The Boston Red Sox are back on top of the American baseball world having just won their third World Series Title in less than ten years. Their owners, Fenway Sports Group have transformed the organization over this time, but despite leading the Red Sox down the path of titles, there was a downturn that tested their ownership. This illustrates something that should encourage Liverpool fans; FSG have learned from their mistakes.
By winning titles in 2004 and 2007, the Red Sox organization was transformed into a winner after decades of being the team that just couldn’t win that big game for the title. The perception of the Red Sox had completely changed from perennial underachievers to winners. This brought more fans, and also more money,to the Red Sox organisation.
The Red Sox after 2007 were in great shape to build on their championship wins, but I think the ownership lost their way, and perhaps their focus too. The Red Sox were all about winning baseball games, but the ‘brand’ Red Sox started to take over.
The perception of myself and many fans after 2007 was that the Red Sox ownership seemed more interested in marketing, and their television station than winning games. Many baseball moves seemed to be dictated by doing what was best in terms of marketing rather than doing what was best for the team.
There is a phrase that former General Manager Theo Epstein used to describe what was going on with the Red Sox during that time, and it was “feeding the monster”. He implied that the organisation were perhaps making decisions that focused more on the growth of ‘Red Sox Nation’ than actually building another winning team.
For example, the Red Sox brought in high priced free agents that at the time did not seem to make sense for the needs of the club. John Lackey was brought in at a time that I felt the Sox did not need another starting pitcher. They certainly needed him this past season, but up to then, it looked like a bad move.
A few seasons ago, they signed Carl Crawford too, another a player that many thought they overpaid for, and did not fit the needs of the team. The parallel to Liverpool would be the signing of Andy Carroll for £35Million.
I believe many players were brought in partially for publicity relations and marketing purposes. It seemed the owners wanted to bring in big names to make a buzz, instead of players that might have been a better fit at the time. Red Sox Nation was becoming huge a few seasons ago, and the owners were adding to this growth by “feeding the monster” with big names.
The 2011 season saw the ‘monster’ basically take over the team. The Red Sox ended the season with an epic collapse, and at that point the fans knew something was seriously wrong and change was desperately needed.
The 2012 season was one of the worst in modern Red Sox history, but it was also a huge turning point. FSG hired a new General Manager Ben Cherrington, and he started the process of change.
With the backing of the owners, the Red Sox made a blockbuster trade and got rid of Josh Beckett, Adrian Gonzalez, and Carl Crawford that summer. The Red Sox were basically giving up the season by completing this move, but the move allowed the process of rebuilding to begging by getting those contracts off of their books, which is something they’ve done at Liverpool too by getting rid of high earners such as Charlie Adam, Stewart Downing and Andy Carroll who simply were not performing well enough to justify their high wages.
That brings us to the building of the current team that recently won a World Series Title. Cherington brought in good players, but not the big names with inflated salaries. These players fitted the plan to build a “team”
The Red Sox still had plenty of talent, and this was not a sign they were going cheap. In fact, this was signal that the Red Sox were about winning baseball games again, and not “feeding the monster”.
The owners learned from their mistakes in several ways. They took a huge step backwards in the public. John Henry and his partners were not that visible this season, and they let the baseball operations team do their job to build a winner.
Another way in which they learned from their mistakes was to find players that fitted into what they wanted to do on the field, rather than what they could do off the field with marketing the Red Sox brand.
The third and most significant thing they learned to do was to trust the people they hired to do their jobs. I am talking about the general manager, the players, and the coaching staff. They let the team play baseball again, and now they are seeing success once again. This obviously bodes well for Brendan Rodgers!
So what could all this mean for Liverpool? I actually think this is a very good sign, because from the outside looking in, the process of FSG learning from their mistakes seems to have begun already.
Instead of holding on to high priced players that did not fit, the ownership got rid of Andy Carroll, Charlie Adam, and Stewart Downing. This was admitting that mistakes were made in terms of recruitment and meant they had to swallow their pride somewhat, but it meant that they could go and find players that fit with what Liverpool want to do in the future.
Brendan Rodgers is a very good manager, and getting rid of a player like Carroll might look bad, but if you think about it, what it really shows is that the manager is calling the shots and has a system. Carroll did not fit into Rosgers’ system, so they simply moved on from him, and instead found players that could work with the manager.
By allowing this move to take place, the owners empowered and backed the manager to build his vision of Liverpool, and I think you are starting to see the positives of this. Players like Philippe Coutinho, and Daniel Sturridge are building blocks for the future, and they were brought in under Rodgers for his system.
Another wonderful sign that there are great things to come is highlighted by how well the ownership handled the Luis Suarez situation this summer. They made it clear that even though he wanted to leave at the time, Suarez was going nowhere.
The ownership learned from their mistakes from the Red Sox in regards to giving in to players and stood their ground with Suarez. FSG made it clear that Liverpool comes before Luis Suarez. The irony of the Suarez situation is that he is playing great, and looks fairly happy.
In conclusion, the latest success of the Red Sox shows that FSG are an adaptable group of owners and for that reason I believe that both Liverpool and the Red Sox have bright futures ahead of them. A big part of that future stems from the fact that the owners are constantly learning from their mistakes.
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