The man behind The Moneyball Era is leaving Oakland. Kind of.
After 33-year run with the A’s, the club announced today that Billy Beane will be transitioning to a Senior Advisor role to the Managing Partner. Beane, 60, has been the Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations since 2015, but now will be advising owner John Fisher on high-level matters while also being freed up to pursue non-baseball opportunities. General manager David Forst will head up the baseball operations division for the team, though it appears his title won't change.
Beane is most famous for being the architect of the A’s teams in the early 2000s that were canonized by Michael Lewis’ book ‘Moneyball’ and later the 2011 Hollywood movie, when Beane was depicted by Brad Pitt. The A's made the playoffs four straight seasons from 2000-03, averaging 98 wins per game in that stretch despite having one of the league's lowest payrolls. All four of those seasons ended in the ALDS, though, as the A's went 0-9 in series closeout games.
"I'm incredibly proud of the 33 years I've spent here in Oakland, and I look forward to continuing with the A's in this new role,” Beane said in a statement. “I am eager to help guide the direction of the organization alongside ownership. If I have done anything well during my time at the A’s it is to create a succession plan, and no one is more prepared to take the helm than David. It has been a privilege to work alongside him for all these years and I look forward to continuing to be a resource for him.”
So it sounds like Beane will be on speed dial, but won’t be hands-on with the franchise any longer.
In 1997, Beane assumed the role of general manager, when he was viewed as a 35-year-old wunderkind who was ahead of the curve. The A’s were known for being one of the first teams in the late 1990s to dive into analytics and sabermetrics, in an effort to exploit market inefficiencies and find serviceable players at bargain prices.
Following the big-spending ways of the Haas family, owner Steve Schott tightened his grip on the team’s finances after buying the team in 1995. The low-budget spending has continued with Fisher since his purchase of the team in 2005, as the richest contract the Gap clothing magnate has handed out was Khris Davis’ two-year, $33.5 million extension in 2019.
The A’s finished with the American League’s worst record (60-102) last season after trading away stars like Matt Olson, Matt Chapman, Chris Bassitt, Sean Manaea and Frankie Montas, while also letting manager Bob Melvin leave to San Diego without compensation. The 2023 season could be even worse, as the A’s literally have no contract commitments outside of arbitration and pre-arbitration players.
Beane faded into the background on the baseball ops side recently as Forst had been running the day-to-day operations for years.
“I couldn't have asked for a better leader, mentor, and friend than I've had for the last 23 years in Billy,” Forst said in the statement. “I'm thrilled that he will continue to serve in all three capacities in this new role, and that I can rely on his guidance as we work every day to get better both on and off the field.”
A’s fans will always look back fondly at that Moneyball era. While Scott Hatteberg’s transition from catcher to first base was immortalized in the film, it didn’t hurt to have The Big Three – Tim Hudson, Mark Mulder and Barry Zito – and other bona fide stars like Jason Giambi, Miguel Tejada and Eric Chavez sharing the diamond.
Beane has explored the world of Special Purpose Acquisition Company (SPAC) with his venture Redball in the past. Redball was also rumored to merge with John Henry’s Fenway Sports Group in 2020, but the deal didn’t go through. Beane is a huge soccer fan and owns minority stakes in two European franchises, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see if he jumps into that world going forward.
“Billy is and will always be an Athletic,” Fisher said in the statement. “He is a trusted advisor to me and I look forward to continuing to work closely with him on strategic initiatives that impact our Club. This position at the ownership level allows Billy to pursue other non-baseball sporting interests while continuing to hold an important role with the A's and me. I am also excited for David Forst to now serve as the head of baseball operations, while still continuing his long and successful partnership with Billy.”