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February 8, 2012

The BP First Take

Wednesday, February 8

by Daniel Rathman

Say this for Athletics owner Lew Wolff: The man is loyal to his staff. Wolff told Bloomberg Television on Tuesday that he intends to keep general manager Billy Beane and president Michael Crowley with the organization through at least the 2019 season, or roughly five years after the projected move to San Jose.

Beane has come under fire in recent years for the A’s seemingly perpetual rebuilding process. While the Giants won the World Series in 2010, fans across the bay have not seen playoff baseball since 2006, and the Athletics do not project to contend in 2012 or 2013, either. Beane has made his fair share of ill-advised trades in recent years—perhaps most notably the Matt Holliday deal that sent Carlos Gonzalez to the Rockies—and Oakland’s last few draft classes have left much to be desired.

Then again, no GM is infallible, and Beane has done a rather impressive job of restocking what was a barren farm system this offseason. If Wolff’s mission for Beane was to put the pieces in place to contend when the team is finally ready to relocate, then he appears to deserve the benefit of the doubt.

Beane sold high on Gio Gonzalez, netting a high-ceiling pitching prospect in A.J. Cole and a possible long-term heir to Kurt Suzuki in Derek Norris. He parted ways with the overvalued Trevor Cahill, and in the process bought low on onetime blue-chipper Jarrod Parker. And he moved Andrew Bailey—a reliever with arm trouble, who was on the verge of his first arbitration raise—for three potentially useful pieces, including an intriguing teenage hurler in Raul Alcantara.

That is the glass-half-full view of Oakland’s offseason, but the A’s are an organization that needs everything to go right to contend. With the Angels and Rangers flexing their financial muscles, and the Moneyball advantage gone thanks to the copycat nature of the league, the A’s would need to strike gold on a batch of prospects to compensate, much like the Rays have done in the AL East.

Only time will tell if Beane’s rebuilding plan gets the Athletics back into the playoffs by 2015. For now, there are a variety of factors at play, some of them directly under Beane’s control, but others completely beyond it. So, perhaps the reason that Wolff has decided to keep Beane onboard through 2019 is to ensure that he has a fair chance to form a contender under more favorable circumstances—circumstances that Beane would have enjoyed had he taken a job with the Red Sox years ago.

Many fans will argue that it is time for a change, that Beane’s formula has outlived its usefulness, and that fresh ideas are needed to get the Athletics out of their current drought. But Beane was loyal to the franchise back when the Red Sox came calling in 2002, and Wolff—who bought the team in 2005—may feel that it is only fair for him to now show the same loyalty in return. 

Daniel Rathman is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Daniel's other articles. You can contact Daniel by clicking here

Related Content:  Billy Beane

3 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

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Behemoth

It's amazing how much Beane gets away with just because of his history. For example, the consensus view was that Arizona did pretty well in the Cahill deal - if Parker turns out as well as Cahill, you would have to be relatively pleased with that. Despite the perpetual moaning and excuse making about finances, other organisations have done significantly better with similar resources.

Feb 08, 2012 07:32 AM
rating: 1
 
BP staff member Daniel Rathman
BP staff

I think part of Beane's problem in recent years has been trying to do too much. Very rarely can a general manager string together several beneficial trades in a row.

Mark Mulder brought in Dan Haren and Daric Barton pre-2005
Dan Haren brought in Carlos Gonzalez and Brett Anderson pre-2008
Carlos Gonzalez brought in Matt Holliday pre-2009
And then came the ill-fated Holliday for Brett Wallace swap mid-2009, followed by the Wallace/Michael Taylor deal pre-2010.

It seems as though Beane simply took the chain one or two links too far.

Feb 08, 2012 09:13 AM
 
Ray Whatley
(267)

Rubbing salt in the wound was the fact that Holliday, while in Oakland, stunk it up and seemed to play only half heartedly (a la Randy Moss)and had the lowest OPS of his career. Thanks for nothing, Matt.

Feb 09, 2012 22:51 PM
rating: 0
 
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