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"Well, they're the ones who've already lost."


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http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/otl/columns/story?columnist=bryant_howard&id=4357166

Outside Oakland, the scoffs were loud and oddly self-satisfied, for parallel to the collapse of the movie was the current futility of Beane's real-life product, the A's. Around certain quadrants of baseball, there is no shortage of enjoyment in the belief that the team's sub-.500 record over the past 2½ years -- Oakland currently owns the third-worst record in the majors -- is proof that the game is witnessing the denouement of the Moneyball legacy. Since the A's were swept by Detroit in the American League Championship Series in 2006, they've neither made the playoffs nor been a .500 team.

Every winning club eventually loses, and there are nearly always plenty of reasons for it. But in Oakland's case, the glee over the A's tumble has not been directed at the players or their coaches, or even at the team's ownership. Instead, the fingers seem to point to one person in particular: Beane, who in his 12th season as general manager is the face of the remarkable, massive and oftentimes unpopular cultural upheaval of the Moneyball revolution.

"There's a war going on, but because so much of what he's done is becoming standard, the war is really over," Lewis says. "And the people who are happy when Billy doesn't do well? Well, they're the ones who've already lost."

...

"The reason 'Moneyball' became so important was because so many of the owners read [the book]," says Sandy Alderson, himself a seminal figure in the way baseball is run. "For years, the baseball people would tell the owners, 'Leave the baseball to us. You wouldn't understand.' They kept saying they were different. Then the owners realized the dynamics of baseball -- of assessing risk -- were the same as the ones they faced in their outside businesses."

...

The revolution, in a way, has consumed the revolutionary. He cannot escape.

Some element of the Moneyball legacy invariably produces a treatise on him and his theories, almost on a regular basis. On the bad days, it's likely to be a struggling, low-average/high on-base percentage player (Oakland's Jack Cust or the Yankees' Nick Swisher, for example) serving as proof that Moneyball is a failed strategy, especially in a climate that no longer tacitly condones performance-enhancing drugs.

On the good, the refined successes of the Boston Red Sox (a well-financed team that adopted many of Beane's philosophies while enjoying virtually unlimited resources, unlike the A's) provide evidence of Moneyball's obvious sustainability.

Even Bill James -- who in the original screenplay is portrayed as an infallible, clear-eyed sage in a world of chaos whose wisdom went long ignored by the Establishment -- has pared back his once-sharp criticisms of traditional scouting and development methods now that he's worked on the inside with the Boston Red Sox since 2002.

"We did a fair amount of retrofitting, I guess you could call it," Red Sox CEO Larry Lucchino says. "Billy Beane is a sharp mind. We tried to hire him, but what we've done since Theo [Epstein] took over is to take some of the quantitative analysis approaches and overlay them with the resource advantages of our market."

...

"Listen, I never asked Michael to write about me. I never solicited him in any way," Beane says. "It's amazing to me that people still think I wrote the book. I didn't. I didn't ask them to do this movie. Do I have an ego? Sure. Who doesn't? That's why [White Sox GM] Kenny Williams is still one of the best guys running the game, because of his experience playing the game. He's got a certain swagger. It's still a business, but it's also a testosterone business."

One of his frustrations these days is that no one seems to believe him. No one believes that he wasn't in the least bit crestfallen when he heard that the Soderbergh movie had collapsed. And no one seems to believe that he didn't envision his star entrée into the big-money world of Wall Street as a way to leave baseball behind. Beane became the de facto face of a revolution; his star power (lunch with Warren Buffett, dinner with Brad Pitt, a video-game simulation in which he is the main character) and the reach of the book catapulted him beyond his peers and created a new dialogue in the game. The question from those nonbelievers follows: What could baseball possibly have left for him?

...

"Why do people care about anything we do?" Beane says on another day in a moment of pique. "We play in a crappy stadium, in a market that we share with another team, with one of the lowest payrolls in the game. Really, I'm not that interesting."

...

John Hart, when he was general manager in Cleveland, began cultivating a new type of baseball assistant -- a well-educated, analytical mind that didn't require prior playing experience -- to be groomed for the next generation of executives. And years before he took over in Oakland, Beane's predecessor and mentor, Alderson, was articulating a top-down front-office approach. Alderson concluded that the old-school, Casey Stengel paradigm -- in which the field manager was face of the front office and had the most say in which players played, were traded and drafted -- was fundamentally flawed.

Alderson was the first to begin referring to the manager not as the leader of the ballclub, but as a "middle manager."

Beane expanded upon Alderson's positions, and developed a reputation for being a notoriously difficult boss for his field managers. Art Howe and Ken Macha, the two A's managers before Bob Geren took over in 2007, chafed under Beane's heavy influence. Both are longtime baseball men -- Macha, now the Brewers' manager, is in his late 50s; Howe, who isn't coaching or managing this season, is in his mid-60s -- and neither had the kind of personnel power in Oakland that managers enjoyed when those two were players. Geren, 48, is the lowest-paid pilot in the game, and the suspicion exists throughout baseball that his lack of clout could become the norm in the manager's office when the game's half-dozen old lions -- the ones who are still the public face of management such as Joe Torre, Lou Piniella, Jim Leyland, Bobby Cox, Tony La Russa and Dusty Baker -- finally retire. Of baseball's newer managers, only Mike Scioscia of the Angels seems to command an old-school authority.

...

Big personalities must carry that weight. When the A's went from 88-game losers in 1998 to 103-game winners in 2002, it was Beane who was the face of the franchise. "Moneyball" made him a star. The A's media guide dedicated a section of his biography -- "Trades made by Billy Beane" -- as a tribute to his shrewdness. His friends cautioned him that should the team decline, comeuppance would likely be swift. The Yankees' Cashman, his friend, uses an axiom to keep himself grounded, and it applies to Beane as well.

"The higher up the tree the monkey climbs," Cashman says, "the more of his ass you can see."

...

"In 10 years, even I won't be qualified to have this job," he says. "This business has always been a regulated business. You never had the fear of going out of business. You never had to change. Bankruptcy is a great motivator to change your business practices."

...The Moneyball concept -- recognizing the most valuable but least expensive commodities in player evaluation -- was immediately transformed in public perception into an obsession with on-base percentage. Therefore, a team that values on-base percentage is considered to espouse "Moneyball principles" -- even though, as Beane points out, players with high on-base percentages have now become extremely expensive.

Today, in an ironic nod to yesteryear, the undervalued quality in the baseball marketplace is the high school player with little polish but high potential, which is exactly how Beane has drafted lately.

As the market changes, both sides, it seems, can claim the last laugh.

"It's all about evaluating skills and putting a price on them," Beane says. "Thirty years ago, stockbrokers used to buy stock strictly by feel. Let's put it this way: Anyone in the game with a 401(k) has a choice. They can choose a fund manager who manages their retirement by gut instinct, or one who chooses by research and analysis. I know which way I'd choose."

I posted a lot of excerpts from the article, but that's because it's such a well-written and interesting piece.

It contains a lot of talk about the Moneyball movie, and some of the script excerpts are really good.

I think the thread title says it all about the theme of the article: despite all of the critics and all of the questions (legitimate and otherwise) about the present state of the Athletics, he has changed the game.

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Really, no comments?

I like these parts:

"The higher up the tree the monkey climbs," Cashman says, "the more of his ass you can see."

Funny

"Why do people care about anything we do?" Beane says on another day in a moment of pique. "We play in a crappy stadium, in a market that we share with another team, with one of the lowest payrolls in the game. Really, I'm not that interesting."

Also funny.

On the good, the refined successes of the Boston Red Sox (a well-financed team that adopted many of Beane's philosophies while enjoying virtually unlimited resources, unlike the A's) provide evidence of Moneyball's obvious sustainability.

Beane is the best. He just needs another team.

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