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Billy Beane Extended Through 2019

February 7, 2012

Today came a report from Bloomberg that Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane has had his contract extended through 2019 with the article saying,

“General Manager Billy Beane and President Michael Crowley will remain with the Oakland Athletics through the 2019 season, club owner Lew Wolff said today in an interview with Bloomberg Television’s “Bloomberg West.”…

…’I view them as partners as well as executives,’ Wolff said. ‘So if they are here another 30 years, that is fine with me. I may not be here to see it, but that will be fine.'”

Beane has been general manager of the Oakland A’s since the conclusion of the 1997 season when he took the reins from Sandy Alderson. Since then the A’s have a 1,206 – 1,060 record. Since taking the helm only six teams in MLB have a better record, the Yankees, Red Sox, Braves, Cardinals, Angels and Giants with all of those teams having far greater revenue streams. To his critics, that success was less because of him and more because of some Alderson draft picks and international free-agent signings like Jason Giambi (1992), Miguel Tejada (1993), Eric Chavez (1996) and Tim Hudson (1997) . While Beane has drafted very well by most metrics including success stories like Mark Mulder (1998), Barry Zito (1999), Nick Swisher (2002) and more recently Jemile Weeks (2008), the A’s problems over the last few seasons at drafting quality offensive players has left a big league club with top tier pitching and miserable hitting. There is also some fair criticism over the minimal returns that some significant trades have provided the club, including both ends of the trade to both acquire and rid of Matt Holliday, the return for Joe Blanton and Rich Harden are also fairly criticized. By and large though, in the end I think his poor trades have been outweighed by some of his better ones, including the acquisition of Mark Ellis as a virtual throw-in, the trade that landed the A’s Gio Gonzalez, Ryan Sweeney and Fautino De Los Santos, and the recent trades that sent Trevor Cahill and Gio Gonzalez to Arizona and Washington respectively. It is often in minor trades though where Beane truly shows his magic, like this year turning a middling middle reliever like David Purcey into Scott Sizemore who filled the black hole that had been third base for the A’s the past few years.

I am excited that Beane is sticking around through 2019. I hope that during that time the A’s are able to get the new stadium they need and build payroll around that. It will be interesting to see how Beane will operate if he does not need to be so concerned with the purse strings. Before most front-offices did, Beane embraced sabermetrics and now with the rest of MLB caught up no longer can play that information asymmetry to his advantage. In fact, there is a much more homogeneous view regarding what constitutes good talent that makes it difficult for teams with smaller wallets to compete with teams able to throw money around with fewer limitations. One can argue that this decision by Lew Wolff could very well be the best A’s transaction of the offseason.

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. Bill Porter permalink
    February 10, 2012 12:31 am

    Obviously Beane is smart and a decent GM. What surprises me is that he continues to get a complete pass on putting up a winning team. All of his transactions over the past 3-4 years are designed to merely feign interest in competing while maintaining payroll flexibility for a hoped-for stadium 3 years from now. Clearly the As operate at a significant disadvantage, but is he even trying to develop and hold players? He’s now dumping players in trades years away from free agency. And baseball is a bottom line business. He’s about to embark on his 6th consecutive season at .500 below . . . and while the A’s are handicapped by payroll, how much are they making in rev share? Their payroll now is the same as it was in 2004-2006 (basically). I am just amazed that Beane has defined a GM job’s success parameters with no reference to Ws and Ls…

    • February 10, 2012 12:58 am

      I disagree with the contention that the last 3-4 years are a going through the motions sort of thing. I think particularly last year was indicative of a team truly trying to compete and before the season began they were a sort of trendy pick to be a surprise team in the American League. The deals of December to me also made a lot of sense. Despite the players not being on the cusp of free-agency they were at the apex of their value and the return, particularly with the Gio Gonzalez trade, was very impressive. I think the A’s problem is their difficulties in drafting offensive players. The one that did work out on the field – Grant Desme – didn’t want to stay there, but otherwise there’s been a lot of swings and misses in identifying quality MLB hitters. The A’s haven’t had a winning season during that time, though of course 2009 was an 81-81 campaign. They’ve unfortunately stalled at 75 wins or so which is only a number one can be pleased at when you are on the upswing. Treading water to 75 just means your draft position is hurt and your team also isn’t contending. But I think that that isn’t so much mismanagement as just evidence of the smaller market lack of any room for error. He’s been around a long time, but I don’t think its completely unprecedented for a GM to have several years like this in a row and keep his job. I just can’t figure out how the medical staff keeps their job, that’s a group that truly is not performing at anywhere near a normal or average MLB level.

      I appreciate your comments even if I disagree – you do have a valid point that ultimately wins and losses are what counts, but I think in some respects wins aren’t created equal for all franchises. Most teams wouldn’t have fired Terry Francona when he “only” won 90 games.

      • Bill Porter permalink
        February 10, 2012 10:12 pm

        Its not so much the results — what amazes me is that people won’t even analyze critically the job he’s doing. Obviously record is largely ignored, and everyone takes on faith that he can’t possibly compete b/c of payroll. But is that true? They’re spending as much as they used to. How much are they getting in revenue share? Unclear, but its a big check every year. Is that money going back into payroll? Maybe, maybe not. I think Beane is good – but he’s convinced people without having to be measured. I don’t get it.

      • February 12, 2012 6:11 pm

        I’d like to think that this blog is a place where we analyze critically the job he is doing! I have been pretty nonplussed with the majority of 2012’s moves so far. While they may be spending as much as they did prior, that money also does not go as far as it once did. Whether or not the money comes from revenue sharing though, I don’t see why that’d be Beane’s issue. The general manager isn’t setting ticket prices, marketing the team, etc. He deals in the on-field product.

      • Bill Porter permalink
        February 12, 2012 6:39 pm

        Definitely not trying to make a comment about you — love your blog. Its just a general comment that he doesn’t seem to get a lot of criticism for not winning. He’s a party owner now right? Definitely interesting to me that perhaps there’s less of an attempt to be competitive since he got a piece of the action. But of course I’m not arguing that they don’t need a new stadium (clearly they do) and that its tough to compete at their revenue situation…

      • February 14, 2012 10:11 pm

        Sorry, I missed this in all the Cespedes excitement! I know that, I am just giving you some grief. The truth of the matter is that he has won. SUre that has been loaded mostly into the early part of the 2000’s but that isn’t insignificant. Look, the Indians in a similar small market problem had a heck of a run in the 1990s but have struggled to regain their footing these days, not for a lack of strong leadership as Shapiro and Antonelli have been a relatively savvy team. Also, its overstated that the team has been terrible. They haven’t been awful, they’ve been in the mid 70-win to 81 win range unlike say a Pirates or Astros or Royals who’ve really struggled being among the worst of the worst year in year out (and perhaps the failure to reach that low is part of the A’s problem). I think that he has made more of an attempt to be competitive when perhaps he shouldn’t have and should’ve focused on the future which is why we haven’t seen a 50-something or even low 60-something win season where we can reap the high draft picks.

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