Billy Beane has had his chances to leave the Oakland A’s over the years.
He’s smarter than that.
Beane has mastered the world of the small-budget franchise. Those skills don’t necessarily transfer to somewhere else.
Andy MacPhail found that out when he left the Minnesota Twins to take over the Chicago Cubs. Sharp as he is, MacPhail was suddenly in a different world, and without the infrastructure he had built with the Twins, where he oversaw the building of 1987 and 1991 World Series champions.
The A’s haven’t won a World Series in Beane’s 16 seasons as their general manager, but they have been among the most successful franchises during that time, advancing to the postseason seven times, claiming a Wild Card and six American League West titles, including each of the past two.
And he’s done it on a budget.
The A’s have never been in the upper half of payrolls during Beane’s tenure, and they have ranked among the bottom 10 teams in payroll 14 times, including all seven times they advanced to the postseason. They ranked 29th in 2012 and 27th last year.
Low-budget success is a lot more than being able to read computer printouts and run a calculator.
More important is how Beane is able to see a window of opportunity and capitalize on it.
There are going to be stretches of struggle that a franchise like the A’s will have to deal with, but when success is on the horizon, it is important not to be blinded by the frustrations of financial constraints.
Beane’s 20-20 vision was evident again on Friday.
Coco Crisp was signed a two-year extension that binds him to the A’s through 2016 with an option for ’17. That’s the longest guarantee for anybody on the A’s roster. Crisp, 34, is also the oldest player on the A’s roster.
He has been the leadoff catalyst to Oakland’s back-to-back AL West titles.
And that came after an offseason in which the A’s signed free-agent left-handers Scott Kazmir andEric O’Flaherty to two-year deals. They acquired closer Jim Johnson from the Orioles and then signed him to a one-year deal, keeping with their philosophy that closers generally have short life spans. In Beane’s 16 seasons, the franchise has had nine different pitchers lead them in saves, five in their seven postseason campaigns.
An email sent to Beane asked him if the signings underscored the fact that “in smaller markets, you look for winds of opportunity and have to be focused on maximizing them?”
The answer was emphatic.
“Yes!!!” he replied.
It’s the A’s way, initially mapped out by Sandy Alderson, a mentor to Beane.
The A’s won four division titles in the five-year stretch from 1988-92. They went seven years without a postseason appearance, and then returned to October activity from 2000-03. They won the AL West again in 2006, but that was their only postseason appearances from 2004-11.
And now they will open 2014 as the two-time defending AL West champions. They aren’t intimidated by having to financially tread water in a division in which, during the past three years, the Angels signed Albert Pujols, Josh Hamilton and C.J. Wilson, and this past offseason Texas traded forPrince Fielder and signed Shin-soo Choo while Seattle laid out 10-year, $240 million to lureRobinson Cano.
Why? Because they know they over the next two seasons, the only changes they will make to their roster are ones they believe will make them better.
– Tracy Ringolsby, MLB.com
No one needs to tell Oakland Raiders fans about hard times. After back-to-back years in which the team lost 24 of 32 games, its “Commitment to Excellence” motto is a foggy memory. With its string of nonwinning seasons now stretching back to 2003, its legendary catch phrase — “Just win, baby” — sounds like a desperate plea.
But the cruelest blow of all came about three weeks ago, when even the cheerleaders turned on the team, filing a class-action lawsuit claiming labor violations.
Yes, a couple of Raiderettes have called the boss on the carpet, alleging the team with the lousy win-loss record is also lousy cheap to some of its employees.
Lacy T. and Sarah G. (last names withheld to protect their privacy) have enlisted Oakland attorney Sharon Vinick to seek damages on behalf of the 40 women who wiggle and dance on the sidelines, citing failure to pay minimum wage for the hours that all that wiggling and dancing necessitates. (Not all of the Raiderettes support the suit.)
The Raiderettes receive $125 per home game — $1,250 for the season — but they say that translates to less than $5 an hour (minimum wage is $8) when the twice-weekly rehearsals, multiple charity appearances and calendar photo shoot are included. What’s more, they say, they get no mileage reimbursement for travel to assignments, and they’re fined for bringing the wrong pompons to rehearsal.
Hey, we’ve all walked out of the house with the wrong pompons before.
The Raiderettes’ compensation makes for an amusing contrast to the piles of money the organization dumps on its players, often ill-advisedly. Running back Darren McFadden made about $9.6 million in salary and bonuses last season, and he sat out six games with injuries. Sebastian Janikowski cashed in about $4.9 million, and he missed nine of his 30 field goal attempts.
Remember former quarterback JaMarcus Russell? He collected $36 million for playing in just 31 games. Rumor is he slept through practice and never brought any pompons.
Vinick thinks this lawsuit is the first of its kind in the NFL — of its 32 teams, 26 have cheerleading squads — but it might not be the last. “There are certainly some other teams, perhaps all of them, that have similar problems with how they do this,” she said.
– Tom Barnidge, Contra Costa Times
The Pac-12 is in discussions with its network partners to change programming practices and avoid another season with an overwhelming number of night games, according to sources inside and outside the conference.
I wouldn’t necessarily characterize the back-and-forth as negotiations, because the league has a contract with ESPN and Fox that isn’t going away for a decade.
But Pac-12 officials were not happy with the ’13 broadcast schedule and are working with their partners to find an acceptable resolution for all parties involved. One source called the league’s approach “fair but firm.”
The conference spent three months listening to complaints from fans and school officials. Commissioner Larry Scott and his lieutenant are keenly aware of the frustration.
Whether they can do anything about it remains to be seen.
It’s important important to remember two things:
1. To get something … and that something is the $3 billion deal with Fox and ESPN over a 12-year period … you have to give up something.
The networks need programming and want flexibility, and they were willing to pay for it.
The Pac-12 decided the money was important enough to give up the neat-and-tidy schedule that had been in place for eons. (That’s true on the basketball side, too.)
Make no mistake: The conference knew there would be more weeknight games and more Saturday night games when it signed the agreement, and Scott told the athletic directors and chancellor as much.
2. ESPN and Fox aren’t the bad guys, they’re business guys.
They’re doing what’s best for viewers, and what’s best for viewers usually translates to what’s best for ratings. Neither network has violated its contract.
(I’d argue, however, that Fox’s decision to put Oregon-Washington on upstart FS1 and show the clearly inferior Kansas State-Baylor matchup on Big FOX violated the spirit of its relationship with the conference. That was ridiculous.)
But even if we take Nos. 1 and 2 above into account, the situation got out of hand in 2013: There were more night games than league officials expected.
The launch of Fox Sports 1 was part of the problem, as I documented during the fall. Games that were on FX in the afternoon in 2012 often became night kickoffs on FS1 in ’13.
And the time zone issue is unavoidable: ESPN and Fox have no choice but to create their programming schedule in an east-to-west fashion. They have plenty of options at 3:30/4 p.m. Eastern and at 7/7:30/8 p.m. Eastern, but not so much for the late night window.
They just aren’t going to start games in Norman or Austin at 9:30 p.m. local time.
Neither of those issues is going to change when it comes to future Pac-12 football programming.
– Jon Wilner, San Jose Mercury News