Truck Day: just another chance to try and sell you something

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It’s Truck Day in Boston, which means that boxes of gloves, bats, balls snuff cans and Gold Bond Medicated Powder are being loaded into the back of a rig outside Fenway Park and will soon depart for Red Sox spring training in Fort Myers, Florida.

There’s been a lot of grumpy chatter from Red Sox fans this year over the fact that so many other teams are suddenly celebrating their own version of Truck Day. It’s like one of their valued traditions is being stolen from them, they’re saying. What will people steal next? Neil Diamond songs? Pink caps? Binge drinking? Is nothing sacred?!

I was sympathetic about this cultural theft until I learned this morning that the Red Sox’ February rite has corporate sponsorship:

The 2010 Spring Training Truck Day presented by JetBlue Airways is
scheduled for Friday, February 12. The Red Sox equipment truck will
depart Fenway Park for the 1,480-mile trip to the club’s Spring
Training home in Fort Myers, Florida on Friday at approximately 12 noon . . .

. . . Fans are also welcome to stop by and see JetBlue Airways, The Official
Airline of the Boston Red Sox, and Wally the Green Monster between 11
a.m. and 12 p.m. at the Yawkey Way Store next to Fenway for their
chance to win a roundtrip flight on JetBlue, a trip to Spring Training
in Ft. Myers, and other great prizes.

Can I ask a dumb question? Why is an airline sponsoring an event which glorifies alternative transportation?

The Yankees attendance and revenue is down, but it makes sense

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There’s a long article in the New York Times today noting that the Yankees attendance is down and that, based on financial figures released as part of their stadium bond disclosures, ticket and suite revenues through last season have fallen by $166 million since the end of 2009.

There is a lot of talk in the article about the exciting young team the Yankees have put together and how much they’ve won so far in the early going. And there is a lot of talk about marketing and demographics — Hal Steinbrenner talks about baseball’s “millennial problem” — but the story of the Yankees’ box office issues, such as they are, is pretty straightforward.

All teams suffer attendance and revenue decline when they play poorly. While the Yankees have not been bad for a long, long time, that’s a somewhat relative thing. They Yankees have sold themselves and sold their fans on the idea that nothing short of a championship is acceptable, so missing the playoffs for three of the past four years is bad for them. Fans don’t want to go see a bad team, be it Yankees fans, Rays fans, Royals fans or whoever.

Despite the recent lack of success, the Yankees have still, perversely, continued to price their tickets, concessions, parking and everything else as though they’re the only game in town. When demand falls and prices remain super high, fewer people are buying your product. Even if you’re the New York Yankees.

The Yankees are good this year. What’s more, they’re good in that exciting way that only young promising players bursting out onto the scene can deliver. It’s a wonderful thing for marketing and stuff, but even under the best of circumstances, ticket sales tend to lag on field success, often by as much as a year. Go back and look at World Series winning teams — especially the surprise winners — and you’ll see that it’s the year after on-field success when the real attendance bumps happen. I expect, if the Yankees continue to play well, their gate will get really nice by the end of the summer, but I suspect we’ll also see a more dramatic bump next year.

Taken all together, this is a dog-bites-man story. The Yankees are not some transcendent institution, immune from market forces. They’re just one of 30 Major League Baseball teams competing against other entertainments for a finite amount of the public’s money and attention. Nothin’ to see here.

David Price had a rocky rehab start last night

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Red Sox starter David Price has been rehabbing a left elbow injury since early March. Last night he made his latest rehab outing for Triple-A Pawtucket. It didn’t go well.

Price allowed six runs — three earned — on seven hits in three and two-thirds innings, requiring 89 pitches to do it. His velocity was good, but otherwise it was a night to forget. This was supposed to be Price’s last rehab start before returning to the Sox’ big league rotation, but one wonders if he’s ready for it.

Price didn’t talk to the media after the game, but Pawtucket’s manager said he was “upbeat” and “felt good.” For his part, John Farrell, upon hearing about the outing, said this:

“There’s no announcement at this point. We’ve got to sit with him and talk about what’s best for him, best for us as we move forward.”

The Sox could really use Price back in the rotation given their injury problems, but rushing him back if he’s not ready is certainly not ideal.

Stay tuned.