A Hypothetical Conversation With A Moneyball-Bashing Sportswriter

In the style of Jeff Goldstein:
Grumpy Old Sportswriter: That Billy Beane sure thinks he’s smart, writing that Moneyball book.
Me: Um . . .
Grumpy Old Sportswriter: Not that I’ve read the book. That would be wrong.
Me: Of course.
Grumpy Old Sportswriter: But him and his number-crunching friends don’t understand baseball. You know how you can tell that? Because his teams don’t win in the playoffs. The playoffs are the real thing. That’s what separates the men from the boys.
Me: So, who’s the best GM?
Grumpy Old Sportswriter: John Schuerholz. The Braves are the anti-Moneyball team. That’s how you run a major league organization. Old school, my friend.
Me: So, how have the Braves done in October?
Grumpy Old Sportswriter:
Grumpy Old Sportswriter:

Grumpy Old Sportswriter: RALLY MONKEY!!!!

15 thoughts on “A Hypothetical Conversation With A Moneyball-Bashing Sportswriter”

  1. Substitute Joe Morgan for Grumpy Old Sportswriter and I think this is an actual interview.
    Somehow I get the impression that those who disparage using new statistical evaluation methods (in addition to standard scouting) didn’t do very well in math growing up. I added the part in parens because some think “Moneyball” is replacing scouting which is not the case. If used correctly these new methods should supplement the old not replace.

  2. Me: x + 10 = y and y = 2x
    Grumpy Old Sportswriter who didn’t do well in math: I’ve seen 2 out there, he hit 32 home runs last year and drove in 120. I think he’s exactly what our team needs.
    Me: Uh, 2 + 10 = y and y = 4, doesn’t look like it’s gonna work to me… I don’t think we can get a “y” that fills in our team.
    Grumpy Old Sportswriter who didn’t do well in math: You’re not listening to me, with 2 we’ll make all the way to the World Series. He’s our man.
    Me: Uh, but we need to get the whole equation to work… we need a complete team, one with pieces that compliment each other.
    Grumpy Old Sportswriter who didn’t do well in math: I’m telling you… 2’s the one!
    Me: (Begrudgingly hoping that cost will obviate the issue.) How much is he asking?
    Grumpy Old Sportswriter who didn’t do well in math: The Yankees are willing to offer 2 a 3 year deal for $27m.
    Me: We can’t afford that… we’re trying to run a business.
    Grumpy Old Sportswriter who didn’t do well in math: You obviously don’t want to win.

  3. Moneyball only goes so far. Who was in the playoffs this year? The Padres are the only team that even comes close to being in the Moneyball category and they were still in the upper half of payroll. They also stink (stunk). What have the A’s done in the playoffs? Oh right, choke.
    In baseball money wins more often than moneyball. The Red Sox and Yanks slipped on a banana peel this year but they are likely contenders with completely re-tooled teams next year. The Sox were actually killed by their stat loving GM and management. They took guys they never should have touched (Miller, Mantei, Halama to name a few-and arugably Renteria, maybe as the worst case), hung on to guys too long (Bellhorn, Millar, Embree, Foulke (in that he should have been evaluated much sooner)) and never did anything to shore-up a rotation and bullpen in dire need of some help. They fell in love with stats and did not hang onto old-school sorts of players, “gamers”, such as Cabrera, Roberts and Kapler. If it wasn’t for Ortiz’s bat and huge personality that team is, well, not very good.

  4. Jim, didn’t the Red Sox win the World Series last year with the same front office and the same philosophy they have this year?

  5. As a Red Sox fan in Boston I’m very agitated by some local people who love Dave Roberts and hate Mark Bellhorn. Last year Bellhorn was one of the most productive offensive second basemen in baseball, and then he hit 2 of the 3 most important home runs in the playoffs. Roberts had 1 fricking stolen base. Yet many people thought that the team should have kept Roberts and let Bellhorn go over the offseason. I think the reason for that is that Roberts fits into the mold in the minds of these (probably anti-Moneyball) people of what a baseball player should be (stolen bases) while Bellhorn (lots of walks and strikeouts) does not. It almost doesn’t matter how productive they are, since Bellhorn was getting criticism throughout all of 2004 while he was piling on the RBIs.
    Jim, what does Moneyball have anything to do with most the the players you named? Are you saying that a non-Moneyball GM would have been prescient enough to know that Miller, Mantei, and Halama would be busts, that Embree would unexpectedly have a horrible year, and that Foulke would refuse to have surgery? They were bad moves because they were bad moves, not because Moneyball told Epstein that these pitchers would be good.

  6. Those of you who have actually read the book might recall that the moneyball phillosophy is not designed to win in the playoffs. mostly because Beane and the other sabermatricians believe that the outcome of the postseason is mostly due to luck. the moneyball phillosophy is only applicable in finding a more cost effective means of remaining competitive.
    The idea is that thses smaller market teams cannot approach payroll in the same way a large market team can, or they’ll get pounded by the teams that spend 4 times as much.
    But the idea, is only to put yourself in position to compete for the championship. it is by no means a guarantee of winning anyhting in the post season.

  7. I am not saying that Epstein plays Moneyball. He does not. He does not have to. He has lots of money to play with. He does love stats though. Hence the Renteria signing. That was a stats signing over a chemistry signing which is part of the way he operates. There is no question it hurt them. Bellhorn WAS fine however when your OPB is below .320 and you strike out more than anyone per at bat in baseball and you do not hit for power and you are an OK fielder you become expendable. Are you telling me that they could not have found a spot in the outfield for a guy like Roberts (speed, excellent fielder, OK hitter, total pro) to get 350 ABs this year and that would not have greatly benefitted this team? By the end of the year Damon was running on fumes because there was no one to take his place when he constantly got dinged up. Combine that with “Oft-injured” Trot and the 10-12 games Manny needs to take off and you have a need that Epstein did not fill.
    Instead he went out and trolled around for guys who used to have great stats (Miller former 16 game winner, Mantei former flame-throwing closer, etc.). On top of this he went “cheap” on Pedro (the debate on whether the Mets overpaid is long and not worth having here) and lost not only a core pitcher but, along with Ortiz, the center of the clubhouse. I think Theo has some potential but in the last 12 months name one move he made (re-signing Varitek does not count) that made the club better for 2005. This is the problem I have with Epstein and the newer breed of GM; they look at individuals and not at the team as a whole dynamic unit. It is a stat based view of baseball which is fine but often times comes up short.

  8. What so many people do’t seem to realize is that a GM can only field a team that is designed to win. Whether or not it wins a specific 5 or 7 game series in October is really out of the GMs control. A GM can’t factor in Bill Buckner’s error, A-Rod’s bad series, the Braves’ lack of offense, Boston’s inept hitting, etc. All you do is field a team that puts itself in a position to win.
    Same with a coach.
    The players win the games. And often, the “best team” doesn’t win that particular series. Shuerholtz, Beane, Epstein, etc., field teams that can win and do it on a consistent basis. That some do it with fewer resources than others is what makes them stand out. No way the A’s or the Braves should’ve been as good as they were, their late-season folds notwithstanding of late.
    I’d rather be the perrenially successful Braves with one title than the Marlins, with two titles and many years of horrendous play and few fans or interest.

  9. “Moneyball” is, actually, just a book; part of what I was lampooning is the bashing of the book as a shorthand for delegitimizing sabermetrics as a whole. The philosophical approach of sabermetrics is broader, and is by no means limited to small-market teams.
    Ricky – Of course, I’m just tweaking the Braves, I mostly think it’s ironic that the same people who rip the A’s for losing in October worship the Braves. And it’s actually a fair question if it’s more fun to get what the Marlins have had than the Braves.
    As for the Red Sox, you can question some of their decisions, but basically they lost this year because their #1 starter got hurt and stank and their #1 reliever got hurt and stank.

  10. This brings about my problems with the job Epstein did this offseason. He knew Schilling was going to be problematic in terms of performance yet he let Pedro go (again no discussion on how or the Mets is necessary), did nothing when the problems with Schilling came to light and further did nothing when Embree went south (and speaking for many Sox fans this was something we saw coming-his ERA was never great and he is a one trick pony that was getting up there), Foulke hit the skids and all his reclamation projects bombed out. The fact that the Sox tied for the AL East title with a knuckleballer as their ace, a set up guy with less than 30 innings of big league pitching, a closer who can’t pitch from the stretch, an exhausted CF and catcher, the worst fielding shortstop in baseball and a 1Bman with no power says tons about the job Epstein did and how David Ortiz saved their bacon on an incredible amount of occasions.

  11. The Yanks don’t play moneyball? Not deliberately, maybe, but look at their offense-power and high OBA’s (Sheff, Giambi, Posada, etc.) everywhere. Bad decisions on pitchers (why didn’t they keep Lieber, for ex.) killed them.

  12. That’s not moneyball. That’s superstar ball. Of course those guys have high OBAs. They’re all paid like $10 million/year. They freaking better have high OBAs!

  13. That’s just it though. Plenty of teams overpay for players who are not actually productive. The Yankees spend a ton of cash, but they do spend big on players who are worth it (statement on valid on pitching staff).
    I my humble, uninformed opinion, the whole point of “Moneyball” is for teams to find some sort of market weakness to exploit. The A’s original exploit was high-OBP players and a rehash of Earl Weaver’s take-and-rake. Other teams caught wise and made it harder for the A’s to take that approach.
    I’m too pumped from Game 4 in Houston to think clearly. GO ASTROS!!!

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