A few Bay Area writers are talking up Billy Beane possibly leaving for Chicago’s North Side, with the rationale being that Brad Pitt’s alter ego will exit stage right after having experienced too much frustration regarding the A’s low revenue status.
All this sounds fascinating given the A’s record and the lack of resolution on the stadium front. However, it falls apart once you scratch the surface.
First of all, while the story has created something of an echo chamber effect here, there are no media reports emanating from Chicago about Beane being a candidate, speculation or otherwise. There are several “hot” candidates who are either younger or easier to get contract-wise. Dozens of articles have been written about the purported frontrunner for the Cubs’ GM job, current White Sox assistant GM Rick Hahn – who just happens to be a Chicago native and a lifelong Cubs fan. Then there’s the status of wunderkind Rays GM Andrew Friedman, who is currently working year-to-year with no contract. Ned Colletti and Brian Cashman have been discussed as well. On the other hand, Beane is signed through 2014, and even though Lew Wolff would let Beane go if he asked, figuring out how to properly terminate the contract (ending in 2014) and have Beane divest his 2.5% stake in the A’s/Quakes is another matter altogether.
Then there’s a simple matter of timing. Chances are that Cubs owner Tom Ricketts will want to get his new GM in place no later than October, so that his new hire will have a fighting chance in the free agent market (there are some first basemen who may catch Ricketts’ fancy). It’s highly unlikely that we’ll hear a decision on Santa Clara County territorial rights by that point, leaving Beane and the rest in ownership in limbo. Beane would effectively be basing his decision on a hunch, and as we all know, Billy’s a little more empirically driven than that.
For his part, Wolff has been pretty straightforward on this semi-issue (from Shea’s piece):
“I would never inhibit anybody from bettering themselves because of a contract,” said Wolff, who had lunch with Beane on Wednesday and said no team has called regarding his GM. “Billy is fantastic and, to me, indispensable. My hope is he will be here a long time. I did promise Billy and all the guys we would have a venue so they would be able to further execute their abilities, and I think that will happen.”
“I have to be,” Wolff said. “There is no choice for us, for the good of baseball. It’s sad it’s taking this long.”
He added, “I’m going to build a new stadium for the A’s, and if I’m not, someone will,” but he was quick to point out he didn’t mean he’d move the club or sell to out-of-town interests, instead mentioning his son, Keith (vice president of venue development) as a possible baton receiver. “We’re working every day. If it doesn’t happen, we’ll go to Plan B, which I don’t have.”
I’m gonna go out on a limb and guess that despite the A’s revenue problem, Beane likes his life. He oversees two franchises by day and pals around with venture capitalists at night. Not to say that he couldn’t get some of that in Chicago, but really, porkbellies aren’t as interesting as tech. And I have to think that as a particularly driven guy, he might not feel his work is done just yet. Just a hunch.