- Gordon Edes, Red Sox reporter, ESPNBoston.com
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BOSTON -- So, we've heard all the reasons why the Red Sox can't cut ticket prices, even if theirs are the highest in the major leagues, nearly double ($53.38) the league average of $26.98, according to the Team Marketing Report.
Big-market team, small-capacity ballpark, a roster with eight-figure contracts, over-demanding fan base, no "bridge" years allowed.
The Red Sox act like they're doing fans a favor when they announce, as they did on Monday, that they're holding prices on tickets for 2013.
"It was abundantly clear this year that we should hold the line on ticket prices," CEO Larry Lucchino said in a press release. "Over the past few years, we have fallen short of our goals to play postseason baseball. Through it all, fans have shown their deep loyalty and support, for which we are all grateful."
Imagine, of course, the outcry if the Red Sox had dared to raise prices after finishing in last place for only the second time in the last 80 years and fielding Pawtucket North for the last six weeks of the season. Some folks thought even keeping the status quo took a lot of nerve, judging by the Twitter traffic that greeted the announcement.
"The Sox are riding high on a streak of 82,018,349 consecutive sellouts. Why on Earth would they reduce prices?" tweeted @jacuzzicasanova.
But what's this? On Tuesday, another big-market team playing in a small-capacity ballpark with a roster of eight-figure contracts and a demanding fan base cut ticket prices. The reason? A year even worse than the one the Red Sox had, although unlike John W. Henry ("We're going to have a great year"), Chicago Cubs owner Tom Ricketts made no such promises, even if a Chicago newspaper in April ran a picture of Theo Epstein walking on water (Lake Michigan).
The Cubs lost 101 games in 2012, the Red Sox 93. Just like the Sox, it was the Cubs' worst season since the mid-'60s, when they went 59-103 in 1966.
But the Cubs went the Sox one step further. While the Sox "held the line," the Cubs actually rolled back some prices. Next thing you know, they'll be charging two bucks for a gallon of gas in Chicago.
You can read all the details of the Cubs' reduction here in Jon Greenberg's piece on ESPNChicago.com. It's a little confusing, we grant you that. Not all ticket prices are being cut, some are going up, but the Cubs say their average ticket price is dropping by 2 percent for 2013. The average cost of a bleacher ticket will drop by 10 percent, according to the team.
The Cubs have had three losing seasons in a row. The Red Sox have missed the playoffs three seasons in a row. The Cubs drew 2.88 million fans, most ever to watch a team that lost 100 games, according to ESPN Chicago. The Sox proclaim their record sellout streak intact, although brokers were practically giving away tickets on the secondary market in the final weeks.
"We use a lot of analytics and talk to the fans, listen to their feedback," Colin Faulkner, the Cubs' vice president of ticket sales, told the Chicago Tribune. "They've been patient with us, and we try to listen to them."
The Red Sox last won the World Series in 2007. The Cubs last won the Series in 1908. Cubs fans win on the Patience Index.
Granted, the Sox began the season with a $175 million-plus payroll; the Cubs' payroll was $109 million, or just 62 percent of the Boston commitment.
But consider this: After shedding $262 million in salary in the Josh Beckett-Adrian Gonzalez-Carl Crawford-Nick Punto trade to the Dodgers, the Red Sox have just $45.638 million in guaranteed salary on the books for 2013. By 2016, they have just $245,000 committed, according to Cot's Baseball Contracts.
The Cubs are on the hook for $41.774 million in 2013 and have guaranteed salaries of $12.7 million on the books in 2016.
Sure, the Sox payroll will grow substantially this winter, but ownership is making noises that it won't come close to last season's. Think of the savings. Think of how MLB just signed new deals that will double its intake from national TV contracts. Think of the missed chance for Sox ownership to say to their team's fans: We cut payroll, and because you paid to watch an inferior product last season, we're cutting prices in '13.
But that only happens in fantasy baseball. Or on the corner of Clark and Addison.
Still, in the hearts of this Sox fan/tweeter, one question remains.
"What about beer prices?" tweeted @jmahalik.
The Red Sox should have done right by their fans and cut ticket prices.