The A’s fansite, Athletics Nation, is in the enviable position of having a good relationship with GM Billy Beane. Every now and then, Beane gives up a bit of his spare time to answer questions from the site’s main contributor, Blez. Naturally, these interviews will be of most interest to A’s fans, but they afford all baseball fans the opportunity to learn a little bit more about the way MLB organizations are run.
Blez’s latest interview took place a week ago and is being published in three parts. Part one looks at the process of ‘rebuilding’, the reasons why Beane decided to go down this route over the off-season and how he went about it. It also reveals the pressures that a small-market team is under and how they need to adjust their strategies in order to survive. What really hits home to me is the importance Beane places on pitching. We all know how high the free agent market has risen for starting pitching over the last two years, so finding ways to accumulate good pitching is now more difficult than ever. Re-stocking your farm system with good arms by trading some of your best players (Haren and Swisher in this case) can bring short-term pain for the team and its fans, but it’s an essential course of action if you want to compete for pennants and World Series rings and don’t have oodles of cash to bankroll your efforts.
The second part contains an interesting comment by Beane about the process of drafting players (apt for the time of year) and the so-called Moneyball philosophy:
“When was Moneyball published? What 2002, so that’s six years ago now and we’re still talking about it? I usually let Michael and others define what they thought what [sic] the book was about. The bottom line is that I don’t [think] there was anywhere in the book where we sat down and gave a manifesto on how to do things so I think that’s the most misinterpreted thing. But as far as how we do business in the draft, the more you do this job, and this can apply to almost any business job, the more you realize you don’t know. The idea that you are going to create a template that is going to work forever in a very competitive business just doesn’t happen. Are there some things we still believe in? Absolutely. There are also some things where we say, “Maybe we need to take a look at this.” But that’s the evolution of any business if you’re going to stay on top and try and be successful. I’m glad we’re like that. Maybe seven, eight, nine years ago I wouldn’t have been so much like that. Successes and failures are things you can learn from. For us, we’re constantly trying to evolve. Just because we do something different that we didn’t necessarily do a previous year doesn’t mean it’s something we don’t believe in. Someone will inevitably say that’s blasphemy compared to how we used to do business. We’re constantly checking ourselves. And the business is changing. The people running teams now, in my opinion, are as good as they ever have been. There are some really smart guys running businesses. It’s incredibly competitive and the idea that you’re going to have an “intellectual edge” anymore is, and I not sure that there ever was, but I’m not sure it exists any more. I can tell you the guys running teams now have some really, really smart guys working for them. You’re not going to outsmart too many people. We all have the same information available to us”.
Beane also discusses the A’s approach to the international player market and states that the A’s “just missed on signing a great kid out of Australia”. If any Aussies out there know who he is talking about, I’d be interested to learn more about him. Sounds like one less guy to torment the English cricket team, so that’s got to be a good thing.
The third and final part of the interview will be published tomorrow.