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Tuesday, September 12, 2006

S.I. Heyman: Why A’s Beane succeeds where others have failed

In the immortal words of our exhausted leader…Holy Mackerel!

Since 2000, the A’s have logged more victories than anyone except the Yankees (they are only 14 wins behind the so-called “über-team”). But according to one National League executive, the key to Oakland’s startling small-market success has little to do with stats or drafting college players, as Moneyball suggests. Furthermore, that executive asserted that if other teams try to duplicate the book’s blueprint—and several have—they are wasting their time.

The book, according to that executive, is “somewhat fraudulent” in that Beane’s true strength is the same old skill that’s basically blown off in the book: the tried-and-true formula of procuring the right players by scouting. “Billy Beane has got a way of finding winning players,” the executive said. “The A’s don’t have anyone who stands out for talent, except maybe Frank Thomas. But they have a lot of winning players. Take Nick Swisher, for instance. He knows how to play to win.”

Repoz Posted: September 12, 2006 at 01:29 PM | 60 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: athletics, books

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   1. ekogan Posted: September 12, 2006 at 02:10 PM (#2174427)
This topic has already been covered by the Fire Joe Morgan guys
   2. Spencer Benedict Posted: September 12, 2006 at 02:23 PM (#2174435)
Lets forget all these lawyers and stat guys running the teams. Make room for the psych majors.
   3. Garth found his way to daylight Posted: September 12, 2006 at 02:27 PM (#2174439)
Yay, nameless sources! Overall, some really bad points...

---Beane used OBP/walks/HRs as a way to find undervalued guys, whereas Heyman thinks you have to be #1 in those stats for that to work.
---Theo Epstein is apparently a bad GM because of injuries.
---When Ricciardi asked for more money from the Blue Jays organization, that wasn't a GM trying to get more funds to win, that was "an unwitting admission that Moneyball isn't always the whole answer."

...but the cake really gets iced here:

If it really is even a tangible, definable, worthwhile style.

Style isn't tangible. It's an abstract idea. You cannot touch style, you cannot feel, taste, or hold style.
   4. Crispix Attacksel Rios Posted: September 12, 2006 at 02:27 PM (#2174440)
I'll just address this unrelated paragraph on the second page of the article, and maybe get back to the rest of it after I get done pre-ordering that Pokémon Lucario DVD.

Good to see John Perrotto of the Beaver County Times report what we suggested was appropriate here, that Pirates GM Dave Littlefield be retained.

Yes...he's only had 5 1/2 seasons of complete failure. That's not nearly long enough. After all, as Heyman points out earlier in the article, the Dodgers recognized that DePodesta was inadequate after two seasons of mediocrity.

While the Pirates are struggling, let's not forget that Littlefield acquired Sanchez, Jason Bay and Mike Gonzalez.

Three players in 5 1/2 years! Huzzah! After trading or waiving Brian Giles, Jason Kendall, Aramis Ramirez, Craig Wilson, Kris Benson, Jason Schmidt, Bronson Arroyo, Chris Young, Dave Williams, Leo Nunez, Jeff Keppinger, Duaner Sanchez, and Damaso Marte, as well several other trades involving players that he acquired for those guys...he has acquired Freddy Sanchez, Jason Bay, and Mike Gonzalez! Huzzah once more for the great acquirer!

The Pirates' real problem is their low payroll, and the emerging Nuttings seem ready to take the reins from Kevin McClatchy.

Yes, as Heyman is sure to agree, a low payroll dooms any GM to failure. Except that he spends the entire Beane article saying the exact opposite.
   5. Dr. Vaux Posted: September 12, 2006 at 02:37 PM (#2174445)
If DePodesta was inadequate, so is Epstein. The biggest difference between the two of them is that Epstein had two years before his deluge of bad luck, and DePodesta had his deluge of bad luck right away.
   6. Matt Clement of Alexandria Posted: September 12, 2006 at 02:42 PM (#2174454)
Beane used OBP/walks/HRs as a way to find undervalued guys, whereas Heyman thinks you have to be #1 in those stats for that to work.
The point is that Beane is no longer focusing on OBP/walks/HRs. He's building good teams in a different way. There's no formula. "Market inefficiencies" are a tautology - every good team that costs less than $100M or so has to be built on getting more out of the money spent than would be expected.

I think that what makes Beane good is his determination to make a plan and see it through. The A's of recent years have been different that the 3 Aces teams, which were different from the softball teams.

I also think that the greatest insight from Moneyball has been missed by most readers. The striking scenes to me were when Beane walked through the A's locker room and spoke to all of his players, commanding their respect, joking with them, motivating them. He effectively served the role of manager - he's the guy who keeps the team together, working for the same goal. The Beane A's have had surprisingly few interpersonal conflicts, and I think that having a GM who also takes on many of hte traditional responsibilities of a field manager has a lot to do with it. It's a big advantage for the team, and it's not going to be replicable as a formula- there are very few people out there who can handle all those responsibilities so well.
   7. Gainsay Posted: September 12, 2006 at 02:42 PM (#2174455)
While the Pirates are struggling, let's not forget that Littlefield acquired Sanchez, Jason Bay and Mike Gonzalez.


Gonzalez was drafted by the Pirates in 1997, so he wasn't even a Littefield acquisition.

I also think you need an awfully broad definition of star to consider Sanchez a young star.
He's having a nice season for sure, but his value is almost entirely tied up in his batting average. This is his age 28 season, and it's the first time he's had any real success in the majors. Going forward, he's probably a decent starter at 2B, 3B, or SS, but it doesn't seem reasonable to expect him to be a star.
   8. Crispix Attacksel Rios Posted: September 12, 2006 at 02:46 PM (#2174460)
Gonzalez was drafted by the Pirates in 1997, so he wasn't even a Littefield acquisition.

Au contraire!! After trading Gonzalez and Scott Sauerbeck to the Red Sox for Brandon Lyon and Anastacio Martinez, the Pirates discovered that Lyon was injured, so they traded Lyon and Martinez back to the Red Sox for...Mike Gonzalez again! And throw-in Freddy Sanchez.
   9. Greg Schuler Posted: September 12, 2006 at 02:51 PM (#2174465)
Who is the NL Executive quoted so anonymously in the article?

Sandy Alderson?
Walt Jocketty?
Jim Hendry?
Dave Littlefield - I vote for this since Heyman then goes on to cover some Littlefield buttocks.
   10. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: September 12, 2006 at 02:51 PM (#2174466)
After trading or waiving Brian Giles, Jason Kendall, Aramis Ramirez, Craig Wilson, Kris Benson, Jason Schmidt, Bronson Arroyo, Chris Young, Dave Williams, Leo Nunez, Jeff Keppinger, Duaner Sanchez, and Damaso Marte

Don't forget Chris Shelton, and he kind of traded away Justin Huber in a way.
   11. John Lowenstein Apathy Club Posted: September 12, 2006 at 02:57 PM (#2174468)
If DePodesta was inadequate, so is Epstein. The biggest difference between the two of them is that Epstein had two years before his deluge of bad luck, and DePodesta had his deluge of bad luck right away.

Don't know about that one. Epstein has managed to replicate the team's established performance during his tenure. DePodesta couldn't do that. Also, DePodesta in fact had good luck right away, sliding a relatively mediocre team into the playoffs when several recent Dodger teams of equivalent quality didn't do so.

Also, I would hardly describe the Dodgers' 2005 or Red Sox' 2006 as a "deluge of bad luck", although both teams had poor luck. It's only one season and it's not unusual for a team to encounter poor fortune for a season.
   12. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Griffin (Vlad) Posted: September 12, 2006 at 03:04 PM (#2174473)
On the day when I finally snap and go postal, everybody who defended Littlefield in print media over the last two years gets a round right in the belly.

Consider yourself warned, Mr. Heyman.
   13. Crispix Attacksel Rios Posted: September 12, 2006 at 03:13 PM (#2174477)
I also think that the greatest insight from Moneyball has been missed by most readers. The striking scenes to me were when Beane walked through the A's locker room and spoke to all of his players, commanding their respect, joking with them, motivating them. He effectively served the role of manager - he's the guy who keeps the team together, working for the same goal. The Beane A's have had surprisingly few interpersonal conflicts, and I think that having a GM who also takes on many of hte traditional responsibilities of a field manager has a lot to do with it. It's a big advantage for the team, and it's not going to be replicable as a formula- there are very few people out there who can handle all those responsibilities so well.

This makes sense. I think Beane is not unique in his baseball insights, but he's unique in combining those insights with an ability to pal around with the players. We'll probably see fewer "Moneyball" GMs as people realize that Beane is one of a kind, and more situations where there is a frontman GM and one or more statheads behind the scenes with a lot of control over decisions. (like the Padres now)
   14. Crispix Attacksel Rios Posted: September 12, 2006 at 03:14 PM (#2174479)
Consider yourself warned, Mr. Heyman.

This is a very creepy thing to say in bed.
   15. Too Much Coffee Man Posted: September 12, 2006 at 03:15 PM (#2174480)
Related to point 6 - Last year, I read both the Three Nights in August, and Scout's Honor (about the Braves' system). Both books, particularly the latter, make it a point to take exception with their read of Moneyball that it's "all about stats" and nothing to do with heart, pride, etc. Scout's Honor labels this as "makeup". Chipper Jones was a great acquisition for the Braves because he "has makeup". Ditto Francoeur, ditto Adam LaRoche, ditto Kyle Davies, etc.
Besides the fact that this is everybit as non-arguable as the extreme-Moneyball position (whatever Billy Beane does right is because of exploiting market inefficiencies), it ignores the fact that over the past few years, the A's have added a lot of really quality people. Bobby Crosby would be the prototypical "make-up" guy if he were a Brave. Ditto Chavez. Huston Street grew up in an athletic family. And nobody can hear a Nick Swisher interview without him becoming one of their top 5 favorite athletes regardless of sport.
Yes, they've added Bradley and Thomas, but all the talk at the time was that if there was any team that could turn around those 2 guys, it was the A's and their loose clubhouse. Even Thomas has publically commented on how much fun he's had playing baseball and how impressed he's been that the A's have fun and are very committed to winning.
   16. Cris E Posted: September 12, 2006 at 03:20 PM (#2174485)
I think the biggest problem with Moneyball is that readers want it to be too many things. Stats guys initially wanted it to be a justification for a non-scouting management style. Traditional baseball types, in the game and in the media, wanted it to be a SABR strawman that could be batted around whenever it was convenient. Later the concept was framed as finding undervalued skills that contribute to winning. Or something.

I haven't read the book in a few years, and I want to reread it now to figure out if Lewis was aiming for a single point (college=good, metrics identify undervalued stars, Joe Morgan is wrong, etc) or a looser idea that teams on a budget have to find bargains to compete. Whether that means OBP over AVG, or college instead of highschool players or fielders over hitters, Beane was doing that in the book and has obviously moved on at least once since 2002. Was Lewis simply writing about the things Billy was ding or pushing the idea of chasing (or predicting) the market for player skills? I know he wrote Liars' Poker about the securities guys of the 80s so he's familiar with the bigger picture. I recall thinking it was about the larger concept, but seeing how many folks have taken a different impression I'm starting to doubt my memory.
   17. Sam M. Posted: September 12, 2006 at 03:28 PM (#2174491)
From the standpoint of building a winning (or even competititive) team, Dave Littlefield is the worst general manager in the history of baseball. He doesn't draft well, he doesn't trade well, the coaches he hires don't develop talent well, and too much of the talent they DO develop doesn't flourish or sustain itself at the major league level.

If he is retained, it will constitute proof positive that the Pirates do not care about winning whatsoever. No one can be that bad at accomplishing what SHOULD be a core goal of his job and still retain it; the only conclusion must be that competing is not a core goal of Littlefield's job.

I doubt there has ever been anyone associated with major league baseball in any capacity who is worse at his job than Dave Littlefield is at his. And I include John Kruk, ESPN analyst, in that claim. You can't be worse than Littlefield; you can only match him.
   18. Shooty would run in but these bone spurs hurt! Posted: September 12, 2006 at 03:29 PM (#2174494)
I think the success of the A's goes back to Alderson and his desire to implement an organizaional philosophy on the A's from top to bottom. They weren't really able to do it initially because Larussa wasn't cooperative with Alderson's approach at the top level and Larussa was winning. Once Larussa left, the A's were able to implement their "Moneyball" philosophy (working the count, strict pitch counts for minor league pitchers, etc.) throughout the organization and they've stuck to that philosophy to the present day. It's not the only way to win, but it's worked for them so far. What Beane brings to the A's is leadership and the ability to completely ignore the yapping of the media and the fans. The latter is the most important skill, I think. How many bad trades, free agent signings etc. do GM's make because of the yammering of the local media? I would guess a lot. There's your "market inefficiency" right there and I don't think it's going away anytime soon.
   19. Moloka'i Three-Finger Brown (Declino DeShields) Posted: September 12, 2006 at 03:34 PM (#2174499)
I think the biggest problem with Moneyball is that readers want it to be too many things. Stats guys initially wanted it to be a justification for a non-scouting management style. Traditional baseball types, in the game and in the media, wanted it to be a SABR strawman that could be batted around whenever it was convenient. Later the concept was framed as finding undervalued skills that contribute to winning. Or something.


Or something indeed.

To the extent that the second point is built on erroneous assumptions, I'd say the error was at least partly invited. The book's own author (yes, the real one) took a very antagonistic with people in the game and who cover the game; it was inevitable that "responses" (like Scout's Honor) would come out.
   20. Pasta-diving Jeter (jmac66) Posted: September 12, 2006 at 03:36 PM (#2174502)
you know, I've never seen any articles/columns about what was Beane's reaction to the book that he wrote (maybe someone can post a link)

if one was offended by the know-it-all condescending attitude in the book, that was clearly Lewis', not Billy's

I wonder if he (Beane) was miffed
   21. VG Posted: September 12, 2006 at 03:36 PM (#2174503)
I haven't read the book in a few years, and I want to reread it now

Me, too. At this point, I can hardly separate what was in the actual book from the contentions that both its advocates and detractors have made since I read it.
   22. Shooty would run in but these bone spurs hurt! Posted: September 12, 2006 at 03:37 PM (#2174505)
I recall thinking it was about the larger concept, but seeing how many folks have taken a different impression I'm starting to doubt my memory.

I highly recommend you listen to the Michael Lewis interview at Athletics Nation. Lewis' point in the interview is that the book is more about the A's challenging the calcification of thought in MLB. It's not hard to make a leap from there to American society in general if you want. How do we know when we're the product of groupthink? How do we fight against it? What will happen to us if we do? The reaction to Moneyball is way more interesting to me than the actual book. You have to go back to Ball Four to find a book that's gotten the baseball establishment so riled up. (Ironically, Joe Morgan also hates that book even though he never read it. Ya gotta love Joe! I wonder what he thinks of Gravity's Rainbow?)
   23. Crispix Attacksel Rios Posted: September 12, 2006 at 03:39 PM (#2174506)
I doubt there has ever been anyone associated with major league baseball in any capacity who is worse at his job than Dave Littlefield is at his. And I include John Kruk, ESPN analyst, in that claim. You can't be worse than Littlefield; you can only match him.

I think John Kruk would be a better GM than Littlefield. After about eight days he would probably mount a public rebellion against the owners.
   24. Shooty would run in but these bone spurs hurt! Posted: September 12, 2006 at 03:40 PM (#2174509)
I wonder if he (Beane) was miffed

I think he was only in the sense that it made it hard for him to do busy with some people. He must have gotten over it, though, as he and Michael Lewis are great pals now.
   25. BDC Posted: September 12, 2006 at 03:41 PM (#2174510)
Tyrone Slothrop never should have written that book.

You know, I am all for giving Beane a lot of credit for his recent success. But I think we should also acknowledge Tom Hicks et al. for compiling quite a streak of failure recently. It takes losers to make winners :)
   26. Pasta-diving Jeter (jmac66) Posted: September 12, 2006 at 03:41 PM (#2174511)
a gotta love Joe! I wonder what he thinks of Gravity's Rainbow?

he thinks Marcel Proust should never have written it
   27. More Dewey is Always Good Posted: September 12, 2006 at 03:42 PM (#2174512)
I re-read the book recently. The part with the draft was interesting, looking back at it in hindsight.
   28. Yeaarrgghhhh Posted: September 12, 2006 at 03:43 PM (#2174513)
"Market inefficiencies" are a tautology - every good team that costs less than $100M or so has to be built on getting more out of the money spent than would be expected.

Yes and no. In a general sense every team aside from the Yankees is looking to exploit market inefficiencies, but I think one of the themes of Moneyball is just how agressively Beane was willing to look for undervalued players. Most teams look for market inefficiencies with respect to individual players (player X is better than most people think/is likely to rebound/etc.), whereas Beane is more willing to look at entire categories of players who are undervalued by most teams: softball guys, high OBP guys, failed starters as relievers, etc. Not saying he's the only who does this, but he's shown more of a willingness to experiment and take risks than most.

Also, another important theme of Moneyball is that Beane is more willing to use objective, stats-based analysis to evaluate players and find those market inefficiencies. He's embraced that type of analysis more quickly and more fully than most GMs.

From the standpoint of building a winning (or even competititive) team, Dave Littlefield is the worst general manager in the history of baseball. He doesn't draft well, he doesn't trade well, the coaches he hires don't develop talent well, and too much of the talent they DO develop doesn't flourish or sustain itself at the major league level.

That is a bold, bold statement. And probably correct.
   29. Slinger Francisco Barrios (Dr. Memory) Posted: September 12, 2006 at 03:45 PM (#2174515)
Ya gotta love Joe! I wonder what he thinks of Gravity's Rainbow?

Or "Goodnight Moon".
   30. Shooty would run in but these bone spurs hurt! Posted: September 12, 2006 at 03:45 PM (#2174516)
Yes! Pynchon geeks are everywhere! We have it all over sabermetrics for nerdiness.
   31. Yeaarrgghhhh Posted: September 12, 2006 at 03:47 PM (#2174519)
Lewis' point in the interview is that the book is more about the A's challenging the calcification of thought in MLB.

Yes, I think this is an extremely important point.
   32. Pasta-diving Jeter (jmac66) Posted: September 12, 2006 at 03:48 PM (#2174520)
Ya gotta love Joe! I wonder what he thinks of Gravity's Rainbow?

Or "Goodnight Moon".


he says it ignores the value of veteran leadership in falling asleep
   33. Slinger Francisco Barrios (Dr. Memory) Posted: September 12, 2006 at 03:51 PM (#2174526)
he says it ignores the value of veteran leadership in falling asleep

I dunno...the old lady did whisper "hush" a lot.
   34. Flynn Posted: September 12, 2006 at 03:52 PM (#2174528)
Take Nick Swisher, for instance. He knows how to play to win."

Would this playing to win include being really f*cking good at hitting the ball over the big green fence, or is this more intangibles crap?
   35. sunnyday2 Posted: September 12, 2006 at 03:59 PM (#2174536)
Here's a concept. Check out the numbers, see if there's a guy who's maybe been undervalued. THEN GO OUT AND SCOUT THE GUY to see if he's healthy, has his head screwed on straight, is the real deal!

Nah. Just do one or the other.
   36. scotto Posted: September 12, 2006 at 04:07 PM (#2174545)
A screaming came across the sky...it was Joe Morgan, finding a Billy Beane-autographed copy of Moneyball on his hotel pillow.
   37. Shooty would run in but these bone spurs hurt! Posted: September 12, 2006 at 04:12 PM (#2174550)
it was Joe Morgan, finding a Billy Beane-autographed copy of Moneyball on his hotel pillow.

Nah, he'd have to open the book to see that it was autographed.
   38. s.zielinski Posted: September 12, 2006 at 04:23 PM (#2174563)
Sam M (#17) wrote:
From the standpoint of building a winning (or even competititive) team, Dave Littlefield is the worst general manager in the history of baseball. He doesn't draft well, he doesn't trade well, the coaches he hires don't develop talent well, and too much of the talent they DO develop doesn't flourish or sustain itself at the major league level.

If he [Littlefield] is retained, it will constitute proof positive that the Pirates do not care about winning whatsoever. No one can be that bad at accomplishing what SHOULD be a core goal of his job and still retain it; the only conclusion must be that competing is not a core goal of Littlefield's job.
Now, having read that, read what a local journalist with inside contacts wrote about Littlefield and the Pirates’ owners:
It was the ownership who gave Littlefield the cash to construct this team, hence the realized profit margin. He found the players, did the deals, and stayed below the payroll limit. One team official closely connected to ownership once said to me, "We like the way Dave does business. He spends what we give him and puts just enough on the field."
I think this passage makes it obvious how much the McClatchy partnership cares about winning. Littlefield most certainly will return next season, according to McClatchy.

Oh, and the Nuttings "emerged" years ago. Their coming out event: The Ramirez give away to the Cubs.
   39. Shooty would run in but these bone spurs hurt! Posted: September 12, 2006 at 04:46 PM (#2174578)
It was the ownership who gave Littlefield the cash to construct this team, hence the realized profit margin. He found the players, did the deals, and stayed below the payroll limit. One team official closely connected to ownership once said to me, "We like the way Dave does business. He spends what we give him and puts just enough on the field."

Yikes, and it's Billy Beane the national media like to beat like a drum. Pirate fans everywhere, you're more than welcome to join the A's party. We won't even mind if you go back to the Pirates when they get new ownership. Ken Macha is from Pittsburgh and we've got the lovable Jason Kendall. Under no circumstances should you root for McClatchy's Pirates. You're better than that! (And yeah, we need more fans. I'm not being sarcastic. We really do.)
   40. Fridas Boss Posted: September 12, 2006 at 05:03 PM (#2174595)
2 things:

1.) Sam M, your line "From the standpoint of building a winning (or even competititive) team, Dave Littlefield is the worst general manager in the history of baseball." of course presupposes what Pittsburgh management wants from Littlefiled is winning. I think the McClatchy quotes show otherwise, no? Hence, how can Littlefield be the worst at his job if he's doing EXACTLY what his boss wants him to do? Who's to say if charged with a different mantra he wouldn't do things a lot dfferent?

2.) A Moneyball theory that the book was about Beane's LEADERSHIP??? Backlasher must be rolling around in his living grave....
   41. Grumbledook Posted: September 12, 2006 at 05:11 PM (#2174602)
It seems odd that he's using Swisher as evidence that the Moneyball approach doesn't work, since Swisher was drafted in 2002 (the "Moneyball draft"); I haven't read "Moneyball" in years but presumably the reason they drafted him had something to do with a high OBP in college ball, not intangibles and the fact that he "plays to win" (we will assume that Swisher plays to win, since I don't know of any major-league ballplayer who actively courts failure, but I still don't know what "playing to win" means).
   42. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: September 12, 2006 at 05:19 PM (#2174611)
Take Nick Swisher, for instance. He knows how to play to win."

As a Buckeyes fan, I wish Nick had shared this knowledge more with his college teammates at tourney time.
   43. Repoz Posted: September 12, 2006 at 05:22 PM (#2174614)
but I still don't know what "playing to win" means

Outside of a questionable week here or there by Pete Rose or Hal Lanier's career...It's much, much tougher to find players that play to lose than win.
   44. JPWF13 Posted: September 12, 2006 at 05:29 PM (#2174624)
From the standpoint of building a winning (or even competititive) team, Dave Littlefield is the worst general manager in the history of baseball.


There was Randy Smith in Detroit

also Syd Thrift in Baltimore. He's my pick for worst- he inherited a good organization in Pittsburg- wrecked it- it's stayed wrecked to this day- but since the team had winning seasons at the start of Thrift's tenure and he persistently and vocally took credit for such team's success- people for a while actually thought he was a good gm- took over a winning oprganization in Baltimore- the only guy Angelos actually listened to and let run without too much interference- and wrecked that team too. When he was finally shown the door Baltimore actually managed a season where not only was every team in the organization (from short season rookie ball to AAA to MLB) below .500- but every team was in last in its respective division/league (except for BLT itself- they were saved by TB)
   45. Jim Wisinski Posted: September 12, 2006 at 05:31 PM (#2174627)
The Littlefield/McClatchy pairing is strikingly similar to the Lamar/Naimoli one that until recently infested the Rays.

*Clearly awful GMs that were nevertheless sometimes defended by the media because of the restrictions placed on them by ownership
*Owners that didn't really give a damn about winning
*Absolute job security for the GM because he was the owner's lap dog, did what he was told, and never complained about or questioned anything

Littlefield is no more likely to be fired by his owner than Lamar was and the Pirates have just as little chance of success in the current situation as the Rays did.
   46. base ball chick Posted: September 12, 2006 at 05:32 PM (#2174628)
Sam M. Posted: September 12, 2006 at 11:28 AM (#2174491)

From the standpoint of building a winning (or even competititive) team

- sam

problem is - this is NOT his job. his job is to make money for the nuttings. which looks like he is doing just fine at. a ballclub got no chance of winning ever is not a problem because the owners don't care.

ever year he pick up a few reggie sanders kenny lofton FA and trade them for whoever at the deadline for some minor leaguers.

dude has made one good trade evah and that was jason bay for brian giles.

i mean they advertize the ballpark by saying it is a great place to eat.

tell you ALL you neeed to know
   47. Yeaarrgghhhh Posted: September 12, 2006 at 05:42 PM (#2174638)
1.) Sam M, your line "From the standpoint of building a winning (or even competititive) team, Dave Littlefield is the worst general manager in the history of baseball." of course presupposes what Pittsburgh management wants from Littlefiled is winning. I think the McClatchy quotes show otherwise, no? Hence, how can Littlefield be the worst at his job if he's doing EXACTLY what his boss wants him to do? Who's to say if charged with a different mantra he wouldn't do things a lot dfferent?

McClatchy might be happy with Littlefield b/c the team is making money, but that doesn't mean we can't evaluate him as a baseball GM. Winning games and making money aren't mutually exclusive. I doubt McClatchy said "I want the team to be profitable, but I don't want them to win. So be sure the team sucks while you're at it."
   48. base ball chick Posted: September 12, 2006 at 05:48 PM (#2174644)
yeargh

dude i disbelieve that mcclatchy told littlefield to make sure the team loses. more likely he sez - look i wanna make x mill a year, you can spend x mill and left it right there.

what i mean is mcclatchy and nutting do not CARE if the team win or lose because all they want is the x mill
   49. Slinger Francisco Barrios (Dr. Memory) Posted: September 12, 2006 at 05:49 PM (#2174645)
As a Buckeyes fan, I wish Nick had shared this knowledge more with his college teammates at tourney time.

Nick's sh*t doesn't work in the playoffs, either.
   50. Slinger Francisco Barrios (Dr. Memory) Posted: September 12, 2006 at 05:55 PM (#2174655)
what i mean is mcclatchy and nutting do not CARE if the team win or lose because all they want is the x mill

I doubt the ownership sees it that simply; in your scenario, it's impossible to solve for x. Setting the payroll at x' doesn't guarantee you'll earn x. You'll have a better chance to earn x by winning. Maybe they don't want to win for winning's sake, but they surely know they have a better shot at earning x if the Bucs win.

Now, if x' is set too low, that could be a problem, but it's not like the Bucs are always around .510 and the addition of a player or two would do the j.o.b.
   51. Sam M. Posted: September 12, 2006 at 06:09 PM (#2174670)
of course presupposes what Pittsburgh management wants from Littlefiled is winning. I think the McClatchy quotes show otherwise, no? Hence, how can Littlefield be the worst at his job if he's doing EXACTLY what his boss wants him to do? Who's to say if charged with a different mantra he wouldn't do things a lot dfferent?

Well that's fine. Maybe Littlefield would do a bang-up job in a real major-league organization. We have exactly zero evidence of this, of course, given that he has hired incompetent scouts and/or terrible development personnel, and worse than replacement-level major league managers. But maybe. Certainly, the organization he's with doesn't task him with trying to win, and that is an unfair test.

Having acknowledged this -- the unfairness of judging him from the Pirates' experience alone -- I will nevertheless say that if I was a nail, I'd feel damn safe if Dave Littlefield was wielding the hammer.
   52. Greg Schuler Posted: September 12, 2006 at 06:12 PM (#2174671)
John Kruk would have retired after the Todd Ritchie deal - you gotta go out on top.

Dave Littlefield was considered by Billy Beane for the role he eventually hired Paul DePodesta for with the As. Littlefield does a great job as many have pointed out when taken in the context of what his bosses want him to do - keep a team good enough on the field to attract the casual fan and don't spend a lot of money doing it.

I believe that everyone associated with the Pirates want to win, but they aren't willing to sacrifice the profit to sniff .500.

Vlad - look into the .50 Barrett as your weapon of choice. Long range and quite the powerful weapon - militaries use it as both a long range sniper rifle and an anti-material rifle. Throw a nice 10x Zeiss scope on top and voila - accruate and deadly from a safe distance. And sold legally (bolt action only) in the US of A.
   53. 185/456(GGC) Posted: September 12, 2006 at 06:19 PM (#2174686)
also Syd Thrift in Baltimore.


I read Thrift's book. He had some interesting ideas in it (advanced eye testing, which the KC Royals still don't do 15 years later IIRC), but he had some clunkers as well (that two strike hitting approach).
   54. base ball chick Posted: September 12, 2006 at 06:42 PM (#2174703)
dr memory

- i KNOW i am no good at math i can't even add without a calculator

i mean it like this - i think the owners know they will get - say - 50 mill from george steinbrenner and tv/radio/mlb

that is no doubt about it $$$ - PLUS whatever they gets from sponsors/tickets etc

so they say to littlefield - you give us 20 mill and you do whatever you want with the rest but you ain't getting another penny.

so littlefield know from the getgo he ain't gonna win a damm thing so he do whatever to keep a team on the field. best i can tell last good player they drafted and developed is craig wilson and they was counting the seconds until they could get rid of him don't ask me why. so they run a team a lil betern the 2003 tigers out there every year and as soon as any guy looks like he gonna be good (cost $$$) they dump him for peanuts.

sorry pirates fans. really i am. i remember when yall was good

but if you got owners don't CARE if they win or lose because the guaranteed 20 mill a year (or whatever) is just fine with them and they have figgered you gotta SPEND money to make money, well, they gonna just stick with the $$$ they KNOW they gonna get instead of gambling
   55. Excel Hearts Choi Posted: September 12, 2006 at 09:16 PM (#2174810)
With all this talk of how bad Littlefield and other GM's are, it is hard to believe nobody has mentioned Cam Bonifay. It should come as no surprise that he went on to work with the Rays. I'm amazed at how long bad executives (or players/coaches for that matter) can manage to hang around in professional sports.
   56. base ball chick Posted: September 12, 2006 at 09:27 PM (#2174819)
well you know,

GMs need to be good at like 6 things

but if you have a person who is good at 1 out of the 6 things (say, minor league coordinator) it don't make them useless - period

it means you should use them for the one thing they can do they are good at and not figger well if they good at that they good at everything
   57. Paul Posted: September 12, 2006 at 09:32 PM (#2174823)
How is Beane about hiring managers? Was Art Howe as bad before he went to Oakland as he was with the Mets? What are your thoughts about the other managers that Beane hired?
   58. Dan The Mediocre is one of "the rest" Posted: September 13, 2006 at 12:04 PM (#2175421)
It makes me cry that a team everyone agrees is not trying to build a winning team is performing better than the Cubs, who Hendy has been trying to build into a playoff team.
   59. Banana, the Athiest Nightmare Posted: September 13, 2006 at 12:55 PM (#2175447)
I get really annoyed when people (including some of the Primates here, who should know better) paraphrase the book as claiming that Billy Beane wins because he's so much more "stat oriented" than the rest of baseball, to the point that he ignores all the talk about "intangibles", "character", and "makeup" that all the other scouts talk about. Then there's more talk about "taking risks" and "market inefficiencies" and blah blah blah.

Billy Beane uses statistics only in the scientific sense, and really only as an outgrowth of a way of thinking taught to him by Sandy Alderson (via Bill James, et al). This was further developed by the people he surrounded himself with, aka Paul DePodesta, who valued a real, methodical, scientific approach to the evaluation of the game of baseball and its players. This is how they discovered that OBP (and later, OPS) is a better evaluation of a player's offensive production than AVG. This is why they went through the trouble of creating a method of evaluating fielding that translated a player's defensive value into run derivatives. In order to learn which players are valuable (and which of their abilities therein), you have to first learn what is valuable in baseball. Then they used this information to determine the precise value of each player in baseball. And then acted on that information, like any smart person would do.

It's not really about the statistics. It just so happens that statistics are a very good tool to use. Remember the Milo scene? "Put a Milo on him". The A's didn't just look at the stats and pick the guys who showed up at the top. They cared just as much about "makeup" as the traditional scout. Except they didn't care about the same things in that makeup. Rather than care about things that might possibly point to the "future potential" of a player (it was implied in the book that they were just as completely off base about these personality characteristics as they were about which metrics in baseball were meaningful), the A's only cared about one thing: Will this guy make the majors? They dumped players with great stats who had crappy backgrounds such as drug allegations and alcohol abuse. They dumped players with severe and not-so-severe character problems because such things decreased the likelihood of the player making it to the majors - too much crap could happen during the minors in between. Part of the reason Billy Beane loves Nick Swisher so much is because of his personality. He thinks that it makes him a better ballplayer. Swisher's approach to baseball is everything that Beane's approach, when he was in the majors, wasn't. To Beane, Nick Swisher is Lenny Dykstra reborn.

I'm of the mind that what separates Billy Beane from the other GMs in baseball has more to do with his information, and his willingness to accept the unconventional information given to him, than anything else. It's not a risk to trade "proven closer" Billy Koch for "broken down" Keith Foulke because his information told him that Koch was too expensive and Foulke was a better pitcher. Similarly, it wasn't a risk to get "perennial AAA pitcher" Chad Bradford (and Mark Johnson) for "capable backup catcher" Miguel Olivo because his information told him that Bradford would be a fantastic reliever, while Olivo was a dime-a-dozen commodity in baseball terms. Every GM acts on what they believe to be the best information at hand. Unfortunately for some teams, their GMs are unwilling to accept the product of a scientific approach to baseball.
   60. Pokey Reese's Pieces Posted: September 14, 2006 at 02:33 AM (#2176366)
Lewis' point in the interview is that the book is more about the A's challenging the calcification of thought in MLB.

Agreed with #31 that this is a major point. Moneyball, to me anyway, isn't about a supposed "new" dogma. It's about the startling realization that with so many millions of dollars at stake, so many baseball people still evaluated their product by means of subjective perception. It's about moving away from an "art gallery" view of talent evaluation (how the displayed piece makes the viewer feel, followed by the projection of those feelings onto the piece itself), to a "social science" view (attempting to predict and manipulate future results based on objective data, while realizing that, like all social sciences, the underlying assumption of causality is undercut by the nature of the very object of study).

Of course it's about value, as well--on a superficial level. The underlying theme or tone though, seems to be Michael Lewis' thinking silently, "I can't believe it took this long for someone in this high-profile industry to run their business the way everyone else has run theirs for at least 60 years."

Or maybe I'm just drunk. ;-)

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