FanDuel - WFBC

July 16, 2005

The Selling of a Red Sox Nation : "Now that the World Series hangover has lifted, the Boston Red Sox are not quite the same team. This is the team with the second highest payroll in baseball, ...There is little, in the way of advantages, that separates the Red Sox from the hated rivals. This is not "America's team," as a bandwagoning Tom Hanks called them during the World Series. Although most Red Sox fans are knowledgeable and respectful (though almost obsessively passionate), a select percentage have managed gained the reputation in the media as among the most boorish and offensive in the sport"

posted by Marla Singer to baseball at 07:49 PM - 36 comments

Interesting article, but mostly it sounds like the whining of someone who lost a big bet last season.

posted by Samsonov14 at 08:19 PM on July 16

Interesting article, but mostly it sounds like the whining of someone who lost a big bet last season. Sort of like this?

posted by grum@work at 08:43 PM on July 16

He doesn't live here. He can't from the tone and suppositions. But aside from that, the general premise is correct. Bandwagoning is definitely happening, and the media saturation is obnoxious and I don't blame other people for being sick of the Red Sox. The end. But the factual miscues were offputting a bit to the overall feel of the story.

posted by jerseygirl at 09:11 PM on July 16

He doesn't live here. He can't from the tone and suppositions. Sure he can. I lived three blocks from Fenway for many years and I couldn't stand the Red Sox. As for their fans, I've no indication that they are more obnoxious than anyone else's (although the continued popularity of anti-Yankee paraphernalia doesn't exactly make them look like the most, ah, secure people in the world). However, they are concentrated in a much smaller space, and much closer to large numbers of people who aren't into their particular trip, than seems to be the case at any other MLB ballpark. That's bad medicine, and it does lead to a great many outbursts of obnoxious behavior in ways and places that cause problems for others. If you want to cut down on the obnoxiousness, the solution is simple: fans leaving Fenway, each and every one, get move-alonged in a brisk and businesslike fashion after each and every game, and at the double after anything major. They're just in too small a space.

posted by lil_brown_bat at 09:47 PM on July 16

WTF are you talking about? Fenway's packed with fans next to people who aren't fans? And how would you get people out the door any faster? The same T-stop backup happens at Celtics and Bruins games and they play in a much more modern, sizable facility. Honestly, I don't understand your point.

posted by yerfatma at 09:58 PM on July 16

I think the story was pretty good, but what he doesn't realize is that any time a team gets good your gonna deal with bandwagon fans. In cleveland during the 90's it was a joke.

posted by gregy606 at 10:06 PM on July 16

I'm with you yerfatma. I'd rather leave a game at Fenway than the fucking Bronx. And I lived just a few more blocks away and couldn't stand the people that couldn't stand the Red Sox.

posted by smithnyiu at 11:13 PM on July 16

He echoes something that I've been saying, albeit not online-that the Red Sox are (at least from a pay scale standpoint) not all that different from the Yankees.

posted by Bonkers at 12:05 AM on July 17

He echoes something that I've been saying, albeit not online-that the Red Sox are (at least from a pay scale standpoint) not all that different from the Yankees. Well, the difference in 2004 between NY and Boston ($195million and $133million) was about the same as difference between Boston and the league median ($133million and $72million (Detroit)). source So it really IS that different than the Yankees dollar-wise, but compared to the rest of the league, it's pretty safe to assume they are both in the same stratospheric level of spending.

posted by grum@work at 12:15 AM on July 17

well, you know, the cost of living is higher in new york :-)

posted by goddam at 12:30 AM on July 17

How about everybody minds their own business. Why do yall care what other people do anyways!!!!!

posted by A at 02:15 AM on July 17

How about everybody minds their own business. Why do yall care what other people do anyways!!!!! Speaking of non sequiturs. Do you care when they do it on your lawn?

posted by lil_brown_bat at 06:07 AM on July 17

How about everybody minds their own business. Why do yall care what other people do anyways!!!!! A waited a good 16 months to post this comment... Let's go with this, close down the site, and go forth... not caring about what happens to other people from here on out.

posted by jerseygirl at 07:23 AM on July 17

interesting

posted by daddisamm at 07:28 AM on July 17

"There is little, in the way of advantages, that separates the Red Sox from the hated rivals." Sportswriters who tear down the Red Sox for spending and winning are silly because they get after other clubs for saving and losing. But saying they're just like the Yanks is beyond the pale. They don't have as many superstars nor endorsements. They don't have a swagger and pride that only comes with 26 championships. The Sox are historically losers, no matter what their payroll is. They are the Bad News Bears of the majors, and America (Hanks et al) has discovered them and is eating them up and rightly so. Congratulations are in order, not criticism. Little difference? Damon could never wear his hair like that in Steinbrenner's clubhouse. (he could keep his highlights, though. see A-Rod)

posted by buttersworth at 07:53 AM on July 17

This article recognizes that the rest of us can start hating the Red Sox for the same reason we hate the Yankees: too much money, too much media attention, and a lot of rub-your-nose-in-it fans. I enjoyed the lovable loser days for the Sox and their first World Series victory. But as a Texas Rangers fan, there's a finite amount of sympathy I have for the suffering of any other franchise.

posted by rcade at 08:34 AM on July 17

The Sox are historically losers, no matter what their payroll is. They are the Bad News Bears of the majors, and America (Hanks et al) has discovered them and is eating them up and rightly so. Come on, do you really think a Brewers or a Royals fan thinks there's any difference between the Red Sox and the Yankees? Are they still eating up the Queer Eye promos, donut commercials, and bloody sock references? Damon could never wear his hair like that in Steinbrenner's clubhouse. Flock of Seagulls had cool hair too!

posted by crank at 09:43 AM on July 17

the chowder heads aren't good fans never have been never will be

posted by navy9112000 at 10:00 AM on July 17

Great video, grum. LOL.

posted by tommysands at 10:42 AM on July 17

Unless you've grown up in New England, you can't know the pain of being a Red Sox fan... To have it snatched from in front of you time and again is at best heart breaking... I also lived in Atlanta in ther early 70's and was in Five Points the day Turner annoucced he was the Braves owner and spent many days watching a dismal team... Now everyone is a Braves fan... I now live ouit side ofr New Orleans, and am an avid supporter of the Saints..So needless to say I've seen bandwagon fans. Who cares? If they support a team or don't? For christ sake its Human nature,to love a winner.. The true fan likes for their team to win of course,but a true fan stays true win or lose.

posted by maclmn at 10:49 AM on July 17

the chowder heads aren't good fans never have been never will be Teach us, O Wise One.

posted by yerfatma at 11:26 AM on July 17

Unless you've grown up in New England, you can't know the pain of being a Red Sox fan... We can know the pain of listening to the bellyaching, though ;-) I've seen bandwagon fans. Who cares? If they support a team or don't? For christ sake its Human nature,to love a winner.. The true fan likes for their team to win of course,but a true fan stays true win or lose. And as much as some might like to complain about bandwagon fans, I dunno how you can ever really quantify somethng like this. Is someone a bandwagon fan because they wouldn't shell out $150 for seats at the park when the [insert team name] couldn't get out of their own way, but now that they're playing well, they scrape up the cash to do it? Is someone a bandwagon fan because they jump at the opportunity, the first one in a long while, to buy a t-shirt that says something sexier than, "American League East Wildcard Winner"? Is someone only a true fan if they watch every single game? It seems fairly clear that in good times, real fans are more visible too -- it ain't all a bandwagon.

posted by lil_brown_bat at 11:31 AM on July 17

AHEM......Anyone ever heard of the Cubs?

posted by volfire at 11:56 AM on July 17

"American League East Wildcard Winner" Collector's item when you beat the AL East "winner" and win the World Series.

posted by yerfatma at 01:41 PM on July 17

I thought the article was poorly written. Full of cliches with nothing we haven't heard a million times before, and jesus, get an editor. Yes, the red sox have their share of bandwagon fans. So will the cubs if they ever when a world series. How many yankee hats and shirts do I see on people who don't even follow baseball? It's the nature of the beast. And yes, I can see how other teams can resent the Red Sox. As far as 'america's team'? Silly, yes. But the red sox were always popular, even before last season. I've met red sox fans everywhere I've travelled. The more fans, the more jerks you'll have in the mix. I'm not sure what's so hard to understand about that. I will say that any comments from yankee fans should be filed under comical. We both have our share of embarrassing fans. As for the yankee hating gear, if the situations were reversed, with the red sox having a billion championships and the yankees one, I'm sure we'd see the same thing. There's nothing magical about one team's fans. I've heard that Red Sox fans are fickle. I read yankee fans one after another on yankee sites calling for torre's head earlier in the season. Now they're all of a game out of first? And you know, there's not doubt the economics of baseball are screwed up. It's the yankees and the red sox and then everyone else. But to call them one and the same is a joke. The yankees are something like 85 million over the red sox. Every-time we play baltimore I lament the fact that we spend something like 45 million more than they do. Then I remind myself that the yankees spend 130 million than baltimore, and I don't feel so bad. The Red Sox seem to be trying to covert more to a home grown model. I hope they do it.

posted by justgary at 01:59 PM on July 17

The Red Sox seem to be trying to covert more to a home grown model. I hope they do it. Meaning what? Reliance on the farm system? It sure would be nice to see this, from any team.

posted by lil_brown_bat at 04:19 PM on July 17

yes. Homegrown talent.

posted by jerseygirl at 05:19 PM on July 17

Well, keep your eyes peeled over the next 3 years. Papelbon, Hanley Ramirez, Dustin Pedroia, etc.

posted by yerfatma at 05:42 PM on July 17

volfire I feel your pain.Also hope they do it this year.Bless you and all Chicago fans.

posted by maclmn at 06:44 PM on July 17

Yes volfire, we have heard of the Cubs. Unfortunately, Cubs "fans" of late have been even more obnoxious than Red Sox "fans." I think the situation with Cubs fans has definitely gone downhill since 2003.

posted by holden at 09:02 PM on July 17

Meaning what? Reliance on the farm system? It sure would be nice to see this, from any team. Yes. In fact, I was reading something just yesterday that claimed red sox management would not trade any of their top prospects (yerfatma named them) for a quick fix. Will they stick to their guns? Who knows. But I'd rather have 10 good seasons with home grown talent than 2 great ones with free agents (especially now that we have one championship...through free agency, of course =) Even the red sox can't compete with the yankees. They're 85 million behind them now, and if they could get rid of manny's contract it would be even a larger difference.

posted by justgary at 10:14 PM on July 17

Even the red sox can't compete with the yankees. They're 85 million behind them now, and if they could get rid of manny's contract it would be even a larger difference. I'm not following the point here. If the Red Sox get rid of their #1 (or #2 player, depending on who you ask) and the large salary they signed him for, we're supposed to feel more pity for them? I think I'll save my pity for the teams that never had a hope in hell of affording Ramirez, Schilling, and Martinez in the same year.

posted by grum@work at 10:35 PM on July 17

Grum, no where did I mention pity. (in fact I said I can see how other fans 'resent' the red sox). Me thinks you're reading more into my post than is actually there. I'm coming completely from a selfish red sox fan's perspective. We can, and probably will, spend more than any team other than the yankees. Yet still there's a huge gap between the sox and yankees. I think the red sox ownership knows they can't compete on a financial level with the yankees. It's that situation, and how the red sox choose to deal with that fact that I'm curious about. Don't want nor care about pity.

posted by justgary at 11:26 PM on July 17

Well grum, one thing to consider is that- while the Yankees via incredibly valuable, self-owned, TV and cable deals are so cash rich it's untouchable by any other team- the Sox aren't especially gifted in terms of revenue in ways that other teams can't emulate. For that matter, the team right behind the Sox in spending is the New York Mets, who can still drum up that cash even while sharing a market with the larger, richer, more successful Yankees. The Red Sox do have an insanely loyal, 6-state fan base, but there's no reason we shouldn't see teams like the Mariners, the Indians, the bay Area Angels/Giants/Athletics, etc, drum up enough money to pay as much or nearly as much as the Red Sox. Great writers have mused on why Boston baseball has such a hold on the region, supposing that our Puritan roots or the turning of the seasons explain the fevered passion felt by homegrown Sox fans. Few other teams have the benefit of that mythos, the Chicago Cubs being one of them; however, it is a history that is developed, built-up over time. The Seattle area for example is laden with enough of a population, and wealthy one at that, that high ticket prices and lucrative media deals have allowed the Mariners to quietly generate more revenue than any other team, besides the two East Coast teams in question. However, by pocketing that cash, reporting phantom book-keeping losses, being gun-shy at the trading deadline, and using poor scouting and hiring decisions to reflect more of a "family friendly, good guys" team than a "skilled, on-base reaching, power-hitting, high K/BB ratio team", the Mariners hit their high-water mark in 2001, and have been sliding downhill ever since. One can imagine a different Mariners' franchise that had spent the last decade writing the history books with stories that parents would tell their children, of manic trips to a rocking stadium, breeding a rabid Mariners fanbase to rival its East Coast peers. Instead, the Mariners watched as three absolute first-ballot, no-doubt-about-it Hall of Famers walked out of town in successive years. This is not a problem the Red Sox, or even the Yankees, can solve.


I've ginned up some quickie charts (all data courtesy of USA Today's pro sports salary database; team salaries may not reflect complete team payroll). Click on the thumbnail for larger view. Here is a comparison of all the team salaries this year:
As you can see, this certainly looks daunting! The Yankees are so far off the charts, I couldn't even print their name without scrolling outside of the grid. The Red Sox are second, but aren't so far ahead of the #3 Mets that it is an insurmountable spending spree- indeed, the Yankees' largesse shows the Mets could probably make up the difference and be the #2 team simply by having more post-season success, and thus more revenue. The overall impression given is of a steady distribution of salaries across teams, excepting the one team that sticks way out. The Red Sox are by comparison a big spender to most teams- but if you look at their historic trend, the bulk of this difference was the big push in 2003 (a $28m increase in salary), and with that heartbreaking ALCS loss to the Yankees, a continuation of that push in 2004 to win the World Series. Not a Sox fan on the planet doesn't think that price was worth it, and would gladly spend an additional dollar on pretzels or beer in 2005 to make up the difference.
So, is it possible that while some few teams are cash-poor and unrecoverably so, that the bulk of teams have the population and fanbase to make a concerted effort, but choose not to: realizing what the L.A. Clippers did long ago, that you can put fans in the seats whether you win or lose, but it's far cheaper- and more profitable- to keep salaries down and lose? Or that teams are spending money, but in ill-conceived ways that "Moneyball" has shown to be outdated thinking, or splurging on the wrong free agents at the wrong times in their careers? Let's look at some more trends over time- the salaries for selected teams during the span from 1988-2005 (as far back as USA Today went) for some select teams. Because of the span of time, I have split this into two images, with 1995 as the rough middle. I chose these teams somewhat at random, including the Sox and Yankees of course, my current home town Mariners, perennial hard-luck case the Chicago Cubs, and a few "small market" teams like Toronto and Oakland and Kansas City. I've also included the Indians, who you'll recall seemed to be a perennial contender in the not too distance past. Feel free to pull up the data yourself at the USA Today link above to compare your own favorite team's historical spending patterns.
1988-1995 Salaries, selected teams
1995-2005 Salaries, selected teams
Now this is interesting! Looking at the first graph, 1988- 1995, we see that it's only in the mid-90's that the Yankees, and for that matter the Red Sox, payrolls start to really diverge from the rest. But perhaps just as interesting is patterns you see among the other teams. The Blue Jays were a middle-market team in the late 80's, but starting in the 90's began to spend more than any other team, with a resulting back-to-back championship team in '92 and '93 to show for it. In 1995, they were still atop the leader board at roughly $50m, but in 1996 slashed their payroll to half that, at about $28m. They slowly chugged up to just under $50m again, then boosted their spending immensely in 2001 and 2002 to nearly $80m, then had it drop suddenly back down to the ~$50m range. For a team with an apparently limited budget and the harsh realities of the Canadian exchange rate, it does seem to be a pretty wildly fluctuating payroll. Is the Blue Jays "real" payroll more in the neighborhood of $80m, or is it more $50m? How much sympathy can we have for teams that are near the top of the payroll list one year, then at the bottom the next? I already spoke above of how the Mariners have a Microsoft/Boeing/Starbucks/etc population with more than enough discretionary income to keep the stadium packed, if the product is compelling. While the Mariners did finally open the checkbook this off-season to acquire Adrian Beltre and Richie Sexson, they have been relatively unwilling to increase payroll to keep the stars that developed in Seattle, such as Griffey, Johnson, or Rodriguez, among other lesser lights. Yet despite these players' departures, the Mariner payroll has grown steadily over time. It's just that when they choose to spend money, they have not spent it wisely; when they choose to be tight with payroll, it's to the greater loss of the team and fans. By 2001, the Yankees and Red Sox both had eclipsed the $100m threshold, but other teams- including the revived Cleveland Indians and the cash- heavy- but- penny- pinching Chicago Cubs (other, better screeds have been penned regarding how the Chicago team and its ownership plays the fanbase like a fiddle, collecting and pocketing huge bags of cash from monopolistic tv and radio deals while acting as if they "just can't compete" with the other, spendier teams) were certainly keeping pace. So what happened to the Indians? A constant playoff presence through the second half of the 90's and into the new millenium, their payroll was right up there with the big boys. In 2001 their payroll was $92m; in 2005 their payroll is $37m. I am not able to belief that they went $50-60m in debt each year, and only recently realized they couldn't afford it. This smells of an ownership group that realized it was more profitable to keep salaries low, pocket the extra cash and luxury tax money, and make your winning strategy simply to wait for the occasional "quirk" season where the young kids make a go of it so the fans stay interested and hopeful. I leave it to the reader to compare their own favorite team, and realize that in most cases the team payrolls for these "small market" teams have fluctuated wildly from "top of the heap" to "bottom of the barrel", literally from year-to-year. This says to me that these teams are choosing to underspend, to the detriment of their fans and the team's success, to keep more coins in the till at year's end. In some cases, there's documented evidence that some "small market" teams intentional keep salaries low, and distort or hide their revenue streams through creative bookkeeping (such as the "parent company gets the tv revenue dollars, making the team itself seem poor" trick that the Cubs and others use) just to be eligible for luxury tax revenue. In all cases, evidence has shown that a smart team can, by finding the right talent, scouting well, and making intelligent decisions on who is worth blowing a multi-year, multi-million dollar deal on, actually compete year in and year out.

posted by hincandenza at 03:12 AM on July 18

Thank you for brining Our Hal back. I would disagree that any team can emulate the success of YES, NESN, WGN or TBS. I think that requires a certain coming together of fan base and media empire that Kansas City or Milwaukee would be hard-pressed to replicate. And NESN made up something like half the value of the Sox sale price, so it generates serious cash.

posted by yerfatma at 06:09 AM on July 18

I can see your point, yerfatma- that some markets due to good media deals, or ownership with deep pockets (Atlanta is a local team with a national media exposure). But one of the national stations you mention, WGN, is for the Chicago Cubs. So certainly something else is at work if the Cubs can't win... But my point was that the teams claiming poverty are often anything but poor: while they can't compete with the Yankees, they can compete with the "rest of the pack", of which I'd count the Red Sox. And yes, a market like Kansas City may seem to be "out of it", but at one time they were only a couple of million from the top spending teams; when did they decide to spend very little? Kansas City has the advantage that while it's not as population dense as New York, it doesn't share its market with other nearby MLB franchises, and has only the Kansas City Chiefs to compete with in local dollars. The numbers seem to suggest that some teams have clamped down on payroll intentionally. I really wrote this to dissuade SpoFi of the notion that the Red Sox are just another Yankees. I agree the Yankees are insanely out of reach for other teams, but excepting the last couple of years for the Sox (where new ownership dropped big dollars to get fan interest peaking, which is likely paying off in spades right now) the Boston team wasn't particularly spendy compared to other teams. For example, in 2000, Boston was only 5th in spending at $81m. This was:

  • $1m less than the Orioles at $83m
  • $2m less than the Orioles at $83m
  • $9m less than the Dodgers at $90
  • $2m more than the Diamondbacks and Mets
  • $5m more than the Indians
  • etc, etc
My point is that Boston had a big spending spree recently, but it proved worth it. While Detroit (peak of $70m) or Cincinnati (peak of $60m payroll) might not be able to splurge to the tune of $120m now, I do argue they could spend more, and be a little more competitive. All that said, I still think the ideal system might involve something akin to the NFL's payroll system, or a modified version, wherein the teams have to declare their "expected payroll" capabilities, pegged to some formula of total revenue with the player's union able to inspect the books. Then, revenue sharing occurs to help smooth out the huge gaps. Lastly, the player's union itself dictates per-player salaries, leaving the players and their agents to decide who gets what- and leaving the teams to essentially create a rotisserie league. What this doesn't solve is cases where the media ownership group, which happens to own the Cubs as well, simply hides some of the Cubs revenue by declaring it not part of the team income, but of the parent group's income. As a result, the "team" has much deeper pockets via their ownership group, but a separate bookkeeping makes them seem less profitable. There's about zero chance the owners would ever let a system like this fly: there's a reason people who got insanely rich buy sports teams, and it isn't just because they lost all their business acumen. Sports teams are profitable in the here and now, but that can be hidden with tricky accounting, and are profitable in the long-term when resold to even richer billionaires...

posted by hincandenza at 11:32 AM on July 18

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