Sunday, November 14, 2010

Sunday Lightning 11.14.2010

  • We've gone beyond moving the goalposts:

It's gotten to the point where they're tearing apart the whole field and starting from scratch.

Of course I'm talking about Moneyball and the players in the Shakespearean-level (not in writing skill, but in absurdity) farce as they alter their approach----both publicly and privately----to account for the fact that the strategy, as detailed in the book, doesn't work.

I've gone into the not-so-subtle differences between the book's portrayal of Sandy Alderson, Paul DePodesta, J.P. Ricciardi, Billy Beane, et al. and what they're saying----and more importantly----doing now as they run their clubs.

And that's the point.

Gone are the days in which the ironclad rules of Moneyball are adhered to until the end; this was the case even if that end resulted in a horrific crash into the ocean for the dedicated and fanatical factions who still refuse to admit the inherent faults in the theory of "one way" to do anything and be successful.

As for those who deny that's what Moneyball asserts, I'm not sure what book you read, but you need to either work on your comprehension skills or, as the aforementioned people are currently doing----start over and rebuild. Rebuild your mind in a more accepting fashion; a fashion that accounts for reality, understanding and truth.

What I'm referring to in this case is the man himself, Billy Beane, and the current maneuvers he makes out of necessity to account for the way other teams have availed themselves to his "innovation" in using stat-based techniques to build a club.

There was no way for anyone to live up to that book; the twisting will be evident as the upcoming Moneyball movie has degenerated from what Steven Soderbergh envisioned when the film project was in its nascent stages into what my friend Jane Heller insists will be a "misfits make good" story along the lines of the Bad News Bears.

The script was re-written by Aaron Sorkin, so perhaps Brad Pitt as Billy Beane (after completing his conquest of Cammi the waitress and taking her to the nearest hospital to be tested) will scream at an old-school scout "You can't handle the truth!!!"

I can handle the truth.

Can you handle the truth?

Here's the truth: those still pushing Moneyball as presented are not following the script; manuscript; narrative; fantasy.

Case in point: the idea promulgated in Moneyball as to the procurement of players was that the best and most sure bet to find inexpensive and near-ready big league players was to acquire college-age types who were going to advance quickly, be squeezed of their usefulness and then discarded.

To spend on International players----specifically from Latin America and the Far East----was insane; it defied logic and reason, so the story said.

Considering the age of the Latin Americans (occasionally as young as 15-16); Cubans (of whom no one knows their actual age or what they're getting when the package arrives); or players from the Far East (with the posting money required), there was a large possibility that the money would be flushed down the toilet while never seeing any return on the investment.

The entire concept was anathema to the very idea of Moneyball. Moneyball itself was not about exposing market inefficiencies as some still try to claim; it was about creating an homage to Billy Beane and Bill James.

It worked to that end; but it hasn't worked in practice.

So, Beane has changed his approach to middling results since the book exploded into the national consciousness.

The Athletics have been mediocre for much of that time. Beane's decisions have been haphazard, questionable and self-serving; the caveat "Billy knows what he's doing" no longer applies.

If the manager is a faceless conduit between the front office and field, is disposable and replaceable, then how has Bob Geren survived where Art Howe and Ken Macha didn't? Is being Beane's friend part of objective analysis. (And I don't think Geren is a bad manager; it's that I want people to follow their own edicts that they use to promote themselves.) By the Moneyball bulletpoints, Geren should've been fired three years ago.

Beane abandoned the template out of necessity.

Dominican prospect, 6'7" lefty Michael Ynoa was signed to a $4.25 million bonus at age 16; Ynoa is a prime talent who recently had Tommy John surgery. That's a lot of money for a maybe and the antithesis of Moneyball.

They recently won the bidding for Japanese pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma, spending $17 million for the rights to negotiate with the 30-year-old righty. I'm not criticizing or crediting this decision; as with all Japanese players, who knows? They could be getting an Ichiro Suzuki; a Hideo Nomo ; a Hideki Irabu; or anything in between. You don't know. This too is the opposite of Moneyball.

Edwin Encarnacion was claimed by the A's on waivers from the Blue Jays. Is Encarnacion a Moneyball player? I love his talent; he needs discipline, guidance and for someone to get him to play to his full potential at all times rather than on occasion with a 3-homer game or a Graig Nettles play at third base; but is he a Moneyball player? Does he get on base? Do they know within reason what they're going to get from him? No.

Beane just made a dastardly brilliant trade with the Royals using the excess pitching the A's had accumulated to get a highly underrated and inexpensive all-around talent in David DeJesus for pitchers Vin Mazzaro and Justin Marks.

The Athletics are not a bad team; in the shaky AL West, they can even compete for a division title next year; but to consider them a byproduct of any genius on the part of Beane or a case study for the accuracy of Moneyball is nonsense.

I remember when I was working overnights as a delivery guy (don't ask); it was a Jewish holiday and an older man said to me, "I hafta get my stuff and get home before someone sees me." Like God, if he's up there, can't see you? Are you camouflaged? Is he too busy to notice you betraying the rules as explicitly stated? For once, I kept my mouth shut.

Nobody follows the rules as delineated because they can't and still function as human beings.

As for those who insist that the book----like any bible----can't and shouldn't be taken literally. When something's presented as literal; promoted as literal; and treated as literal when it's working, then it has to be as such when things go wrong....and when circumstances change.

I don't mean Moneyball itself has changed, but the practitioners have; they've bastardized it to survive----yet the holdouts remain insisting that it's a "strategy" and that they're part of a "revoulution".

It didn't appear to be a strategy when I read it; it appeared to be a "do it this way or die"; but maybe my analytical skills have declined over the years.

Maybe, but I doubt it.

  • Speaking of GMs and sensible plans and schemes:

Royals GM Dayton Moore is at it again.

First he trades David DeJesus to the Athletics in a deal that I see in great favor of the A's (time will tell), then he makes an idiotic statement regarding the potential signing of free agent outfielder Jeff Francoeur.

I'm still a fan of Francoeur's talent...if he makes the conscious decision to change his approach at the plate and, rather than use as a punchline his penchant for hacking at anything and everything and refusing to use the whole field when he hits and walk when the opportunity presents itself. He's getting a dual benefit from the "Frenchy style" and reluctance to be patient.

He's about to turn 27 and that's young enough to fulfill that massive potential if he decides to do so; but as long as there are people like Moore who will take Frenchy the way he is, he's got no motivation to become a different player. Moore's clubs have been constructed in a way that has no defineable face; nor do they have much hope for the future as long as he repeatedly says the following:

"Jeff [Francoeur] is a winning-type baseball player who brings a lot of energy."

That's very nice, but his "energy" doesn't help much unless he does a bit more than smile, display that cannon arm, hit the occasional homer and show flashes of that ability.

When I read the "winning player" line, I couldn't help but hearken back to the reasons Moore proffered for signing Willie Bloomquist to a 2-year contract in 2009. He's a "hustling player" is what I vaguely remember Moore saying as justification for the deal.

Bloomquist "hustled" his way to a .265 batting average, .305 on base and .669 OPS in 2 years with the Royals; this was eerily similar to the .263 average, .322 on base and .645 OPS he posted in 7 years with the Mariners.

It's a good thing he hustled though; good thing because, as I said at the time, the day Bloomquist decides to stop hustling is the day he decides to stop having a job as a big leaguer.

What makes this worse is twofold: One, Moore didn't seem to realize what he was getting when he signed Bloomquist; and two, he's about to do the same thing with an unmotivated-to-change Jeff Francoeur.

Do the Royals really want Moore making the imperative decisions of trading Zack Greinke and possibly Joakim Soria? If he continues to screw up as he has in his four years on the job, the Royals may be in even worse shape than they were in when he took over----and that's saying something!

  • Your media analysis for the week (unless something else happens):

Ah, the media----what would I do without you and your....stuff.

Here are some things.

Mine was more in-depth and better.

Tom Krasovic from AOL FanHouse wrote about Sandy Alderson's tenure as Padres GM, the good and the bad----link.

Yes. Well. It's all very concise and researched I suppose, but it's nowhere close to what I wrote in regards to Alderson's entire career before he got the GM job of the Mets----link.

But whatever.

I report. You decide.

So, which is it? Does it vary by the day or by writer's block/lack of skill?

I've often said that I don't want to destroy the stat zombies----what would I do without them?

In the same vein, I don't want to destroy the mainstream writers whose glaring lack of baseball knowledge and ability to interpret, analyze and come to a coherent stance (and maintain it) isn't simply wanting, it's non-existent.

Consider the following two assertions----both of which, admittedly, make sense.

The Derek Jeter-Yankees contract negotiation is a foundation for a lot of speculation with many arguments.

First there's this:

So if the two parties are having difficulties bridging the divide about current value, why don’t they make this a larger deal?

George Brett’s final playing contract, from 1987-93, had a provision that called for seven years of post-career employment with his Royals. Cal Ripken signed a five-year, $32.5 million after the 1992 season that included a player option for four years of post-career employment at $500,000 annually with his Orioles. Ripken played through 2001 so the post-career rider was delayed.

The Yankees can propose the same to Jeter. Say they offer him a three-year, $45 million playing contract that has options if both sides want to continue the playing relationship beyond 2013. Then as part of the contract, the parties agree to a $75 million, 25-year post-career deal.

And then this:

This is a baseball team, not a fan club or an alumni association. Realistic discussions of Jeter are too often scuttled with his intangibles or his class or his history. That is all nice. But what do they have to do with winning games from 2011 forward? If you are honoring those elements with unquestioned playing time or a spot atop the order, you have lost what Jeter himself claims he is all about, which is team and winning.

Both are logical, reasonable and steeped in common sense.

Both are essentially the polar opposites of the other.

One suggests the Yankees create a "player emeritus" deal for Jeter to prevent him from even considering leaving or being estranged from the organization in an way due to money.

The other is stating that the Yankees can't let a 36-year-old player who may be declining hold them hostage because of popularity and history as he wants to be paid accordingly not just for what he does on the field, but off as well.

Here's the problem: both were written by the same person----NY Post columnist Joel Sherman----in the span of a week. The first column is available here (Nov. 5th); the second, here (Nov. 12th).

So which is it?

Do the Yankees give Jeter a lifetime contract to act as an ambassador and find a creative way to pay him a load of money, help him save face for acknowledging his drop-off and still be compensated to remain a long-term member of the Yankees family? Or do they run the risk of angering Jeter and see him leave and stay away from the team a la Yogi Berra and Joe Torre due to a falling out that wouldn't have happened if handled differently?

This reminds me of an appearance Sherman had on Michael Kay's show (nightmare radio) in which he went into a dull drone about how to spice up the home run hitting competition in the All Star game; anyone who spends that much time pontificating about the home run hitting contest needs a diversion of some kind; or perhaps an intervention.

I can honestly say that the only thing worse that reading Joel Sherman is listening to Joel Sherman; in fact, you've heard of the metaphor "like watching paint dry"? Well, I have experienced listening to paint dry.

Now, to spend some time determining which was worse...aww, what's the difference; they're equally as bad!!

Now to the quality stuff.

No. I'm not referring to myself. For once.

Of all the savaging I do over the pablum ESPN generally presents in the interests of selling and promoting in a mutually advantageous way for themselves and their various corporate entities, sometimes they come out with something that's well worth reading and most of the time it's their investigative reporter Mike Fish who's responsible for it.

The article details Roberto Alomar's chaotic, rumor-laden and controversial post-career as he awaits Hall of Fame induction and deals with rumors that he has HIV and has knowingly exposed several girlfriends and his wife to the virus.

You can read it here----link.

I'm not getting into a whole long-winded judgment of what's going on with Alomar and his personal life----it's none of my business; but it doesn't take any well-thought-out analysis to see what's going on here and come to a conclusion. Settling lawsuits out-of-court with gag orders and the non-denial denials don't make it hard to understand.

It's easy to read between the lines without having to say much of anything.

And it's a shame.

  • Next on my hitlist:

Tomorrow's posting probably won't be up until the late afternoon-early evening. You'll just have to endure.

I'll continue my off-season haves, needs and wants for each team; I'll do the mail; the Mets narrowing the list of managerial candidates; and I'll have a look at some recent trades.

1 comment:

She-Fan said...

I now think Moneyball, the movie, will end up being about a guy with a crazy idea (see: Facebook) who makes it work, becomes the toast of the town but "loses himself" or something. Bad News Bears was a comedy, and Sorkin will probably go much more dramatic with the story.