Sox's owners looking forward to 'next chapter'

Sox's owners looking forward to 'next chapter'

Sox's owners looking forward to 'next chapter'
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Red Sox president/CEO Larry Lucchino downplayed the significance of the annual team meeting that takes place every spring before the first full-squad workout.

"It was setting the tone for 2012," Lucchino said. "It was a customary Opening Day meeting."

However, the act of turning the page to another season has never been more significant in the decade that the ownership trio of John Henry, Tom Werner and Lucchino have been in place.

Not only are the Red Sox coming off the worst September collapse in baseball history, but that was followed with substantiated reports of less than professional conduct in the clubhouse.

So Saturday was a significant day -- one in which the owners spoke, and so, too, did general manager Ben Cherington and manager Bobby Valentine.

"I would say that we talked about how proud we are to be involved and to be a part of this organization," said Werner, the club's chairman. "They should feel proud. We have great fans and this is going to be a new chapter. We didn't spend too much time talking about 2011. It's a new chapter. We have a new ballpark [for Spring Training]. Our fans are excited about this year, and I certainly think our players are motivated to play postseason baseball."

When the Red Sox go through a year like last year, the entire organization takes it personally.

"I would say we feel individually and collectively that we have something to prove in 2012," said Lucchino. "Players feel that way. I think our managers and coaches feel that way. I know Ben and [the] baseball [operations department] feel that way."

Expect ownership to take a more active role with the players this year.

"I think we said we accept our share of the responsibility for perhaps not having a more open-door policy," Werner said. "We'll be more present this year. But in the end, I do think more has been written about this than the State of the Union. We're moving on. This is a new chapter. We've accepted some collective and individual responsibility."

Because the Red Sox had a quiet winter by their standards on the Hot Stove front, there have been suggestions that ownership has tightened the purse strings. The Henry-Lucchino-Werner trio takes severe exception to that notion.

"To answer your question, in terms of 2012, it's only February," Lucchino said. "We're not done. There are things you do during the season that are possibilities of how to improve the club during the season. There's still that option as well. And maybe we should be direct about this. Our payroll is going to be in the $190 million-plus range. I'm pretty confident, if you look at it the way we do, you'll see that. That's a gigantically large commitment, because there's a gigantically large commitment to winning in this organization. If we haven't proved that to you in 10 years, shame on us."

The Red Sox have won two World Series championships during this ownership era, but Boston hasn't won a postseason contest since Game 6 of the 2008 American League Championship Series.

For most of their time as owners, Theo Epstein led the front office while Terry Francona served as manager. The duo of Cherington and Valentine is taking over this season.

"I'm not concerned about the direction of the organization. I feel like we have the right direction," Henry said. "I've heard the term 'new chapter.' I feel sort of like this is the next chapter. There's a real excitement here at camp. It's palpable. It's not just the new facility. There's a real excitement to be back at it again. I'm extremely happy with the leadership of the organization and with the product that we're going to have on the playing field, with the general atmosphere and attitude that was evident this morning."

Speaking of Epstein, do the Red Sox regret the way the compensation was handled? Just this week, Boston received a prospect -- righty Chris Carpenter -- from the Cubs.

"If it's a tough negotiation, both sides are generally a little unhappy with the way it works," Henry said. "The Cubs probably aren't happy with it; we probably aren't happy with it. Given the amount of time that was spent on it, it probably was the appropriate result."

Why didn't the Red Sox resolve the matter before allowing Epstein to move to Chicago?

"I think there was a basic misunderstanding between [Cubs owner] Tom Ricketts and I when we first spoke about it," Henry said. "I really admire Tom Ricketts as an owner. He's one of the best owners in baseball. It's a great organization. We probably had a misunderstanding, at least as far as expectation. There was no real agreement. ... The best way to explain it is [that] we probably had different expectations based on the first conversation as to what was transpiring."

"We have a saying at the Red Sox -- you've heard it before -- 'All's well that ends,'" Lucchino said. "Let's move on -- next issue."

Ian Browne is a reporter for Read his blog, Brownie Points, and follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.