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Friday, August 12, 2011

Brazil: The A’s tipping point

Can’t…get…past…The Stinkiness Factor chapter.

In the year 2000, author Malcolm Gladwell wrote a bestseller titled “The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference”.  While the book explores compelling observations of sociological behavior, it’s main emphasis is the phenomena of how epidemics begin.  Specifically, the one tangible which can be retrospectively credited as the beginning of mass change.  In other words, the tipping point.

This is exactly what the Oakland Athletics are searching for right now: The tipping point.

Looking back, it likely was not the addition of Josh Willingham, the maturation of Gio Gonzalez, or the impact of Bob Melvin ... however those things all help.  They have primed the franchise to proceed in the proper direction.  But essentially now, the A’s are in a position where it’s only going to take that one huge addition that will push their momentum over the edge and begin the positive epidemic of success.

...It’s not to say that all the additional compliment of talent isn’t needed for success, because it certainly is.  It is also not to suggest that one player creates instant change, because dramatic shifts take time as well.  However, usually, movement and change of teams and cultures just seem to begin with the power of one.

So what will it be ... a home run hitter, another ace for the staff, or maybe even a new stadium?  Likely one of those things will be the A’s tipping point.

Repoz Posted: August 12, 2011 at 04:22 AM | 20 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: athletics, books, media, sabermetrics

Reader Comments and Retorts

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   1. Infinite Joost (Voxter) Posted: August 12, 2011 at 05:08 AM (#3898521)
Malcolm Gladwell is the worst.

That's all I've got.
   2. akrasian Posted: August 12, 2011 at 05:36 AM (#3898532)
The Tipping Point had value as a magazine article (which it originally was). The book - even though short - was chock full of filler. I've never read anything else of his, though I know people who love his books.
   3.     Hey Gurl Posted: August 12, 2011 at 05:45 AM (#3898534)
I've always enjoyed reading his stuff, but I've always wondered if it was BS. Seemed like a lot of conjecture.
   4. Infinite Joost (Voxter) Posted: August 12, 2011 at 05:53 AM (#3898536)
A lot of it seems like obvious BS to me. Clever-first-year-grad-student stuff, sold because Gladwell's a better writer than those guys. He wrote at least one article for The New Yorker, on the subject of underdogs, which which consisted entirely of some interesting reporting paired with wild, unfounded, and mostly baseless speculation. Received some pretty heavy (and accurate, if you ask me) criticism around these parts. It seemed representative of his work to me.

The stories he told for the Moth and TAL were much better, because they played to his strengths -- storytelling, humor -- and away from his weaknesses -- glibness, sophomoric conjecture.
   5. PreservedFish Posted: August 12, 2011 at 05:55 AM (#3898537)
I've always enjoyed reading his stuff, but I've always wondered if it was BS.


Me too.
   6. The District Attorney Posted: August 12, 2011 at 06:06 AM (#3898540)
Without reading TFA, I have to say that I don't see this argument at all. The A's certainly have the type of pitching staff you'd like to own; that is true. But as far as putting together an offense goes, they are miles away. Willingham isn't signed for next year, so what the heck difference does he make? The highlight of the lineup, so to speak, is that three guys up the middle (Suzuki, Weeks, Pennington) are young and not horrible. That's as good as it gets, because the "offense-first" positions on the roster are pathetic, and there doesn't seem to be reason to forecast that to drastically change. Even granting that they don't need all that great an offense with that pitching, I can't see how they're one player away or anything like it.
   7. Mike Emeigh Posted: August 12, 2011 at 02:44 PM (#3898626)
Willingham isn't signed for next year, so what the heck difference does he make?


Not only that, but he's 32 and at an age where players of his skill set can fall off the cliff. There are plenty of danger signs - plummeting walk rate, increasing K rate, more HR than doubles and triples. The A's really ought to let him walk at the end of the year and let someone else overpay him.

-- MWE
   8. zack Posted: August 12, 2011 at 02:47 PM (#3898628)
*throws an air duct*
   9. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: August 12, 2011 at 03:32 PM (#3898655)

I've always enjoyed reading his stuff, but I've always wondered if it was BS. Seemed like a lot of conjecture.


This. Its a nice, unchallenging read for the beach. But I wouldn't have it sitting on the bookshelf behind my desk, like I've seen some business people do.
   10. Greg Maddux School of Reflexive Profanity Posted: August 12, 2011 at 03:35 PM (#3898661)
Even granting that they don't need all that great an offense with that pitching, I can't see how they're one player away or anything like it.

But, you see, it's not just a player that could be the tipping point; if "new stadium" qualifies as a possibility, surely "hiring someone capable of drafting and developing hitters" does, as well.
   11. PreservedFish Posted: August 12, 2011 at 03:38 PM (#3898662)
The "tipping point" is an interesting phenomenon but it has nothing to do with a team trying to incrementally improve itself.

The author's idea is not that they're one player away. It's that at some point in the future, when they're good, we'll be able to look back at the one transaction that got the snowball rolling. It's a really silly idea.
   12. It's a shame about Athletic Supporter Posted: August 12, 2011 at 03:40 PM (#3898663)
But, you see, it's not just a player that could be the tipping point; if "new stadium" qualifies as a possibility, surely "hiring someone capable of drafting and developing hitters" does, as well.


Or hiring a medical staff that didn't get their degrees from Hollywood Upstairs Medical College.
   13. Tom (and his broom) Posted: August 12, 2011 at 03:42 PM (#3898665)
The tipping point for the A's was when the current ownership came in and cut expenses to the bone.

As long as they lose a couple starters a year to preventable arm injuries, and every position player that comes up is totally lacking in basic baseball knowledge, they will find reaching .500 an elusive goal.
   14. Benji Gil Gamesh Rises Posted: August 12, 2011 at 03:57 PM (#3898680)
I've read The Tipping Point, and from what i remember even Gladwell would be unlikely to apply the "epidemic" phenomenon he discusses to the performance of a baseball team. It was more about how a trend (usually a cultural or idea-based one) starts, grows, and explodes, carried forward through different stages by various types of personalities.

I haven't read TFA, but the headline made me think it was going to argue that the A's success was a tipping point for sabremetrics.
   15. Crispix reaches boiling point with lackluster play Posted: August 12, 2011 at 04:00 PM (#3898683)
Malcolm Gladwell never should have written Moneyball.
   16. Al Kaline Trio Posted: August 12, 2011 at 05:11 PM (#3898726)
I was hoping the A's had signed a bunch of talented youngsters from Brazil. Oh well...
   17. Spivey Posted: August 12, 2011 at 05:43 PM (#3898743)
I think this article is funny in the sense that, the A's have been gradually getting in worse shape as far as competitiveness goes.
   18. Drew (Primakov, Gungho Iguanas) Posted: August 12, 2011 at 06:12 PM (#3898755)
Joe Morgan should never have invented that meme.
   19. Daunte Vicknabbit! Posted: August 12, 2011 at 06:22 PM (#3898763)
Joe MorganJon Miller should never have invented that meme.
   20. villageidiom Posted: August 12, 2011 at 06:30 PM (#3898767)
I was hoping the A's had signed a bunch of talented youngsters from Brazil.
The Oakland A's: It's only a state of mind.

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