No, not really, but he does have something in common with the latest Nutrisystem for Men's pitchman. Maybe we'll soon see Billy Beane throwing chairs on a beach with some random dude?
The most common criticism of Beane since Moneyball came out (and let's face it, he wasn't on the national media's radar screen until the book came out) was that he knows how to build a regular season juggernaut, but that the team falls flat come October.
For 2006, Beane built the team to be a different model than ever before. He'd been moving in that direction with adding players for defensive depth...I see Payton as exactly that. I'm pretty sure Beane didn't anticipate him being the regular offensive contributor he's become.
But my question isn't really related to the current makeup of this team because the defense and pitching angle has been beaten more than Vito on the Sopranos. We all know that the A's defense and pitching has helped them to 77 wins (although read this diary if you think this recent surge is solely attributed to the pitching and defense - excellent work, dsward89).
The question I want to ask is more related to Beane's legacy. Does Beane have to win a championship in order to be remembered as one of the best front office executives ever? Or is regular-season success enough?
The A's have 29 games left. They've gotten themselves to the point where even if they go 13-16 in those games, they'll still wind up 90-72 for the season. That would likely mean that the A's would have the second-best record in baseball since 2000 behind the New York Yankees. They'd surpass both Atlanta and St. Louis in that category. That would make the A's winning percentage .564 over Beane's watch which would mean they are either the second or third best team in the American League in all of Billy's stint.
Course the Beane detractors constantly harp on the .000 percentage more than anything. That's the A's 0-9 record in the playoffs when they have a chance to clinch a series. They point to the fact that the A's have never gotten out of the first round under Beane's tenure. And while I agree that has been Beane's big failure, I don't think it detracts from his greatness as much as the national media seems to believe (people like Michael Wilbon).
Now everyone here knows that I'm not an unbiased source when it comes to Billy Beane. It may come from the fact that I've developed a personal relationship with Beane, or it may come from the fact that I truly believe in the playoffs being a crapshoot (best of five versus best of 162), but I firmly think that success in the regular season in baseball can ultimately be perceived as a greater achievement than success in the playoffs. Especially with the budget contraints that the Athletics deal with compared to their direct competitors (Angels, Mariners and Rangers).
Beane has built a successful team this year in spite of all of the injury issues (no whining Boston Red Sox fans, we dealt with the same things all year long!). He successfully built a team of depth where if Bobby Crosby goes down, Marco Scutaro can fill in admirably. Huston Street goes down and Justin Duchscherer can come in and have just as much success. Milton Bradley goes down for most of the first part of the year and Jay Payton and Bobby Kielty can fill in. Payton can also cover for Kotsay's chronically cranky back. Rich Harden goes down and the Saarloos and Halsey duo fill in capably. Dan Johnson can't figure out how to hit the ball, the team shuffles Nick Swisher into that role and suddenly has a power-hitting, defensively-stellar replacement.
These things are not by accident. Beane also has built one of the best bullpens in the majors with depth and flexibility despite several injuries to the pitching staff, this group hasn't missed a beat. Even Beane's biggest mistakes (at least viewed publicly) like Kendall and Loaiza seem to be working out down this stretch run.
But in the eyes of many of his detractors, Beane will continue to be a failure because of the Athletics postseason stumbles. The A's may get another shot at it this year, but it also could set Beane up for some more of that Dan Marino of the front office talk. Then again, Marino at least played in the Super Bowl. The truth is in order to placate those whose feathers were ruffled by the mere existence of Moneyball (the Plaschkes and Joe Morgans of the world), Beane needs to win it all at least once in order to be called a great GM.
But I'm not asking those guys. I'm asking the people here who bleed green and gold. In my eyes, a GM's responsibility is to build a team for the regular season and hopefully it will excel in the playoffs. If the A's get to the playoffs this year, then I think the A's are better prepared for success there than they ever have been (barryzitoforever agrees), although this offense facing an ace pitcher remains iffy at best. That doesn't mean that they'll advance. And then we'll hear that familiar refrain again and again.
I've added a poll on the front page for your pleasure.