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Billy Beane's Oakland Athletics had another rough year. They finished last in the American League West and out of the playoffs once again. But all hope is not lost in the East Bay. The team features some of the best young pitching in baseball and thanks to some smart trades and drafting, the A's also have some fine young bats coming up through the system who should be able to help as soon as 2010.
Beane sat down to talk about some general topics for SBNation.com, including his passion for USC football, soccer and the unfortunate fate of the Moneyball movie. If you're an A's fan and want further insight into the Beane's view of the green and gold or just are interested in what Beane thought of Matt Holliday's time with the team, Athletics Nation features the first part of an exclusive two-part interview with Beane.
But without further ado, here is the SB Nation interview with Billy Beane:
Tyler Bleszinski: It looks like six of the playoff teams will feature teams with payrolls over $100 million if Detroit makes it in there. Is this only going to continue to tilt more and more towards the haves rather than the have nots?
Beane: This year it certainly looks that way. The thing is you have teams that have resources that have become very good at what they do. A lot of the credit still has to go to some of those teams that have money. It's one thing to have money but it's another to have money and to use it wisely. I think this year is a case of a lot teams who are really good at what they do and have a lot of those resources. If it's a continuing trend then it would definitely be concerning to the mid-to-small market clubs. We'll have to wait and see, but it wouldn't be fair if you didn't credit the teams that have resources for using those resources wisely and being very good at what they do. If it does become a trend then it's probably better answered then, but certainly this year it looks like it and we'll see if it's that way going forward.
Bleszinski: Do you think MLB is healthy as a business?
Beane: Oh yeah, absolutely. It's a difficult time for all industries across the globe. Certainly baseball has had some tremendous growth over the last 10-12 years and the idea that it would continue to grow at that rate was probably not realistic, but the fact remains that it still continues to grow. I think more than anything the indication of where things have gone internationally and the options people have to follow their clubs vis-a-vis media outlets and things like that. I definitely think it is as there are some very progressive owners and progressive general managers running clubs and when you have that kind of intelligence in the game you're going to continue to grow your product.
Bleszinski: How much has the economy hurt the sport?
Beane: It's had an impact on everybody. That's not to exonerate the performance of the team from having impact as well. In sports if you put a successful product on the field, by and large, people are going to respond. If the economy is good they're going to really, really respond, but if the economy is sputtering along, they might not respond as strongly, but I think there is still going to be significant interest. I've always thought sports, by and large, is a function of the wins and losses and people will find a way to come out and view your product if you're putting something on the field they're interested in. Some years more than others depending on the economy, but certainly there will always be interest if the team is good. If the team is not good and the economy is not good, that's when you have the bottom fall out on you.
Bleszinski: Speaking of good teams, what team do you like out of the AL heading into October and what team in the NL?
Beane: Oh heavens, I don't make those predictions in my line of work.
Bleszinski: Which ones look really strong to you though?
Beane: (laughing) They all look strong. We played them all. Even in the National League, it takes a lot for the teams to get to the playoffs. It truly does appear to be wide open. Any of the eight teams that get there, if any of them won it, it wouldn't surprise me.
Bleszinski: Do you still subscribe to the theory that the playoffs are a crapshoot?
Beane: Let me put it this way, of all the eight teams that are going to the playoffs, they all deserve to go there. Whoever ultimately wins, there may be a break or two that ultimately help them to win the championship, but the one thing I love about baseball is that the eight teams that get there deserve to be there. The others that don't get there, don't deserve to get there. The eight teams in that postseason tournament are all worthy of being champions is the way I look at it.
Bleszinski: It looked like the Moneyball movie was going to go forward and then some studio problems shut it down. Brad Pitt was cast to play the role of Billy Beane. How much crap have the guys given you about that?
Billy Beane: Which guys?
Bleszinski: Your interoffice workers. The team. Your buddies.
Beane: We don't really talk about it.
Bleszinski: Come on, no one has brought it up to you and called you Brad?
Beane: (laughing) That will never be mistaken.
Bleszinski: I suppose your wife must've liked it.
Beane: It probably just disappointed her that I wasn't. (laughs)
Bleszinski: Are you disappointed the movie won't come to fruition?
Beane: I've actually had little if anything to do with it and haven't really followed it that much.
Bleszinski: You weren't looking forward to eventually seeing it?
Beane: I get asked a lot about it but I get asked more about it than I actually think about it. It's not my production. As I often remind people, I neither wrote the book or was the producer of the movie. So it's not something I think about a whole lot.
Bleszinski: What do you think of the MLB Network? Have you watched it much?
Beane: I think it's great. It's great to have our industry have its own channel. I feel all old because all the people on there are people that I worked with like John Hart, or players that I played against. They're all behind a desk. For its first year launch, it's been outstanding and I only suspect that it will get better and better. It's great for the fans and great for the industry.
Bleszinski: Do you watch it a lot?
Beane: I do. I catch it quite a bit...
Bleszinski: When you're on the treadmill?
Beane: (laughs) Exactly. Usually I have two TVs on, one with our game on and the other with the network on because it keeps me updated on all the other games. It's on quite a bit and a matter of fact it's on in my office right now.
Bleszinski: I've got to ask you a painful question. What happened to your beloved USC earlier this year?
Beane: Oh man. They got through the tough one in Ohio State but they got spanked up in Washington. It just shows the power of the Pac-10. But seriously, they've been crushed with injuries. USC had a terrible accident with their running back yesterday. They're very young. You've got a true freshman starting as a quarterback so their best days are ahead of them.
Bleszinski: Are they overrated?
Beane: I'm certainly not an expert, I'm just a fan. But when you lose your speediest wide receiver, you lose a defensive lineman, you lose one of your best running backs, they're having to do some patchwork very early on with a young team. They've got a tough schedule too. I still have faith in them, though I do root for Cal too. Remember with USC the expectation level is so absurdly high that I think Carroll has finished in the top five seven years in a row. In a business where you are rarely allowed to lose one game, that is remarkable. They sit there at 3-1 right now with a young team and have beaten Ohio State on the road. They have created such a high level of expectations that unless they run the table and no one scores on them, someone is going to be disappointed which is really a credit to the program.
Bleszinski: Finally, I know you love the English Premier League and international soccer. Who will challenge for EPL supremacy this year and who do you think is the early favorite for the 2010 World Cup?
Beane: As for the EPL, I say Chelsea.
Bleszinski: Is that because you're a Chelsea fan?
Beane: No, I'm actually a Tottenham fan. I'd say Chelsea in the EPL with Man City as the darkhorse.
Bleszinski: I was just going to ask you what you thought of Man City with all their newfound money to throw around.
Beane: They are the darkhorse, but I still think Chelsea will win. In the World Cup, Brazil has re-established themselves over Spain. I know it's the easy pick, but it wasn't so easy a year ago when Brazil wasn't playing well. But Brazil has been pretty dominant since Spain won the Euro last year. I'd say Brazil one, Spain two.
Bleszinski: Are you going to go to any of the games?
Beane: No, it's too far and I won't be able to attend that. Number three I'd say Argentina but there's no guarantee they're going to be there.
Bleszinski: They still have to qualify.
Beane: Exactly. Although you can never dismiss Italy in the World Cup. They always seem to find a way.