I'm not a guy who worships Billy Beane. Let's get that out of the way, first and foremost. He is not a genius, a term that is thrown about way too loosely in baseball. He is not even the best GM out there right now. And like a lot of Cubs hires, it would seem more like another glitzy big name hiring who is more style than substance.
Yet, he may be just what the Cubs need. Here's why...
Cubs owner Tom Ricketts is known to favor advanced baseball metrics, a trend popularized by Beane and the book "Moneyball". Hendry isn't a metrics guy. He's an old-school scouting type guy-- which isn't a bad thing necessarily, but you need to complement it with new school statistics to get the best information available. Either philosophy by itself tends to leave teams a little short. With the Cubs, Beane could have both worlds since they have the money to heavily invest in scouting, as they have already shown this year, to go with the sabermetric-friendly, new school front office that Beane prefers.
Secondly, he is the kind of strong personality the Cubs need at the top right now. Ricketts likes to stay in the background when it comes to baseball, which is as it should be for an owner. Hendry tends to be more of a people pleaser than a leader. It has worked to his advantage at times but other times it has led him to make huge mistakes. He seems to have gone from one philosophy under McPhail, another to the sell-the-team-quick Tribune, and yet a 3rd now as he tries to un-do mistakes made over the past few years. The Cubs just don't have any sort of identity as far as team philosophy and strategy. Predictably, the Cubs have been terribly inconsistent during his tenure.
Enter Billy Beane.
He's his own man. He's a leader and will make sure his ideas permeate from the top of the organization to the bottom. Things like OBP won't just be lip service, they'll be the team's mantra. Every manager and every coach in our system will know exactly what to expect and how players should be developed. It's called leadership.
The question is, can you lure him from Oakland where he owns part of the team and has a contract that runs through 2014? I don't know. That would purely be speculation, but Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal wrote about how he thinks Beane may be growing tired of Oakland and their economic disadvantages. And his ego won't allow taking a backseat to Theo Epstein as the game's resident "genius". With the Cubs, Beane would have the money to not just scour for bargains, but he could actually keep them once they became stars -- and he could buy ready-made stars if they fit the team's philosophy. He could have a first-class scouting team at his disposal, perhaps even keeping current Scouting Director Tim Wilken on his staff to complement his own philosophy.
How could they pull this off? Well, what if the Cubs hire Beane in an Andy McPhail type position upstairs and give him a piece of the team? It would allow him to oversee all baseball operations and leave Ricketts to run the business side, yet still be that face at the top of the franchise. The Cubs could then hire a GM like Ben Cherington or perhaps, Jerry DiPoto or Bill Geivett. The latter two would fit well as potential GMs with a strong scouting background to help build a strong farm system. You can read more about these two candidates ( and 8 other GM candidates) in an old article I wrote here...
From there the Cubs could decide to keep Wilken, who is perhaps the best old-school type scouting director in the game, along with his staff or they could hire someone who they feel might be a better fit with the new organization. Personally, I prefer that they keep Wilken to offer that balance, but I'm not naive enough to think that the new people in charge would necessarily feel the same way.
From there you can build your team from the managerial staff, to the last man on the roster , to the player development staff and minor league coaches -- and everyone could be on the same page. That is what I have seen the Cubs lack since the days McPhail was in charge. Like McPhail or not, he was in charge and everybody followed suit. What the Cubs need is another strong leader, and that man could well be Billy Beane.
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