At the very moment the Red Sox are scrambling to regain an identity, they are allowing streaming leader Netflix full access to the quest.
From next week at spring training in Fort Myers, Fla., through the end of the 2024 season, Netflix film crews will be embedded with the Red Sox for an unprecedented glimpse into what goes into MLB players’ grind of six weeks of spring training and a 162-game regular season.
Netflix, which also is producing a documentary on the 2004 Red Sox to be aired later this year, will focus on a ball club facing intense scrutiny from its fan base over three last-place AL East finishes the last four years.
The series won’t air until sometime in 2025.
By then, the Sox hope, the benefits will outweigh the possible distraction from the goal of winning more games.
The players have signed off on it, as have manager Alex Cora and chief baseball officer Craig Breslow.
Adam Grossman, the Red Sox executive vice president/chief marketing officer, said Breslow offered his experience as a player as one reason the Netflix project will not get in the way.
“He said, ‘Strong teams with strong cultures won’t allow this to be a distraction, just like they wouldn’t allow other distractions to be distractions,’ ” said Grossman. “The most important thing to pull this off is trust between the director and the players and leadership. And if that’s there, then we’ll be able to do this.”
The idea was spawned three years ago, Grossman said, in a conversation among Red Sox principal owner John Henry (who also owns the Globe), chairman Tom Werner, and MLB commissioner Rob Manfred.
The team first broached it to the players last April, when a group of 10 players listened to Netflix executives lay out the vision at Fenway Park.
After considerable dialogue between the team and the players, as well as communication with the Commissioner’s Office and the MLB Players Association, a meeting last September helped move the project further along to being green-lit.
The format will feature direct interviews with players, filming interactions with teammates, and, if they agree, away from the ballpark. Players who don’t want to participate in one-on-ones do not have to.
Since nobody knows what narrative this season will generate, there is no word on how many episodes there will be — or even a title.
The Netflix crew is expected to be at Fenway Park for most of the 81 home games, and will make road trips as well. Access to the team plane, and to the clubhouse at times when traditional media are not allowed, as well as field access and press conferences, are all expected to tell the club’s story.
Allowing outsiders a peek behind the curtain on the “grind” was a motivating factor in the players’ enthusiasm for the project.
“The nature of a 162-game season, of playing a game in Minneapolis and then Boston within a 24-hour period, was something that I think the players really wanted other audiences, and frankly other athletes, to see as well,” said Grossman.
The Red Sox will not be paid to participate, but there is the obvious indirect benefit of enhanced brand exposure to the team and its ballpark.
“We always want [Fenway Park] to be a destination — whether that’s for season ticket-holders that are here 40-50 times a year, or somebody that’s coming for the first time from Japan that has to come to Fenway Park,” said Grossman. “That is a big brand benefit.
“And I also think getting the stories out around our players is a real benefit for baseball. [Netflix] is a massive, massive platform and a really great opportunity to showcase and feature them.
“We obviously don’t know what the actual story lines will be yet and who the main characters are, but that was something that appealed to the players a lot — which is having a perspective and a longer arc of editing that allows for different human interest stories.”
Netflix has 260 million-plus subscribers. It has gradually been entering the sports realm the last couple of years with documentary projects such as “Formula 1: Drive To Survive,” “Full Swing,” “NASCAR: Full Speed,” and “Under Pressure: The US Women’s World Cup Team.”
Netflix recently paid $5 billion for up to 10 years of “WWE Raw” programming.
MLB Productions and MLB also played a part in the creation of the Red Sox project.
Shooting for the 20th anniversary look at the Red Sox’ 2004 World Series title has already begun.
Near the end of the Zoom conversation, Grossman glanced at the wall of his Fenway Park office at the team’s yellow Nike City Connect jerseys that created a style stir when they were introduced in 2021. Those uniforms have since become quite popular and part of the team’s wardrobe without much controversy.
“It’s sort of in that same mind frame, where you ask if there’s a risk,” said Grossman. “These are big, important projects that MLB players have taken on and we’re glad to be at the front of the line on it. We think it’s going to have a big impact and a ripple effect on the game.”
Michael Silverman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.