By Matthew Geagan, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Watching the Red Sox has not been the fun escape that many of us had hoped for when baseball returned. The team is, to put it bluntly, awful. And to make matters worse, Red Sox games at Fenway Park have been starting at 7:30 p.m. EST, leading to some rather late nights for Boston fans.
At least it has for those fans brave enough to watch all nine innings, which hasn’t been worthwhile in many of Boston’s game. With those 7:30 starts, some games have ended after 11 p.m., which would be fine if the games were entertaining and close. But the majority of Boston’s games — er, losses — have not been entertaining or close.
Red Sox president and CEO Sam Kennedy appeared on WEEI’s The Greg Hill Show on Thursday morning, and when asked if the team could shift start times if they conflict with Bruins and Celtics playoff games, Kennedy admitted that the later start times probably wasn’t their best idea.
“We talk about scheduling issues each and every day. The 7:30 experiment was designed to try and capture the largest television audience possible and, given the way the team has played, given maybe the nature of the pandemic with people being home more, perhaps that wasn’t the right decision,” said Kennedy. “We’ll see as we go forward here.
“In terms of the scheduling conflicts with the Bruins and/or the Celtics, because we play every day it is really hard for us to adjust on the fly. We have done that in years past, but, sometimes you find yourselves in a situation like the Bruins [Wednesday] when they were set to play late in the day and then they played at 11 o’clock in the morning given the overtime game,” Kennedy continued. “We’re literally in a day-to-day situation over here trying to work our way through what is a highly unusual season.”
Kennedy did say that the team has discussed being flexible with start times, but for now, it doesn’t appear there will be any changes.
It was a questionable decision from the jump. When the Celtics shifted their tip-off time from 7 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. over a decade ago, it was to give fans more time to get to TD Garden following the work day. (It also helped that the Celtics had just acquired Kevin Garnett and had become relevant again.) The Red Sox, obviously, don’t have any fans fighting to get to their seats before first pitch this season, so that 20-minute change from a 7:10 first pitch never really made much sense.
Perhaps the team and its broadcast partners did some research that told them ratings would be better with the later start time, but it’s hard to imagine many fans sticking around until the end when games last upwards of four-plus hours. Maybe they figured most people would be turning the games off late anyways, so if they could get them to fall asleep on the couch with the TV on, it would help pad the ratings. Anything to pump up those primetime ratings.
But for a sport that needs to be doing anything and everything to appeal to fans, this is the opposite of what they should be doing. And if the goal was to get more fans to watch the Red Sox, the team should have focused more on putting together a good team. A 7:10 or 7:30 start time won’t make much of a difference if the team stinks, and at the moment, the Red Sox really stink.