Mets Fans’ Logic, Self-Loathing And Ike Davis

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Now Mets fans are having their newest irrational love affair with Josh Satin.

The response to last night’s news that the Mets had decided to recall regular first baseman Ike Davis was somewhere between a groan and outright rage that Satin’s “job” was being usurped by Davis. There’s a tendency in the Mets fanbase to turn their emotions to the underdog type player from whom nothing is expected vs. the former first round draft pick whose career has come undone to the degree that he needed to be sent to the minor leagues three months into the 2013 season after he’d hit 32 homers in 2012.

It’s happened before with an unsung player catching the fancy of the fans. Remember Jason Phillips? He had a surprisingly good rookie season in 2003 as a surprise starter in a position (ironically, first base) that was a switch from his normal one at catcher. Phillips posted a .298/.373/.442 slash line with 25 doubles and 11 homers. In the aftermath of the Moneyball “revolution” the Mets had a Scott Hatteberg of their very own. Except it didn’t last. In 2004, Phillips began the season as the starting first baseman and fell to earth with a thud batting .218. Right before the 2005 season he was traded to the Dodgers, then bounced around for a few more years with nary a flicker of the same success he’d enjoyed as a rookie. Eventually he regressed. While he was posting those numbers, no one wanted to hear that he had a hitch in his swing that was ripe for exploitation or that he had put up decent minor league numbers but nothing resembling what he did in the majors in 2003. He was a homegrown Met from whom nothing was expected, therefore, through some bizarre self-loathing cognitive association, Mets fans took to him. The difference between now and then is that the front office was willing to listen to the fans and media and do what the endlessly destructive “they” wanted. This front office doesn’t do that.

It must also be remembered that this from the same fanbase that booed Mike Piazza in 1998, almost causing him to leave as a free agent.

Why?

Is there an aversion to having stars or potential stars playing for the Mets? Does it suit the workmanlike, blue collar image that the Mets embody in comparison to the stuck-up, snotty, white collar fans and organization with the superiority complex from across town?

Satin has produced a few clutch hits in his brief opportunity to play and has a knowledge of the strike zone similar to what he’s shown in the minor leagues, but the same logic that has fans panicking over Zack Wheeler’s slow start is being exhibited on the opposite end with their newfound love for Satin. Wheeler’s been mediocre and inconsistent in his first few starts, the fans find him disappointing and want him traded for a bat; the media is scouring for analysis from anonymous scouts to validate their doomsaying columns with, “Yeah, he’s still talented but he’s either overrated or not ready for the majors.” Satin has a slash line of .353/.468/.549 slash line in 62 plate appearances. Why doesn’t the media ask a scout the odds of him maintaining that pace? Or is it too ludicrous to even consider that the 28-year-old career minor leaguer has suddenly found a method to post numbers nearly identical to those John Olerud did for the Mets in 1998 with the main difference being that Olerud did it in 160 games and Satin has done it in eighteen games.

For better or worse, Davis is currently the Mets’ best option at first base. He spent a month in the minor leagues and, for what it’s worth, hit 7 homers in 21 games with a .293 average, a .424 OBP. He hit like the player he was when he was recalled in 2010 and before he got injured in 2011. Those 32 homers last season came after a wretched start and threats to send him to the minors. The majority of his production came in the second half. The Mets were expecting him to pick up where he left off in 2013. Instead, he repeated the 2012 start only worse and they followed through on the threat to send him to the minors. All the objections from the players who love Davis and manager who believes in him couldn’t save him this time. It was the right thing to do. He’s back and he deserved to come back. The Mets intentionally brought him up as they embark on a nine game road trip so he won’t have to deal with the boos of the fans if he doesn’t hit a home run in his first at bat, but he still has to deal with an inexplicable vitriol back home from fans who acted disgusted at the mere mentioning of his name.

The Mets may be hoping that Davis hits enough to replenish his trade value to get rid of him and upgrade at first base with someone more consistent. They might still believe in Davis. Or they might feel that he’d been in Triple A long enough and there was nothing more to be gained from him staying there. One thing’s for certain: if the Mets eventually replace Davis, Satin will have to hit for a bit longer than two weeks before he’s anointed the job by the organization in the same manner as the fans have decided that he’s fit to replace a former first round draft pick who, as recently as this spring, was lauded as a possible home run champion.

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The Other Shoe Finally Drops On Ike Davis

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Amid the disappointment and embarrassment Ike Davis presumably feels following yesterday’s demotion from the Mets to Triple A Las Vegas is probably an unadmitted sense of relief that the Mets finally pulled the trigger and made good on the threats that have been issued multiple times for a year. Now there is no longer the looming prospect of it happening—it happened—and Davis can go to Triple A, clear his head and get himself straight.

It’s the epitome of arrogance for outsiders in the media, on social media and for laypeople of every ilk to diagnose what’s “wrong” with Davis. He’s changing his swing, stance and everything else based on the last bit of advice he received, the last time he hit the ball hard and felt comfortable at the plate. It’s made him into a toxic mess and a lefty bat who was once a feared power hitter has been regularly pinch hit for in key situations by journeymen like Justin Turner. Going to Triple A is the best thing for him and the club.

This is clearly a short-term move and Davis will be back as soon as he has a sustained run of success. By success I don’t necessarily mean a load of hits and home runs, but success can mean looking as if he has a clue at the plate, commanding the strike zone, playing defense as if he’s not thinking about his last at bat, and hitting the ball hard. If the Mets had any intention of leaving Davis in the minors longer than a few weeks, they wouldn’t have immediately put the kibosh on the most obvious personnel move in shifting Lucas Duda to first base. As it is, they’re apparently going to recall Josh Satin and give him a chance.

Satin, 28, has been a productive hitter in the minor leagues since being drafted by the Mets’ prior front office regime in the sixth round of the 2008 draft. He has a career minor league slash line of .303/.398/.465 and 10-15 home run pop. But is he a big league prospect or a 4-A player who’s interchangeable with the last guy on the roster? There are two ways to look at Satin: 1) he’s a borderline big leaguer who can hit Triple A pitching and be an extra bat off the bench; or 2) he’s a player who is in the Scott Hatteberg/Moneyball tradition of someone who has a good eye, some power and needs little more than a chance to play to prove himself.

Put it this way: if it were the latter, some other club would’ve picked him up or the Mets would’ve given him a shot to get some at bats as a utility player. He’s a stopgap whereas moving Duda to first and playing Jordany Valdespin/Kirk Nieuwenhuis/Juan Lagares in left and center field would imply permanence to the Davis demotion.

Davis’s popularity in the Mets clubhouse will certainly inspire sadness that he was demoted, but even the most ardent Davis supporter and friend can’t defend a .161 batting average, a .500 OPS and 5 homers with 1 since April. He’s been equally bad against righties and lefties and there’s no justification for keeping him in the majors if this is what he’s giving them.

Being well-liked is fine, but it must be remembered that this isn’t a popularity contest. The Giants players hated Barry Bonds with a passion…until he stepped into the batters box where, even in the days before he evidently touched a PED, he boasted an OPS of 1.000 and above on an annual basis. Keeping Davis in the big leagues through this struggle was no longer serving any purpose other than making it appear as if the inmates were running the asylum and with a team that’s playing as poorly as the Mets, that can’t continue. The first step toward real accountability is the long-overdue decision to demote Davis. If you don’t hit, you don’t play. Davis didn’t hit and he won’t play in the big leagues for awhile. It’s that simple.

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The 2012 Athletics Are A Great Story That Has Nothing To Do With Moneyball

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Going to Michael Lewis for a quote about the 2012 Oakland Athletics because he wrote Moneyball as the author does in this NY Times article is like going to Stephen King for a quote on time travel and the Kennedy assassination because he wrote a novel about time travel and the Kennedy assassination. Lewis’s book was technically non-fiction and King’s is decidedly fiction, but the “facts” in Lewis’s book were designed to take everything Billy Beane was doing to take advantage of market inefficiencies and magnify them into an infallibility and new template that only a fool wouldn’t follow.

Lewis had an end in mind and crafted his story about the 2002 Athletics and baseball sabermetrics to meet that end. It’s not journalism, it’s creative non-fiction. Beane went along with it, became famous, and very rich. None of that validates the genesis of the puffery.

The intervening years from Moneyball’s publication to today were not kind to Beane or to the story…until 2012. The movie’s success notwithstanding, it was rife with inaccuracies, omissions, and outright fabrications such as:

  • Art Howe’s casual dismissal of Beane’s demands as if it was Howe who was in charge and not Beane
  • The portrayal of Jeremy Brown not as a chunky catcher, but an individual so close to morbidly obese that he needed to visit Richard Simmons, pronto
  • The failure to mention the three pitchers Tim Hudson, Mark Mulder, and Barry Zito
  • That Scott Hatteberg’s playing time was a point of contention and Beane traded Carlos Pena to force Howe’s hand to play Hatteberg—Hatteberg was still learning first base and wasn’t playing defense, but he was in the lineup almost every day as the DH from day one

There are other examples and it wasn’t a mistake. The book was absurd, the movie was exponentially absurd, and there are still people who refuse to look at the facts before replacing the genius hat on Beane’s head as “proof” of the veracity of Lewis’s tale.

This 2012 version of the Athletics is Beane’s rebuild/retool number five (by my count) since 2003. The Moneyball club was blown apart and quickly returned to contention by 2006 when they lost in the ALCS. That team too was ripped to shreds and the A’s traded for youngsters, signed veterans, traded veterans, signed veterans, traded for youngsters and finished far out of the money in the American League from 2007-2011.

Then they cleared out the house again and are now in the playoffs. It has no connection with Moneyball nor the concept of Beane finding undervalued talent. It has to do with the young players succeeding, as the article linked above says, and winning “in a hurry”.

Let’s look at the facts and assertions from the book/movie followed by the truth:

The A’s, under Beane, were “card-counters” in the draft

The only players on this Athletics’ team that were acquired via the draft and have helped the club are Jemile Weeks, Cliff Pennington, Sean Doolittle (drafted as a first baseman and converted to the mound), Dan Straily, and A.J. Griffin. The A’s drafts since Moneyball have been mediocre at best and terrible at worst, so bad that Grady Fuson—along with Howe, one of the old-school “villains” in Moneyball—was brought back to the organization as special assistant to the GM.

The hidden truth about the draft is that the boss of the organization probably pays attention to the first 8-10 rounds at most. After that, it’s the scouts and cross-checkers who make the decisions and any player taken past the 10th round who becomes a success is a matter of being lucky with late development, a position switch, a quirky pitch, or some other unquantifiable factor. Beane’s “new age” picks like Brown, Steve Stanley, and Ben Fritz, didn’t make it. The conventional selections Nick Swisher and Joe Blanton did make it, were paid normal bonuses of over $1 million, in line with what other players drafted in their slot area received. Brown received $350,000 as the 35th pick in the first round and his signing was contingent on accepting it.

Beane “fleeced” other clubs in trades

In retrospect, he took advantage of the Red Sox desperation to have a “proven” closer, Andrew Bailey, to replace the departed Jonathan Papelbon. Bailey got hurt and, last night, showed why it wasn’t his injury that ruined the Red Sox season. He’s not particularly good. Josh Reddick has 32 homers—power and inexpensive youthful exuberance the Red Sox could have used in 2012.

The other deals he made last winter? They were of mutual benefit. The A’s were looking to restart their rebuild and slash salary waiting out the decision on whether they’re going to get permission to build a new park in San Jose. They sent their erstwhile ace Trevor Cahill to the Diamondbacks for a large package of young talent with Collin Cowgill, Ryan Cook, and Jarrod Parker. They also traded Gio Gonzalez to the Nationals for even more young talent including Tommy Milone and Derek Norris. The Diamondbacks got 200 innings and good work (that hasn’t shown up in his 13-12 record) from Cahill and are also-rans; the Nationals got brilliance from Gonzalez and won their division. The A’s slashed payroll and their young players, as the article says, developed rapidly.

Sometimes it works as it did with this series of trades, sometimes it doesn’t as with the failed return on the Hudson trade to the Braves in 2004.

They found undervalued talent

Yes. We know that Moneyball wasn’t strictly about on-base percentage. It was about “undervalued talent” and opportunity due to holes in the market. That argument has come and gone. Was Yoenis Cespedes “undervalued”? He was paid like a free agent and joined the A’s because they offered the most money and the longest contract. He was a supremely gifted risk whose raw skills have helped the A’s greatly and bode well for a bright future. The other signings/trades—Jonny Gomes, Bartolo Colon, Seth Smith, Brandon Inge, Brandon Moss—were prayerful maneuvers based on what was available for money the A’s could afford. They contributed to this club on and off the field.

Grant Balfour was signed before 2011 because the A’s again thought they were ready to contend and all they needed was to bolster the bullpen. They’d also signed Brian Fuentes to close. Fuentes was an expensive disaster whom they released earlier this year; Balfour was inconsistent, lost his closer’s job, wanted to be traded, regained the job, and is pitching well.

The manager is an irrelevant figurehead

Howe was slandered in Moneyball the book as an incompetent buffoon along for the ride and slaughtered in the movie as an arrogant, insubordinate jerk. What’s ironic is that the manager hired at mid-season 2011, Bob Melvin, is essentially the same personality as Howe!!! An experienced manager who’d had success in his past, Melvin replaced the overmatched Bob Geren, who just so happened to be one of Beane’s closest friends and was fired, according to Beane, not because of poor results, managing and communication skills, but because speculation about his job security had become a distraction.

Melvin and Howe share the common trait of a laid back, easygoing personality that won’t scare young players into making mistakes. Melvin’s calm demeanor and solid skills of handling players and game situations was exactly what the A’s needed and precisely what Moneyball said was meaningless.

The 2012 Athletics are a great story; Moneyball was an interesting story, but they only intersect when Beane’s “genius” from the book and movie melds with this season’s confluence of events and produces another convenient storyline that, in fact, has nothing at all to do with reality.

The A’s are going to the playoffs and might win the division over the Rangers and Angels, two teams that spent a combined $170 million more in player salaries than the A’s did. It’s a terrific life-lesson that it’s not always about money, but it has zero to do with Moneyball and Michael Lewis is an unwanted interloper as the Beane chronicler since he knows nothing about baseball and is a callous opportunist who took advantage of a situation for his own benefit.

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What Jeremy Lin Can Teach Us

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Everyone’s jumping on the Jeremy Lin bandwagon.

Hey, even I’m doing it and I don’t know anything about basketball and can’t watch the games because of the ongoing dispute between Time Warner and MSG.

If I could, I wouldn’t know what I was watching and wouldn’t claim to.

But there are two pieces in today’s NY Times that are discussing Lin’s rise from obscurity, journeyman status, the Ivy League, bad scouting and possibly a bit of stereotyping because he’s of Asian-American descent (by way of Northern California). He’s not a prototypical basketball player who’s easy to explain with buzzwords. Those buzzwords are phrased in such a way that few are willing to dispute them because they’re so encompassing and easy to use as adjectives whether they’re meaningful or not.

In one piece, Lin’s failure to attract attention as a high school and college player is discussed—link.

In the other, Nate Silver dissects Lin statistically—link.

The mistakes that were made with Lin are common and happen not just in sports but in all endeavors.

The words “can’t” and “never been done before” are limiting and hinder those with the ability to accomplish their goals. They’re exacerbated if the individual is saddled with an absence of self-confidence or determination to keep moving forward in the face of such negativity. Because Lin continued to try and wasn’t looking for the validation of others to let him think he had a chance to succeed, he hung around and when he received his opportunity, ran with it while holding and passing and shooting a basketball—very well by the looks of things.

In baseball this happens all the time as well.

How many times have we seen a player who wasn’t considered a prospect because of ingrained beliefs that were more of a safety net than legitimate analysis?

People want to keep their jobs and a major part of that for a conventional organization is playing it safe and having an explanation for why they do what they do.

“He had a 100-mph fastball.”

“He’s a 6’3”, 190 pound righty with a clean motion and great upside.”

“He’s a tools guy.”

They’re excuses.

One of the reasons Moneyball struck such a nerve wasn’t that it seemed to work for awhile, but because the players who would’ve been shunned in the past were given an opportunity out of the A’s desperation to find players who could help them at an affordable price. What went wrong was when the concept spun out of control to mean, as a baseline, that rather than looking for players who could play, everyone was supposed to find fat players who took a lot of pitches and drew walks at the expense of other attributes.

The infamous, “not trying to sell jeans” catchphrase became part of the lexicon to explain why a player was taken and it took on the same context of the opposite “reasons” (excuses) listed above.

Old school and new school became interchangeable in stupidity, self-aggrandizement and tribalism.

Suddenly, everyone who could calculate a player’s on base percentage or strikeout rate in the minors was qualified to advise Tony LaRussa and Joe Torre on how to run their teams.

And they did.

And it didn’t go well.

It’s happened repeatedly in baseball that a player like Tim Lincecum was passed over because of his uniqueness of motion, training and diminutive stature, but became a star because there was one team—the Giants—willing to adhere to the rules laid out by Lincecum’s father and judged him by his results rather than that he’s a “freak”.

Lesser known players have benefited from this phenomenon.

Mike Jacobs isn’t a great player, but he was a non-prospect for the Mets and wound up with a decent career because he was called up as an emergency catcher in 1995, batted as a pinch hitter on a Sunday game in which the Mets were losing, hit a home run and had to have Pedro Martinez stand up for him for the Mets to keep him around rather than send him back to the minors. The Mets put him in the lineup at first base and he kept hitting home runs.

Jacobs went from a 38th round pick and “organizational filler” to a big leaguer that was the centerpiece in the Mets acquisition of Carlos Delgado from the Marlins after the 2005 season.

Jacobs hit 100 homers in his big league career and is still hanging around as an extra player who’s been in the big leagues, can hit the ball out of the park once in a while and be a competent bench player who can catch in an emergency. (He’s going to camp with the Diamondbacks on a minor league contract.)

Martinez himself had been misjudged by then-Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda and the team doctors as too small and fragile to be a durable and consistent long-term starting pitcher. He was a reliever as a rookie and was traded for Delino DeShields following the 1993 season.

DeShields happened to be a good player, but he was traded for one of the best pitchers in history and that’s not his fault.

The lack of comprehension surrounding Moneyball and its subsequent offshoots isn’t that people didn’t “get” what Michael Lewis was trying to highlight, but that they took it as the new way of running a club at the expense of old-school scouting techniques and gut instincts that have to be part of the game.

Because they had a bunch of players who would be keys to a “Rocky”-style story with “There’s a Place for Us” by Barbra Streisand playing in the background as the group of misfits—one with a clubfoot (Jim Mecir); one throwing slow underarm junk (Chad Bradford); a former star on his way out (David Justice); and a former catcher who couldn’t throw and never had a chance to play (Scott Hatteberg); along with the fat players they drafted—celebrated a championship and shoved it into the faces of the big kids who never let them play.

They never won a championship, but that’s secondary to the perception and salesmanship.

Lin is getting attention now; there are going to be Lin jerseys popping up all over the place and he’s the toast of New York as an inspiration to those who are waiting for their chance and won’t quit.

He’s also going to have a lot of people who bypassed him contacting him to apologize, admit they were wrong, asking for things or hoping for Lin to say, “it’s okay, you’re not an idiot”.

But what if they are idiots? What if they are so dogmatic and invested in safety-first drafting/signing that they ignored what was right in front of their faces and are under siege because of that?

Is there a stat for scouts and executives screwing up and missing on players that could actually play, but weren’t allowed to for one reason or another?

If not, there should be one because there are Jeremy Lins everywhere waiting for someone in power to take a chance on them. There are opportunities to come up big if a team is smart or lucky or both. It all depends on who’s smart enough, gutsy enough or desperate enough to give those players that chance.

It’s random, but it counts all the same.

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Oscars Invitations—Lost In the Mail

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With Billy Beane attending the Oscars to support Brad Pitt and Moneyball and their nominations—link—I thought it would be appropriate to suggest some other characters from the book and film who should be asked to attend. Without them, there would be no story.

Art Howe

The epitome of insubordinate and self-interested evil who refused to adapt to the changing times by adhering to numbers and outright ignored his boss’s entreaties to play Scott Hatteberg.

Except Howe did play Hatteberg—just not at first base.

If you look at the facts (a novel concept they are, FACTS!!!), Hatteberg was in the lineup almost every day as the DH because he was new to first base and Carlos Pena was a Gold Glove caliber fielder.

Check this link if you’re actually invested in the Hatteberg/Howe truth.

The climactic scene in which Hatterberg homered to help the A’s win their 20th straight game was a scheduled day off; the circumstances are detailed in the book!

Mark Mulder/Barry Zito/Tim Hudson

Private detectives might have to be dispatched to find them since they were mysteriously absent from the film version of Moneyball and only mentioned in passing in the book.

Having three All-Star/Cy Young Award caliber starting pitchers is kinda important to analyzing the construction of a winning team.

Jeremy Brown

An armrest would have to be ripped from the seats in the theater to fit the morbidly obese film version of Brown into them.

The real Brown was bulky and not fat.

In a clever bit of double entendre, Brown could make a great show of walking to his seat.

Walking.

Walks.

Get it?

Sandy Alderson

Alderson’s Twitter account is rife with deadpan comedic musings.

Even if the audience needs the jokes explained to them, he’ll still be funnier than Billy Crystal.

Paul DePodesta

With his reputation tattered by the implication of the computer loving stat geek and saddled with the moniker “Google Boy”; having gone to the Dodgers and, in a career-kamikaze fashion (don’t blame Frank McCourt), trashed the team by adhering to the principles of stat based team building resulting in inevitable destruction, he replenished his image as a respected assistant with the Padres and Mets and smartly removed his name from the film before it did any more damage.

Jonah Hill

He should be lambasted for inflicting the unwatchable cartoon Allen Gregory on an unsuspecting public.

And I want the fat Jonah Hill, not this new skinny one.

Keith Law and Michael Lewis

In the pretentious, hackneyed and self-indulgent world of Hollywood, even the Oscar attendees might walk out at the rampant egomania of the toxic combination of Lewis and Law.

Stick them in a steel cage and let them fight it out. It won’t be a feud on a pro wrestling level with Superfly Snuka vs Bob Backlund or Ric Flair vs Dusty Rhodes, but I know I’d watch.

I’d probably hold my nose and root for Lewis.

Probably.

Me

The stat guys, celebrating their victorious revolution and—in spite of Moneyball being shut out at the Oscars (it’s not going to win anything)—enjoy their moments in the spotlight and bask in the adulation and validation.

Then I arrive and make my presence…felt.

Beane’s attendance at the Oscars is a start.

But my version will make it pure perfection.

Genius in fact.

GENIUS!!!!!!!

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Coco Crisp Takes His Talents Back To Oakland

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When MLB Trade Rumors published the posting that Coco Crisp had made his decision as to which club he wanted to sign with, many things ran through my head to solve the cryptic mystery of the unnamed team’s identity.

Was the team that he’d chosen aware that Crisp wanted to sign with them?

Did they want him?

Was he in the midst of negotiations—albeit on a smaller scale—with ESPN to broadcast The Decision in a similar way to LeBron James’s taking his talents to Miami?

Or was Crisp purchasing time on cable access channels nationwide befitting his somewhat lower level of fame in comparison to James?

Where was Crisp taking his talents?

Where?

Where?!?

WHERE?!?!?!?

As it turned out, Crisp re-signed with the Athletics for 2-years and a guaranteed $14 million.

There was no fizzle; no wild celebration; just a blank stare.

The most interesting aspects to this bit of news were the reactions of the Billy Beane defenders. Rather than accurately gauge the signing for what it is—pointless—they found ways to continue defending the indefensible “genius” for doing things that make absolutely no sense.

Dave Cameron summed up the Beane-defenders’ reaction with the following on Twitter:

Whether A’s should be team paying for 32-year-old CF is another story. But Crisp is a solid average player, easily worth $7M per year.

Would those who aren’t sacred cows in the stat revolution have gotten this pass? What if it was Royals GM Dayton Moore, Giants GM Brian Sabean or Phillies GM Ruben Amaro who had made this decision?

If they’d made suspicious trades of young pitchers who should be the foundation of a rebuild, there would certainly be multiple articles, blogs and comments tearing into the haphazard maneuvers being made. But because it’s Beane, there’s a desperate search for justification and a reluctance to criticize him in anything other than the most wishy-washy and general terms.

The money is irrelevant and the justifications flawed.

My theory has always been that teams should overpay for what they need and set a line—based on a myriad of factors—for what they want.

The Athletics don’t need Crisp.

Can they use Crisp?

Why not? He’s a good outfielder; has some pop and speed; and appears to be well liked by the media, teammates and fans.

But did they need him?

You tell me.

The A’s are in a nightmarish division with two powerhouses, the Rangers and Angels; they just traded their top two starting pitchers for packages of youngsters and are starting over in anticipation of a new stadium in San Jose that may never come.

What do they need a veteran center fielder like Crisp for? They’re going to lose 90 games with him; they’ll lose 90 games without him.

If Beane were the “genius” and ruthless, fearless corporate titan his fictional biography portrayed him as being, he’d have found a center fielder on someone’s bench or Triple A roster, traded for him and installed him as the new center fielder giving him a chance to play every day—sort of like he did with Scott Hatteberg at first base in 2002.

Teams are no longer fearful of doing business with Beane because the perception that he’s picking their pockets has been destroyed by reality, randomness and consistent mediocrity.

Would the Giants be willing to deal Darren Ford? The Astros J.B. Shuck? The Blue Jays Darin Mastroianni?

The “who” isn’t the point, but the “why” is.

Why do they need Crisp?

They don’t.

Technically, based on ability and markets, they didn’t overpay for him; but overpaying isn’t only about giving a player too much money, it’s also about signing him at all.

Either Beane’s running the team with a plan or he’s not; what the Crisp signing signifies is that there is no plan. He’s just “doing stuff” like so many other executives do, except they’re not relentlessly defended for it, nor are they doing it with the appellation of “genius” hovering over them and placing everything they do under the microscope of a fictional tale.

And the microscope is telling all.

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Of Reyes And Agendas

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I make no secret of reveling in the fact that Moneyball and Billy Beane are, by now, incongruent; that I find it funny that Beane has become a joke; that he’s trying to put forth the portrayal of the hapless everyman who’s been swallowed up by the big money clubs who stole his blueprint and left him behind.

The casual fan watches Moneyball, sees the “genius” with which Beane implemented the stat-based theory and found a means to compete in an uncompetitive world, then looks at the Athletics utter non-competitiveness and questions why he’s still considered a “genius”. Beane’s fall adds a perceptive resonance to the truth and directly correlates it to Moneyball being perceived as “wrong”.

Moneyball isn’t necessarily “wrong” insomuch as it was inaccurate and crafted in such a way to make Beane look smarter than he really was; to appear to be creating something when his main attribute was—as a matter of desperation—using the statistical analysis that few other clubs were using to the degree that he did.

And it worked.

For awhile.

Now it doesn’t work because teams like the Yankees and Red Sox are using the same strategy, buying the players Beane once got for free and covering up the ones that don’t work by flinging money at the problem.

My agenda isn’t to be seen as “right”, but to present the full context.

Others—specifically those who have a personal investment in bashing the Mets—can’t say the same.

Jose Reyes is either going to stay with the Mets or he won’t. They’ll make an offer. It will be a lucrative offer. And if someone vastly surpasses it, he’ll leave; if it’s not a drastic increase, he’ll have a decision to make.

Does the reason he leaves or stays matter?

Only in their warped, egocentric, self-aggrandizing views of themselves.

By “them” and “their” I mean any and all people who criticize an entity because it’s a convenient target like a piñata; because they have a vested interest in its failure or success.

Sandy Alderson was hired by the Mets. In the same scope of the Mets and Reyes, does it matter why he was hired? There are floating ideas that the Mets were forced to hired him by the commissioner’s office who wanted someone they trusted in place to keep an eye on the Wilpons and restore order to one of the big market franchises for whom it behooves MLB to be successful and not a laughingstock.

Alderson is the Mets GM; multitudes were pushing for him to be the GM because they thought they were getting the “father” of the Moneyball movement (another myth); but then he started GMing and wasn’t making the decisions they wanted, therefore he’s not any good.

It’s fan and media logic. And it’s ridiculous.

Alderson made the right decision in biding his time; not sacrificing the Mets limited prospects for veteran players to win 5 more games and appear to be competing in a division that they had no chance of winning or for a playoff spot they had no chance of securing; he dumped Oliver Perez and Luis Castillo; he made low-cost maneuvers that worked (Chris Capuano) and didn’t (Chris Young); he somehow found a way to get rid of Francisco Rodriguez‘s contract without having to take a headache off the hands of the team that took him; and he extracted a top tier pitching prospect in Zack Wheeler for Carlos Beltran.

It’s still not enough.

Whether or not the Mets were under siege due to the Bernie Madoff scandal would have little effect on Alderson’s strategy as GM. Rightly or wrongly, he doesn’t want to have a club with a payroll in the $150 million range; if that’s because he wants to appear smarter by doing it cheaper or that he feels he can stock his team just as well as the super-spenders without the capricious spending doesn’t matter if it works.

If the Mets had the access to funds the Yankees and Red Sox do, there’s still no guarantee that they’d allocate such a large chunk of their payroll to Jose Reyes.

It’s not because Reyes—as a talent—isn’t worth it. It’s because the team has multiple needs; Reyes’s injury history to his legs makes him suspect; a large part of his game is based on speed; and another team might jump in and blow them out of the water.

If that’s the case, they’ll have to move on and figure something else out.

Teams do it all the time.

Is Reyes replaceable? As a shortstop, they’re not going to replace him; but for the same reasons outlined in Moneyball, the Mets could find other pieces at various positions for the same amount of money that would be going to Reyes; they can bring in multiple players on the mound; in the outfield; behind the plate and possibly make themselves better and cheaper in the long run.

The Michael Kays of the world will sit in front of their microphones and rant and rave about how the Yankees would never let a key player leave if they really wanted to keep him. Apparently he’s forgotten that Andy Pettitte left the Yankees after the 2003 season to go to the Astros for less money, in part, because of a lack of respect shown to his work and loyalty; that had George Steinbrenner not made a last second phone call to Bernie Williams, the 1999 Yankees would have had Albert Belle and Williams would’ve gone to the Red Sox.

Alderson was hired to be the adult and not respond to public demands that border on the bratty and bullying.

He’s done a very good job in clearing some of the polarizing personalities; dumping money; restoring order and behaving in a rational, well-thought out fashion to do what’s best for the club. He’s also verbally backhanded every media member who tried to exert their will over him, specifically by intimidating the likes of Mike Francesa and Joel Sherman, slapping them down every time they say something idiotic in reference to what Alderson’s thinking without knowing anything about what he’s thinking, planning, doing.

The entire concept of the movie version of Moneyball—amid more silliness and trickery designed to convince the audience that reality isn’t real—was that Scott Hatteberg was a viable replacement for Jason Giambi and the manager of the club, Art Howe, ignored the GM’s demands to play Hatteberg until he had no other option; when Hatteberg played, he came through.

The public doesn’t want to know that Hatteberg was a regular player from the beginning of the season onward; that the Red Sox were lucky with David Ortiz and it wasn’t a grand design of diabolical brilliance; or that the Mets might be better off in the long run if they let Reyes leave.

Accept it or don’t.

It’s not going to alter objective truth one way or the other.

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This Is Not A Review Of Moneyball

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I went to see Moneyball yesterday. This is not a recommendation nor is it a condemnation of the film, merely facts as I see them regarding Billy Beane, what happened in Michael Lewis’s twisted narrative and the movie adaptation.

Take it or leave it, but know that I’m telling the truth.

The Art Howe portrayal.

I don’t care whether it’s Tony LaRussa, Mike Scioscia or Joe Torre, if any manager was as insubordinate, selfish and blatantly disrespectful as the “Art Howe” character in the film was, he’d be fired immediately.

That character is not the Art Howe who’s liked and respected as a dedicated baseball man throughout the industry.

Jeremy Brown was chubby, not bordering on obese.

Jeremy Brown is listed at 5’10”, 226 pounds on his Baseball-Reference page.

That may or may not have been accurate—sometimes they are, sometimes they’re not.

But the actor they had playing Brown in the movie was bordering on obese. In fact, he made Prince Fielder or CC Sabathia look like The Rock.

Artistic license? Okay.

A patently ridiculous bit of casting for affect? Not okay.

The real Jeremy Brown wouldn’t “sell jeans” unless it was for a big-n-tall store; the character Jeremy Brown almost needed to have his clothes custom made because that’s how fat he was.

Scott Hatteberg and Carlos Pena.

One of the main conflicts in the film is a struggle between Beane and Howe as to whether Hatteberg should be playing first base instead of Carlos Pena.

The implication is that Hatteberg is glued to the bench because Howe insists on having Pena—perceived as a better hitter and most definitely a better fielder than Hatteberg—in the lineup.

The penultimate scene in which Howe finally relents and sends Hatteberg to pinch hit in an 11-11 tie (as the A’s are going for their 21st straight win) is a Roy Hobbs-style moment for the unwanted misfit and Hatteberg homers to win the game.

Here’s the problem: Hatteberg and Pena were both in the lineup almost every single day before Pena was traded—2002 A’s batting orders. Hatteberg was the DH and Pena was playing first base, which made perfect sense because Hatteberg was still a neophyte first baseman and Pena could, y’know, field; and the day in question, September 4th, was a scheduled day off for Hatteberg who’d been playing almost every day anyway. (That story? It’s in Moneyball the book.)

Hatteberg eventually developed into a pretty good fielding first baseman; Pena into a Gold Glover. But the absence of fact in the interest of drama—as they’re taking a book that was supposed to be a “true” story—is glaring.

The tired-and-true formula.

Yes. I did mean “tired-and-true”.

The movie was a half-hour too long for one reason and one reason only: because they jammed the family aspect into the story with the interaction between Beane and his daughter; said interaction is about as painful as listening to Joe Buck.

What was the purpose other than to clumsily tug at the heartstrings and take a character that was relatively unlikable (an impressive feat considering the likability of Brad Pitt) and make him appear human? To say, “look, he’s just like you; he went through a divorce, life dumped on him as he struggled in what was supposed to be his calling and found another calling instead”?

It…was…too…long.

The reality.

During the scene in the 2002 draft room, Lewis wrote in the book that “this almost isn’t fair” as Beane was nabbing each and every one of the players that Paul DePodesta’s computer spit out; that fit into his “new” template of drafting “ballplayers” and not Abercrombie and Fitch models.

But it was fair.

We didn’t learn exactly how fair until years later, but we’ve learned.

It was fair because life has self-correcting mechanism that no amount of flexibility with the truth is going to eclipse.

Lewis had a planned sequel to Moneyball; it was set to detail the rise of the players who were drafted in 2002.

The sequel went away when the draft was proven to be a failure.

But there was a sequel to the book; just as there will be a sequel to the movie. You won’t see it in bookstores nor on-screen. You’ll see it in the standings; you’ll see it in the baseball record books; and you’ll see it if you really look for it.

It’s called reality.

If people are looking for a point-by-point, in depth refutation of the nonsense in Moneyball without facts pretzelized to suit the agendas of those who cling to it being seen as accurate, trust me, it’s coming.

And hell’s coming with it.

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The Polar Opposites Of Genius/Idiot

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So now Theo Epstein’s no longer a genius?

Jack Zduriencik’s not a truly amazin’ exec?

Billy Beane—forever canonized in film and books of creative non-fiction—is finally receiving questioning looks and rightful dissection of his true history rather than what some agenda-driven writer is trying to convey (and adjust on the fly)?

What happened?

Genius is fleeting and a matter of opinion?

I thought it was either there or it wasn’t; now it’s based on a myriad of factors out of someone’s control? And who’s making the determination as to whom is a genius and who isn’t?

On the other side of the spectrum, Brian Cashman is receiving credit for basically having failed last winter in his attempts to get Cliff Lee and that he scraped the bottom of the barrel for the likes of Freddy Garcia, Bartolo Colon and Russell Martin; those moves happened to have worked.

Here’s news: it was luck; Brian Cashman will tell you it was luck.

Buck Showalter, whose mere presence with the Orioles, was going to craft a full 180 degree turn for that stagnant ship, has also lost his luster.

Know why? Because he doesn’t have any pitching and spent a good deal of the 2011 season using Kevin Gregg as his closer.

Who’s the next genius?

The next moron?

Is Kevin Towers a “genius” for tweaking what was already in place in Arizona with a few extra bullpen pieces?

Is Epstein now a fool because some of his name players haven’t performed?

Are we going to stop with the polar opposites of genius/idiot when it comes to analyzing baseball executives?

The word “genius” is thrown around so liberally and based on absolutely nothing other than factional debates and similar belief systems that it’s lost all meaning.

A genius is someone who creates a life-saving vaccine or builds something out of nothing, not the guy who signed Scott Hatteberg because he walked a lot and has taken endless advantage of a portrayal that is an absolute and utter farce; an image has been notoriously quick to use as an impenetrable shield to protect himself from the fact that his team is terrible.

And don’t you dare come back at me with the “oh, the A’s need a new ballpark and their options are limited”. The same people trying to use that tack were the ones who picked the A’s to win the AL West. You can’t have it both ways.

People are quizzical now as to Beane’s “genius”. It’s simplistic to ask, “well if Beane’s such a genius, why haven’t the A’s ever won a World Series?”

But maybe it’s not so simplistic in a world of genius/idiot.

Maybe if those who are benefiting from the appellation are going to advance because of it, they should decline because of it as well.

And perhaps those who are trying to pompously “explain” the concept of Moneyball as an “idea” rather than a strategy from which one must not deviate for fear of not being part of the herd are being exposed for what they are.

That contextualized version wasn’t the book I read. But you’ll find people who’ll call me a genius and an idiot.

And I don’t care either way.

There are no geniuses in baseball, but the public doesn’t want to hear that; they don’t want to hear about the labor pains, they just want to see the baby. And in the case of Beane and Moneyball, the baby was supposed to be a showpiece—gorgeous, intelligent and perfect.

The movie apparently says so.

But look at the A’s. Look at the desperation with which the myth is being protected and shifted to suit themselves.

By those metrics, it’s easier to have the separate and ironclad labels of either-or.

And under those parameters, where do the media darlings and targets wind up? Are they geniuses? Idiots? Or fantasies based on selfish ends?

You tell me.

***

I’ve decided: no review of the film Moneyball to be published here. It’ll be in my book, will be aboveboard and based on my own judgments. That’s my plan and I’m sticking to it.

It’s sheer GENIUS!!!!!!!

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