Beane changed game
How could it not be? Michael Lewis' book was a best-seller and has been condensed into a movie starring Brad Pitt. The movie's producers and director had no choice but to take some dramatic license to make it understandable and exciting to the average moviegoer.
But that doesn't diminish the amazing job Billy Beane did to make the A's a contending team for several years on a shoestring budget. He took over an
organization that was saddled with huge debt and had the guts to swim upstream against 100 years of conventional baseball wisdom. The result was a new way of looking at players and positions that has changed the way the game is played.
Still, there's no truth to the rumor Jonah Hill is going to be the next Orioles general manager.
I read Michael Lewis' 2003 best-seller about the A's and Billy Beane's gift for exploiting market inefficiencies. I liked most of it.
What I'll never be able to accept is the way Lewis' book — now a movie — marginalized and mocked baseball scouts and their contributions.
No spreadsheet helped Beane assemble the pitching trinity of Mark Mulder (drafted second overall in 1998), Barry Zito (ninth overall in '99) and Tim Hudson (sixth round in'97, before Beane took over).
That was a stroke of good fortune and a tribute to scouting intuition.
The best organizations (Red Sox, Rays and Rangers) blend Bill Jamesian statistical evaluation with traditional scouting. You must have both in today's game.
Concept is lacking
Nothing was revolutionized by Billy Beane and his A's in the work that Michael Lewis chronicled. An interesting story was told, and told very well.
But as a concept, moneyball doesn't hold up as well as the movie "Moneyball.'' If it did, the Athletics would have found a way to be more competitive in the AL West, one of baseball's traditionally winnable divisions.
The guys who were keys to the success of the A's in the period Lewis chronicled were Jason Giambi, Miguel Tejada and pitchers Tim Hudson, Barry Zito and Mark Mulder, all of whom were acquired through traditional means.
Statistical analysis has exploded as a front-office tool. But if there were a secret formula, the A's would have produced players to replace Giambi, Tejada, Hudson, Zito and Mulder.
Baseline: Far from truth
Los Angeles Times
It's a good movie, but like "The Help" and "Dolphin Tale," "Moneyball" is only loosely based on reality.
Billy Beane's teams won in Oakland not because he perfected a new way to evaluate talent but because they already had talent. The Athletics had the best rotation in the American League, anchored by Tim Hudson. And they had two American League MVPs in Jason Giambi and Miguel Tejada.
All those players were signed by dogged scouts, who evaluated players the old-fashioned way. And all three were already part of the organization when Beane became general manager.
With all three now gone, Oakland hasn't had a winning season since 2007.
The "Moneyball" theories have their place. But so does scouting.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times