Monday, September 18, 2006

Beane Does It....Again

by Doug Silversten

Awhile ago, I wrote a column stating that the best GM in the game is Billy Beane, and it is not even close. I’ve been accused of being a “Billy-Lover,” “Beane-Obsessed,” etc. However, how can you not be in awe of a guy who puts winners on the field every year, makes incredible moves- and does all this with none of the advantages that the perennial contenders enjoy? This year, he has maybe outdone himself. With (almost) as many injuries as the Red Sox but with half the payroll, the A’s are looking good for a playoff birth. And a big reason for that is an off-season acquisition which has turned out to probably be the year’s best. And, I hate to toot my own horn, but I called it.

Obviously, there are a lot of ways to judge a GM’s effectiveness. However, in general, unless money is not an issue at all (which only concerns the Yankees), it is all about getting the biggest bang for the buck after player development, drafting, etc. Now imagine getting a top to HR hitter in your league for….pretty much nothing. Let’s take a look at the top 11 AL HR hitters through Saturday’s games:

All things equal (which they never are), you want to have one of the top 2 players on this list – A) David Ortiz or B) Travis Hafner. However, it doesn’t take too many GM skills to figure out that having Ortiz or Hafner would be a good thing for your club. The key is to find value where others don’t. Let’s keep moving down the list.

C) Jermaine Dye - Great player, excellent signing by Ken Williams of the White Sox last year. However, not exactly cheap.

D) Jim Thome - Another great acquisition by Williams. He took a chance, and boy did it pay off. But then again, how many other teams could afford to take on $14.2mm in payroll?

Let’s skip E, the year’s best off-season acquisition. For a mere $500k, every team could have had him.

F) Jason Giambi - The exact opposite of player E. Who else but the Yankees can afford that salary? Not surprisingly, the highest paid player on this list belongs to the Yankees. “Bang for the buck”-wise, the lowest ranked person on this list. Does that make it a bad move? Of course not. Giambi is super valuable for the Yankees, but it’s like play money from them. If you spend almost $100 million more than your nearest competitor, it’s very easy to put together huge offenses, something the Yanks do every year.

G) Carlos Lee – Started the season in the NL, where the Brewers had to trade him because they knew they had no chance to sign him. Give credit to the Rangers for making a good trade. We’ll see where he winds up next year.

H) Manny Ramirez – Second only to Giambi in salary, although he is a better player. Like Giambi, if you can afford him, doesn’t take many brains to decide it’s a good move.

I) Troy Glaus – Good signing by Riccardi, but again, not exactly cheap.

That leaves us with the two clear standouts on our list:
J) Justin Morneau – Bang for the buck, the best player on this list. Terry Ryan’s organization deserves credit for drafting him and when Morneau reaches free agency, he’ll be a Yankee.

K) Alex Rodriguez – No comment necessary.

So, who is left, and the move of the offseason?

E) Frank Thomas - For $500,000, now here is a guy every team in baseball could have had. Actually, that’s not quite true. For the most part, he can’t play the field anymore, so it had to be an AL-team. How many AL team’s have a DH with better numbers than the Big Hurt? I count 4 – The Red Sox, Indians, White Sox and Yankees. That’s it. They all have big-money players…something that most of the other 10 AL teams cannot afford. They all could have had Thomas though. Most GMs looked at his injury history and shied away. But a closer look at his numbers the previous two years showed that, when healthy, he still performed. The best GM in baseball saw that and took a low-risk gamble that Thomas could stay on the field. If it didn’t work, no big deal. Even for a small market team, $500,000 is not a back-breaking sum.

Once again Billy Beane, take a bow. You are in a class by yourself.

Doug Silversten's column, "The Big Picture", appears alternate Mondays


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Please, let's take a trip down memory lane into Oaklands playoff history
2005-missed playoffs
2004-missed playoffs
2003-lost to Boston in first round
2002-lost to Minnesota in first round
2001-lost to New York in first round
2000-lost to New York in first round

Now, is he a good general manager? Yes of course he is. But don't you think you're heaping a little too much praise on him here? A few years ago Beane had a decision to make, of which player to keep, Eric Chavez or Miguel Tejada. How is that working out for Billy?

Sunday, September 17, 2006  
Blogger Doug Silversten said...

2006 - Made Playoffs.

1) The playoffs are a crapshoot.
2) The A's will have made the playoffs 5 out of the past 7 seasons. Only the Braves and Yankees have records comparable to that, both of them with huge payroll advantages (the Yankees are not really even comparable). Even Terry Ryan's Twins, the most comparable team to Beane's A's, don't have that track record, even assuming they hold off and make it this year.
3) Pointing to one bad decision by Beane or any GM is ridiculous and you seem smart enough to know that. It is hard to argue with Beane's overall record.
4) Yes, I'll say it again, Beane is the best GM in baseball, bar-none. It is not even close.

Sunday, September 17, 2006  
Blogger roger said...

What about Beinfest?

While he may not have the tenure of a Beane, he certainly has a comparable track record of finding cheap talent, see Uggla, Dan

Sunday, September 17, 2006  
Blogger Doug Silversten said...

Beinfest deserves a ton of credit, but it is way too early to put him in the same class as Beane.

Sunday, September 17, 2006  
Anonymous Nathan said...

Being that I was the first anonymous commenter, you're right, you can't judge a GM based on one decision. Terry Ryan letting Ortiz go is an example.
You pointed to the fact that the A's will have made the playoffs 5 of the past 7 years, and that's better than the Twins. Well, that's not entirely true, is it? The Twins will have made the playoffs 4 of 5 years, which is a better percentage.
You say that Beane is the best GM bar none, other than Ryan, another GM comes to mind. John Schuerholz of the Atlanta Braves had put together teams that won the division, for what seemed like an eternity. And though sometimes they disappointed in the playoffs, among those 14 playoff appearances, 9 times they reached the NLCS, 5 times they reached the world series, and once they won it.
You can't say that the playoffs are a crapshoot and that they don't reflect on how good a team actually is. Are you going to tell me that the 2001 Mariners were the best team ever? Good teams are made for getting to the playoffs, great ones are made for the playoffs. Billy Beane hasn't gotten a handle on the latter.

Monday, September 18, 2006  

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