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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?

Young Blue Jays say they aren’t intimidated by top seed Rays

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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) When the Tampa Bay Rays and Toronto Blue Jays opened the pandemic-delayed season a little over two months ago, there was little to indicate the AL East rivals might meet again to begin the playoffs.

While the Rays launched the truncated 60-game schedule with expectations of making a strong bid for their first division title in a decade, the Blue Jays generally were viewed as an immensely talented young team still years away from postseason contention.

Tampa Bay didn’t disappoint, shrugging off a slow start to go a league-best 40-20 and claim the No. 1 seed in the AL playoffs that begin Tuesday.

Lefty Blake Snell, who’ll start Game 1 of the best-of-three wild-card series against Toronto at Tropicana Field, also isn’t surprised that the eighth-seeded Blue Jays earned a spot, too.

The Rays won six of 10 games between the teams during the regular season, but were outscored 48-44 and outhomered 17-11.

And while Toronto (32-28) lacks the playoff experience Tampa Bay gained last season when the Rays beat Oakland in the AL wild-card game before falling to Houston in the divisional round, the Blue Jays are building with exciting young players such as Cavan Biggio, Bo Bichette and Vladimir Guerrero Jr.

“They’ve got a lot of young guys who can ball over there,” Snell said. “It’s going to be fun to compete and see how we do.”

Rays defensive whiz Kevin Kiermaier said Tampa Bay, in the playoffs in consecutive seasons for the second time franchise history, will not take the Blue Jays lightly.

“We know we’re playing a real good team,” Kiermaier said. “It’s not going to be easy, regardless of what a team is seeded.”

The Blue Jays, who’ll start right-hander Matt Shoemaker, aren’t conceding anything.

Bichette said he and his teammates respect how good Tampa Bay is, but are not intimidated by facing the No. 1 seed.

“I would say that we didn’t care who we played. I would say that we didn’t mind playing Tampa, that’s for sure. We’re familiar with them. We’ve played them well,” Bichette said.

“I think we’re confident in our ability against them. Our talent matches up well,” Bichette added. “We think if we play well we’ve got a good chance.”

NO FANS

The stands at Tropicana Field will be empty, leaving players to wonder what the atmosphere will be like for the playoffs.

Tampa Bay routinely rank at or near the bottom of the majors in attendance, but usually pack the stands in the domed stadium during the postseason.

“It will be different,” Bichette said. “Normally when you think of your first postseason you think 40,000, you think about not being able to think it’s so loud, stuff like that.”

The Blue Jays open the playoffs near where they hold spring training in Dunedin, Florida. It’s been a winding road for Toronto, which played its home games in Buffalo, New York, at the site of its Triple-A affiliate after the Canadian government barred the Blue Jays from hosting games at their own stadium because of coronavirus concerns.

CONFIDENT RAYS

Tampa Bay’s five-game loss to Houston in last year’s divisional round was a source of motivation during the regular season.

“It definitely lit a fire under everybody. It really showed us we belong. … We gave them a tough series,” second baseman Brandon Lowe said.

“We won the wild-card game. We belong in the postseason. I think that did a lot for us to understand that we should be in the postseason and we can go a lot farther. We know what to expect this time around. I think everyone in our clubhouse expects to be playing until the end of October,” he said.

CLOSE FRIENDS

Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash has the Rays in the playoffs for the second time. His close friend and former Rays third base and bench coach Charlie Montoyo is in his second year as manager of the Blue Jays, who last made the playoffs in 2016.

“Pretty special,” Cash said of his relationship with Montoyo.

“I really learned a lot from him being around him. The way he carried himself. His hand print is throughout this organization,” Cash added. “A pretty big impact and a positive one. … When they clinched I talked to him, we face-timed at 1:30 in the morning. I’m so happy for him.”