Oakland A's GM Billy Beane 2012 Spring Training Interview: Part II

Mar. 19, 2012; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Not sure any of us could've predicted THIS last December. But it does make 2012 pretty damn interesting, right? Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-US PRESSWIRE

[Note from baseballgirl: Just a reminder that OPENING DAY starts tonight; join me live at 3:00AM Pacific Time for the first game of the season, as the A's face Felix Hernandez. Melvin has revealed he is starting Brandon Allen at first base.]

Yesterday morning AN ran part one of the Billy Beane spring training interview for 2012. Today is the conclusion of that interview.

Again, I'll just say that Beane's enthusiasm for this rebuild has me fired up for the future. I'm not sure I expect much in 2012, but you never know and the team should be interesting to see how it develops. Without further ado, check out the conclusion to the AN exclusive Billy Beane interview 2012. And GO A's!!!

TB: How many rotation spots are up for grabs right now?

BB: We don't need a fifth starting until April 16. If you say three after Colon and McCarthy, that's probably right. But there are some guys who have started to establish themselves down here. Millone has pitched extremely well down here. But that wasn't a surprise. He pitched great in Triple-A last year. He also pitched a bit in the big leagues. He's got a little more experience than some of the younger guys. We still have Graham Godfrey and Tyson (Ross). The younger guys in terms of experience are Peacock and Parker but they also have the highest upside of anybody. Realistically right now there are probably three spots. Then at some point Dallas (Braden) will come back. He's doing well but he's not going to be back to start the season despite his insistence on the first day of spring that he was going to be ready for Japan. I'm here to tell you, he won't. Once again Brett (Anderson) is doing great.

TB: When do you anticipate him coming back?

BB: You got to block out a year. That's what we've been working with. The good news with Brett is that he's had no setbacks whatsoever. He's met every timeline and passed every test with flying colors so that's been really encouraging.

TB: What made some of the pitchers you acquired, Peacock, Parker, Millone, Cole, what made some of these guys appealing to you?

BB: Each one of them is different. Millone is very similar style to Dallas. He's not going to overwhelm you with his stuff but he really knows how to pitch. He has great command. He doesn't walk guys. He's moved through the system and been successful at every level. Peacock is a converted guy but he has a really good arm. He's a very good athlete for a pitcher, given his position player background. In Cole you've got a really young, tall and slender explosive arm that has a chance to be really good. He was 96 mph yesterday in our game in the minor leagues. Him, (Blake) Treinen and (Blake) Hassebrock are all pitching really well over there. Treinen is a kid who was a late draft choice for us but he's been impressive. Then he came over here and threw an inning for us and continued to be impressive.

TB: Maybe another Rich Harden?

BB: Different in that Rich was younger. Treinen transferred to a number of schools and went to three or four colleges and had a history of arm problems. With us he's been great, no issues.

TB: One of the criticisms that I read of the moves you made was that there wasn't enough of a push to get more young bats in the system.

BB: There wasn't any push because we were going to make the best deals we could make and get the best players we could. It's that simple. In truth, small market teams that have had success, whether it's ourselves, Tampa or Minnesota, they've all done it with young pitching that they've had around for a young time. And that's critical if you're going to be a small market team that has success. You have to have pitching that you've developed or traded for at a young age so you can develop it. If you don't, it doesn't matter how many bats you have, you aren't going anywhere. That's a good place for us to start.

TB: How do you start to get those young bats in there so you can theoretically develop a high quality offense to supplement that great pitching you're developing?

BB: We're going to have to draft them. It's all subject on what's available to you. You cannot take lesser deals just because a guy is a position player over a pitcher. We were trying to get the most talent we could.

TB: You re-signed Coco Crisp which I think was the first move where people said, "Whoa I thought they were rebuilding, what are they doing signing him?" What was the thinking in bringing Coco back?

BB: We need an outfielder because I think we had zero at that time.

TB: If you looked online, you guys had Ryan Sweeney listed in all three positions in the outfield.

BB: Yeah so someone else has to play out there. Coco played a position at that time that we needed before we signed Cespedes. He plays a very difficult position to fill. We traded for Colin Cowgill who can also play centerfield, but...

TB: Do you like him in center?

BB: He can play all three but we're just getting to know him. He's very good on the corner but he's been decent in center in the minor leagues. So far we do but we also like Coco. People would've been more upset if we just put it (the money spent on Coco) in our pockets, right?

TB: Coco has been pretty vocal in the media about wanting to play center field whereas Cespedes has been a centerfielder and I suppose might view himself that way. Do you have any problem with a player being vocal like that in the media?

BB: I don't think he was that vocal. Reporters ask questions and guys have to answer them. I think sometimes it's framed to make a guy look vocal. The final decision as to how the outfield is going to play out is Bob's (Melvin) and his staff. We'll have conversations with him but he's going to put the best outfield he can put out there with all three. I don't think he's really going to care what someone says. It might be Coco in center because that combination is better but it's going to be where people are the most comfortable. It's about the team, it's not about the individual.

TB: Who is going to give Bob the best chance to win.

BB: Yeah exactly. It's a defensive position so what's your best all-around defensive outfield with each guy playing in each spot. You don't want to put a guy out of position and hurt all three spots by putting one guy out of position. The best outfield will be chosen based on what works for all three.

TB: It seems like the outfield situation is pretty much sewn up. (Josh) Reddick is out there. Coco is likely out there. Maybe left field is up for grabs. First base and DH is seemingly...

BB: Wide open yeah.

TB: Yeah wide open as well. What do you like about the candidates that are there? Daric Barton could come back strong. Brandon Allen seems to have had a decent if not unspectacular spring.

BB: No one has sort of taken the job but at least he's now a factor because he's playing and getting in games. He's made a lot of progress the last 10 days. But between Brandon and Kila (Ka'aihue) and Chris (Carter), nobody has really taken the opening. We have some options there but no one has stepped in and said, "This is mine." Each guy has his own strength. One thing you like about all three of those guys is that they've all shown in the minor leagues that they have power. Brandon of those three is the best defender and at the end of the day, that could be what winds up making the decision if they're all very close offensively. When Daric gets back, he'll be a factor too certainly but he's not ready to play every day yet. Although he is getting closer.

TB: One of the big knocks on Seth Smith is his inability to hit left-handed pitching and you have Johnny Gomes here now. If you look at them statistically, they almost make the perfect player if you just platoon them. Do you believe that platoons can be effective or would you like to see players playing more regularly?

BB: Seth hasn't really had much of an opportunity to prove himself against left-handed pitching. Once you get that label or if you have another right-handed hitter on your ballclub who is good, you don't get that opportunity to prove yourself against left-handed pitching. He's actually swung really well against lefties down here (in spring training). That was certainly part of our reason for signing Johnny. It was to offset some of our left-handed hitting outfielders. But I don't think we'd go in with the idea that anyone is going to be a strict platoon.

TB: There were rumors all throughout the offseason about you trying to acquire another relief pitcher. How do you feel about the bullpen right now? Do you think it needs another pitcher and are you actively looking?

BB: We've got some good young arms out there but some of them are unproven. Relief pitching is one of those spots where you never really stop looking to improve. That is always me and David's (Forst) job, is to look out for relievers. We also want to give a chance to our younger arms to see if they can fill some of the spots.

TB: Would you consider moving one of your younger starting pitching arms to a relief spot to take care of that weakness? Especially once you get Dallas and Brett back eventually.

BB: That's a long way off. You would prefer to have them start. I don't think you'd ever prefer to take a potential starter and put them in the bullpen unless they failed as a starter. I doubt we would do that. I think what we want to do is give some of our young guys a chance. Carignan has thrown well down here. Cook has thrown great. Figueroa is a guy who we're going to limit his innings this year but long-term we like him as a starter as that's what he was in the minor leagues. There's going to be some growing pains with that too but I think that it's something you can build on and that's the way we're looking at it right now.

TB: I have to ask you about Manny Ramirez. It's mandatory and required that I do so. I did a poll on whether you should've done it and 70 percent or so said they were in favor of it and said, why not?

BB: Yeah that's what we said, why not?

TB: There's a contingent of fans who are against guys who get caught doing something wrong like PEDs. How do you weigh...

BB: We don't make the rules. We have to follow the agreement between MLB and the player's association. They put in the testing and the suspensions. We just follow it and go from there. That's all we're doing. But in terms of...

TB: Why do it?

BB: Why not, yeah. It's low risk, high reward.

TB: Are you guys going to monitor how well he does in the minors?

BB: He can play in the minors in the last 10 days of the suspension. He can play in the extended program down here in Arizona. But he can't compete in minor league games until 10 days before his suspension is over.

TB: Are you confident about him eventually being a part of the team down the road? I know there's a lot of stuff that has to break right between now and then.

BB: I think the biggest thing is how Manny swings. He's a DH at this point in his career. The one thing he has is that he's hit in the middle of a lineup before and he can handle that role and the pressure that comes with it. He's right-handed which we liked as well. All this stuff we'll find out because right now we just don't know. There's no sense in not trying to find out.

TB: There's been lots of stuff written about him with the "Manny being Manny" persona, etc. There's also been a lot of people saying he's been a different Manny. What's been your experience with him so far and what is your impression?

BB: He's a hard worker who loves to hit. So far he's been great. He's been fantastic. No complaints. If Manny being Manny means him hitting .335 and 35-40 home runs, I'll take that too. He hasn't been a distraction whatsoever. Even the first day he was here and the media came out, it wasn't that big a contingent. Since then he's blended right in.

TB: Talk about the advantages of having Curt Young back.

BB: It's nice having Curt back. There's a familiarity there. I've known him since I was playing back in 1989 so I'm very comfortable with him. He knows a lot of the young pitchers. There's a new group for him just in the one year he was away but a lot of the guys he has a history with. I think his personality fits really well with Bob. They had known each other previously really well. We all know and like Curt and respect what he does so it was seamless when he came back in. There was no adjustment period.

TB: Was there some adjustment with bringing Chili Davis in as the hitting coach even though you have a lot of different players? What's it been like having him?

BB: It's been great and it goes back to my comment about this being the best camp we've had. Bob is the leader of it but the coaching staff with Chip Hale who organizes everything for Bob and is a baseball rat who is the first one to the park every morning. We talked about bringing Chili in a few years ago but he wasn't ready to go full time on the field. We're lucky he was available. He brings a lot of credibility.

TB: What made him appealing to you?

BB: When Chili was playing he always had a great reputation as a leader and I think he understood the style of hitting we wanting to develop over here, as that's the type of hitter he was. He's got presence. He speaks Spanish which is great particularly now with Yoenis. Him and Chip and having Curt back is one of the reasons it's been such a great camp. He's got an opinion, which is nice. You want guys to voice their opinion and he does. He's been a great fit and we're lucky that type of guy with that background was available to us.

TB: Would you be disappointed if Yoenis wound up spending the year in Triple-A?

BB: I wouldn't even want to answer that. We're all learning about him and to make a speculative statement about him wouldn't do any good.

TB: I saw you went to the Academy Awards. What was the most interesting thing that happened to you that night?

BB: I got yelled at by Casey (his daughter) and Tara (his wife) for walking the red carpet too fast. I was just trying to get off of it. I was a little bit of a curmudgeon as they were really enjoying it and I was just trying to get off of it.

TB: Were people asking you what you were wearing?

BB: Not really. The whole movie was a great experience. Everyone we met involved with the project from Sony executives to Brad (Pitt) to the director were class people. They were wonderful. Any perceptions that people have about people in Hollywood are untrue in my experience. They were so nice and treated our family so well. They asked if I would do some press and media for the release of the DVD in Japan and I said I'd be happy to do it just because they did so well by me. I'm glad it's over. It was such a great experience. And the night of the Oscars was sort of the bookend for it all. Tara and Casey had a great time and I actually had a great time at the show. I enjoyed the way they choreographed it. Everyone we met was just wonderful. They couldn't have been nicer.

TB: Any other stories that night?

BB: It's kind of a blur.

TB: You went to the Governor's Ball, right?

BB: Yeah we went to the Governor's Ball and right after we went to the Vanity Fair party.

TB: Did you get to meet Bryan Cranston (biggest Breaking Bad fan on the planet asked this)?

BB: I might have and not known it (laughs). After a while you turn around and you see someone else famous at every turn. You become numb to it a little bit.

TB: That was something I was actually going to ask. You've now been around Hollywood elite, global leaders like Tony Blair and many other business elite as well. Is there anyone left that you kind of get star struck about?

BB: Good question. I look at it differently. I don't get star struck but there are people that do things and accomplish things where my jaw drops.

TB: Is there anyone left like that for you?

BB: When I hear about Navy SEALs in the dead of night getting dropped out of helicopter into the icy ocean and then sneaking out, well that's where my jaw drops. There's nothing I can do in my lifetime that would rival some of the things that people like that do. They risk their life. Military people have always been people I admire. They're away from their families so often and the risks they take to protect the things we have. That's just incredible.

TB: Do you ever take any ribbing from players or rival GMs for going to the Academy Awards? Anyone start calling you Hollywood or anything?

BB: Ned Colletti went so there's two of us who went. Most everyone said to just enjoy the opportunity. I said if it got nominated I would go and try and enjoy it and I did and we had a good time. I think we're hopefully all beyond that kind of ribbing. I'm almost 50. If my 50-year-old friends are saying that then we need to grow up.

TB: One last question, obviously you've changed the dynamic of the franchise this past offseason. How do you feel about the minor league system now?

BB: The talent in the minors? If you use independent publications that rank minor league systems, we went from a bottom 10 system to a top 10 system. That's critical to us. We need to have that top 10 system if we're going to have a bright future. I feel a lot better about it now than I did a year ago. Those were some of my concerns last year. There was so much thrown in to try and do something for one, year and it's not that much fun because it just doesn't have that many legs to it. Our minor league system is going to have to be better. A lot of it is because we've had our first-round pick and that was kind of it. We didn't have a second round pick last year. There's been years where we've lost our second or third round pick and now we have those in addition to the comp picks. That's one of the reasons we didn't trade those guys at the deadline last year. What we would be getting back wasn't worth it to us compared to what we would get if we held onto them. We could've saved a lot of money during the season by trading them. I had that conversation with Lew (Wolff) during the season and I told him they would be more valuable if we kept them and to allow them to walk. We'd get draft picks for them.

TB: You traded two key guys obviously in Trevor (Cahill) and Gio (Gonzalez). Do you think you've taken that much of a step back with the rotation? It seems like some of the guys you got back are on the cusp of being good major league pitchers.

BB: Listen there's no denying that Gio was outstanding last year and durable and getting better. And Trevor had two years of lots of wins. That's quite and accomplishment and a lot to fill. The one thing I'll say about this group is that they're a little further ahead than our previous group was when they entered the major leagues. There's also a few more of them. You're going to feel the impact of losing a Gio. Certainly at the beginning until these guys are ready to go. And Trevor as well. But these guys are a little further along than when we rushed the Andersons and Cahills along a few season ago. The hope is that they get their sea legs very quickly.

TB: I think that's it. Thanks so much as always Billy.

BB: That's great. Thank you Tyler.

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