Twenty months after promising not to move the Pawtucket Red Sox for at least five years in order to do “a repair job” on “wounds that were suffered by fans,” the team’s owners are back threatening to move the team:
“For more than a year, the Pawtucket Red Sox have worked cooperatively and exclusively with the City of Pawtucket and the State of Rhode Island to find a long-term solution to keep the PawSox in Pawtucket. The club promised such exclusivity through the state’s regular legislative session ending in June. This understanding was clear and made public on numerous occasions.
“While the dialogue with Pawtucket and Rhode Island officials will continue through a fall session, if called, the club will now also respond to other cities who seek to present proposals for potential ballpark sites. Given the uncertainty we face upon the expiration of our lease, and the timetables involved with these sorts of projects, we believe it is prudent and fair to follow this course of action.”
Now, I’m sure that the PawSox owners will claim that they’re sticking to the letter of their promise — even if the team were to move or try to, a new stadium elsewhere most likely wouldn’t be ready until after that five-year date in 2020 — but let’s be real: What’s going on here is that the Rhode Island state legislature wasn’t showing much urgency in approving its share of $48 million in requested subsidies, and team execs are hoping the threat of Worcester will light a fire under them. It’s a traditional part of the stadium-grubbers’ handbook, and “We don’t want to consider moving, but we have no choice” is a traditional “non-threat threat” way of presenting it.
So how realistic is the threat? More so than if this were a major-league team, if only because there’s no shortage of cities big enough to play host to a Triple-A franchise. So far there have been only “back channel” communications between the PawSox and Worcester, so presumably they haven’t started talking actual monetary figures — which, again, is in the team’s interest, because “Worcester is interested in us, better give us whatever we want!” is a much more effective threat than “Here’s what Worcester is offering us, can you match it?” Especially if Worcester doesn’t come up with a ton of cash, either. I’m not sure where “Get your customers to bid against themselves, it saves time” falls in the Rules of Acquisition, but I’m sure it’s in there somewhere.