FORT MYERS FL - FEBRUARY 19: (from left to right) President/CEO Larry Lucchino Principal Owner John Henry and Chairman Tom Werner of the Boston Red Sox talk with the media during a Spring Training Workout Session at the Red Sox Player Development Complex on February 19 2011 in Fort Myers Florida. (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)
It's been about, oh, an hour since a report came out that Fenway Sports Group are interested in selling the Red Sox, which of course means it's time for the categorical denial.
Per Pete Abraham, here are Henry's words:
"A sale of any kind is so far from our thinking it hasn't even come up apart from technical planning issues involving death or disability. This report is completely without foundation.
"Regarding unnamed sources: Any sale discussions that may have taken place were missing three key people - Larry [Lucchino], Tom [Werner] and me."
So either Henry just blew the lid on the shadow ownership conspiracy set to rock the foundations of Boston Sports, or he's saying FOX is full of it.
The FOX article, for what it's worth, is light on both details and sources. It starts with FOX Business Network "learning" that the team is for sale, and then cites inside sources as saying FSG is focused on Liverpool more than the Red Sox and that they're not certain they have the financial assets to run both teams.
There are a few scenarios where this makes sense. If, for instance, the Sox' struggles in recent years suggests that a downturn in income is on the horizon, and the team's valuation could start to decrease. FSG might just want to cut and run, as it were, taking their massive profits with them.
Or maybe it's a matter of flexibility, and they need a significant amount of liquid cash now to help them sort out the Liverpool situation, and for some reason (say, those underperforming investments the article mentions) can't find the money elsewhere. Selling one investment that's already paid off to save another one from potential disaster makes some sense.
But barring those scenarios, I'm pretty skeptical here. The fact is that the Red Sox have always been profitable for this ownership group. The team pays for itself, and then some thanks to NESN. So long as there's not any sign of that changing, then the team isn't diverting resources from anywhere else unless Henry is looking to spend deep into the red to revive Liverpool (which hardly seems to be his modus operandi).
Are things bad in Liverpool right now? Absolutely. Finishing eighth in the premiership and behind their traditional rivals in Everton last year was an embarrassing moment for a club with the history of Liverpool. Every year out of Champions League play (a tournament involving top clubs from across Europe that comes with significant financial benefits thanks to prize money and television rights alike) is a big hit to what they could have made, and so far this season they've managed just one point in three games (from a potential nine), leaving them at the bottom of the table to begin the year. It's not been any better a year for them than it has been for us.
But the only way that selling the Red Sox helps with Liverpool is if Henry is about to drop a quarter of a billion dollars to buy players, which is the sort of investment that seems unlikely to pay for itself for a long, long time if it ever does at all. It's not like they need to be terribly involved in the teams, either, since their job is primarily to hire the right people to run the clubs and then to let them do their jobs.
Is it possible that Fenway Sports Group is not long for the Red Sox? Yes. Does it seem likely right now? Not really, no.