50th birthday: Billy Beane

Today, one of the most well-known and controversial GMs in sports history celebrates his 50th birthday: Billy Beane of the Oakland A’s.

How many sports GMs have ever become the lead character in a major Hollywood movie? Off the top of my head, I can only think of one, Brad Pitt’s portrayal of Beane in last year’s Academy Award nominated Moneyball.

Let’s take a little bit of time to review his career in Oakland. He’s run the A’s for 14 straight seasons, making him currently the second longest tenured GM in the game. As it happens, he’s also the second longest tenured GM in the Bay Area, as San Francisco’s Brian Sabean is the only one whose been around longer. Beane narrowly edged Brian Cashman for second place.

In that time, Oakland has posted a 1,206-1,060 win-loss record for a .532 winning percentage. Not bad. Overall, it’s the seventh best record by any team in that span. He’s done it while spending “only” $691 million in that period. As huge as that number would look in my bank account, it’s still just the 25th most spent by any team. He’s outspent the Royals, Expos/Nationals, Rays, Pirates, and Marlins. That’s it.

The Bay Area is anything but a small sample size, but the A’s despite their success just can’t draw fans. In Beane’s tenure, they rank 25th overall in attendance. They only teams below them are the ones Oakland outspends.

For perspective, here are how all the records, attendance, and payroll for all teams in the Beane Era, ordered by winning percentage:

Tm 	                 W 	L 	Pct	Attendance	    Payroll
New York Yankees 	1369	 895	0.605	51,322,316	$2,250,097,312
Boston Red Sox 	        1285	 982	0.567	39,145,041	$1,612,223,731
Atlanta Braves 	        1281	 985	0.565	37,642,146	$1,235,520,754
St. Louis Cardinals 	1247	1019	0.550	45,507,278	$1,146,887,994
Anaheim Angels 	        1221	1047	0.538	40,753,998	$1,223,135,021
San Francisco Giants 	1208	1058	0.533	42,094,720	$1,096,661,143
Oakland Athletics 	1206	1060	0.532	24,968,705	  $691,682,891
Philadelphia Phillies 	1201	1066	0.530	37,021,149	$1,178,338,229
Los Angeles Dodgers 	1184	1083	0.522	47,049,011	$1,329,229,120
Chicago White Sox 	1179	1089	0.520	28,955,888	$1,073,519,832
Houston Astros 	        1163	1104	0.513	37,731,351	$1,038,700,351
New York Mets 	        1156	1111	0.510	39,943,233	$1,465,690,348
Minnesota Twins 	1153	1114	0.509	28,660,536	  $765,234,204
Cleveland Indians 	1151	1117	0.507	33,185,050	  $897,281,014
Texas Rangers 	        1145	1123	0.505	34,900,419	$1,038,996,922
Toronto Blue Jays 	1143	1124	0.504	27,843,667	  $900,066,297
Arizona Diamondbacks 	1129	1139	0.498	36,109,901	  $948,176,895
Seattle Mariners 	1120	1147	0.494	38,128,018	$1,164,266,790
Chicago Cubs 	        1110	1157	0.490	41,857,571	$1,290,494,258
San Diego Padres 	1102	1167	0.486	34,018,968	  $724,830,642
Cincinnati Reds 	1094	1175	0.482	29,027,251	  $790,854,221
Florida Marlins 	1081	1185	0.477	19,650,689	  $530,838,679
Colorado Rockies 	1074	1195	0.473	38,641,011	  $893,893,457
Milwaukee Brewers 	1062	1204	0.469	32,999,563	  $773,368,076
Detroit Tigers 	        1039	1228	0.458	31,125,219	$1,052,904,735
Tampa Bay Rays 	        1013	1252	0.447	21,195,863	  $579,093,003
Montreal Expos 	         993	1273	0.438	20,579,468	  $616,918,761
Baltimore Orioles 	 990	1276	0.437	35,679,071	$1,040,841,965
Pittsburgh Pirates 	 957	1307	0.423	24,583,214	  $559,327,156
Kansas City Royals 	 946	1320	0.417	21,943,846	  $647,640,543

The A’s stick out there a bit, don’t they? They’re the only club in the top dozen to spend under a billion, and they’re under $700 million.

But, of course, the Beane era can arguably be cut into two parts. As everyone who read or saw Moneyball knows, Beane succeeded in creating a team that won a ton of games with a meager payroll at the turn of the century. In 2001, they won 102 games with baseball’s second-lowest payroll. A year later, they won 103 with the third-lowest salaried squad.

This was the glory days for Beane and if you were active on the internet back then you can remember all sorts of people who were convinced he was and would always be the smartest GM of them all. You don’t here too much of that talk these days.

The A’s had a great run but that came to an abrupt end after 2006. The A’s enjoyed their eighth straight winning season that year, and finally advanced to the ALCS—only to be swept by the Tigers. Since then, the A’s haven’t had a single winning season. They usually aren’t too bad, and in fact haven’t lost 90 games in a season under Beane, but they keep losing 80-some games a year. Overall, they’ve gone 381-428 (.471) since their last October hurrah.

OK, so the A’s are that good, but let’s compare their win-loss record to their payroll. Here’s the same chart as above, only now restricted to 2007-2011. Again, we’ll organize it by winning percentage:

Tm 	                 W 	L 	Pct	Attendance	    Payroll
New York Yankees 	478	332	0.590	19,708,583	$1,024,613,440
Philadelphia Phillies 	473	337	0.581	17,589,641	  $615,216,897
Boston Red Sox         	465	345	0.574	15,182,15	  $721,972,056
Anaheim Angels 	        457	353	0.564	16,359,900	  $585,683,698
Tampa Bay Rays 	        434	376	0.536	 8,468,738	  $244,234,173
St. Louis Cardinals 	431	379	0.532	16,723,521	  $477,414,004
Texas Rangers 	        427	383	0.527	11,907,675	  $357,759,607
Milwaukee Brewers 	426	384	0.526	14,822,957	  $398,712,112
Detroit Tigers 	        424	387	0.523	13,920,225	  $576,135,869
Los Angeles Dodgers 	423	386	0.523	17,846,703	  $527,004,667
Atlanta Braves 	        422	388	0.521	12,534,731	  $457,809,040
Chicago Cubs 	        411	397	0.509	15,802,460	  $624,481,494
Colorado Rockies 	412	399	0.508	13,476,570	  $370,272,571
Minnesota Twins 	411	401	0.506	13,406,807	  $403,967,698
Toronto Blue Jays 	410	400	0.506	 9,950,144	  $385,076,800
San Francisco Giants 	409	401	0.505	15,373,908	  $466,679,672
Chicago White Sox 	407	404	0.502	11,664,701	  $559,248,665
New York Mets 	        403	407	0.498	15,976,905	  $655,669,277
Arizona Diamondbacks 	401	409	0.495	11,126,067	  $305,743,923
Florida Marlins 	394	415	0.487	 7,215,152	  $203,126,219
Cincinnati Reds 	394	416	0.486	10,139,282	  $363,909,851
Cleveland Indians 	391	419	0.483	 9,444,393	  $332,203,031
San Diego Padres 	388	423	0.478	11,412,004	  $258,790,323
Oakland Athletics 	381	428	0.471	 7,891,065	  $311,035,466
Houston Astros 	        365	444	0.451	12,719,474	  $441,751,721
Seattle Mariners 	362	448	0.447	11,179,409	  $495,652,081
Kansas City Royals 	347	463	0.428	 8,333,457	  $302,998,543
Washington Nationals 	340	468	0.421	 9,849,982	  $276,679,428
Baltimore Orioles 	336	473	0.415	 9,510,540	  $394,389,258
Pittsburgh Pirates 	326	483	0.403	 8,489,899	  $215,910,616

The A’s winning percentage ranks 24th overall. If you want to be nice, you can note that their .471 clip is closer to 20th place than 25th, but the point is they’ve done rather poor.

Also, if you look at the payroll, the A’s don’t really stick out like a sore thumb. The team just above them in winning percentage, the Padres, won more despite spending less. Over $50 million less. And north of them the Marlins have spent over $100 less than Beane and won 113 more games. And Arizona has won more than the Marlins despite spending less than Oakland. And if you look way up there, you can see the current sabermetric darling franchise, Tampa, with a lower payroll than Oakland.

Overall, the A’s earned their 24th best record with the game’s 23rd highest payroll over the last five years. Yeah, that’s bad. You should rank lower in record than in payroll. While it’s tough to be the GM of a team that draws poorly, the A’s are still less than what they should based solely on economics.

Yet he’s still around. In fact, in February the team extended his contract through 2019.

To be fair, the 2007-2011 numbers are a bit distorted by the big disappointment of 2007. That year, the A’s raised their payroll to a mid-range level of $79 million, only to fall flat with 86 losses. They immediately slashed payroll after that year.

The “R” in WAR
How a person can be a hero by being a zero.

Right now, Beane is a guy who helped remake baseball by aggressively using and promoting sabermetrics a decade ago to build a consistent winner. But since the league adapted, he’s had trouble finding his footing. Maybe he’ll turn it around again. Only time will tell. For now, it’s a big round number of a birthday for him to celebrate.

Aside from that, many other baseball events celebrate their anniversary or “day-versary” (which is an event occurring X-thousand days ago) today. Here they are, with the better ones in bold if you just want to skim things.


1,000 days since Ramon Vazquez belts the 10,000th home run in Pirates franchise history.

1,000 days since Albert Pujols belts his 10th career slam. It’s his fourth of five on the season.

1,000 days since Manny Ramirez returns from his 50-game PED suspension.

4,000 days since the Phillies retire Jim Bunning’s number.

5,000 days since Kerry Wood outduels Greg Maddux in a 1998 season start.

6,000 days since Anhesuer-Busch announce plans to sell the Cardinals after 42 years of ownership.

7,000 days since Tom Brunansky as a free agent.

8,000 days since the Red Sox trade Lee Smith to the Cardinals for Tom Brunansky.

9,000 days since Steve Carlton posts his 329th and final win.

20,000 days since Baltimore signs amateur free agent Milt Pappas.

40,000 days since the Braves beat the Giants 2-1, with both Boston runs scoring against New York ace Christy Mathewson on wild pitches.

Also, at some point today it’ll be 1,000,000,000 seconds since the birth of C.C. Sabathia.


1849 George Hall, future Louisville player banned for helping to throw the 1877 pennant race, is born.

1867 Cy Young, all-time win leader, is born.

1889 Washington trades one-time ace fireballer Jim Whitney to Indianapolis for John “Egyptian” Healy.

1910 Bill Dietrich, pitcher, is born.

1921 Ferris Fain, hitter, is born.

1933 Kiki Cuyler, Cub outfielder, breaks his leg. He’ll miss nearly three months.

1935 The Cardinals release pitcher Dazzy Vance.

1938 Former Yankees co-owner Captain Tillinghast L’Hommedieau Huston dies at age 71

1944 Denny McLain is born.

1945 Jim Hughey, a member of the 120-loss 1899 Cleveland Spiders, and the last pitcher to lose 30 games of the season, dies.

1954 Cubs manager Phil Cavarretta gives his ownership his honest opinion of the team’s chances that season. They fire him for defeatism.

1955 The Red Sox sign free agent Eddie Joost.

1960 Kid Carsey, former 1899 Spider, dies. That leaves only three players left from the 40-120 team: Sport McAllister, Harry Colliflower, and Otto Krueger.

1960 The Giants trade Al Worthington to Boston.

1971 Oakland signs free agent Tommy Davis.

1973 Orange baseball are used in an A’s-Indians exhibition game.

1975 The Yankees release longtime ace Mel Stottlemyre.

1977 Toronto trades John Lowenstein to Cleveland.

1979 63-year-old former ballplayer Luke Easter dies.

1980 Rico Carty is released by Toronto.

1983 The Dodgers become the first team to shut off season ticket sales before the season begins.

1988 The White Sox sign free agent pitcher Jerry Reuss.

1988 Detroit returns John Wetteland to the Dodgers.

1988 Ted Kluszewski dies at age 63.

1989 Atlanta purchases Mark Eichhorns from Toronto.

1991 Texas releases Pete Incaviglia.

1995 The Players’ Association votes to return to the diamond IF the federal courts uphold the NLRB complaint of unfair labor practices against the owners.

1999 Anaheim trades Phil Nevin to the Padres, where he’ll blossom.

2000 The Cubs and Mets open the season in Japan’s Tokyo Dome. The Cubs win, 5-3.

2000 Tampa Bay release starting pitcher John Burkett

2005 Andres Galarraga announces his retirement.

2006 Marquis Grissom announces his retirement.

2008 Houston trades Woody Williams.

2011 MLB creates a new seven-day DL for players who have suffered a concussion.

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3 Comments on "50th birthday: Billy Beane"

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1945 and 1960; the 1899 Spiders were 20-134.  Much worse than the ‘62 Mets who were 40-120.

1979; wasn’t Easter shot and killed in a robbery?

Chris Jaffe
Chris Jaffe

kds – D’OH!  That’s one I knew really well, too.  Just wasn’t thinking when I typed them out.

I think you’re right about Easter.


We all know that the AL has been more competitive than the NL, so looking within the specific leagues is a fairer comparison.  And if you look just within the AL, only the phenomenal Rays have a better winning percentage and lower payroll than the A’s from 2007-2011. 

He’s pulled off the 11th best record in the AL, despite the 12th biggest payroll and the worst AL stadium attendance in that time.  Not even close to Beane v1.0, but far from what I’d call ‘bad.’