FSG’s Liverpool showcase their best business

Fenway Sports Group’s other professional sports franchise, Liverpool, came to town this past weekend. With an illustrious history and already a rabid fanbase in Boston, the decision to buy the club was easy for John Henry and company. While the two teams were in similar conditions when the group bought them, FSG’s Liverpool and the Red Sox are heading in two different directions.

Similar History Between the Cities and Teams

Liverpool, one of England’s most decorated clubs, was up for sale in 2010 and was in ruinliverpool both on and off the pitch. They were sunk by fellow American owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett. Like Red Sox ownership in the 1990s, Hicks and Gillett flirted with the idea of moving the team from the hallowed Anfield Stadium. They did not deliver, however, on the promise of a state-of-the-art waterfront home for the club. Instead, John Henry, Tom Werner and FSG built and built until Anfield became state-of-the-art itself, while also keeping the illustrious history in tact. Sound familiar?

Like the task they had with the Red Sox in 2001, FSG needed to restore a winning tradition to Liverpool. The Reds were the class of European football in the 70s and 80s, with a dynastic run envied only by the Patriots of modern times. They won every trophy imaginable. By the time FSG bought the club in 2010, Liverpool had the most league titles with 18 (since broken) and five European Cups, the most by any British club. Sticking to club tradition, ownership quickly hired one of Liverpool’s most legendary figures, Sir (or King) Kenny Dalglish to manage the team.

It is no surprise that Liverpool was already arguably the most popular Premier League club in Boston before the purchase. LFC is one of the most popular clubs in Ireland and both Liverpool and Boston have a high concentration of Irish ex-pats. Liverpool is also a famous port city and was the hub of trade for England when ships were the primary transportation. Both are proud northern cities with unmistakable accents, although Scouse might need its own dictionary. Liverpool, like Boston’s beloved Red Sox, make up half of the most intense rivalry in the Premier League going against Manchester United, the team from another northern city and owner of the most league titles in history. Stop me if you’ve heard that one before.

Finally, the Phoenix Landing is packed with fans on matchdays. Some big games will sell out the small Irish pub hours before kick-off. The dedicated, card-carrying members of LFC Boston make the pub the second best place to be on matchday. If you can’t be at the stadium, it’s as close as you’ll get. They also give back to the community through a litany of charity work. They provide an amazing atmosphere and put community first, adding to an already pristine fan culture in Boston.

The Massive Business Discrepancy

The surprising contrast between these two teams under this same ownership, however, has been the way they’ve done their business. In the only two major sports in the world without salary caps, neither team has to worry about money too often. The Red Sox seemingly never run out of money but LFC was in financial trouble when FSG took over. In the first transfer window under new ownership, the club showed extreme business savvy.

They sold a disgruntled Fernando Torres for a British record for 50 million pounds. To replace him, they bought two strikers, one of which was Andy Carroll, a massive disappointment and a brutal signing. The other, however, was Luis Suarez. Now one of the best strikers in the world, the club sold him for nearly three times his own transfer fee in 2014. Just three months after those buys, FSG’s Red Sox extended Adrian Gonzalez for seven years and $154 million. Oh yeah, and they signed Carl Crawford that same year to a seven year, $142 million deal. Both were run out of town in 2012 and monumental wastes of money.

Where Liverpool have made sound business decisions recently, the Red Sox once again have not. In late 2017, one of Liverpool’s best players, Philippe Coutinho, was begging for a move. While Liverpool still needed him, his value had peaked. They sold him to Barcelona for the measly price of up to 142 million pounds, 133.5 million more than they bought him for. Using that cash, Liverpool began to fill their needs. They needed defensive help, so they set the world record fee for a defender by buying Virgil van Dijk for 75 million pounds. Van Dijk solidified the defense and led Liverpool to the 2018 Champions League Final, their first in 11 years. This past season, he won the PFA Player of the Year. No defender had won the award since 2005.

Liverpool lost that final, however, due to two massive goalkeeping mistakes. So, they used the rest of that Coutinho money to set the world record fee for a goalkeeper. They bought Alisson Becker from Roma for nearly 67 million pounds. He made the save that kept them from being eliminated in the group stages of the Champions League and then had a Man of the Match performance in the final, which Liverpool won 2-0. While Coutinho bolted to Barcelona to win the Champions League, all Liverpool did was make it to the final twice and win it for the sixth time. What’s Coutinho doing now? Well the Catalans have not taken keenly to his performances. Just over 18 months with the Blaugrana and both sides are looking for a move. The most rumored target destination for him? Liverpool.

Recent Red Sox Deals Have Been Failures

In contrast, the Red Sox came off a World Series title and spent a bit themselves. Extending Xander Bogaerts was wise considering the MVP-type performance he’s turned in recently. The other moves were not as promising. Chris Sale signed a $145 million extension with Boston and has won one home game in the last 53 weeks. He has also had multiple IL stints in his two previous seasons with the Red Sox. Sale has proven he can’t hold up for a full season. With his 4-9 record this year, fans might be hoping he can’t hold up much longer.

Speaking of not holding up, was extending Nathan Eovaldi a good idea? He pitched a gutsy seven innings in a World Series game, sure. Never has a loss gained a pitcher so much money, though. A four-year, $68 million contract was agreed upon and he’s been injured since April. Eovaldi has made a home on the IL throughout his career, hence why he hasn’t been able to hold a starting job anywhere else he’s been. Yet, FSG and the Red Sox through starter money at him. Steve Pearce caught lightning in a bottle last season to win World Series MVP. The Red Sox didn’t exactly overspend on him, but that’s whom they re-signed to be their starting first baseman. Through just 29 games this year, he is hitting .180. Need I say more?

FSG Is Still Building At Liverpool

For some reason, FSG seems to work better when their financial situation is tight. They took Liverpool from financial hell back to the promised land. The Reds won the biggest trophy in club football this year. They won 97 points to finish second in the Premier League looking for their first league title in 29 years. To put that into perspective, those 97 points weren’t just the club record but also would’ve been good enough to win the league 117 times out of the last 119. The only years it wouldn’t were this season and last with Manchester City tallying up 198 in that timespan.

Liverpool is by far the most popular and the most relatable Premier League club in Boston. While ownerships has its flaws, those have seemed to glare more stateside rather than Merseyside. While the Red Sox continue to dwindle out of the playoff picture, FSG will look to work their magic again and end another historic drought. Next season, Liverpool will go for their first league title in 30 years, and they have built the team that can make us dream again.

Sox Have Yet To Win A Series At Fenway

The Red Sox began a 10-game home stand last Monday. Their record is 2-4 through six games and two rainouts. In their two wins, they scored 18 total runs. But in their four losses, they plated just 9 runs. They now sit six games below .500, at 11-17. That’s good for 7.5 games behind Tampa Bay in the division. After two losses this weekend and three series’ splits in April, the Sox have yet to win a series at Fenway this season.

Chris Sale started yesterday. He pitched 7 innings and threw 111 pitches while facing 27Sox Have Yet batters, all of which were season bests. He took the loss though to drop to 0-5 on the season. Even worse, the Red Sox have lost all six of his starts. Michael Chavis has 3 home runs since making his major league debut on April 20. He has made seven consecutive starts at second base, which is not his natural position. Chavis also made a key error yesterday in the ninth inning when Rays outfielder Guillermo Heredia hit a ground ball to shortstop. Xander Bogaerts flipped to Chavis at second and the rookie’s throw sailed over Mitch Moreland’s head at first base. Avisail Garcia scored on the play to extend Tampa Bay’s lead to three runs.

J.D. Martinez did not play in the two games against the Rays over the weekend due to back spasms. Martinez leads the team with a .340 batting average, 33 hits, and a 1.052 OPS. His presence in the lineup could have proved to be valuable against a divisional opponent, considering the Sox lost by just 4 combined runs over the weekend.

Sox have yet to get results from bottom-third of lineup

Steve Pearce was the team’s DH against the Rays, instead of Martinez, and went 0-7 with one walk and a pair of strikeouts. Pearce’s 2019 batting average shrunk to minuscule .103. His teammate, Jackie Bradley Jr., went 1-for-5 in the series with two walks. His batting average stands at .150. Both Pearce and Bradley Jr., who hit towards the bottom of the lineup, are hurting their team at the plate.

What really hurt the Red Sox yesterday was Chris Sale allowing a 2-run homer in the first inning. It put a vulnerable team in a hole early. David Price, in Saturday’s game, also allowed a home run in the first inning.

Boston’s offense was most to blame against the Rays. They put together zero multi-run innings in both games. Rays starters Charlie Morton and Tyler Glasnow each threw quality starts and Tampa Bay’s bullpen allowed just one run through 5.1 innings.

The Red Sox have yet to put together a win-streak of more than three games this season. Their winning percentage at Fenway Park sits at 42 percent. To put things into perspective, the 2012 and ’14 Red Sox finished with home records of 42 percent. We all know how those seasons turned out.

Boston starts a three-game set against the Athletics tonight to finish off the home stand. Eduardo Rodriguez toes the rubber this evening, followed by Rick Porcello tomorrow and Hector Velázquez on Wednesday.

Green Monster Rendezvous: My First Time at Fenway

The first thing that hits you is the dull roar of the slowly gathering crowd. Your ears fill with the sizzle of excitement that pours off every fan in the stands. Then it hits your nose. The pungent scent of ballpark beers, franks, and peanuts permeate your nostrils. But, ultimately, it is your eyes that savor the most delicious part of the feast. Once you focus your attention to the green wall in left, all other surroundings are put on pause for a moment. You think of the stories of all the greats that defended that wall, that crushed line drives into that wall, and all the history the wall has seen in its century of life. Call this explosion of senses the Green Monster Rendezvous; or at least how I remember my first time visiting Fenway Park.

No Green Monster Rendezvous is complete without a landmark of baseball

If you watch enough game broadcasts, you have heard the cliche conversations aboutGreen Monster Rendezvous famous Fenway fixtures. The Red Seat, Pesky Pole, and the triangle in center field, to name a few. But until you step out onto the concourse and drink it all in yourself, it is hard to appreciate how rare this abode is. On the eve of my first visit to America’s most beloved ballpark, I spent the night tossing and turning. How could a boy sleep with his dream set to come true in just hours? “Is the Monster as big as they say it is? What are Bostonians like? How close do we sit to the players?” My mind raced with uncertainties as I tried to anticipate what my Green Monster Rendezvous would be.

Your personal recollection of your first time visiting Fenway is a story in and of itself. Viewing baseball in a space occupied by millions of fans throughout generations of American history is a feat few parks can boast. The unmistakable green that accentuates the blue and red creates a color war that rivals any in sports. The memory of seeing the field for the first time is what still comes to mind when I hear “Fenway.”

“Whether you are five, 25, or 75, a true Red Sox fan feels that same influx of energy every time.”

But no part of digesting Fenway is complete until you finally observe the Green Monster. My first experience with the Monster was cinematic: my jaw dropped so low that you could have swept it up off the ground. The Monster’s majesty of such a towering presence might wear off with age for some, but not for me. Every time I walk up the stairs to the grandstands, the same rush of adrenaline rushes over. Whether you are five, 25, or 75, a true Red Sox fan feels that same influx of energy every time.

I was so excited to feast my eyes on the diamond that I ran off. My family toiled behind me, surely ready to ridicule me from sprinting off of the group. But I did not care. Scold me, warn me, do what you must; it will not be before I finally see the field. The funny thing about it is, they did not say a word. They knew what it meant for me. All of our parents know this feeling, because they all have their own Green Monster Rendezvous stories. In fact, if you are reading this, you have your own story to tell about this special day in your life.

Comment below with your own tale about your first time seeing America’s most beloved ballpark.

Where Did The Collins and Yawkey Plaques Go?

The Boston Red Sox made headlines last spring when they successfully lobbied the City of Boston to change the name of Yawkey Way back to Jersey Street. Boston initially changed it to Yawkey Way in honor of the Red Sox’s longtime owner Tom Yawkey, who died in 1976. The Boston Red Sox’s long and turbulent history with race relations under Yawkey partially prompted the name change request. However, many fans have noticed that the commemorative plaques honoring Eddie Collins and Tom Yawkey that once hung outside Fenway Parka are also gone. So where did the Collins and Yawkey plaques go?

The Boston Red Sox were the last team to integrate in 1959 when Pumpsie Green madeyawkey plaques his debut. In preceding years the Red Sox had a chance to sign future Hall of Famers Jackie Robinson, Willie Mays, and Hank Aaron, but for one reason or another, decided to pass. This reluctance to sign these legends contributed to the Red Sox’s turbulent history with race relations.

Collins and Yawkey Plaques Are Still A Reminder Of A Bad Past

Despite earlier claims, I now believe that changing Yawkey Way back to Jersey Street was a smart idea. I initially didn’t think it was fair to remove Yawkey’s name since there’s no evidence that he was personally racist. However, he was the sole owner for many years. Yawkey could have easily integrated the team, but he chose not to. Furthermore, we’re living in a time now where nationalism is fueling an increase in white supremacist activity throughout the United States, so I get why the Red Sox would want to distance themselves as far away as possible from Yawkey’s legacy. No matter how you look at it, it’s not a good look. With that said, I’m not necessarily sorry to see the plaques go. Keeping the plaques there would be awkward as the Red Sox push for more diversity in sports. But where did the plaques go?

Where Did The Collins and Yawkey Plaques Go?

The plaques just sort of disappeared. Numerous inquiries by reporters to the Red Sox have yielded no answers as to the plaques’ whereabouts. According to a Boston Globe article, The Yawkey Foundations, which strongly protested the name change, requested both the street signs and plaques hanging inside the stadium that honor Tom and Jean Yawkey.

Jack Sullivan, a reporter for CommonWealth Magazine who wrote about the missing plaques, told me via email that “My understanding is the Yawkey Foundation got his plaque and the Eddie Collins plaque is in storage at Fenway.”

Was it a good idea to get rid of the Collins and Yawkey plaques?

Probably. It only makes sense to stay consistent, especially when the plaques were on what is now Jersey Street. But I am concerned that the Red Sox aren’t being considerate of Yawkey’s legacy as a philanthropist. His foundations have given more than $450 million to various charities since 1977. This fact makes me feel as though the Red Sox are throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

Yawkey Way Is No More – Who is Next?

Who is next?  When the PC Police, embodied as John Henry, asked the Boston Public Improvement Commission to change a street name because he has been “uncomfortable” with the Yawkey Way street sign outside his office window, then who isYawkey Way next?  When we start applying the morals (and I used that term loosely) of today to our own history then no one is in the clear.  Not Tom Yawkey, not George Washington, not Peter Faneuil, not Arthur Fiedler, not John Singleton Copley of Copley Square fame and I would bet every soybean dollar of John Henry’s family farms not his own family either.  Who wants that magnifying glass on their father, grandfather or even their own soul?  John Henry, do you?

Yawkey Way and John Henry’s Fallen Bostonian Park

So Henry is “uncomfortable” with Yawkey Way being Yawkey Way because Tom Yawkey was a racist?  Was he?  I don’t know because I did not know Tom Yawkey.  Then again, neither did John Henry.  I do know he was the owner who integrated last in the major leagues and had few non-white employees.  Let’s just assume that a man born in 1903 probably did have certain opinions about people of any color.  Why?  Because that was pretty much the norm of the day when Tom Yawkey lived.  Segregation was the norm.  Not mixing of the races was the norm.  Not wanting to mix the races was the norm.  Court ordered forced busing in Boston, to deal with the city’s continued segregation in its public schools, did not happen until 1974. Tom Yawkey died in 1976.  Tom Yawkey was loved in this city not because he may have held opinions that today we find “uncomfortable” but because we would not have the Boston Red Sox as a team if Tom Yawkey was not the owner.  He devoted himself and his finances to the Red Sox – in an era when no one wanted the team.  As a bequest in his will, he also established the Yawkey Foundation whose philanthropy goes beyond words.  They did not just give money to “white people” causes, by the way.  Ever think that maybe, just maybe, Tom Yawkey did what we hope all of us do in life?  Maybe just maybe he grew as a person.  Maybe the man of 1956 was not the man of 1976.  Maybe that is why he was mourned by this city.  But before John Henry’s PC Police minions start jumping up and down, I ask, what makes Tom Yawkey so special to John Henry’s PC Police?  Let us take a look at a few other Boston iconic names and places and see how they stand up.

If you walk from Park Street to Fenway, you probably walk through the Public Garden and pass the statue of George Washington, father of our Country.  Well in 2018 you can walk in the Public Garden, the first public botanical garden, but it was fenced for a reason, to keep the commoners out – they were over in the Boston Common, not the pristine Public Garden.  Anyway, even if we are somehow okay with that sectionalism, there is the George Washington statue, our first President riding a horse, as a great welcoming to Boston.  It was unveiled in 1869. A little irony there since the Civil War had ended four years earlier and well, George Washington was a major slave owner in Virginia.  He and his wife Martha owned hundreds of slaves.  Hundreds.  So as father of our country, do we hold him to the standards of today too, and tear down the statue like the hundreds of Lenin statues in Russia?  There is a fallen monument park in Moscow where the statues of hundreds of felled Soviet statues and busts now reside. Maybe John Henry can ask Boston to set aside a piece of the Common, or even better maybe Henry can donate a portion of his own land in Brookline, where we can place all of the felled Bostonian monuments?  We can call it John Henry’s Fallen Bostonian Park.

From Yawkey Way to Copley Square

Speaking of slave-owners, let’s talk about Peter Faneuil.  He both owned and traded slaves.  The money he made as a successful merchant, including of human cargo, paid for Faneuil Hall which he donated to the city of Boston.  As the National Park Service website states, ‘there is some irony to be found in its nickname however, because a portion of the money used to fund ‘The Cradle of Liberty’ came directly from the profits of the slave trade.”  So again, do we now refer to Faneuil Hall as, say, Old Boston Towne Market, because we need to suppress any history that makes us “uncomfortable”.  John Henry, are you on the Old Boston Towne Market name change bandwagon too?

Now Arthur Fiedler is synonymous with the 4th of July.  He brought music to the people, literally, which is why the footbridge and statue near the Hatch Shell is named after him.  He was like all of our grandfathers wrapped into one – a loving man who loved the people.  Fiedler gave us the Pops with its popular, traditional and classical music.  Yet his daughter wrote that he was a terrible father, who drank too much and who caused “wreckage” in their family.  Do we believe her every word?  Do we now see Fiedler as less of a Bostonian because his personal life was not as successful as his professional life?  Do we expect him to be perfect in order for him to be remembered fondly?  If so then we have another statue for John Henry’s Fallen Bostonian Park.

Closer on any walk to Fenway, will bring you to Copley Square.  The square is named for John Singleton Copley, renowned artist.  His square is next to the John Hancock building, which is also a bit ironic since Copley hated Hancock.  You see Copley was a Loyalist, who abhorred the Thirteen Colonies push for independence, also known as the American Revolution — so much so, that Copley sailed from Boston to England in 1774 and never returned.  Copley considered himself British.  Would have loved to have heard Sam Adams sitting in a pub in Colonial Boston verbally brandishing Copley as a traitor to the cause.  So do we now change the name of Copley Square back to the original name of Art Square because Copley never wanted America to be its own independent nation?  Do we ignore his talents as a premier artist, especially his portrait paintings of our Founding Fathers? John Henry, do we remove Copley’s name too to the Fallen Bostonian Park?

How This For Uncomfortable, John Henry?

This all began because John Henry was “uncomfortable” seeing the Yawkey Way street sign out his office window.  I wonder how Henry would fare if the microscope was placed on his life and business interests where every comment and decision is scrutinized ad nauseam.  We could begin by examining Henry’s great grandfather who emigrated from Londonderry, Northern Ireland and farmed in the slave state of Arkansas in the mid-1800s.  In addition, we could look at Henry’s grandfather and father’s soybean business in Arkansas and Illinois and see exactly how many people of color were employed.  We could even evaluate John Henry’s tenure with the Marlins and Red Sox and count the number of African-American, Hispanic, women and LGBTQ workers he had in high paying positions as Chairman and Owner.  No one wants that kind of spotlight, where the complete picture of someone’s life can so easily be lost.

The Yawkey Way sign being removed does not change racism or bring comfort to Boston or anywhere else.  History is not about comfort.  And our history as a city is not easy.  Yet we cannot learn from the past by whitewashing it away from public view like George Orwell in 1984, or because people are “uncomfortable”.  Errors and transgressions are part of our processes, it is how we learn and get better as people.  No human being would pass the perfection test, especially if we start placing the moral compass of today on times gone by.  If that is how we look at our city’s history, then each and every one of us would be relegated to John Henry’s Fallen Bostonian Park. Imagine how “uncomfortable” John Henry would be then.

This article was written by Maura Porter, Editor in Chief, Yawkey Way Report

Let’s Just Go Ahead and Demolish Fenway Park

I have to start this piece by clarifying that I’m not really arguing that Fenway Park should be demolished. This is a satirical piece. But so many of you threw a fit after I wrote this piece that I don’t have a choice. Now, given the Red Sox concern about Tom Yawkey’s legacy, they should just go ahead and demolish Fenway Park. Why settle on a simple street name change? After all, Yawkey is arguably responsible for Fenway Park being the great place it is today. So let’s just erase it!

Yawkey bought the Red Sox in 1933 after inheriting $40 million from a rich uncle. Hedemolish fenway park immediately began work on renovating Fenway Park. Before his purchase, Fenway Park was a dump. Part of the park had burned down in 1926. It hadn’t even been that well maintained since it opened in 1912. Yawkey’s renovations included better seating (much of which still exists today). It also included the construction of what we know as the Green Monster wall. If it wasn’t for Yawkey, Fenway Park would have fallen into disrepair and eventually condemned. But since he was such a racist, maybe the Red Sox should just demolish Fenway Park to make sure they’ve done enough to distance itself from him.

Demolish Fenway Park And Build A New Racist-Free Ballpark!

The Red Sox could do what Patriots did and build a new stadium out in the middle of nowhere. That way they won’t have to risk seeing Yawkey’s name on anything nearby. Fans won’t have to walk past the Yawkey Center for Cancer Care. They won’t have to take the train to Yawkey Station. The Red Sox could better control how much exposure the fans will have to the charities sponsored by the Yawkey family. Think about it! A new stadium means the Red Sox can erase their past and start new!

Okay that’s enough. I think you get my point. Listen, in no way am I defending Yawkey’s decision to be the last team to integrate. That’s a burden Yawkey’s legacy will have to endure forever. But while Yawkey could have done so much more to secure his legacy than just throwing money at charities, renaming Yawkey Way isn’t a step in the right direction. I’m struggling to understand the team’s motive here. Why do they want to change the street’s name now? If John Henry and Sam Kennedy are this concerned about Yawkey’s legacy, why did they wait until now to do something about it? Confederate monuments are coming down because they’re a lightning rod for white supremacy. That’s a legitimate reason and I fully support it. But what’s the team’s reason for changing Yawkey Way now? Is it a pre-emptive measure to keep protestors away before they can form?

What Will Renaming Yawkey Way Change?

Changing the street’s name won’t change history. If anything, it only drudges up old and painful memories, among other things. It puts the charities named after Yawkey in a very awkward position, which could jeopardize their missions. Furthermore, can one really argue that Yawkey Way is the same as a monument commemorating leaders who led a rebellion against the United States in an effort to preserve slavery? Perhaps we should look at Yawkey and use him as an example of what happens when someone doesn’t pay attention to social issues.

Continue to hold Yawkey’s legacy accountable, but don’t pretend everything will be okay if the city changes the street name. Instead of erasing something that wasn’t intended to evoke racism, look to it as a life lesson.