He is in his 20th season at the helm of the Oakland A’s, has been the subject of a best-selling book and Academy Award-nominated movie, and is recognized beyond the world of sports for his innovative mind. So is Billy Beane’s legacy established? Or must the A’s executive win a championship or three, as the Bay Area’s other longtime top baseball executive has done, to solidify his place in the sport? “First and foremost, in Billy’s organization and amongst his brethren in baseball, nothing is lost when it comes to his success and how he goes about his business,” Giants Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations Brian Sabean said. “The fact Billy doesn’t have a World Series ring ... Lord knows, he’s an icon in his organization and among his peers. Everyone knows Billy and what he’s done. That’s the ultimate compliment.” Beane, 55, is best known for the outside-the-box thinking highlighted in “Moneyball” — identifying undervalued assets as a means to make a low-payroll club competitive with the big boys. The book is required reading at nearly every business school, making Beane an icon in boardrooms and greatly in demand on the corporate public-speaking circuit. His teams have made the postseason eight times since he took over Oakland’s front office in 1998 — including the 2002 season that “Moneyball” chronicled, a trip to the American League Championship Series in 2006, and a three-year boon kick-started by an out-of-nowhere 2012 team that won the American League West on the final day of the regular season. But the periods between sometimes have been bleak, no more so than this current stretch that finds the A’s last in their division for the third year in a row. “The biggest thing is that unless Billy wins a championship — that will be it,” “Moneyball” author Michael Lewis said of Beane’s legacy. “But it’s a huge thing: He made it cool to bring science into player evaluation, and because of that, every businessperson in America wants to meet him. “When you think of people who’ve had that kind of cultural effect on sports, it’s very few. Branch Rickey breaking the color barrier, really jarring the culture. ... It’s hard to think of anyone else. Billy burst out of baseball the way people in baseball really just don’t.” An incomplete checklist Beane downplays any talk about personal accomplishments. Fiercely loyal to the rest of the A’s organization, he considers all successes shared, and he knows the checklist is minus a title. “The desire for a championship is less for myself than it is for the people who work here and the people in the community,” Beane said. “I’ve never set out for my own personal legacy. I always sort of chuckle over that idea — the only legacy I have any concern about is my children.” Former A’s Assistant General Manager Farhan Zaidi, now the GM of the Dodgers, flipped around Beane’s sentiments, saying, “People like me who worked for him — we want it more for him than he wants it for himself.” With Oakland making it out of the first round of the playoffs just once during Beane’s stewardship and at the bottom of the AL West for the third year in a row, there is more scrutiny on the vice president of baseball operations than at any time in the past.
Inside Billy Beane’s legacy after 2 decades running the A’s
San Francisco Chronicle | Aug 27