Oakland A’s GM Billy Beane was, at one time, the poster boy for everything Chicago Cubs’ Chairman and Owner Tom Ricketts says he wants in a GM: bright, successful, blending traditional scouting with advanced statistical analysis, and always emphasizing player development.
Indeed, if it were 2006, you can bet the Cubs would be banging down Beane’s door just for the chance to speak to him. But in the five years that followed, the luster on Beane’s shoulders has dimmed, and the A’s haven’t had a winning season.
But, because of that poster-boy stuff, and the fact that Beane does satisfy Ricketts’ criteria for the next Cubs GM, odds are good the Cubs will want to talk to him.
And they can. And he’ll probably listen.
Beane, who is signed through 2014, is close friends with A’s owner Lew Wolff. Because of that relationship, presumably, Wolff recently said that he “would never inhibit anybody from bettering themselves because of a contract.” In other words, if the Cubs come asking about Beane and he’d like to talk to them, Wolff won’t stand in the way.
Based on a San Francisco Chronicle article, it sounds like Beane would probably be happy to entertain the Cubs’ entreaties.
Beane made a legendary comment after the A’s lost to Boston in the 2003 Division Series – “Give me $50 million” for a promise of more postseason success. He’d get that extra $50 million with the Cubs and a chance to bring Chicago’s North Side a championship after 103 years without one, which would crown him Emperor of the Midwest.
Instead of Marco Scutaro, he’d be wooing Albert Pujols, a bit more fruitful asset. But Beane paraded down this road before, accepting and then rejecting a five-year contract to run the Red Sox. He liked the challenge (and freedom to wear flip-flops) in Oakland as well as the creativity required to equip David (not Forst) against Goliath.
But a guy can maintain passion only so long when the leaders of his industry think so unfavorably of his franchise that they ask it to sit tight for 29 months on an issue that should be front and center.
The issue to which the article refers is the current home of the A’s. A big reason the team has been middling for years is because of a stadium that doesn’t afford ownership the opportunity to spend the kind of money it needs to in order to be competitive year after year.
Of the stadium woes, Beane said last week, “The biggest problem is that until we get a stadium, it’s going to be treading water for us. There cannot be any long-term planning. It’s likely to get worse before it gets any better.” Digging the A’s out of this hole is certainly a challenge worthy of Beane’s apparent talents, but, with no immediate solution on the horizon, you’d forgive him for looking to escape and take on something more surmountable.
Ultimately, it’s hard to know what you’d be getting in Beane. He continues to develop good players, but his team has not been successful in half a decade. Was he a flash in the pan? Was he simply ahead of his time, and, when Beane failed to continue innovating, the rest of baseball caught up? Or is he a man who could reinvent the game again if he had the resources?
Whatever the case, you can expect that the Cubs will take Wolff up on that offer to let other teams speak to Beane.