Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Marketing Genius Is Still Genius

  • The Kevin Trudeau of baseball:

I think I've finally figured Billy Beane out.

The appellation of Beane as a "genius" is so far in the past that the only holdouts are Michael Lewis and those that are so invested in Moneyball being believed to have "worked" that it's the underdeveloped and conjoined twin of the stat zombies. They're stuck with it and vice versa.

But I've gone on about this before. No need to start up again...for now.


What I do intend to say is that while the destruction of the reputation of the "infallible Billy Beane" was long overdue, he deserves credit for a few things. One, he is a smart baseball executive and person; two, he's smooth and opportunistic enough to have taken everything at his disposal to make money for himself and his team and that includes everything inherent with the demagoguery he exemplifies. While Moneyball was seen as a "true" story----and not the creative non-fiction by a skillful and agenda-driven writer trying to fit a story neatly into his plot template----Beane deserves credit for grabbing the hot topic and running with it to maximize its usefulness.

Billy Beane is the Kevin Trudeau of baseball----a snake-oil salesman covering up faux expertise and falsified miraculous results with a convincing sales pitch that looks great on the surface, but when you actually purchase and try the product you realize that it neither lives up to its expectations nor does the sales pitch approach accuracy in any world other than the sociopathic, money-grubbing, end-justifies-the-means world of Trudeau.

For those of you unaware of who Kevin Trudeau is, he's a convicted felon for credit card fraud (among other things); he's sold memory tapes; self-defense videos; golf instruction videos; promised wealth, riches and pills to promote health; and then, when the government shut down his operations for repeated violations grand and small, he shielded himself in cloak of freedom of speech and turned to writing books about the evil "they".

"They" being anyone and everyone who tried to prevent Trudeau's schemes from robbing more and more people; instead of offering the cures to everything in the form of a product, he wrote books that blamed the monolithic entities of the pharmaceutical industry and the government. Filled with specious (at best) information, the books and Trudeau are safely ensconced in the rights the founding fathers fought for and won; rights that were celebrated two days ago.

He's still at it and while he's under scrutiny, he's slick enough and sleazy enough to always find a way to stickhandle his way around any obstacle.

Looking past the overt creepiness, it's admirable audacity.

I don't believe Beane to be evil or sociopathic, but in a baseball sense, he's done the same thing as Trudeau. It takes a chameleon-like talent to have almost no results to speak of in recent years and to see every decision explode in your face and still receive the same idolatry.

Moneyball was convenient for Beane's ends----power (he's got a piece of the Athletics ownership); money (he's a corporate titan); and accolades (he remains a "genius" in many circles as his foibles are glossed over as having been explainable accidents of circumstance).

While his team is meandering around and mired in mediocrity, Beane's operation still finds somewhat seedy (albeit clever) ways to make a buck. The latest being the T-shirt celebrating Dallas Braden's now-satirical dust-up with Alex Rodriguez for ARod's foray onto Braden's mound in April----ESPN Story.

If you're asking if I think Beane is such a micro-manager that he's controlling promotional items such as a timely T-shirt, no, I don't think he is; but nothing in that organization goes on without Beane's approval and he probably heard the idea and thought it: A) was funny; and B) would sell a lot of T-shirts.

There's nothing wrong with it, but it's also indicative of the cheesiness that Beane exhibits. Like Trudeau, he's wrapped in an expensive suit and an aura of charisma and convincing verbiage; but the results in both cases are what they are----and it's something to cast a wary glance at before taking seriously.

Regarding Braden, Mr. 209 takes himself waaaayyy too seriously. In reference to the T-shirts, he said:

"It looks like the A's are making light of the situation," Braden was quoted saying in Monday's San Francisco Chronicle. "In some ways, it might keep what happened alive."

What I would suggest to Braden is that he let bygones be bygones, take the Yankees visit to Oakland to make peace with ARod and get past this. It was interesting and entertaining at first----in fact, Braden was right about the encroachment and lack of etiquette on the part of ARod----but enough's enough. Doesn't Braden want to be remembered for his perfect game instead of this? If I were him, I'd want one of the shirts as a memento. It's funny.

On a final note about the Athletics and in a lukewarm defense of Beane, there's been ridicule at the performance of his free agent signings from this past winter, notably Ben Sheets and Coco Crisp. Crisp has played in 12 games and missed almost the entire season with assorted injuries----on the bright side, he's not costing a fortune for his lack of attendance ($5.25 million); Sheets has been the more criticized signing.

Costing $10 million guaranteed and seen as a gamble that would have been better-taken by a team that was in contention and wanted to roll the dice that he'd stay healthy, it was thought to be insanity for a barely average team like the A's, for whom everything would have had to go right for them to contend, to spend that kind of money on an injury waiting to happen like Sheets. On the surface, his record has validated the attacks on Beane.

Sheets is 3-8 with an ERA hovering around 5----not good; but if you look at his Gamelogs, he really hasn't pitched badly. His control isn't as pinpoint as it once was, but he's stayed healthy; he's pitching 6-7 innings a game; he's striking out a fair amount of hitters; and he's at least trying to mentor the talented young pitchers on the Athletics staff. If he was pitching for a better team, Sheets's record would be reversed; in fact, he'd have around 10 wins.

Considering the concerns about him centered around health, he's gone above-and-beyond what anyone could reasonably have expected when he received that guaranteed $10 million. In fact, he's earned his pay despite the misleading record.

  • Enough with the rumors!!!

With the trade deadline approaching, there seems to be a tacit agreement among all parties----teams, rumor-mongers and "experts"----to discuss ideas that are absurd in theory and practice. I've had just about enough of hearing deals are "close" and seeing them "fall apart" when they were in reality figments of someone's imagination or came from a source that had neither the access nor the intelligence to gather and sift through what was real and what wasn't.

I go back to the "rumor" earlier this season of the Cardinals and Phillies discussing trading Albert Pujols for Ryan Howard. ESPN used the story to fill time like a giant commercial for their website, TV shows and updates. Buster Olney reported the story and then functioned as an interviewee during ESPN News as the hostess asked, "So Buster, how close is this to happening?" as if it existed in some realm aside from Olney's spacious head and non-existent credibility.

I'm not getting into all the rumors to pick them apart, but one that caught my eye was the implication that the Phillies were scouting Cliff Lee.

Scouting Cliff Lee?!?

First off, has that much changed from when Lee was a member of the Phillies last season and almost single-handedly won them the World Series? Do they need to scout him to make sure that he's a quality arm that they could use? What more do they need to see?

Second, as has been stated repeatedly, is Ruben Amaro Jr willing to have his reputation and competence squeezed in the vice of publicity more than it is now by trying to reacquire Lee after making it a show of trading him to replenish the Phillies system while simultaneously getting Roy Halladay to replace him and sign long-term to stay?

I wouldn't care what anyone said if Lee was the player I felt my club needed to win a championship. If it meant being laughed at for contradicting myself in making the deal and was rewarded with another pennant or World Series, so what? But I find it hard to believe that Amaro would see it that way.

Third, do the Phillies have the prospects to get Lee? Unless they're truly intent on creating a team that by 2012 is going to win 65 games, they can't gut the system any further; nor can they trade top prospect Domonic Brown for a rental----and that's exactly what Lee would be because he would not stay with the Phillies and they wouldn't have the money to keep him even if he was willing to stay.

Finally, starting pitching isn't the Phillies problem. They've struggled because of injuries; a lack of hitting; and a bad bullpen. The starting pitching hasn't been great behind Halladay, but it's been good enough that if they'd been the bashers they've been in recent years and put up the scoring numbers and gotten serviceable work from the bullpen, they'd be at the top of the division.

Precisely how would Cliff Lee help with all that?

It's not happening because it's not doable in any context----logically, practically or financially.

In fact, it's ridiculous.

My book is still available on Amazon, I-Universe and Barnes and Noble.com. It's available for download as an E-book here. You can also now get it for less that five bucks on BN via dow2010BaseballGuideCover.gifnload here.

You know who I am.

You know what I am.

You know what I'm up to.


She-Fan said...

I thought Clff Lee was supposedly going to the Twins.

Jeff said...

If Cliff Lee is the prettiest gal at the dance, then the Phillies are the big fat dork in the corner thinking about World of Warcraft.

As for Braden... he cracks me up. I went to bat for the guy way back when, and meant it. Now though, I think he'd be better off keeping his mouth shut until he wins another game (it's been a couple months now).