August 19, 2008
“Billy Beane never allowed himself sentimental feelings about a player,” writes Michael Lewis in his award-winning book Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game. Beane has been general manager of the Oakland Athletics since the 1998 season. In the years since now, Oakland has won American League Western Division championships in 2000, 2002, 2003, and 2006 but failed to advance to the World Series in each of those seasons.
Lack of sentiment through the years on Beane’s part has allowed him to part ways with star pitchers Barry Zito, Mark Mulder, Tim Hudson, Dan Haren, and Jason Isringhausen. Ace position players such as Jason Giambi, Johnny Damon, and Miguel Tejada departed without a tear from the eyes of Beane.
This year alone, the Beane axe has fallen on the necks of former Oakland stalwarts Nick Swisher and Mark Kotsay (in January), Rich Harden and Chad Gaudin (July 8) and Joe Blanton (July 17). Beane admitted that the A’s were in yet another state of “rebuilding.”
The current rebuilding process resulted in Oakland manager Bob Geren starting a lineup on August 19 against Minnesota that featured a leftfielder (Eric Patterson) batting .130, a third baseman (Jack Hannahan) hitting .221 and a first baseman (Daric Barton) batting .209. The latter two hit eighth and ninth in the order, respectively. Hardly what one expects of players at the corner position players. In between Patterson and Hannahan in the batting order were Jack Cust, batting third and hitting a lusty .233 and clean-up hitter Frank Thomas, batting .241. Catcher Rob Bowen later entered the game with a .177 batting average. The Athletics’ media guide states that Beane’s philosophy “stresses plate discipline” for batters. Last night, disciplined hitters in the Oakland lineup somehow allowed Twins starting pitcher Kevin Slowey to strike them out a dozen times (Cust and Carlos Gonzalez combined to strike out six times).
The media guide also indicates that Beane requires pitchers to “command the strike zone.” Against the Twins, Geren started Sean Gallagher whom Beane acquired in the Harden trade. To his credit, Gallagher did find the strike zone on many of his pitches. However, the majority came right back in the form of Minnesota hits. While Gallagher was lobbing in cookies to Twins batters, Slowey was holding the Athletics to two runs scored in seven innings. Meanwhile, Minnesota hitters crossed the plate 13 times. Toward the end of his five-inning performance Sean Gallagher looked more like SNL’s Mary Katherine Gallagher.
After winning the West in 2006 with a 93-69 mark, the A’s under Geren fell to last place in 2007 with a 76-86 record. This year, Oakland is 57-68 and has gone 6-24 since the All-Star break.
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