Oakland Athletics: Billy Beane’s forgotten playing career

MESA, AZ - FEBRUARY 24: Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations Billy Beane of the Oakland Athletics stands in the dugout prior to the game against the San Diego Padres at Hohokam Stadium on February 24, 2018 in Mesa, Arizona. (Photo by Michael Zagaris/Oakland Athletics/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Billy Beane
MESA, AZ - FEBRUARY 24: Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations Billy Beane of the Oakland Athletics stands in the dugout prior to the game against the San Diego Padres at Hohokam Stadium on February 24, 2018 in Mesa, Arizona. (Photo by Michael Zagaris/Oakland Athletics/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Billy Beane /
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Before Billy Beane became an executive with the Oakland Athletics, he was once a highly touted prospect. Unfortunately, his playing career never panned out.

Oakland Athletics executive Billy Beane may be the best known member of any front office in baseball. His unconventional thinking and focus on overlooked aspects of the game turned the A’s into a contender despite payroll limitations, sparking the book, and subsequent movie, Moneyball. Now the Vice President in charge of Baseball Operations, Beane continues to be directly responsible for the A’s success on the diamond.

However, before that time, he was a highly regarded prospect in baseball. Beane was selected by the Mets with the 23rd overall selection in the 1980 MLB Draft, a prospect who was expected to develop into another middle of the lineup option for New York.

His professional career started slowly in terms of production, but Beane still moved through the system. He was in AA by 1982, but spent the next three seasons with the Jackson Mets. However, in 1984, everything clicked, as Beane began to look like the prospect he was envisioned to be. He produced a .281/.352/.490 batting line, hitting 29 doubles and 20 homers while stealing 26 bases. Beane appeared ready to be a star.

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Moving up to AAA the following year, Beane had another strong campaign, resulting in another brief trial at the major league level. However, he seemed blocked with the Mets, unable to force his way onto the major league roster. Prior to the 1986 campaign, Beane was sent to the Twins as part of a three player package for infielder Tim Teufel.

Beane finally got an opportunity in the majors in 1986, but failed to take advantage. He received a career high 194 plate appearances, but produced a disappointing .213/.258/.295 batting line, with only nine extra base hits and two steals. He eventually returned to AAA, where he would spend the majority of his career.

After another season in the Twins system, Beane was sent to Detroit for pitcher Balvino Galvez, who would later go on to star in Asia. Beane received all of six major league plate appearances with the Tigers before becoming a free agent. He would then sign with the Oakland A’s, beginning what would be a fruitful partnership.

That partnership was not as promising on the field. He appeared in 37 games, getting 81 plate appearances. Over that time, he produced a .241/.238/.304 batting line, hitting five doubles. But Beane got to see how Tony LaRussa interacted with the stars on the team, and was valued for his baseball intellect. He immediately transitioned into a front office role following that 1989 campaign, working his way up to GM for the 1997 season.

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Billy Beane may not have been a stellar baseball player, but he still made an impact with the Oakland Athletics. The lessons he learned as a failed prospect have been used in the front office, and in his approach to the game.

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