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Billy Beane Rumors
Some linkage from the West Coast as this Sunday night winds down …
- On Sunday we heard that Bud Selig will meet with the Giants regarding the Athletics' potential relocation to San Jose. If that relocation falls through, however, don't be surprised if Oakland GM Billy Beane winds up with the Dodgers once the franchise is sold, tweets Peter Gammons of MLB Network.
- The Padres have talked to former Mets GM Omar Minaya about a front office job, a source tells Dan Hayes of the North County Times (Twitter link). It's likely for an advisor role, tweets Corey Brock of MLB.com, who adds that other teams are interested in Minaya, as well.
- The trade of Ty Wigginton to the Phillies isn't the precursor to another move, Rockies GM Dan O'Dowd tells Troy Renck of the Denver Post (via Twitter). Seems like the Rox were seeking some salary relief.
A few items of note regarding AL West clubs, as the division's sole postseason representative, the Rangers, take on the Rays in Arlington.
- Morale in the Angels' front office had waned under former GM Tony Reagins, who resigned Friday, sources tell Tim Brown of Yahoo! Sports, and the organization's direction seemed vague. Reagins may not have been ready for the job when he took over for former GM Bill Stoneman in 2007, Brown adds.
- Elsewhere in Brown's piece, he reports that Stoneman, who has served as an advisor to the Angels since stepping down, will be part of the committee that searches for a new GM, but he will not return to the position, nor will Scioscia add that to his managerial duties. So, it seems certain the next GM will come from outside the organization.
- Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com wonders whether A's GM Billy Beane could assume the GM role with the Angels. There'd be a lot to work through, as Beane is under contract through 2014 and wouldn't want to play second fiddle to Scioscia, but the Halos need another "significant voice," opines Rosenthal.
- The Athletics will not bring back pitching coach Ron Romanick, hitting coach Gerald Perry and bench coach Joel Skinner in 2012, according to Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle. Slusser speculates the A's will ask permission to speak to Reds pitching coach Bryan Price and Red Sox pitching coach Curt Young, who is under contract another year and might be a lame duck now that Terry Francona won't be back in Boston.
Bennett Miller's Moneyball doesn't present sabermetrics as a revelation. That might be the key factor in making the film enjoyable for both of the movie's target audiences: hardcore baseball fans who know Michael Lewis' original book front-to-back and want to see if Hollywood gets the details right, and for more casual moviegoers who don't know the Oakland A's from the Oakland Raiders but are always interested in seeing Brad Pitt on the big screen.
The film streamlines Lewis' book into just the 2002 season, as the A's have just lost a heartbreaking ALDS to the Yankees and now face a winter of losing Jason Giambi, Jason Isringhausen and Johnny Damon to free agency. GM Billy Beane (Pitt) is getting frustrated over the realities of small-market baseball but gets inspiration when he encounters Peter Brand (Jonah Hill, playing a composite version of Paul DePodesta), a young, Yale-educated economist working in the Cleveland front office. Brand shows Beane the value — both financially and competitively — of signing unheralded players who take a lot of pitches, take walks and generally don't fit the mold that most teams look for in a Major Leaguer.
Along the way, Beane and Brand run into resistance from Oakland scouts, Oakland manager Art Howe (Philip Seymour Hoffman), the media and the fact that the A's struggle through the first few months of the season. The team starts to gel, however, culminating in an incredible 20-game winning streak that tied an AL record.
The 20th win is more or less treated as the "Hollywood ending" so often seen in sports movies, since obviously Oakland's loss to Minnesota in the ALDS that year wasn't exactly an inspiring justification of Beane's strategies. (Also, the Athletics' 20th win was a game worthy of a movie in itself.) Yet the fact that Miller gives voice to the critics in the wake of Oakland's eventual defeat is a strong choice — it acknowledges the reality that there is no magic formula to putting together a team and that the sabermetric strategy was only a singular, and temporary, part of the Athletics' success. Pitt plays Beane as a smart and competent man who believes in what he's doing, but also allows just a bit of doubt to keep his feet fully grounded.
For baseball fans, the obvious elephant in Moneyball's room isn't Stomper, but the fact that the 2002 A's weren't a surprise. The Athletics are presented as an "island of misfit toys," to use Brand's description, but in real life, Oakland was coming off two consecutive playoff appearances. Even with free agent losses, they still had the likes of Miguel Tejada, Eric Chavez, Tim Hudson, Barry Zito and Mark Mulder on board. These players are barely mentioned in Moneyball, with Scott Hatteberg, David Justice and Chad Bradford instead featured as the key figures in the team's success. That trio combined for a 5.5 WAR in 2002, while Hudson by himself had a 6.6 WAR (Zito was 5.5). Obviously focusing on the players acquired due to sabermetric analysis fits the film's underdog theme, but treating the A's like the Roy Hobbs-less New York Knights is a bit disingenuous.
Those wondering how Moneyball would recreate, or dramatize, Lewis' portions of the book that deal with the 2002 draft….well, never mind, since the draft isn't even mentioned. Other important "Moneyball" figures as Jeremy Brown, Kevin Youkilis and Bill James are only briefly cited, though in James' case, it's probably best that he was just noted as the father of sabermetrics and not used as an animated narrator, as was the plan when Steven Soderbergh was originally supposed to direct the film.
Still, factual liberties are to be expected, especially given that Lewis' book doesn't follow a clear narrative. Oscar-winning screenwriters Steven Zaillian (Schindler's List) and Aaron Sorkin (The Social Network) are no stranger to adapting real-life stories to the screen and they approach Moneyball as Beane's story since that will make it the most easiest to digest for mainstream audiences. Pitt is up to the part, turning in a fine performance and making Beane a character compelling enough that you're eager to watch him NOT watch a ballgame.
Beane is so centralized as Moneyball's main figure that Brand basically just seems like his sidekick, and it may have helped to get a bit more insight into Brand's feelings at seeing his theories actually being applied by a Major League team. The film also seems to be missing a payoff scene between Beane and Howe where Howe begrudgingly admits that his boss had a point. (Though, since Howe actually didn't return to manage the A's in 2003, perhaps such a scene would've been a total invention.) Hoffman makes the most out of the role, but the Howe character is incomplete enough that it seems a waste of a gifted actor like Hoffman, who won an Oscar when he was last directed by Miller in 2005's Capote.
The film does well by its baseball scenes, in part because several of the actors portraying the A's are former major and minor leaguers, most notably Royce Clayton as Tejada. Moneyball generates some amusing tension from a scene where Beane and Brand are trying to negotiate a trade for Ricardo Rincon, which baseball fans may find comical given the relatively low stakes of picking up a reliever at the trade deadline. Nevertheless, the scene is a (very simplified) example of the mindgames that GMs often use on each other in negotiations.
Those expecting a documentary about the 2002 Oakland A's will be disappointed by Moneyball, as will those who value the opinions of baseball scouts, given how harshly the old-timer scouts are depicted. That said, Moneyball succeeds at its basic goal of delivering an entertaining story and making in-depth statistical analysis understandable and relatable to audiences that might barely understand balls and strikes. And, to boot, this character study of an impassioned, small-market GM may gain some unintentional comedy points if the real Billy Beane ends up as the general manager of the Cubs.
Image by Scott Wachter/Icon SMI
MLB is building momentum toward two 15-team leagues with three five-team divisions per league, according to ESPN.com’s Jayson Stark. It doesn't appear that the players’ association will agree to expand the postseason unless owners agree to more balanced schedules and divisions, Stark reports. Here are the rest of his rumors…
- It appears that the Tigers and Rays will pick up their options for Jose Valverde and Kyle Farnsworth, respectively, this offseason.
- Two MLB executives predicted to Stark that Ryan Madson will sign a deal like the one Valverde obtained two winters ago: $14MM over two years plus an option.
- Multiple teams have expressed concerns about Francisco Rodriguez’s off-field “baggage,” though K-Rod stands out as one of the best free agent relievers of the winter.
- Stark hears that MLB has been slow to approve incoming Astros owner Jim Crane in order to apply leverage on Crane so that he’ll agree to move the Astros to the American League. Earlier today, Bob Nightengale of USA Today had a report that conflicts with Stark’s article.
- Friends of Billy Beane say the A’s GM has legitimate interest in the Cubs GM job, though he has an ownership stake and lots of freedom in Oakland.
- Nationals GM Mike Rizzo will interview managerial candidates this offseason before deciding whether Davey Johnson will return as manager in 2012.
- First base doesn’t appear to be a priority for Washington, but Rizzo says "you never want to say never” when it comes to possible offseason moves.
The Mariners announced yesterday that they agreed to a multiyear extension with GM Jack Zduriencik. The deal ends speculation about a possible regime change and means there’s one less job opening for GM candidates in MLB. Here are the latest notes on baseball’s general managers…
- Multiple high-ranking A’s officials tell Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times that the Cubs haven’t made any contact with Billy Beane about Chicago’s GM opening.
- Newsday's Ken Davidoff thinks Brian Cashman will be back with the Yankees next year, partly because of the Mariners' decision to retain Zduriencik. Not only does that remove one possible destination for Cashman, the longtime Yankees GM has been intrigued by the Seattle job in the past.
- Carrie Muskat of MLB.com lists Thad Levine of the Rangers, Ben Cherington of the Red Sox, J.J. Picollo of the Royals, Rick Hahn of the White Sox, Michael Hill of the Marlins and former Twins GM Terry Ryan as potential candidates for the Cubs' job.
Here’s the latest on the Cubs, including an update on their search for a successor to Jim Hendry…
- Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times says former Dodgers general manager Dan Evans fits all the criteria chairman Tom Ricketts has established for his new GM. Friends and associates of Evans tell Wittenmyer that the executive has always considered the Cubs' GM job his dream position.
- A’s owner Lew Wolff told John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle that he wouldn’t prevent GM Billy Beane from exploring job opportunities elsewhere, though he hopes to retain him for a long time. "I would never inhibit anybody from bettering themselves because of a contract," Wolff said, noting that no teams have called regarding the "indispensable" Beane.
- Wittenmyer says Matt Garza's presence at the front end of Chicago's rotation seems critical to any Cubs turnaround. The Cubs can retain Garza as an arbitration eligible player through 2013, though he won't be cheap.
- Meanwhile, Carlos Pena told Wittenmyer that he was "pleasantly surprised" that the Cubs pulled him off of waivers after the Yankees claimed him earlier in the week.
Some baseball people who know Billy Beane well say the longtime Oakland general manager might consider an offer to join the Cubs if they approach him about their vacant GM job, according to Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle. The Cubs fired Jim Hendry on Friday and are already considering replacements, possibly Rick Hahn, Josh Byrnes, Andrew Friedman, Ned Colletti and Brian Cashman.
A’s executives are frustrated with the slow pace at which MLB is considering a possible move for the franchise, Slusser reports. There’s concern within the organization that Beane might leave if the A’s don’t get permission to build a stadium in San Jose and the team is sold.
Slusser suggests A’s owner Lew Wolff would grant Beane permission to interview elsewhere if the GM wanted to be considered for other opportunities. Nine years ago, Beane nearly joined the Red Sox, before deciding to stay in Oakland.
Should Beane leave, assistant GM David Forst would be the logical candidate to replace him. Forst, who has declined opportunities to pursue GM jobs elsewhere, currently assumes much of the responsibility in Oakland. His name appeared on MLBTR’s list of GM candidates earlier in the month.
The Cardinals acquired Woody Williams from San Diego on this date ten years ago. The right-hander pitched 75 innings of 2.28 ERA ball and helped the Cardinals reach the postseason, where they lost to the eventual World Champion Diamondbacks. Here's the latest from around MLB…
- As Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun points out, Buck Showalter took over the Orioles one year ago today. In 162 games under Showalter, the Orioles are 76-86. The honeymoon is over, but Showalter is "the most prepared and observant person [Connolly has] been around in this game."
- The Phillies may tinker with their roster in August by calling up a reliever or acquiring a bat in a minor trade, Bob Brookover of the Philadelphia Inquirer writes.
- Yahoo's Steve Henson looks back at the 13 most lopsided trades in baseball history. If you guessed that Jeff Bagwell, Derek Lowe and Jason Varitek would appear on the list, you're right.
- Moneyball has become a "period piece," Tom Verducci writes at SI.com. The advantages Billy Beane once had in Oakland have been neutralized by stadium revenue for other clubs and savvy front offices around baseball. "The biggest problem we have is that until we get a stadium it's going to be treading water for us," Beane said. "There cannot be any long-term planning. It's likely to get worse before it gets any better. It's going to be more than challenging."
- GM Jon Daniels says the Rangers checked in on Michael Bourn without pursuing him seriously, according to Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram (on Twitter).
- ESPN.com's Jerry Crasnick examines the Giants' feeble offense and the impact that Carlos Beltran will have on it.
- As Scott Miller of CBSSports.com shows, the Diamondbacks have once again become relevant in the NL West thanks, in large part, to an improved pitching staff.
- Beane was told the A's were the runners-up in the Aroldis Chapman bidding. He said "I think we got slightly outbid" by the Reds' six-year, $30.25MM offer to the Cuban lefty.
- Center fielder Coco Crisp, signed to a one-year, $5.5MM deal, was considered "good value relative to the cost." Beane admitted that the A's probably will not be able to afford to re-sign Crisp if he has a healthy season. While there was trade interest in Rajai Davis, Beane is looking for continuity.
- Beane was frank in saying that he expects to "follow the cycle" of the last 10-15 years if the team does not get a new venue. That implies trading Ben Sheets and/or other veterans in July if the team falls out of contention, but conversely making acquisitions if the A's are still in the hunt.
- Brad Pitt met with Beane in preparation for the actor's role in the Moneyball movie. Beane described Pitt as "very down-to-earth."
Brendan Bianowicz has one more big update to our GM Trade History Series. Check out the AL West spreadsheets below for GM information on trades, free agent signings, and more.