With the recent firing of Jim Hendry as the Chicago Cubs general manager, there has been much talk as to who will replace him in the Cubs front office.
One name that has jumped to the top of the speculation list is Oakland GM Billy Beane. Depending on your point of view, Beane may or may not be what the Cubs need.
It wouldn’t be the first time that Beane’s name has been linked to a new team. In 2002 the Boston Red Sox tried to hire Beane away from Oakland. Billy decided to stay with the A’s and Boston eventually went with Theo Epstein.
Beane is the main subject of the book Moneyball, as well as the upcoming movie of the same name.
And while wondering what Beane might do if he gets the job is interesting, I thought this would be a good time to bring back a Wrigley Regular feature that I haven’t used in a couple months, What If…….
The idea of What If is to take an event, alter that event, and then see what 5 things would be different because of the change. So with that in mind, let’s play What If.
What If…..… The Cubs had hired Billy Beane as their General Manager in 2002 instead of Jim Hendry?
1) Instead of signing with the Oakland A’s in 2002, Beane gets Scott Hatteberg to sign with the Cubs to be their starting catcher. Hatteberg becomes an instant team leader and pays off huge in 2003 when….. instead of having Paul Bako behind the plate in game 6 of the NLCS, Hatteberg goes out to the mound and settles Mark Prior down after Alou doesn’t catch a pop foul down the left field line. Prior then strikes out Ivan Rodriguez and Miguel Cabrera grounds into a 6-4-3 double play started by Alex Gonzalez. The Cubs win the game 3-0 and go on to win the 2003 World Series.
2) In 2004, Michael Lewis’ book Moneyball hits the books stores. White Sox general manager Kenny Williams is unhappy about the way he is portrayed in the book and attempts to out-smart Billy Beane in a trade. That fall Williams trades overweight rookie pitcher Booby Jenks for catcher Michael Barrett. With Barrett behind the plate, the Sox don’t go out and get AJ Pierzynski in 2005 and use Damaso Marte as their closer. The White Sox don’t win the World Series and both Williams and Ozzie Guillen are fired after the 2006 season.
3) In the fall of 2006, several top free agents hit the market, including Alfonso Soriano who had just completed only the 4th 40/40 season in baseball history. But because Beane is fixated on on-base percentage plus slugging, he scratches Soriano and his then .820 OPS off his want list and targets JD Drew. Beane gets Drew and his .904 OPS for half the price of what the Angels pay for Soriano. In the five years after the signings, Drew plays 130+ games or more only once and is seen as a drag on the Cubs roster, meanwhile Soriano is a 5 time All-Star for the Halos at the DH position and wins the AL MVP in 2009 after leading the Angels to a World Series victory.
4) In the June 2007 Amateur Draft, Billy Beane and the Cubs select Jason Heyward with the number 3 overall pick. Heyward moves up through the minors quickly and wins the 2010 NL Rookie of the Year award. The Atlanta Braves get Josh Vitters with their first round pick. Vitters is still in the Atlanta system waiting for Chipper Jones to retire.
5) In the fall of 2011, Billy Beane is played by Brad Pitt in the movie version of the book Moneyball. Beane is able to see the movie as many times as he wants because he has nothing else to do after being fired in the middle of the season as Cubs GM. Chicago hires Jim Hendry as the new GM sighting the need to get back to “old school”, “I know talent only if I see it” type of scouting. The Cubs go at least another 20 years without winning a World Series.
If you have a What If that you would like answered, send it to WrigleyRegular@Comcast.net
Or add it to the comments below.