Last Thursday, I put in a call to the Athletics Front Office hoping to talk with Billy Beane, who I met down at the Winter Meetings. We talked about doing an interview at the time and we finally were able to get it done. Beane has been the Athletics GM since 1998, and has brought up players like Tim Hudson, Mark Mulder, and Barry Zito, to name a few. He recently traded Dan Haren who came over from the Cardinals in the Mulder trade for several other prospects. This style of behind the scenes play has worked very well for Beane who has compiled a 732-563 record since taking over. I want to thank him again for giving me this interview, I really appreciate it.
ELI: When did you first get into baseball operations?
BILLY: Well, I played for ten years in an unspectacular fashion. One day during Spring Training in 1990, I was talking with one of our scouts in the outfield and he said there was an opening in the Scouting Department. I wasn't interested right there but I have always had a passion for Baseball Operations. That night when I got home, I thought about it some more and realized I was ready to stop playing, so I came back and told him I would take the job. About three and half years later I was the Assistant General Manager and then I got to the General Manager position. I have been surrounded by very dynamic people who have helped me along the way. Guys like Tony La Russa, Sandy Alderson, it has been a good experience for me.
ELI: As a player, did you see yourself getting into baseball operations at some point?
BILLY: Actually yeah. Deep down, I have always had a passion for putting clubs together, I find it fascinating.
ELI: As a GM, what type of relationship do you like to have with your players?
BILLY: There are few GMs who were once players so I think that definitely helps. It helped when I was younger because there were still some players playing who I played with. But teams keep getting younger so it becomes less and less. Despite the age gap, I have developed some good relationships with some of the players. Eric Chavez grew up in the same neighborhood as me and he has been with us since we took him out of high school.
ELI: I have noticed that several teams are starting to reach out to find baseball players in other countries, what steps have the A's made to do so as well?
BILLY: We were pretty agressive in the Dominican Republic in the 1990s, but we haven't been in the last couple of years. And it is noticeable.
ELI: How do you determine who is invited to Spring Training as non-roster invitee?
BILLY: Well, forty come every year and we will usually add some guys we want to get an extra look at. There are different reasons, but the people that are there are there because of something they have done well in years past.
ELI: In the trade involving Dan Haren, you acquired several players. Do you see any of them on the Opening Day roster?
BILLY: It's hard to say. Of the players we got, the guy that has the best chance is Dana Eveland. He has seen some time in the big leagues and has the chance to be the hard throwing lefty we need. He deserves the opportunity.
ELI: In the 2007 draft, you took James Simmons in the first round. What kind of players do you like to draft?
BILLY: It varies. Some teams go in and only take college players or only take high school players. We have had success taking high school players and college players, so it is something we determine as the draft gets closer.
ELI: Daric Barton played very well in 18 games last season. Is there anything that the A's told him to go work on this off season?
BILLY: We told him to work on conditioning, so he can play in 162 games. He has had some injury problems that were not really his fault. Hopefully he can continue to progress.
ELI: How is everyone feeling about playing in Japan to start the season?
BILLY: Some of the players I have talked to are excited about it. It is a great opportunity for them to be apart of. You get over and you play in a new stadium in front of new fans and see their culture. It is something every player should get to experience.
ELI: Can you tell me a little bit about the Rule V Draft. What is the purpose of it, and can you tell me about your choice this year, Fernando Hernandez?
BILLY: It is the opportunity to get an impact player for the little price of 50,000 dollars. More often than not, you could get a guy like George Bell. It is definitely worth the risk. In the case of Hernandez, he has pitched well and for 50,000 dollars, it is worth our while. I mean, look at Joakim Soria, he was closing for the Royals by seasons end.
ELI: Yeah, and how about Johan Santana?
BILLY: Of course, how could I forget? He is probably the best case.
ELI: Do you have a favorite stadium to watch a game at one the road?
BILLY: I like Anaheim, but I am bias because I have family down there. If I take them out of the equation, I like Baltimore a lot and Safeco up in Seattle.