Athletics

Billy Beane: A's success hinges on retaining players, not trading them

Billy Beane: A's success hinges on retaining players, not trading them

OAKLAND — Billy Beane talked Sunday of the need for the A’s to get younger and have a strong, contending team in place by the time they would theoretically move into a new stadium.

It’s a familiar storyline, as Beane has taken a similar position on multiple occasions over the past decade whenever the A’s usher in a youth movement as they’re attempting now.

Sunday’s trade of relievers Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson to the Washington Nationals for right-hander Blake Treinen and two Single-A prospects has “future” written all over it. But when Beane talked about this current rebuilding project, he spoke more definitively about the direction the franchise is headed with it.

The A’s remain committed to announcing a site for a new ballpark in this calendar year. The idea is that a winning team playing in a sparkling new venue would generate the revenue needed for the A’s to start signing some of their best young players to long-term deals, halting the cycle of Oakland’s best players being traded.

“The frustration isn’t (from not having) success. The frustration is that after success we haven’t kept them,” Beane said. “It’s just a fact. And we need to change that narrative by virtue of creating a good team and then ultimately committing to keeping them around so people, when they buy a ticket, know that the team’s going to be there for a few years.”

To which every A’s fan would say, “Amen.”

But the bottom line is that the A’s have to come through and deliver on their promise of a new ballpark. They have to take it from the concept phase, to announcing a site to build, to actually taking shovel to dirt and making it a reality.

Beane says he’s sensing the commitment from A’s principal owner John Fisher and president Dave Kaval to making the project happen.

“I’ve had a lot of conversations with ownership,” Beane said. “There’s a real commitment to finding a stadium. That’s not just lip service at this point. You’ve seen it.”

Asked if the A’s truly are committed to a total rebuilding effort, Beane replied: “Absolutely.”

Sunday’s trade was a nod in that direction. The A’s sent Doolittle and Madson to the Nationals for Treinen, a reliever who should arrive Monday, lefty Jesus Luzardo and shortstop/third baseman Sheldon Neuse.

Treinen has struggled to a 5.73 ERA in Washington’s bullpen this season, but hits the high 90’s with a fastball that has nasty sink. The A’s believe the 29-year-old has closer potential.

Luzardo, just 19, was a third-round pick in 2016 who some believe was a first-round talent had he not required Tommy John surgery shortly before the draft. Neuse, 22, was a second-round pick in 2016 out of Oklahoma. Drafted as a shortstop, Beane said the A’s probably will use him at short and third at Single-A Stockton.

The outfield remains ripe for an upgrade in the farm system, so that’s an area to watch as the A’s entertain offers for starter Sonny Gray, first baseman Yonder Alonso and second baseman Jed Lowrie.

“Listen, it’s the time of year” for trade talks, Beane said, suggesting that more moves certainly are likely.

He added that the emphasis would be on high-upside talent regardless of how close it is to the majors.

As for the desire to retain some of the team’s top talent, Beane added:

“This is my 20th year on the job. There’s only so many (rebuilding) cycles that I can go through before I get as exasperated as everybody else.”

Bruce Maxwell: Kneeling for anthem not 'disrespecting my country or my flag'

Bruce Maxwell: Kneeling for anthem not 'disrespecting my country or my flag'

OAKLAND — Bruce Maxwell’s gesture to take a knee during the national anthem Saturday night at the Coliseum was no knee-jerk reaction by the A’s catcher.

It was something he’s considered for a long time, balancing his own personal convictions to make a statement with how it might affect his teammates and organization.

Think it was bold of Maxwell to become the first player in baseball to kneel during the anthem, in protest of racial discrimination and the inflammatory remarks of President Trump? It took just as much guts to stand before his teammates, manager Bob Melvin and GM David Forst and explain why he felt he needed to do it.

He did so in a pregame meeting Saturday that made for a degree of discomfort in the room, but also seemed to have played out in a healthy way.

“I didn’t want them to sugarcoat or aid me when it comes to the media and their personal feelings,” Maxwell said, “because the whole point of this is the ability to protest (based on) our personal beliefs and our personal choices.”

Many athletes have been critical of the President, with things intensifying across the sports landscape Saturday after Trump, among other things, withdrew an invitation for the Warriors to visit the White House and harshly criticized athletes who have knelt during the anthem, saying they should be booted off their teams.

After blasting Trump on both Instagram and Twitter, Maxwell took the field for the anthem and took the action that will define him in the eyes of the baseball world. Maxwell had been wanting to make a statement in some way. He said he and his sister dealt with racial discrimination growing up. Watching Trump’s rally play out in his hometown of Huntsville, Ala. on Friday further persuaded Maxwell to finally do so.

“This goes beyond the black community, it goes beyond the Hispanic community, because right now we’re having … a racial divide in all types of people,” said Maxwell, who is African American. “It’s being practiced from the highest power we have in this country and it’s basically saying it’s OK to treat people differently. And my kneeling, the way I did it, was to symbolize the fact that I’m kneeling for a cause. But I’m in no way or form disrespecting my country or my flag.”

A’s outfielder Mark Canha stood next to Maxwell during the anthem with his hand on Maxwell’s shoulder, a show of support. Canha said he’s considered kneeling before in protest himself but had chosen not to. As he listened to Maxwell address the team, Canha wasn’t going to let his teammate make his statement on his own.

“I could tell he was getting kind of choked up and emotional about his beliefs and how he feels about the racial discrimination that’s going on in this country right now,” Canha said. “I felt like every fiber of my being was telling me that he needed a brother today.”

Canha added that he sensed some “discomfort” in the room as Maxwell addressed the team. But he also said there was support.

“It was an open forum to ask him questions. It was as articulate as I’ve seen him,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “This wasn’t an emotional thing just today for him. … I think he handled it really well and everybody was comfortable after the session. I’m proud of him for the fact he went about it the way he did.”

Maxwell, who was born in Germany while his father served in the Army over there, said he will continue to kneel for the anthem. He doesn’t expect his teammates to do the same, only to stick to what they believe in.

“I have plenty of family members, including my father, who have bled for this country,” Maxwell said. “At the end of the day, this the best country on the planet. My hand over my heart symbolized that I am, and will forever be, an American citizen. But my kneeling is what’s getting the attention because I’m kneeling for the people that don't have a voice.”

MLB issues statement on A's Bruce Maxwell kneeling during national anthem

MLB issues statement on A's Bruce Maxwell kneeling during national anthem

A's catcher Bruce Maxwell made history Saturday night in Oakland. The 26-year-old became the first player in big-league history to kneel during the national anthem. 

Below is the official statement from Major League Baseball:

Major League Baseball has a longstanding tradition of honoring our nation prior to the start of our games. We also respect that each of our players is an individual with his own background, perspectives and opinions. We believe that our game will continue to bring our fans, their communities and our players together.

MLB media services contributed to this report