OAKLAND — The manager still has his job, the hitting coach still has his job and the nucleus within the clubhouse remains unchanged.

Give it up, ladies and gentlemen, for Billy Beane.

The A's vice president/general manager/minority owner stands, for now, as a contradiction to the rumor that accountability in corporate America is dead.

As the A's sit on an eight-game losing streak — their longest in nearly seven years — after taking a 6-4 spanking from the New York Yankees on Sunday, Beane has yet to designate anyone for firing.

Not even for the sake of fingering a scapegoat.

And you know what? It's only right.

How fair would it be if Beane were to look at his team's last-place status, wrinkle his nose and blame others any more than he blames himself?

The team's philosophies flow from him. He sets policies. All GMs select personnel, but Beane also dictates direction. Practically everything the manager and the coaches do, they do at his direction.

It's Billy's program, and the players know it.

It is during times like these, when the A's are playing some of the worst baseball in the major leagues, that Billy's iconoclastic baseball theories are put to their truest tests.

As in: What happens when things go spectacularly wrong?

Every good management plan accounts for the possibility of adversity, if not outright failure.


Advertisement

Just as there is a reason for fire escapes, spare tires andinsurance, there also is a reason for a corporate structure in which individuals have specific responsibilities.

If something goes wrong, the boss knows exactly where to look.

With most sports teams, there is a system to identify the person most responsible for the results. A coach. A defensive coordinator. A general manager. A quarterback. An owner.

But the A's are not a typical franchise. They don't believe in placing the bulk of the responsibility on a manager and his staff because they are the corporate equivalent of middle management.

As one A's official said recently, generally supporting the team's structure, managers and coaches get too much credit when things go well and too much blame when things go wrong.

It's theoretically logical that those at the highest levels bear the greatest responsibility. Which is why philosophy and major decisions in Oakland come from above.

But this model leaves little room for the boss, Beane, to make effective change elsewhere.

Firing the manager, Ken Macha, is a distinct possibility. Dumping the hitting coach, Dave Hudgens, could happen anytime. And let's not dismiss any attempt to move the flesh and salaries belonging to Jason Kendall, Barry Zito, Mark Kotsay and Erubiel Durazo.

How much would it matter, though, if the new faces are requested to follow the same philosophy as the old faces?

How much difference could a new manager or a new coach make if the front office is reluctant to share the creative load?

Replacing Macha in the dugout or Hudgens at the batting cage would be mostly cosmetic, and teams make cosmetic changes all the time. The A's may opt to make one or two before sundown.

But they aspire to more. They seek to prove this old game can be played a new way. They believe in their model and are convinced it gives them their best chance to succeed under their financial limitations.

It's a different way to run a ballclub, yes, but there is no sign Beane, even as he awaits help from his 50,000 draft picks, is ready to back off.

Macha, remember, was promoted not for his ideas but because he was in line for the job and willing to oversee the existing plan. Hudgens was hired not for his ingenuity, but to implement a philosophy already in place.

That philosophy was absent in the first inning Sunday, and there was a measure of irony in seeing the A's look better than they have all season. They were aggressive, swinging at 12 of the first 13 pitches thrown by Randy Johnson and taking a 3-0 lead.

For a few minutes, they looked an entirely different team.

Then the bats went soft again. 

Beane recently said his unwillingness to vent was directly related to his own sagging self-esteem. Which was another way of saying if he were more pleased with his own work, he'd feel better about lighting into others.

It was a refreshing comment, sneaky in its honesty. Beane wasn't exactly pointing the finger at himself, but he wasn't willing to point it at anybody else, either.

Maybe it was testament to Billy's willingness to accept responsibility, a noble gesture here in these blameless times.

On the other hand, given his vast and sweeping influence in the green and gold corridors, it was the least he could do.

Monte Poole is a frequent panelist on "The Last Honest Sports Show," seen Saturday evenings on UPN 44 (cable Channel 12). He can be reached at (510) 208-6461 or by e-mail at mpoole@angnewspapers.com.