Inside Pitch: In Billy, A's Fans Trust

When general manager Billy Beane traded away star pitchers Tim Hudson and Mark Mulder in a 72-hour span, it stunned his wife, his players and the Oakland Athletics fan base.<br><br> Apparently, time healed those wounds and broken hearts.

In his first public appearance since the New Year, last week at the A's annual Fanfest, Beane was greeted with a standing ovation at the popular question-and-answer session with fans, some of whom gave him the "we're not worthy" bow.

With the exception of the fan who said Beane should be a heart surgeon, because he tears out the hearts of A's fans, the public took it easy on the GM after his offseason of risky maneuvers.

"It wasn't fun being me for a week or so," Beane admitted to the fans. "My wife woke up one morning and said, 'I can't believe you did that.' I got grief at home, too."

Beane's reasoning behind the trades seemed to satisfy A's fans, at least when it comes to spending money on the team. The A's announced 24,288 people attended Fanfest, and they set an all-time record in individual game ticket sales -- more than 40 percent higher than last season.

Slowly, the reality that Hudson and Mulder are gone has been sinking in. But the final reality was the event. The big highlight of previous Fanfests was the trio answering questions together like rock stars.

This time, Zito was alongside Rich Harden, Joe Blanton, Keiichi Yabu and pitching coach Curt Young.

"The mechanism will be missed the most," Zito said. "It was like we were one-third of a machine -- The Big Three, the idea of it. It's good for us to get out on our own, break away, and see what we can do on our own."

Zito and Eric Chavez were the two players Beane called first to explain his decision. Chavez dropped a "dude, what were you thinking?" on Beane and needed a 45-minute explanation to answer his doubts.

"I thought me and Huddy would be around and they'd build around that," Chavez said. "But, obviously, Billy had a different approach to keeping us competitive. He says things and computes thing that none of us even think about it. Afterward, you think, 'That was a great move.' That's how I feel now. It was the best thing for this organization."

First baseman Scott Hatteberg added, "It's obviously the end of an era. We were lucky to see three young pitchers in their prime. But we never won the big one. It's time to start a new era and new identity."

New catcher Jason Kendall is part of that new identity. Coming from the National League, Kendall knows the six players acquired better than anybody on the A's. Kendall was bullish on the three pitchers he's seen: starter Dan Haren, and relievers Juan Cruz and Kiko Calero.

I'm sure it was hard for the city and fans to lose Hudson and Mulder because they've been a big presence here," Kendall said. "But that said, the guys they acquired are not just good pitchers. They have the ability to be great. They have the potential to be something special."


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