Friday, July 18, 2008

The Master Of All He Surveys

  • Athletics trade Joe Blanton to the Phillies for three minor leaguers:
I honestly believe that Athletics baseball czar Billy Beane is treating the baseball world as
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his scientific la-bor-a-tory (as pronounced from the horror flicks of the 30s and 40s), his club as a petri dish and he's doing different things for his own entertainment and to see if they work. After Moneyball was presented as a "blueprint" for running a franchise, Beane turned around and started doing almost the exact opposite of what was detailed in the book. After a few years of drafting predominately college-age players, the Athletics started drafting a bunch of high school players including the dreaded and decried!!!!!
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After eschewing the practice of paying large salaries to his managers, he gave a load of money to Ken Macha and then fired him while still owing a chunk of that contract. Previously reluctant to adopt the practice of huge signing bonuses on unproven, international players based on talent alone, the Athletics won the bidding war for 6'7", 16-year-old Dominican pitcher Michael Inoa. Now, with his team a surprise contender, Beane is still clearing out the veteran pitchers like Joe Blanton and Rich Harden to acquire prospects for the future. With the trading deadline approaching, it's a safe bet to say that if he receives lucrative offers for just about anyone on his roster (especially the highly-paid veterans like Huston Street), they'll go as well.
Trading Rich Harden was a no-brainer given his injury history and salary; trading Blanton to the Phillies for the prospects Adrian Cardenas, Josh Outman (Beane might have traded for him based on his name alone), and Matt Spencer is a smart move given the Phillies desperation for pitching. The minor league numbers indicate that the acquired players have bright futures ahead of them. Beane also used the Phillies situation to his advantage. Their GM Pat Gillick is retiring and wants to win now no matter the cost and Blanton is struggling
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and highly paid, but has a reputation as a gutty and durable innings-eater.
Beane has received criticism for his willingness to appear to throw the towel in on the season for reasons other than the standings; he's also received criticism for how his team has failed in the post-season and that he's never won a championship. The argument that he's not a genius because of such flawed reasons is nonsensical. He's a genius because he's fearless and is willing to do the unconventional to benefit his organization and he's a genius because part of him may be doing these things for reasons other than the manual that has been attributed to him; he may be doing them in part for his own amusement, just to see if they work.
  • And the trade from the Phillies point-of-view:
Blanton is either going to take Adam Eaton's spot in the rotation as Rob Neyer suggests
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on, or he might just take the spot that was being held for Brett Myers to facilitate Myers's permanent move to the bullpen, which Myers seems to prefer. Blanton's numbers are bad this season, but he's been serviceable enough in half of his twenty starts and the change to the
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National League should help his results. The move to Philadelphia will probably increase the number of homers that Blanton allows since he gives up a fair amount anyway, but since he throws strikes and gobbles innings, he should hang around in games and keep things close enough so that the Phillies offense will pick him up by outscoring their opponents. His bulldog attitude and personality will also fit right into the Phillies clubhouse. In a few years, they may regret trading those minor leaguers, but it looks like GM Pat Gillick's attitude is that he won't be with the Phillies to see that day regardless, so what's the difference?

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