A conversation with general manager Beane
A's playoff exit to Tigers, future of club among topics discussed at GM Meetings
ORLANDO, Fla. -- Longtime A's general manager Billy Beane held court on Tuesday during the General Managers Meetings.
Beane, whose A's advanced to the postseason for the seventh time since 2000, said he never takes making the playoffs for granted. His manager, Bob Melvin, has his numerous superstitions. Beane does, too, but he would not divulge them nor is he ready to change anything up if the A's happen to get back into the postseason again next year.
"I don't change too many things in a playoff series," he said. "The lucky socks won't work in a playoff series. I enjoy the playoffs because the season is so long, if you make the playoffs I think the teams that are in them deserve that right. Especially in our market, you never know when you're going to go back again, so I try to enjoy the heck out of them."
Beane talked to MLB.com one-on-one about the recently concluded postseason and where he thinks his club is heading this winter.
MLB.com: Anything going on at these meetings with you guys?
Beane: The GM Meetings for a club like ours aren't always the most active. ... We have so much contact now with each other. This used to be the way we'd all come to together. But with the use of email and things like that, we're always in touch. So less happens here than when we get back home. We have conversations that lead to something, but there are so many meetings and so many things scheduled. It's like the Winter Meetings. It's not the most conducive time to do anything.
MLB.com: Have you identified any areas where you'd like to improve?
Beane: It's more the guys we're losing who have to be replaced. We're losing our closer, Grant Balfour, who's a free agent, so we have to add somebody for the back end of the game -- whether it's somebody who goes in for the seventh and pushes Sean Doolittle into the ninth. We lost Chris Young, who was our right-handed-hitting outfielder, so we can use someone in that role. And Bartolo Colon is a free agent. We'll monitor that and see where that goes. I think there's some mutual interest. But as a free agent, it usually comes down to compensation, and we'll see what he has available to him. So I think if we fill those spots, we should be a pretty competitive club again.
MLB.com: Is this kind of a different offseason for you?
Beane: Last year was about the same, except we didn't really lose anybody. We were able to add Jed Lowrie and John Jaso and Young. That was unusual. This year, we do have those guys potentially leaving. Not as many as some years, but we do have some guys we have to replace. It's not a huge turnover like we've seen before.
MLB.com: Is it tougher to build a competitive team these days than it used to be?
Beane: The difference to me is that the people who are running baseball teams are really smart now. The group each year gets smarter and smarter. That's the challenge. The other thing is there has been a lot of continuity in these [baseball-operation] positions. There hasn't been as much turnover. As a result, the guys who have had an opportunity to grow in their positions have become very, very good. It's not just the GM. There are a lot of smart front offices that are layered much deeper than they were when I first came in.
MLB.com: Are you finding any real change in the free-agent market this offseason because of the addition of all this local and national television money?
Beane: It's still a little early in the process. We don't historically get involved in it right away. We wait for things to settle down. Most of our activity in that market is usually a little later. It's not an area where we're the first guys out. I can only speak for our own situation. Our payroll should go up. But a lot of that is because our revenues have gone up, relative to our team performing better. We'll do what we usually do, relative to our situation.
MLB.com: I know you super analyze everything, so what was your analysis of where you guys came up short in the playoffs this year?
Beane: I don't know if we did come up short. Literally we came up short, but climbing the Justin Verlander mountain in Game 5 is very challenging. We had a great year. We got beat by a great team, Detroit. I actually thought that Boston-Detroit was a great AL Championship Series matchup. It was just a Game 5 situation and we had opportunities in Game 4. They came back in that one and took it to us. You don't really want to leave your fate in the hands of Verlander very often, and we've done it two years in a row and as a result have gone home. He's one of the best pitchers of our generation, really. Once again, you prefer not to have him pitch the deciding game.
MLB.com: There was no shame in losing a series again to the Tigers.
Beane: Detroit was a great team, just like Boston. I thought that was an appropriate ALCS and I thought the World Series was appropriate. It was one of the rare situations nowadays -- when you have 10 playoff teams -- to have two of the best teams playing in the most important games. That's all right. That's good. That was great for baseball. We played the Cardinals during the regular season. We played them in Oakland and beat them two out of three, and I remember thinking that these guys were really good. So I thought Boston and St. Louis was a terrific series. There was no shame on any of the other teams for not getting there.
MLB.com: You mentioned the Red Sox. Are there any lessons to be learned by the way they turned things around so quickly from one year to the next?
Beane: Listen, Boston has done a lot of right things for the last decade. They won three championships. [General manager] Ben [Cherington] was there with [former GM] Theo [Epstein] when Theo was there. It was just the one year when things didn't go well, there was a perception that everything was broken. The fact is the [Dustin] Pedroias, [Jon] Lesters and [David] Ortizes -- the guys who are the common themes there -- were all healthy, and then they made great moves to augment them. [Manager] John [Farrell] and his staff did a great job. It's what happens when you win the World Series. They did a lot of things right. I just think they had a lot of bad luck the year before. It might have been a surprise to outsiders, but not within the industry, because they've been doing a lot of things right for a long time.
MLB.com: I'm curious whether you think there's any tie to the fact that so many of your playoff teams since 2000 have gone out in the first round. I mean, they're all basically different teams, save for the last two.
Beane: Yeah, it's all 25 different groups of players. It's not the same, going back 13 years. It's now 2013, and when we've lost in the first round, I think all of them have been Game 5s. In the 2006 ALCS, we got swept by Detroit. We've had it tough against Detroit, that's for sure. [Tigers GM] Dave Dombrowski, that wily veteran. Like I said before, they're a great team.
MLB.com: There are two theories about why it's tougher for you guys to get out of the first round: the first is that the stars like Verlander and Miguel Cabrera ultimately rise to the occasion, making it tougher on a lower-payroll team to succeed. The other is that your guys like Josh Donaldson and Josh Reddick didn't. What's your take on all that?
Beane: The tough thing about the postseason is sometimes the narrative starts to work back after the fact or we can all create them. Or Detroit beat us, and they deserved to beat us. I know that sounds too simple, but I mean their guys like Verlander and Max Scherzer just performed. Verlander might be in the Hall of Fame, and he's in the middle of his career. I don't think there's any shame in facing him and losing to him in Game 5.
Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow @boomskie on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.