A’s vice president of baseball operations, Billy Beane, has been named 2018’s Executive of the Year by Major League Baseball. This is the first time that this honor has been awarded by MLB. Each team was allowed a single vote in the selection process with Beane receiving the most votes. He edged out Tampa Bay Rays’ senior vice president of baseball operations and GM Erik Neander and Milwaukee Brewers’ general manager David Stearns, who each received the same number of votes resulting in a second place tie.
Beane is no stranger to taking home awards. The Sporting News, the first to establish an award for Executive of the Year in 1936, has awarded Beane the honor twice — first in 1999 and again in 2012. Beane has also been bestowed the award twice (2002, 2013) by Baseball America which began handing out its own version of the award in 1998. On top of those, Beane has received a GIBBY (short for Greatest in Baseball Yearly) Award from MLB.com for MLB Executive of the Year as well as the Legacy Awards’ Rube Foster Award as AL Executive of the Year from the Negro League Baseball Museum for his accomplishments during the 2012 season. Receiving the award from MLB marks the first time any baseball executive has been awarded the title solely by the vote of his peers.
Beane was named assistant general manager of the A’s in 1993 by then-GM Sandy Alderson after joining the A’s front office in 1990 as a scout. In October 1997 Alderson handed over the position of general manager to Beane who remained with the club in that role until being promoted to vice president of baseball operations in October 2015.
Over the last two decades with Beane at the helm the A’s have experienced an immense amount of success, despite still being on the market for their tenth World Series Title. They have a record of 1793-1607 (.527) since the beginning of the 1998 regular season which ranks fourth in the American League and seventh overall in MLB during that time, and have done so on a budget in comparison to other successful teams.
In 2018 the Athletics became the first team in MLB history to have the lowest payroll on Opening Day while later securing a spot in the postseason. Their nine postseason appearances this century — consisting of securing six American League Western Division Titles (2000, 2002-2003, 2006, 2012-2013) and three Wild Card spots (2001, 2014, 2018) — ranks sixth in baseball, behind teams with much higher payrolls: the New York Yankees (15), St. Louis Cardinals (12), Los Angeles Dodgers (10), Boston Red Sox (10) and Atlanta Braves (10).
The 2018 season might one of the best under Beane’s leadership yet. The A’s had finished last in the AL West in each of the past three seasons. Finishing the 2018 season with a 97-65 record (fourth best in the league), the team showed a 22-win improvement from 2017’s 75-87 record and they did so even after losing 21 players to the disabled list, nine of which were part of starting pitching staff. After having traded for two major contributors last off season in outfielders Stephen Piscotty (STL) and Ramon Laureano (HOU), Beane and GM David Forst added starters Mike Fiers, Edwin Jackson, Trevor Cahill and Brett Anderson and relievers Fernando Rodney, Jeurys Familia and Shawn Kelley over the course of the season to support the team’s ailing pitching staff. The 2018 A’s also garnered four top-three nominations for the Rawlings Gold Glove Awards with homegrown corner infielders Matt Chapman and Matt Olson each ending up taking one home.
By becoming, yet again, a “surprise” contender in 2018 under his leadership, the A’s have shown why Beane is considered by the most important people in baseball (they voted for him!) to be “the most influential front-office figure of his generation and one of the most influential of all time.”