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We're still using "Moneyball" reference to bash the A's? Really?

Sep 3, 2010, 8:20 AM EDT

When you read stuff like this from the Daily News’ Bill Madden, you have to ask yourself two questions: (1) At what point will columnists stop using a now seven year-old book as a hook to write about the A’s? and (2) would Billy Beane have been better off if he had never provided
Michael Lewis the access to write “Moneyball” in the first place?

Bud Selig  and the major league poobahs ought to be ashamed to be charging major league prices of $100 and stiffly upward for what amounted to be the $200 million world champions vs. Sacramento. What’s especially wrong with this picture, however, is that these are the same Oakland A’s that, in Michael Lewis’ 2003 best-selling book “Moneyball” – now being made into a major motion picture starring Brad Pitt as A’s GM Billy Beane – were depicted as the model franchise for all of baseball because of their ability to make the most out of spending the least.

Given the time that has passed — one of the main subjects of the book has retired already for cryin’ out loud — I can’t help but wonder if it’s really all that enlightening to critique the 2010 Oakland Athletics by referencing the book. And really, given that teams like the Yankees owe a lot of their recent success to co-opting and improving upon many of Beane’s ideas, it’s rather amusing to see “Moneyball” slammed over and over again like it is.

More importantly, the Athletics have played pretty respectable baseball this year. They’re certainly doing better than a lot of people thought they would before the season started. I know Madden is a New York guy and that he’s focusing on the A’s-Yankees series here, but for him to bash them as a AAA product based soley on four bad games in the Bronx seems a bit unfair.

  1. El Bravo - Sep 3, 2010 at 11:35 AM


  2. Chris Fiorentino - Sep 3, 2010 at 11:37 AM

    This is all getting boring. I apologize for using stat geek…didn’t know you guys hated it so much. Thought it was a term of endearment…like the Best Buy “Geek Squad”. Guess it touches a nerve. I still disagree with you about Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins, and Moneyball. But that’s why this is such a great country. Peace.

  3. Kevin S. - Sep 3, 2010 at 11:45 AM

    See, that’s the thing – you just go off with LOL while people try to explain to you why RBI are misleading.

  4. Kevin S. - Sep 3, 2010 at 11:47 AM

    I’m sorry, that’s a load of bullshit. It’s not the term you used, it’s the way you used it. You’ve had nothing but derision for people who believe in advanced statistics, despite your protests to the contrary. Hey, I think you’re wrong too, but I’ve tried to explain my point of view to you in the past. You’ve merely laughed as you were getting bludgeoned with logic.

  5. John_Michael - Sep 3, 2010 at 11:53 AM

    Billy Beane wrote Moneyball.
    Billy Beane teaches his players not to swing because he hearts BBs.
    Billy Beane used Moneyball as his manifesto for sabermetrics, which he invented.
    Billy Beane, if he became commissioner, would cancel real life baseball and would run the season in a computer simulation over night, then email out the final league standings.
    Billy Beane coded the glitch in the matrix.

  6. John_Michael - Sep 3, 2010 at 11:57 AM

    Agreed. Stats can only project forward based on previous history plotted along, usually, average arcs. What they fail to pick up is how much a player can be coached, physical maturity level etc. Ironically, the next ‘Moneyball’ strategy might be to use human scouts as information levels across organizations has become pretty much consistent.

  7. APBA Guy - Sep 3, 2010 at 11:59 AM

    Before that lengthy digression above, which serves to illustrate the polarization of Moneyball within baseball circles as well as fan circles, there were some comments about how bad the A’s played in New York, etc. Yes, they played horribly: defensive lapses, intimidated young pitchers, lack of power hitting, etc.. But they’d just come off a winning series against Texas in Arlington which is no trivial feat. This is the essence of a .500 team: they look bad one series, good the next, and over the year it evens out. But give a lot of credit to the Yankees in this series. They looked great. They did not miss a mistake pitch, their pitchers had great control (especially Mr. Vallejo, CC, who owned the outside corner yesterday). And their defense was near-flawless, even Jorge was not terrible behind the plate, which problems he has are more age related than talent or desire related. He was a fabulous catcher in his time, especially on offense, and even now is better offensively than most MLB catchers.
    As for Moneyball, as you can imagine we get a lot of in-depth about it here in the Bay Area. Michael Lewis lives in Berkeley, etc..The key thing to remember about it is that it attempts to capture a franchise at a point in time, as Beane’s A’s were now fully divested from Alderson’s A’s. The other major shift in the book aside from market efficiencies was the move away from scouting as an equal partner to stat analysis-a shift which the A’s have since rejected, having brought scouting back into balance with stat work. Now they need to bring the offense into balance with defense and pitching if they want to rise above mediocrity. Can Beane do it? As someone said above, he’s never won a championship. That’s the bottom line.

  8. SadPandaRevolt - Sep 3, 2010 at 12:09 PM

    Children! If you don’t stop this flame war right now, I will turn this internet around!

  9. John_Michael - Sep 3, 2010 at 12:14 PM

    Moneyball is about exploiting market inefficiencies to win baseball games. That’s it.
    Seven years ago, certain statistics weren’t valued on the FA/trading/prospect development market, like OBP for example. Beane worked to exploit that. More recently, ticket revenue wasn’t optimized, until variable priced tickets were introduced based on who the home team was playing, what day of the week it was, presence of a give-away etc. That incremental revenue could improve the team. Currently, I think the Red Sox are working to optimize injury related contract obligation risk based upon some of the clauses I’ve read about. Maybe tomorrow’s inefficiency will be scouting.
    To say ‘Moneyball’ doesn’t work because Beane never won a World Series misses the point. Was Beane net positive due to exploiting market inefficiences? Yes. That’s the book’s take away. Whether or not enough market inefficiency exists to allow a team to exploit it and, with luck, win a World Series is a completely different discussion.

  10. John_Michael - Sep 3, 2010 at 12:15 PM

    But I’m only half done with my popcorn!

  11. doctorfunke - Sep 3, 2010 at 1:19 PM

    I love baseball. I played it through High School, and I even coached a little. I finally read Moneyball earlier this year and what it did for me was change how I watch the game and tell me a little bit about how some of the front offices make decisions. I do still look at stats such as RBI, HR and AVG as relevant ones, but I also realize the depth and importance of “newer” stats such as OPS, WAR and VORP. If anything, it has made me love baseball even more. I don’t know why this book makes some people so upset. It provides us with another way of looking at the game, on the field and off. I’m sure that in a few years people will start to accept these new stats as the norm, just like teams started using specialist relievers and pitch counts. In a game where there is so much history and repetition, any slight variation sends the “purists” into a tizzy. If people took the time to absorb the book and have an open mind to the possibility that the new metrics along with the old ones can provide valuable insight, we wouldn’t be having these arguments with one another. Like it or not, the new way of looking at things has proven to be effective, and is not going anywhere.

  12. NicoSamuelson2 - Sep 3, 2010 at 1:44 PM

    Has anyone seen theraat around here?

  13. Chris Fiorentino - Sep 3, 2010 at 1:46 PM

    Oh grow up dude!!! It’s a sports blog. Was your feeling hurted? Boo Hoo. Now go get your fucking shine box!!!

  14. El Bravo - Sep 3, 2010 at 2:25 PM

    At least you watch good movies Fiorentino. Although that quote is overplayed so try harder next time. I give you a B-

  15. Kevin S. - Sep 3, 2010 at 10:38 PM

    Heh, I was going to say that earlier.

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