A’s performance points a finger of blame at Billy Beane

Here is my Sunday column on the A’s.

In the best interest of the Oakland Athletics, the team he partly owns, Billy Beane should fire himself.

He should call himself into his office, place a mirror on his desk and let himself down easy.

“Billy, thanks for coming in today.”

“My pleasure. What’s up?”

“Billy, we need to talk. No one respects your work as a general manager more than I do.”

“Thanks, Billy. I appreciate it.”

Long pause.

“But we need to discuss your recent performance.”

Another long pause.

“We do?”

“The A’s are the worst team in the Major Leagues.”

“Yeah, but it’s still early — we’re only a quarter of the way through the season. You can’t judge a team after 44 games, the sample size is too small. Our offense ranks 12th in OPS. That’s pretty good. We just aren’t getting the breaks…”

“Billy, stop talking.”


“I want you to listen. It’s over. You’re finished.”

Billy grabs the mirror, brings it close to his face and points his finger at his reflection.

“I’m not firing you because of this season,” he says, raising his voice. “I’m firing you because of this season and the last. You had the best team in baseball, and you turned it into the worst.”

“You’re blaming me?”

“Yes, I’m blaming you. Our record was 66-41 last season before you traded Yoenis Cespedes for Jon Lester. We had the best record in the Bigs. Our winning percentage was .617. Since you made that trade, our record is 36-63, and our winning percentage — .364 — is unspeakable.”

“But Cespedes is overrated!”

“Apparently not, Billy. He was a daily presence in the lineup, our three-hitter, our most dangerous hitter. And you traded him for a starting pitcher, someone who plays once every five games. You sabotaged a great team.”

“Look, not every trade works the way you think it will. Jon Lester is a great starting pitcher and we needed starting pitching. You can’t fire me because of one trade.”

“Oh, but that wasn’t your worst.”

“It wasn’t?”

“Your worst move was trading Josh Donaldson. I just can’t forgive you for that one. It was one of the worst trades ever. An All-Star third baseman under our contractual control for two more years, and for cheap. And you traded him for nobodies — Kendall Gravemen, Sean Nolin, Franklin Something and Brett Lawrie. Why?”

No response from the mirror.

“Was it something personal between you two?

No response again.

“I’m talking to you, Billy. Look at me!”

“It’s Bob Melvin’s fault,” says the face in the mirror.

“Excuse me?”

“Bob Melvin. Fire him. I get him good players and he doesn’t know what do with them. He’s a terrible manager. Replace him with former Texas Rangers manager Ron Washington. I just hired Washington as an infield coach. I made it easy for you. Make the switch.”

Billy laughs and puts the mirror down. “How did I know you were going to say that? No, I won’t fire Melvin. He is a first-rate manager. No one can manage players that are always in flux. Bruce Bochy couldn’t win with this team. Every manager needs continuity.”

“Fair enough, Billy. Fine. Keep Melvin. I can turn this team around despite him. Just give me some time, until the end of the season. Let me finish what I’ve started. I promise I’ll change your mind.”

“What are you going to do, Billy?”

“I’ve got some trades I’m working on…”

“I bet you do. Let me guess, you’re going to trade the rest of our quality veterans for prospects. You’re going to trade All-Star starting pitcher Scott Kazmir, All-Star relief pitcher Tyler Clippard and All-Star second baseman Ben Zobrist. Right?”

No response.

“That’s what I thought. You’re fired. Please clean out your desk.”

Billy stands up, lays down the mirror and walks out the door.

Grant Cohn writes sports columns and the “Inside the 49ers” blog for The Press Democrat’s website. You can reach him at grantcohn@gmail.com.

This article has 17 Comments

  1. Public figures are subject to criticism. Sports Enterprizes, their stars and management are also.
    And yet even if Lowell, who has been down the road a piece, took this tack on Beane (who, after all, has some accomplishments), I’d be shaking my head at the presumptiveness. Grant sniping at Billy Beane is taking that presumption to another level. But Grant or me (or you, y’all?) are smarter than Beane, than Baalke, than Tomsula, and they should………….Uh-huh.
    Sports management IS NOT a zero-sum game of input=output. Consider it more like weather forecasting.

  2. “Your worst move was trading Josh Donaldson. I just can’t forgive you for that one.”

    Yep and neither could I. After he made this move I went on a torrid rant on my FB page about how it was time to remove Beane. They were supposed to be making a run, done were the days of trading away the stars on the team for 20 nobody prospects because this team was supposed to be poised for a World Series run. And then he trades Donaldson!! FFS Billy, why?!

    After Spring training I thought maybe I had spoken prematurely but then the season started and I realized, no you didn’t. He made a horrible horrible move among others this past off season and now the team is just plain awful.

    It is absolutely time for the Athletics to part ways with Billy Beane.

    Love seeing an A’s article. Need more, spend less time on the boring Giants.

    1. Yeah, those Giants are boring and playing winning ball before a sell out everyday makes them noisy and intolerable. A’s are pathetic in every way and no article can change that.

  3. There were a lot of angry fans after Beane dismantled a team that looked like a contender
    for years. I held judgement because Beane and his scouts have always been able reload successfully. Injuries have skewed matters but it still looks like a team who supplied too many good players for the benefit of others..

  4. That was a nice short story and probably non fiction. Keep up the good work Billy.Blaming the payroll isn no longer a issue

  5. Report: Bears DE Ray McDonald arrested again:

    This is the third time McDonald has been accused of violence against women in the last nine months. Details on this incident are still emerging, but there’s a possibility of child endangerment as well. McDonald previously escaped discipline from both the police and the NFL on the first two incidents, one of which was an alleged rape that occurred during a party and another alleged domestic incident of a pregnant woman. The Bears signed McDonald, formerly of the 49ers, to a one-year, non-guaranteed $1.05M contract in March. Expect him to be cut shortly as GM Ryan Pace tries to save face.


  6. Happy Memorial Day – Remembering and thanking men and women that gave the ultimate sacrifice for my freedom. Also, sending out a prayer to the families of those who died for our great country – you are not forgotten, God bless!

    The “no big surprise of the day”
    Ray McDonald arrested again for a domestic incident.

    The “big surprise of the day”
    Arrest took place at Justin “Cowboy” Smith’ address.

    If Ray get’s off the hook on this one he will be regarded as the 21st century John “Teflon” Gotti.
    Sheesh! This guy can’t get out of his own way.

    1. Happy Memorial day to everybody, and a special thank you to all the vets on this site, and those who may be currently serving.

  7. I gave up caring about Baseball a long time ago, but it seems to me Billy Beane doesn’t have to answer to anybody about the moves he makes considering he’s kept one of the lowest payrolls competitive for most of his time in Oakland. He’s always sold off vets for prospects and draft picks and this is no different. That’s the reality of the A’s, at least until they get a new Stadium.

    1. The Oakland A’s have always been a glorified farm club for other major market baseball teams.
      Ok, I’m dating myself here, but players like Reggie Jackson, Jim “Catfish” Hunter, Joe Rudi, and Vida Blue were the big name players that helped the A’s win championships in the 70’s but Mr. Charlie Finley could not financially keep.

      Things have not changed that much since then – just ask Mark McGuire, Ricky Henderson, Jose Canseco and Tim Hudson. Major league baseball cities and of course monies were much more attractive than Oakland. The A’s close proximity to the Giant’s has been a hindrance as well.
      The A’s were having a rough time selling out games even during their glory years of the 70’s.
      Al Davis’ “Mount Davis” stadium expansion was a huge mistake that also hurt.

      Sadly, the A’s stay in the Bayarea may have run it’s course.

  8. Just got back from taking the fam damily to Mad Max. What a thrill ride. On the drive home it was hard to fight the impulse to want to crawl out the window onto the hood while urging one of the kids to drive faster.

    1. C4C,
      Thanks for the endorsement bud.
      Thinking about me and the wife going to see that one. There’s a theater in Riverbank that has D-Box Motion seats that could add the the action scenes (and hopefully keep me awake, lol).

  9. I’ve seen Mr Beane’s like in other arenas: he’s addicted to the adrenaline of the trade, not the wisdom of the trade. I thought it was plain before but when he took the best team in baseball in 2014 and turned it into an early playoff loser by doing what was once -and should still be-considered no-no of trading your best every day hitter for a pitcher, it became obvious. He couldn’t just stick with a great pat hand.

  10. Seems like the A’s today are plagued by the same issues that condemned them to the basement as many as 60 years ago when the organization was in cahoots with the Yankees. As a youth who collected cards and had many of the complete series back in those days, this excerpt brings back to memory many pf those players. Today, as GM and part-owners, Money Ball Beane is trading away the talent.

    In John E. Peterson’s book The Kansas City Athletics, A Baseball History 1954-1967 has a quote from the colorful Bill Veeck saying, “Until Arnold Johnson died, Kansas City was not an Independent Major League baseball team at all. It was nothing more than a loosely controlled Yankee farm club.”
    That statement, ladies and gentlemen, from the long term Chicago White Sox owner was the true reality of Kansas City Athletics baseball from the mid 1950s through the early 1960s. Out of the 238 players who played for both the A’s and Yankees, a whopping 59 players were exchanged in a series of 16 trades lasting six years. Many of those deals heavily favored the Yankees with a few minor exceptions when the A’s actually came out on top.
    The roots of this story begins when a wealthy Chicago businessman and Yankee Stadium owner named Arnold Johnson won a fierce battle to purchase the Philadelphia A’s from the cash strapped Mack family. In order for Johnson to complete his transaction to acquire the A’s, he had to sell his stake in Yankee Stadium.
    The A’s, at that time, were largely a rundown club of mediocre players with little or no prospects and a bare boned farm system. With the help of his business associates, who were the Yankee co-owners, Del Webb, Dan Topping and Larry Mac Phail, Johnson procured Kansas City as the A’s new home. Incidentally, Johnson also owned the Kansas City Blues Stadium, in which was a Yankee farm club for the 18 years prior to the sale.
    The Yankees helped facilitate the A’s move by giving the Kansas City territorial rights to Johnson and didn’t even demand compensation because the Blues were an unprofitable club. Johnson did give the Yankees a sum of $57,000 to help them relocate their Triple-A team to Denver. Johnson then sold Blues Stadium to the City of Kansas City, who in turn, leased it back to Johnson and renamed it Kansas City Municipal Stadium, which became the A’s new home. Coincidentally, Johnson had Yankees co-owner Del Webb’s construction company rebuild the stadium in order to make it major league ready.
    Now mind you, the Major League Baseball owners approved of all of this. Back then, club owners had gentleman agreements between clubs and the Yankees were the most powerful team in all of baseball. Not many people stood in their way. Most people believed Johnson’s reasoning for buying the A’s was more for investment purposes only and that he really didn’t care about the fans in Kansas City. Most thought he’d buy the A’s and then try to move them to a more lucrative market in Los Angeles. Also, this was a new time in baseball where people were buying teams, running them down on purpose and them sell them off for a profit. Whatever Johnson’s motives were, only he knew, but his history of making horrible deals to weaken the A’s leads to the possible conclusion that Johnson planned to run the team down and then move it.
    Once Johnson solidified his hold on the A’s, the trades with Yankees started off slowly. On March 30, 1955 the A’s purchased veteran pitchers Ewell Blackwell, Tom Gorman and first basemen Dick Kryhoski from NY. Then the A’s purchased pitcher Lou Sleater on April 28, 1955. The first actual trade occurred on May 11, 1955 when the A’s dealt pitcher Sonny Dixon and cash for pitcher Johnny Sain and outfielder Enos Slaughter. The A’s made a few more cash deals that season with the Tigers, Indians, Dodgers and Pirates.
    In 1956, the A’s made three more deals with Yankees, and in one of the deals, they sold their best hitter, outfielder Enos Slaughter, back to the Yankees on a waivers claim on August 25. The A’s did score a coup against the Yankees on October 16 of that same year when they acquired outfielder Bob Cerv from the Yankees in a simple cash deal. Cerv went on to become an All Star in 1958, but the Yankees didn’t quite forget that deal because they re-acquired Cerv back from the A’s in 1960.
    On February 19, 1957, the A’s made one of their worst deals with the Yankees by shipping three of their best players, pitchers Bobby Shantz, Art Ditmar and bonus baby third baseman Clete Boyer, plus two minor leaguers, for a bunch of Yankee castoffs and older players. Some league officials accused the A’s of signing Boyer to a minor league contract and protecting him for two years so they could send him to New York. The league rules for bonus babies back then meant that you had to protect them on your 40-man roster for two years in order for them not be drafted away in the Rule 5 Draft.
    On June 15, 1957, the A’s again traded one of their best hitters, first basemen Harry “Suitcase” Simpson and two other players for a Yankee brawler Billy Martin and pitching prospect Ralph Terry. Some baseball writers claimed the Yankees sent Terry to the A’s so the Yankees could get more seasoning out of him in a non-pressure pitching environment and eventually reacquire him from the A’s at a later date, which actually happened two years later.
    In 1958, the A’s made two more trades with the Yankees. In both of those deals, the A’s shipped two of their best pitchers, Duke Maas and veteran Murry Dickson to the Yankees for their stretch run in 1958, receiving little or nothing in return. During the 1959 season, the A’s made two of their worst deals to date with NY. On May 26 1959, the A’s shipped future 20-game winner Ralph Terry and power-hitting third baseman Hector Lopez to NY for two old pitchers, Johnny Kucks and Tom Sturdivant, and second baseman Jerry Lumpe. Both Lopez and Terry were big contributors to the Yankees success.
    On December 11, 1959, the A’s traded slugging outfielder Roger Maris, shortstop Joe DeMaestri and first baseman Kent Hadley to NY in exchange for an elder outfielder Hank Bauer, another outfielder in Yankee manager Casey Stengel’s dog house, Norm Siebern, and a sore-armed Don Larsen. Maris went on to hit 39 homers for NY in 1960 and broke Babe Ruth’s single season homerun record with 61 in 1961 and won the MVP awards for both years.
    The 1961 NY Yankees were considered one of the best team ever in baseball and the A’s contributed 10 players to that club. Sadly, on March 10, 1960, A’s owner Arnold Johnson died at the age of 53 of a brain aneurysm. Soon after, the deals to NY stopped for the A’s. The A’s never had a winning season under Johnson’s ownership and he left a cloud of suspicion with his close alliances with his business partners, Yankee co-owners Del Webb and Dan Topping. It’s hard to believe that league owners allowed all of those A’s and Yankees’ lopsided deals, but that a different era.
    The Yankees rarely traded with anyone else during this time period and gained many great players from the A’s. The Yankees basically took one of their American League rivals and turned them into a virtual farm team. It leaves me to ponder one question: how good would have the A’s been, if they held on to their best players?

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