When news broke yesterday that Red Sox pitcher Josh Beckett had been spotted at an area golf course shooting 18 with teammate Clay Buchholz just two days before skipping his turn in the rotation because of injury, criticism came down quickly from fans and media alike.
First reported by local area station 98.5 The Sports Hub, the report of Beckett's apparent indifference to rest himself in order to get healthy was met with a level of outrage similar to when rumors of Red Sox pitchers gobbling fast-food fried chicken and swilling beer in the dugout during last September's historic collapse came to light.
People questioned how Beckett could possibly behave this way just a month into a season that is already in a downward spiral, how could he so blatantly advertise that what he does off the field is far more important to him than what he does on it? It's fairly obvious; he's just following the example set by his bosses.
726. As of this writing, that's the number of consecutive games that the Red Sox claim they have sold out at Fenway Park, a streak that dates back to May of 2006. The streak has been closely scrutinized by a number of different media outlets and the Boston Globe ran an article about the subject just last week
The article explained that the way the Red Sox continue to justify their claim that all 37,495 seats have been sold game after game is that they count tickets that are distributed for free by the team and standing room tickets towards the total number. The Globe points out that the term "distribution streak" might be a more accurate description although Red Sox executive vice president Sam Kennedy doesn't see it that way.
"I can understand the confusion,'' Kennedy told the Globe "But we operate by a definition that is commonly practiced throughout Major League Baseball and professional sports.''
The steak continues on because of a technicality and that's just what Red Sox owners want. The reason? 814. That's the number of consecutive home games sold out by the Portland Trail Blazers, a record that has stood since 1995. (Minor league baseball team the Dayton Dragons broke the streak last July but no one seemed to notice.) Once the Red Sox break the streak, and odds are they will if they continue to measure sellouts the way they currently do, it will just be one more piece of the franchise that their ownership company, Fenway Sports Group, can merchandise and market.
The sellout streak can take its place atop the Red Sox mantle along with having MLB's oldest ballpark and being part of the world's largest toast in one venue. It will just be one more way for the Red Sox to sell hats, jerseys, posters, bricks and license plates -- who cares about selling tickets?
Ownership's insistence on selling the sellout streak is emblematic of the organization's emphasis on touting accomplishments that having nothing to do with what happens on the baseball diamond and everything to do with the bottom line. Win or lose, Fenway Sports Group will still continue to make money hand over fist because no matter how many die-hard Red Sox fans lose faith with the team, there will be hordes of casual fans ready to take their place. In the same vein, no matter how many fans Josh Beckett alienates with his behavior on the mound or on the golf course, he's going to get his money.
Until fans stop showing up at Fenway to the point where it is even more obvious than it already is that the streak is a farce, forcing ownership to make some changes to avoid losing revenue, don't be surprised if Josh Beckett is on the golf course during the season or during the playoffs.
Rest in Peace to the late Red Sox public address announcer Carl Beane.
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