Billy Beane: The age of “baseball insiders” vs. “baseball outsiders” will soon be over

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Billy Beane has an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal today in which he talks about the changes technology is and will continue to bring to the game and what that will mean for the business of baseball. Note: to the extent you continue to go after stat-oriented analysis using the language of “Moneyball,” you’re woefully out of date.

Beane mentions 3-D tracking systems like Statcast, new metrics and new teaching techniques that will hone and refine player skills and capture the gains from such techniques in new and ever-more-precise metrics. If you’re tech-phobic, put your big boy pants on and wade in so you can at least know the sorts of things you should be upset about.

But Beane’s real point isn’t about any single technology or approach — it’s not like he’s gonna share the stuff his people are working on with the world; he did that a decade ago and still catches hell for it — but how technology will change the culture of baseball, who the people are who will be influential in its future and how they’ll get the information they’ll use:

Technology will create an equally drastic shift in front offices. Aspirants to the front office already are just one click away from decision makers, thanks to social media. It is not uncommon for a blogger’s analysis post to show up in a general manager’s Twitter feed—a level of proximity and access unheard of a decade ago. Many sports franchises are already hiring analysts based on their work in the public sphere; as social media become more targeted and efficient, the line between the “outsiders” and “insiders” will narrow . . . In sum, sport will no longer be the exclusive domain of “insiders,” and the business will be better for it.

Baseball’s insular culture is one its most frustrating traits, and it has been very nice to see it eroding here and there since the advent of the Internet Age and the expansion of the cultures and philosophies in and around the game in recent years. To be sure, there has been something of a backlash to that of late — for example, I would argue that the rise in “unwritten rules” incidents and hostility by some in the world of baseball towards outsiders and the Internet is a defensive reaction not unlike you often see when an old order is in its death throes — but all in all, baseball is moving in a new and exciting direction.

The stereotypical Old Baseball Men are being joined by young baseball men. Young technology men. Young marketing men. And, hopefully, an increasing number of young women fitting all of those descriptions as well. There’s no sense going through life with one hand tied behind your back, and the willingness of people like Beane here, or Jeff Luhnow’s down in Houston or Chris Antonetti in Cleveland and any number of other GMs to look in new places for ideas and people is one of baseball’s most promising developments.

Kirk Gibson home run happened 30 years ago

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With the Dodgers trying to make it back to the World Series for the second year in a row — and trying to win it for the first time in 30 years — it’s worth looking back at the last time they won it. More specifically, it’s worth looking back at the signature moment from the last time they won it. Which, really, was one of baseball’s all-time signature moments.

Yep, I’m talking about Kirk Gibson’s famous game-winning home run off of Dennis Eckersley of the Oakland Athletics in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series, which happened 30 years ago tonight.

All playoff magic for anyone too young to remember Bill Mazeroski’s homer in 1960 is measured against Gibson taking Dennis Eckersley downtown to turn a 4-3 deficit into a 5-4 win. Heck, even if you were around in 1960, it’s far less likely that you saw Mazeroski’s homer than it was for you to have seen Gibson’s. Nationally broadcast in prime time to a nation of millions who had not yet fragmented into viewers of hundreds of obscure cable channels and various forms of streaming entertainments, it was a moment that sent shockwaves through the world of sports.

For my part, I was fifteen years-old, sitting in my living room in Beckley, West Virginia watching it as it happened. Like most of the rest of the country, I was convinced that the Dodgers had no chance to beat the mighty Bash Brothers and the 104-win Oakland A’s. Especially given that the Dodgers’ leader, MVP-to-be Gibson, was hobbled and not starting. Even when he was called on to pinch hit, I had no faith that he’d be able to touch Eckersley, the best relief pitcher on the planet, let alone hit the ball with any kind of authority.

But, as Vin said when he called it, the Dodgers’ year was so improbable that, in hindsight, it made perfect sense for Gibson to have done the impossible: