Saturday, August 7, 2010



I got an Email yesterday from a fan who doesn't like his name revealed in the Viewer Mail section. And it's a real, live person. Unlike certain members of the mainstream media----and the world in general----I don't invent characters to ask questions I feel like answering.

The Email is in regards to the Moneyball movie and said the following:

yahoo sports article on moneyball and jonah hill

Can you please use your considerable powers to end this f-ing project??!!! I can't take it! What's next? A mini series on the 1981-86 brewers?!

The article in question can be read here.

In an unexpected twist, as I mentally prepared to take the request and do one of my favorite activities in the world by unleashing on the absurdity of Moneyball and this Hollywood fantasy that is unlikely to ever see the light of day, I had an epiphany.

Truthfully, when I read that Jonah Hill was playing Paul DePodesta I thought that Hill was one of the skinny kids from the Superbad, Role Models, whatever films that keep popping out; turns out, he's the chubby one. Now I see that the casting that was ridiculed by Rob Neyer among others, is patently ridiculous.

Then again, everything involved with Moneyball has turned into fodder for parody, so why should anyone be surprised at a miscasting to that degree?

The Moneyball film is still apparently going ahead at the pace of a Pittsburgh Pirates rebuilding project, but it seems that DePodesta has refused to grant permission for the use of his name and likeness.

It's a move by DePodesta that I applaud.

This made me think.

Yes. It made me think about the narrative of Moneyball and the reality that is being exposed every single day. Said reality is proving that the theories presented therein as sacrosanct and incontrovertible facts are so far from the truth that the book will eventually be seen as little more than a fantasy based on a writer's twisted agenda.

As I've stated before, Michael Lewis was a writer with something to prove, truth be damned. If you read the entire genesis of the book from the opening, Lewis "fell in love with a story"; the story of the Oakland Athletics competing with the financial bullies of baseball the Yankees, Red Sox, Mets and Dodgers. Along with the "revenge" factor against symbolic bullies, the stat zombies were also exacting some semblance of vengeance for actual bullies by systematically overtaking the old-boys' network of baseball that placed former players in a position of power. These former players who had the neither the interest nor the capacity to understand a new stat-laden, "objective" way of running their teams.

You don't hear much about Moneyball being the Bible of the stat zombie anymore.

Seven years since the book, it's all about salvaging something from the heady days of its aftermath when their "revolution" had a manifesto and they thought they might win.

Instead of a step-by-step treatise of how they took over, you see the remaining holdouts subtly altering their argument to account for the failure. It was a business model based on markets rather than an actual process to be taken at face value and copied. Discovering players with undervalued assets such as on base percentage was only an exercise in taking advantage of the market----a market that wasn't paying attention to such an attribute. It's a floating concept that, much like any Bible, can be twisted to mean anything and explain away everything.

In the past, I've unloaded on any and all perceived "stat zombie". This was done out of convenience for myself and, even though I'm right, it may not be fair to those who've been my targets of preference----Billy Beane, DePodesta, et al.

It's true that Beane and DePodesta took advantage of the book and their profiles that came along with it. Beane was seen as the ruthless corporate titan who took control and altered the landscape of the way baseball business was done. I bought into it myself. DePodesta as his loyal and stat wielding consigliere got the job as the GM of the Los Angeles Dodgers early in 2004.

I'm never going to backtrack on my belief that DePodesta was a horrible GM, because he was. I've gone on about his condescending attitude; a self-indulgent decision to blow up a team at mid-season 2004 that was in first place and built to win a title; and two terrible drafts along with the alienation of large blocs of respected people within baseball with his pomposity.

That said, if the caricature of everyone involved with Moneyball resulted in the worshippers at the altar of Bill James being lauded as new age thinkers and "right" in their team-building philosophies was misapplied; if those that were considered old school idiots (anyone who didn't follow the "objective" analysis inherent with stats) were portrayed inaccurately, then it's possible that the characters of Beane and DePodesta were twisted as well.

I do not agree with DePodesta's beliefs in running an organization; I think more nuance is necessary than the relentless belief in statistics. I am not a fan of the way everyone who is friends with him----Neyer, Dave Cameron----pushes him for a GM job every time another one opens as if he's the cure for all ills of an organization that has fallen to the point that they fired their GM in the first place; but DePodesta's statements contradicting his obviously slanted portrayal in the book and this movie that they're still trying to make----picking the bones of the corpse that is Moneyball----have put him in a better light.

He should've distanced himself from the book years ago; it might've been better for his public perception and career.

As for the movie, I'll be stunned if it's ever made; but hope that it is. By the time they get it finished, another three years will pass and people will barely even remember Moneyball; and that which was espoused as the "new age" will have been dispatched for some other trend.

Be that as it may, I'll see the movie and respond to it. Chances are, the response will not be any kinder than my assessment of Moneyball now.

It's Hollywood.

  • Moves for the Mets?

While the Mets were blowing a 1-run eighth inning lead to the Phillies (I've seen that movie before), they had pulled top prospects Fernando Martinez and Ruben Tejada from the starting lineup of Triple A Buffalo.

Speculation (as is customary with the Mets) centered around the possibility that they did something stupid like trading two of their young talents for an expensive, fading veteran to try and patch together a sinking ship. This is not happening. Reports are saying that both Martinez and Tejada are coming to the big leagues to play which means the Mets are either benching (unlikely) or cutting ties with Luis Castillo and possibly Jeff Francoeur.

That scenario is more probable.

This is a smart move for the Mets. They have to see what they have in Martinez and Tejada. Both are very young and talented and the team is not going to win with Castillo and Francoeur, so it makes sense to move forward as they did with Ike Davis and Jon Niese earlier in the season and play for a future that is brighter and closer to fruition than the savage attacks against the Mets farm system earlier in the year ever suggested.

They're playing poorly. It's time to look at the youngsters and give them a chance in the majors.

  • Viewer Mail 8.7.2010:

Jane Heller at Confessions of a She-Fan writes RE the Red Sox:

I'm amazed how well the Red Sox have fared given all their injuries. Their offense has been just fine, despite the loss of (Dustin) Pedroia et al. But to me, the biggest issue for them is Beckett. Is he still their ace or is he past his prime?

Their injuries didn't hit them all at once, so that helps; but it is a testament to depth (even though they tried to get rid of some of it, understandably with Mike Lowell; and were ambivalent about keeping Jason Varitek). They've done a fine job of developing players, but the outfield situation was horrible when they were stuck with journeymen like Darnell McDonald and had to resort to playing Bill Hall in center field or using players they found in Independent Leagues like Daniel Nava. And they've still managed to stay in contention and win.

Beckett's injuries are a concern; I wouldn't have signed him to that extension, but he wanted to stay in Boston and they wanted to keep him----they did get him at a far lower rate than what was expected. He's 30 now; they're either going to get a declining veteran and post-season ace or he's going to be an expensive inhabitant of the disabled list.

Jeff (Street Boss) at Red State Blue State writes RE Josh Beckett:

Speaking of Beckett...

I still can't believe he's your ace. Still can't believe it. Maybe you should expound here.

Jeff is referring to my appearance on the RSBS podcast the other night. He asked who of today's pitchers I'd want to pitch if I had one game to win and I responded by saying Beckett.

I don't like Josh Beckett personally; I think he's a hard-headed bully who tries to impose his faux tough guy will on hitters and ends up allowing home runs that he shouldn't allow because he insists on firing his fastball to pure fastball hitters like Travis Hafner and Hafner responds by knocking the ball into space. Bullies with big mouths always end up running into someone who they shouldn't have messed with; that will eventually happen with Beckett.

That said, there's no denying his post-season resume. Aside from 2008 when he got knocked around; and 2009 when he was pitching hurt, he's been almost a guarantee to come through in a big game. Yankees and Marlins fans will never forget what he did in the 2003 World Series with the game 6 clinching shutout coming on 3 days rest (in a move by manager Jack McKeon that many criticized despite it being the smart move).

You can make the argument for Cliff Lee as the "one guy"; or someone gutty and experienced like Andy Pettitte; but you can't say Roy Halladay considering that we don't know how he's going to react in a playoff game since he's never been in one; he's never really been in any kind of a pennant race. The same goes for Tim Lincecum.

If I had one game to win, right now I still trust Beckett.

I was a guest with Sal at SportsFan Buzz on Tuesday talking about the trade deadline, Ozzie Guillen and the pennant races. Click the link above or go to the site to download it on I-Tunes. Or you can get it directly here.

I was also on with Jeff and his crew at Red State Blue State on Thursday night for their podcast. That should be up for listening soon.

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


Brooklyn Trolley Blogger said...

The report came out this morning...Tejada and F-Mart will join the team in Philly. Bout time! I can only guess they finally decided to eat the remaining money on Castillo's contract. Supposedly the Mets are in discussion with Seattle about a possible deal, and maybe that's where Francoeur fits in. If this is indeed the case and the Mets aren't doing anything shortsighted...then I applaud the proactiveness (however late). See Paul? Jeff needs us...because we know he's reading/listening. Wink wink Jeff!

Jeff said...

Maybe Michael Cera should play Billy Beane. Then I'd be excited about seeing this flick.

She-Fan said...

The Moneyball movie will bear little resemblance to the book, which was just a jumping off point to tell a Bad News Bears kind of story, or a narrative along the lines of the Jamaican bobsledders. You'll see.

Joe said...

I would choose Lester over Beckett.