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Moneyball: was the book that changed baseball built on a false premise?

Scarcely a week goes by without some franchise being credited with successful apply of Moneyball statistics but is Michael Lewiss book all its cracked up to be?

We is well known virtually everything about Moneyball except one thing. Is it real? The book, of course, and the hugely popular movie with Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill are real, and the legend thats built upon there appeared to pervade all of baseball. Scarcely a week goes by without some franchise being credited with successful apply of Moneyball statistics, which rely on sabermetrics, statistics associated with SABR, the Society for American Baseball Research.

On 30 March in the New York Daily News, former Oakland executive and current Mets GM Sandy Alderson was referred to as the Godfather of Moneyball.

1 April visualized the publication of Tabitha Sorens Fantasy Life: Baseball and the American Dream with then-and-now photographs of members of the Oakland As draft class of 2002, who were Moneyballs primary focus.

Soren told Newsday: I entirely understand why the sports community associates this book with Moneyball. And I emphatically came to meeting[ the players] through my husband[ Michael Lewis ], but after that, in my opinion, it has little to do with that.

The truth, though, is that without the renown that has attached itself to the Moneyball label , no one “wouldve been” much interested in what became of the As 2002 draft class. The Moneyball brand has become so permeating that scarcely anyone questions the proposition upon which Lewiss book was based. Lets review.

In his preface, Lewis wrote: For more than a decade, the ones who lead professional baseball have argued that the game was ceasing to be an athletic competition and becoming a fiscal one. The gap between rich and poor in baseball was far greater than in any other professional athletic and widening rapidly.

At the opening of the 2002 season the richest crew, the New York Yankees, had a payroll of $140 m while the two poorest squads, the Oakland As and the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, had payrolls less than a third of that, about $40 m. A decade before, the most important one payroll crew, the New York Mets, had spent about $44 m on baseball players, and the lowest-based payroll crew, the Cleveland Indians, a bit more than$ 8m. The developing disparity meant that only the rich squads could render best available players. A poor crew could render only the maimed and the inept, and was almost certain to fail. Or so argued the ones who led baseball.

And I was inclined to concede the degree. The people with the most fund often win.

Thats the foundation of Moneyball. But in fact, in 2000, just two years before Lewis and Beanes Moneyball season, there had never been, in its own history of the major leagues, greater competitive balance. For the first time , not a single crew finished with a win-loss percentage above. 600 or below. 400. Stated another way, for the first time, the difference between best available squads in baseball and the most difficult squads was narrower than it had ever been.

In 2001 and 2002, the Anaheim Angels and the Arizona Diamondbacks, squads from small-minded marketplaces, won the World Series. The Minnesota Twins, despite their modest budget, had two fine seasons, and the New York Mets performed poorly despite expend big.

Lewis and all those baseball executives creaking about how much they had to pay the players were correct about the widening gaps between the richest and poorest marketplace squads if they intend certain differences in payroll. But this didnt inevitably tally with the status of competition in the field.

If competition did look uneven by the end of the 20 th century it was because the mighty Yankees an organization built in the 1990 s on not only the acquisition of expensive free agent but also on musician growing( ie the core four members of Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada, Andy Pettitte, and Mariano Rivera) had won four World Series from 1996 through 2000. But the Yankees had predominated baseball since the 1920 s, decades before the era of free agency, which didnt start until 1976.

In both 2001 and 2002, the high-salaried Yankees thumped the low-salaried As in the playoffs. But over those two seasons, the Yankees won 198 games while the As won 205. In the end, the As just got unlucky in the playoffs. As Beane himself was fond of mentioning, the playoffs are a crapshoot , not a true-blue test of quality.

Before and after the Yankees could outspend squads like the Oakland As for best available free agent, the As outperformed the Yankees. Beane became Oaklands GM in 1998. In the previous 26 seasons, the As were the most difficult winners in baseball, with six pennants and four World Series championships. The Yankees, by comparison, won five pennants and three World Series over that span. Three of those Oakland pennants and World Series titles 1972, 73 and 74 arrived during the course of its reign of their irascible proprietor Charles O Finley. Then arrived free agency, which was supposed to wipe squads like the As off the baseball map. But Oakland had yet another three-year dynasty from 1988 to 1990, in which they predominated the Yankees and every other American League team, winning three pennants and going to the World Series three straight seasons.

Having the most fund has never been a guarantee of winning in baseball. Injuries, bad luck, and poor front-office decisions( manifested by the signing of older and diminishing players to multi-year contracts) have always been among the reasons that the richer squads dont win all the time. But not only has baseball over the last half-century been competitive, it has been, contrary to Lewis, far more competitive not less than other major sports.

One of the major flaws of Moneyball was pointed out by Sheldon Hirsch and Alan Hirsch in their 2011 book The Beauty of Short Hops. Lewis distorts the same reasons for Oaklands success. The crew flourished primarily because of superb pitching. During its transform of postseason looks, the As were second to third in the league in fewest control permitted, whereas in some of these seasons they finished in the bottom half in drains scored.

The As were contributed not by overshadow, unheralded journeymen, but by three great starters: Mark Mulder, Tim Hudson and Barry Zito. All were high draft selects who had been well scouted and at no time were regarded as sleepers. Except for a few paragraphs, all three are absent-minded from the pages of Moneyball.

In a book ostensibly written to explain a team success, the Hirsches wrote, Michael Lewis treats three dominant pitchers as an afterthought.

Another reason for the success of Beanes As in the early years of the 21 st century is also scarcely mentioned the left side of their infield. The everyday aces of Oaklands 103 -win season in 2002 werent hitters who finished among the leaders in Beanes favorite stat, On Base Average, but slugging shortstop Miguel Tejada and third baseman Eric Chavez.

Tejada is dismissed by Beane in Moneyball as Mr Swing-At-Everything. Well, Mr Swing-At-Everything batted. 308 that season. Only he didnt reach base Beanes favorite space, via amble, but with hittings of which he had 204. And 34 of those hittings were home runs, the main reason that Tejada was the 2002 AL MVP. Chavez also reached 34 home runs in 2002. Together Tejada and Chavez drove in 240 drains, 31% of their squads RBI total, and reached 33% of the teams home runs.

These two priceless As, both proven aces, rendered a hugely disproportionate percentage of Beanes As power. But if you look to Moneyball for their narrative, youll look in vain.

Perhaps the most curious characteristic of Moneyball the book, the movie and the legend is its failure to address the most controversial issue of the decade: performance-enhancing drugs.

The 2001 As won 102 games during the course of its regular season and constructed the playoffs. But nowhere in book or movie is it be pointed out that two of their best players Jason Giambi and Tejada were later found to be using PEDs. In 2002, the year that most of the book is focused on, the As once again constructed the playoffs, topping their previous season by winning 103 games. Tejada subsequently admitted that he was doping.

Reserve outfielder-third baseman Adam Piatt confessed that he dealt steroids to several As players, but except for Tejada, never named epithets. Is it was feasible that Piatt was dealing drugs but would just like to one customer among his team-mates? That certainly seems unlikely.

What seems even more unlikely, though, is that Beane, a former musician himself, could not have known what the Mitchell report( Major league baseballs official investigation into drugs in the game, published in 2007) discovered easily.

And while were on the subject of who knew what and when, what exactly did Michael Lewis know? And when did he know it? Miguel Tejada is mentioned 11 periods in Moneyball with no reference to any drug use.

Apparently, Lewis still does not know about it, as the subject of the Oakland As and PEDs has proceeded unmentioned in subsequent reprintings of Moneyball. Why have Michael Lewis, Billy Beane and the As gotten a free pass from the sports media on steroids and other PEDs?

Theres a book waiting to be written on the real lessons of Moneyball. A decade subsequently, it wasnt the Oakland As and OBP or other sabermetrics stats that came to dominate baseball. It was a crew that won three World Series in five years old with the old-fashioned virtue of great pitching, and Lewis should have spotted them the San Francisco Giants play only eight miles away.

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