This was the scene at Fenway in mid-August for a battle between the last-place Red Sox and lowly Astros. Only in Boston. Credit: Getty Images
The Red Sox are printing money again. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Capitalism reigns supreme in this country, and Boston’s current management has capitalized on the local nine and its ballpark better than, arguably, any sports management group in the world.
In this world, Boston is one of the few places around that still puts the sport of baseball on a pedestal. We’re kind of weird like that. I mean, we have the most successful team of the past 15 years in the most popular sport in America – that would be the NFL– and yet, baseball somehow remains king. We have the most storied franchise in NBA history sitting on Causeway Street – yet, baseball somehow remains king.
Yes, the famed “Fenway sell-out streak” is long gone, but so too is the $5 draft beer special and the two for one hot dog deal that appeared at Fenway for one glorious month last season. In other words, don’t think John Henry and Co. are frantically searching for change in between car seat cushions when they hop on the Pike these days. In 2014, the Sox are back to banging out Fenway night-in and night-out (35,170 in attendance for a Monday night game last week) despite owning a worse record than the likes of the San Diego Padres and Chicago Cubs.
So with this lust for Major League Baseball here, what’s with the long-standing monopoly?
I get that the “Big 3” cities in the U.S. (Los Angeles, New York and Chicago) are the only places that currently house multiple pro teams that play the same sport. Cities that large can certainly get away with ugly step-sister teams like the Mets, Jets, Clippers, White Sox and Angels because it’d be crazy not to have a second team in those towns due to their overwhelming population. (New York has an estimated 8 .4 million people, LA has an estimated 3.7 million, Chicago 2.7 million. Boston doesn’t even crack 1 million.)
But as most anyone will tell you, the “Boston Red Sox” are far more “New England Red Sox” than anything else. There’s a reason Fenway has special outings like “Maine Day” and “Vermont Day.” Families from around the region plan vacations around going to Sox games and the Sox, in turn, cater to those families. They know that without question, you’ll always sell the most “merch” by catering toward the kiddos.
A common bitch among Red Sox fans my age is that going to Fenway these days feels far too corporate. It’s way too structured, the focus is definitely not on baseball, and, most important, the beer prices are too damn high.
My question is always, “Why can’t there be an alternative here?”
There simply has to be a market in this town for the “anti-Fenway experience” and owners of a second baseball team in town could go 1,000 different ways in marketing an “anti-Red Sox” team not named the “New York Yankees.”
One route? They could create a Hipster sports outfit that has worked so well in Brooklyn with the NBA’s Nets. Cheaper beer. Cheaper seats. An “ironic atmosphere.” They could even take subtle shots at the Red Sox in between innings by mocking the “Wally Wave” and mocking “Sweet Caroline” in the eighth inning and they could even invite all the old sausage vendors that got booted from Yawkey Way to nestle up next to the new ballpark. Oh ya – the new ballpark!
With all the complaints about Fenway – the cramped seating, the cramped concourse – make this new ballpark the Safeco Field of the East. Give it a retractable roof, but remember to make it look “old school” for effect. Sure, that pesky issue about where to put said ballpark is bound to come up. But there are some whack-jobs in this town that are convinced that we could host the damn Olympics. What would one block of land matter for a sport that will be sticking around for [fingers crossed] more than two weeks?! Plus, have you seen all the construction in the Seaport District lately?!
In a day and age where it is said that baseball is dying across the country, the Red Sox somehow just keep making money here. A new kid on the baseball block in Boston could maybe, someday, get in on the action.
Fun facts: The Braves called Boston home from 1870-1953. That’s 83 years. For reference, the Celtics have only been in town for 68 years and the Patriots have only been in existence for 55 years.
The Red Sox and Braves shared Boston from 1901-53.
Follow Metro Boston sports editor and columnist Matt Burke on Twitter:@BurkeMetroBOS