If you didn’t become a fan of Billy Beane during his three seasons as an outfielder with the Jackson Mets, then surely “Moneyball” won you over. The longtime Oakland A’s executive is still trying to win that last game of the season, and he might have a team that can do it this year. As they say in the movie, What is happening in Oakland? From a ho-hum start – and on the heels of three straight losing seasons – the A’s have caught fire. They are on a 38-13 roll and have climbed to within 2 games of Houston, the defending World Series champion and leader of the American League West, heading into a rather large weekend series at Oakland Coliseum. These A’s aren’t a team of household names – Khris Davis, Matt Chapman, Sean Manaea, Matt Olson, et al. – but that could change by October. Beane is now the A’s vice president of baseball operations but still works like a GM. With his club surging into playoff contention in mid-July, he engineered several moves just before the trade deadline that might prove huge. The A’s added Jeurys Familia, Shawn Kelley, Mike Fiers and Fernando Rodney, greatly enhancing their pitching depth. “We just went through three years where we didn’t have that opportunity (to make the postseason),” GM David Forst told Yahoo Sports. “And you know Billy’s personality. As soon as he sees it, he’s going to jump on it.” The A’s still have one of the lowest payrolls in MLB. They might not be buried under “50 feet of crap” as they were in the “Moneyball” season of 2002, but they’re still an underdog in this fight. It just kinda feels right to pull for Billy Beane.
Former Mississippi State star Hunter Renfroe, who already has reached Double-A in his first full pro season, will play in the All-Star Futures Game at Target Field in Minneapolis on July 13. Renfroe, an outfielder drafted 13th overall by San Diego last summer, was batting .295 with 16 home runs and 52 RBIs at high Class A Lake Elsinore when he was promoted to Double-A San Antonio last week. The Crystal Springs native is 2-for-18 in five games but does have a home run. … Mississippi Braves second baseman Jose Peraza will play for the International team in the Futures Game. P.S. The 78th Texas League All-Star Game will be played tonight at North Little Rock, Ark., with former Mississippi Braves skipper Phillip Wellman, now with the Arkansas Travelers, running one of the clubs. More noteworthy here, however, is that it was 30 years ago this month when Billy Beane homered in the bottom of the ninth inning to win the TL All-Star Game in Jackson. Beane, then with the Jackson Mets, now general manager of the Oakland A’s, was not picked for the game initially but came when called because, he said, he felt like he owed it to the fans in Jackson. He was in his third year with the JaxMets in 1984 and would end that season in the big leagues. His home run in the All-Star Game rates as one of the greatest moments in Smith-Wills Stadium’s long history.