I caught a post by Sam Page yesterday entitled the Moneyball Mets, in which he writes:
For the past five years, though, we’ve taken considerable crap from fellow Mets fans, concerned with the harmful spread of “Moneyball” ideas in their favorite sport. We (usually) bit our tongues as people with no scouting expertise shielded their bunk opinions under a non-existent “stats vs. scouting” conflict. The same fans, who most loudly bemoaned the failures of Omar Minaya, denounced our specific criticisms without the slightest hint of irony.
Yet, the Mets have now hired the man Moneyball is actually about. Nobody protests.
I kind of snickered a little bit, and was about to hit the back button when I saw the name of our site Mets Merized in the first few comments. Naturally, I had to investigate. It seems a few of their readers wondered what Mets Merized thought about the new Moneyball Mets. That’s fine, I respect the fact they care to know my position, but remember that this is just my opinion and I don’t speak for our other 30 bloggers, half of whom would probably disagree with me.
The Moneyball Mets? Well… it’s a baseless conclusion.
You see, Moneyball is not about Sandy Alderson at all. It’s too bad because if it were, I would have loved to have seen Ed Harris cast in Alderson’s role for the movie version. Moneyball is all about Billy Beane and the Oakland A’s under his tenure.
Apparently Moneyballers are having a love-fest over the soon to be official announcement of Sandy Alderson as GM, but methinks doth celebrate too prematurely.
Let me tell you the little I’ve learned about Alderson in the past month. We all know about his impressive run as the general manager of the Oakland A’s, and nobody can question his integrity and accomplishments during and after his Oakland days. I am extremely proud that Alderson, a former US Marine, will be running the Mets beginning today. Things are going to get better with Sandy now calling the shots.
But lets get back to Moneyball…
Alderson turned to sabermetrics for help in 1995 because the new owners ordered him to slash payroll. And when I say slash, I mean slashed to the bone.
Unaccustomed to running the team with such low resources and no more open checkbook, Alderson was looking for any kind of edge he could get. He believed he found that edge when he stumbled upon a book by Bill James and his new sabermetric stats.
The joyride of the late 80′s, which was built on lavish spending, was coming to an end and Alderson needed to find a way to continue keeping pace with all the other high rollers in the American League.
While implementing this new found magic, Alderson didn’t get the effect he was looking for and the Oakland A’s went on to lose 77 games in 1995, 84 more losses in 1996, and finally 97 losses in, you guessed it, 1997.
It was after that season that Alderson split the scene leaving his trusty side-kick, assistant GM Billy Beane, firmly in charge of a last place team with an MLB worst pitching staff that finished with a 5.84 ERA. So much for that.
To Beane’s credit, he ran with those sabermetric principles introduced to him by Sandy Alderson, and Beane would go on to become the number one poster boy for the sabermetric movement. Beane eventually led the A’s back to respectability, but it was he that did it, and he alone.
The truth is that the book “Juiced” by Jose Canseco had more to do with Alderson’s four division titles and the World Series win, than the books “Moneyball” or the Bill James Annual.
As a matter of fact, I posed this question over a week ago in a blog entitled: Sandy Alderson And The Spotted Elephant In The Room.
What if anything did he know about the rampant steroid use on the Oakland A’s during his tenure as President and General Manager?
I wasn’t looking to rain on Sandy’s parade, but simply wanted an acknowledgment that steroids did play a part during those championship years.
Since I wrote that blog on October 21st, my question found it’s way to Ian O’Connor of ESPN who actually demanded an apology from Alderson. Parts of it also appeared on Mets Today, Mets Blog, and yes, even our friends at Amazin’ Avenue dedicated a post to it yesterday.
Anyway, getting back to the “Moneyball Mets”… Sandy Alderson will not have any shortage of resources and payroll, now that he’s in New York.
In fact, this might stir up some great memories for Sandy of the good old days, when he could spend money freely and do whatever it takes to win a championship. And the best part is that in Sandy we’ll have someone who is intelligent enough to spend that money wisely and maintain some semblance of fiscal responsibility for the organization. We couldn’t have hired a more perfect leader to take this team back to respectability and back to a championship caliber level.
Dan Martin of the NY Post had an interesting quote from longtime Alderson associate and assistant in both Oakland and San Diego, executive Grady Fuson.
“He realizes that there are different expectations in New York,” Fuson said. “And that there should be no five-year rebuilding process when you have the resources the Mets do. People forget, in the late ‘80s, we were pretty much a big-market club, when we were putting rings on our fingers.”
And it’s those resources that Alderson didn’t have toward the end of his tenure as GM in Oakland or CEO in San Diego.
“It’s a totally different job when you have the revenue to work with that he’ll have with the Mets,”
Fuson, who knows Alderson better than just about any person alive, substantiates what I wrote. Sandy Alderson is a smart guy… a take charge guy… a hands-on guy…
There will be plenty of instances where he’ll turn to advanced statistics to evaluate a potential signing, draft pick or trade target, and that’s not a bad thing. He will use statistics to measure performance and a player’s productivity as well he should. This is what most or all GM’s do each and every day as routine part of their jobs. Baseball is all about numbers, so to ignore them would be akin to disrespecting the game.
However, Alderson will not use sabermetrics as the end-all to running an organization. He will use every tool in his arsenal to build a winner and that includes using his own instincts and scouting reports as well. He will consider things like character because he himself is a man of integrity. This is what he’s done his entire career, and he’s not suddenly going to stop now.
So I urge my sabermetricaly inclined friends, to take a deep breath and stop fantasizing about some Cecil B. DeMille epic where Alderson will raise his mighty staff, part the Hudson River, and lead the Mets into the promised land where they can worship Bill James at the foot of Mount Saber.
It ain’t happening…