When you read stuff like this from the Daily News’ Bill Madden, you have to ask yourself two questions: (1) At what point will columnists stop using a now seven year-old book as a hook to write about the A’s? and (2) would Billy Beane have been better off if he had never provided
Michael Lewis the access to write “Moneyball” in the first place?
Bud Selig and the major league poobahs ought to be ashamed to be charging major league prices of $100 and stiffly upward for what amounted to be the $200 million world champions vs. Sacramento. What’s especially wrong with this picture, however, is that these are the same Oakland A’s that, in Michael Lewis’ 2003 best-selling book “Moneyball” – now being made into a major motion picture starring Brad Pitt as A’s GM Billy Beane – were depicted as the model franchise for all of baseball because of their ability to make the most out of spending the least.
Given the time that has passed — one of the main subjects of the book has retired already for cryin’ out loud — I can’t help but wonder if it’s really all that enlightening to critique the 2010 Oakland Athletics by referencing the book. And really, given that teams like the Yankees owe a lot of their recent success to co-opting and improving upon many of Beane’s ideas, it’s rather amusing to see “Moneyball” slammed over and over again like it is.
More importantly, the Athletics have played pretty respectable baseball this year. They’re certainly doing better than a lot of people thought they would before the season started. I know Madden is a New York guy and that he’s focusing on the A’s-Yankees series here, but for him to bash them as a AAA product based soley on four bad games in the Bronx seems a bit unfair.
On Sunday, we heard from former Ray and current Giants third baseman Evan Longoria. The Rays recently traded pitcher Jake Odorizzi to the Twins for a prospect and designated All-Star outfielder Corey Dickerson for assignment, which didn’t make a whole lot of sense outside of a cost-cutting perspective. Longoria said, “I just kind of feel sorry for the Rays fan base.”
Today, we’re hearing from a current Ray: center fielder Kevin Kiermaier, who is set to enter his fifth full season with the club. Via Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times, Kiermaier said, “I am 100 percent frustrated and very upset with the moves. No beating around the bush. It’s one of those things that makes you scratch your head, you don’t know the reasoning why. And then you see the team’s explanation and still it’s just like, okay, well, so be it.”
Longoria — formerly the face of the franchise — was traded to the Giants in December and the Rays continued to subtract with their recent moves involving Odorizzi and Dickerson. Odorizzi has a career 3.83 ERA in what has been a solid, if unspectacular, career. Dickerson put up an All-Star season, posting an .815 OPS with 27 home runs in 150 games. Moving either player was not done to fix a positional log jam. In fact, with Odorizzi out of the picture, the Rays are planning to use a four-man starting rotation for the first six-plus weeks of the season, Topkin reported on Sunday. Dickerson’s ouster simply opens the door for Mallex Smith, who posted a .684 OPS last year, to start every day in the outfield.
The Rays got markedly worse after going 80-82 last season. They saved a few million bucks jettisoning Odorizzi and Dickerson. And Rays ownership still wants the public to foot most of the bill for their new stadium.
When it was just one small market team pinching pennies, it was fine. But now that more than half of the league has adopted penny-pinching principles popularized by Moneyball and Sabermetrics (with the Rays among the chief offenders), the game of baseball has become markedly less fan- and player-friendly. This offseason has been less about players signing contracts and changing teams in trades — which helps build excitement and intrigue for the coming year — and more about front offices doing math problems concerning the $197 million competitive balance tax threshold and other self-imposed monetary restraints. Fun. Kiermaier is right to be upset and he’s very likely not alone in feeling that way.