Billy Beane is quite clearly the class of baseball. The best talent evaluator as well as the best GM at timing and executing really complex moves whether tactical (for the season) or strategic (for the future).
I think dumping Cespedes for a stretch run and playoff run with Lester is a sign of his genius, that in all probability no other GM in baseball would have had the guts to pull off. Because Cespedes was in many ways the most exciting player on the As, probably the most identifiable player on the team, a big fan draw. One of the faces of the franchise.
He was also their 12th best hitter, in terms of On Base Percentage. And all of us who’ve seen or read Moneyball know just how much Beane values OBP. (For good reason. His understanding of the true value of OBP revolutionized baseball, just as efficiency stats have revolutionized the NBA.)
Cespedes prefers swinging for the hills rather than situational hitting. Loves the show of the big knock more than he wants to do the right thing for his team. But Cespedes is no Vladimir Guerrerro. He doesn’t hit for a high average to compensate for his lack of plate discipline.
Beane and Melvin approached Cespedes in spring training to try to get him to change his approach: shorten his swing, use the whole field, be more selective. Cespedes “gave it a try”, but then gave up on it as soon as the season began.
Beane also asked Cespedes not to participate in the Home Run Derby at the AllStar game — because Beane knows that the HRD has frequently harmed hitters in the second half of the season, either by exhausting or injuring them, or by throwing their head and swing and approach out of whack. Cespedes again ignored him. His brand was more important.
I think there are a lot of analogies between Cespedes and the player on the Warriors I’ve labeled “The Brand”, Harrison Barnes. Both are physical specimens, both are great athletes, both are thought to possess all of the “tools”. Both are a focus of their fans’ excitement, and also of their team’s — and their league’s — marketing campaigns. But in reality, both are hugely flawed players, and both are obsessed by their brand, to the detriment of learning fundamentals and team play.
It came out in the paper today that Beane was planning to move Cespedes this winter if he hadn’t found a trade this season. I’m pretty sure that Beane doesn’t like Cespedes’ approach, and understands that it likely means that it will cap his development. He will underachieve in his career. Given that the bad GMs in the league will bid his price up way above his true worth when he reaches free agency, then it follows that he HAD to be traded.
And the opportunity to land one of the best big game pitchers in baseball for a playoff run meant that he had to be traded now. I expect the A’s offensive attack not to skip a beat. Gomes is just as good against lefties this season as Cespedes. Their myriad of platoon players against righties (this year, Beane is instructing the league in the use of platooning), Fuld, Reddick, Vogt, etc., can be plugged in and be even better.
Brilliant move. And one that should be instructive to Warriors fans. Joe Lacob quite clearly made a huge error in overruling his basketball people to draft Harrison Barnes. He made another huge error forcing the rookie Barnes into the starting lineup over Brandon Rush and Richard Jefferson (choosing hype and ticket sales and jersey sales and ego gratification over proper development and learning how to earn minutes). And he made a final huge error in not realizing that Barnes’ value got inflated beyond all measure in his rookie playoff run, when Barnes got to play POWER FORWARD, and was being guarded by POINT GUARDS. The time to sell Barnes was right then, right after his rookie season. Instead, Lacob and his minions seemed to actually believe the humongous dung-heap of Barnes-hype that they themselves created to dump on the heads of season ticket buyers.
The Warriors finally woke up and got around to trying to move Barnes this summer, but it was too late. They fell flat on their faces. Rumors abounded that Barnes was being shopped for a first round pick, any first round pick. And not one single GM took the bait. Particularly not Minnesota, from whom the Warriors were trying to entice the 13th pick.
The difference between the sagas of Cespedes on the As and Barnes on the Warriors illustrates the fundamental difference between the two franchises.
Lew Wolff hired the best baseball man in the business to GM his team, and gave him total authority.
He hired himself.