March 29, 1962 |
|September 13, 1984, for the New York Mets|
|Last MLB appearance|
|October 1, 1989, for the Oakland Athletics|
|Runs batted in||29|
As general manager
William Lamar "Billy" Beane III (born March 29, 1962) is an American former professional baseball player and current front office executive. He is the Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations and minority owner of the Oakland Athletics of Major League Baseball (MLB). Prior to his front office career, he played in MLB as an outfielder between 1984 and 1989 for the New York Mets, Minnesota Twins, Detroit Tigers, and Oakland Athletics. He joined the Athletics front office as a scout in 1990. He was named general manager after the 1997 season, and promoted to executive vice president after the 2015 season.
A first round pick in the MLB draft by the Mets, Beane's playing career failed to meet the expectations of scouts, who projected him as a star. In his front office career, Beane has applied statistical analysis (known as sabermetrics) to players, which has led teams to reconsider how they evaluate players. He is the subject of Michael Lewis' 2003 book on baseball economics, Moneyball, which was made into a 2011 film starring Brad Pitt as Beane.
Beane attended Mt. Carmel High School in San Diego, where he excelled at baseball, football, and basketball. The high school coach added Beane to the varsity baseball team for the last game of his freshman season. Beane batted .501 during his sophomore and junior years of high school. In his senior season, his batting average dropped to .300.
Despite the decrease in batting average, scouts were enamored with Beane's talent. Beane gave up football to avoid an injury that could prematurely end his baseball career. Despite this, Stanford University tried to recruit Beane on a joint baseball–football scholarship as the quarterback who would replace then-sophomore John Elway for the Stanford Cardinal football team.
The New York Mets, who had the first overall selection of the 1980 Major League Baseball Draft, considered choosing Beane with the first pick. Because many teams believed Beane would attend Stanford and not sign with a professional team, Beane fell to the 23rd overall pick in the draft where he was taken by the New York Mets, who were enamored with Beane's talent. The Mets had two other first round picks that year, allowing them to risk Beane not signing. After visiting the Mets clubhouse, Beane decided to sign with the Mets for a $125,000 signing bonus ($358,996 in current dollar terms). Beane notes his decision to sign with the Mets instead of going to Stanford as the "only decision he would ever make in his life about money."
Believing Beane to be a more refined player than their top first-round pick, Darryl Strawberry, the Mets assigned Strawberry to play rookie ball with other high school draftees, while Beane was assigned to the Little Falls Mets of the Class A New York–Penn League, with players drafted out of college. Beane struggled in his first season, batting .210. He was unable to make the adjustments that were necessary when playing tougher competition. The Mets promoted Beane to the Lynchburg Mets of the Class A-Advanced Carolina League in 1981. After a solid season, he was promoted to the Jackson Mets of the Class AA Texas League in 1982. While Strawberry was the league's most valuable player, Beane batted .220. Beane began questioning himself, while his new roommate, Lenny Dykstra, succeeded with unwavering confidence and superior mental focus.
Beane remained in Jackson until 1984, when he received his first promotion to MLB, appearing in five games for the 1984 New York Mets. In 1985, Beane spent most of the season with the Tidewater Tides of the Class AAA International League, getting called up to the 1985 Mets for eight games. He batted .284 for the Tides in 1985, leading the team with 19 home runs and 77 runs batted in. Following the season, the Mets traded Beane with Joe Klink and Bill Latham to the Minnesota Twins for Tim Teufel and Pat Crosby, a minor league player.
The Twins entered spring training prepared to give Beane the job as their starting left fielder over incumbent Mickey Hatcher, but he dealt with injuries and ineffectiveness. Beane appeared in 80 games for the 1986 Minnesota Twins, batting .216. Beane also appeared in 32 games for the Toledo Mud Hens of the International League. The Twins sent Beane to their new Class-AAA affiliate, the Portland Beavers of the Pacific Coast League (PCL), after spring training in 1987. After batting .285 for Portland, Beane received a call-up to the Twins after the September 1 roster expansion. He appeared in 12 games for the 1987 Minnesota Twins.
The Twins traded Beane to the Detroit Tigers for Balvino Gálvez during spring training in 1988. He made the Tigers opening day roster that season as an injury fill-in, and was optioned to Toledo in late April, now serving as Detroit's Class-AAA affiliate, where he spent most of the season. During this time, he played in the same outfield as another player with nearly the same name – Billy Bean – and he also had a teammate with the name Rice. Beane appeared in six games for the 1988 Tigers. Granted free agency after the 1988 season, Beane signed with the Oakland Athletics, appearing in 37 games with the 1989 Athletics, batting .241 in 79 at bats. Beane spent most of the season with the Class-AAA Tacoma Tigers of the PCL. He re-signed with the Athletics for the 1990 season, and he was sent down to the minor leagues at the end of spring training.
Front office career
Weary of the lifestyle of a minor league player, Beane approached Athletics GM Sandy Alderson a day after he was reassigned to minor league camp in April 1990 and asked for a job as an advance scout. Beane held this position through 1993, when he was promoted to assistant GM of the Athletics, tasked with scouting minor league players.
Under the ownership of Walter A. Haas, Jr., the Athletics appeared in three consecutive World Series, from 1988 through 1990, and had the highest payroll in baseball in 1991. Haas died in 1995, and new owners Stephen Schott and Ken Hofmann ordered Alderson to slash payroll. To field a competitive roster on a limited budget, Alderson began focusing on sabermetric principles, to obtain relatively undervalued players. He valued on-base percentage among hitters. Alderson taught Beane to find value that other teams did not see using sabermetrics.
Beane succeeded Alderson as GM on October 17, 1997. He continued Alderson's crafting of the Athletics into one of the most cost-effective teams in baseball. For example, in the 2006 MLB season, the Athletics ranked 24th of 30 major league teams in player salaries but had the 5th-best regular-season record.
The Athletics reached the playoffs in four consecutive years from 2000 through 2003, losing in the American League Division Series each year. In 2002, the Athletics became the first team in the 100 plus years of American League baseball to win 20 consecutive games. They won their first playoff series under Beane in 2006 when they swept the Minnesota Twins in the American League Division Series, but were subsequently swept by the Detroit Tigers in the American League Championship Series. Other low payroll teams, such as the 2003 World Champion Florida Marlins and the 2008 American League Champion Tampa Bay Rays, have appeared in the World Series, with the former going on to win the World Series in 2003.
After the 2002 season, the Boston Red Sox made Beane an offer of $12,500,000 to become their GM, but he declined. On April 15, 2005, Beane received a contract extension to remain with the Athletics as its general manager through 2012, and new team owner Lewis Wolff awarded Beane a small portion of the team's ownership. In February 2012, the Athletics extended Beane's contract through 2019.
From their 2006 playoff appearance until 2012 when they again made the playoffs, the Athletics had not made the playoffs or finished above .500, which had triggered criticism of Beane and his approach in some quarters in baseball, especially in 2009. Beane largely dismisses criticism of his approach, indicating that his philosophy revolves around research and analysis. Many other general managers have followed Beane's strategy and now use similar approaches.
Illustrating this example, Beane began concentrating on high school players, a group he once largely ignored, in the MLB draft, considering them to be heavily undervalued. He and other like-minded GMs also changed their draft strategies to focus more on defensive skills, which had become undervalued in the years immediately after the Moneyball revolution. This new emphasis on defense was displayed in the 2010 season; although the Athletics finished at .500 and again missed the playoffs, they led MLB in defensive efficiency, measured as the percentage of balls put into play by opponents that resulted in outs, and allowed the fewest runs in the AL. In the 2012 season the Athletics again made the playoffs under Beane winning the American League West title on the last day of the regular season. The Athletics returned to the playoffs in 2013 by also winning the American League West division title in the 2013 season, the team's first back-to-back division championships since the 2002–2003 seasons.
Activities outside baseball
When the Athletics ownership group agreed to purchase the reincarnation of the San Jose Earthquakes of Major League Soccer, Beane, who has expressed a passion for soccer, began developing a system for objectively analyzing soccer players. He has agreed to help the Earthquakes front office develop a method for building a cost-effective team, as the salary cap in MLS is even more restrictive than the Athletics status as a small-market team in Major League Baseball. However, a system has yet to be implemented.
Beane has claimed that Arsenal manager Arsène Wenger is a personal idol. His friendship with ex-Arsenal scout Damien Comolli and Arsenal owner Stan Kroenke allowed him to delve deep into the world of English football.
On January 4, 2007, the software company NetSuite named Beane to its board of directors. NetSuite co-founder Evan Goldberg cited Beane's ability to combine facts with instinct as an important factor in the decision to involve him in the company. Beane also served as a consultant for, and also appears in, the video game MLB Front Office Manager.
Depiction in book and film Moneyball
Because of his team's success despite its low payroll, Beane was the subject of author Michael Lewis's 2003 best-selling book Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game. The book discusses Beane's methods as the GM of the Athletics and how he, along with Harvard-educated statistician Paul DePodesta, used sabermetric principles to run his team in a cost-effective way. According to the book, this allowed him to be successful despite his financial constraints. The book and Beane's methods have influenced the way many think about the game of baseball, including other teams and players. Brad Pitt played the role of Beane in the 2011 film Moneyball. Pitt was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role for his portrayal of Beane.
Twice married, Beane has a daughter Casey from his first marriage and twins Brayden and Tinsley from his current marriage. He attended the University of California, San Diego during the baseball offseasons of his playing career.
- Lewis, Michael D. (2003). Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game. New York: W. W. Norton. ISBN 0-393-05765-8.
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