It’s hard not to be romantic about baseball. The famous line said by Brad Pitt when he portrayed Oakland Athletics general manager Billy Beane in the movie Moneyball. The 2012 Athletics just proved how great this game actually is. The A’s did not lead the division all season, while the Texas Rangers led the division for what I believe was 178 days, but the A’s are the American League West champion with the lowest payroll in the American League, defeating Texas 12-5 earlier today.
Let’s think about this: a team with the lowest payroll defeated a team that has represented the American League in the World Series over the last two seasons and a team that spent over a quarter of a billion dollars in free agency this winter. In fact, Albert Pujols’ salary covers the A’s payroll from the last four seasons. Yet, these guys won the whole thing, proving once again Billy Beane knows what he’s doing.
Critics gave Beane a lot of grief this winter when he traded away Trevor Cahill and Gio Gonzalez. Once again, people thought Beane was chopping up a team for the hell of it. Little did we know the parts from those trades would play such an integral part to the A’s run, and only for a margin of the cost.
Beane’s pitching staff is the epitome of what “Moneyball” actually is. There isn’t one pitcher from the current starting staff that I ever heard of prior to this season besides Jarrod Parker, whom they acquired from the Arizona Diamondbacks for Cahill. I never heard of AJ Griffin, Tommy Milone (acquired for Gonzalez), or Travis Blackley. And if you have heard of those guys, you’re an A’s fan or way, way, way into the game of baseball. Beane also got production out of Bartolo Colon for 2/3rd of the season before he got busted for PEDs, but that’s enough to make that movie solid.
The A’s bullpen is a collection of guys who nobody wanted for a variety of reasons. Guys like Pat Neshek were supposed to be done with baseball due to injuries; Neshek is basically the 2012 Chad Bradford for Oakland.
The only pitcher that is currently pitching (DL aside) for Oakland that is making over a million bucks is Grant Balfour. That’s remarkable!
In regards to Oakland’s lineup, outside of Yoenis Cespedes, there isn’t one player that I could have imagined starting for a big league club, let alone be apart of a divisional champion team. Brandon Moss is this year’s Scott Hatteberg. He was basically out of baseball, seeing as he had six hitless at-bats with the Philadelphia Phillies last season. This season, however, Moss has nearly slugged .600 in nearly 300 plate appearances. The list goes on and on for castoffs for the 2012 A’s: Johnny Gomes, Coco Crisp, Brandon Inge - he was literally released this season for being so bad - and Josh Reddick.
This team is Moneyball. The true definition of Moneyball was been skewed by Beane critics for year. All it ever was compiling a winning team with a marginal payroll, in whatever way possible. It just so happened Beane exploited OBP and didn’t want his teams to steal back in 2002. Moneyball is a theory, not a science. There is a reason why it doesn’t work 100% of the time.
Another reason why this team is more Moneyball than the original is: the original team was successful based strictly on homegrown talent. Sure, guys like Hatteberg and Bradford played a role, but that team was so good because of Barry Zito, Mark Mulder, Tim Hudson, Miguel Tejada, and Eric Chavez. However, the movie doesn’t really tell us that. They think David Justice led the team offensively, even though he had a .785 OPS.
The 2012 Oakland Athletics are basically a team of castoffs and young guys Beane has traded for throughout the years. Did Beane get a little lucky with these guys this year? Certainly – but it doesn’t discredit the job he and manager Bob Melvin have done.
The 2012 Oakland Athletics are an exception to one of cinema’s famous rules.
The sequel was better than the original.
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