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Chat: Billy Beane

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Welcome to Baseball Prospectus' Friday September 12, 2003 3:00 PM ET chat session with Billy Beane.

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Billy Beane is the General Manager of the Oakland Athletics.

Billy Beane: Hi, this is Billy Beane. Pardon my typing. Due to the speed I am typing, don't expect perfection. I'll be with you at 3:00PM Eastern Time. Thanks

Ty (Alameda, CA): Hi, Mr. Beane.... You'll probably get this question a lot, but I want to be a GM. I'm 16, play high school ball, but I'm not going to make a major college program. I asked Gary Huckabay, and he said to work hard academically, study math, statistics, and business, and take any job I can get with a club to learn the business. Is there any way I can get an fair shot against guys who have played in the majors?

Billy Beane: I agree with Gary's recommendation on the curriculum. I would add reading every book you can on great leaders, whether it be business, military or politics. Also, don't forget to read Baseball Prospectus on-line every day!!!

Ed B. (Virginia Beach, VA): Hey Billy. Have you found it any more difficult to work trades with other GMs since the publication of Moneyball?

Billy Beane: No, a GM's job is to do everything he can to make his team better. If you eliminate trade partners based on personal reasons you are probably selling your fans short. We all have a tendency to trade with GM's we have good relationships with and that would still remain true whether the book came out or not.

Gerry (Toronto): In looking at Oakland's ability to develop pitchers from the draft to the majors how much of your success is:

Good drafting
Good minor league coaching
Player's internal makeup
Luck

Thanks, Gerry

Billy Beane: A little bit of everything that you mentioned. We also try and minimize economic and health risk by drafting college pitchers. We also feel that because they are older and more experienced, college pitchers have a tendency to give you better early results when they enter the Major Leagues. A small market team has to get as much production as possible during the first three years before a player hits arbitration. Remember, young players are good because they are cost effective. If we can't afford them it doesn't matter how old they are.

Greg S. (Pequannock, NJ): Concerning amateur scouting, I know that J.P. Riccardi has reportedly refused to reimburse scouts who choose to scout High School players. Would you lean towards this approach, or perhaps more towards a "restricted-scouting" idea, such as Atlanta does in the Georgia area, or even requiring your scouts to file multiple reports on any player they follow?

Billy Beane: I can tell you as JP's best friend that is not true. What the A's and what I believe the Jays do is concentrate our scouting time and resources on players we are going to probably draft (i.e. college players) as opposed to spreading ourselves too thin and spending time and money on players we won't draft for economic or risk reasons.

Dave S. (New York): You mention wanting as much value straight out of the minors as you can get because you're running a small-market team. Do think you'd use a different development strategy if you worked for a larger-market club?

Billy Beane: The advantage you would have in a large market is you would be able to retain the players that you had drafted and developed under your philosophy. My guess is that we would have a lot fewer questions about our lineup if a certain First Baseman was still around...who by the way embodies everything that we look for in an offensive player.

Buck (Milwaukee): Hi Billy. Aesthetically speaking, do you think the walk-walk-homer game is boring? Also, as more and more teams adopt empirical/sabermetric philosphies, do you fear this NFL-style corporatization might take some of the intrigue from the game?

Billy Beane: Scoring runs isn't boring to me! Are you telling me that you would be bored with nine Barry Bonds in the lineup?

John Collins (Greenville NC): Mr. Beane, Great work with the A's! Why does Joe Morgan seem to believe that you wrote Moneyball?

Billy Beane: Sometimes Joe doesn't like facts to get in the way of his opinions.

Chris Shea (WAshington, DC): Billy, as Michael Lewis was working on Moneyball, did you ever worry that trade secrets of yours were going to make it into the book? As it is, I'm curious why you and Paul DePodesta told him so much about the way you do your work. Wouldn't the smart business decision be to keep your techniques under wraps for as long as possible?

Billy Beane: You are assuming that everything we do is written in the book.

L. Jacob (Chicago): If a divisional rival were to have an opening in the GM's chair during the off season, would Paul de Podesta be allowed to interview? A lot of us would love to see the master square off against the apprentice in the AL West.

Billy Beane: Yes, but as bright as Paul is he's going to be choosey as to where he goes. In my mind, Paul is already one of the best GMs in the game...but has the title of Assistant GM. A lot of our success is based on Paul's contribution as well as my other assistant David Forst, Eric Kubota, Chris Pittaro, Keith Lieppman and Danny McCormack...my current typist.

Ricky Aubrey (San Leandro, CA): Mr. Beane. I love the A's, keep up the great work. Most fans will say their favorite time of the year are the playoffs. What is your favorite time of the baseball year?

Billy Beane: My favorite day of the year is the draft and the days leading up to it. Spring Training is also a great time particularly given the fact that we're in Phoenix, AZ during the two best months of the year.

Jeremy (Durham, NC): Who would you vote for in the MVP races this year?

Billy Beane: Bonds, Bonds, Bonds, Bonds and Bonds.
AL...wide open.

Tom C (Omaha, NE): Sorry - one other question not baseball related. Did Peter Gammons really accompany you to a Sex Pistols concert recently? I am also a music lover - Who is your favorite band? If you ever get out to Omaha you must check out the local music scene - its hot!

Billy Beane: No, me and my daughter Casey went and watched our game on TVs at the back of the Boston Fleet Pavilion. Drop Kick Murphys were great! Favorite Bands: Ramones, Oasis, English Beat and The Brady Kids.

Paul Covert (Lynnwood, WA): Whom do you consider the best defensive players in baseball today (excluding those on your own team, of course)?

Billy Beane: I'm still going to say Eric Chavez even though he is an Athletic, Mike Cameron and Doug Mientkiewicz.

Paul (Napa, CA): Do you have any hobbies?

Billy Beane: Reading, Music and Skiing. I spend a lot of time with my wife and daughter. I also recently bought a young Border Collie puppy that will take up a lot of my energies away from the field. My favorite hobby is being a GM of a Major League Baseball team.

John (Chicago): I bought 10 of your 1986 Donruss rookie cards back in '86 for $2. I want my money back.

Billy Beane: As well you should!!! Even fans have trouble making good economic decisions.

Jordan Lyall (Chino Hills): Who were your favorite teams/players while you were growing up?

Billy Beane: My favorite team was the Padres and favorite players were Nate Colbert and George Brett.

Dustin (Omaha): Hi Billy, do you think it's legitimate for a closer to win the Cy Young? Also, what's your take on those races?

Billy Beane: Why not, if he's the most dominant pitcher in a league. It's hard to argue Gagne's dominance and importance to the Dodgers. His accomplishments are historical. One more question. A man's got to eat.

Dave (Newton, IA): Just so you know, my nine-team APBA league is run by nine Billy Beane - disciple amateur GMs. Makes for an interesting draft and some inetresting lineups (Bonds and McGwire batting leadoff, etc.) Have you ever played APBA, Strat-O-Matic or Diamond Mind baseball? Do you use similar simulations to see how players will fit into your real-life lineup?

Billy Beane: Newton, Iowa...Maytag world. I played all of these games growing up and some people accuse me of still playing them. On a funny note, myself, Paul, Dan Feinstein (video coordinator) and Steve Vucinich (Clubhouse Manager) four years ago all had a mock draft on the 1st day of the 1999 baseball season. The winner would be the lineup that had the highest combined team OPS...at the end of the year, Paul and myself tied with the exact same team OPS!

Billy Beane: Thanks for the questions. I really enjoyed it!

Thanks to Billy Beane for taking the time out of his busy schedule to chat with our readers today.


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