The Red Sox Nation of Suckers (Part 2): The Present Gouge

clowns-072709It took that new business owners a year to figure out its advertising strategy which it kicked of in May 2003 when it started to hype the fake sell-out streak which lasted until April 2013. The people who were now running the show had a slight relationship with Boston but a much closer one with the balance sheet. They were determined to make the bottom line look good no matter what it took.

Like all business people they were into advertising their product. The sell-out streak was a good idea; another was pushing out the term “Red Sox Nation” which until they took over was barely used. In fact the guy who first coined it in 1986 didn’t know he had done it.  

For me cheering for a team that’s nothing more than a business is like cheering for Proctor and Gamble, Walmart, Dunkin Donuts or the Fenway Sports Group. I understand people who invest in their stocks will do that; but for one not so invested it makes little difference to me whether a company beats the analyst predictions or not.

As far as I can see except for Ortiz and Pedroia (9 years), none of the players on the 2000 squad who had any impact are left on today’s team. Ortiz, a designated hitter, hangs around because he’s is popular with the fans and comes through in the clutch, which won’t be necessary this year. He’ll cost the owners 16 million next year.

I don’t know much about Pedroia. He seems to have been around for quite a while. At age 30 on July 23, 2013, according to Wikipedia, he signed an eight year contract extension for 110 million. Neither man can be happy with the yearly buying and selling of players.

This year both men have dropped about 25 points in their batting average and Pedroia’s on base percentage is down. I’m sure they know the management must be concerned that both men are slipping over the edge of productivity. Time to sharpen the axes?

The owners must figure the the “Nation” will buy their product no matter what the ingredients. They leave it to the fan to figure out how to cheer for players who pass by in the night and have as much connection to Boston as the Golden Gate Bridge.

Last week the ownership unloaded some of its better players apparently showing the white flag on the season. That was something that had never been done in the past. In prior years no matter how bad they were one always hoped for a comeback.

We remembered our other Boston team, the Braves, who erased a 15 game deficit in 43 games, or the NY Giants who used the same time to eliminate a 10 game deficit. The true baseball fan knows the race isn’t over until the fat lady sings  just like true basketball fan knew Boston wasn’t going to win until Red Auerback lit his cigar.

With the highest ticket prices in baseball, it’s said it will cost a family of four close to a hundred dollars apiece to attend a game, you’d think they’d try to contend every year for the full year. You wouldn’t mind so much if the ticket prices went down when the team gave up on the season but that isn’t the case. Those who have already paid up for the season are stuck watching a team that’s rehearsing for next year.

I suppose their recompense is that they can feel they are part of the Red Sox Nation. That might mean a lot to them but they’ll still need a sawbuck to buy a hot dog and beer. Meanwhile the owners who have deliberately put an inferior product out and saved some money will have their faith restored in the observation attributed to P.T. Barnum that “there’s a sucker born everyday.”

 

11 thoughts on “The Red Sox Nation of Suckers (Part 2): The Present Gouge

  1. Matt,

    Nostalgia. How beautiful are the misty memories of days long ago!

    I disagree with your griping on a few fronts and dispute, just a bit, your memories of the wonderful days of yore.

    > The sainted Tom Yawkey was a virulent racist who directly kept the Sox from tapping into the huge pool of black players available in the early 50s. While Hall of Famers Jackie Robinson, Larry Doby and Ernie Banks were scooped up by the competition, Yawkey turned down Willie Mays, among others. Finally, in 1959, the RS were the last team to integrate with the immortal Pumpsie Green. Contrast to today when Big Papi is the King of Boston and everyone is cool with it. We could have scooped those Negro League guys up and RULED baseball.

    > It was great in high school when you could walk in to just about any Sox game and get a seat. Cut your last class and you could walk through the unmanned turnstiles any time after the sixth inning and sit behind the dugout. Great days! Unless you are interested in competitive teams. We were usually the second worst team (Bless you, benighted Senators fans) in the AL.
    Every. Single. Year.
    That’s why there were seats available; the Red Sox sucked. They annually drew ~600k fans to a decrepit, run down ballpark.

    > You say they never tanked a season before? They tanked EVERY season in the 50s and early 60s! What do you expect when you are 25 games behind Mickey Mantle & Co. by July 4th?
    Only very recently has this become unacceptable, pretty much coinciding with the arrival of John Henry. I don’t fear Fenway Sports Group, I like how they are dedicated to winning, both here and in Liverpool (Go Reds!).

    > Most players spent their entire careers with one team because THEY HAD NO CHOICE. In the 30s, the Yankee’s supposedly had so much talent in AAA that could never break the Bronx lineup that they could have competed in the AL and finished ahead of the Sox. They were kept in the minors, at minor league salaries, as insurance against injuries and to threaten the major leaguers with instant replacement should they break plantation rules. The Yanks could do this because they “owned the rights” to each player and controlled their ability to make a living in baseball. Thank you for going to court, Curt Flood!

    > The Sox won it all, not unexpectedly, in 2007, then contended for several more years as the team’s high priced stars aged. We got the Bobby Valentine (mostly failed) experiment in 2012, with its “chicken and beer” clubhouse explosion. Cherington immediately seduced the Dodgers into taking $240M in deadwood off our roster and retooled with role players, “character guys”. Everyone in Red Sox flannels seemed to have a career year in 2013 and we unexpectedly won won the 2013 World Series.

    > In 2014, the reigning World Champs regressed to their individual career norms and we are currently in last place. Since failing is no longer an option here in quaint old Boston, Cherington cleaned house at the trade deadline and filled holes with talented call-ups and quality major leaguers. The rest of the year will be spent, not giving up, but fighting for jobs on what could be, with a few breaks, a formidable 2015 squad.

    > You wrote: “I don’t know much about Pedroia. He seems to have been around for quite a while.” ???
    Yeah, he came up in 2007, won the AL MVP in 2008 and, with Papi, is an all-time fan favorite. You should like him, as he will spend his whole career here. Voluntarily.

    I remember the good old days, when all our teams usually sucked, and all the ritual humiliations handed out by the Yankees, Orioles, Canadiens and Bears. But boy, you could always get good seats! Do you prefer lousy restaurants because there is never a waiting line?

    Sorry to go off like this, but it gets a bit silly to hear all this nostalgia for those ever receding “good old days”. Ah, Jim Crow, WWII, the Great Depression, the Dust Bowl, the Reserve Clause, the American League basement; what’s not to love?

    Baseball (and sports, generally) is a business and always has been. Our problem was that our team was run like a feudal realm, subject to the whims of a badly flawed lord of the manor. Our competition treated it like a business rather than a rich man’s hobby and regularly kicked our butts. I like this better. Way better.

    1. Jeff:

      Good presentation of the other side of the issue. I guess that is why they make cars in different colors since we all have a preference for different things.
      Sure it was said Yawkey was a racist but he was not alone. That was a different time. Look at the big deal made over Jackie Robinson. He wasn’t the only one who wrongfully kept black players out of the major leagues. Sure we were the last team to integrate with Pumpsy Greene but baseball integration was slow across the board. As for scooping up all the excellent black players, you’re right we could have done that but so could any other team. It wasn’t done. Why do you think? That doesn’t make the Red Sox an outlier rather just one of the pack.
      How many high school kids can go to a game today? That’s why the sport will start to lose customers because the ability for kids to get to the game is very limited. I disagree that the team tanked the seasons. They did the best with the talent they had. They never said in the middle of the year they were going to give up and look forward to the next year. The Yanks were a better team so they ruled but you can’t conclude from that a giving up on part of the Red Sox. And by the way, that decrepit park is the one that is still being used today.
      You make good points in other areas. So basically the discussion comes down to whether we want to have a team hat is contending every other year which we have to pay the highest prices to watch and which excludes all the low income kids and families who used to go to a game of two with players who have as much connection to the team as a guy doing a year in the can has to that institution; or a team that has players you know about over a long period of time (like Pedroia and Papi and the others I mention) who can be watched by each new generation of kids and families who will do their best to contend every year.
      To me baseball is a game, to others it is a business. As I said I find it hard to cheer for a business enterprise.

      1. I admit that I am happy “Rooting for the laundry” rather than pining for specific, longtime players.

        Maybe it’s because we were so deprived of success for so long that I am totally in the tank for the new regime that has made ME (OK, vicariously) a World Champion three times in the last 10 years.

        I don’t go to the Park. It costs too much, the seats are barely tolerable, the commute’s a bitch and I have a big screen TV at home that grants me access to every game I want to watch.

        Regarding the ballpark, remember that there was a push to tear it down when the Yawkey trust was looking to beef up value before the sale. Fenway Sports has plowed millions into the old place to make “America’s Most Beloved Ballpark” minimally comfortable and to finance perennial pennant contenders with the smallest capacity in the league.

        The Sullivan-owned Pats and Yawkey’s Red Sox were content with mediocrity. The new regimes bet that millions were to be made from New Englanders starving for winners. They were right. All those Duck Boat parades must have been contagious because both the Cs and Bs decided to go all in and follow the Sox and Pats to the top.

        I tell my kids “Don’t get too used to this. It’s a cycle and we’re on an upswing. This cannot go on for ever. Trust me, I know”. They assume that each team will contend every year, regularly win it all and work tirelessly to improve, improve, improve. Maybe, but I’m not convinced.

        And the Sox carefully noted that they are not packing it in this year, even if the whole world knows they are aiming at 2015 and beyond. That’s what rational actors do. Assess the situation and make changes when necessary to best further the aims of the organization. I expect the rest of 2014 to be pretty exciting as we watch the kids battle for roster spots.

        Players now WANT to come here, because they know the team is totally committed to winning.

        Yes, I know. Win me a Championship and I totally become a fanboy.
        Hey, it’s only a game .

  2. Matt – What is it that makes you believe that running a business and making a profit are evil things. Every human undertaking that makes any sense is and has to be focused on succeeding, making a profit, earning more money, bettering your condition in life, supporting yourself and your family. Every one of us in in some form of “business” (which you consider an ugly word) — doctors, trash collectors, airline pilots, carpenters, plumbers, lawyers (even assistant DAs), fathers and mothers are all trying to improve their condition in life by making as much money as possible so they and their children can have a better life. Except of course for the politicians, judges and government employees who are only interested in the public good?

    1. Clarence:

      I have not suggested that what the owners are doing is not good for themselves. Running a business and making a profit is a good thing for the guys who run it, their employees and stockholders. It’s just I don’t want to cheer for a business unless I am a stockholder, employee or other beneficiary.

      I don’t suppose there would be much business if we didn’t have the politicians, judges and government employees that make everything work so that the business people and their workers can use the public highways in safety and the people who make money working won’t have it unjustly taken from them.

      I would suggest there is more to life than making as much money as possible, for instance, the Market Basket owners didn’t think that way. The new CEOs from that school of making as much as you can will end up destroying that store just like one of them destroyed Radio Shack.

      The Red Sox with their eye on the buck have created a team that has no loyalty to its players. Two guys are left from the last world series winner; we should take a good look at them, for as the Irish guy walking the highway of Connermara said, “you’ll never see their like again.” It’s pretty bad that when I was eight years old I could name the starting line up on the Sox and now that I’m 39 I have no idea who is on first or any other position.

  3. If the Sox don’t make the playoffs this year it will be one appearance in the last five. With a $150 mil plus payroll is that an accomplishment? It would seem a third grader with that budget could produce better results. The Rays and As seem to produce better squads with less than half the revenue. Does the present ownership deserve credit for the first two titles? Wasn’t it the previous GM who brought the winning foundation to the city? ( Pedro, Nomar, Manny, Damon, Wakefield, Lowe and Veritek). Could they have won without the holdovers? Doubtful. The prior GM while here received consistently bad press. He has done quite well in Baltimore. With less money he has out produced the geniuses on Yawkey way. 2. The sychophants in the sports press heap endless praise on the Sox front office and the Pats Bellichik. What has Bellichik won without the talent Parcells left behind? ( Law, McGuiness and Bruschi ). No Super bowl victories since the Parcells talent left.

  4. WHAT ????

    “I don’t suppose there would be much business if we didn’t have the politicians, judges and government employees that make everything work”

    This is the most unbelievable remark I have ever seen !!! Obviously it was the “politicians, judges and government employees” who made our nation what it is – the ones who wrought our independence from the British tyrants and fought in the Civil War and built this industrial mega-nation and fought against fascist imperialism and who continue to put their lives on the line fighting the enemies of freedom. If there is any group of people who are least responsible for making things work in his country it is the “politicians, judges and government employees” who stand in the way of freedom and progress. How in the world can you conclude that this bunch is responsible for anything but a huge drag on our economy and our freedoms?

    1. Clarence:

      “Aren’t our soldiers government employees? Who were those guys who fought in the Civil War, some Kellogg Company employees? Didn’t our government pay to build our highways or was it Bank of America? Don’t the cops keep us safe or is it the Apple employees? Don’t the teachers educate our kids? Don’t the firemen save lives?

      Weren’t George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Abe Lincoln government employees? Weren’t all the Army, Navy and Marines in WWII so employed? Did any business army keep us free? Don’t the politicians allocate the money to fund the mega-nation you talk about? Isn’t NASA from which we’ve learned so much benefited the nation? Doesn’t the CDC protect the people from disease? Isn’t the FDA valuable for the health of the nation? Isn’t a nation of laws which are made by the judges the cornerstone upon which our nation thrives? Isn’t the incarceration of brutes and barbarians by prosecutors conducive to our well being? Don’t we need government employees to protect our borders and control our air traffic? I could go on and on but I think you get my point.

      No nation on earth has ever been successful without politicians, judges and government employees. Perhaps if you know one you can enlighten me.

      How can you have freedom and progress without government employees? It wasn’t business that introduced child labor laws. It wasn’t business that set up the public education system or our libraries. It wasn’t business that set minimum wage standard. It wasn’t business that let people organize. But it was business that set up trusts. It is business that must be restrained by our anti-trust laws.

      It wasn’t business that built public housing but the government. It wasn’t business that tried to help people it was the government with probation officers, truant officers, child advocates and people working with victims of crime.

      You may suggest they are a drag but a country without all those government programs and government workers protecting it, you’d have something be akin North Korea where people have no rights of representation (our government holds the elections) or freedoms (the judges protect our civil rights as do the police). I’m not so sure business works well in a lawless society like that.”

  5. Gentlemen,
    The Red Sox had the highest ticket price in the league last year at $149.56 They also appeared on the 2013 list of top-four most valuable franchises, and the top-four revenue generating franchises in the league at #3, $2.06 Billion, (behind NY Yankees $2.38 Billion and LA Dodgers $2.1 Billion,) and #2, $405 Million, (behind NY Yankees $570 Million) respectively. The other teams that appear on the top four lists are the White Sox and Mets.
    What is interesting to note is that out of the five teams (and four cities) that appear on both lists, WE are the only city that has only one team in the league. Each of those other cities has a team in both the National and American League (LA Angels, play in Anaheim, close enough) and has a market big enough to support that, except us, yet we are a close #3 and #2 on those lists, despite that fact.

    1. Rather:

      I’m not quite sure what you are suggesting. Are you suggesting the Braves come back to Boston?

      No one doubts the Red Sox is a money making machine – that’s what makes the actions of its owners in trying to squeeze the last buck out of everyone is so reprehensible.

      1. Matt,
        Hahahaha. The Braves?,…..the thought never crossed my mind. I was merely noting the difference between Boston and the other 5 teams on those two lists. You do not find that fact interesting? Maybe the ends justify the means on the prices, or maybe it speaks to the commitment of the fans in Boston (by paying through the nose) as opposed to NY, LA, and CHI. I mean…. we have won 3 World Series’ since the turn of the millennium.

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