Over the years there has been no shortage of recognition for A’s General Manager Billy Beane. Heck, they made a movie based on him that starred Brad Pitt. Billy took over the reigns of the Oakland Athletics in 1997 and simply put helped revolutionize how other GMs assemble their rosters with his “Moneyball” approach. Lumping his entire strategy into one term doesn’t do justice to the mastery Beane has achieved in the profession of being a General Manager, but you get the idea. Today Beane was yet again officially recognized for his ability as he was named the Executive of the Year by the Sporting News.
Awards like these tend to be given to those at the helm of a team that overcame tremendous odds, and low expectations aside from within their own clubhouse, and proved everybody wrong. Looking at the season as a whole, this seems to have been the masterpiece of his career. Sure, as the “Moneyball” movie stated, he’s still waiting to win the last game of the season, but when the majority of experts predicted the team to lose as many games as it ended up winning, Billy Beane gets the last laugh.
We all recall the 3 big trades that went down last offseason, that shook the entire foundation of the Oakland Athletics. Those deals turned what was thought to be a young, but possibly talented team that could show a little improvement in 2012, into a team that looked like the doormat of the AL West. Just to recap briefly, Gio Gonzalez was shipped to Washington for pitchers Tommy Milone, Brad Peacock (the supposed prize of the deal), A.J. Cole, and catcher Derek Norris, Trevor Cahill was dealt to the Arizona Diamondbacks for starter Jarrod Parker and reliever Ryan Cook (still marvelling at the return from that deal), and closer Andrew Bailey was sent off to Boston in exchange for outfielder Josh Reddick, and minor leaguers 1B/3B Miles Head and pitcher Raul Alcantara. Just at a glance, quite a few players who played instrumental roles in the success of the 2012 A’s were acquired in those 3 trades. The deal with the Nationals was fairly even as far as being beneficial to both organizations (Gio may win the Cy Young Award after all), but the deals with Arizona and Boston were straight up highway robberies by Billy Beane. He hasn’t hit like this on every deal he’s ever made (Tim Hudson, the acquisition of Matt Holliday), but this body of work is simply something to behold.
But Beane’s work didn’t end there. He stuck his neck out for a player who had never played in the United States before, a man who’s highlight was a YouTube video exhibiting his feats of speed, strength and agility. That man of course was Yoenis Cespedes. Beane understood that this may be one of the only ways he can lure a true impact bat to Oakland, and he got the job done. Cespedes is a true force, and lived up to all expectations, and he’ll only get better.
A few other deals flew under the radar, but made huge impacts on the team as well. The low risk signing of Jonny Gomes, who proved to be an extremely valuable power bat against lefties and off the bench, was very shrewd. The trade for Seth Smith from the Colorado Rockies, getting a solid DH/OF while just giving up just Guillermo Moscoso (I do miss calling him Moose Costco) and Josh Outman. Smith had some huge hits for the A’s, none bigger than the game tying double in Game 4 of the ALDS.
We can’t forget either, the stealing of Pat Neshek from the Orioles, the addition of a valuable backup catcher in George Kottaras, and the arrival of Stephen Drew to shore up the SS position. Billy Beane saw the value in Brandon Inge when the Detroit Tigers did not. He saw that adding Manny Ramirez into the mix in Oakland was a bad idea, and sent him packing.
Beane seems to have done it again already this offseason by acquiring a former All Star outfielder Chris Young from the Diamondbacks for Cliff Pennington and Yordy Cabrera. Beane put together a very good team in 2012, now he has seen its flaws and has set out to build an even better roster to help compensate for those deficiencies. Billy may have lost his way over the last few years, but this year he proved he’s back on track, and he’s got the award to prove it.