Billy Beane, as sanctimonious as having a movie made about it is, changed baseball. He shoe-stringed together a 20 game winning streak in 2002, and he’s been looking for that magic ever since. It’s taken a long time for the Red Sox to be in a situation that might seem attractive to a man who obviously needs a challenge. Now is the time for the Red Sox to pounce, and Beane to finally accept.
Starting in 2001, the A’s have finished in the AL West: 2nd, 1st, 1st, 2nd, 2nd, 1st, 3rd, 3rd, 4th, 2nd, 3rd, 1st, 1st, 2nd, 5th, 5th, 5th, 2nd, 2nd.
Their playoff record has been: Lost LDS 2-3 in 2001, 2002, 2003, lost ALCS 0-4 in 2006, lost LDS 2-3 in 2012 and 2013, lost the Wild Card Play-in game 2014, 2018, and 2019. To add insult to injury, the Tampa Bay Rays have out Billy’d Billy by advancing past them this year with an even lower payroll: $89.9 Million for Tampa to $106.4 Million for Oakland.
Billy’s revolution has gone main stream, with about half or more of the playoff teams since 2003 going with his formula of cheap on base + cheap pitching = winning. Despite his success with lower payrolls time is running out. Too many front offices are shoulder to shoulder with him. If he’s going to leave Oakland it’s now or never.
A New Challenge
The Red Sox are in a pickle. They are in the perpetual three years up, one year down cyclone that many big market teams are in. Push the payroll up to the top tier of the payroll hierarchy then back down to reset. Time after time here with the Red Sox it’s been pointed out that they had a three year window from 2016-2019. That was from the time of the Chris Sale trade until now. They cashed in with a World Series last year, with a historic number of wins thrown in. But now thanks to questionable signings the Red Sox are in a place where it’s more or less Mookie Betts or J.D. Martinez, with a lower tier minor league system to boot.
And the Red Sox are not alone. The Yankees won’t have Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez on under $1 Million per year contracts much longer. The Houston Astros have George Springer at the end of a deal that could lead to escalating arbitration agreements. And Alex Bregman‘s contract rises to $30 million a year in the not too distant future. Bringing on Ace’s like Justin Verlander and Zack Greinke will be a thing of the past at that point, and they will probably lose Gerrit Cole this winter. And these are just two examples. The Cubs are going through it right now, as well as others.
A Paradigm Shift
So what’s the new frontier? How do the top teams who field $200 Million payrolls maintain a top ten minor league system and compete for the World Series year after year? The teams that win are tanking to get top draft picks then spending like drunken sailors. At some point the bill comes due. But there must be a way to maintain that level of success without tanking or feeling your hands tied by trading your best young players. The Dodgers have come close but they’ve yet to break through.
There’s no one who could be trusted more than Billy Beane for a shift like that. Even Theo Epstein had to run his Cubs into the ground to get high picks like Kris Bryant to win the World Series. Then he traded away the Cubs’ future to win it all in 2016.
Long Term Love Affair
There was a time that Billy Beane took the Red Sox call. He turned down John Henry’s money in the offseason of 2002. But he still took the call. Times have changed, but Henry still owns the Sox and Beane is still with Oakland.
Yes, the Red Sox reputation has taken a hit with the turnover in team leadership after winning the World Series. But Henry has looked wistfully west in Bean’s direction for almost 20 years. Is there anyone else he would risk a piece of ownership for? Because of the GM turnover and PR hit the Red Sox ownership have taken they are more willing than ever to pay up. They are reportedly looking for an established name. Theo is a possibility but he’s recently rebuffed Red Sox rumors. There’s likely only one person who would coax more or less the biggest deal for a team leader that ever was in major league baseball, because that is what it would take, and that’s Billy Beane.
The challenge is big. A Mookie Betts trade, dealing with J.D. Martinez, trying to restock the farm system, build a bullpen, consistently win in the American League without pushing the limits of the highest payroll in the game. It’s an Infinity Gauntlet sized challenge for none other than Billy Beane. The time is now.
Featured Image via Over The Monster