Oh for fuck's sake...
Yeah, because inheriting the definition means you can't possibly make any changes to it. It also apparently means you can't come clean with the real reason you count those numbers.
Just be honest with the fans, you asshole. There's only one justification for counting those tickets, and that's so sponsors of stadium signage and merchandise know exactly how many asses are in the seats receiving the messages their companies are paying for. Especially those that aren't shown on TV that often or not at all. No shame in that. Just fucking admit it and dispense with the public runaround.
More front office P.R. horseshit. As long as we don't call it "chicanery". Right Larry?
As someone who has overseen a stadium signage deal, I'm going to disagree. Not with your larger premise - the inflation of attendance figures is absolutely in the team's interest and they are being dishonest in that respect - but with the notion that counting the actual number of fans attending the games is of tremendous importance to sponsors.
As counter-intuitive as it sounds, most signage deals at arenas and stadiums are not sold or purchased based on the CPM or impressions recorded against viewership tied to actual attendance. (I mean - the CPM and the cost per impression are certainly calculated and included in the deal, but it's not the driving factor in why companies decide to buy the signage.) Nor is there a meaningful difference in price based on the difference between actual and reported attendance, or whether a relatively small percentage of fans in the stadium paid for their seats or were given freebies.
I say this because there is no way for any team to justify the cost of their stadium signage by using these metrics. And there is no way any advertiser can justify the purchase based on these metrics. Rather (and I'm going to enjoy saying this) these deals are almost always justified by citing the "intangible brand benefits" of associating the sponsor brand with the team in question along with the merchandising package that is included in the deal. "Merchandising" (industry slang for "what else do I get?") typically will include tickets to games and access to playoff game tickets, sponsorship mentions on the various broadcast properties, co-marketing opportunities and the rights to use the team's name/logo in the sponsor's own ads. For big ticket sponsors, the teams will throw in things like player appearances, luxury boxes, use of the team's arena/stadium for company events and other goodies.
The point is that while attendance is certainly important as an indicator of how valuable the brand is within the community, the distinction between actual asses in the seat and reported attendance for games is not something advertisers focus on unless the difference is so obvious as to cause the advertiser to question the integrity of the team. So if a true sellout is 37,400 and it obvious that the team is averaging between 35,000 and 36,000 seats actually filled, the sponsor isn't going to care. But if actual attendance is averaging around 30,000 and the team is still claiming that games are sold out, that will grab the attention of the sponsor. Not because the difference will have an appreciable impact on the number of folks viewing their ad, but because they know the team is being dishonest in terms of their overall popularity within the community.
This is a long way of saying that the Sox wanted to keep the sellout streak going for as long as possible because it helped support the notion that the community was so supportive of the team that tickets were incredibly hard to get, prices were high and fans lived and died with the Sox. That sort of brand equity allows the team to sell signage/merchandise deals for much more than they were actually worth, and now that the streak is gone, the perceived value of the sponsorship may drop. The team will probably respond by increasing the other goodies that sponsors get while holding the line on pricing (for now) and hoping the team on the field improves to the point where fan interest rebounds and the premiums are once again justified. If there is no rebound, the market will dictate that prices will eventually drop.
With all that as background I found Kennedy's comments to be exactly what I would expect from any team in this situation.