This year, the Oakland Athletics should be receiving a little more attention this season, especially since there’s a movie coming out this fall about their team’s leader, General Manager, Billy Beane.
The movie, which is an adaptation of Michael Lewis’ bestseller, Moneyball, stars Hollywood A-Lister Brad Pitt as Beane in the film.
As if that weren’t enough pressure, the A’s are heading into the 2011 season with a vastly improved team. Add in that their cross-town rivals, the San Francisco Giants, won the World Series last year, and you easily have the makings for an intense, pressure-filled season.
Of course, neither Beane or the A’s organization will admit this.
The A’s had themselves a fairly busy offseason this year, adding to offensive attack and revamping an already deep pitching staff. Only time will tell whether or not the additions of Hideki Matsui, David DeJesus, Josh Willingham, Brian Fuentes, and Grant Balfour will make a difference in 2011, but the A’s are beaming with confidence heading into spring training.
The A’s, as most analysts will be quick to point out, have the pitching depth to win. Last season, the A’s led the majors in quality starts with 103, which is evidence of their young rotation’s growth and maturation in 2010. In fact, compare the staff’s 103 quality starts to their 2009 total of 64, and you begin to see that the staff really came into its own in 2010.
Oakland also led the American League in ERA last season with a 3.56 mark. With the added depth to the bullpen, the team’s pitching figures to get only better in 2011. Barring any injuries of course.
But back to Beane.
He’s been with the A’s for what seems like an eternity, and has yet to win a championship for the city of Oakland. The A’s enjoyed a ton of success during the year 2000′s, but despite several championship-caliber teams, the A’s never made it to the fall-classic.
Under Beane’s management, the A’s have gone 976-804 (.546), which ranks as the third best record in the American League during that time frame.
The past three seasons, however, the A’s have gone just 231-254. Part of the reason for their sub-par play is the fact that the team was in a rebuilding process, one that dates back to the end of the 2007 season.
On paper, the A’s should be a much better team this season, thanks to the continued efforts by Beane and Co. this offseason. Injuries have rattled the team in the past couple of years, but with the added team depth, Bob Geren’s team should have a realistic shot at surpassing last year’s 81 wins.
Ever since the publication of Moneyball, Beane has been regarded as one of baseball’s brightest GM’s, and while that hasn’t changed, the competition certainly has.
Oakland usually has a relatively low payroll every season, and that definitely can cause problems for the front office. Beane is constantly forced to work with a small payroll, and he has to find ways to win while spending less than his competition.
The A’s need to win now, before Beane is forced to dismantle the current roster and build it up from scratch again. Right now the team is relatively cheap, but once guys like Trevor Cahill, Brett Anderson, and Gio Gonzalez become stars and start demanding more money, the A’s will be forced to undergo yet another rebuilding phase.
The organization is also in desperate need for a new stadium. The A’s should find out (soon) from Commissioner Bud Selig and his appointed committee whether or not they should stay in Oakland or explore other stadium options elsewhere.
If the A’s are not allowed to move to San Jose then, as suggested in Klapisch’s article, Beane may decide it’s time to move on. Because how many rebuilding phases can one guy take? The A’s are certainly at a disadvantage, and Moneyball used to be enough to get them past the competition, but as recent seasons seem to suggest, the competition has gotten much tougher.
Tags: 2011 A's Billy Beane Bob Klapisch Brad Pitt Brian Fuentes Contract Signings David DeJesus Fox Sports Free Agent Signings Hideki Matsui Hollywood Josh Willingham Lineup MLB MLB Season Preview Moneyball Moneyball Movie Oakland Oakland Athletics Offense Offseason Moves Promotions