As reported yesterday, the Salem Red Sox have named Ryan Shelton as the new GM. Allen Lawrence (the local favorite for the job) and Tim Anderson will serve as his top lieutenants and form a three-man leadership team designed to bring people back to the ballpark.
I’ll have an in-depth story, likely in Sunday’s paper, on the broader vision and the overall state of the team. Meantime, let me put my columnist hat on for a minute and throw out five opinions on this move:
1. Lawrence is going to be fine. More than fine. If you are a friend of his, talk with him before assuming anything about how he feels about not getting the job. Boston wouldn’t have done this without Lawrence staying, and Lawrence wouldn’t have stayed if the job he now has weren’t attractive to him.
Lawrence is DEEPLY appreciated and valued by the powers that be — and deservedly so. Often, that’s more important than any job title.
2. There are no quick fixes here, but I think the Shelton hire is bold — and it’s going to work. He brings structure where there was little. He brings a grand vision and an actionable plan to make it happen. He’s confident without being arrogant. He’s optimistic without being naive. Having Lawrence at his side to implement the vision is enormous. If I were a betting man (and I am), I’d wager that in three years, you will see a significant increase in attendance at Salem Memorial Ballpark.
3. The little things need to be shored up first. You can throw a laser show between innings every night, but if season ticket holders don’t get the parking passes and duffel bags they’re promised until midseason, your priorities are screwed up. Take care of the people who support your product. Shelton strikes me as a guy who gets this, but the onus is on him to end that kind of nonsense.
4. There’s been some speculation about Boston’s long-term plans beyond next year — the final season on their contract with Salem. I’m more confident than ever that the Red Sox will be here well beyond 2014.
5. In sitting down with the parties yesterday, one thing stood out to me more than anything: what they didn’t say. There were no excuses. Nobody blamed outside factors. They took ownership of where the attendance is and their role in allowing it to get to that point.
This is refreshing, mostly because it’s pretty rare around here. When minor league franchises have failed in this valley, we’ve heard it all. It’s the civic center’s fault. People around here care too much about high school and college football. People don’t understand what they’re missing.
Uh…no. You’re a business. People are no more obligated to patronize your business than they are to buy a certain brand of crackers. It’s on you to lure them. Fix it or fail.
Everyone involved with the leadership of the Salem Red Sox seems to understand this. They’re looking in the mirror. They don’t want or expect you to change; THEY want to change themselves. Whether they can rally or not remains to be seen, but that’s a vital place to start.