Red Sox executive vice president and chief operating officer Sam Kennedy, in an interview on WEEI’s Red Sox Hot Stove Show, disputed the suggestion found in published excerpts from former Sox manager Terry Francona‘s that the franchise’s baseball decisions started to be shaped by marketing concerns. Instead, Kennedy stated that the Sox’ mission is defined by the team’s on-field success, with marketing (and concerns such as NESN’s broadcasting success) serving that goal, rather than vice-verse.
“Great sports organizations, great ownership groups like ours, have one goal, and that is to win baseball games. We’ve been here for 11 years together. Our group’s won two world championships, we’ve had six postseason appearances, we’ve won over 1,000 baseball games,” said Kennedy. “The business side, the baseball side and the community outreach side all need to work together to achieve that common goal of winning games.
“To be clear, the way that I view the world, I can speak for myself, is that we on the business side are here to support and provide the necessary resources to the baseball operations group to do everything in their power to field a team that does one thing, and that is win. Winning baseball games is and always has been the central mission of the Boston Red Sox since we’ve been here, and I think that John Henry and Tom Werner and Larry Lucchino have demonstrated an incredible track record of doing that. I know that I’m really proud to be a part of the organization. I know that [former GM Theo Epstein] was proud to be part of this organization, as was Tito. I certainly wish them both well.”
Asked if he’s seen a change in the team’s operating philosophy in recent years, Kennedy suggested he had not. He said that the biggest change in the organization has been its performance on the field rather than what is transpiring inside the team’s offices.
“I haven’t [seen a change in operating philosophy]. What I have noticed is a change in our winning percentage,” said Kennedy. “I think that tends to cause different folks to criticize organizations more regularly. I fully understand that and I fully respect that.
“Our job, we are here and we are paid to do one thing, and that’s to win baseball games. We know that. We take that responsibility very seriously. I grew up a sports fan, a passionate Red Sox fan. There’s nothing more important to me than to win baseball games. I think over the past several years, given that we’ve fallen short of our sort of organizational goal or mandate — which is to play baseball in October, put yourself in the postseason, give yourself a chance to win the World Series, we’ve fallen short of that, so we have been understandably criticized for a lot over the last several years. That’s on us to fix it and to recognize that we have not performed up to the very high expectations that exist in this marketplace. I assure you that John and Tom have given Larry and me and [Sox GM] Ben Cherington and our entire organization the resources to fix that and to get us back to where we belong, which is on top of the baseball world. I really believe that we have the know-how, the work ethic, the passion, the dedication to get it done. But those are just words. It doesn’t mean that much coming from me right now, other than I’ve been here for 12 years. .. We’ve tasted the champagne. We want to get back there. That’s why we’re all here.”
To listen to the complete interview, click here. Additional highlights are below:
On whether the team dismissed uniform personnel requests for more day games due to marketing and TV ratings concerns (a suggestion in the excerpt of Francona’s book): “I think it’s a little bit of an unfair characterization. We sit down with, we sat down with Theo Epstein when he was here and with Ben now, and we try and work out a schedule that works well for the baseball operation. It’s always a difficult thing scheduling, particularly here in New England with weather issues, it’s probably the most difficult thing we have to do. We would love to have more day games for kids and for families. In fact, we made it a priority to add more day games over the last several years, but there are certain logistical issues and rules with each and every date you try to schedule on.
“Do we factor in the chance for the most fans possible to see a game either in person or on television? Yes, we do. You have to take into consideration the broadcast implications and impact on a home game, which is under our control, when you’re putting together the schedule. But it’s unfair to characterize the fact that we never took any input or direction from baseball [operations]. I’m not being critical because I haven’t seen the quotes, but I know how it works in reality.”
On the team’s approach to profits: “This [ownership] group, little known fact, they probably don’t talk about it but I will, they’ve not taken one dollar – not one dollar – of profit from this enterprise. All the revenues that we’ve generated are reinvested back into the club – back into player payroll, back into renovating Fenway Park, back into the operation of the team. That’s something we’re very proud of. This group has made an incredible commitment to the fans and to the front office. It’s something that we’re very proud of. I’d ask for our fan base to keep the faith here this offseason.”
On whether the team will be more difficult to market coming off the 2012 season than the 2011 season: “The last several years have been difficult, but I think that this year, from a business perspective, will be tougher than last year, just because we had such a disappointing season on the field. Although who knows? If we get off to a decent start, we might be okay. I do think our fans will see the commitment and hopefully get behind us, but we need to let our actions speak louder than our words.”
On the sellout streak at Fenway Park, which dates to May 15, 2003: “We’re really not. But I do think that the sellout streak – I know it will end – at some point. I don’t know when. It may be this April, it may be this May, it may not. We’ll have to see. That’s up to the fans.
“We’ve said this repeatedly – it’s a streak that our fans have set. No one in sports has ever seen the type of support that the Boston Red Sox have seen during this incredible, incredible decade of the Henry/Werner/Lucchino administration. It’s humbling. Hopefully, the fan support will continue, but to be pragmatic and realistic about it, this season, it’s going to be difficult. Our fans are sort of in a wait-and-see mode. Some people are angry. Some people are upset. I don’t blame them. We understand that. We need to do a better job. We need to win baseball games this season and do it consistently. We’ll see what happens with the sellout streak, but it’s not something that keeps us up at night despite some popular opinions.”
On how sellouts are defined, and who defines the sellouts: “It’s defined when you have more tickets distributed – paid and complimentary tickets – exceed your seating capacity. That’s the definition. It’s not defined by Major League Baseball. It’s defined by individual clubs. Most baseball clubs and most other sports teams use that definition, and it’s something that the Red Sox have used for decades here at Fenway Park.”
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