RED SOX INSIDER

Tomase: What potential John Henry-Billy Beane partnership means

RED SOX INSIDER

One of the most memorable scenes in "Moneyball" occurs in 2002 in the Fenway Park press box, where Arliss Howard's John Henry makes a measured pitch to Brad Pitt's Billy Beane about becoming Red Sox general manager.

"Any GM that doesn't tear down their team and rebuild it using your model is gonna be a dinosaur," Henry says, before slapping a piece of paper with a contract offer that a pensive Beane considers before the scene cuts back to Oakland.

History has told us what Henry wrote on that apocryphal piece of paper -- a five-year, $12.5 million offer to become the highest-paid GM in baseball. We also know how Beane responded. He made an 11th hour decision to stay on the West Coast, which he has called home ever since. The Red Sox hardly suffered, pivoting instead to 29-year-old Theo Epstein, who truly ushered in the age of analytic wunderkind GMs while ending World Series droughts in Boston and Chicago.

But Henry has never lost touch with Beane or dropped his desire to join forces, and it appears the two are on the verge of cementing a shocking partnership.

Tomase: When will Top 10 Red Sox prospects be ready for the bigs?

Per reports in the Wall Street Journal and Axios, Henry's Fenway Sports Group -- which includes not only the Red Sox, but Liverpool, Roush Racing, and stakes in other sports ventures -- is negotiating to sell a stake of 20-25 percent to Redball Acquisition Corp., which Beane co-chairs. That portion of the club would then be taken public.

 

The shocking part is Beane's reported role. Because he cannot maintain financial relationships with two MLB teams -- he retains a small ownership stake in the A's while continuing to oversee their baseball operations -- he'd have to leave Oakland. But his plan isn't to join Boston's front office. Instead, he would reportedly help marshal FSG's ventures in European soccer, where he's already a minority owner of a Dutch team.

It signals a continuing shift from FSG as a company built around the Red Sox to one with global ambitions. While the Red Sox are coming off a last-place finish, Liverpool is the defending Premier League champions and one of the biggest brands in the world. Henry would like to expand his soccer footprint in Europe, and Beane may end up leading that charge.

It would be a seismic deal for a couple of reasons. For one, the 58-year-old Beane has been associated with the A's front office for 30 years since finishing his career as a player there in 1989. During that time, he has built the small-market club into a perennial contender with 11 playoff appearances since 2000, but pointedly only one ALCS berth, which ended in a sweep at the hands of the Tigers in 2006.

Tomase: Potential arms for Sox to consider in 2021

For another, it would have been unfathomable even a year ago for Henry to lure Beane away from Oakland without putting him in charge of the Red Sox. The Athletic's Evan Drellich reported that the Red Sox sought permission to speak to Beane about overseeing their baseball operations last fall before hiring Chaim Bloom, hoping to import "a senior voice for someone more inexperienced."

It's clear that Henry has designs on bigger prizes than the Red Sox, who are starting to feel like a quaint little corner of his portfolio. CEO Sam Kennedy equivocated, for instance, when asked if Henry had attended any Red Sox games in person this season, and Henry hasn't held any press conferences about the team since defending the decision to trade Mookie Betts in February. Meanwhile, a five-minute interview he conducted in August has over 275,000 views on Liverpool's official YouTube channel.

There remain hurdles to a deal, which involves an $8 billion property and could still fall through. It's also possible that Beane once again decides he can't leave his home in California.

That said, Henry has spent two decades courting one of baseball's brightest minds, and this time Beane is the party sliding figures across the table. Perhaps the two sides will finally get to yes.