The Boston Red Sox sellout streak has cleared every hurdle it has encountered over the last nine-plus seasons, from unpredictable New England weather, to a team that was playing out the string following an early elimination from the playoff race in 2006, to the disgust fans have harbored for an underachieving Red Sox squad for the past 12 months.
Yet trading three of the players most associated with last season’s collapse and this season’s losing ways may have provided the knockout blow to a wobbling sellout streak.
The Red Sox and Dodgers executed one of the biggest and most stunning trades in baseball history Saturday, August 25, when the Sox sent first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, outfielder Carl Crawford, pitcher Josh Beckett and utilityman Nick Punto to the Dodgers for first baseman James Loney and several prospects.
The mammoth swap — in which the Dodgers agreed to pay all but about $10 million of the $271 million still owed Gonzalez, Crawford and Beckett — allowed the Red Sox to start all over again while dumping two players (Gonzalez and Crawford) who never seemed to be good fits for super-intense Boston and another (Beckett) whose defiance over his role in last year’s beer and chicken debacle soured fans who had enjoyed watching him dominate on the mound during the Red Sox’ world championship season in 2007, when he went 20-7 during the regular season and 4-0 in the playoffs.
Alas, the trade also cements the Red Sox’ fate for this season. The Sox were already well out of postseason contention before the trade, and they’ve lost three of five games since the deal, including the first three games of a nine-game west coast swing.
At 62-70 through August 31, the Sox are likely headed for their first losing season since 1997 and are on pace for their worst winning percentage since 1992, which also happens to be the last time they finished in last place.
The reeling Toronto Blue Jays give the Sox a decent chance at avoiding the AL East cellar. But will fighting for fourth place with a less polarizing team be enough for the Sox to keep the sellout streak — or, more accurately, the “tickets sold” streak — going?
The Red Sox’ sellout streak reached 782 games when a crowd of 37,506 saw them beat the Royals, 5-1, on Monday, August 27. Unlike many times this season, the Sox actually played to a capacity crowd Monday. The announced crowds for three of the five night games in the most recent homestand were about a couple hundred shy of the true night-time capacity of 37,495 (the daytime capacity at Fenway Park is 37,067), but the Red Sox — like many teams — use the ever-vague term “tickets sold” to define a sellout.
With the Red Sox closing in on the Portland Trail Blazers’ record for most consecutive sellouts by a team in the four major American sports, Boston management has plenty of incentive to nurse the streak along. The Blazers sold out 814 straight NBA games from 1977 to 1995, a mark the Red Sox could surpass in late May 2013.
Working in the Sox’ favor the rest of this season is the return to school of Boston’s thousands of college students, a natural baseball demographic in baseball-mad Beantown, as well as the presence of contenders on the September home schedule. Eight of the Sox’ final 11 home games are against the AL East’s top three teams — the New York Yankees, Baltimore Orioles, and Tampa Bay Rays.