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January 17, 2007

Matsuzaka won't be cash cow Red Sox need

When it comes to the world of Daisuke Matsuzaka, all is not as it would appear, as Sam Kennedy and the Red Sox have come to discover all too well over the past few months.



For the club's senior vice president of sales and marketing, the change in perception began with his Red Sox goodwill tour in Tokyo with Mike Dee, Boston's chief operating officer, in November shortly after winning the negotiating rights for the highly touted pitching import.



"Mike Dee and I came back from a meeting to the hotel and there was a huge crowd of paparazzi," said Kennedy. "Mike and I knew they weren't there for us, but in the back of your mind you wonder if they are because we were with the Red Sox.



"So we get out of the car and nobody comes near us. Two minutes later, a big limo pulls up and Billy Joel gets out. It was too funny. I had my 10 seconds of fame getting to say hello to Billy Joel in Tokyo."



The Red Sox executives' blind-side brush with fame was quickly forgotten. However, the realities of trying to market Matsuzaka abroad have been a bit tougher to digest.



"The signing of this player is definitely not a huge financial windfall for us," Kennedy said. "There really aren't a lot of economic benefits."




The analysis flies in the face of public opinion regarding Matsuzaka's worth to the Red Sox. Many pointed to the potential of the international marketing avenues involving the pitcher as justification for Boston presenting a $51,111,111.11 posting fee to the Seibu Lions and subsequently signing Matsuzaka to a six-year, $52 million contract.



But, as Kennedy points out, the Red Sox have been presented with obstacles which make reaping the rewards of their new popularity abroad extremely difficult.



"I'm not intentionally downplaying the economic benefit, but this is what hasn't been clear to the public," he said. "The reality is that all sponsorships, advertising deals and conducting revenue-generated deals for the Red Sox are exclusively limited to Fenway Park. Again, there is not a big financial benefit associated with this guy."



The problem facing Boston is that outside of the advertising and sponsorship deals cut to generate revenue inside the Sox's home park and within the six New England states (except Yankees-controlled Fairfield County in Connecticut), Major League Baseball controls the Red Sox "mark."



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