FSGs 18-year target could join up with Liverpool in potential deal too good to refuse – Liverpool Echo

In the winter of 2002, Billy Beane had a major decision to make and one that he knew would disappoint a good friend.

As general manager of the Major League Baseball (MLB) franchise the Oakland Athletics, Beane’s revolutionary approach to statistics allowed him to turn a down and out franchise into a super competitive one, effectively producing Waitrose results on a Lidl budget.

Seeking value in players through statistical analysis allowed him to piece together a roster that used data to make up the fine margins in baseball and to steal a march on the teams who had been spending big using traditional methods.

For some time before that, before his arrival as principal owner of Liverpool, Henry had admired what Beane had done and his visionary approach, it was something that started a fire within Henry, something that provided him with the catalyst to make change at the Boston Red Sox, the franchise he had taken over in 2002.

Before that Henry had been owner of the Florida Marlins and knew Beane well.

When he took over the Red Sox he acquired a storied baseball franchise playing in the historic surroundings of Fenway Park who had been without a World Series title for 86 years and whose heavy spending had not been matched with success.

Henry wanted a man who thought differently, who would be able to oversee a radical change in approach and change a mindset. He saw Beane as that man, a man who pioneered the use of sabermetrics, the analysis of statistics that measure in-game productivity.

This was a year before Michael Lewis’ seminal book ‘Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game’, a book written about Beane’s approach and one that would thrust Beane into the spotlight when Brad Pitt portrayed him in the acclaimed 2011 film ‘Moneyball’.

The offer on the table to Beane to leave the A’s and head for Boston was £9.2m and a five-year deal. It was a deal he rejected.

FSG and RedBall’s potential deal

He told NBC News back in 2017: “Looking back, I knew what I was turning down. I had known John (Henry) even before that meeting and thought the world of him and Tom (Werner, Liverpool chairman).”

The Red Sox would go on to hire a young GM cut from the same cloth as Beane, Theo Epstein, and their similar approach to success would yield results, the Boston franchise snapping their World Series drought in 2004, winning it again three years after that. Since then they have added another two titles to their list of honours.

Beane continued: “Look at what happened. Turning it down meant that Theo Epstein was in charge. And we know the rest of the story.

“I knew that the Red Sox, with John and Tom and Larry (Lucchino) were the best. They had built the best organisation in the game and they had this bright young man in Theo who had great ideas of how to build a baseball organisation. So no regrets.

“I got to build our organisation with the help of some great people, and foremost for me, I got to watch my daughter grow up. She’s 27 now, but I was there and I didn’t miss a thing.”

That was then, this is now.

Beane has long had an interest in European football and has minority stakes in both Championship side Barnsley and Dutch Eredivisie outfit AZ Alkmaar.

Oakland Athletics Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations Billy Beane
(Image: Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)

Beane will be 60 in 2022, and while the A’s have been unable to make a World Series appearance they have secured five divisional titles under his watch, where he now serves as executive vice president of baseball operations. It seems as if something has stirred in him to have a change of direction after pouring his heart and soul into Oakland.

Earlier this year it was revealed that he and billionaire financier Gerry Cardinale had formed a special purchase acquisition company (SPAC) with the aim of raising enough capital through investors to purchase a sporting organisation.

Cardinale, himself, had an interest in sport and statistical analysis and this year purchased French Ligue 2 side Toulouse, installing former Liverpool director of football Damien Comolli as chairman. Beane was influential in recommending his friend Comolli for the Reds role back in 2011.

Since the formation of Beane and Cardinale’s SPAC, RedBall Acquisitions, it has become clear that they wish to purchase a stake in Henry’s Fenway Sports Group, a move that would likely take FSG onto the stock market and allow them to inject fresh capital into the business to aid Liverpool, the Red Sox and their NASCAR team, Roush Fenway Racing.

One of the key drivers behind the move was the desire to try and follow a similar multi-club model that the City Football Group and Red Bull operate through Manchester City and RB Leipzig respectively.

While much noise on Wall Street was made about the deal back in October there has been silence over recent weeks, although the ECHO understands that the plans remain at the forefront of the minds of both FSG and RedBall moving into 2021, with both parties remaining as keen as before.

A link up with Beane, who has been earmarked to oversee the growth of a football portfolio should the deal materialise, would see Henry finally get to work with the visionary baseball guru. It would be a link up that would force his hand in moving away from the A’s given FSG’s ownership of the Red Sox, regardless of whether his remit was not baseball related.

Michael Edwards and Jurgen Klopp.jpg 

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And while his heart may always remain in Oakland, there might not be a strong enough reason for him to say no this time around.

“I think he’s in a different place now,” long-time friend, former teammate and ex-special assistant at the A’s, J.P. Ricciardi told The Athletic.

“He’s older now, closer to 60 years old. He’s had different life experiences. It’s probably more what he’s feeling at this point, for challenges in his life. There’s probably more at stake now than with the other (decision to reject the Red Sox).

“Monetarily, it sounds like a bigger situation. It sounds like the responsibility might even be bigger, a whole different avenue than what he is used to. A lot of growth to it. But he likes challenges. He’s pretty much done everything you could do in the baseball arena without winning a world championship.

“I think there’s other things he’d like to conquer out there. He’s got a lot of energy. He’s probably at the point where he’s saying, maybe these are opportunities I should start looking at.”