Red Sox Need To Stay In Pawtucket


According to Major League Baseball, the games in the minor leagues take too long. That’s pretty interesting, coming from the big leagues, but it is true. Brian MacPherson of Providence Journal states that “in 2004, only one team averaged at least three hours per game; last season, all but one team did so. Even in the International League, the average time of game over the last 10 seasons has increased by 20 minutes — from 2:36 to 2:56.” To that event, MLB executive orders were given:

The timers are meant to speed up the game by making the pitcher become set on the rubber within 20 seconds of the last pitch. “MLB first experimented with pitch timers in the Arizona Fall League, instituting a 20-second clock that began when the pitcher receives the return throw from the catcher” (MacPherson).

Now, that experiment will be interesting for Pawtucket Red Sox fans to witness. That is, if they are still at McCoy Stadium to see it.

On January 2, Mark Curtis of ABC6 News reported that “nearly a year ago, the Paw Sox signed a new lease to stay at McCoy Stadium for another five years, but it’s not certain the new owners are obligated to that.” In these new times, new owners want new stadiums to bring in what they think will be new dollars. “The PawSox have been a Red Sox affiliate since 1970 and a member of the Triple-A International League since 1973. The franchise drew more than 500,000 fans last season, an average of almost 7,400 per game — ninth-most in the 14-team International League. It last led the International League in attendance in 2006, drawing 9,200 fans per game that season” (MacPherson).

Rather than discuss the well-documented thoughts that Pawtucket, their mayor, and the governor of Rhode Island have on how the move would destroy the area’s economy, let us look at the alternative.

Say the Boston execs do decide to move the team. Does it make much economic sense for themselves? Tendencies and trendy options are not the same thing. There are a number of examples of professional franchises building grand stadiums, which provide big money in the short term but eventually lead to empty seats and disappointed clubs, in the long run. The money looks sexy, but where will it be in a few years? Meanwhile, it will cost the club millions to build or find a new location elsewhere. “Pawtucket officially leases McCoy Stadium to the state of Rhode Island, which in turn subleases the stadium to the PawSox organization — a reflection of the money the state has invested in the facility” (MacPherson). If the team was to move, even with a new stadium, there is no guarantee that they will receive that same partnership somewhere else. Especially, not a group of partners whom are as interested in the club’s success.

Anyone who doubts the importance of a Triple-A club being close to their MLB big brother just has to look at the Toronto Blue Jays. Their Triple-A affiliate recently became the Buffalo Bisons, in 2012, and has already paid dividends for the team, besides dollars. The drive, excluding the international border wait time, is about an hour and thirty minutes. Because of the two teams being so geographically close, many people from Toronto and other parts of Southern Ontario repeatedly made the drive to cheer on the big-league players on rehab assignments as well as to get a glimpse of the future prospects. Many players like breakout pitchers Marcus Stroman and Aaron Sanchez were closely watched by Blue Jays executives, as well, making the short distance a strategical advantage. Whenever someone got hurt, Munenori Kawasaki and other veteran players could be called in the morning and make their appearance in Toronto, as if they were there the entire time.

The Boston Red Sox already have that same advantage in Pawtucket. Driving from McCoy Stadium to Fenway Park takes just under an hour. Why would you move the team and complicate replacement decisions like that? Could it cost Boston the division, simply because a player would take longer to get there? Even if the new owners picked to move the Paws to a closer location, there is no guarantee that the new city would create as loyal a following as Pawtucket has for decades.

Yes, the new owners could be right and make more money somewhere else, but why chance it? Why alienate an entire region, for the possibility of new dollars, when your economic and strategic certainties suggest that you stay put? It’s a farm team; let them prove their loyalty by proving yours, Boston execs.