Nobody benefited more from the steroid era than Billy Beane.
As the steroid era continues to unravel, we continue to find more and more people that were guilty of everything from taking performance enhancing drugs to enabling the use of performance enhancing drugs. While many players (Bonds, A-Rod and Manny) have been rightly found guilty in the public’s eye through bloated numbers and body parts, others (David Ortiz, Johnny Damon and Pujols) have become guilty by association. The fans and media are failing to realize who the true winners were/are during and following the steroid era … the team executives.
Here’s a short list of executives who continue to be gainfully employed because they played See No Evil during the steroid era:
Number of legitimate major league hitters drafted during tenure: 0
Number of home runs hit by Barry Bonds during tenure: 470
Brian Cashman: Andy Pettite, Roger Clemens, A-Rod, Jason Giambi, Kevin Brown …
Theo Epstein: The Red Sox might still be looking for their first World Series Championship if it wasn’t for Manny Ramirez. Don’t believe me? Ask the 2008 Red Sox how much they missed his clutch bat against the Rays. Furthermore, the Red Sox are having a real hard time scoring runs and need a hitter to keep the Rays and Yankees at bay this season. Guess what … the Red Sox miss Manny.
Billy Beane: keep reading …
Billy Beane has been the GM of the Oakland A’s since 1998 (the start of the mainstream steroid years) and his best years as a general manager came during the peak of steroid era (2000 – 2004). Some of Beane’s best teams had numerous confirmed steroid users (Jason Giambi, Jeremy Giambi and Miguel Tejada) and others that have not been confirmed guilty (Eric Chavez, Damon, Randy Velarde and Ramon Hernandez), but sure look guilty on paper and in press photos. After the success of Moneyball, Beane was seen as the god of baseball executives. He just knew a lot more about the game, how it worked and what stats were important to look for in a prospect compared to the mere mortals who were running other teams.
The truth is that Beane did a fantastic job with the A’s from 1998 through 2002. It was not his fault that steroid use was rampant throughout the league and he did a very nice job capitalizing on it. To say that he should have called a stop to the use of performance enhancing drugs would be hypocritical because everyone from fans to players should shoulder some level of guilt during the era.
However, the beginning of the end of the Billy Beane era arrived in 2002 when he and Art Howe made the unforgivable decision to start Barry Zito in the last game of the season so Zito could win the Cy Young award. As a result of this terrible decision, the AL Cy Young winner only pitched one game in the ALDS where the A’s would fall to the Minnesota Twins in 5 games.
(To be clear, if you consider yourself an A’s fan and do not remember this moment like it was yesterday, you are not an A’s fan)
Here are just a few of the poor decisions that Beane has made since October 2002:
* Signing Chavez to a 6 year, $66 mm contract in 2005
* Signing Esteban Loaiza to a 3 year, $21 mm contract in 2006
* Trading Dan Haren
* Trading Andre Ethier for Milton Bradley
* Not trading Bobby Crosby
* Not drafting a decent hitting prospect
* Signing older players in the twilight of their careers and not realizing the steroid era was basically over.
(I heard Billy Beane speak at a conference in 2007 and he must of said “we have to be smart to compete with the Red Sox and Yankees” about 1000 times. I have to admit he was right. The A’s and Rays are good proof that the smart teams can compete and the not-so-smart teams can’t. There is nothing more annoying to me than players and fans who continue to play the underdog card. NEWSFLASH: It is harder to be the favorite than the underdog! Also, the conference was in June and there is nothing like a GM doing guest speaking engagements while his team is in a downward spiral. Priceless.)
However, the worst decision that was made during the Billy Beane era wasn’t even made by him. In 2005, Lew Wolff (the majority owner of the team) gave Beane a minority stake in the team. While Wolff thought this move would motivate Beane it seems to have done the exact opposite. Beane was never going anywhere because he was too afraid of the pressure that comes with having a big pay role and high expectations. Now Beane has all the security in the world and only needs to answer to … himself.
(Beane is now free to do speaking engagements in June knowing full well his job is secure.)
Beane’s “moneyball” philosophy has failed has let him and, more importantly, A’s fans down. When it comes to drafting position players, the A’s have been nothing short of abysmal and the players (Ethier) that do blossom into major leaguers are often traded to other teams. Beane and Co. has a slightly better track record with pitchers but it is only recently that these draft picks are starting to show any signs of potential. Given his recent track record, there is no reason to think Beane won’t trade these pitching prospects away in a couple years just like he did with Huston Street.
Needless to say the A’s are on the verge of falling into a Kansas City Royals/Pittsburgh Pirates type abyss and there is no one more to blame than Billy Beane.
While players like Bonds and A-Rod have been ridiculed for their use of steroids and may not make the Hall of Fame because of it, Beane continues to receive high praise for what he did in the most tainted era in baseball. Many of his contemporaries started to build more stable franchises from within and are doing a decent job of proving they belong in this new era of baseball but the same cannot be said for Beane. While many of the most successful players have been ridiculed by the public and the media, Beane continues to reap the benefits of good work he did over 7 years ago and that is why nobody benefited more from the steroid era than Billy Beane.
Congratulations Mr. Beane, you are the big winner!