Early yesterday morning, the Oakland Athletics promoted General Manager Billy Beane to Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations and Assistant General Manager David Forst to General Manager. This was an expected move, reported first on August 5 by Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle who said there were rumors swirling about these two members of the A’s front office that indicated that they would be moving into higher seats within the organization. However, what does this really mean in terms of the future direction of the green and gold? With a less than great 2015 season at their back, the focus is obviously on the future, but in which ways?
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Well first of all, the move demonstrates a gravitation that is comparable to a few other ball clubs who share similar fundamental strategies as Oakland in their statistical analysis department. The Chicago Cubs (Theo Epstein & Jed Hoyer), Boston Red Sox (Dave Dombrowski & Mike Hazen), Los Angeles Dodgers (Andrew Friedman & Farhan Zaidi), San Francisco Giants (Brian Sabean & Bobby Evans), and Miami Marlins (Michael Hill & Mike Berger) all employ a two-headed system like the one Oakland has now put into place. There seems to be a pattern with these teams – including the A’s – that are all known proponents of sabermetrics, which may be a reason as to why we are seeing such a large shift in recent years.
Now, whether this is a coincidence or not (likely not), there is one thing this move won’t change: the dominance of Billy Beane within the organization. It is no secret that Beane “runs the table” in Oakland in every sense of the phrase, but what it does signifies is how important a piece like Forst must be. There have been plenty of front office talent that has gone on to work elsewhere – most notably the aforementioned Zaidi – and, due to the inescapable market size of Oakland in comparison to such places like Los Angeles, they’ve chosen to pursue bigger and better things. Yet, Beane, who stated, “we stopped counting” the amount of opportunities Forst has had to interview elsewhere in the past, it has been made very clear that he wants to keep Forst in Oakland.
The only times we’ve really heard from Forst has been when addressing the media about a decision the man whose position he is taking over has made. However, Beane has noted that his right-hand man has been given some General Managerial duties for quite awhile now. According to ESPN.com, “Beane and Forst have regularly split up their duties in such a way that Forst has better relationships with some agents and opposing GM’s and Beane with others.” This is comforting to know that someone who is framed as “do-it-all-himself” will now officially and permanently have another man in his corner that he trusts enough to publicly crown as the second in command. Having said this, we all know the inevitable truth, which is that if Billy feels strongly enough about something, he will drop his hard-earned trump card in order to steer the green and gold ship in whatever direction he deems best.
As for the actual future of the roster itself, this move means one overarching thing – the process will not be a short one. In addition to his comments about Forst, Beane also mentioned via the Oakland Athletics’ beat reporter Jane Lee, “I think we’ve got a ways to go before we consider ourselves a contender … How long it takes I can’t predict.” This says to me that although Forst signifies a good direction for the franchise, he is also one to agree that building long-term means exactly that. Contention for Oakland may very well be a few years down the road, but hey, that is also what they said in 2012, when the Athletics actually made it to the postseason.