When the Boston Red Sox announced in October that they would raise prices on 30 percent of the seats at Fenway Park, Ace Ticket president Jim Holzman said Red Sox fans wouldn’t complain about the increases as long as the Sox made a couple splashes over the winter. Two cannonball-sized acquisitions later, rest assured there are few complaints about the price of tickets.
The franchise, which missed the playoffs in 2010 for just the second time in the last eight years, made the biggest moves during the Major League Baseball winter meetings the first week of December.
The Red Sox acquired All-Star first baseman Adrian Gonzalez from the San Diego Padres on December 6 in exchange for three prospects and a player to be named later. Gonzalez put up big power numbers (161 homers and 176 doubles) the last five years despite playing in pitcher-friendly Petco Park and should only improve now that he’s taking aim at the Green Monster 81 times a year.
Though the Red Sox couldn’t agree to a long-term extension with Gonzalez before the trade was consummated, it is expected they will sign him to a six- or seven-year deal before he becomes a free agent after next season.
The Red Sox followed the Gonzalez trade with an even more seismic transaction December 11, when they officially lured left fielder Carl Crawford away from the Tampa Bay Rays. The seven-year, $142 million deal is the richest contract in Red Sox history, in terms of average annual salary.
Crawford is viewed as one of the most complete players in the game — he has 409 stolen bases, second-most among active players, set career highs with 19 homers and 90 RBI in 2010 and doesn’t turn 30 until next August — and will, along with Gonzalez, give the Red Sox perhaps the deepest lineup in baseball.
“Players want to play in Boston,” Holzman told TicketNews. “Why wouldn’t you want to be in a place that’s filled every single night? If you’re a baseball player, would you go to a place that has 10,000 in the stands as opposed to 37,000 every night?”
The Crawford signing was an especially ingenious bit of timing by the Red Sox, who put select tickets on sale at 10 a.m. Saturday — exactly when the press conference introducing Crawford began. Holzman said December 10 that Ace Ticket had already experienced “a major spike in interest” for Red Sox tickets.
“I think ownership has stepped up and rewarded the fans with two great holiday gifts,” Holzman said. “Nobody was talking about the Red Sox three days ago. Now people are counting down until Opening Day.”
In addition, signing Crawford to such a rich deal likely raises the asking price of All-Star pitcher Cliff Lee, who is the top remaining free agent and the top target for the Red Sox’s bitter rival, the New York Yankees.
“I’m hoping that Cliff Lee signs with Texas,” Holzman said. “I think there were actually three sets of people very happy with these [moves]. One was Red Sox Nation, two was Ace Ticket, and the happiest was Cliff Lee. He can name his own price.”
If Lee signs with the Yankees, Red Sox fans won’t have to wait long to see him: The Sox will play their first six games of 2011 on the road before opening their home schedule against the Yankees on April 8. With or without Lee, Holzman expects those games to be as popular as ever after the Red Sox declared their intent to wrest AL East supremacy from the Yankees
“We open the season against the Yankees, and I think the rivalry will start off on the right foot,” Holzman said. “We certainly feel we have the advantage over the Yankees right now.”