Moneyball: The Truth About Billy Beane and His Role with the Oakland Athletics

Darrell HorwitzSenior Writer IISeptember 23, 2011

DETROIT - OCTOBER 13:  General Manager Billy Beane of the Oakland Athletics is seen on the field during warm-ups prior to the start of Game Three of the American League Championship Series of the Detroit Tigers October 13, 2006 at Comerica Park in Detroit, Michigan.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Sorry to disappoint anyone checking in to read the latest review on the new movie, Moneyball, but this is not about the flick.

The question is whether the film should even have been made, when you realistically look at the job Billy Beane has done as the general manager of the Oakland Athletics.

He was considered the precursor of the trend that has swept the baseball world—sabermetrics. The Theo Epsteins, Jon Daniels, and Andrew Friedmans of the world might not be household names today without Billy Beane.

The idea behind the concept of what he was trying to do was to maximize performance without spending the big bucks by finding players that slip through the cracks.

On-base percentage was his mantra, but it's not like it didn't exist before he came around.

You can give him credit for taking a small market team to the playoffs five times since he took over in 1998, but what did they accomplish? The A's won only one playoff series under his watch, and haven't participated in postseason play since 2006.

In fact, they have reached the .500 mark only one time since then, and have been well under .500 other than that. This year they are on pace to lose around 90 games.

You have to ask if he deserves all the praise he has received. Where is the evidence that he has been successful?

This movie should have come out four to five years ago.

Who are the players he has drafted and developed who have turned into stars?

Much was made of his 2002 draft where he had nine selections in the Top 98, including seven in the Top 39. His top successes were Nick Swisher, Mark Teahen, and Joe Blanton, but there is nothing earth-shattering there as far as star power goes.

You don't have control of where your picks end up, but you do control who you end up with.

Of players he could have drafted who were taken in the first three rounds, Beane passed on Cole Hamels, Jeff Francoeur, Matt Cain, James Loney, Denard Span, Joey Votto, Jon Lester, Jonathan Broxton, Brian McCann and Curtis Granderson.

His selections don't look quite as good when you think of the guys he could have had. He had a dream list of 20 players that he would take if money didn't matter and he could draft anyone he wanted.

In addition to the players that I mentioned he selected, the best of the rest he would have picked were Khalil Greene and Jeff Francis.

That is even more damning, because he also didn't mention B.J. Upton, Zach Greinke, and Prince Fielder for his dream 20.

So the guy Moneyball made out to be a genius thought the best players in the draft were Swisher, Teahan, Blanton, Greene, and Francis, and a bunch of guys you've never heard of.

One of the players the book focused on was the "fat catcher," Jeremy Brown, who Beane said was the best catcher in the draft. He ended his career with ten major league at-bats. You noticed I mentioned Brian McCann earlier, who obviously was the best catcher in the draft and one of the best in the game for the last several years.

He also gave away young players like Andre Ethier and Carlos Gonzalez, and has nothing to show for them. Aren't they the type of players who fit the Moneyball image?

He received the recognition he did because of the book. Take it away, and he's just another average general manager.

The reason his teams had the success they did in his earlier years was because of pitchers Tim Hudson, Mark Mulder, and Barry Zito; and Hudson and Zito were already in the system when he took over.

From 2001 to 2004, their average record was 66-33. How many games do the other guys have to win for you to make the playoffs when three starters are putting up those numbers?

When you break it down, without them, there wouldn't have been a book or a movie.

That's why his teams haven't made the playoffs since the last of them left after 2006.

Sticking to the movie theme, I give him two stars. Definitely not a must-see, but check it out when it comes to video.


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