For the first time since the Red Sox ticket price announcement last month, principal owner John Henry explained reasons for the Fenway Park price increase for the 2010 season in an e-mail to the Globe.
“I am concerned with how expensive it is for four people to attend a game these days,” Henry wrote. “One thing we have to do is to try to ensure that when fans do spend hard-earned dollars at Fenway, they leave having had a great experience. Larry (Lucchino), Jonathan (Gilula), and Sam (Kennedy) are the best in the business at ensuring that. Our average ticket price is high because we don’t have an upper deck. If we had a 15,000-seat upper deck in addition to our 37,000 club, grandstand and field boxes, our average price would be much cheaper. That said, we’ve greatly reduced ticket-price increases lately. I think we were about flat in 2009 and are rising about 3.5 percent in 2010. Unfortunately virtually all contracts in baseball go up each year for on-field and off-field members of the organization,” Henry explained.
The Red Sox did not increase ticket prices for the 2009 season but were one of the few to do so this season.
He seemed less concerned about slumping NESN ratings on game broadcasts.
“Ratings fluctuate greatly in baseball,” he wrote. “I think there are a certain percentage of fans now that believe we are certain to make the playoffs. We’ve been very, very good – what six of the last seven? So for them there may be less drama about the chase. I’d much rather have that problem than the reverse.”
Henry added, “There is less and less appointment viewing on television with DVRs, Hulu, and the Internet in general. Live sports doesn’t have a shelf life – as (Dallas Mavericks owner) Mark Cuban has pointed out – and that is particularly important going forward as viewing audiences continue to fragment. Red Sox fans are going to be watching Red Sox games – live on TV and near-live on DVRs. While the issue of local media rights is critical to us, it is worth noting that even though ratings were off a bit, for the sixth year in a row, the Red Sox enjoyed the highest ratings of any team in baseball. That is a remarkable achievement, and we thank our fans for that.”
Henry declined to speak about baseball matters that he said he leaves entirely in the hands of Theo Epstein, nor would he discuss recent layoffs at his hedge fund firm in Florida, but he did indicate that the Red Sox and his other business are mutually exclusive. Epstein should be able to make the moves – via trade or through free-agency – that he sees fit to help the Red Sox get better in 2010.
Henry would not engage in much rhetoric with Scott Boras’ comment last month at the General Manager meetings when Boras was asked whether he and the Red Sox needed to repair any wounds after Mark Teixeira signed with the Yankees after a long courtship by the Red Sox.
“Well, after this season I would say that the Boston Red Sox had a chance to sign Mark Teixeira before the New York Yankees did because we gave them an offer. That’s the best I can do for owners when you give them a chance to sign a player. The player was earnest in coming there at the time and he presented them with an offer and they could have accepted it,” Boras said.
In response, Henry wrote, “I thought the player was clear at the initial press conference as to what the focus was from the beginning.”
At his introductory press conference, Teixeira said he always wanted to be a Yankee.
Boras still has a few clients on the Red Sox and some in the free-agent market the Sox may be considering. Left fielder Matt Holliday could be in Boston’s plans if the team can’t work out a deal with Jason Bay. Lefty reliever Mike Gonzalez and third baseman Adrian Beltre could also be future targets.