Re: If only...
My username says it all.
Some additional answers to the OP's question:
* If Peter Angelos hadn't nixed the agreed upon Bobby Bonilla to the Reds for Steve Gibralter and fodder at the '96 deadline. I firmly believe that the addition of Bonilla, along with Kevin Mitchell - acquired for peanuts from Boston days earlier - would have given the offense the jolt it needed to very likely overtake the Cards.
* Granted, even though I'm not even sure that Billy Beane himself could have succeeded under the non-proactive confines of Lindner/Allen, I'd like to have seen what Paul DePodesta could have accomplished as GM if he would have been hired instead of O'Brien.
I'm fairly certain that Paul D could have at least improved the MLB roster. Looking back, I'm not even sure if O'Brien ever "won" one trade.
I have just been more than a little suspect of all the trades since the Willy (Scott Williamson) cash grab. That one left such a bad taste in my mouth that even a 1985 Dom Pérignon couldn't cleanse it.--Creek14