In just the snap of a finger, one major motion picture turned Billy Beane from talented general manager to a celebrity wonder. Interviews. Appearances. Lectures. All of these came as a result of the Brad Pitt-headlined “Moneyball” in 2011. Of course, something else happened besides the fame. Teams with talented GMs of their own began to catch up.
If you’re thinking about Betting on MLB games as the season winds down, the Oakland Athletics are a terrific candidate to take a look at. But back to the A’s and the man who built them and became a legend via the Hollywood screen.
When “Moneyball” came out (it was a book by author Michael Lewis first), Beane’s successful story of assembling the talented — but cheap — group of players, who led the Oakland Athletics to the AL West Championship in 2002, was a revelation.
But what’s happened since then?
Fast-forward 11 years after that magical season. Those who buy Oakland A’s tickets see the team holding the same position. Yes, Beane has done it again. With a team of above-average (but thrifty) players, the A’s are currently winning at a clip that will have them in the playoffs.
But make no mistake, the landscape has changed for Beane, and he has had to work harder for his success.
In a memorable quote from a MLB GM panel discussion in April, Beane made his thoughts about the job perfectly clear, saying, “I’ve jokingly said that I wouldn’t be able to apply for this position in 10 years. I’m only half-joking.”
He added, “The best thing about the last 10 years is that now really bright people are running baseball teams, which is the way it should be.”
Beane frequently points to known brains such as Theo Epstein and Paul DePodesta as ushering in a new wave of tech-savy, managerial types who have replaced former ballplayers (like himself) in the front office. It is a landscape he welcomes, considering it has forced him to hone his own craft.
Last season, the A’s ranked 29th out of 30 teams in team payroll ($55 million), yet that Beane magic worked again. After being projected in some circles to tally 100 losses, the A’s found themselves with 94 wins, earned the AL West crown once more, and even pushed the Detroit Tigers in the division series. Also, in much the same way we saw then-young prospect Barry Zito emerge to stardom in 2002, another potential breakout superstar emerged – Yoenis Cespedes.
At the beginning of this season, Beane kept that winning team intact, while adding proven talents under the radar. Chris Young. John Jaso. Jed Lowrie. No superstars, but above average talent from all three have added to an already dynamic club this season.
Now, the big question arises: For all of the well-deserved hype regarding Beane’s managerial style over the years, will the A’s ever get over the top? Will they ever win a World Series? The odds are still stacked against him. Last season, for instance, the last four teams standing all had payrolls over $100 million. This season, the A’s entered the season with a payroll of just under $69 million – 26th in the league.
Still, Beane has led the Athletics to six playoff appearances in his 15 years now with the team. And his post-movie presence is still felt strongly — the Oakland GM was named MLB Executive of the Year after the A’s tremendous season last year. Odds are, he is positioning himself to win it again with the team’s continued climb.
Two years after Pitt served as his doppelganger “Moneyball” is alive and apparently doing very well in Beanetown.