Thursday, July 31, 2014

Billy goes Gollum

The Boys of Summer roll along, but we need your help to complete this year's journey. Please see our site for the latest on how to contribute. Thank you!

A Boys of Summer editorial from a long-time A's junkie.


Come late October/early November, Oakland A’s General Manager Billy Beane will look at himself and think: “So this is the end of a ill/well-spent season…or perhaps era.” With the acquisition of Jon Lester and Jonny Gomes for outfielder Yoenis Cespedes, Beane has once again set the baseball world on fire. Talk about all in.

Just one month ago Beane traded away the teams top two farm prospects in short stop Russell Addison and outfielder Billy McKinney for the Cubs Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel. Outsiders who have claimed to understand Moneyball or the inner workings of Beane’s mind were once again tossed aside this morning with the shocking trade of clubhouse and fan favorite Cespedes. When the A’s were seriously drawn into the Lester conversation yesterday, my response was that Beane was merely driving up the price to make sure whomever landed him paid a hefty price. Turned out that was Beane.

Over his tenure, Beane has stockpiled picks for later at times (trading away big names like Tim Hudson and Mark Mulder or budding superstar Carlos Gonzalez) and made plays for bigger names at other times (Milton Bradley, Frank Thomas and Matt Holiday). This year is an all out push. This is the ring or bust. After consecutive post-season losses to the Tigers, largely at the hands of pitchers Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer, Beane has decided he won’t be fooled again.

The line to consider is whether or not Beane has gone too far, given too much for what amounts to a short-term rental of Lester (he’s only signed through the end of the year) and the best shot the A’s have had at a ring in decades. While the starting rotation of Sonny Gray, Scott Kazmir, Jon Lester and Jeff Samardjia is positively devastating, the smoking hole created in left field by Cespedes departure and the clubhouse is worthy of conversation. There are those who have long said Cespedes is more thunder than lightning – his value increased by the ROY, All-Star and home run derby titles and occasional highlight reel throws from the outfield. His numbers at the plate over his three years with the A’s are good but not great 2012: .292/.356/.505/.861 2013: .240/.294/.442/.737 2014: .256/.303/.464/.767.  

My knee jerk reaction was “oh no”. That had largely to do with my fan-side that loves the guys in green and gold and sees them as part of the family. Cespedes was an exciting part of this crew over the last couple of years. But if pitching wins championships, if you believe in closing windows of opportunity (with several contracts coming up in the next two years) and the ring is the only thing that really matters, then Beane has made yet another bold and brilliant move. The high-wire part about it, of course, is that it’s really only bold and brilliant if the A’s win it all.
Beane has long been a subject of fascination for baseball GM’s, fans and commentators. He’s tough, bold and devastatingly sharp – that blade cuts both ways. While the A’s have been competitive nearly every year he’s been at the helm, they’ve never even sniffed a World Series. Without a ring, rightly or wrongly, many people will forever question Beane’s true efficacy as a GM. This is his moment – to shine or flame. Is he a genius or a buffoon? Come late October/early November, the rapidly eroding middle ground will be gone.

The Boys of Summer roll along, but we need your help to complete this year's journey. Please see our site for the latest on how to contribute. Thank you!

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