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Billy Beane May Be Ready to Leave Oakland Athletics and Baseball for European Soccer

Billy Beane has been the Oakland Athletics general manager for more than two decades, but a Wall Street Journal story Monday said that there is a chance that he will have to make a choice between baseball and European soccer.

The Billy Beane era in Oakland my be coming to an end.

A report in the Wall Street Journal Monday night said that a proposed deal to take the parent company of the Boston Red Sox public would, if completed, leave Beane with a choice between staying with the A’s or the Red Sox.

Beane is a minority owner in the A’s, but if the Red Sox go public, he would also be a minority owner in the Red Sox.

Red Sox’s owner John Henry is trying to merge with RedBall Acquisition Corp., a special-purpose acquisition company of which Beane is the co-chairman. Should the merger go through, the WSJ story said, Beane would step back from baseball entirely and focus on other sports business ventures, specifically European soccer.

One of Henry’s recent acquisitions was the 2017 deal that made the Red Sox cousins of Liverpool F.C., a member of the English Premier League.

Beane has long had a fascination with professional soccer/football. In 2017, he joined a consortium that purchased Barnsley Football Club, which competes in England’s second tier. In September, he bought a minority share of AZ Alkmaar, a Dutch professional soccer club for whom he already held an advisory role.

Beane went from being a former first-round draft pick flop out of high school in San Diego in 1980 to an A’s extra outfielder in 1989. He didn’t make the team in the spring of 1990, but went into scouting, eventually becoming the right-hand man of Oakland A’s general manager Sandy Alderson and then to become the GM in his own right in the space of less than a decade. The A’s general manager from 1997 who was promoted to executive vice president five years ago, was the focus of the 2003 Michael Lewis book “Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game,” which detailed Beane’s increasing use of statistical analysis.

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The movie “Moneyball,” in which Brad Pitt played Beane, made Beane something of a cult figure. And now it seems that he may be ready to move on after a 23-year run as the man in charge of baseball decisions in Oakland.

But having financial stakes in two different organization is a non-starter in Major League Baseball.

Beane turned Henry’s offer of the general manager’s job in Boston after the 2002 season, but the two men are close, and this time, it’s not Henry making a job offer. If the deal goes through, Beane would have a conflict of interest, whether or not Henry was involved.

Beane, whose team got bounced from the playoffs by the Astros last week, would be changing sports, but he’s not unfamiliar with soccer, and for once he wouldn’t operating with half a checkbook. There would be plenty of money, as has always been the case with Henry.

Can Moneyball translate into soccer/football? We may be about ready to find out.

Follow Athletics insider John Hickey on Twitter: @JHickey3

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