Just stop it.
It’s enough already.
The latest set of alibis for Billy Beane and Moneyball comes from Tyler Kepner in today’s NY Times and—in the greatest insult to our collective baseball intelligence yet—they’e being utilized in the same way to excuse his mediocrity as they were to build the foundation for his myth of genius.
He didn’t have any money and had to figure out a different way to compete; he doesn’t have any money now so that’s why he’s losing.
He was in a small, relatively unappealing market where players wouldn’t go unless they had no other choice; he can’t get players to come to Oakland.
He didn’t have a state-of-the-art ballpark with modern amenities; he doesn’t have a state-of-the-art ballpark with modern amenities.
There were stupid people in baseball; the stupid people have suddenly gotten smart and are using his innovations.
What’s next? Mediocre reviews of the film or a lack of connectivity between book and movie are turning players away from joining a club that partakes in such dramatic license in the interests of propping up a story? The old ballplayer line of rejecting a job based on cinematic liberties?
Why is there this investment from the media in trying to salvage what’s left of the farce that was the appellation of “genius” on the part of Beane?
Beane’s justifications are taking on the ludicrous nature the type you’d hear from a bust on To Catch a Predator.
“I just came to talk to her.”
“I wanted to explain that she shouldn’t be meeting men on the internet.”
“She needs to do well in school, study hard and get into a good college.”
It’s not believable; in fact, it’s nonsense.
This isn’t to imply the issues of revenue, venue and increased knowledge from his counterparts aren’t hindering Beane’s efforts to maintain a competitive team—of course they are—but you can’t use the same arguments to create the illusion of brilliance as you do when explaining away mistakes. It doesn’t work that way.
The biggest irony is the “kinder, gentler Billy” persona that Beane—quite the actor himself—is putting forth.
It’s laughable that the same character who ranted, raved, cussed, broke things and bullied subordinates is now a cerebral, down-to-earth, somewhat resigned caricature who’s using those ridiculed excuses from above as a protective cloak to shield himself from all criticism; what makes it worse it how he’s being willfully assisted by the sycophants in the media and his remaining apologists whose agenda is clearly in line with their so-called “stat revolution” that was supposed to turn every Major League Baseball front office into something resembling a combination Star Trek convention and Ivy League school reunion.
I’ll bet that the “Billy Beane” in the film, played by the likable Brad Pitt, won’t be smashing any chairs on-screen. The Beane in the book is not likable at all. The character in the book was tearing into conventional baseball wisdom and running roughshod over the old-school scouts and antiquated thinkers who were invested in their own version of running a team; the movie person will be more palatable to the mainstream audience it’s seeking to attract.
Is the objective reality that so often referenced as to why Beane did what he did?
Beane was supposedly too smart and too much of an analyst to make it as a player, so he transferred his self-destructive intensity into the front office and turned it into a positive while simultaneously flipping the world of baseball upside down; but now he’s finding the same varied list of whys to maintain the veneer that his terrible team is not his fault.
Whose fault is it?
Beane had his chance to go to a big market club when he agreed to take over as GM of the Red Sox and backed out.
I’ve repeatedly stated how much of a disaster that would’ve been as his plans included trading Jason Varitek and signing someone named Mark Johnson to replace him; moving Manny Ramirez to permanent DH, precluding the signing of David Ortiz; signing Edgardo Alfonzo who was near the end of the line; and sending Kevin Youkilis to the Athletics as compensation for Beane joining the Red Sox.
Luckily for the Red Sox, Beane walked away from the deal and chose to stay in Oakand. Michael Lewis’s story was that Beane finally had a monetary value placed on his work with the Red Sox offer—documented evidence of what he could get were he to auction his stud services to the highest bidder. That was enough for him and he returned to the A’s. Family considerations played a part in Beane’s decision to remain with the A’s, but there were other, unsaid factors.
Isn’t it easier to stay somewhere where the expectations are muted and you’re treated as a demagogue? Where you’re about to be given a portion of a billion dollar business all as a result of this concept of being a genius? Where there are always ways to stickhandle around any missteps with the financial/ballpark/venue/competitive problems? Of existing in a vacuum?
If I hired a “genius”, I’d expect the miraculous. I’d expect him to figure it out regardless of what obstacles stand in his way.
Beane isn’t, nor was he ever, a genius. He filled a gap and exposed a market that was rife for exploitation. Once everyone else figured out what he was doing and started using the same techniques he did, he was right back where he started from. Genius is innovation and in that sense, there was a shred of “genius” in what Beane did; but he’s no innovator in that he created something new. He found a weapon and used it like some megalomaniacal James Bond villain.
He’s been able to gloss over repeated rebuilding projects where he traded away the likes of Nick Swisher, Dan Haren, Tim Hudson and Mark Mulder for returns that have been weak or abject failures. He’s dispatched managers for shady reasons—but if the managers don’t get credit for the wins, nor should they be saddled with the losses. His “card-counting in the casino” approach to the draft was the stupidest thing in the book and has been proven to be an utter absurdity with continually terrible drafts. His pitchers have gotten injured over and over; wouldn’t a “genius” find a series of preventative measures to keep his players healthy apart from referring to the idiotic Verducci Effect—which Beane says he does?
How long is this going to last?
Is it going to last until the movie is in and out of theaters when the bloom is off a rose that’s existed far too long and has been protected from reality in the interests of selfish motivations? Will others join me in stating the obvious? Will Beane finally be seen for what he is?
Or will there still be pockets of protest trying to refurbish the crumbling facade of Moneyball?
Moneyball lives, but in a different form; it’s a shape-shifter; a chameleon bent on survival at whatever cost.
I tend to think, as the A’s stumble to a 90 loss season, there will be other voices saying the same thing I do.
But I said it first.
Beane’s corporate terminology and sudden reliance on the reviled “subjectivity” to protect his legacy and fairy tale status has failed in theory and practice.
No one’s buying it anymore.
They’re just waiting until after the film to admit it.
And that only makes the subterfuge and self-indulgence worse and those documenting it less and less credible.