Billy Beane, circa September 2004, from In Billy We Trust: Billy Beane Visits Athletics Nation, Part Two:
The best team that we've had here and the one that was the most disappointing, and this is going to sound crazy, but it was the 2001 team. I thought that was a great, great team. It had everything. It was a dynamic club, it had speed, it had defense, it had everything you'd want in that kind of a situation.
(Italics courtesy of me).
Billy Beane's teams of the past decade-plus have not often been characterized as dynamic, speedy or particularly strong defensively...at least not all at the same time. And yet, the man himself believes his best work came when his team had all three such components back in 2001. I think that since that time, he's been attempting to re-create the multi-dimensional aspect of that club. But with limited payroll flexibility for the better part of this decade, he's had to settle for whatever he could cobble together with his meager resources.
But now with an owner willing to spend a little and a young, relatively inexpensive core to build around, Beane may finally have the "perfect storm" brewing from which to realize his goal of fielding a truly "dynamic" club for 2009. I think Beane took a big first step toward that goal by trading for Matt Holliday. Holliday not only brings a much needed righty power bat with good contact skills, but he's also a very good baserunner (28-for-30 in stolen base chances last year) and he's a solid defender in left field. Holliday is quite the offensive dynamo all by himself, but Beane is obviously not stopping there.
With his aggressive courtship of Rafael Furcal, Beane is giving the strongest indication yet that he's placing a premium on adding a "true" leadoff hitter and speed to the top of the batting order in an attempt to better balance the offensive attack. On top of that, Beane may also go back to his OBP/power roots and re-acquire Jason Giambi.
If the grand plan were to come together in such a way (i.e. free agent contracts to Furcal & Giambi) the A's could feature 4 players who could all conceivably hit 30 or more homers next season (Cust, Holliday, Giambi, Chavez) and 4 players who could conceivably steal 20 or more bases (Furcal, Holliday, Ellis, Davis). When was the last time that happened? That's what is called "balance" folks and Beane is definitely trying to build it into his system.
There's probably a lot more work necessary to make the pitching staff truly dynamic for 2009, but that's for another day...