Lucchino vows ownership will restore Red Sox brand
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TIMORE -- With their team suffering through another slump in what's been a disappointing season thus far, the Red Sox's ownership trio of John Henry, Tom Werner and Larry Lucchino appeared on the field at Camden Yards less than an hour before Thursday night's game against the Orioles.
Lucchino vowed that the club will do whatever it takes to restore the franchise back to where the ravenous fans expect it to be.
"Every franchise, every brand goes through rough times. No one is immune to the hills and valleys," Lucchino said. "We've had a long run of success. We've created very high expectations for the franchise. Sometimes those high expectations are not met, and the result is a reduction, a hit to the brand and to the team and to the fan base. If it's broke, we'll fix it."
In eight of the first 10 seasons the team has been under the current ownership group, the Red Sox have won 90-plus games. The two seasons they didn't hit that mark, they came close, winning 86 games in 2006 and 89 in '10.
With 44 games left in 2012, the Red Sox are 57-61, and trailing the Yankees by 13 games in the American League East and are 6 1/2 games back in the AL Wild Card standings.
Lucchino hasn't given up hope for this season. At the same time, he knows what his team is up against.
"Backs to the wall? Yeah, that's all I would say," Lucchino said. "Obviously time is expiring. There's still 44 games left, so technically we are still alive. I said to someone recently that you can go to St. Louis and Tampa to get a sense of what can happen after this point of the season. I know it's a bit of a long shot, but it's still interesting baseball [left]."
Injuries have played a major role, Lucchino said in multiple interviews on Thursday, but he hasn't seen anyone short-change the team on effort.
"I haven't seen anything to the contrary," Lucchino said. "I've watched these games and oftentimes, a lack of hitting when we face a tough pitcher can misconstrue some kind of lackadaisical effort. That's not what I see. I see intense competitiveness night after night and anger and team disappointment. That's my take on it."
The Red Sox last made it to the postseason in 2009, meaning they need a somewhat monumental comeback to avoid being spectators in October for the third straight year. He acknowledged that the Red Sox's brand isn't as powerful at the moment as it was, say, even in '10.
"I think it really can't be, because so much of the brand is a reflection of the competitive success we've had over the last 10 years," Lucchino said. "And a few years ago, we were coming off a not too distant World [Series] championship; we were coming off playoff participation.
"The brand ... a significant component of it is on-field success. We've taken a few hits, but there are still passionate Red Sox fans everywhere. I ran into one walking out of Coors Field last night. A woman who worked for the Rockies, lived in Worcester came up and hugged me and said, 'I still love my Red Sox.' I said, 'You're wearing a Rockies shirt.' She said, 'I work for the Rockies, I'm from Worcester. I still love my Red Sox.' We have to be sure we remember the cynical, jaded media does not ... necessarily capture the voice of the fanbase."
In recent weeks, some national media outlets have cited unnamed sources in painting the picture of a deteriorating clubhouse in which players, manager Bobby Valentine and ownership haven't all been on the same page.
Given the fact that perception can be reality in the minds of some, is Lucchino worried that the negativity that has engulfed the team lately will discourage free agents from wanting to play in Boston?
"I don't think that's a long-term danger," Lucchino said. "We've been relatively lucky in recent years in changing the image of Fenway first of all. It's not an old and inadequate place to play. We've been able to fix it up for players. I do think there's probably a little bit of a reservation on the part of some players perhaps with respect to the grueling media coverage. You've just got to make sure you pick the right people and personalities to come here to be able to withstand that."
When the Henry-Lucchino-Werner group took over the Red Sox in February 2002, the team was coming off a season that might have been more tumultuous than this year.
Players like Johnny Damon, Kevin Millar and current Red Sox slugger David Ortiz helped change that culture. Lucchino is confident that ownership and the front office will again do whatever it takes to make Boston a top destination.
"It was helpful," Lucchino said of having that experience to fall back on. "We recognized that no organization is consistently positive, winning [all the] time. There's going to be some tough times, some difficult seasons. We just haven't had that many of them. We don't have to look back that far for us to see some of those things in the recent past. If it's broke, we'll fix it. We have the baseball experience and the passion to do it and the organization."
Earlier in the day, in a radio interview, Lucchino gave the most recent vote of confidence for Valentine, saying definitively that he will be the team's manager for the rest of the season.