Oakland Athletics GMs Among the Best

If you are a fan of the Oakland Athletics, Sandy Alderson and Billy Beane are likely to thank for that.

Or they’re to blame, depending on which perspective you take.

Alderson and Beane were recently ranked as two of the top-25 general managers in baseball history.

Mark Armour and Dan Levitte have a new book called In Pursuit of Pennants in which they recap how good teams got that way. Along with this new book they are publishing blog posts ranking MLB’s best GMs.

Coming in at number 12 is former Athletics general manager and current New York Mets GM Sandy Alderson.

He worked as general manager from 1983 to 1997. Some of Oakland’s best teams and biggest legends are a result of Alderson’s time there.

Despite not coming from a baseball background, Alderson broke in as the A’s general manager at just 35-years old and quickly started a rebuilding process yielding one world series title and three-straight world series appearances, in addition to other postseason appearances.

Jose Canseco, Mark McGwire, Walt Weiss, Dennis Eckersley, Dave Stewart, Dave Henderson, and the late Bob Welch are all a result of Alderson’s scouting, drafting, signing, or trading.

He traded away, and later traded for Rickey Henderson and hired Tony La Russa to manage the team.

Dec 10, 2013; Orlando, FL, USA; Curtis Granderson smiles as he is introduced by the New York Mets chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon (left) and general manager Sandy Alderson (right) during the MLB Winter Meetings at the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort. Mandatory Credit: David Manning-USA TODAY Sports

Alderson, not his successor, is the reason the Athletics operate using advanced metrics along with traditional scouting.

When he left town the big league team was scuffling, but the farm system had several high quality prospects including Miguel Tejada, Eric Chavez, Jason Giambi, Mark Mulder, and Tim Hudson.

The story continues with 11th best general manager in history, Billy Beane.

Beane was a failed prospect whose final major league stop was in Oakland in 1989. He stayed with the organization and served as a scout for a few years before replacing Alderson as the general manager in 1998.

Beane was left with a stocked farm system and a low budget, but the analytical principles that Alderson had employed to great success.

Jason Isringhausen, Terrence Long, Johnny Damon, Jermaine Dye, Scott Hatteberg, David Justice, Billy Koch, Nick Swisher, and Frank Thomas are just some of the key players Beane brought in to complement Tejada, Giambi, Chevez, Hudson, Mulder, and Barry Zito.

In addition to the above players, through the draft, free agency, trades, and reclamation projects Beane built up and, now, re-built the core of the last three playoff teams.

17 years, eight playoff appearances, 12 .500-record or better seasons, a streak of 20-consecutive wins, rookies-of-the-year, a Cy Young award, two MVP awards, and dozens of trades later Beane is still looking for his first world title as general manager.

He was the centerpiece of a best-selling book and an Oscar-nominated film, but for most that isn’t enough.

For Beane that isn’t enough.

Until he wins that final game of the year, he will continue to scratch away at recipes while he operates on one of the lowest budgets in the sport.

As fans we can enjoy the part of the game that make the Athletics franchise unique: the creative breeding of statistical analysis and traditional scouting.

I truly believe this team has the best fans in the game, and that is because this team has the best story in the game.

And in that story Beane and Alderson helped write the best chapters.