Baseball Crank
Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
January 28, 2005
BASEBALL: Obi-Wan Speaks

Blez at Athletics Nation has a great three-part interview with Billy Beane (it says something about Beane that he'll do an interview with a blog) here, here, and here. I really envy bloggers who do interviews; even if I bought the necessary tape-recording equipment I just don't type fast enough to transcribe something of this length.

You really should read the whole thing; I excerpt some of the highlights. Beane on blogs:

I've always felt this incredible support from the cyber-world. We joke about it. Myself and Paul (DePodesta). The one thing I have that Paul hasn't really acquired yet in Los Angeles 'cause it takes time, is that kind of support. . . . [Getting beyond knee-jerk reactions is] what I love, for lack of a better word, about the blogger's world. There is a tendency to really analyze things in detail. Ultimately, because there is so much conversation and investigation on a site like yours, people may not ultimately agree with it, but they stumble onto what you're trying to do. Someone emailed me something written on a Cardinals' blog, and they had nailed all the things we were talking about. The economic reasons, the personnel reasons and the reasons we made the exchange. The world of a Web log will lend itself to a lot of investigation. And you will often stumble across the answer more than someone who has to write in two hours to meet deadline just to make sure something is out in the paper the next day.

I think the most interesting thing, in terms of deviation from the conventional wisdom in many sabermetric circles, is Beane's conviction that the business realities don't allow him to strip the team down to nothing to rebuild from scratch, and that this is precisely why you start the rebuilding process while you still have the horses to win:

I'm not sure it's good management as a GM to rebuild, rebuild probably isn't the right word, but to start to make changes only after you've hit rock bottom. Because it takes five, six, seven years to get out of that in a small market. . . I'm not sure that any of our fans want me to stand up at the podium and say, "Hey, we're getting rid of everybody. We're going to lose 100 games over the next three years, now come and enjoy the show." What we're trying to do is make sure that any dip in performance doesn't happen for five or six years and I've seen professional sports franchises do that. . . Back in 1992, . . . [w]e made the mistake of trying to bring the entire team back and it took us seven years to recover. Our market is not going to handle that. Understand that attendance percentage is basically based on winning. Everything you can do to make sure that any dip in your performance in a year, you minimize that. Because when you put together back to back to back losing seasons, then you've created a very apathetic situation that's very difficult to recover from. If you're worried about what a couple of sportswriters say and let them make the decisions for you, you're an absolute coward and a fool.

MORE:

*On Daric Barton, acquired in the Mulder deal:

Blez: I've read plenty about him and people mention Albert Pujols when they talk about him.

BB: In our opinion, he's the best pure bat in the minor leagues.

Blez: Wow.

BB: Yeah, I know that's saying a lot because he's only 18 years old. But at this juncture, starting from rookie ball and all the way up to Triple-A, he has as good an offensive ceiling as anyone in the minor leagues in our opinion.

On whether money was an issue in the Hudson an Mulder deals:

To put it bluntly, we weren't going to be able to return the entire team we had in 2004 and not be far above our means . . . what we knew is that if these pitchers left, we had to have an answer for them. And the answer wasn't going to come via the free agent market.

Blez: Because of the cost, is what you're saying?

BB: Exactly, and not only that, but in many cases cost for mediocrity. Ordinary pitchers that we neither had the resources nor the desire to pay them that much. . . . In our market, pitching is the hardest thing to acquire and impossible for us to sign in the open market. . . we had to make sure that if we traded these guys that what we got in return was at least someone that could go into our rotation for X number of years, preferably as many as possible.

On Jason Kendall and the value of a veteran catcher to a young staff:

One of the questions I've heard, and I almost found it comical, was, "Why did you get Jason Kendall?" . . . Jason Kendall was an exchange of Mark Redman and Arthur Rhodes for Kendall. No disrespect to those two guys, but I'm going to make that deal every time. . . The other thing is that, had we not made that deal, our catcher would've been a rookie with no experience because of the cost. As far as the makeup of the team, we're going to spend what we have. Given the fact that we had three young pitchers coming into the rotation, we were going to try and protect them as much as possible in every way shape and form. Listen, I'm not stupid, I learn something every year. I've seen the value of a great bullpen. One thing about acquiring bullpen guys is that you can work from the end of the game back as opposed to the starters working from the front and going towards the ninth. So the cost of working from the ninth down is a little cheaper and with our young pitchers, it will give us an opportunity to win. And if you notice the relievers we've brought in, they're more than one inning-type of relievers.

On people saying Beane's success is driven by being fortunate to have the Big Three pitchers:

Well, thank God we were there to select them. (Laughing) . . . There's always going to be something out there and there's always going to be someone who's going to find a reason that isn't the real reason why an organization is successful. It usually someone who hasn't quite had the success they've expected themselves.

On why the A's picked Zito to keep and deal the others:

The one thing you can't undervalue is that Barry has never missed a start, nor come close to missing a start.

Blez: I was going to ask you if injuries were part of the consideration.

BB: Well it certainly was a positive for Barry. Once again in understanding our goals and what we were trying to get in return, was that some of it was going to be driven by other team's interest in those players as well.

On possibly dealing Eric Byrnes (some rumors have had him going to the Mets for Mike Cameron, which would be typical highway robbery by Beane):

I've seen that. I would say the bulk of our offseason is over, but we're more likely to go into camp with this team than we are to make too many changes to it.

On Beane's best and worst moves (he also mentions Mark Kotsay as one of the best):

Blez: What would you call your best move and conversely, what would you call your worst move?

BB: My best move? Hiring Paul DePodesta. . . I would say from a personnel standpoint, there are two moves. And the moves have a lot of legs to them. Trading for Kenny Rogers, getting half his salary paid, having him for a year and a half, and then turning around and trading him for young players and using the money that he had to go out and get Kevin Appier and using that for Billy Taylor-Isringhausen. That transaction had so many legs to it. Then we ended up getting first round picks for Kevin Appier.

(Why am I not surprised there was a deal at the Mets' expense in here?)

Blez: Well, any that you look back on and kind of cringe?

BB: You always do that. I'm not hesitating because I'm having a hard time thinking of bad moves, but I want to think of one I look back on and kind of go, "Yow." It was a ways back, but one I've referred to before, when we traded Steve Karsay for Mike Fetters early. We all make mistakes. It's an imperfect science. The Karsay one wasn't a particularly good trade. Probably the most talented player I've traded and will probably be the best player I've traded, will be Bonderman. But I also knew when we did it that we needed someone to fill out our rotation and Lilly was going to do that at a rate we could afford. Ted was very, very successful for us when he was here. . . . Actually, let me go back, you asked me my worst move of all time. I was the assistant GM, me and J.P. decided Ariel Prieto over Todd Helton. That was it.

Blez: So, you're revising that decision?

BB: Well, Helton was our guy, we all loved him. But then it became kind of cool to get a Cuban pitcher who might go to the major leagues. So we made an 11th hour decision. Quite frankly, the decision to do that was a lesson learned when it came to Zito. There was a number of players who fell to us and when Zito was available, we said no way and took Zito because he was our guy.

Again, a great job by Blez. Read the whole thing.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:19 AM | Baseball 2005 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (2)
Comments

I'm somewhat of a Beane fan. But some of his details here - pure spin.

(1) Daric Barton. Seems like 70% of the GMs out there have some 18-21 year old they'll call the best "pure bat" in the minors. Let's wait until he proves it in the majors before making much of this comment.

(2) Jason Kendall. Experience, yes, but tell me Billy, how much should you factor in the fact that he hasn't worked with your staff yet, or the fact that he probably hasn't seen over 50% of the AL batters he will this year?

(3) Replacing 2 of the big 3 with others. Of course it was all about money! But it's rather disingenuous of him to then talk about simply plugging who they got "for X number of years".

We'll see how things go this year. I'd have to figure that if he speaks so highly of DePodesto, the time is soon coming when he and the franchise will miss him.

I very much agree with his thoughts on rebuilding. Being an Indians ticket holder, it should be obvious what I think Shapiro's thoughts on this are too.

Posted by: Dave at January 28, 2005 1:52 PM

Depodesta is a moron, oakland can have him back.

Posted by: somejerk at January 28, 2005 10:19 PM
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