The plight of Billy Beane’s Athletics

By Terrence Hinds, Staff Writer

Published in print Oct. 8, 2014

On August 10, the Oakland Athletics were riding high. They possessed the best record in all of Major League Baseball at 72-44 and were on pace to win 96 games, a win total which would had easily put the team into the postseason.

They team was looked at as the premier team in the American league.

Their offense to this point in the season had been one of the league’s top producing offenses; they had a lights-out bullpen and one of the most deep pitching rotations in baseball.

The belief around the fan base and organization was that this was going to be the year they would make it back to the World Series since the team’s famous “Bash Brothers” were leading Oakland to the championship series in 1990.

And honestly they seemed to be well on their way.

The team was assembled by Billy Beane, the team’s general manager for the Oakland A’s since 1997 and who was famously portrayed by Brad Pitt in the 2011 movie, “Moneyball.”

Even though he consistently works with one of the smallest payrolls in all of Major League Baseball, he has always been able to build competitive teams using advanced sabermetric scouting in order to acquire undervalued players.

His system of getting personnel was innovative and caught the league somewhat off guard.

With that being said there’s always been this weird vibe surrounding his teams.

His teams could never seem to win the always important playoff games in October and they always seem to fail in epic fashion in the postseason.

From 2000 to 2003, the A’s made the playoffs four consecutive times but lost in the American League Divisional Series each year.

In 2002, they became the first team in nearly 100 years to win 20 games in a row.

Another of Beane’s teams, the 2006 Athletics, were one of the few Athletics  teams  which got past the first round in Beane’s tenure.

That team beat the Minnesota Twins in the ALDS but was then swept out of the playoffs in the next round by the Detroit Tigers in the American League Championship series. It’s hard to fathom how tough the A’s losses have been over the years.

The A’s have reached the playoffs eight times under Beane, and on seven of those occasions they have lost in a winner-take-all game.

The team’s success in the beginning of the season followed by a heartbreaking ending has all the elements of a Shakespearean tragedy.

Lets now fast forward back to this season. Prior to August 10, Billy Beane made some moves he thought would finally get his team over the edge and into the World Series.

On July 4, Beane made a huge splash by acquiring pitchers Jason Hammel and Jeff Samardzija for two of the top A’s prospects and pitcher Dan Straily.

This move bolstered their bullpen and starting rotation and was widely applauded in most MLB circles.

Though, the usually conservative Beane was not finished shuffling his deck. On July 31st Beane traded one of his brightest players in lineup, Yoenis Cespedes for pitching ace John Lester and outfielder journeyman Johnny Gomes.

The thinking behind this move was to give up a little offense to get one of the best pitchers in Mjaor League Baseball in Lester.

The move was viewed differently through out the league. Yet, all of Beane’s moves could not salvage an Oakland team that was knocked out of the wild card stage of the postseason.

The first round again. Personally, and as many analyst will feel, I thought the moves Beane made were brilliant.

Though the outcome was not quite what he nor I expected it to be.

Categories: Sports, terrence hinds

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