BILLY BEANE ENIGMA – Who Is He and Can the A’s Ever Win It All With Him?

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BEANE AND SABEAN

Billy Bean vs. Brian Sabean – Longest and formerly longest tenured GMs and Bay Area rivals  never made a trade with each other, but Beane made up for it on his own

 

 NOW GONE IS JOSH DONALDSON and his 40 homers and .300 average  this year in Toronto. GONE IS YEONNIS CESPEDES and his 30 homers in New York. Imagine still having those two on the A’s along with Zobrist and Kazmir and maybe even Jon Lester. It’s crazy that Beane is so good at acquiring these players (the Giants could never get) but then turns around and trades them away! It can’t be all about money. Beane is a total paradox, an ego-centric making more headlines than his players – seemingly addicted to trading. Or, is it just because poor Beane and Wolf haven’t got their shiny new stadium?  We heard that one in 2006 when Beane PURPOSELY decimated the team to make the fans seemingly suffer through 2009  – Beane’s only non-winning seasons. Through all this , the A’s fans somehow remain loyal, coming out with the same fighting spirit in respectable numbers as before. But do Beane and Wolfe deserve such loyalty anymore?

 

He Giveth, Then Taketh Away – The BILLY BEANE Story

Now that Brian Sabean has stepped down (supposedly) as General Manager of the San Francisco Giants, Billy Beane is the  longest tenured General Manager in baseball , having taking over for Sandy Alderson with the Oakland A’s in 1997.  But unlike Sabean, Beane has not won any World Series – or even been in one, though he’s seen his teams with winning records 12 out of those 17 years.  That Beane’s teams haven’t been to any World Series doesn’t necessarily mean he’s a lesser GM than Sabean – that’s another issue.

 

When Beane took over for Alderson, he carried forth the new cost-cutting moves of the new A’s ownership headed by Ken Hoffman and  Stephen Schott – and he hasn’t let up since even with subsequent owner Lew Wolff and partners. Despite the A’s ownership is said to be one of the richest, the payroll has been one of the lowest in baseball. One can say the A’s have done well for the money spent. But, that’s part of a complex issue.

 

 

WHO IS BILLY BEANE?

 

On one hand, ‘Trader Billy’ as he is known affectionately or otherwise,  may be one of the best ‘wheeler dealers‘ in the game.  While Sabean was sitting on his hands much of the time, acquiring largely marginal players often with PED pasts (Melky Cabrera, Michael Morse, Guillermo Mota, etc.),  Beane was bringing    some top caliber players to little old Oakland-players most recently like Jeff Samardzija, Ben Zobrist and Jon Lester.  Despite having the  recent World Series cred and new ball park, Sabean was unsuccessful bringing in players like Lester and others.  The few free agents Sabean was able to acquire usually ‘went South,’ such as Carlos Beltran and Melky Cabrera;  only Hunter Pence has stuck among name players  in recent years; true,  Sabean has had success with older ‘castoffs’   like Cody Ross, Aubrey Huff, Pat Burrell, Jake Peavy ,  RyanVogelsong  and Marco Scutaro , but there is some question as to there legitimacy, what with the Giants’ track record of 23 PED- indicted players since Barry Bonds and Sabean joined the team in the mid-1990s.

 

UNLIKELY GIANTS FINALLY WINNERS  vs. EXCITING A’S BRIDESMAIDS

Despite Bonds and his PED-aided otherworldly numbers -he was a ‘mere’   .290 hitter averaging 25 homers a year before coming   from Pittsburg- the Giants weren’t able to achieve the success of the last five years until largely three different groups of these unlikely cast-offs somehow all came to life, many with career years, to propel the Giants to the three World Series, despite the fact the Giants only had one bonafide star (Buster Posey) and consistent pitcher (Madison Bumgarner).  Until the Giants finally started winning without the aid of Bonds on the team, Sabean was known largely as a poor trader who overpaid players  such as Barry Zito and Tim Lincecum with lengthy contracts.  Meanwhile, Beane was bringing in   name players to the A’s, such as Frank Thomas, Mike Piazza  and Matt Holiday, but  players who would  not be around beyond the  a year due to impending free agency – something for which the A’s refused to compete with other teams.  The A’s still managed to  put exciting teams on the field most of the time, going to the post season in ten of the  seventeen years Beane has run the team. Yet the A’s never got past the second round of  playoffs in all those years.

 

OLDER PLAYERS or YOUTH MOVEMENT?

Whereas Sabean had a poor reputation  dealing with teams- he was known not to always return phone calls- thus not getting a whole lot done, Beane was right there making some of the smoothest moves. The problem was,  no sooner Beane would pull one of his many coups, the player would be gone and the A’s team chemistry was affected; it was like starting over and over again.

 

Initially, Billy Beane was all about bringing in young players to build up the A’s minor league system, for which the parent A’s could draw from, as needed. He wouldn’t hesitate letting go a veteran for a bunch of up and coming minor leaguers.  But that would change, thus part of the enigma.  Suddenly out the door were fan favorites and big names including Jason GiambiBarry ZitoJohnny DamonMark MulderMatt HollidayDan HarenTim HudsonMiguel Tejada.  Unlike Sabean, Beane was adverse to signing especially pitchers to big, long contracts.

 

2002 roster

MONEY BALL  YEAR HIGH POINT BEFORE FIRST BIG SELL-OFF

 

2002 was the key year for ‘moneyball,’ the inspiration for the movie based on Beane’s reliance on  undervalued players and OBP (on base percentage) .   It really worked, with possibly the best-ever A’s team under Beane, which featured a major league record-tying 20-game win streak, under the capable tutelage of manager Art Howe. But either Beane couldn’t stand the prosperity or the players were becoming too expensive  and/or Beane was changing his philosophy to rely on younger players.

 

By 2005,  the ‘Big Three’ pitchers Zito, Mulder and Hudson were gone along with many of the older , more expensive position  .   It wasn’t unlike Charlie Finley liquidating his Championship teams including pitchers like Vida Blue after the 1974 season, due, purportedly to cost of the new Free Agency.

 

‘MANAGER DOESN’T MAKE A DIFFERENCE’ – BEANE HIRES BEST FRIEND GEREN, HONEYMOON OVER

In 2006 the popular manager Howe was out and Beane’s best friend, Bob ‘Deer in the Headlights’ Geren would take over the helm for the next four years , which would become the darkest time in Beane’s run with the A’s.   Though people had questioned the hire of Geren over popular third base coach Ron Washington,  Beane proclaimed that the manager doesn’t amount to a hill of beans.  Well, after four years  of losses and some rediculously bad managerial moves (such as Geren  intentionally walking a leadoff hitter   (Justin Morneau) , Oakland A’s fans actually revolted and demanded Geren’s head.

 

Not only were fans frustrated with Geren  but also with Beane.  It was almost as if Beane didn’t care anymore.  There was dissatisfaction in the front office that the A’s had not gotten the new stadium that had long been talked about, and Beane  made the unusual statement that the A’s could not play well without a new stadium; that may be one reason , he hung onto Geren as long as he did – almost like trying to punish the City of Oakland for not coming up with the new stadium like the Giants got across the Bay.

 

By now, Beane was all over the place, not making  good decisions beyond the manager. The old ‘moneyball’ philosophy was hardly there anymore – or not working.

 

NEW ERA, NEW HOPE WITH BOB MELVIN

 

No sooner than Geren was replaced, the A’s fortunes started taking off.  So much for Beane’s theory of managers, but , in fairness, Beane had by now secured some  new , fine young pitchers like Brett Anderson, Trevor Cahill, Dallas Braden, Brad Ziegler and Gio Gonzales. Gone for now were the big names  but the A’s began having success, again, making the playoffs the next four years  (2010-2014) under Melvin.

 

The A’s became known as a tenacious team, working counts and getting on base, while assembling a tough pitching staff. Beane would , again, start seeking  low cost talent like Coco Crisp and Josh Donaldson, and later Stephen Drew and powerful Josh Willingham , only to get rid of all but Crisp over the next few years.And , so it goes.

 

Before,  the A’s could establish true chemistry the team was broken up.

 

2014 Best Chance – A’s Even Open their Pocketbook Big Time for Cespedes, Lester

By 2014, Beane had, again, put together another class team, not unlike 2002 , with up and comming stars like Josh Donaldson, Josh Reddick , Brandon Moss, Derek Norris, Stephen Vogt and Coco Crisp. Beane even opened the team’s pocketbook for three top pitchers in Jeff Samardjia(sp), Jason Hammell and especially Jon Lester, to go along with Sonny Gray and Scott  Kazmir and Sean Doolittle in the bullpen. Earlier , the A’s had surprised everyone by  signing Cuban star Cespedes  coughing up  some $12 million, heretofore unheard of for the Oakland A’s. The A’s might have had the best team in baseball last year, with a better record than the   Giants and others, but , again, they   couldn’t get past a quirky, Giants -like Kansas City team  in the playoffs.

 

in 2015, the A’s parlayed that team to the best record in Spring Training, yet the A’s got some bad breaks along with injuries during the first half of the season to find themselves 10 games under .500 and at the bottom of the Western Division .

 

 

 

IMPATIENT ‘ADDICT’ BEANE  STARTS  SELL-OFF, A’s CONTINUE TO PLUMMET

 

Billy Beane never seemed to go more than a month or two without making a trade – even if the team didn’t seem to have real weaknesses.  Almost like an addict it’s like he had to trade, and the players who would bring the most were among his key players. Within weeks mid-season All Star break,  Zobrist and Kazmir were gone with more likely on their way out, shortly.  If things continue on pace – as the A’s, uncharacteristically, continue losing the close games,  they will finish with a losing record for the first time in five years.  Just as we thought Beane had renewed confidence that the A’s could go all the way in 2015 following an exceptional 2014,  it looks like another full-scale fire sale.

 

NOW GONE IS JOSH DONALDSON and his 40 homers and .300 average  this year in Toronto. GONE IS YEONNIS CESPEDES and his 30 homers in New York. Imagine still having those two on the A’s along with Zobrist and Kazmir and maybe even Jon Lester. It’s crazy that Beane is so good at acquiring these players (the Giants could never get) but then turns around and trades them away! It can’t be all about money. Beane is a total paradox, an ego-centric making more headlines than his players – seemingly addicted to trading. Or, is it just because poor Beane and Wolf haven’t got their shiny new stadium?  We heard that one in 2006 when Beane PURPOSELY decimated the team to make the fans seemingly suffer through 2009  – Beane’s only non-winning seasons. Through all this , the A’s fans somehow remain loyal, coming out with the same fighting spirit in respectable numbers as before. But do Beane and Wolfe deserve such loyalty anymore?

 

It’s almost like 2006 again, and Beane and Wolff are mad about something.  Still no stadium. Not enough fans or something.  But,  one could hardly blame the Oakland fans, one of the best , albeit smaller, fan bases in baseball. Certainly , with more winning the numbers would grow as they had before when the A’s were winning (several 2 million attendance seasons during better times).

 

 

 

AGAIN, WHO IS BILLY BEANE? CAN HIS TEAMS WIN AGAIN and WHEN?

 Now Beane seems to finally realize what he has done to the team and says he will work from within the farm system to build the team. Of course he will because he’s traded away most of the talent, leaving a shell of the old team. Yes, Sonny Gray is still here but that’s it, the only marquee player left. Some other nice ‘pieces’ remain in Stephen Vogt, Daniel Valencia, Josh Reddick and Billy Burns – but hardly any star talent. Doolittle’s back, too, but that’s about it for the pitching other than Gray. it will take a lot of work  with the pitching staff otherwise in disarray  to make any sense out and get the A’s out of the cellar, where they haven’t been in years. From  first place to last place in one year. Beane giveth and then taketh away.

 

We still can’t say any more than at the beginning of this article. Beane is a man with a big ego, who like Finley use to do, really controls the team  personnel almost single-handedly , from what we can tell.

We do know Beane is a man with a big ego, a walking contradiction, who will in one breath  pay out  large contracts and , in another breath, take them away.   We do know that Beane is capable of making good trades and moves  – better than the guy across the bay.  And, with the right moves (and one of the best managers in place),  we believe Beane is as capable as anyone of putting together a winning team, if not a World Series-calibre one. He just must know when to leave things alone. If anyone, Beane is capable of over-trading.

 

The next  question is ‘when?’  None of us are getting any younger, especially the owner of the team. Are fans willing to wait around 3-5 years?   Hopefully not. If Beane can keep himself from trading away any more key players and further disrupt what team chemistry is left,  the A’s may not be more than a relief pitcher or two and a hitter away from a competitive team.  

 

Despite eveything, the A’s have had one of the best records in baseball over the past five years – if not the best.   You can go the route of Sabean and pick up easy ‘garbage’ players and hope for PED magic, if you will, quite frankly, but we’d  still rather wait out some more legit deals from Billy while the current bunch starts playing better together

 

 

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BILLY BEANE ENIGMA – Who Is He and Can the A’s Win It All With Him?