Friday, December 17, 2010

Freed From The Shackles

  • The cage of expectations; the confinement of lies:
Despite the ancillary benefits of fame, fortune and idol worship, one has to think that Billy Beane would prefer to not have had his name so irrevocably attached to Moneyball. The Moneyball concept (without the book) has validity; it makes sense to take advantage of market inefficiencies to discover unappreciated attributes that can be exploited; the book itself is ridiculous.

Because Beane took part in the Michael Lewis project with such enthusiasm, on some level it appeared that his failure as a player could somehow be compensated if he made his name as an executive.

And he did make his name as an executive.

But in retrospect, I would think that he would probably have preferred that the narrative not been as twisted as it was; that he wouldn't have been canonized as the infallible expert whose every breath, every utterance, every move was to be recorded and mimicked.

Does Beane regret the way he's made to look like a bully?

That Art Howe was made into a fool?

That other baseball executives were portrayed as buffoons?

Only he knows the answer to that question.

With the Moneyball movie being filmed, it's interesting to notice the distancing currently taking place. Background characters from the book----Sandy Alderson, J.P. Ricciardi and Paul DePodesta to name three (the Mets new front office)----have taken steps to either shake the infestation Moneyball has inflicted upon their careers and reputations or to "explain" them away.

One would assume that the whole debate of the veracity of the book and the inevitable caveats will start again once the movie comes closer and closer to release; but that doesn't remove the reality that all participants have subtly altered their strategies to suit their needs----and the biggest need is to keep their jobs.

Directly as a result of Moneyball, Beane was able to do essentially whatever he wanted for years.

He wanted to clean house after his team came within four games of the World Series and reload for the future? Fine.

He wanted to fire his manager for basically no reason apart from a petulant whim and pay off an expensive salary? Whatever.

He had corporate speaking engagements galore and a part ownership of the team.

But that didn't diminish the increasing belief that perhaps Beane wasn't the "genius" the book made him out to be. The Athletics on-field failures could no longer be chalked up to a lack of funds. If he was a "genius" for winning with less, for finding players regardless of circumstances and obstacles, then this had to extend far beyond Moneyball; far beyond Tim Hudson/Mark Mulder/Barry Zito; far beyond Ken Macha; past the halcyon days of, "Well, Billy knows what he's doing".

After an annual finish at the bottom of the AL West standings and rightful allegations that his "best friend", manager Bob Geren, was only holding onto his job because of the subjective nature of that friendship----any other manager would've gotten fired after two years of win totals in the mid-70s, let alone three----Beane has quietly put a team together that is poised to contend in 2011.

I mean legitimately contend; not simply having the remaining "believers" of Moneyball continually picking the Athletics because of an agenda to have the book "proven" to be accurate as if one thing has anything to do with the other.


The A's have a surplus of pitching from several of the trades Beane made in recent years; now they're taking steps to bolster an offense that was rancid in 2010.

Three quiet, under-the-radar maneuvers the A's made have brought David DeJesus, Josh Willingham and Hideki Matsui to Oakland. All are underrated and productive; they're inexpensive and positive clubhouse men.

With an offer out to Adrian Beltre, the A's are still interested in importing a similar non-star, but useful cog into that which they're building. With their pitching, these acquisitions alone will push them onto the outskirts of contention.

The AL West is winnable for the A's. The Rangers are no guarantee to repeat their work from 2010; the Angels are scrambling; and the Mariners are horrific.

Unlike other years where he was the star of the show, it's been a stealth winter for the Athletics. It's something similar to the famous star whose career had fallen on hard times; he took a backseat, reassessed and altered his strategy to suit what he needed to succeed rather than save face.

Could it be that the Moneyball cage has been removed from the likes of Beane, Alderson, et al? That since the ridicule doled upon them for years and years of trying to justify the hype (and failing) has freed them from following the faulty blueprint and they're now able to actually build their teams based on all aspects of finding players----statistically, via experience and through gut reaction?


Considering the way the A's are looking better and better, Beane's reputation could be saved by something other than Hollywood; it could be saved by success on the field.

  • Viewer Mail 12.17.2010:
Jane Heller at Confessions of a She-Fan writes RE Kerry Wood:

I hope ESPN is wrong about Kerry Wood. I was hoping the Yankees would bring him back as Mo's heir apparent. wanted Kerry Wood to replace Mariano Rivera?

You're talking about replacing Frank Sinatra with Enrique Iglesias.

Joe writes RE Jayson Werth and Cliff Lee:

Lee was a better player than Werth. But it isn't easy to replace Werth's production in the outfield (even in a bandbox). They were able to do this because Domonic Brown may replace a few of those wins. And they could have signed Lee and let Werth walk, then signed an OF too. But outside of Carl Crawford, no one is replacing Werth straight up in the outfield, unless a trade were to be made. It's simple: Lee + Brown is better than Werth + no one (or a crappy fifth starter).

Here's what I was thinking for the Phillies a week or so ago----Manny Ramirez.

Of course this would be contingent on Manny Being Reasonable rather than Manny Being Manny; that Scott Boras wouldn't try to extract every single penny remaining on Manny's value; that he'd be willing to take a one-year deal with heavy incentives to go to a World Series contender and play for a manager in Charlie Manuel with whom Manny has had a father-son relationship.

With Lee and Werth, the Phillies were slick and smart as they struck. There's no question about that.

Na writes RE Carlos Zambrano and the Yankees:

The Zambrano rumors started with Bill Madden in the Daily News and Madden was making his own assertion without so much as an "unnamed source." It was a piece of bad journalism, with no reporting whatsoever. Madden needed to fill space, and figured since Rothschild was the pitching coach in Chicago, maybe cool hand Zam' would come along for the ride.

Hey, I don't blame Madden, a guy like that would be a dream player for the NY Press.

That would explain it. It really didn't make sense that they'd preach patience and then start pursuing an expensive headache like Zambrano.

You bring up an interesting point about the media and what they need rather than what would be wise for the team. It was the same way with the Mets as they were interviewing managers and the media pushed and pushed for Wally Backman based on little else than his Mets ties and that he's a potential explosion at any moment.

Sometimes teams are smart enough to resist this pressure; other times they're not.

I was on with Sal at SportsFan Buzz on Wednesday talking about Cliff Lee, Carl Crawford and all the other stuff that's gone on in baseball. Go to Sal's site for the I-tunes link or click The SportsFan Buzz: December 15, 2010 to listen directly.

1 comment:

She-Fan said...

Now that the Wood deal with the Cubs is done, it's a moot point. But what I said was that I liked Wood for the set up role, and if he can take over for Mo in the 9th at some point in the future, so much the better.