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February 8, 2012

The BP First Take

Wednesday, February 8

by Daniel Rathman

Say this for Athletics owner Lew Wolff: The man is loyal to his staff. Wolff told Bloomberg Television on Tuesday that he intends to keep general manager Billy Beane and president Michael Crowley with the organization through at least the 2019 season, or roughly five years after the projected move to San Jose.

Beane has come under fire in recent years for the A’s seemingly perpetual rebuilding process. While the Giants won the World Series in 2010, fans across the bay have not seen playoff baseball since 2006, and the Athletics do not project to contend in 2012 or 2013, either. Beane has made his fair share of ill-advised trades in recent years—perhaps most notably the Matt Holliday deal that sent Carlos Gonzalez to the Rockies—and Oakland’s last few draft classes have left much to be desired.

Then again, no GM is infallible, and Beane has done a rather impressive job of restocking what was a barren farm system this offseason. If Wolff’s mission for Beane was to put the pieces in place to contend when the team is finally ready to relocate, then he appears to deserve the benefit of the doubt.

Beane sold high on Gio Gonzalez, netting a high-ceiling pitching prospect in A.J. Cole and a possible long-term heir to Kurt Suzuki in Derek Norris. He parted ways with the overvalued Trevor Cahill, and in the process bought low on onetime blue-chipper Jarrod Parker. And he moved Andrew Bailey—a reliever with arm trouble, who was on the verge of his first arbitration raise—for three potentially useful pieces, including an intriguing teenage hurler in Raul Alcantara.

That is the glass-half-full view of Oakland’s offseason, but the A’s are an organization that needs everything to go right to contend. With the Angels and Rangers flexing their financial muscles, and the Moneyball advantage gone thanks to the copycat nature of the league, the A’s would need to strike gold on a batch of prospects to compensate, much like the Rays have done in the AL East.

Only time will tell if Beane’s rebuilding plan gets the Athletics back into the playoffs by 2015. For now, there are a variety of factors at play, some of them directly under Beane’s control, but others completely beyond it. So, perhaps the reason that Wolff has decided to keep Beane onboard through 2019 is to ensure that he has a fair chance to form a contender under more favorable circumstances—circumstances that Beane would have enjoyed had he taken a job with the Red Sox years ago.

Many fans will argue that it is time for a change, that Beane’s formula has outlived its usefulness, and that fresh ideas are needed to get the Athletics out of their current drought. But Beane was loyal to the franchise back when the Red Sox came calling in 2002, and Wolff—who bought the team in 2005—may feel that it is only fair for him to now show the same loyalty in return. 

Daniel Rathman is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Daniel's other articles. You can contact Daniel by clicking here

Related Content:  Billy Beane

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