Nobody Knows Billy Beane
by Glenn Dickey
Jul 06, 2015

No local sports figure has inspired more myths than Billy Beane, general manager of the Oakland A’s.
Everybody knows about “Moneyball”, of course, a book and movie which glossed over the contributions of Jason Giambi and Miguel Tejada and focused on a mediocre first baseman. Author Michael Lewis has written many good books, including an exposure of a stock market procedure which is clearly illegal, but this book on the A’s should have been labeled fiction. Beane went along with the charade because Brad Pitt played him in the movie. Who wouldn’t want that association?
The other prevailing myth is that Beane dictates who should play to his managers. The latest example is with Josh Reddick’s upset over being benched one night, a move he was sure was Beane’s idea.
Wrong. I haven’t talked to A’s manager Bob Melvin but I know he and other managers have access to a lot of new statistical information that is not released to the media. That was the basis of his decision on Reddick. Melvin was upset, and deservedly so, at the thought expressed in print that Beane was behind the Reddick move.
The writers who propagate this nonsense are ones whose only contact with Beane have been in mass news conferences. I have talked one-on-one with Beane at least 100 times since he was named general manager in 1993, and I can say positively that he has never told a manager who should be in his lineup, even with Art Howe, the manager he inherited. Beane thought Howe was a terrible manager, as did I, because he was managing as if the game hadn’t changed since he was a player. In fact, the game had changed enormously, mostly because of Tony La Russa when he managed the A’s. Howe is a wonderful person but in some ways, that hurt him as a manager because he left players in the lineup even when they weren’t producing. I’m sure Beane let him know what he was doing wrong in postgame sessions but he still didn’t dictate his lineup choices.
At that time, there was also a lot written about Beane wanting hitters to “work the count.” Actually, that was more the philosophy of Sandy Alderson when he was the GM in the ‘80s. A’s minor leaguers at that time were forbidden to swing at a pitch until they had taken a strike. La Russa had nothing to do with that nonsense. When Mark McGwire set a rookie record with 49 home runs, a high percentage came on first pitches.
Beane told A’s hitters to swing at the first good pitch they saw but he also recognized reality when it came to Miguel Tejada. There were times when Tejada would swing at pitches well out of the strike zone but that’s often the style of Latino players. In the Domican Republic, they have a saying, “You don’t walk off this island,” meaning that scouts are looking for hitters, not players who work the count.
Tejada continued to swing at pitches out of the strike zone but he hit many of them and went on to an outstanding career.
Lately, Beane has had to make many moves simply because owners Lew Wolff and John Fisher refuse to give him enough money to re-sign all the good players. That’s why Josh Donaldson moved on, though he apparently thinks Beane didn’t keep him because of something that happened last season.
So, the myths continue, propagated by those who aren’t even talking to Beane. I know this amuses him because he’s told me that. As for me, I’ve enjoyed knowing and talking to one of the most intelligent baseball men I’ve ever known.

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