Monday, January 28, 2013

When Did PR Become a Four-letter Word?


Remember when the Red Sox traded for Alex Rodriguez? The trade sent the second highest paid player in the game away in exchange for the highest paid player. It was going to cost the Sox a bit more to have ARod on the team than it did to carry Manny Ramirez. That was OK, though, everyone told us. It wasn’t as bad as it looked, because ARod was willing to play along. In the past, the team would have events with sponsors and other high rollers. They occasionally asked Manny or Nomar Garciaparra to come to the events to schmooze with the deep pockets, and were turned down. So, while they were both talented players, they weren’t making money for the team. (I never heard about Pedro’s willingness or lack thereof in these situations. Probably because the Sox weren’t trying to trade him.) Rodriguez would be the exact opposite. Not only would he be willing to attend these events, he practically sought them out. So, sure ARod had a higher salary, but for the front office he was a cash cow. It made the deal at worst a wash. Everybody agreed. It was worth taking on ARod and his money because the good-looking, PR friendly star was an asset that made the team better. Every dollar that ARod brought in by hamming it up with potential advertisers was another dollar they could spend on a fifth starter. It all made perfect sense to everyone.

So, why are we all suddenly surprised that the Sox are concerned about image and PR?

And why are people so upset about it?

Now, let’s be clear. I don’t want the Sox giving a terrible infielder $20 million a year, and handing him the starting job because he’s easy on the eyes. I’ll leave that to the Yankees. But, if the Sox target good players who can also help them in other ways, why is that a problem? Adrian Gonzalez might be a good-looking guy who probably helps with the minority fan base. But, the guy would be a superstar if he looked like a white toad. The Sox front office may have thought Carl Crawford was a better investment because he appealed to the ladies. But, he was a multi-time all-star in his prime. The fact that he’s also a good PR move is somehow a bad thing?

Isn’t that the job of the front office? To keep an eye on the bottom line? Isn’t it their job to see what they can do to make the team more profitable? Isn’t it a good idea to ask people what would make the team make more money?

I think the Sox know that the best way to make money is to win games. They haven’t done anything that would suggest to me otherwise. But, if a focus group tells them they would make more money by selling polka-dotted hats, go for it.

Boston isn’t the biggest media market in the country. It’s not the second biggest. So, how have the Sox been able to have one of the highest payrolls in baseball? Because of all the extra stuff they do to make money. It’s that stuff that allows them to spend money on payroll.

So, why wouldn’t the Sox do polling? Or conduct focus groups? Or, do whatever they want to gather opinions. It’s a bad thing to give people what they want? Remember when they realized that people actually liked wider concourses and better food selection? Remember when they decided that people would actually like to try watching a game from on top of the Monster?

These guys aren’t idiots. I haven’t read Tito’s book yet. But, I’m guessing that when the front office mentioned that it would be nice if the Sox could win game in a more exciting manner they didn’t follow up with, “So, could you let the other team catch up so the Sox can win it in the bottom of the ninth?” I bet that if a focus group said they’d prefer the Sox play without their shirts on, they’d ignore that suggestion. But, if they can increase revenue by making a few tweaks here and there, that helps the team.

How is that a bad thing?

1 comment:

Srl said...

It's a bad thing when baseball ops takes second priority to merchandizing the team, which appears to be what happened. I just hope that baseball ops controls all baseball moves in the future and let Werner and Lucchino stick to selling bricks. Your point is perfect, winning baseball sells the best.