by Richard Justice
December 18, 2013
The Oakland Athletics just won the American League West for a second straight season, and virtually no one seemed the least bit surprised about it. Sure, the A’s did it with baseball’s 27th-largest payroll. No news there, right? Of course, it came after some offseason changes. So what? Same as it ever was.
In the end, this reaction, this expectation of winning, this raising of the bar, may be Billy Beane‘s enduring legacy in baseball. As general manager of the A’s these last 16 years, he has changed the game in a very real and fundamental way. That’s the bottom line in all of this.
Beane made baseball better, dramatically better. All these years later, almost everyone agrees on that part of the deal. He offered hope — not to mention a blueprint — to all the teams that may have wondered if they’d ever again be able to compete with the Yankees, Red Sox and other big-market teams.
Now, the men and women who run baseball teams understand that while money is important, smarts and judgment count for plenty, too. Shouldn’t there be room in the Hall of Fame for a man who has had his impact?
When Beane introduced advanced analytics into Oakland’s player evaluations in 2001, he was assessing players in a way they’d never been assessed before. He became famous for it when author Michael Lewis wrote a brilliant bestseller on the topic. “Moneyball” — the name of his book and the movie in which Brad Pitt played Beane — became the codeword for a school of thought that blew through front offices from coast to coast.