The Red Sox begin the second half of the 2014 season in last place and appear more likely to unload high-dollar veterans than to add a big name for a postseason run.
So, naturally, business is booming.
Attendance for home games is up 7 percent over the first half of the season, and outside Fenway Park fans are spending as much or more on T-shirts and baseball merchandise, drinks, and dinner.
“We’ve had a very strong year from a business perspective, which is the irony when you’re not performing on the field,” said Red Sox chief operating officer Sam Kennedy. “There’s certainly a carryover effect from the World Series last year.” (John Henry, principal owner of the Red Sox, also owns The Boston Globe.)
At some point though, the spillover will dry up if the Sox continue to bring up the rear in the American League East. And team executives and the owners of the businesses near the ball park are coming to grips with a realization that the rest of the season probably will not bring the same surge in sales that occurred last year, when the Red Sox launched a run that led to the World Series trophy.
For example, the Hotel Commonwealth expects most rooms to be booked for the rest of the season, since summer and fall are always popular times to visit Boston. But come October, general manager Adam Sperling says, he doesn’t see the hotel getting the premium prices it commanded during the playoffs a year ago, when rates climbed to about $600 per night.
“It doesn’t appear that there will be postseason baseball in Boston, and that’s unfortunate because, let’s be honest, people paid more to stay here than usual during the World Series,” Sperling said. “I’d take that any day of the week.”
On the three days in October when Fenway hosted the Fall Classic, the Yawkey Way Store across from the ballpark took in a month’s worth of revenue. And while the first half of this season was better than in 2013, it was not as good as it could have been, said Bobby D’Angelo, vice president of ’47 Brand, the store’s parent company.
The team’s heavy reliance on young players represents a potential windfall for a souvenir shop, because new blood means new inventory. Yet with the exception of the versatile Brock Holt, the rookies have performed unevenly.
“If the young guys were having great years, it would be electric,” D’Angelo said. “If Jackie Bradley was hitting .300, instead of .200, his stuff would be flying off the shelves. The problem is he’s not.”
Nevertheless, tickets for home games remain expensive on the secondary market, averaging about $127, roughly $18 more than at this point in 2013, according to TiqIQ, a ticket-selling service.
Even in a down year, every Red Sox home game pumps about $2 million into Boston’s tourist economy, according to an estimate by the Greater Boston Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Whether the team is winning or losing, Fenway Park remains a constant draw for visitors, said Pat Moscaritolo, president of the tourist group.
He recalled a recent visit by a group of Chinese business executives who did not follow baseball — they just wanted to catch a game at the fabled ballpark.
“It may be that locals are losing some interest in the team, but for visitors Fenway remains our number one attraction,” Moscaritolo said. “For the last 10 years that I’ve been tracking visitor spending and the economic impact of the Red Sox, it’s almost unaffected by the team’s performance.”
Kennedy called the mostly positive business metrics a testament to the loyalty of Red Sox fans but stressed the club cannot take that loyalty for granted.
The Sox’s front office learned that lesson when the disastrous 2012 campaign, in which the team lost 93 games, led the following season to the end of a Fenway Park sellout streak that had lasted a full decade.
“It’s bittersweet to see the good numbers, because we’re in this to win,” Kennedy said. “Our sponsorship business has been good, concessions and all the rest, but none of that matters if we’re not winning.”