Just in case you're visiting AN for the first time this week, you should read part one and part two of the exclusive AN Billy Beane interview before you go on. OK, done?
Now without further ado, my chat with Beane comes to a conclusion. Enjoy.
Blez: You brought this up yourself, but the upper levels of the A's farm system seem to be relatively bare in terms to top prospects outside of Buck and Barton. Are you happy with the state of the farm system right now as it's obviously been important to the A's success as a franchise?
Beane: We've graduated so many players the last 10 years. But I'd include Buck, Barton, Windsor and Suzuki in that as well. It's more than you think. We're used to naming seven, eight or nine guys. We forget about the guys that we're just brought up to get here. That's going to happen. It's hard to stay at a level where you're producing four big leaguers a year. Teams just don't do that. That being said, these next couple of drafts are going to be very important to us and we have a number of draft choices this year. We're all really looking forward to that.
Blez: Is the draft looking good this year?
Beane: It's supposed to be real good. Usually people around this time of year are saying, oh it's a terrible draft. All indications are that it's a young draft, but it's supposed to be very talented.
Blez: There have been different reports about what happened in the negotiations between you and Justin Smoak. Smoak's turned into a great prospect. Baseball America reported that he wanted $1 million and that you were offering $950,000. Was it ever really that close?
Beane: (Laughs) No, no. I'll try and give you the Reader's Digest answer. We never even made an offer to Justin. In fact, when we drafted him, we drafted him late. He was projected to go in the first or comp round. To his credit, he made it quite clear the amount of money that he was interested in signing for. We just said we'd draft the kid late just in case there was some point during the summer he changed his mind. Quite frankly, I'd spoken to him and he's a great kid. I know his coach a little bit at South Carolina and we at no point were trying to bribe him out of his scholarship because it's a great university. To put it plainly, we said we look forward to seeing you in three years, go out and have a great career. In fact, Justin and I had a conversation at one point even though he had a number that he wanted he was very committed to going to South Carolina and I congratulated him on that decision. We never even made an offer. That was total fiction. I can assure you that if we were between $950,000 and a million dollars we would've found a way to get it done. I was a proponent of the kid going to school. He was committed and he's a South Carolina kid. I think some of the college programs are a great developer of talent and I'm a big fan of these kids going and coming out three years later.
Blez: Does Erubiel Durazo have a good chance of being on the 2007 roster?
Beane: We'll see. I think it's all up in the air right now. Ruby had a great season in winter ball and was very productive when he was here. I think he enjoyed his time in Oakland and we enjoyed having him here as well. I think that's going to be better answered in the spring.
Blez: There have been a few different lists of the best GMs in baseball this year. ESPN.com conducted a poll of the fans and they chose you as the best GM and Dayn Perry recently named you the fourth best in baseball. Do you pay attention to those kinds of things and do they mean anything to you?
Beane: I think it's the kind of thing where you're only as good as your last year. They're more fun and humorous than anything.
Blez: The fans obviously seem to love you though.
Beane: (Laughs) Well that's the important thing, right? A real man of the people. This is a republic. They have new lists out every year, so it doesn't matter. But the truth is that it's never a bad thing when people appreciate what you do.
Blez: The stadium announcement was obviously huge news and while there is still a ton to get done, you referenced the A's being able to keep more of their homegrown stars finally. Assuming everything goes well and we're looking at a stadium possibly opening in 2011, when can fans anticipate the team starting to keep its stars?
Beane: Very good question because you don't necessarily have to be playing in that stadium to start anticipating. My personal feeling is once you start laying bricks and it's a matter of when it gets done, that's when your business plan gets more based around that stadium. That's why you really want to start building the thing so you can start planning for that. The clock is ticking on some guys here that you would probably like to keep around. But until you start to see bricks and mortar, you have to be careful in spending what you don't have yet.
Blez: Just because it can still potentially fall through?
Beane: Yeah, right. The date that will be important for me is when I see Lew (Wolff) with a hard hat and a shovel for the contrived photos and when they put that first brick in. That's when I'll say all right we can start planning long term here.
Blez: One of the things that makes me excited from a fan's perspective is the prospect of seeing you work with a bigger budget. How excited are you in thinking about the idea of having a bigger budget to work with?
Beane: It will be a lot more relaxing and we probably won't have to say "if" quite as much (laughs). I go back to what I said at the press conference. The ability to keep what you develop long term would be the best part about it. Instead of constantly waiting for the next guy to leave, and knowing that when you draft a kid out of college that he could possibly spend his whole career with you. Because for us, it's exhausting. We signed Loaiza last year because we knew we were going to lose Zito. You're almost doing moves in preparation for the exodus that's going to happen in two years. That does get exhausting. I don't mean literally.
Blez: I can imagine it would get a bit frustrating.
Beane: Yeah, and the one thing that we're the most proud of is that we've created expectations here. This organization has won a lot of games. I think we've been held to a higher standard of performance, which I'm very proud of. We have a sense of pride in putting a winner on the field. But it definitely gets more and more challenging every single year. It would be nice to go to Europe for a month and know that your team is in its mid-20s and locked in for the next five or six years.
Blez: One of the things that's become a mantra of yours is that you've always talked about people rooting for the name on the front of the jersey and not the name on the back. If the A's do start to keep stars for the duration of their careers, does that fundamentally change what an A's fan should root for? Or at least your message?
Beane: No. There are players that make a lot of money that are worth every penny. The tough thing we've had here is that there are some decisions that we can't make because of money. There's some that we would like to make if we had the money that would be good baseball decisions. For instance there are some players where we thought, we'd like to keep this guy, but we just don't have the resources to be able to do it. Ultimately, you like to combine the two where you have created a situation where, and it doesn't happen much in this game but if you have the revenues you do it, a guy starts his career and becomes one of the all-time great A's. You take a guy like Eric Chavez. At the end of his current contract he will have spent 12 years with the organization and at that point I expect Eric to maybe have 10 Gold Gloves. It would be nice for him to spend his entire career here. It'd be nice to create an entire generation of A's like they had back in the 70s where people always associate them with the A's. If you think of the last decade, we've had a lot of great people here, people aren't going to even associate them with this club because they've all gone onto other clubs. I do think that that's important for the history of the franchise. You had Hudson, Mulder and Zito here. And Barry just signed a seven-year deal. The length of that deal will carry him beyond his tenure here. It is important for a baseball team to have a history and associate themselves with players who are a part of that history. That's one thing this generation won't have. We will have accomplished a lot of success but we won't have created a history beyond winning on the field. I do think that's important.
Blez: Speaking of importance of history, will you be sad when the team leaves Oakland?
Beane: Well it would be more disheartening to not have them in the Bay Area. I view this whole East Bay as one area. I just think of this as a great thing. And the opportunity to remain in the East Bay is what's important. It would be more disappointing to have us not here at all.
Blez: One last question as it involves A's history. The Hall of Fame recently rejected Mark McGwire. Do you see him as a Hall of Famer?
Beane: It's not my vote and my opinion isn't a lot of value to anyone so it doesn't make a whole lot of sense to be giving it to anyone. He was a great teammate. He was a great player when I was here with him and that's for others to debate.
Blez: But if you had a vote, would you have voted for him?
Beane: I haven't talked to Mark since he left here in 97. It's been a long time. He was a great guy and great teammate. To have the conversation on the Hall of Fame, it's probably just not for me to give my opinion. Others are debating it enough, there's no sense for me chiming in there.
Blez: Thanks so much for your time today.
Beane: No problem Tyler, anything you need.