By Sean McAdam
It's beyond predictable, verging on the inevitable.
And sometime soon, likely in the first week of November when the free agency market officially opens, it will happen.
Taylor Twellman: Sox won't make money on Liverpool purcahse
A frustrated Red Sox fan will pick up the phone and call a local sports radio show and begin to vent.
"The Sox should be able to sign Cliff Lee, Carl Crawford AND Jayson Werth! After all, they just spent a half-billion on a friggin' soccer team, right?''
Well, yes and no, actually. And that's where the Red Sox have some explaining to do.
The 476 million purchase of the Liverpool Football Club by New England Sports Ventures -- in essence, the parent company of the Red Sox -- is bound to create a perception problem with the Red Sox fan base.
The club can say all it wants about its commitment to putting a winning baseball team on the field and back it up with their payroll levels. This past season, the Sox spent somewhere around 165 million, the most in their history and the most by any Major League team ever not based in the Bronx.
Over the nine years of the current ownership, the Red Sox have spent liberally. Only the Yankees have spent more on payroll in that span.
But now that NESV has put together a half-billion package to buy Liverpool, questions are bound to be asked.
To wit: If the ownership group has that much capital, why can't they spend dollar-for-dollar with the Yankees? If, indeed, the Red Sox are that well-financed, why are they ever outbid on any free agent? For that matter, if money seems to be no object, why aren't there plans to replace antiquated Fenway Park?
On the face of it, these are all valid questions. But as usual in matters of big business, things are not as simple as they seem.
Undoubtedly, part of the motivation for NESV's purchase of Liverpool is to open additional revenue streams, ideally ones that aren't subject to baseball's revenue sharing system.
(As it stands, one-third of all baseball-related revenue is effectively turned over to the commissioner's office, which then redistributes these monies to small-market teams. So if, for example, the Red Sox have revenues of 240 million, 80 million of that is taken off the top and handed to the central fund. MLB's revenue sharing operates like a progressive income tax -- the more money made, the more taxes paid.)
That's not to suggest that any profit realized by Liverpool is going to help the Sox sign a replacement for Adrian Beltre. But indirectly, the Red Sox can benefit by now having an international sports property to attract sponsors and advertisers through Fenway Sports Group, the marketing arm of NESV.
As one club source said: "This is about diversifying the portfolio, as any good investor does.''
John Henry is a private citizen and independent businessman. He can spend his many million as he wishes.
But from the beginning, Henry has understood the unique nature of his investment -- some might say ''stewardship -- of the Red Sox. As Henry himself has said, the Sox are more than a baseball franchise; they're more like a New England civic institution.
And with that come expectations.
Henry spoke Friday to Liverpool soccer fans and vowed that he and his partners were ''committed, first and foremost, to winning.''
It might be a good time to reassure fans on this side of the Atlantic of the same thing, all the while pointing out that running successful franchises in different sports on different continents is not mutually exclusive.
Henry needs to explain to his wildly supportive fans that Liverpool is another investment under the NESV umbrella, and not, as some fans fear, an eitheror proposition when it comes to his money and attention.
If he fails to do that, then he will have spent far more than 476 million Friday. He will also have squandered a lot of good will compiled over the last nine seasons.