Passing The BuckBall

Books, Free Agents, Games, Management, Media, Players

At what point are marketability and reputation trumped by results and overt alibis absolving oneself of blame?

I was wrong about one thing regarding the Billy Beane press conference announcing the dismissal of manager Bob Geren: he didn’t go into a long-winded academic, condescending, intimidation-tinged manifesto about taking personal responsibility for what’s gone wrong with the Athletics this year.

He blamed the media.

He mentioned the “continued speculation” about Geren’s job status; that the “focus” needed to be shifted away from the manager.

The change from Geren to Bob Melvin—a good manager and quality person—is supposedly going to achieve this end.

In retrospect and judging by what Beane’s reported to have said, he’d have been better off taking my advice from a few days ago and uttering the generalizations that all GMs have to learn when making a change.

“This is no reflection on…”

“We’re all responsible for…”

“I’m the GM and I have to take the hit for the club’s failures…”

Etc.

Etc.

Etc.

But without having seen the entire transcript of the press conference, there appeared to have been none of that.

Because Geren’s job was such a topic of discussion, that was the relevant issue above his haphazard bullpen usage, lack of relationship with his players and mounting losses.

I thought Geren had done as best he could with his prior Athletics teams based on talent level. Most of the club configurations weren’t particularly good and—apart from 2009 for which he should get one pass—there were limited expectations and drastic flaws with every roster.

But what world are we living in where the manager doesn’t talk to his players? Huston Street‘s comments about hating to play for Geren were telling; Dan Haren said that Geren’s credibility was a question mark when he replaced Ken Macha in 2007 due to the perception that Beane was running the team from afar.*

*But wasn’t that known from the sacred text of Moneyball?

After the Brian Fuentes dustup and the atrocious streak of losing, Beane made the change.

How can a manager fail to talk to his players? It’s one thing to be stoically quiet and still in charge like Gil Hodges; it’s another to be oblivious and disinterested.

Even if you’re yelling at them, at least there’s some dialogue going on; but to say nothing at all? Have them wondering what you’re thinking? How do you function that way? How do you run a clubhouse? Why should they listen when you do talk?

If the manager is screaming at his players like a raving maniac, that’s showing some form of interest in them. But to say nothing? To disregard the common courtesy and credibility enhancing act of telling a veteran like Fuentes—to his face—that he’s been demoted and then call down to the bullpen for him to warm up in the seventh inning of a game?

It’s unconscionable.

Geren had talent to work with in 2011, was expected to win, and was in the final year of his contract it’s no surprise that he was sacrificed as the team is spiraling like a headless goose; but for Beane to imply that results aren’t part of his job description is deranged.

This “genius” is based on what? A book? A movie?

It’s as if he’s openly scoffing at that which is supposed to be the basis of his team-building philosophy—results over aesthetic; like he’s saying, “Don’t blame me! I’m a genius; I’m still smarter than you!”

Five straight seasons of—at best—mediocrity don’t have a bearing on this crafted image of infallibility.

It it seems like I’m writing the same things over and over again, it’s probably because I am.

For how long is Beane going to be absolved for his capricious maneuverings and self-justifying circular corporate terminology and having a reason for doing what he does as a protective cloak if they don’t work?

Unlike Joe Morgan, I’m aware that Beane had nothing to do with the way Moneyball was presented. I don’t blame Beane for using that portrayal to his advantage. He’s made a lot of money and now has a piece of a major league baseball team—something that would never have happened without that book.

In the end, he’s a stereotypical GM without the filter; absent of fear for his job.

The Athletics should be a contending team this season. It hasn’t worked. None of the acquisitions they made to bolster the lineup—Hideki Matsui, David DeJesus and Josh Willingham—have performed up to expectations; Daric Barton hasn’t followed up on his excellent 2010 season; injuries have decimated an impressive young pitching staff and the bullpen has been spotty.

The American League is quite muddled and laden with parity, so it’s not out of the question that the team can get hot and crawl back into contention, but it won’t be due to a managerial change and it won’t be a validation of “genius”.

These are independent issues.

If Beane were just another GM, what would be said right now?

Would an even-handed look at his callous dismissal of the work of his managers Art Howe and Ken Macha be accepted so readily? Would faulty trades and signings—Esteban Loaiza; Matt Holliday; Jason Giambi (his second go round); Orlando Cabrera; Tim Hudson—be seen as part of the “process” and chalked up to the paucity of money in the Athletics coffers?

You can’t get credit without receiving blame.

It doesn’t work that way.

All Macha did was win, but Beane fired him because of a “lack of communication” after a season in which the A’s came within four wins of going to the World Series. How was Geren around for five years since a large chunk of his players say he never spoke to them?

My hunch is that Macha didn’t kowtow to Billy Beane; didn’t worship at his altar because he saw through the facade and didn’t put forth the pretense of hiding his disdain. That’s not the way to last with a dictator.

It’s the media’s fault? He’s still clinging to the concept that the manager is meaningless?

In certain cases, yes, the manager is meaningless; but with a young team that’s had zero success since 2006 and a make-or-break circumstance, the manager matters. A lot.

Geren was costing them games with his mistakes.

And what does it say to the new manager Melvin that Beane clearly thinks so little of the manager’s job that he doesn’t believe it makes a difference whom the manager is?

I’m hoping to read the full context of Beane’s remarks in the press conference, but can’t find it anywhere on the web; apparently there were technical difficulties (part of a diabolical, James Bond Villain-style scheme on the part of Beane?). All I’ve been able to piece together are rampant displays of disturbingly overwhelming arrogance in which Beane’s “shifting the focus” means he’s blaming everyone but himself.

Maybe there’s an explanation for Beane’s obnoxious skill at maintaining this absurd perception of “genius” based on a fairy tale. Perhaps Michael Lewis’s shelved “sequel” to Moneyball would take advantage of the popularity of vampires and Beane—with his clear inability to see his own visage in a reflective surface—could be The Vampire GM.

You don’t have to worry about the Moneyball sequel though. I got it covered. And it won’t be punctuating the story. It’ll blow the thing to smithereens.

It’s what I do.

Years ago, there was a professional wrestler named Rick Martel who took on the bad guy personality of a pure narcissist who told anyone and everyone he was a model and promoted a cologne called Arrogance.

Let’s revive Arrogance.

Professional wrestling fits neatly with Beane’s famous chair throwing incident at the scouting department’s drafting of Jeremy Bonderman before Beane consolidated his power over the whole team.

Tantrums, bluster, bullying, self-justification—this is not what I want in my totem.

I want confidence and competence.

Is that what the Athletics have in Beane?

Let’s abandon Moneyball and the Billy Beane “genius” and let him push something more applicable.

The sweet smell of Arrogance isn’t so sweet when tearing away the layers and examining the truth.

Beane no longer passes the smell test unless said smell is a whiff of failure.

//

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