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Rumors of Billy Beane for Cubs GM might be on the money

StarlCastro steals second third but gave Cubs scare when his hamstring cramped. | Marcio Jose Sanchez~AP

Starlin Castro steals second in the third, but gave the Cubs a scare when his hamstring cramped. | Marcio Jose Sanchez~AP

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Updated: November 16, 2011 1:31AM

SAN FRANCISCO — When Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts showed up at AT&T Park in San Francisco on Wednesday to watch the Cubs with some old friends in the stands, the buzz immediately rose about what new friends he might have made across the bay in Oakland this week.

Longtime Oakland Athletis general manager Billy Beane, rumored to be near the top of the Cubs’ wish list in their GM search, wasn’t on the road with his team in Cleveland and was presumed home in the Bay Area — along with well-regarded Beane assistant David Forst, another potential candidate.

Ricketts, who has made a vow of silence regarding his GM search, kept that vow Wednesday. But multiple high-ranking A’s ­officials suggested that no contact had been made.

That doesn’t mean that at least some reconnaissance work wasn’t accomplished on Ricketts’ trip.

What it does mean is that every remaining game is about which GM candidate might be in the vicinity and about every Ricketts sighting in ­every place that isn’t the Wrigley Field bleachers or owner’s box.

On Wednesday, the Cubs lost a game (4-0 to the San Francisco Giants), won a series (2 games to 1 after getting swept in Milwaukee) and survived an injury scare to young star shortstop Starlin Castro (hamstring camp in the third inning; stayed in the game).

But when the final day for waiver trades passed without the Cubs making an August deal and when Ricketts showed up within a short limo ride of Beane — on a leg of the trip that Ricketts’ second-year numbers man, Ari Kaplan, also joined ahead of the team — nothing else mattered. Nor will it for the final month of the season.

Not that it should. If the Cubs are going to make a regime change that matters, they’re not only going to have to find the right person for the job, but they might have to be ready to get that hire done quickly when the season ends.

At least two other teams could be looking for new GMs by then, including the Houston Astros, who are said to have their sights on another Cub favorite, Tampa Bay GM Andrew Friedman, who’s from Houston.

As for Beane, multiple reports suggest the star of the Moneyball book that’s been made into a Brad Pitt movie due out this fall is one of several A’s executives growing increasingly disillusioned with Oakland’s attendance woes and bleak stadium and revenue outlook. He’s a California guy, but some insiders believe he could be lured by the Cubs’ challenge/opportunity.

When A’s co-owner Lew Wolff told the San Francisco Chronicle on Wednesday that ‘‘no one has called’’ to seek permission to interview Beane, Wolff added, ‘‘But if they do, I certainly want him to be able to pursue any opportunity he’d like.’’

Meanwhile, in Boston, the Cubs’ prototype GM model — Red Sox GM Theo Epstein — finally addressed, without coming close to resolving, rumors about the Cubs pursuing him and his possible interest in the job.

From the Boston Globe: ‘‘I try to avoid commenting on things that are so speculative,’’ Epstein said. ‘‘We’re trying to get to the postseason and win the World Series, and I spend all my time working with my staff to make this the organization we want it to be for now and in the future. That’s where my exclusive focus is.’’

Pressed for an actual answer on the subject, he said, ‘‘Something like that, I can’t even contemplate it long enough to comment on it. I’m all Red Sox all the time.’’

Cubs manager Mike Quade insists there are reasons to pay attention on the field this final month — whether it’s Andrew Cashner’s return from the disabled list in a few days, Castro’s drive for 200 hits or Tyler Colvin’s show-me-something finish.

‘‘There’s still a pretty bright future here with a lot of guys on this field, and I believe that,’’ Quade said, “and that future can get bright through the month of September.’’

Which raises the most important question: Anybody seen Ricketts’ itinerary for the Cubs’ trip to New York next week, and does anyone know if Yankees GM Brian Cashman is planning to keep office hours in town that week?

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