Red Sox CEO Sam Kennedy tells GHS he's frustrated over baseball's plodding pace: 'It's just too long'

Alex Reimer
August 01, 2019 - 12:04 pm

Red Sox CEO Sam Kennedy would like to say the reports of baseball’s death have been greatly exaggerated –– but that doesn’t mean he’s happy with the game’s plodding pace.

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In a post-trade deadline interview Thursday on the Greg Hill Show, Kennedy acknowledged NESN’s ratings for Red Sox games are down 14 percent this season. But he said that number is more indicative of the current media climate than the team’s popularity. “I would say it’s a general trend across live content and sports in general,” he explained. “We have seen a dip in years post-World Series. I think there’s so much excitement and build up.”

Later in the interview, Kennedy launched a passionate defense of Major League Baseball’s national standing, pushing back against the oft-cited narrative about the sports’ floundering popularity. 

“There’s this narrative the sport is dying or falling off and attendance is down. I like to just make sure we’re dealing in facts,” Kennedy said. “I just want to point out we’re a $10 billion-plus industry. Revenues are strong; player compensations are at their all-time highest levels. Youth participation in baseball –– we should be screaming this from the mountain tops here in New England –– more boys and girls are playing baseball and softball than ever before. It’s 26 million kids, right above basketball, and then the other sports fall off behind. There was an article in the Wall Street Journal that showed the increased participation rates in baseball and softball since 2014 have increased 20 percent. It’s actually the fastest growing youth sport in the United States. We’re probably taking a chunk out of sports like football and soccer that have had some concussion and head injury issues. But baseball is not dying. We’re packing Fenway every night. We’ve got unbelievable fan support. We just have a different product. We play 162 games, 81 games at home. We sell about 3 million tickets per year. The other major sports in Boston sell, combined,less than 2 million tickets. So it’s just a different format.”

Still, there’s no denying the games are way too long. Red Sox contests this season, for example, take an average of three hours and 24 minutes to complete. Team chairman Tom Werner has been one of the biggest proponents of implementing a pitch clock to speed up the pace of play, and Kennedy says he co-signs the idea. 

“That is absolutely the No. 1 issue we have to be tackling,” Kennedy said. “We’re not going to put a clock on the game, but I think we could have a clock on the sport for the pace and inactivity –– the dead time. The pitching changes, getting the batter to stay in the box, get the pitcher to throw the ball. Chris Sale is a perfect example of that. Get the ball, throw the ball. I’ve talked to Torey Lovullo, John Farrell, Alex Cora, Tony La Russa. Every baseball lifer says get the game going. You’re not going back to two hours and 15-minute games, you’re probably not going back to 2.5 hours. But if we could back to 2:40, 2:45, that’s a great place to be. The Red Sox’ average game time in 2019 is about three hours and 24 minutes. It’s just too long. We have families and kids coming to Fenway Park. We need to give them an experience that’s three hours or less. That’s really that target.” 

Related: Red Sox president Sam Kennedy on GHS vehemently denies ownership ordered team to stand pat at trade deadline