Moneyball, Moneyball, Moneyball, that’s all we ever seem to hear or read about these days. Between me and all the other Mets fans deciding to buy and read the Michael Lewis book, it might just make its way back to the NY Times best-seller list if it hasn’t already.
It’s a good book, but also a very misunderstood book as well – misunderstood by baseball fans on both sides of the argument. I’ve reserved commenting on it as I try to get a better sense of what direction the team is moving in under the new Alderson led regime.
Meanwhile, I came across a great article by John Harper of the Daily News last week, which contained some very revealing quotes from J.P. Ricciardi on, what else? Moneyball.
Ricciardi, sitting down for an interview in his hometown of Worcester last week, winced at the mention of “Moneyball.”
“It’s been a farce,” he said. “Michael Lewis is an outstanding writer, but there were a lot of liberties taken with the book that really didn’t paint a lot of people in the right light.”
“There’s no magic wand we’re going to be able to wave just because we’re working together and all of the sudden we’re going to be a World Series team.
Obviously, after reading that, I was firmly committed to reading the rest of this article in full. What Ricciardi was trying to accomplish in this interview according to Harper, was to dispel the misconceptions he believes were created by “Moneyball.”
“I found it funny that I got penciled as a geek or a moneyball guy,” said Ricciardi, “when my whole background was in scouting and player development, with the ability to see something in a player and use that to take him in the draft or make a trade.”
“The book made it seem as if we didn’t value scouts, and it created such a wedge between the so-called traditional baseball people and the non-traditional that I didn’t think it was fair.”
As far as that goes, I totally agree with Ricciardi, the book did take certain liberties as far as painting much of the decision making process as being predominantly dependent on stats. That part of it didn’t really ring true to me because I know many saber types who are adamant that advanced metrics are just another tool to help in the player valuation process. And as far as that goes, the more tools you can use, the better the decisions you will make.
Ricciardi also explains that they were only doing whatever they could do to find undervalued players and be creative, and that they weren’t trying to reinvent the game or come off like they knew more than everybody else.
“We did things like trading for Jason Isringhausen and making him a closer, but we could do things like that because we had the opportunity and the need to find ways to fill holes. We didn’t walk around saying we were smarter than everybody else, but the book tried to make it seem like that.”
He concludes by adamantly stating that things have gone too far with sabermetrics.
“We never said we should get rid of scouts and just use stats. We were just smart enough to use some of that to help make good decisions. Today, I think the game has gone too far in the direction of using stats. I think there’s a happy medium, with a need for evaluating players based on what you see with your own eyes.”
One more thing that I thought was important to mention is what Ricciardi had to say about the rumors floating around that Terry Collins will be an extension of the front office.
“That’s another misconception,” said Ricciardi, “that Big Brother is up in the sky, controlling every move the manager makes. There has to be cohesiveness between the front office and the manager, but we want Terry to use his instincts, his thought process during games. We want the manager to be able to think on his feet and make the moves that give us the best chance to win.”
For all of you Mets fans who are still fearful of this huge sabermetric overthrow of Mets baseball, relax.
As you can see, much of the jubilation and celebration on one side, and all the doom and gloom on the other side, is really much ado about nothing. What we have here is actually very simple.
We have some new guys, that are going to try some new things, and hopefully we end up with some much better results than we’ve had in the last few years.
Now is that so awful?
Lets Go Mets!