Red Sox raise season ticket prices, Cubs do the opposite
This is a tale of two baseball cities with similar franchises, history, and costs, and a divergence in how to approach season-ticket holders. Neither franchise was an on-field success in 2022; the Cubs (74-88) finished an unremarkable third place in the National League Central and a downward trend since winning a World Series. The Red Sox (78-84) shuffled to last place in the American League East for the second time in three years and drew slightly over 2.6M fans like their Cub counterparts, who also topped 2.6 MM. The Red Sox’s performance was not expected after being on the cusp of a World Series appearance in 2021, and the Cubs were a different story, as little was expected. Both teams will get excellent attendance despite how they are performing.
Both teams are linked and have been for their baseball history. Though the Atlanta Braves were in Boston under various names from 1871-1952, they became an afterthought for fans as the Red Sox gained traction in the early 20th century. A similar situation existed in Chicago and still does. But it goes beyond local turf competition.
Both play in the two oldest ballparks in the majors. Both parks are drawing cards, and I favor Wrigley Field in any comparison. They even still have troughs in the men’s room. And both parks are neighborhood parks. Both have a fan base that has suffered, is knowledgeable, loyal, and spends.
Both teams eliminated baseball curses and had Theo Epstein leading the management charge at curse eradication. Both have even squared off in a World Series, with the Red Sox coming out on top 4-2 in a 1918 get-together.
Both teams have had strong ownership in the past, with Phillip K. Wrigley leading the Cubs and Tom Yawkey in charge of the Red Sox. Both provided stability, especially in the depression years. A situation that prevented a possible franchise move for both.
Even today, the connection is the manager of the Cubs – David Ross. Ross was essential to the 2013 Red Sox championship team with his defensive stability as a catcher.
Where they now separate is just how they have decided to treat the season ticket holder, the most solid of all fan bases. Granted, a portion of that base is corporate, but many Uncle Carl’s have generationally passed down tickets. What the Red Sox did is an insult.
I question if principal owner John Henry actually “gets it?” When Bill Veeck was part of the Cubs and later the White Sox, he would sit in the bleachers and field questions from fans. No lofty owner’s box and no insulation from the hoi polloi. Henry is insular, even letting his minions respond to the media regarding corporate policy.
The ticket increase is a cheap nickel and dime we have seen with roster construction, and this also filters down to the one-game fans. A ticket price that flirts with the most expensive in baseball and a product of yard sale quality. You pay for what you get is not part of the corporate lexicon.
Both teams have similar payrolls at this juncture for 2023. The Cubs have already been shedding contracts in the last few seasons, and now Boston will do the same. Both franchises have a cushion of money to toss on free agents or sign current roster talent. But one team gives a fiscal bone to ticket holders, and one chooses to raise prices.