Billy Beane is arguably the best General Manager in the game of baseball. There is no proof that he is the best, for he has never won a World Series, and even then, there would not be definite proof. But I would most likely put him at the top, despite (or is it “in spite?”) of the fact that he never won a ring. He did more with less, and the quality that the teams he built consisted of were truly, really good teams. Maybe they were young, and inexperience was the cause of them falling short every year…maybe not. After all, other young teams have won (2003 Marlins). But other young teams, were not these young teams. When a GM such as Theo Epstein, or any GM, wins a World Series, observers tend to want to say that they may be the best at their job. But it isn’t all about winning a World Series, is it? Well, it is…but not everyone is on the same playing field. Epstein is a good General manager, but he has help. A hefty payroll, loads of talent, more depth than he can use at times. And that depth is attributed to his ability to build it, he and the scouting crew that is assembled that is. But one thing he has, that Beane does not, is the ability to sign veteran players for A LOT of money. Something that Billy Beane has never had. So I don’t necessarily hold it against Beane that he has not brought Oakland to the promise land. Beane could never go out and overpay for a pretty good player (JD Drew). Beane could never afford to pay $50 million, simply for the rights to pay that same guy $50 million more (Daisuke). And although Daisuke is not great, he is a good pitcher, or pretty good at least. Let us watch a few more years of him. But Theo has many more resources available to him. But give him credit, for not pulling the trigger on certain moves and that is what has made him a good GM. And I would assume that it isn’t easy to sit there and watch integral pieces of one’s championship team walk away.
Anyway, the title of the link, which I will be honest, I did not read. I simply skimmed down and glanced enough to remember to add Nick Swisher to this list of names: Swisher, Blanton, Harden, Haren. These are the players that Billy Beane traded to revamp the A’s farm system. My first thought when I saw the title was independent of the words within the article, because I did NOT read it. All I thought was, “They better have “transformed” the system!!!” When that many quality, established veterans are traded, then one must be able to get a good return. But that is not a knock on Beane, not every GM would have the “balls” to do what he does, or did. I mean this was the same guy that would have traded Varitek if he took over the Red Sox front office. I understand that it is hard to calculate the value that one catcher brings over another catcher, in terms of working with the pitching staff, and calling a game, etc. We may overvalue Varitek, not necessarily what he does, but what he does more so than the average catcher. However, we may NOT overavalue that either, but Beane was willing to try and prove that all that “intangible” stuff that Varitek does, is overrated. Again, I don’t know whether it is or not, but we all have varying views of it.
So Beane trades away most of why the A’s had a chance to win approximately 84 games (post Haren). Which is too few, and Beane understood that. And what he did, and has done in the past, is pull the trigger. Beane’s theory, according to Rob Neyer, is that “if you can’t win 90, then you might as well lose 90.” It isn’t completely accurate (See: 2006 Cardinals), but I get what he is saying. And he, unlike many other GM’s in the game, has the ability to do what he believes in, even if the locals don’t like it. He has the ability to view the larger picture. Being in mild contention, with an overachieving team, near the midway point, and being up against teams that clearly have more talent, isn’t worth not pulling the trigger. Beane wants to build a team that can win 90+ games, in multiple years, increasing the odds that they not only get into the postseason, but have multiple chances at doing so, realistically.
And so he did it. He “transformed” the system. Which isn’t a big accomplishment. Trading away good players, while not being an idiot while doing so, can bring back a good amount of talent. But remember, it was Beane and his scouting department that drafted the players, or obtained the players to begin with. So all of the players he acquired were because of he and his staff.
And then there is this…
Billy Beane is a baseball GENIUS.