2019: A Beane Odyssey

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I hadn’t realized that running the Oakland Athletics had become the equivalent of a Federal job where you can’t get fired no matter how poorly you perform.

Or does Billy Beane have tenure like a slacking college professor who can’t be fired no matter what he does?

Here’s an idea for the Moneyball sequel: A sci-fi fantasy with President Newt Gingrich helping the Athletics get their new park…on his moon colony.

It would be just as realistic as Moneyball.

It shouldn’t come as a shock that the Athletics made the decision to extend Beane’s contract to the absurd length that he’ll be there until 2019 since he’s pretty much their only marketable commodity. It’s beside the point that the market is the brainless and agenda-driven that either believe the fantasy of Moneyball or have interests coinciding with the story being seen as accurate.

The prototypical perception has become reality. The phrase, “the man must know what he’s doing to have stayed so long and to have had the success he’s had” only fits if you ignore the facts out of convenience or because you don’t know any better.

Beane’s success was limited to a brief time in the early part of this century when few if any other clubs were using the same strategies that he implemented out of necessity. Once the rest of baseball caught onto what he was doing and started spending for that which he once got for nothing, he could no longer “card count” or trick other clubs into giving him valuable pieces for his refuse.

Only Beane knows whether he actually believes the nonsense in Moneyball the book and movie. Has he become so delusional, drunk with adulation and blind worship that he can look into the mirror like a hopelessly arrogant and narcissistic personality and think that there’s always a reason why he’s faltered and remains a brilliant baseball mind in spite of his team’s decline into irrelevance?

He has to be smart enough to realize that, in other clubs’ front offices, he’s a running joke who’s gotten his comeuppance for taking part in Michael Lewis’s self-indulgent fantasy and profiting from it in terms of a Teflon persona where, in a large segment of the baseball watching population, he can still do no wrong; that he’s a worldwide phenomenon everywhere but where it truly matters: in building a successful baseball team.

How about a stat guy endeavor to create a formula for Wins Above Replacement for GMs? Would that give a gauge on Beane? Would they be willing to make it public if it was calculated accurately and reflected his mediocrity and worse since 2006?

The new pompous and condescending dismissal of anyone and everyone who tries to debate the merits of Moneyball and Beane is to say something snide like, “Yah, Beane wrote Moneyball…” as if all who criticize the book and movie think that.

It’s a strawman.

Only the incurably stupid or total neophyte baseball fan thinks Beane wrote Moneyball.

Well, there’s Joe Morgan—another frequent and easy target for their vitriol because, as great a player as he was on the field with uncanny instincts, he’s one of the typical formerly great players who can do, but not explain. Someone made the mistake of putting Morgan in a broadcast booth and things spiraled from there to him being the totem for the “non-analytical” wing in baseball.

Morgan doesn’t represent me. I represent me.

Beane didn’t write Moneyball. But does that acquit him of all charges that he took part in the book and didn’t clarify the reality of the situation? Or did he go with the flow and choose not to correct his fictional biography and plan of attack because he was making a lot of money away from the field and found himself achieving the fame and fortune that eluded him in his failed career as a player?

And what of the future? What of the next seven years that Beane is now under contract with the Athletics?

Let’s say that at some point in those seven years, the Athletics get a new park; the young players they accrued from this latest rebuild pan out and they’re again contenders; or they even win a championship by (let’s be realistic) 2016.

Then what?

Will his “genius” be validated? Or will the context be applied to say he hadn’t made the playoffs for 10 years, didn’t make it back because everyone else was aware of and using the same techniques that he’d applied and that he only managed to win again once he had a new park and some money to spend on players.

He can’t win if he does win.

When Beane turned down the Red Sox after initially accepting the job in 2002, he did so because, as the movie says, he wanted to stay near his young daughter. But he also stayed in Oakland because it was easier to stay in Oakland and work without the inherent pressure and expectations that would’ve been present from day 1 in Boston. Those pressures would’ve swallowed him up and disproven Moneyball by 2003.

Then what?

So he’s staying in Oakland and it’s not because he’s “happy” there—he wanted the Cubs job this past winter and the Cubs didn’t want him—no one wants him.

Except of course, the A’s.

He’ll be there through 2019.

Maybe by then the bandwagon jumpers will have abandoned him and moved onto something else.

Maybe by then the masses will accept the truth.

Or they’ll have found another way to shift the goalposts to suit themselves, their demagogue and his chronicler.

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2 thoughts on “2019: A Beane Odyssey

  1. Yep, I was wondering when this piece would be written.

    That contract extension is ridiculous and unfounded. Most guys with Beane’s track record have been fired, many of them more than once. I think you nailed it when you mention Beane being the most marketable part of the A’s. To me, that’s just sad. A front office person should never be more popular than the players on the field. No question, the movie and its popularity benefited the “Genius” with this contract.

    1. The contract extension has become secondary really fast. Now there are people like Buster Olney (and Peter Gammons months ago) wondering if Beane will be interested in the Dodgers job.
      How do you suggest a team is going to hire someone when they don’t have an owner yet?!?
      Why?
      Because they want Beane to have a prominent role because he yields webhits, readers and attention. It’s so blatant, it’s disgusting.

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