I’ve noticed over the last few weeks there have been quite a few diaries about AN and supposedly how “brainwashed” we are by Billy Beane. I mean, we do sell tee shirts that say “In Billy We Trust” so we must think that Beane is perfect and never does anything wrong, right? He’s the deity that remains infallible by AN. He’s never made a wrong move ever.
The truth is that I’ve never claimed Beane is perfect. Hell, no one is. My admiration for Beane was there long before he ever agreed to sit down with me and do two-hour interviews. But let’s get something out of the way right now. I do not think Billy Beane is a perfect baseball general manager and I believe he makes mistakes, sometimes mistakes as damaging as any other GM in baseball (Arthur Rhodes, Joe Kennedy and Mark Redman come to mind). The difference between an average GM and a great GM is that he can often recover from those mistakes and make the proverbial lemonade from lemons. Yeah, sometimes it doesn’t go perfectly and it takes another move or two, but more often than not, Beane recovers from his errors very nicely. You don’t have the second best record in baseball since 2000 without being able to cover up for your mistakes, especially dealing with the market constraints the A’s do.
And call me naïve if you wish, but I do believe that this team would’ve competed with the Angels for the division crown this year had it not been for the unparalleled number of injuries. I said before the season started that I felt like the A’s could be as good as a first place team if the team remained healthy, but if they had some injuries, they could finish last in the West.
In my opinion, Beane’s big mistake this year was not letting go of Barry Zito or Frank Thomas. It was not reassessing the training processes last year. The A’s had had several seasons of increasing injury issues and the A’s couldn’t afford to have the same type of injury issues this year or it was going to cost them the season. I know that Beane had acquired a few guys who were injury prone because they were undervalued (and some injuries like the Piazza one were just bad luck), but the A’s have been headed towards this injury apocalypse for a couple of years now. Unfortunately, it seems that the A’s had to get to this point for the team to reassess the training regimen for the players. At least it's finally going to happen. I just hope that the players follow the regimen that the A's create for each of them. It seems that the MLBPA has made it nearly impossible for these guys to get mandated training which is a shame.
So while apparently the brainwashed argument will resurface every time the A’s go through a tough stretch (it happened the last couple of years in April and May) or in the case of 2007, an entire season. I just want newer ANers to understand that Athletics Nation isn’t full of brainless automatons. Many ANers are just thankful that we have a GM who more often than not has made moves to keep a team with a much smaller budget in contention for the playoffs for nearly a decade. Beane does more with less than any GM in the game (especially now that Terry Ryan is no longer with the Twins) and that’s the general sentiment behind the whole In Billy We Trust schtick. I just don’t want you thinking this is a cult trying to recruit you. Well, I can’t speak for everyone in AN, some very well may be trying to recruit you for their personal cults (if someone named Sal shows up at your door with Nikes and a packet of Kool Aid, RUN!).