Death of a Sales Pitch

Have you ever done something stupid?

Maybe you lied…and didn’t admit to it until you were caught, or bought something expensive…and didn’t tell your spouse, or maybe you were a little inebriated…and ran on the field at Fenway Park.

There are a few things that can be gleaned from a video (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KGERG5WoAY4) like that. Look both ways before you cross Center Field. Also, when a person runs onto the field, unnecessary roughness has been authorized. The third, and most telling thing in the video, is after the guard imposes his will on the intoxicated man.

As the amateur filmmaker pans the camera up and to the left to follow Pedroia-shirted man, it can be seen on the Green Monster scoreboard that it is in the seventh or eighth inning. You can also see under the Coca-Cola sign in the left-field box, or to some extent under even that canopy, that no one was even there to witness the man’s run. There was may have been half the sits filled; definitely not a full crowd.

Before you question if the game was a rout, one-sided or not, or if the game had run over, overtime as baseball can sometimes do, here are some game statistics. This game was on May 2nd, 2011, the Red Sox took on the 6-0 Jered Weaver and the Angels.

The Sox were attempting to regroup from a poor start and a win over a solid Angels team was what the doctor proscribed for a boost in momentum. Keep in mind the game was around the 7th or 8th inning. The game’s full time was three and one half hours which, by baseball standards, is reasonable; that’s about what’s expected during a day at the park. The game-time temperature was 580 – which most New Englanders consider balmy and the Red Sox scored sixth seventh inning runs en route to saddling Weaver with his first loss of the season and winning 9-5. Arthur Miller couldn’t have penned a better script.

Those statistics show that none of the fans can be missing because of time, inclement weather or absence of competition. Entering the seventh up only 3-2 and tagging the American League’s best pitcher – at the time – for six runs…no one leaves during a home team’s rally.

Another statistic from that night, the Red Sox reported that 37,017 were in attendance, which is 100.2% of Fenway’s capacity. I don’t think it takes a salesman to look at the figures and realize there weren’t as many people as seats up in the left field stands on that night.

That night was just a microcosm of the Red Sox season and the seats weren’t full. And that was the same year as “The Great Collapse” in which the Sox missed the postseason after having baseball’s best record on July 2nd and on September 3rd were evaluated with a 99.6% chance of making the playoffs. The Sox beat the odds and missed the postseason.

And allegedly, still, the Sox sold-out games.

But last Thursday, April 12, that streak came to a close after 820 straight games (794 regular-season contests and 26 post-season ones). The string of sellouts came down hard as there were over 7,000 unoccupied seats in the house as the Sox fell to Baltimore 8-5. The streak began on May 15, 2003. To put that in perspective: Nomar Garciaparra homered and Pitcher Félix Doubront was a sophomore in high school. Another fact: Dustin Pedroia – Boston’s second longest tenured player – has never played a home game in front of less than a “sellout” crowd.

The Red Sox consecutive games of full stands trumped the Portland Trail Blazers sellout streak of 814 games by a mere six contests to take hold of the prize that signifies the most sellouts in a row.

Although, the Red Sox streak is contrived. The 2012 Red Sox season was abysmal. There was the salary/roster purge, the awkward standoff between Bobby Valentine and, well, pretty much everyone in Boston, along with unceremonious jettisoning of fan-favorite and Greek God of walks, Kevin Youkilis. It was an awful centennial celebration for Fenway.

If things were going well in the first half of 2011 and the seats weren’t sold out, how can anyone expect to believe the Fenway group when they say that all throughout the dismal 2012, the games were sold out? The 2004 and 2007 World Series trophies were well-spaced enough and dramatic enough to make those years believable, but towards the end (2011 on), it seemed that the Sox were neither playing well, nor selling well.

Ownership, the title which Larry Lucchino, Tom Werner and John Henry have earned through their austere and dislikable ways as of late, tried to siphon off as much publicity as possible. In an email to Red Sox insiders early this year, they claimed they had been “crunching the numbers” and “things didn’t look good [for the streak]” and indeed they didn’t.

Which is why it is such a good thing that the laughable, embarrassing streak came to a close, because the streak ending represents a turn of the times. Long-time coach Terry Francona is out, the roster was overhauled, and only a few players remain from either of the World Series title teams.

The Sox have a goofy, loveable bunch for the first-time since the 2004 “Idiots” and they also possess a fresh slate. They are lowering concession prices, bringing in high-character guys and ending the streak. None of those are monumental revelations, but they are a cornerstone for a new way, built on Red Sox baseball.

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