Billy Beane and the A's are a baseball problem, not a marketing problem

Billy Beane and the A's are a baseball problem, not a marketing problem

When Sonny Gray is traded by the Oakland Athletics (15 days and counting, for you calendar whores), the longest-serving Elephants will be, as you well know, shortstop Marcus Semien and catcher Josh Phegley, the two enduring pieces of the 2014 Jeff Samardzija dump job.

In other words, Semien and Phegley are not long for the Oakland Job Fair, and that would leave the longest serving Athletic as . . .

Sean Manaea, the next ace of this staff of Ikea pieces. He’s been an Athletic for a season and a half, which means that he may not see the first of the year.

You see, the A’s are now being run as though they are a vegetable bin, with a shelf life of “I saw this broccoli a week ago. Get rid of it.”

This is an advancement from their usual veteran cleanouts, because with the trade of Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson to Washington Sunday, the A’s have nearly achieved what we thought their true goal has been – to trade every player until they have for no players at all and just turn the Coliseum into a ghost ship.

And no, it doesn’t matter what the division of labor actually is -- whether this is being inspired by Billy Beane and executed by David Forst, or done a different way. The A’s have always been the most adept team in baseball at self-immolation, and now they can see the finish line – the first team to take the theory of scorched earth and modify it to become scorched scorch.

It isn’t so much that they have taken a nascent juggernaut and blown it up as some weird roster-o-phobic indulgence. The A’s are 42-50, or slightly better than most people thought they’d be at this point, and lots better than the Giants, as though that has ever been a consideration – though it should be.

But the A’s are working on their own clock, which is to have a real post-Pinocchio baseball team in time for the new stadium, which needs to be done by the time Major League Baseball removes their revenue sharing sippy cup. And with that in mind, they have decided to clear out the store for new inventory.

Again.

Hence, Wm. Lamar Beane explaining what people have been shrieking at him for years:

“Really what’s been missing the last 20 years is keeping these players,” Beane told a mediatronic throng before Sunday’s 7-3 win over Cleveland. “We need to change that narrative by creating a good team and ultimately committing to keep them around so that when people buy a ticket, they know that the team is going to be around for a few years.”

He then followed with an acknowledgement that the new sheriff in town is architecture, and reinventing the flat tire is no longer permissible.

“It sort of fits into everything in the direction we’re going,” Beane said of the deal. “First of all, we have to take a look at where we are — we’re in last place. And the direction we’re heading is, we’re going younger. We need to be disciplined with it, particularly with what we’re trying to do in the community as far as a stadium. There’s only one way to open a stadium successfully, and that’s with a good, young team. We’ve never really committed to a full rebuild. ... I will say this, and I’ve had a lot of conversations with ownership: There is a real commitment to finding a stadium. That’s not just lip service at this point. You’ve seen it.”

The real problem, of course, is that they have torn down the house because they’ve had to tear down the house. It isn’t so much that fans can’t stay connected to players as it is that the A’s braintrust has delivered players who are deemed non-useful so quickly.

It suggests, after all is said and done, that their lack of patience is the result of their missed guesses, and their missed guesses are the result of their lack of patience.

It may simply be that Beane, and Forst as his first adjutant/successor, are not as good as they should be at creating teams worth keeping, and excellent at starting over.

This is chickeny-eggery debate at its least satisfying, but the A’s are not a marketing problem. They are a baseball problem. Their rebuilds should not be so frequent, and they should not be skilled at them. The market-size argument is simply not good enough any more, and it really wasn’t that compelling to begin with.

And definitely not good enough for Beane at long last.

“Absolutely, no doubt about it,” he said. “The important end of the sentence is rebuilding and keeping them. This is my 20th year on the job. There are only so many cycles that I can go through before I get as exasperated as everybody else.”

The obvious rejoinder after all these years is, “What kept you, Skippy?”

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.”

Beane: 'I never regretted' spurning Red Sox, staying with A's

Beane: 'I never regretted' spurning Red Sox, staying with A's

Programming note: A’s-Rangers coverage starts today at 4 p.m. with A’s Pregame Live on NBC Sports California and streaming on the NBC Sports App (Channel locations)

It's been 15 years since Billy Beane made a decision that shocked the baseball world and altered the course for two franchise.

In 2002, with the Red Sox trying to lure Beane away from the A's, the GM turned down a five-year, $12.5 million deal to stay in Oakland.

Since then, Boston has won three World Series titles while the A's have five division titles, but no World Series appearances.

So does Beane, now the executive vice president of baseball operations, have any regrets about the decision he made in the winter of 2002?

“It turned out pretty well for the Red Sox and I have had a great run here and have enjoyed it here a great deal. We’ve had our challenges, mostly stadium related, but we’ve had our successes and failures, but I never regretted the decision I made," Beane told The Boston Globe's Nick Cafardo.

Beane went on to explain that part of decision to stay in Oakland was to remain close to his then-teenage daughter.

“I can’t believe it’s been 15 years. Looking back, I knew what I was turning down. I had known John [Henry] even before that meeting and thought the world of him and Tom [Werner]. Look at what happened. Turning it down meant that Theo Epstein was in charge. And we know the rest of the story. I knew that the Red Sox, with John and Tom and Larry [Lucchino] were the best. They had built the best organization in the game and they had this bright young man in Theo who had great ideas of how to build a baseball organization. So no regrets. I got to build our organization with the help of some great people, and foremost for me, I got to watch my daughter grow up. She’s 27 now, but I was there and I didn’t miss a thing,” Beane said.

In October of 2015, after 18 seasons as the general manager of the A's, he turned the reigns over to David Forst and assumed his current role.