The San Francisco Chronicle shares with us the thinking of an unthinkable notion.
Brian Sabean, Oakland A's general manager.
But first, a bit of fairness. The author, Susan Slusser, who knows the A’s well enough to perform elective surgery on most of the executives and all the players, doesn’t say this will happen, should happen or even might happen. Indeed, she slides the notion neatly into paragraph 14 and describes the scenario as “whispers . . . within both teams.”
But the Giants’ baseball brainbuckets, Sabean, Bobby Evans and Bruce Bochy all have contracts that expire next year, and A’s owner John Fisher is remaking the organization’s front office all around the baseball folks, and one can fairly assume that he’ll get around to them if the results aren’t more invigorating in a hinders-in-seats kind of way.
So some folks see a potential resource swap in each team’s future, though there are contractual and emotional complications galore, starting with this seemingly obvious one:
Larry Baer and Billy Beane would work together with the same mutual devotion typically found in firemen and arsonists. That seems monumentally unlikely, Beane would have to divest his ownership stake in the A’s (millions are just a phone call away, of course), and Slusser does not offer that as a potential scenario.
But maybe it isn’t Beane but Forst whom Baer might covet. A job with resources might interest Forst, but his loyalty to Beane has precluded such a notion to date. Beane, for his part, might decide it’s time to become full Johnny Soccer and become more involved with Barnsley, the English team of which he owns a slice, and AZ Alkmaar, the Dutch team for which he offers consultations at the standard rate.
As to the reverse, it is hard to imagine Sabean or Bochy starting over, either in Oakland for the spectral John Fisher or anywhere else, given that Sabean would be 62 and Bochy 64. Their ages aren’t the disqualifiers, though; the mileage is. Bochy will have managed just over 4,100 games by the end of next year, seventh on the all-time list, and Sabean will have run a ballclub longer than anyone but Branch Rickey and Ed Barrow. To go across the bay to supervise the transition to a new ballpark for an apparently undercapitalized (by baseball standards) boss they barely know seems nearly preposterous.
It’s a provocative thought, of course, or rather, set of thoughts, and by no means is it inconceivable. But like most thoughts, clearing the “inconceivable” bar is light years from “this makes perfect sense.” Baer’s main goal has been to drive the A’s into the sea, and not by poaching its people, and Fisher would seem to want a fresh start, based on his recent front office changes.
But there’s one notion that doesn’t actually touch this story directly, and it is this. If Fisher is thinking of changing the baseball operation as he has the rest of the hierarchy, it would be an indication that intends to keep the A’s rather than sell them, at least any time soon. There would be no value in making such dramatic changes only to have a new owner come in and make them again.
So maybe those are the whispers that should be whispered – that the A’s makeover leads to an idea that they are not longing for the badlands of Portland or Charlotte after all. If that is the case, that would be a bigger development than the notion that they could conceivably raid the bully across the bridge for baseball talent.