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Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Jenkins: Billy Beane isn’t to blame for sad state of A’s

The Magic World of Bruce Jenkins: Homesick, that’s all.

Personally, I find it astounding that Beane’s still in Oakland - even if the A’s do get the go-ahead for San Jose. This is a 49-year-old man in the prime of life, absurdly overqualified to supervise three or four more years of utter irrelevance in the American League.

But I’m done lobbying for his freedom. This is a different kind of cat. As Beane weighs the elements of lifestyle and family, he’s obviously willing to trade prestige for a challenge.

And this is one hell of a challenge.

“I’m too competitive to ‘punt’ anything,” he said by telephone this week. “It’s not part of my DNA. I’ve got an emotional investment in this team, and if we’re playing in Oakland, then let’s make the best of the situation. I don’t leave for clear skies as soon as I start seeing the clouds. I keep thinking something will get better.”

...“Listen, this is the most challenging position we’ve ever been in, and when you’re moving good players, year after year, there is going to be some backlash. You’re in the wrong business if you think everyone is always going to pat you on the back, so if I’m part of the dartboard, so be it, it’s in the job description. But I want a team that has a chance to be better tomorrow, as opposed to worse. I understand the risk, but when you are coming off a third-place finish, I don’t see it as much of a risk.”

 

 

Repoz Posted: January 04, 2012 at 07:10 AM | 32 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: athletics, business, media

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   1. Mellow Mouse, Benevolent Space Tyrant Posted: January 04, 2012 at 08:53 AM (#4028465)
At what point does any of this become the responsibility of Mr. Beane? Does any GM anywhere get this much slack?

I don't think he is a bad GM (or a very good one for that matter), but it is amazing the lack of accountability. Normally the GM gets more credit and more blame than deserved, but not in his case.

I admit you can never fully know all of the circumstances and reasons for anything, for example analyzing trades when we don't really know what the alternatives are. But at some point don't the results (especially the very bad playoff record and recent run of "success") suggest that maybe the GM of the club isn't doinga great job?
   2. JJ1986 Posted: January 04, 2012 at 09:40 AM (#4028496)
So, he can't afford Trevor Cahill or Andrew Bailey, but is happy to throw a 2-year deal to Covelli Crisp?
   3. Joey B. is counting the days to Trea Turner Posted: January 04, 2012 at 09:43 AM (#4028498)
But I’m done lobbying for his freedom. This is a different kind of cat. As Beane weighs the elements of lifestyle and family, he’s obviously willing to trade prestige for a challenge.

Oh puhlease, spare me the spin and bullcrap before I have to reach for the barf bag. He's not leaving because he has an ownership stake in the team, period.
   4. Rally Posted: January 04, 2012 at 09:47 AM (#4028502)
So, he can't afford Trevor Cahill or Andrew Bailey, but is happy to throw a 2-year deal to Covelli Crisp?


No reason to think he couldn't afford those players. Apparently he just thought the prospect hauls he got back for them (and especially for Gonzalez) were more desirable than the players he traded.
   5. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: January 04, 2012 at 09:58 AM (#4028512)
I don't think he is a bad GM (or a very good one for that matter), but it is amazing the lack of accountability. Normally the GM gets more credit and more blame than deserved, but not in his case.

He seems bored to me. All this useless churning w/o a clear plam. It's like he's gotten pissed at the payroll situation, and doesn't really care until they get to San Jose.

Beane really should be spending his time revamping their drafting/development, especially for position players, rather than making pointless moves.
   6. Avoid running at all times.-S. Paige Posted: January 04, 2012 at 10:24 AM (#4028528)
Listen, this is the most challenging position we’ve ever been in, and when you’re moving good players, year after year, there is going to be some backlash.


Seems to me that Beane is speaking in code to/about the primates.
   7. Fist Pumping Maniac Posted: January 04, 2012 at 10:35 AM (#4028538)
Still doesn't explain why it was necessary to trade Gio.
   8. Avoid running at all times.-S. Paige Posted: January 04, 2012 at 10:48 AM (#4028548)
Still doesn't explain why it was necessary to trade Gio.


It's funny because I think trading a player like Gio makes a ton of sense for a team in Oakland's current position. They're not going to compete meaningfully for a couple of years, Gio is at the peak of his value and is the type of pitcher who could turn into a pumpkin pretty quickly. I can't be the only who thinks of Kazmir and Ollie Perez when I look at his statline.
   9. Ivan Grushenko of Hong Kong Posted: January 04, 2012 at 11:17 AM (#4028581)
So the team has 6 losing seasons in a row, had a terrible farm system till the trade of 3 of its best players and the GM is too good to stay in the job. Interesting.
   10. Brian C Posted: January 04, 2012 at 11:24 AM (#4028588)
I don't think he is a bad GM (or a very good one for that matter), but it is amazing the lack of accountability. Normally the GM gets more credit and more blame than deserved, but not in his case.

But, without even getting into Beane's merits, his case is clearly different, isn't it? I think there's a general consensus here that ownership is basically pulling a Major League stunt, intentionally handicapping the competitiveness of the team in order to force a move to San Jose.

Certainly that has to be considered when evaluating Beane, doesn't it? You can't just say that he's not winning so he sucks. The question that has to be asked first is, what should our expectations be for someone in his position? I don't really have an answer to that, but I'm also skeptical that anyone could have that team in a position of success. It's a fundamentally dysfunctional situation.
   11. RJ in TO Posted: January 04, 2012 at 11:32 AM (#4028594)
But, without even getting into Beane's merits, his case is clearly different, isn't it? I think there's a general consensus here that ownership is basically pulling a Major League stunt, intentionally handicapping the competitiveness of the team in order to force a move to San Jose.

Certainly that has to be considered when evaluating Beane, doesn't it? You can't just say that he's not winning so he sucks. The question that has to be asked first is, what should our expectations be for someone in his position? I don't really have an answer to that, but I'm also skeptical that anyone could have that team in a position of success. It's a fundamentally dysfunctional situation.


Except he's also part of that same ownership group. So while it may be unfair to criticize him for putting a substandard team on the field as a GM, since he may be under orders from an ownership group that's trying to force a move, it's completely reasonable to criticize him for being part of that same sandbagging ownership group that's directing him to put together a substandard team to force a move.
   12. Joey B. is counting the days to Trea Turner Posted: January 04, 2012 at 11:37 AM (#4028602)
Agreed, RJ in TO. The adamant refusal of some of the hard core Beaneheads to acknowledge that he's a minority owner of the team is rather sad. Especially considering that these are the types of guys who usually rail against cheap owners.
   13. JJ1986 Posted: January 04, 2012 at 11:38 AM (#4028604)
The adamant refusal of some of the hard core Beaneheads to acknowledge that he's a minority owner of the team is rather sad.


Are there any "Beaneheads" left?
   14. Joey B. is counting the days to Trea Turner Posted: January 04, 2012 at 11:40 AM (#4028611)
Are there any "Beaneheads" left?

Let's start with Bruce Jenkins, the author of this fawning, sycophantic little hagiography of an article.
   15. RB in NYC (Now Semi-Retired from BBTF) Posted: January 04, 2012 at 11:52 AM (#4028630)
Except he's also part of that same ownership group. So while it may be unfair to criticize him for putting a substandard team on the field as a GM, since he may be under orders from an ownership group that's trying to force a move, it's completely reasonable to criticize him for being part of that same sandbagging ownership group that's directing him to put together a substandard team to force a move.
I don't remember the exact percentage--it was quoted in a thread a bit ago--but Beane's ownership stake is well under 5%. He could be unhappy with the team's current plan, his options are basically (a) quit--and sell back his portion of the team if he wants to work elsewhere in baseball or (b) ride it out. He doesn't have anything like a stake where he can dictate policy.

I think it's fair to critize the job Billy Beane the GM has done over the past few years. But the idea that he sits in his office and makes moves based on what his 4% (or whatever) ownership stake is going to be worth seems frankly bizarre to me.
   16. Mellow Mouse, Benevolent Space Tyrant Posted: January 04, 2012 at 12:35 PM (#4028674)
But, without even getting into Beane's merits, his case is clearly different, isn't it? I think there's a general consensus here that ownership is basically pulling a Major League stunt, intentionally handicapping the competitiveness of the team in order to force a move to San Jose.


Maybe. Yes his moves have to be examined in context of what we know. But I am not willing to just give him a pass because it kind of looks like his owners are not trying real hard. His job is to maximize his resources to put a winning product on the field, and I am not sure he is doing that.

Now if he is literally not trying to win - pulling a true Major League - then that speaks much more to his moral/ethical standards* and I guess we aren't really talking about his GM ability any more. Especially since he has almost certainly had the oppertunity to move to a market where he isn't forced to try to lose (if that is what he is doing, and doing well I might add).

* A case could be made he needs to do what his boss tells him to do. however willfully trying to lose seems very problematic to me. But that is likely a larger topic.
   17. Danny Posted: January 04, 2012 at 12:37 PM (#4028681)
But at some point don't the results (especially the very bad playoff record and recent run of "success") suggest that maybe the GM of the club isn't doinga great job?

Especially? Beane's overall record is quite good. The A's have the 7th best record in baseball since 1998 despite playing in the toughest division in baseball and having one of the lower payrolls in the league. There's certainly an argument to be made that 1) Alderson deserves a lot of credit for the early-Aughts success, 2) Beane has slipped in recent years, and 3) they need someone better than him to get back to the playoffs. But while it's easy to point to the recent Rays, the reality is that most teams in the A's financial situation have sucked much worse than Beane's A's have. I think he's done well enough over his tenure to assume he'd likely be better than his replacement.

I also think the idea that ownership is "sandbagging" the team to ensure a move to San Jose is misguided. Regardless of the stadium situation, it makes sense for the A's to be trading away their best players now for the same reason it made sense when they traded Swisher and Haren after the 2007 season--they have a mediocre team and a poor farm system that is unlikely to produce a contender if left on the current path. Gio, Cahill, and Bailey are valuable assets for the next few years; the A's are very unlikely to compete with the Rangers and Angels over that period, so they converted the present value to future value. It'd be nice if that coincides with a new stadium and an influx in payroll/revenue, but it makes sense either way.

The last rebuild obviously failed, but not because ownership was any more limiting than they were during the A's run from 1999-2006. The A's have been trading prospects for veterans the past few years (Holliday, Willingham, DeJesus) and splashing a little money in the FA market in an attempt to compete. It has not been a constant rebuild since 2006, as some seem to believe. They had also been spending a lot in the draft and in the IFA market prior to 2011. The current ownership is frugal, but no moreso than the Schott regime was.
   18. Joey B. is counting the days to Trea Turner Posted: January 04, 2012 at 01:09 PM (#4028724)
despite playing in the toughest division in baseball

Not.
   19. Something Other Posted: January 04, 2012 at 01:22 PM (#4028749)
But, without even getting into Beane's merits, his case is clearly different, isn't it? I think there's a general consensus here that ownership is basically pulling a Major League stunt, intentionally handicapping the competitiveness of the team in order to force a move to San Jose.
Is this true? I though the consensus instead was that Beane felt the A's weren't going anywhere in their current location, and had lost interest in baseball in favor of soccer. I hadn't even heard the "Major League" hypothesis before.


I think it's fair to critize the job Billy Beane the GM has done over the past few years. But the idea that he sits in his office and makes moves based on what his 4% (or whatever) ownership stake is going to be worth seems frankly bizarre to me.
It doesn't seem bizarre to me. Sucky, maybe, but not bizarre. If his current stake in the team is worth, say, $12m, and getting the team to San Jose and successful once there makes his stake worth $30m, why would it be out of the question or even unusual for Beane to do whatever it takes to accomplish that?

People kill for small fractions of $18m.

   20. Walt Davis Posted: January 04, 2012 at 02:11 PM (#4028830)
"In Chicago, I can get a guy whacked for 500 bucks but I can't get a guy to lay down a bunt for a million." -- Mike Royko (probably not exact)

I just don't see how sucking gets them to San Jose any faster. I certainly wouldn't want to be running for mayor of San Jose on a platform of "Vote Davis and I'll bring the 110-loss baseball team to town."

And, ####, Beane's 5 months younger than I am and has already been played by Brad Pitt (who's 2 years younger than I am).
   21. Something Other Posted: January 04, 2012 at 02:43 PM (#4028867)
But on the internet, in text, you're better looking than both those bums!
   22. valuearbitrageur Posted: January 04, 2012 at 02:48 PM (#4028875)
I don't remember the exact percentage--it was quoted in a thread a bit ago--but Beane's ownership stake is well under 5%. He could be unhappy with the team's current plan, his options are basically (a) quit--and sell back his portion of the team if he wants to work elsewhere in baseball or (b) ride it out. He doesn't have anything like a stake where he can dictate policy.


It's also unclear whether he'd be allowed to sell the stake at anything approaching a reasonable price. We are assuming he has a buyback agreement, because it makes sense, but he may also be prevented from selling his stake outside of the current ownership group and might just have to take whatever they offer.

And how does he take another GM job if he still owns 4% of the As?

I think, as usual, that he's doing the rational thing here, and I think As fans that don't live in Oakland should be excited and happy. Clearly the SF Giants have been behaving like scumbags, using territorial rights the As gave the Giants in their time of need to try to stop the As from moving in their time of need. Business as usual means fighting to produce .500 teams in a tough division against 3 teams with substantially more resources.

And the biggest impediment to building up a good team cheaply has been draft position. The As have been drafting in the middle or the bottom of drafts for well over a decade, not just the first round but every round and that disadvantage slowly builds through each draft.

Force the league to repudiate the Giants. Get some top picks in a few drafts and try to turn them into stars or even super stars. And when you move, then use all those additional resources and your hopefully refreshed minor league system to build a strong long term winner.
   23. Khrushin it bro Posted: January 04, 2012 at 02:49 PM (#4028878)
I think that his own explanation makes sense so why not take that at face value. "I understand the risk, but when you are coming off a third-place finish, I don't see it as much of a risk." As a fan that is enough for me.

The main reason he even had to do this is that Brett Anderson and Outman needed TJ surgery but more importantly Michael Taylor and Chris Carter haven't panned out (yet). Put those guys on the team along with Gio + Cahill and maybe it's a different story.
   24. Joe Kehoskie Posted: January 04, 2012 at 02:57 PM (#4028889)
It doesn't seem bizarre to me. Sucky, maybe, but not bizarre. If his current stake in the team is worth, say, $12m, and getting the team to San Jose and successful once there makes his stake worth $30m, why would it be out of the question or even unusual for Beane to do whatever it takes to accomplish that?

Because Beane could have had that extra money in his pocket already if he took another GM job(s) elsewhere. If Beane was motivated by money, he would have taken the money and ran almost a decade ago, when John Henry came calling.
   25. Something Other Posted: January 04, 2012 at 03:09 PM (#4028906)
It's also unclear whether he'd be allowed to sell the stake at anything approaching a reasonable price. We are assuming he has a buyback agreement, because it makes sense, but he may also be prevented from selling his stake outside of the current ownership group and might just have to take whatever they offer.
I'm going to assume that Beane would not have accepted an ownership stake under the condition that it was worth whatever they ownership group wanted to pay him. That would make his 4% worthless. There would have to be some sort of provision as there was when Nelson Doubleday sold his share in the Mets to Wilpon, that the amount would be decided in binding arbitration. Now, as for WHEN that provision could be invoked by Beane is a separate issue.

@24: There may well have been other i.e. family reasons Beane stayed in Oakland. I'm less than certain he had as much freedom to go wherever the most money was as your post implies.
   26. Joe Kehoskie Posted: January 04, 2012 at 03:19 PM (#4028915)
@24: There may well have been other i.e. family reasons Beane stayed in Oakland. I'm less than certain he had as much freedom to go wherever the most money was as your post implies.

Then why did he even interview in Boston? Unless that was all trumped up, it certainly looked like he could go wherever he wanted.

In other words, how can players get shipped around on a daily basis, but a GM have no choice but to stay in Oakland?
   27. Jose is an Absurd Force of Nature Posted: January 04, 2012 at 03:45 PM (#4028927)
In other words, how can players get shipped around on a daily basis, but a GM have no choice but to stay in Oakland?


The interview in Boston pre-dated the ownership stake which came prior to the '05 season. Since then it is likely that getting out of the ownership part of the deal has been either a real (on his part) or imagined (on potential employer's parts) impediment to moving.
   28. Mellow Mouse, Benevolent Space Tyrant Posted: January 04, 2012 at 03:49 PM (#4028932)
But at some point don't the results (especially the very bad playoff record and recent run of "success") suggest that maybe the GM of the club isn't doinga great job?

Especially? Beane's overall record is quite good. The A's have the 7th best record in baseball since 1998 despite playing in the toughest division in baseball and having one of the lower payrolls in the league.


I thought it obvious from the sentance you quoted that "especially" was modifying the playoff record and recent years. Arguing overall regular season since 1998 has nothing to do with what I said.

GMs, most anyway, are judged by recent success and playoff success in pretty much every sport. BB is the exception. Maybe the common judgements of GMs is poor, since playoffs are a "crapshoot" and using the low payroll and last seven years excuse, but MY point is most GMs don't get that rationalization.

IMO: He is an average GM,a bit above average for a low payroll team (I think skillsets are slightly different), who got lucky with some pitchers early in his run. Terry Ryan is likely a better GM (but it is probably within the, large, error bar).
   29. Joe Kehoskie Posted: January 04, 2012 at 03:51 PM (#4028933)
The interview in Boston pre-dated the ownership stake which came prior to the '05 season. Since then it is likely that getting out of the ownership part of the deal has been either a real (on his part) or imagined (on potential employer's parts) impediment to moving.

Perhaps, but it seems doubtful. Josh Byrnes had an ownership interest in Arizona that reportedly wasn't divested until after he joined the Padres. The same might have been true of Moorad's Arizona interest. (I might be wrong, but I believe John Henry also had overlapping interests in the Yankees and Marlins at one time.)
   30. Jose is an Absurd Force of Nature Posted: January 04, 2012 at 05:10 PM (#4029009)
Perhaps, but it seems doubtful. Josh Byrnes had an ownership interest in Arizona that reportedly wasn't divested until after he joined the Padres. The same might have been true of Moorad's Arizona interest. (I might be wrong, but I believe John Henry also had overlapping interests in the Yankees and Marlins at one time.)


Didn't know that about Byrnes. That's an odd guy to give such a perk to isn't it? Not like he had this amazing track record.

The other thing, and I'm playing devil's advocate as much as anything, is that Beane was in the same boat as Albert Pujols this winter. He probably was somewhat limited by salary to a few teams and the two biggies had their GMs in place.
   31. Joe Kehoskie Posted: January 04, 2012 at 05:24 PM (#4029016)
The other thing, and I'm playing devil's advocate as much as anything, is that Beane was in the same boat as Albert Pujols this winter. He probably was somewhat limited by salary to a few teams and the two biggies had their GMs in place.

No doubt about that, although there was speculation Beane could have been a candidate with the Cubs had he wanted to be. I've mostly been talking about prior years, going way back the the Red Sox offer in 2002 (i.e., if Beane wanted to cash in, he's had plenty of chances).
   32. Ivan Grushenko of Hong Kong Posted: January 04, 2012 at 06:11 PM (#4029033)
There's certainly an argument to be made that 1) Alderson deserves a lot of credit for the early-Aughts success, 2) Beane has slipped in recent years, and 3) they need someone better than him to get back to the playoffs. But while it's easy to point to the recent Rays, the reality is that most teams in the A's financial situation have sucked much worse than Beane's A's have.


1) Yes
2) When was he any better or worse than he is now?
3) I would say so

Not only the Rays but add the Rangers and Brewers who have won win $60M-$80M payrolls. Add the 2011 Diamondbacks if you want. It's true that most teams aren't playoff caliber, but winning on low payrolls has always been possible. If Beane thinks it's too hard to do this, he should be pushed out in favor of someone who's up to the challenge. In fact he should fire himself in that case since his 4% stake would be worth more.

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