Beane ecstatic about series victory
Oakland's general manager advances to ALCS for first time
OAKLAND -- Oakland left-hander Barry Zito joked that had the A's been unable to win the American League Division Series after going up two games to none in the best-of-five series against Minnesota, general manager Billy Beane "[would] quit and go run a soccer team."
Beane's job situation has never been more secure. Not only did his A's sweep the Twins -- becoming only the third team in history to never trail in a postseason series -- Oakland won 8-3 on Friday to win a clinching game for the first time since 1990 after nine consecutive losses.
"I might do that anyway," Beane said with a laugh after hearing Zito's comment. "There's a few of us who have been around since the first [playoff loss], myself, Wash [third base coach Ron Washington], Fish [bullpen coach Brad Fischer], Lach [first base coach Rene Lachemann], [third baseman] Eric [Chavez] and Barry. I think the other guys just got sick of answering questions about something they weren't even part of. Winning today stopped that question from being asked tomorrow."
Beane and the holdovers from the last four playoff losses had waited a long time for Friday's champagne party, and when it finally came, there was a sense of satisfaction.
"Eric and I were talking about it," Beane said. "This team didn't have any sense of accomplishment after winning two games.
"There has been a little bit of a sense of purpose since we've started the playoffs with some of these guys," Beane said. "We've had some very good teams here, and they wanted to win just as much as these guys, but I would have suspected coming back on the plane there probably would have been a little more enjoyment after beating [Minnesota ace Johan] Santana, but these guys [just] wanted to get back home. I think if it was up to them, they would have played on Thursday."
The players Beane had assembled for this special season all had a hand in the success in this series. From slugger Frank Thomas, who hit .500, to Zito and the rest of the pitching staff (2.33 team ERA), to shortstop Marco Scutaro (.333, team-high six RBIs) everyone contributed.
"I'm going to e-mail Paul DePodesta because I remember the day he came to me and said, 'I want to claim this kid on waivers,'" Beane said of Scutaro. "Probably thinking I was doing something more important I said, 'Sure kid, go ahead and claim him on waivers.' Here we are three years later he not only saved us this week but the year [Mark Ellis] went down, too. [The] credit goes first to Marco and second to Paul. I'd like to take credit for that one, but that one was all Paul."
Beane said he was prepared for whatever happened in this series. And yet there was something different about this playoff series, even before Friday's clinching win.
"When we played the Yankees [in 2003] and were up 2-0, that was one of those where you wake up and [it's], 'Oh my gosh, we just beat the Yankees, we're on our way home and we just beat the Yankees 2-0 in New York.' This team realized they were going to get asked the question had they not taken care of business today."
The A's had shocked baseball by blowing 2-0 leads in best-of-five ALDS twice in recent years. This time they shocked the prognosticators by sweeping a very good Minnesota team.
"They didn't want to take the chance of facing [Santana] again. The best thing we did was we never gave them the lead. They arguably have the best bullpen in the game and they never got a chance to use it when they had the lead."
Beane also believes the short series worked in Oakland's favor.
"I'm glad we're not in the [Central] division with the Minnesota Twins, I wouldn't want to play them in a seven- or nine-game series," he said.
Getting three wins in a five-game series had been hard enough for the franchise. Until Friday.
"We've proven that winning two games gets you nowhere except grief," Beane said.
Jim Molony is a writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.