The Day Billy Beane Backed Out on Boston

A well-spent $9 million.

How would you feel if Billy Beane was your Red Sox general manager?

I would imagine not all that great considering he was your GM for twenty minutes or so in November 2002 when THE Billy Beane agreed to a four-year deal with Boston to GM the Red Sox. He even negotiated the A’s side by himself — serving as the Oakland rep and determining the price the Red Sox would pay Oakland for releasing him from his current contract.

How would you feel if Beane could have resisted the alluring-draw of Oakland’s concrete jungle and $40 million dollar payroll? Would life as a Red Sox fan be good right now? Beane signed a deal and backed out at the last minute because he wanted to stay near his daughter and ex-wife. But some wondered if he didn’t just chicken out.

In Oakland, Beane’s legacy is a free roll. Success using his ‘advanced’ statistical metrics with limited dollars adds to his legend and brilliance. Moneyball lives on.

Failing with $100 million more dollars under the spotlight and scrutiny of Boston scuffs the shine on his storied life. The new Red Sox owners knew that a GM was more important than any one player and more important that the manager as well. The fact that Beane could do more with less enticed the franchise because it would allow them to help close the financial advantage of the New York Yankees.

Landing Beane appeared to be a coup until the turnabout occurred. At the time, I don’t think anyone ever though there was such thing as a ‘sure’ thing with Boston Red Sox. It had become a common occurrence to stand at the edge of victory only to see it crumble horrifically by the wayside. It was an underlying psychology of the ‘Curse of the Bambino’ and Larry Lucchino watched it happen right in front of his eyes. Beane would not take the money and he ran back to the Oakland where things were safe for him.

It sounds wrong to say anything in Oakland is safe. Oakland is a crime-zone littered with shell casings, chalk outlines and crime scene tape. But its home to Beane and there he remains a gleaming diamond amongst a pile of coal.

His wish was to stay out West in the Pacific time zone left the Red Sox searching for a new GM and it ended just fine because the Red Sox had Mike Port who admirably warmed the throne for a young prince named Theo Epstein — the real boy genius who would sweep into Boston Red Sox fans’ conscience and take the franchise to a heartbreaking Game 7 ALCS defeat in his rookie year.

Epstein is credited with making several key acquisitions, including David Ortiz, Kevin Millar, and Curt Schilling, during his first tenure as Red Sox GM, who were regarded as instrumental in breaking the so-called “Curse of the Bambino” and winning the Red Sox their first World Series Championship since 1918. – Wiki

But this is not about Theo and the awesome 2004 and 2007 seasons. It’s about the day ‘Billy Beane’ spurned the Red Sox after a last-second change of heart. Where would we be now? Would we have any championships in Boston? Maybe we would have won all of them? Maybe Beane is the superlative sabermetric-friendly GM, and with $100 more million he could have destroyed the Bronx, where $50 bills are used to wipe Steinbrenner’s ass.

Maybe ‘Billy Beane’ would have been awesome, but we’ll never know. He made the playoffs two more times since turning away the Red Sox gig. In 2003, his Oakland A’s won 96 games but came up short in the ALDS against Boston in what marked a poetic ending to the Red Sox-Billy Beane saga. Epstein was a young prodigy and Beane was a footnote in history.

“I really do harbor absolutely no ill will toward Billy. … He’s not going to be part of our team, but we’re going to watch with great interest the success he has going forward.” – Larry Lucchino, 2002

One season after the Red Sox beat Beane’s A’s in the 2003 ALDS, they would win the World Series ending an 86-year drought. Beane could dig his toes into the sand and stare out at an ocean that points towards Japan – but he to had have wondered — what would have things been like if he had just taken that job in Boston?

Thankfully, we’ll never know.

Categories: Boston Red Sox

8 Responses to “The Day Billy Beane Backed Out on Boston” Subscribe

  1. Wooden U. Lykteneau November 3, 2010 at 4:34 AM #

    Ooh, look: Another screed bashing Billy Beane! How novel.

    • Darryl Johnston November 3, 2010 at 12:53 PM #

      Oh look, an elitist commentor. How interesting.

  2. Dean Myers November 3, 2010 at 1:49 PM #

    I do not understand the point of this article. The Red Sox went on to win 2 World Series titles while the A's have had their moments but are falling down again since 2002. Oakland is Oakland with its share of issues but tucked away nicely in one of the most wonderful places to live – the Bay Area.

    Billy Beane put family first. Good for him, and good for the Red Sox.

    • Darryl Johnston November 3, 2010 at 2:38 PM #

      The point is this happened. This occurred and I felt like replaying the story. At the time I was mad when it happened, but in hindsight, it's good.

      Also, it's November and there is nothing going on so everyone is beating the same free agent speculation drum so I will spend the off season looking at historical things. I already did the Brunansky story, the best and worst trades and now this Beane incident.

      I didn't realize it was so touchy.

  3. Gerry November 3, 2010 at 3:56 PM #

    Billy remained at home, and is glad he did. So is Theo, a 'disciple' of Billy's recruiting and MiLB philosophy, who got the job by default; and, with Bill James & his posse, have moved the philosophy forward. Sometimes, though, I wish Theo would put away the checkbook, and trust his instincts & the 'kids' more.

    To make this article 2011 relevant, do we really, really need a bloated payroll and huge contracts for Carl Crawford, Jason Werth, Agon, Prince Fielder, Adam Dunn to compete? What happened to the bridge? Even without Beltre & V-Mart, this is still a +/- 200hr, 300 doubles, high OBP team with plus defense. I'm totally fine with Cam/Reddick/Kalish/D-Mac, and Youk at 1b with Lowrie at 3b. It looks like Navarro is learning to hit, and Iglesias & Lavarnway are AFL All Stars. Couldn't Salty/Tek/Wagner handle C for a year, contribute solid defense and 25hr in the process? Of course they could. Can Curt Young turn Oki and Pap around, and get Bowden settled so we don't need a type-A RP?

  4. Felix September 26, 2011 at 3:48 PM #

    A couple of points:

    A. Beane strongly recommended Epstein to the Sox ownership group when he ultimately decided against the job. It's hart to say if they would have handed the job to a 28 year old as easily. In any case, the endorsement from Beane didn't hurt.

    B. After turning down the job, either as an act of contrition or because he liked Theo, Beane sat down with him and outlined what *he* would have done if he had become the GM. Was this the exact blueprint that led to '04? In any case, it didn't hurt.

  5. Laurence November 28, 2012 at 10:13 AM #

    Seeing as Theo Epstein was assistant GM to Beane for the whole 12 hours he was the Red Sox GM, do you think he imitated Beanes method using statistics to value players? Is that how the Red Sox won their first World Series since 1918?

    • Terry November 30, 2012 at 8:44 AM #

      He probably did because he saw what the Red Sox owners were looking for and so tried to 'be' Beane even though he now had a bigger budget than Beane did.