Billy Beane: Genius or Idiot?

It seems that Billy Beane is a topic on which all baseball fans have an opinion – Ryan Daigle thinks that Billy Beane is an Idiot. And as a fellow A’s fan, I feel his pain. Unfortunately, I’ve pitched my tent over by the genius camp.

It’s easy to conclude that Billy Beane is an idiot. The A’s have had 9 games over 4 years to advance to the LCS and have failed every time. And in each series you can identify games in which they beat themselves through bad play. It’s hard to hit .300 and it’s hard to win 20 games. But how hard is it to remember to touch home plate? And how hard is it to remember to run out every play?

But Beane has taken the A’s and their scrawny payroll to the playoffs four straight years. He’s endured the loss of impact players. And he’s made the moves that have allowed the A’s to weather their customary bad start and finish with their patented end of season rush. Now, I’ll grant you that his teams have been flawed in each of those years. But when you play the blame game, you need to identify revenue neutral moves that he can make to eliminate those flaws.

I think that the biggest flaw in the A’s is the lack of a real closer. Beane has been using the closer position as a cash cow – using a superior team to rack up saves so that he can sell off his closer each year. But that’s not much help in the late innings of playoff games. Unfortunately, that’s not going to change. Closers mature later than starters, so the A’s can’t gain one through the draft. And they can’t afford one either.

The other big flaws are defense and fundamentals. Unfortunately, Beane thinks that defense is over valued in the market so don’t expect improvement there anytime soon. And improving the fundamentals is going to require a manager who can teach the fundamentals. Not so easy to find when he also has to agree to play the style that Beane’s roster moves dictate.

I suspect that the question will never really be resolved. We would have had an answer if Beane had gone through with his move to the Red Sox. But now we’ll just have to wait for Beane to tire of using the small payroll excuse and leave for a big payroll team.