PawSox threaten to move just two years into five-year pledge not to threaten to move

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.

10 comments on “PawSox threaten to move just two years into five-year pledge not to threaten to move

  1. “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.”

    This is limited though in the actual number of cities they can talk to since the Red Sox won’t let them move very far from Boston. Else there would be issues calling up players on a couple of hours notice. Still a lot of places to move in the New England area.

    • traditionally, that’s not a problem. Most MLB teams have their farm teams flung across a wide area. The limit is really a reasonable plane flight to boston; on that basis they would be ok with a team somewhere in the midwest.

      If they are rehabbing guys, they would just do it in Portland (or Lowell) rather than Pawtucket if it were that important.

  2. None of those cities have any money for a minor-league team. Worcester doesn’t have that kind of cash, and Massachusetts is not a state that will readily fund a minor league stadium (or a major league stadium), even in a depressed area. Wouldn’t be surprised to see them go to New York or New Jersey for a “better deal” for a AAA team (why, exactly, I don’t know).

    The challenge in New England is that the political units are small–so they don’t get the financial power of aggregation the way cities in the south or west might. Most are already taking a bath having their own schools and fire departments, so there’s little money left over for this kind of silliness.

    • New York and New Jersey would be in protected territory for the Yankees and Mets (and Phillies for South Jersey).

      Maybe far western NY, but a move far outside New England might occur.

      • Do protected areas exist for minor league teams? Minor league clubs (in most cases) are completely separate entities from MLB teams. The MLB teams contract with them but don’t typically have any say in their operations. I’m not seeing how they could stop a minor league team from moving anywhere.

        • Yes, there are protected areas. The Mets and the Yankees needed to give each other permission when they both wanted to add Single A clubs to Brooklyn and Staten Island respectively.

          • That’s quite different. Putting a minor league team in a major league city is one thing. But the Yankees AAA is in Pennsylvania and that doesn’t cause a problem with it being near the Phillies AAA team. Teams move and change affiliations quite frequently without regard for who the major league club is.

  3. What is the issue with MA state money – economic development – tax – bonds? Are they in the mix for whichever city is trying to lure them?