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Fuson, Beane reunite for sake of A's
PHOENIXGrady Fuson returned to the Oakland Athletics after an eight-year absence this spring, assuming the role of an adviser to general manager Billy Beane and the A’s player development staff.
Yeah, that Grady Fuson, the former A’s scouting director, who seven years ago was a prime target of the arrows in "Moneyball," which prompted him to verbally dress down Beane for the way the operation of the A’s was portrayed in the book.
"If he wants to show no appreciation to the team he had in place, it’s his prerogative,’’ Fuson told San Francisco Chronicle baseball writer Susan Slusser at the time of the book’s publication, "but it's sad because of the loyalty of those people who traveled from city to city and spent nights and nights away from home and are now called old codgers."
So what’s up?
Nothing, really, other than Beane being Beane, driven to win to the point that he can truly let bygones be bygones.
Beane knows that Fuson understands what it takes to developing a winning organization and earlier this winter, when Fuson became a victim of the rearranging of the furniture in San Diego, Beane didn’t hesitate asking Fuson to come back.
"When I got let go, it wasn’t that Billy was my first call," Fuson explained. "I was his first call. He called me that afternoon."
As Beane explained, "We sort of knew what was in the wind, and if he was available I wanted him back. He is what I like. He will speak his mind and he isn’t going to be intimidated by his surroundings. That’s important to me — having people who aren’t afraid to speak up for what they believe in."
What the move doesn’t do is indicate any remorse Beane has about "Moneyball" from a personal standpoint.
"Not at all," said Beane when asked if he ever regretted the hubbub created by "Moneyball." "It allowed me to meet some incredible people and opened a lot of doors for me."
It opened international doors to Beane with executives in other sports, and created a cottage industry for him on the public speaking circuit.
Has Billy Beane ever regretted the Moneyball hubbub? "Not at all."Jim McIsaac
"It changed my life," he said. "I met people and created friendships."
It also painted a bull’s eye on Beane in baseball circles, particularly among the scouting and player development people who were demeaned by the way they were characterized.
Beane, however, points out today what he said seven years ago, without many people taking time to listen: That "the big thing is to separate me from the book. We didn’t commission the book. It was not necessarily a testament to me or our organization.
"The difficult thing is part of the misconception was that it was a template for success."
In other words, the book took a broad concept that Beane believes in — look for an undervalued commodity and capitalize on it — and focused on what was the commodity du jour (on-base percentage) as if it was a tried-and-true route to success.
"This game, like business in general, is fluid," Beane said. "There is no template, where, what was (the focus) 10 years ago is going to be working 10 years later. In fact, by the time the book came out, on-base percentage had become a wildly recognized state and no longer was undervalued. We could no longer afford it so we had moved on."
Among the changes, which Fuson has said makes him most comfortable, is that there were a couple of years where Beane admittedly became overly dependent on stats. He is now back to using stats more as one of several tools in evaluations.
One thing hasn’t changed, though, Beane’s respect for the abilities of Fuson, who initially left the A’s because he was made the general-manager-in-waiting with Texas, only to have that situation erode. Then he moved to San Diego, where he was reunited with former A’s president Sandy Alderson, but when the Padres were sold prior to last season to a group headed by former agent Jeff Moorad, Alderson was pushed out, and at season’s end, Fuson was caught up in a front office remodeling.
Now’s he back in Oakland, where his non-playing career began 28 years ago. He’s back with the team that he helped build into an AL West power thanks to his ability to run a scouting- and player-development program that produced the likes of Barry Zito, Mark Mulder and Tim Hudson — the anchors to the championship-run rotation, along with the third baseman.
He is back with the organization where one of his protégés, Eric Kubota, is now the scouting director.
And he’s back alongside Beane, who does have a temper but also has an ability to regroup and move on, rarely holding a grudge.
"I don’t know how long it took for things to calm down, but I know we’ve kept in touch over the last eight years, and I always thought he would feel comfortable (back) here," Beane said. "That is a beautiful part of our relationship.
"Do we disagree on things? That’s part of a business relationship. But when it is over it’s over. I have a tremendous respect for his work ethic and his ability to lead a department, and I think he likes the fact that our approach (in Oakland) is that we all work together, at every level, to get the job done.’’
That, in itself, has to be a welcome reprieve for Fuson, who found himself in the midst of a power-struggle in Texas, and then landed in San Diego, where the front office was split by factions who felt loyalty to Alderson, former general manager Kevin Towers and former owner John Moores.
That, as much as anything, is why Fuson is comfortable coming back to what is his baseball home.
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