FORT MYERS, Fla. – There are billboards plastered around Boston these days with the Red Sox offseason marketing pitch.
“What’s Broken Can Be Fixed.”
Well, on Thursday at JetBlue Park, team president Larry Lucchino addressed what needs to be fixed this season, as the Red Sox continued spring training. And, of course, coming off a 69-93 season, that list is long.
“It’s a slogan. But I think this one has the added virtue of being true and transparent,” Lucchino said. “That we know that last year and the final month of the preceding year were the beginning of a very downward trend for this franchise, a historic collapse, a disastrous 2012, that it was no secret that things needed to be repaired, reset, rebuilt, reloaded, reset, whatever ‘R’ word you want to use, and that acknowledging it was probably an honest way to approach the season.”
Lucchino spoke for about 30 minutes as team executives continue a new spring approach to the media.
In the past, Lucchino, principal owner John Henry and chairman Tom Werner would traditionally speak as a trio. This year the three are holding separate news conferences. Henry met the media Monday. Werner is scheduled for Friday.
Lucchino acknowledged that part of the franchise’s downfall was a deviation from its core philosophies, which Henry also admitted.
“It’s something that has been discussed for a little while now internally,” Lucchino said. “And so I’m not surprised that John has said it to you all as well. He feels pretty strongly that we deviated from our basic philosophy of grinding relentless at-bats deep in the count, on-base percentage, some of the fundamental things that got us the success we had. And we have fallen considerably. We used to have incentives in contracts relating to on-base percentage to show you how important we thought it was.
“So I think there was a kind of a deviation from that somewhere along the way.”
But it’s not just on-base percentage that will be different in 2013. This offseason the Red Sox added players who could improve the clubhouse culture from the toxic atmosphere that had permeated it since the September 2011 collapse. It’s early, but so far camp has been drama-free.
“That’s always important,” Lucchino said. “The side stories, the side shows and the injuries are not directly related to the talent you have, but they can both be major factors in how successful you will be.”
Of course, Manager John Farrell, the team’s pitching coach in 2007-10, will further cultivate the culture change, both here and when the team gets back to Boston.
“I like a lot about him,” Lucchino said. “We spent some time together in the offseason and I remember him from his time here before, of course. He commands respect. He also has a skill set that’s particularly important to the success of this team.”
Asked if there was one deal he regretted the team not making this offseason, Lucchino mentioned Cody Ross. The outfielder spent just one season with the Red Sox but seemed to adapt to the demanding marketplace seamlessly. Ross also had a near-perfect swing for Fenway Park, hitting .298 with 13 home runs, 49 RBI, a .356 on-base percentage, and a .565 slugging percentage in 66 home games. But Boston let Ross slip away in free agency to the Arizona Diamondbacks, who gave him a three-year, $26 million contract.
The Red Sox will also see some changes off the field. One is the vaunted home sellout streak that dates to May 15, 2003. Some have claimed the streak has been rigged. There were several games during the 2012 season when an official sellout was announced although scores of empty seats were visible throughout Fenway Park. Lucchino said he expects the 793-game streak to fall in April, possibly as early as the second game of the season — April 10 against the Orioles — and defended the streak’s length along the way.
“We didn’t gerrymander a new definition (of sellout),” he said. “We took the definition that was in place and had been in place 10, 20 years before us and was commonplace among many clubs in baseball.”
Call it what you will, it’s likely to end soon.
“It’s going to rest in peace. That’s not such a terrible thing,” he said. “It’s an extraordinary accomplishment.”
Lucchino and the Red Sox hope for some of those on the field this season, too.