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Beane playing it cool at Meetings

Beane playing it cool at Meetings

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- A's general manager Billy Beane delights in sprinkling conversation with references that would make Dennis Miller proud.

An obvious fan of intellectual analogies, Beane will drop a Frodo -- of Tolkien fame -- here, a Louisiana Purchase there.

Tuesday afternoon, holed up in his suite on Day 2 of the Winter Meetings, with several of his top lieutenants gathered at a conference table behind him and four Bay Area scribes in front of him, Beane dumbed it down a bit.

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Asked if there was anything he liked about the Winter Meetings, he first reversed the question on the reporters. Then he hemmed and hawed a bit about the inconveniences presented by the Meetings, citing irregular hours, altered eating and exercise habits, and the absence of fresh air in the massive, city-within-a-city that is the host Opryland Hotel.

"So is that a 'No'?" Beane was asked.

"That's a big 'No,'" Beane said. "It's just not a very healthy environment."

Pause. Wait for it ...

"I feel," he added, "like Austin Powers in that cryogenic tube."

The reference was fitting, for when it came to addressing the wild variety of A's-related rumors floating around Music City, Beane was very much an international man of mystery.

Well, maybe not so international, unless you count the peaks he occasionally stole at the big-screen television tuned to the self-proclaimed "world-wide leader in sports." But mysterious indeed.

Have the Yankees made that rumored big pitch for ace Dan Haren? Are the Diamondbacks taking a run at Haren, or possibly fellow righty Joe Blanton?

Oh, behave, baby. Beane, who has a long-standing policy of refusing to discuss other teams' free agents, said he's extending that policy -- at least temporarily -- to any and all rumors.

Why? In part because if Beane were to spend even a little bit of time shooting down every Haren rumor that's surfaced here, he'd have precious little time to meet with the teams whose interest in Haren have fueled the buzz.

Beane merely acknowledged the interest before reiterating what he's been saying for much of the offseason: He's not looking to deal Haren or Blanton or closer Huston Street, whose name surfaced in a rumor involving the Brewers on Tuesday. In fact, he's scheduled to meet with Street's agent here to discuss a multiyear contract.

Winter Meetings

What Beane is doing, he insisted, is simply opening his suite and his ears -- and leaving most everything else open to the interpretation of the fourth estate.

"There's a difference between actively listening and wanting to move someone," he said.

Beane also reiterated that he'd have to be blown away by a proposed package to part with Haren. "Absolutely," he said.

Asked if anything he's heard here has come close to blowing him away, Beane said, "No."

Beane and his crew had one meeting Monday night, and it was with the Arizona brass. D-Backs GM Josh Byrnes confirmed as much Tuesday but offered little else in the way of detail.

"We talked [to the A's] about a lot of names," Byrnes said. "I don't think we assessed the balance of who's in and who's not, but ... I think there was a little more specificity to it. I think it's that time of year where you don't want to waste a lot of time. If the gap is fairly sizeable, I think it's time to redirect your energies."

Beane's energies after his informal meeting with the media Tuesday were to be spent with a A's affiliates dinner and a few more meetings with other teams, but he said he wasn't "on the cusp" of getting anything done.

And repeatedly, he noted that he doesn't feel the need to get anything done this week. When his 2004 trades of aces Tim Hudson and Mark Mulder were brought up, he crushed any potential parallels that might be drawn to his club's situation regarding Haren and Blanton.

"In 2004, I made it very clear [to other GMs], privately, that we were gonna move two of the three," he said of his then-trio of pitching stars, which was rounded out by Barry Zito. "That is not the case here."

Beane went as far as suggesting that he might not make any significant moves at all this winter.

Several key players were slowed or shut down by injuries during the 2007 season, and if the majority of them stay healthy in 2008, the A's, Beane has said, might have enough talent to compete for the American League West crown.

"If you look at every spot, it's, 'If,' 'If,' 'If," he said. "It's a risk, but it's a risk we're willing to take -- at least in December."

Mychael Urban is a national writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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