Is Moneyball Considered a Failure yet?

By danielburt

I wonder how many A’s fans blame where the A’s are now on another cheap ownership group or on Billy Beane’s failed moneyball tactics? I am not a fan of the owners. I really don’t think they care more about giving us fans a winning team than they do about giving themselves a better ballpark so they can make more profit. On the other hand I am starting to feel like Billy Beane’s ideas of how to pick good ball players only works with pitchers. The A’s have had a terrible time replacing hitters like Giambi, Tejada, Stairs, Jaha and (a healthy) Chavez.

It has been 5 years since the A’s last playoff run and since they have brought up a good young hitter. So how can Billy still be considered a genius at finding talent for less money when he hasn’t been able to put a good offense together in so long? No talent at all means you haven’t found cheap talent. Is it all Billy’s fault? Not totally but I will explain why it mostly is.

Billy has not had a history of drafting great hitters all though he was an advanced scout and assistant to the GM for the A’s when the A’s drafted Jason Giambi, Eric Chavez and Miguel Tejada. Since becoming the GM in 1998 Beane has been very unsuccessful in drafting good young hitters. Beane’s best offensive draft pick as a GM was Andre Either. Although Billy then traded him away for Milton Bradley. It was a win for the A’s at the time but long term it has been a bad move. Billy Beane did also draft Grant Desme, who left the team to become a priest. When Desme left he was one of the best hitting prospects in baseball. Bottom line is Bean doesn’t look so good when it comes to evaluating big league hitting material.

However there are a crop of hitters in the A’s triple A system that may give Beane some more cred in this department but since they have yet to do anything I am not going to pat Beane on the back and say I was well done just yet. Let’s not forget Adam Piatt won the tripe crown one year while playing in the A’s minor league system and then tanked in the majors. Just because you can hit in the minors doesn’t mean you can hit in the majors.

When it comes to trades and signing free agents I cut Billy some slack. No good players want to come here and play for little money and little attendance. Billy has even had a little success with finding talented players for little money. Frank Thomas almost won an MVP with the A’s after the rest of the league had given up on him.

With that said Billy has been able to convince some decent hitting free agents to come here but most of them fail. There have been way more Johnny Damon’s in Oakland than Frank Thomas’. A guy that has a history of being a good hitter shows up in Oakland only to crash and burn. Most of the time that player leaves after a short time with the organization only to tear it up at his next destination. Here is where I fault Billy Beane and not the large amount of foul ground sports casters like to talk about. Within the Oakland A’s organization players are told how to hit. Billy believes in getting pitch counts up and trying to draw walks to get men on base. Then have power hitters hit multiple run home runs. I believe that many good hitters that come here, who were free swingers before they got here, fail because they are trying to change the batting style fit a new system. Why would anyone do that to a player with a batting approach that works? Also over the years other teams have learned the A’s take pitches to drive up pitch counts so the A’s pass on a lot of first pitch fastballs trying to get that pitch count up and end up behind in the count. Constantly trying to hit when behind in the count is tough. This Moneyball style has come from Billy Beane himself so there is no one else to blame for this offensive approach.

It’s not a horrible philosophy but if you don’t have the right team it doesn’t work. For example getting the walks works when you have patient hitters but then the home run part doesn’t when you have no power hitters on your roster. Offensive philosophies have to change to fit the team you assembled. It also seems like a bad idea to me to mess with a veteran hitter’s mental process. Especially when their process has worked before coming to your team. When word spreads about something like that it makes Oakland an even less desirable free agent destination than it already was.

It seems to me though that Beane ingrains this approach into the minds of his coaches. You have to manage Moneyball style if they want to manage in Oakland. It has been a big hurtle in the A’s attempt to get a real manager with some real big league experience to Oakland. No good manger in baseball is going to accept a managing position where the GM is going to tell you how to run a ball club. So the A’s have hired brain dead coaches such as Art Howe, Ken Macha and Bob Geren so that Billy can push his system. Billy needs to keep his hands out of the cookie jar and let the managers mange the team. He is getting to be a little too Al Davis in this way.

Since the instillation of this Moneyball approach the A’s have a farm system that hasn’t created a good hitter since the early 90’s, a hitting approach that has caused good veteran hitters to fail and has made good MLB manager avoid Oakland like the plague. Does anyone still like Moneyball? But hey we still have good pitching!

I am falling out of love with just good pitching fast. Two years into this slump I was sure the A’s would turn it around because of Billy Beane but three years of offensive failure since then has me not believing in Beane or Beane’s style at least. Billy can still pull good trades out of his backside and land us players like Brett Anderson and Gio Gonzalez, pitchers go figure, everyonce in awhile.

This last group of kids coming up through the minors is his last chance to make his Moneyball legacy live on. If guys like Weeks, Carter, Taylor, Choice and Green shine and become good pros Beane’s name will continue to draw positive press but if they fail then I think so will Beane. As much as I have just complained about Billy Beane I am going to give him this last crop of kids to prove to me what he is doing. Hey, what’s a few more years of losing? I’m also a Warriors fan, I have watching my teams lose down to a science.

I wonder what the end of Moneyball the movie will be like? Will they address all the failures since the end of those playoff years? Should be interesting.

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