By Jason Wojciechowski on June 1, 2011 at 12:00 AM
Peter Hjort has this quick piece at Beyond the Box Score showing how Billy Beane turned a minor-league pitcher, who may or may not amount to anything, into David Purcey, who has talent but whom the Blue Jays may have rashly designated for assignment, rode him for a while, saw him perform well, then flipped him for a promising (not as a future star, but as a future useful guy) 2B/3B in Scott Sizemore who, again, the Tigers may have been frustrated with.
How you read this post (and what kind of visceral reaction you have to the title) and Hjort's depends in large part on whether you're an A's fan or not. Many of the Oakland partisans that I interact with on Twitter, Athletics Nation, and the Scout message board are convinced that Beane is asleep at the wheel. The number of times the "Beane listens to soccer podcasts!" factoid has been cited at Athletics Nation beggars belief. Non-fans, as near as I can tell, still respect Beane's talents, though perhaps this respect comes in a less fawning form than it did seven years ago.
This ties back in to Hjort's thesis, of course.1 A's fans, frustrated by what feels like constant underachievement due to injuries (pretty much everyone), disappointing performances from free agent acquisitions (Ben Sheets, Mike Piazza, Jason Giambi redux), and prospect failures (Adrian Cardenas, Michael Ynoa, Chris Carter, Jeremy Brown, Sean Doolittle, Dan Meyer, etc.2) lash out at who they can -- Ken Macha was derided until he was run out of town, Bob Geren is "Bobo", Beane is asleep at the wheel, David Forst can't continue the magic of Paul DePodesta, the training staff is incompetent, and the players don't care enough.
These arguments range, in my estimation, from being unsupported by available evidence at best to flat-out wrong at worst. But they're understandable! It's not easy to watch a team like the Yankees visit the A's and immediately start blasting homers to parts of the park that Oakland batters never reach. This has to be somebody's fault, right?
Of course, there isn't necessarily an explanation beyond "the A's can't afford Mark Teixeira", but who's ever been satisfied with that? The same number of us who are happy to write off a heartbreaking bullpen meltdown as "just one of those things" and move on with our lives.
Whether I think Hjort's point is right is beyond the scope of this piece. I do think there's something to it, but I also think that both the Blue Jays' and Tigers' front offices are due a fair amount of deference, especially when it comes to ascribing potential inner motivations to their actions. ↩
As with the previous footnote, whether I think all these players have failed or not is way beyond the point of this post. Some are without dispute, others are still too young to tell, and still others are in a limbo state, on the verge of flaming out but not quite there yet. The point is just that none of them have become the hang-your-hat star that so many fans hope for when we first hear their names in the draft or in trades. ↩