Is Billy Beane even trying? A rebuke

By Jason Wojciechowski on May 18, 2009 at 4:59 PM

The whisper campaign that Billy Beane has become bored with baseball and is now focused on his soccer dreams so much that he's neglecting the A's have blown into a full-scale assault by Nico at Athletics Nation. I almost don't want to link it, because this kind of garbage isn't worth the electrons it's printed on. It's far too reminiscent of the old trashing of Ben Grieve for not trying hard enough. People's motivations and desires simply are not accessible to us as outsiders. We can judge nothing but the results, unless we get some kind of access ("He's always late on game days"; "He's drunk the night before his starts"; "He doesn't work hard on his off days"; etc.).

The results for the A's have not been pretty, it's true. Oakland hasn't managed to develop replacements for Bobby Crosby or Eric Chavez. They don't really have a legitimate center fielder. Their starting pitching is a wreck. Does this mean that Beane and his staff aren't trying? That's an incredibly serious charge, and one that I think needs to be made with more evidence than "what he did isn't working". Lots of teams are bad. Was Dave Littlefield not trying all those years in Pittsburgh? Cam Bonifay? Allard Baird? Of course not. They were trying their damndest, they just couldn't get the job done, mainly because they just weren't good enough at their jobs.

Nico points out that Beane traded away his only decent defensive center fielder. But so what? He got back a hitter, Matt Holliday, whose overall value in 2009 is vastly higher than Carlos Gonzalez's. And given how Gonzalez hit last year, not just in his results but his overall approach, it's no sure thing that he'll ever be even as good as Melky Cabrera, much less Carlos Beltran. If Gonzalez does turn in Carlos Beltran and the A's don't win anything this year with Holliday in the lineup (and if the eventual Matt Holliday trade doesn't return a bounty as nice as the garbage Beane sent to Colorado), then maybe we can say Beane isn't good enough at his job and someone else ought to be brought in to do it. But to claim that this proves that Beane isn't giving his best efforts and his full attention, with no evidence other than that he has some interests outside of baseball (god forbid a man like more than one thing in his life!), is reprehensible.

EDIT: Rachel and Alyson at Oakland A's Days (who are apparently also lawyers? That part might be a joke -- I can't really tell) seem to be in agreement with what I've said here. They do want Bob Geren fired, though, which I'm not on board for, mainly because I'm with Beane on this point: managers have a very circumscribed effect on a team. There are exceptions (Dusty Baker's weird effect on veteran hitters (although should we be asking about BALCO, since much of that came in San Francisco?); Earl Weaver's tactical brilliance), but for the most part, your job is to keep guys fresh and healthy and not have clubhouse revolt. The A's haven't been healthy, but you can't really lay that at Geren's feet: Chavez and Nomar were going to get hurt, Devine was broken when the A's got him, Duchscherer is the new Harden, etc.