Revisiting the Rebuild, Part 1: Leading off


I spent Saturday afternoon at the ballpark in Oakland (no, I will not call it Coliseum — ever) trying to enjoy a Major League game and was treated to the A’s playing Little League defense on their way to another uninspiring loss in an uninspiring season.

When I bought my ticket to the game during the offseason I made it a point to focus on matchups against the Rangers and Angels in August and September with the brilliant idea that the contests would be key points in Oakland’s potential run at an AL West title. Clearly, I was a little off the mark on that one.

With this season slowly moving toward its merciful conclusion, could there possibly be a better time to look back at general manager Billy Beane’s rebuilding effort over the past several years?

2006 was the high water mark of the Beane Era when the A’s finally made it out of the first round of the playoffs. Of course, they promptly fell on their face against the Tigers in the ALCS and ever since then Beane has been in rebuilding mode.

This was supposed to be the year when all the losing since 2006 would start to pay off.  But instead of rising in the standings the A’s look like they’ve taken a huge step backward and they’ll be lucky to match last season’s .500 record.

The emergence of Jemile Weeks has pretty much been the only silver lining to a season that opened with high hopes for a playoff run and quickly descended into oblivion.

Some A’s fans on Twitter and 95.7 FM have called for Beane’s head as the losses have piled up and one of the main arguments I’ve heard from an angry fan base to fire Beane is that the A’s haven’t won for years so he has to go.

Maybe I’m among the minority on that issue but I don’t really count the past several years against him when it comes to wins and losses. As far as I’m concerned the A’s were supposed to lose. I’m not saying I’ve enjoyed the past several years because I haven’t but Beane made it perfectly clear after 2006 that he was making an executive decision to go into rebuilding mode a little too early instead of a little too late.  The reasoning behind the move was that it would lead the A’s back to prosperity sooner rather than later.

For my money, everything leading up to this season was part of that effort.  But so far Beane’s effort hasn’t paid off and it feels like it won’t deliver a winner anytime soon which set me in motion to take a casual look at the rebuilding effort in 4 parts.

Part 1 (today): Leading off. You have to start somewhere and this, ladies and gentlemen, is somewhere.

Part 2: First-round draft picks and international signings. Did Beane choose wisely or is there a horde of amazing young players who slipped through his fingers?

Part 3: Trades, free agency and other notable transactions. Was Beane spinning his wheels with all his deals or did he strike some gold with his moves?

Part 4: Closing it out. Sorting through the rubble of this whole mess and making a call on whether it’s all doom and gloom from here on out or if there’s hope for a quick turnaround.

I’d give you specific dates for each of the next 3 parts but spare time for blogging presents itself about as often as an A’s winning streak now that I have 2 little kids in diapers running my life. Rest assured, the final parts of this series will get published in the near future no matter how depressed I get researching this project.

Shredding the roster of the 2006 AL West champions was an unpopular move at the time and it’s even more unpopular today now that some fans are getting the feeling that there’s seemingly no light at the end of the tunnel.

Did Beane botch the rebuild every step of the way? Are the A’s stuck wading through several more years of maddening mediocrity because of his handiwork? Did he incorrectly zig when he should have zagged or did he actually do a decent job of trying to give the A’s a new foundation of exciting young players to contend with?

The knee-jerk reaction is that Beane orchestrated a bloody train wreck and the A’s are going to spend the rest of the century in the cellar of the AL West if they don’t get contracted first. But the whole point of “Revisting the Rebuild” is to take the time to look at things in a little more detail and see whether Beane actually deserves a pat on the back for good moves that went wrong or a sympathetic group hug from A’s fans for doing the best he could with what little he was given to work with by owners Lew Wolff and John Fisher.

Of course, by the end of this series I may be so infuriated with Beane that I’ll be leading the charge to remove him from power with a pitchfork in one hand and a torch in the other but I have 3 more posts to go before I get to that point.