Midway through 2014 the Oakland Athletics were the best team in baseball. With a 59-36 (.621) record entering the All-Star break many figured this team would be General Manager Billy Beane's best chance at making the World Series. The second half of the season featured an almost historic collapse by the A's. The team finished 10 games behind the Angels in the AL West and barely clinched the second Wild Card spot. Despite a 7-3 Oakland lead entering the bottom of the eighth in the one game playoff against the Royals the A's went on to lose in extra innings, which ended their season.
The 2014 collapse marked the end of an era for Beane and the Athletics. When the "Moneyball" A's era ended in 2006 the organization spent the next five years rebuilding before a three year playoff run from 2012-14. From 2012 until the 2014 All-Star break the A's went an extremely impressive 249 - 170 (.594). Since then they have gone 116 - 154 (.430). Clearly they are once again starting from scratch.
The reason Beane's job should be called into question here is not because the A's need to rebuild. This is the way baseball works in Oakland. The reason is two disastrous trades by Beane have set the rebuild back.
In the middle of that 2014 season Beane made a trade that was very uncharacteristic of him. He traded the future for the present by sending Addison Russel, along with two others, to the Chicago Cubs for Jeff Samardzjia and Jason Hammel. These pitchers may have helped Oakland get into that one game playoff but there is no doubt Beane would want a do over. After the season Beane sent Samardzjia to the White Sox for a package headlined by shortstop Marcus Semien. While Semien has 10 home runs so far in 2016, Russel is one of the best young shortstops in baseball and is under club control through 2022.
Sensing the need to rebuild after the season Beane made another curious decision by trading away rising star Josh Donaldson to Toronto for Brett Lawrie and prospects. Donaldson still had four years left of club control at the time of the trade and went on to win AL MVP in his first year with the Blue Jays. One of the minor leaguers Beane received was Franklin Barreto, who is now the A's top prospect. While Barreto could salvage some value from the deal it is clear Toronto has already won this trade.
What's interesting about all the praise Beane receives as a GM is that he's never won a World Series. He's never even been to the World Series. The closest the A's have gotten in the past decade was the ALCS in 2006. They got swept.
It's unfair to only judge Beane by these two trades gone wrong. There have been countless deals where he came out on top. The problem with firing him is that the A's would be hard pressed to replace him with someone better. He is known as one of the best GMs in the game for a reason. Although it should bother A's fans that the current roster could feature Russel and Donaldson, at the end of the day Beane is the best option to get them back to relevance due to the fact that he has done it twice already.