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Red Sox owners sit atop a $6.6 billion sports conglomerate

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Forbes today did a ranking of sports conglomerates (i.e. sports businesses’ total value, including all properties). The top group with a baseball team is the Fenway Sports Group — owners of the Boston Red Sox, Liverpool FC, and other ventures — which is worth a total of $6.6 billion. That’s third behind the Kroenke Sports, worth $8.4 billion, and Cowboys’ owner Jerry Jones’s empire, set at $6.9 billion.

Fenway Sports Group — owned by Sox owner John Henry — started with a $700 million purchase of the Red Sox and built from there. It’s fair to say, then, that the Sox were the first and primary driver that led to an 843% return on their investment, allowing them to bring in the NESN Network, Liverpool FC, NASCAR’s Roush Racing and the Fenway Sports Management company.

That’s pretty great for them. It also makes one wonder why it’s, apparently, so important for the Red Sox to get beneath baseball’s Competitive Balance Tax threshold, as they’ve said they need to do, which could possibly lead them to trade Mookie Betts. Their CBT tax penalty for this past year was reported yesterday to be $13.4 million. That’s rounding error for FSG.

The response I usually get to such assertions is that overall business value is unrelated to cash flow and payrolls and that it’s not fair to assume a team with a huge value should spend big. Which is silly of course.

If I own a house and it doubles in value — or, like the Sox’ owners’ investment, increases in value over eight-fold — I have enormous financial resources at my disposal. I have the ability to borrow against or spend against that value to make improvements in my home. I can renovate my kitchen and stuff. Indeed, I should, because I want to maintain or even increase that value. Just as the FSG’s owners used Red Sox money to get into the English Premiere League or the TV business, sometimes it makes sense to use money from the other buckets to keep the Red Sox running well. It’d be silly not to.

Except they’re apparently not. They feel obligated to avoid future CBT penalties because . . . they just want to? Because that’s what other baseball owners expect of them? I don’t know.

But I do know that there is nothing requiring them to do it. It’s not a hard salary cap. They can afford the penalties. They can afford almost anything given the state of their business. But no. Why?

Brewers have 3 positive COVID tests at alternate site

Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
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MILWAUKEE — The Brewers had two players and a staff member test positive for the coronavirus at their alternate training site in Appleton, Wisconsin.

Milwaukee president of baseball operations David Stearns confirmed the positive results Saturday and said they shouldn’t impact the major league team. Teams are using alternate training sites this season to keep reserve players sharp because the minor league season was canceled due to the pandemic.

Stearns said the positive tests came Monday and did not name the two players or the staff member. Players must give their permission for their names to be revealed after positive tests.

The entire camp was placed in quarantine.

“We have gone through contact tracing,” Stearns said. “We do not believe it will have any impact at all on our major league team. We’ve been fortunate to get through this season relatively unscathed in this area. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to get all the way there at our alternate site.”

Milwaukee entered Saturday one game behind the Reds and Cardinals for second place in the NL Central, with the top two teams qualifying for the postseason.

The Brewers still will be able to take taxi squad players with them on the team’s trip to Cincinnati and St. Louis in the final week of the season. He said those players have had repeated negative tests and the team is “confident” there would be no possible spread of the virus.

“Because of the nature of who these individuals were, it’s really not going to affect the quarantine group at all,” Stearns said. “We’re very fortunate that the group of players who could potentially be on a postseason roster for us aren’t interacting all that much with the individuals that tested positive.”