in theory.

FREE AGENTS

Based on the largely bullish projections for pitchers already on Boston’s 40-man roster, the front office will likely target undervalued players in the marketplace rather than making a big splash by signing a front-end talent like Zack Greinke. Greinke and Kyle Lohse are therefore included primarily as reference points.

Roy Oswalt could be particularly intriguing if he were healthy enough to contribute to a club earlier in the season and if the team were willing to write off his time in 2012 in Texas as a fluke. The Sox would presumably be one of a handful of teams for whom the veteran may be willing to pitch if the price were right. Boston could also be in position to offer someone such as Brandon McCarthy more on a average annual basis than other interested clubs.

Josh Beckett
Finally, just for fun, former Sox ace Josh Beckett is projected to bounce back from an uninspiring 2012. He will almost surely benefit from moving out of the AL East and if he is able to reinvent himself into more of a finesse/location pitcher, he could be an effective pitcher in 2013. Maybe James’ system accounted for Beckett’s bizarre seesawing career of being at his best in odd-numbered years and poor in even-numbered years?

**All data taken from player pages at FanGraphs.com.

Fun with Bill James Projections: Red Sox hitters and their expected 2013 stat lines

Bill James’ projection system has earned a reputation over the years of being a bit optimistic, particularly when it comes to forecasting younger players’ playing time and number of at bats given the potential for injury. But with James’ expanded role in the Boston front office this offseason, perhaps the projections that carry his namesake provide some insight into the way the Red Sox front office is thinking in the days leading up to the post-Thanksgiving signing frenzy.

Via Fangraphs’ individual player pages, a summary of key Red Sox hitters’ 2013 projections, their actual 2012 numbers and the positive/(negative) change.

Dustin!!
The system is bullish on Dustin Pedroia’s chances for a rebound season after a down year that can be blamed partly on injuries. But would that 2013 line be enough for a contract extension in the neighborhood of $20m per year for a 2B?

David Ortiz
Fans would gladly take this kind of cumulative production in 600(!) at bats from Big Papi – even if it meant a fall back to earth in rate stats.

Will Middlebrooks
James’ system projects a continuation of what Middlebrooks showed in his rookie season.

Jacoby Ellsbury
This type of full season from Ellsbury looks eerily similar to Carl Crawford’s averages during his last couple years in Tampa.

Pedro Ciriaco
Ciriaco isn’t an everyday player in any world other than Bobby Valentine’s.

Daniel Nava
Nava slots in somewhere between a fourth outfielder and just another body the team can throw in the outfield.

Jose Iglesias
It may be telling that a projection system known for optimism still expects Iglesias’ weighted on-base average to be around .250. That may just be good enough if he keeps gloving every ball hit in his general vicinity.

Jarrod Saltalamacchia
Salty can’t possibly strike out as much as he did in 2012 again? James’ system doesn’t think so…

Ryan Lavarnway
We think maybe Ben Cherington hard-coded this very bullish stat line into the output for trade leverage…

Jerry Sands
As mentioned earlier, James’ system takes some liberties in assuming teams will find younger players plenty of big league at bats.

Red Sox Catchers
Speaking of catchers, James’ projections put to rest any potential debate if the Sox go into camp with Salty, Lavarnway and David Ross on the roster. Any combination of two of the three major league catchers on the roster as of this writing would be expected to provide the lineup with above-average power and overall production.

Also, some free agents that are on the team’s radar.

And just for fun – Kevin Youkilis is expected to rebound into a form more recognizable to his peak years in Boston. No true Sox fan can begrudge Youker a few more years of success – even if it’s somewhere else.

Red Sox offer to send rights for marketing gimmick to Miami Marlins for Giancarlo Stanton

The Boston Red Sox may be the latest beneficiaries of the maxim, No good deed goes unrewarded.

What began as a cute marketing ploy to keep the team’s ongoing charitable work in the headlines during Fenway Park’s 100th Anniversary season may become something a bit more substantial, per approval of the MLB commissioner’s office.

Since it’s probably too late for baseball in Miami to be outright cancelled in 2012, tt may not be a bad idea for Jeffrey Loria’s Marlins to extend the scope of its community outreach programs during the upcoming winter (Miami Herald photo).

Top men say the Boston Red Sox are close to acquiring superstar outfielder Giancarlo Stanton from the Miami Marlins in exchange for what was slated to be Boston’s 94th Act of Kindness of the 2012 calendar year – a commodity that could be  of immeasurable value to a team looking to put a rather large band-aid over its public image.

Analysts say Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria could most definitely benefit from a very public 94th (or, for that matter, 1st) “Act of Kindness” to help restore his good name locally, particularly amongst taxpayers who helped finance construction of a stadium which will serve as the home for underpaid, obscure big-league talent for the foreseeable future.

According to the the latest release on RedSox.com, the 100 Acts were created by the Yawkey Way braintrust to “highlight and support the important work done by the many charitable institutions throughout New England and beyond.” The Acts have included a variety of donations, charitable events, community outreach efforts, Pinewood Derby races and Bingo nights.

Suddenly, the whole “New England and beyond” throw-in is looming large in light of the controversy brewing in Miami.

The embattled Loria is being called out within all corners of baseball media as a phony, money-grubbing scumbag con man cheating jerkface after trading away almost all of the team’s most popular players Tuesday night.

“Jeffrey obviously needs to do something huge here to help restore some credibility and respect to the Miami Marlins franchise,” said one source within the organization.

Since the Red Sox only recently identified the 77th through 81st Acts of Kindness last week, there are myriad possibilities for the 94th Act being sent from Boston to Miami.

“We understand taxpayers in the Miami-Dade county area and beyond are angry over the team’s decision to seemingly mail in its competitive chances for the foreseeable future and beyond. However, while we are losing guys like Josh Johnson, Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle and, potentially, Giancarlo Stanton, this 94th Act of Kindness from Boston will be something special. Really, this Act could range from anything from a freeze on ticket prices for 2013 to a donation of unsold XXL T-shirts with the new Marlins logo to a local rest home. We haven’t ruled out a Livan Hernandez bobble-head night if supplier pricing is reasonable.”

For what it is worth, the 94th Act of Kindness was ranked by Baseball America as Boston’s ninth-best prospective PR boon at the beginning of 2012.

At the same time, analysts around the league are applauding Boston’s shrewdness.

“Let’s face it,” said one expert. “That ‘No. 94’ doesn’t have a great connotation attached to it in baseball since a lot of fans will probably associate it with the player’s strike of 1994.”

Insiders say Boston balked at sending Miami Act No. 100 since it is a round number and “has a pretty nice ring to it.” The Marlins eventually acquiesced and the two clubs remain confident they can iron out any lingering roadblocks before the weekend.

In related news, Red Sox CEO Larry Lucchino announced today that Act of Kindness No. 82 will be 10% off all licensed “Stanton” Red Sox jersey purchases that may become available during the month of December through the RedSox.com team store.

The Youker Files: 10 Tips for a Successful Job Interview

After a dramatic, heartfelt goodbye to Boston, free agent and former Red Sox 1B/3B, Kevin Youkilis returns to Fenway Pastoral for the first time to talk about the free agency courting process.

What’s up everybody. I’m writing this from the gate of an airport terminal while waiting for my flight to leave Chicago. Or is it Cincinnati? Or is it Milwaukee or Cleveland?

Sorry, guys. My agent won’t let me say where I am right now where because he says it could compromise my “market leverage.”

Whatever the hell that means. This free agency stuff is pretty strange. This is the first time in my career that it will be up to me to decide where I get to play next season.

Everybody has their ass all a-pucker over the fact that I’m 33 years old. Like I’m some kind of ancient artifact or a dinosaur or a wrinkly, white-haired wizard. I mean, seriously. I don’t even have hair on the top of my head right now but I could grow it out and be in shampoo ads like Tim Lincecum if I felt like it.

Obviously, last year was a down year for yours truly. But I’m not nearly done smashing baseballs. Some people are going to find that out the hard way next year. Pitchers mostly. And the manager, players and fans of opposing teams, too, I guess.

But first thing’s first. (Or third, too. I can still play third base too, you guys.)

I’ve got to prove to these general managers and front office dudes that I’m totally worth a 3-year, $60 million contract. That’s only $20 million a year, which is fair if you’re getting a guy who will mash 40 home runs and be a clubhouse leader like me. Yeah, sure: the player’s union won’t let me specifically promise any of those things in an actual contract. But I mean, what are the actual chances that some weird, freak injury keeps me from fulfilling that unwritten pledge?

Anyway, I’ve already learned a lot about how to present yourself properly when meeting with a potential employer.

Here’s what they don’t tell you on Monster.com:

1. Brand yourself a winner right off the bat. When I shake hands with the executives of an interested team, I want to make sure to jog their memories of my two World Series wins in 2004 and 2007 with the Red Sox. So I wear one WS ring on each of my hands. As I’m introducing myself, I squeeze their hands extra tight and bring my left hand in for one of those extracurricular back-of-the-hand pats that you mostly only do if you’re in Europe or if you’re in the mob. Here’s the wrinkle, though: Hold that position for a 15-second count, glance down at the rings and say, “How’d you like one of these to have a (fill in the appropriate team name here) logo on it??

2. Make eye contact. As you’re gripping and patting hands, lock your eyes in on the other person’s irises. And don’t be the first to look away. Back in elementary school, I was king of staring contests during lunch. So I’m pretty sure I’ve been nailing this one the last couple weeks.

3. Carve out time for a preemie just before your interview. Selling yourself to a potential employer is nerve-wracking. When I get nervous, I can feel things swirling around in my stomach. The less things you have swirling around in your stomach, the less the chances are that you’ll have to rush out of the office in the middle of the interview to relieve your bowels. Scout out suitable restroom venues in advance. You don’t want to wind up crushing out your preemie in the bathroom stall next to the general manager you’re about to shake hands with five minutes later. Take it from me: It gets weird.

4. Wear a subtle amount of protective gear (elbow pads, shin pads, etc.) over your suit. Even if you’re a guy who doesn’t have durability concerns, this tells the interviewer that you’re pretty damn serious about staying at an optimal level of health. As an added bonus, you’re pretty much all set to take some hacks in the batting cage if there are any skeptics questioning your bat speed, hitting eye, etc. Also wear a tie.

5. Make your ‘weaknesses’ sound like attributes.Well, sir, I’ll admit to you right now sometimes I swing at bad pitches…and they usually wind up going 400 feet instead of 420 feet…

6. Blame embarrassing photos of you on the Internet on advancements in technology. Seriously, I’m sick of all these nerds circulating “photo-shopped” pictures of me flipping the bird.

7. If you’re related to Tom Brady, mention that you’re related to Tom Brady. Think about it: If you had high SAT scores in high school, wouldn’t you list them prominently on your resume? A job interview is no time to get all bashful.

8. Don’t get visibly annoyed if they take a few minutes to find and hook up a VCR so you can show them your highlight tape. One of my high school buddies from home in Cincy cut me a tape back in the 1990s. I dug it out after the White Sox bought out my contract and I officially became a free agent. It’s important to show the big-wigs that you have extensive, prolonged experience in whatever industry you happen to work within.

9. Demand to know when they’re going to make a decision. If they waffle, pull out your cell phone and put it to your ear like you’re answering an important call from your agent. Make a bunch of contemplative faces and say cryptic things like, “Wow, that’s a generous offer!”, “Geez, I guess I have a lot to think about now…” and “Adam LaRoche just signed a contract for HOW much??

10. Wait until you’re being walked out to offer autographs for their wives and kids. This is just simple, common sense stuff. But it’s still worth remembering.

Alright, guys. My flight is about to start boarding. I need to get on the plane ASAP. I want to ask the pilot before he heads to the cockpit not to mention that I’m on the flight. I don’t want to stir up speculation I might be signing a deal before we even get to Thanksgiving. I want to savor this process in case I end up signing a five or 10-year deal that takes me into retirement.

Who knows? Maybe it’ll be back in Boston. Weirder things have happened. (To me, at least…)