Billy Beane

Billy Beane’s philosophy: go small until you get a new home (fans be damned)

The Oakland Athletics made another trade today, and it was just like all the other ones they’ve made lately. They traded proven Major League players — in this case closer Andrew Bailey and outfielder Ryan Sweeney — to the Boston Red Sox for Josh Reddick (a 24-year-old outfielder) and these kids:



It’s actually spelled “Alcantara,” but whatever.

After trading Trevor Cahill to the D-Backs for prospects, sending Gio Gonzalez to the Nationals for more prospects, and sending Bailey and Sweeney to Boston for more prospects (although to call Reddick a prospect is a stretch since he’s 24 and has spent parts of three seasons in the Majors — he’s a guy with a spotty Minor League resume and some power potential).

The first trade was a good one, since Cahill’s overrated after going 18-8 in 2010 with an ERA of 2.89 that was due to extremely fortunate BABIP luck — he’s more of a No. 3 or No. 4 than a Cy Young candidate. Gonzalez is a much better pitcher than Cahill who was under team control for four more seasons. However, that’s the reason why his trade value was so high and Beane seemed to capitalize with a pretty impressive haul, even if the trade sent a less-than-upbeat message to the fans about the team’s immediate future.

Yesterday’s trade was not as impressive for Oakland. Perhaps a contending team would have given more at the trade deadline for a closer like Bailey, but this seemed more like Billy Beane acting out before the owners meetings and getting into a sort of rebuilding groove, if you will. Sort of like when you’re moving and you start packaging everything up in boxes. Then, after you realize how much crap you have, you toss out some sweaters you haven’t worn in five years. Then you recycle your notes from that astronomy class you took in college to fulfill a GE requirement. Suddenly you’re in a minimalist rhythm and you’re throwing out everything in your room that you aren’t absolutely certain you’ll use within the next 10 days.

We know what the A’s are doing. Billy Beane has tired of tinkering with a smallish budget and dealing with injuries after building around a solid young starting rotation, mostly anonymous position players and famous, ancient designated hitters clinging to a Major League job. Now he’s creating a roster where nearly everyone is anonymous, meaning Brandon McCarthy and Kurt Suzuki could be shipped out at any time.

The A’s are tired of waiting for MLB to provide some help on the San Jose situation, so Beane’s being “proactive” in a sense by showing just how downtrodden the A’s can get. And it’s working. The A’s are garnering all kinds of attention with these moves, and while a solution may not be on the horizon in terms of San Jose and the Giants’ stance on territorial rights, the buzz surrounding the issue has never been louder. Then again, the A’s territorial rights quandary isn’t even on the list of agenda items at the owners meetings in mid-January.

Beating the drum

But let’s leave San Jose, stadiums and Peter Magowan alone for a second and focus on A’s fans, the poor souls who are left with a four choices right now:

  1. Suffer through these moves, learn about the prospects, hope they’ll pan out and that the A’s will have a new stadium someday soon that’ll entice Beane not to trade these prospects away once they start making over a million dollars per year.
  2. Follow the A’s passively, without getting emotionally involved in wins and losses until the Athletics start putting a Major League product on the field, which at this point could take five years or longer.
  3. Turn their backs on the A’s and following/rooting for another team.
  4. Turn their backs on MLB altogether.

None of those are great choices. In fact, they’re all horrendous, depressing choices for any A’s fan — whether you grew up rooting for the great Athletics teams in the ’70s or ’80s, you’re a young fan rooting for the A’s because of the Giambi/Tejada/Hudson/Mulder/Zito teams, or simply because you grew tired of the San Francisco Giants, KNBR, Barry Bonds, Giants fans, panda hats or whatever else drives A’s fans nutty about that neighboring franchise that celebrates Marvin Benard as if he were Roberto Clemente.

As a Giants fan myself (I know, shocking disclosure), I’m uncomfortable allowing the Giants to cry poor and hold back on spending simply because they’re already so far ahead of the A’s when it comes to the whole payroll thing. However, I can understand why fans of the Athletics could be driven to vomit their dollar hot dogs into the nearest urinal trough when Giants fans (and announcers) cry “torture” over a team with a $130 million payroll, 81 sellouts, the better CSN channel and a World Series win only 14 months ago.

A’s fans are angry, and they should be. They’re pissed off at…

A’s ownership: It doesn’t state anywhere that teams absolutely must give up if they don’t have an optimal stadium, and while Lew Wolff does most of the talking, John Fisher has a net worth of over $1 billion. It’s not like a bunch of firefighters in Alameda decided to buy the team and got in over their heads.

Billy Beane: Brad Pitt played the guy in a movie, so the backlash against him would exist even if he wasn’t gleefully making his team unrecognizable. He built a perennial winner that made the postseason five times from 2000-06, but since then his trades have been decidedly less effective and, this year, more transparent. Beane also holds a minority stake in the team, which means he’s a member of the ownership group everyone’s pissed off at, too.

The Giants: It’s not enough to trump the A’s in every financial way imaginable, but the Giants seem to revel in their role as stadium-blockers (at least in the South Bay):

The feeling in the Giants’ camp is that the A’s think if they just keep saying they’re optimistic about a new stadium, it will happen.

“I think it’s wishful thinking,” said Peter Magowan, the Giants’ former managing general partner. “I don’t think they’ll get anywhere with it. I’d be surprised if a different result were to come about.”

Neener … neener … neener.

Major League Baseball (Bud Selig): New A’s Ballpark has a running tally of how long it’s been since MLB started reviewing the A’s stadium situation (as of today, 1,019 days). Nobody knows what’s going on, or when this will finally be addressed. Will MLB make the A’s and their fans wait all this time just to say, “Kick rocks … err, we mean … make it work in Oakland or something”? The lack of information put forth by the commissioner on the matter is extremely frustrating. That, along with the A’s jettisoning all of their known players, adds to the idea that no one cares about A’s fans or a franchise that’s won four championships in Oakland and nine overall.

All in all, it’s a terrible situation. Not for the owners of the team, because they’re rich. Same with the players. And MLB. What’s sad is A’s fans are watching every single team in the Bay Area grow into a winner (even the Warriors, it seems), while their team withers away.

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