Sunday, August 06, 2006

The Future Faces of the Red Sox...

When it comes to the Red Sox, it is always interesting to see whom the public relations department decides is "the face of the franchise." When I use the term "face of the franchise", I am talking about two aspects -- one, who is most willing to talk to the media and two, which players will be marketed most to the public.

When the new owners took over in 2003, Theo Epstein, Larry Lucchino and Dr. Charles Steinberg took the lead for management and Johnny Damon, Pedro Martinez and Kevin Millar, were the faces for the team.

In 2004, things began to change as Theo was pushed to the front and Larry and Charles moved behind the scenes. From a player's standpoint, Schilling was positioned as the face of the team, along with Pedro and Millar who would speak with any reporter any time.

If you analyze the 2004 season, you learned a lot about how senior management believed it was essential that the players presented a positive image to the public. Senior management wanted certain players to be in the public eye, to be willing to schmooze with sponsors and to be considered leaders in the clubhouse.

There are numerous reasons why Nomar was traded and we could spend all day dissecting why he is gone. One of the reasons he was traded and not resigned at his asking price is due to fact that he was not in the public eye and would not go out of his way to help the team's important sponsors at events and with commercials. Pedro as we all know, was the same way and did not come back. The team has tried to trade Manny regularly, but due to his contract, they are no takers.

I understand there may be people reading this and thinking I don't understand what is going on. Players are there to play baseball and win games. That's it. Unfortunately, the business of sports has changed so much, that players must understand that they will have to schmooze with sponsors, attend an event or be in a commercial for a Red Sox partner (Side Note: From an imaging standpoint, I don't see the negatives in spending a day to be in a commercial).

Let us fast forward to 2006. Schilling was the face of the franchise for the last two years -- be it with the Dunkin Donuts, Chevy, speaking on WEEI or his ALS Charity, he has been everywhere. Since he will be retiring in two years, the wheels are in motion to change the image of the team.

From a senior management level, it has been interesting to see that Henry has been more vocal in the media, while Larry and Charles have been extremely quiet this year. Personally, I think they are trying to let the wounds heal from Theo leaving.

From a player's standpoint, it has been interesting to see how things are evolving. All the fans love Papelbon and people are buying his shirt like it is going out of style. But when it comes to speaking with the media, he is kept in the background. No cover stories with SI or ESPN Magazine and no Sunday Night Conversations on ESPN. I believe the Red Sox are smart to keep Papelbon, Craig Hansen and Manny Delcarman away from the media. How easy would it be to make Delcarman the face of the team? He grew up in Hyde Park.

Two players who stand out though are Josh Beckett and David Ortiz. In the last week, I have seen Beckett cover articles in ESPN Magazine and the Improper Bostonian. Ortiz, on the other hand, was on ESPN's Sunday Conversation this morning and has been promoting a new health drink. The Sox can't go wrong if they are putting all their energy behind these two players.

One other player to keep your eye on is Kevin Youlkis. He is one of the top fan favorites at Fenway and around the league, but how many profiles have you seen on him? The Sox may be holding him back for one more year to develop or it could be he is the next version of Nomar, Manny or Pedro in their willingness to represent the team in Boston. I have read on a couple of blogs that he is not the nicest person so we will see how this plays out in the future.

After some rough times, the Sox PR department may be back on track...


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