Something I’ve never understood, as a baseball fan—or even a sports fan in general—is why fans are so quick to turn around after a failure and go for the throat. Even in the playoffs, fans are so quick to mutiny against the people that got them that far in the first place.
Here at AN, there has been a whole bunch of Beane hating lately, and it’s all nonsense. I’ve heard people attack him and try to hold him responsible for the team’s shortcomings in the playoffs, as if it was Beane himself that failed to slide in that all-too-infamous play.
I am not a member of the In Billy We Trust club, but I’ll be damned if he isn’t one of the best GMs in the game today, and I can defend nearly every move he’s made in the past several years. I’m going to start by defending the trades that everybody points to when they’re trying to prove their “Beane Sucks!!!” theories.
12/16/04 – Tim Hudson for Juan Cruz, Charles Thomas and Dan Meyer: People tend to attack this trade because none of the players really succeeded in Oakland, but people forget that Hudson was a free agent after the season, and the A’s had no chance of resigning him. Cruz was the 6th ranked prospect in the MLB two years earlier. Meyer wasn’t too shabby either. He was the 82nd best prospect in the MLB, and if you take a look at his minor league stats, he never posted an ERA over 3.00 in over 300 innings. Unfortunately, he never told anybody about the pain in his shoulder, and pitched himself to the surgeon. Thomas was a bust.
To say this was a bad move by Beane is saying that Beane knew that Meyer was injured and didn’t do anything about it. Meyer could have been a stud, and now that he’s healthy with the Marlins, he’s pretty good. Cruz took a long time to develop, and the A’s didn’t have enough time. Overall, it’s a pretty good trade to get two top 100 prospects and a flier on another for just one season of Hudson.
12/18/04 – Mark Mulder for Daric Barton, Dan Haren and Kiko Calero: Most tend to realize this is an awesome trade by Beane, but some are still upset at Barton’s 2008 season. I’ve heard plenty of people claim that Beane is a bad talent evaluator because guys like Ludwick and Pena and Nelson Cruz succeeded years later on other teams, but don’t mention Danny Haren, who the A’s picked up as a mildly successful starter/swingman and watched him turn into one of the best pitchers in the league.
12/13/05 – Andre Ethier for Milton Bradley and Antonio Perez: This is probably the most hated and most cited trade by Beane-haters, because Bradley was a problem child and Ethier turned into a solid RF for Los Angeles. But Bradley was one of the main reasons that Oakland made it to the ALCS in 2006. Something I’ve noticed as odd is that some of the same people complaining about Oakland trading away a good, young outfielder for a veteran are the same ones thinking Beane is crazy for holding onto Holliday for so long and demanding they trade him for a good, young prospect. Come on, now.
12/14/07 – Dan Haren and Conner Robertson for Dana Eveland, Greg Smith, Carlos Gonzalez, Chris Carter and Brett Anderson: Dan Haren was signed to an affordable contract for a few years, and was developing into a true ace, but this is one of the biggest hauls in any trade by anybody. Gonzalez was their best prospect and MLB’s 22nd best, while Anderson was their 3rd best and MLB’s 36th best, Cunningham their 7th best and Carter their 10th best. Smith and Eveland were average major league starters for a year. Don’t forget they turned 33% of that trade into Matt Holliday. I would make that trade literally every time, and you’d be a terrible GM to pass up that much talent if it was offered.
01/03/08 – Nick Swisher for Gio Gonzalez, Fautino de los Santos and Ryan Sweeney: This is my least favorite trade when it comes to people criticizing it. All three of those players were ranked in the top 100 by BA at some point in the last three years. Going into last year, FDSL was thought by some to be a better prospect than Cahill and Anderson. Gio has amazing stuff but still no control, and Sweeney has oodles of power in that body that he just hasn’t tapped into it yet.
No matter how you look at it, it makes no sense to blame Beane for FDSL’s injuries, Gio’s control problems, and Sweeney’s stunted development. Let me ask you a question: If all the players were healthy, which set of players would you rather have? FDSL, Sweeney and Gio or Wilson Betemit, Jeff Marquez and Jhonny Nunez? That’s who Kenny Williams got for Swisher PLUS another minor league reliever. Williams is a bad GM. Beane is a good one.
07/18/08 – Joe Blanton for Adrian Cardenas, Josh Outman and Matt Spencer: At the time, I thought this was just an okay deal. Cardenas and two throw-ins for Blanton. Beane and his scouts obviously saw something they liked in Outman, as he turned into one of our better starters this year. Cardenas turned into one of the best 2B prospects in the game, and Spencer is still a question mark – albeit a question mark that has lots of power.
07/09/08 – Rich Harden and Chad Gaudin for Josh Donaldson, Eric Patterson, Sean Gallagher and Matt Murton: Harden as real fun to watch when he was healthy, and he was healthy for several starts with the Cubs that year, but when he was injured he was one of the most hated A’s ever. Murton turned into Wimberly, a speedy utility man. Gallagher turned into Scott Hairston, our CF for the next couple of years, and Donaldson is a walking machine and could turn into our future 3B. Gaudin struggled with the Cubs and is now struggling in San Diego, of all places.
Believe me, I would love to have Blanton, Ethier, Swisher, Haren and Hudson still on my team, but in all of those trades, Beane got more talent than he probably should have, and more talent than other GMs usually get for similar players.
I honestly can’t believe people criticize the A’s drafts, citing draftees like Pennington and Brown who are underachieving or just out of baseball. With little spending money, the A’s have to take advantage of cheap, young players and then when they get expensive, trade them and turn them into more cheap, young players.
Beane took over in 1998. I understand that Beane didn’t have complete control over the draft as soon as he took over, but recent drafts have been perfectly good. Here is a list of players drafted since Beane took over in 1998: Mulder, Byrnes, Zito, Ludwick, Harden, Crosby, Ethier, Swisher, Blanton, Teahen, Suzuki, Buck, Cahill, Bailey, Doolittle, Brown, Demel, and Weeks.
It’s understandably frustrating that the A’s are unable to sign players of this caliber to long term deals, but again, it isn’t Beane’s fault. He’s not in charge of how much money he has to spend – that comes from ownership.
The Rebuilding Process
I think this is what has caused most of the frustration this year. The A’s traded away all their quality pitchers for prospects, then abandoned that plan and went for it this year. The thing is, Beane most certainly didn’t abandon that plan. He gave up spare parts to get Wuertz, and the only legitimate prospect he gave up to get Holliday was CarGon (who still has an OPS in the .600s with awful strike zone control).
It was never, “If we don’t win it this year, we’re done for a few years.” Beane saw an opening in a weak AL West. It turned out much stronger than expected, though none of the experts were saying that. He signed Cabrera, Nomar, Giambi and Springer to cheap deals. Aging veterans are more predictable than prospects, but far from an exact science.
So please, people. This is not the end of the world. Beane is not trying to seduce your sister. Beane did not write Moneyball about himself to make him more popular. Beane is a fantastic GM. BEANE IS NOT INFALLIBLE, BUT HE TENDS TO NOT DO STUPID THINGS. He doesn’t do stupid things like sign Juan Pierre to a giant contract. He doesn’t sign FA pitchers to massive deals, because they’re expensive and volatile. He doesn’t spend millions on players like Alfonso Soriano and put them in the leadoff spot. He sells high and buys low. If the owners gave Beane a blank check, it would be a safe wager to bet that the A’s would be as good as the Yankees and Red Sox year in and year out. But that’s not the way things are, and you should consider yourself lucky that you have Beane pulling the strings for your favorite team.