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Does Billy Beane’s contract extension signal an optimistic dawn for Oakland fans?

Big League Stew

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Billy Beane's deal may only go through 2019, but his tie to Brad Pitt will last forever. (Getty)

Admittedly it's a little weird to use a word like "dawn" when you're talking about a general manager that has held his position since 1998 and ranks among the most tenured front-office men in baseball.

But with Billy Beane reportedly finalizing an extension that would keep him running the Oakland Athletics through 2019, the media and fan buzz around the Bay Area has an optimistic bent. The thinking is that there's no way that Beane would sign on for that long if owner Lew Wolff wasn't close to securing his prized stadium deal over in San Jose.

Writes Susan Slusser in the SF Chronicle:

Such [a lengthy extension points] to further optimism in the A's upper ranks about the team's chances of getting approval for a new stadium in San Jose. Considering how publicly frustrated Beane has been about the limitations of the Coliseum, both in terms of attracting free agents and in terms of income generated, I cannot imagine him staying with the club that long without a good idea that a new stadium is on the horizon.

Indeed, with a new stadium in place, the thinking is that Wolff will end his tantrum and ease up on the financial death grip that led Beane to trade players like Trevor Cahill, Gio Gonzalez and Andrew Bailey this offseason. A new home might not catapult the A's into large-market status but it should definitely stop the team from walking around with a tin cup while doing a lesser-publicized version of the retro Florida Marlins act.

Of course, with Beane's recent track record one wonders how fired up A's fans can really be about him sticking around for this entire decade. After all, the sheen of "Moneyball" exists only in the minds of Oscar voters and it's going to take a lot to make people forget about the misstep of trading Carlos Gonzalez for a half-season of Matt Holliday. Also, as SB Nation's Rob Neyer notes, Beane's 4 percent ownership stake means that he could be sticking around for more than just the removal of a competitive handicap.

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Neyer also asks if this deal means that Beane will be an Athletic for life and I can't really see it meaning anything else. For better or worse, the on-field successes of Moneyball in the early 2000s — and Beane's ensuing rejection of the Red Sox — ensured a lengthy relationship between the two sides. Beane isn't going anywhere, nor should he be. It's impossible to separate the franchise from the architect at this point.

At the same time, I can't look at this deal and automatically assume that Billy Beane plus a bigger budget equals guaranteed success. The real victory of such an extension is that it signifies the franchise can stop spinning its wheels and finally get into a position where it can sink or swim. Beane and the A's could fail just as easily in a new home in San Jose, but at least it won't be the product of self-sabotage. It's a sad indictment of the past few years in Oakland, but that will count as progress.

It will count as a reason for hope.

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