Blanchat: Is Billy Beane a genius or a madman?

Feb. 16, 2012, 1:35 a.m.


Billy Beane is a genius. Or he’s a madman. I’m just not sure which one.


Every single day, the Oakland Athletics’ general manager continues to defy all logic. In their most recent mind-boggling move, the A’s signed Cuban defector Yoenis Cespedes to a four-year, $36 million deal on Monday, making the collective baseball world scratch its head. The A’s not only have a small payroll, but they haven’t been very competitive in the AL West since their last playoff berth in 2006—so why on earth would the perpetually rebuilding A’s sign an unknown power hitter most famous for a preposterous YouTube highlight video to a deal this big?


The natural reaction is to think that Beane, the architect of the fantastic “Moneyball” A’s teams of the early 2000s, has totally lost his mind.


First, he traded away almost all of the team’s good young pitchers, shipping Gio Gonzalez to the Nationals, Trevor Cahill to the Diamondbacks and Andrew Bailey to the Red Sox. Next, he signed the rapidly-falling-apart-and-laughably-out-of-shape Bartolo Colon to join his rotation. After that, he spent big for Cespedes. Finally, he plans on signing Manny Ramirez in the near future to join Cespedes as the team’s other power hitter. Yes, Manny Ramirez, the same guy who had just one hit in 17 at-bats for the Tampa Bay Rays before he retired because he failed his second drug test for performance-enhancing drugs.


How on earth do the A’s expect to compete with in the AL West like this? The Angels sign Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson, the Rangers break the bank for Japanese sensation Yu Darvish, and this is how Beane responds? By signing a washed-up, nutty steroid user and a guy who is known for a video that features him taking batting practice in slow motion set to Juelz Santana’s “The Whistle Song”? Billy, have you lost your damn mind?


But in the midst of all these mind-boggling moves, a thought suddenly occurred to me: Is Billy Beane trying to tank his team on purpose?


I know Beane is smart—he somehow got the A’s to extend his contract through 2019 despite the team not making the playoffs for five years—and I think he has finally found the way to revive Oakland’s franchise.


Anybody who knows baseball knows the knock on Oakland: they have a payroll smaller than most WNBA teams, so they have to make every dollar count by counting on young prospects. They can’t sign big free agents. But finally, Beane has found a way out of Oakland’s status quo. If he tanks the franchise, the MLB will be forced to let the A’s build the new ballpark in San Jose they desperately want, and Beane and company will get a big influx of new money with which to bring the A’s back to greatness.


Take a look at the franchise formerly known as the Montreal Expos, currently the Washington Nationals. They had to become the laughingstock of Major League Baseball before they could finally get into a spot where they were able to compete, and Beane is following their lead.


First, the Expos became one of the worst teams in baseball, and nobody showed up to their games. It got so bad that the team had to be sold to Major League Baseball, and even had to play games in San Juan, Puerto Rico in order to get anyone to show up to their games.


But once things got that desperate, the MLB finally did what it could to save the franchise.


First, they moved the franchise to Washington, D.C. and changed the team name to the Nationals. Next, the Nationals got a big, brand-new ballpark with a view of the United States Capitol building. They only had to suck for a few more years before they could get two dynamite first overall picks in a row—Stephen Strasburg in 2009 and Bryce Harper in 2010—and now they have enough money and talent to put up a fight in the NL East. They just had to get worse before they could get better. And they are definitely getting better in a hurry.


Why does the tank-on-purpose theory make sense to me? After all, that’s the “Moneyball” philosophy: You zig when others zag and you value things others don’t. If Beane pulls this great gambit off, he’ll have taken what he’s been given and done the absolute best thing for the A’s: get them out of the Coliseum, into a new park, infused with new money and ready to be contenders again.


And if you think I’m the crazy one, consider this: Beane got Brad Pitt to play him in a movie. Do you really need any other evidence that Billy Beane is a genius?



Jack Blanchat is only calling Billy Beane a genius to try to get on the newest Sh*t A’s Fans Say video. Point out that it’s more likely to be in Sh*t A’s Fans Don’t Say at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @jmblanchat.

Login or create an account