Oakland A's GM Billy Beane Is Working as a Competent Executive, Not a Villain

Anthony Witrado@@awitradoFeatured ColumnistDecember 9, 2014

AP Images

This has to stop.

Hearts are broken, and that is certainly understandable. But the screaming has to stop. Now.

Billy Beane is not a villain. He is not a moron. He is not attempting to piss off anyone who has ever cheered for the Oakland Athletics.

And most importantly, he is not trying to lose. To think that is his goal is not only ridiculous but also completely ignorant.

Beane, general manager of the Oakland A’s, has traded four All-Star players in the last five months. The Yoenis Cespedes trade last summer was to make the A's better immediately, as Beane believed his club was good enough then to win a World Series with an ace pitcher. After a postseason exit, Josh DonaldsonJeff Samardzija and Brandon Moss were dealt to make Oakland better in the long run.

Yahoo Sports' Jeff Passan broke the Moss deal on Monday, and the Samardzija trade was announced by the A's just 24 hours later.

But you do have to hand it to Billy Beane for not being scared. Few other clubs would have cut their losses this quick after failed try.

— Phil Rogers (@philgrogers) December 9, 2014

These trades have people—many of them intelligent human beings and some of them Oakland players—baffled and/or livid. But the moves show that Beane is looking out for the team’s future.

“If you wait too long, you cost yourself a number of years,” Beane told the San Francisco Chronicle's Susan Slusser.

Beane was referring to years of being a competitive team and his failure to retool after the team went to the American League Championship Series in 2006. After that playoff run, the A’s missed the postseason the next five seasons.

He learned from that mistake. After the 2007 season, he traded 27-year-old Nick Swisher and acquired Gio Gonzalez. In 2008, he traded 26-year-old Rich Harden, who had a 2.34 ERA at the time. That trade brought in Donaldson. Then, after the 2011 season, Beane moved Gonzalez, Trevor Cahill and Andrew Bailey, all of whom were All-Stars, and he was pounded by a media contingent that then predicted the A’s would finish last in 2012.

The A’s went on to win the division the following two seasons and have made the postseason in the three years since that trade.

OAKLAND, CA - MARCH 31:  A new American League Western Division Champion banner is uncovered on the outfield wall before the Oakland Athletics game against the Cleveland Indians on Opening Day at O.co Coliseum on March 31, 2014 in Oakland, California.  (P
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

“Billy is about as good as it gets as far as being able to handle that balance, keeping us competitive currently and looking down the road for the future,” A’s manager Bob Melvin told Slusser.

Melvin gets it. These latest moves are proactive. They aren't a way to simply dump salary and pocket the savings. This is replacing the carpet before anyone realizes it needs to be replaced—a metaphor owner Lew Wolff likes to use when describing Beane’s methods of operation.

People can gripe about the young players the A’s got in return for Donaldson, Moss and Samardzija if they want. Those debates happen in most trades. But also understand that Oakland still thinks it can compete in 2015. The pitching is still good, even without Lester and Samardzija.

Beane is not done working here. He is not tanking for 2015. He is attempting to compete in a pretty good division with different personnel.

“We still have an awesome pitching staff," All-Star closer Sean Doolittle said, per Slusser. "And it’s still early. Who knows what other moves we make?

"It’s such a cop-out [to say we are rebuilding]. Look at 2012.”

The A’s won 88 games last year, and Donaldson was one of the best players in the league. But the team wasn’t good enough to get beyond the Wild Card Game, and Donaldson is 29 years oldhis value will never be higher than it was when Beane traded him.

Jeff Roberson/Associated Press

Remember, this is an era of better PED testing. We aren’t going to see hitters get better after 30. We also weren’t going to see the A’s drastically improve by standing pat with a team that lost the division to the Los Angeles Angels by 10 games last season.

“They weren’t necessarily going to fall apart tomorrow, but they weren’t going to get any better,” Athletics Nation's Alex Hall said on The Phil Naessens Show. “Billy Beane wants to be getting better. He doesn’t want to be getting worse.

“This was the definition of selling high.”

And that is how the A’s compete on a relatively consistent basis despite having a payroll that hasn’t ranked higher than 26th in the last three seasons and has an average ranking of 24th out of 30 teams in the last 10.

This is how the A’s survive, and it’s worked time and time again for Beane. He has earned the benefit of the doubt because his track record for keeping his roster competitive with limited resources is stellar. If he had money to work with, he would not have to do these kinds of things. But he doesn’t, so he does. If by now people cannot understand why he works this way and why it is necessary, then they may never get it.

Beane is a competent baseball executive and understands his situation better than anyone else and how to manage it. He is not done making deals. Oakland’s offseason is nowhere near finished.

So before saying Beane is tanking for 2015, let’s actually see something close to a finished product.

Anthony Witrado covers Major League Baseball for Bleacher Report. He spent the previous three seasons as the national baseball columnist at Sporting News and four years before that as the Brewers beat writer for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Follow Anthony on Twitter @awitrado and talk baseball here.


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