John Henry has always been more comfortable discussing numbers, so here’s one that should resonate with him: 35,889.
That’s the average attendance for the four-game series the Red Sox just completed with the Angels over Patriots Day weekend. This included an announced crowd of nearly 35,000 for Monday’s final, twice delayed by rain, which saw shirtless fans drinking from their trainers, because never let anyone outside of New England tell us that we are a bunch of idiots.
Only a week and a half earlier, Fenway had looked very different, with some of the smaller crowds on Henry’s property in a Pirates sweep. Not even 25,000 showed up for the final, the club’s lowest non-Covid attendance in two decades.
So what has changed? It certainly had nothing to do with the Red Sox, who limped home with a double play combo from Bobby Dalbec and Yu Chang after a sweep at the hands of the mighty Rays.
Everything was Shohei Ohtani.
Angel phenom Shohei Ohtani reflects on Fenway Park experience
The Angels superstar made his only trip to Boston and fans treated his attendance like an event. With all due respect to Giannis Antetokounmpo, Ohtani is the most absurd monster in professional sports. No one is hitting the ball further, throwing it harder, or going from home to first faster. You couldn’t build it in a lab.
This once-in-a-lifetime talent is set to become a free agent in the fall, and it’s already depressing to see what role the Red Sox will play in his backyard drama: the spectators.
He’ll command somewhere north of 0 million, and the Red Sox have built a massive analytics department that will come up with at least as many reasons to say no. They may whisper that his elbow won’t hold up, or that his unprecedented Power Strike and Power Throw combo has a limited lifespan, and they might be right.
But they also miss the point. The goal is to create a compelling product that fans will do anything to see. Nothing against Justin Turner, Adam Duvall and Kenley Jansen, but constantly browsing someone else’s veterans doesn’t create buzz or loyalty.
Ohtani exists on another plane, with the crowd to prove it. Imagine that a player is Pedro Martinez every five days and David Ortiz the other four. He would be the club’s biggest draw ever.
You can’t put a price on that, even if it’s 0 million over 15 years, but the Red Sox seem determined to build from within and then hope the law of post-season averages plays into them. favor once every eight years. They are utterly lacking in imagination, focused as they are on the thought so frustrating.
Ohtani might not even consider coming here because he wants to win and the Red Sox don’t really offer that opportunity, looking like the rest of the American League East does. Ohtani is sick of missing the playoffs, so his next stop had better be ready to fight for a World Series.
The real contenders will make their pitch this winter, whether it’s Steven Cohen’s Mets, the bawdy Padres, the ever-looking Dodgers or even the more cautious Yankees.
Henry’s Red Sox? They talk more about spending than actually doing it these days, with their one big splurge – a $0 million plus contract extension for Rafael Devers – sounding more like an acknowledgment of fan unrest than a signal to philosophical change.
It’s a shame, because they are in charge of filling the seats and, as he just proved this weekend, no one turns on that tap like Ohtani.