The class has excited baseball analysts, who view it as a potential tipping point for the increasingly influential field. Sabermetrics -- the name derives from the Society for American Baseball Research, or SABR -- is derided in some circles as the presumptuous work of computer geeks who never played the game. But its tenets, embraced by successful teams such as the Oakland Athletics and Red Sox, is changing the way the game is watched and played.Schworm interviewed me six weeks ago, and I'd pretty much written off any chance of the article seeing daylight, so it was a nice surprise to get a heads up on this. Since that interview, however, the regimes of two sabermetrically-inclined teams, the Red Sox and the Dodgers, have been toppled. So much for timing.
"It's another sign of sabermetrics's growing acceptance," said Jay Jaffe, one of the contributing authors of "Mind Game: How the Boston Red Sox Got Smart, Won a World Series, and Created a New Blueprint for Winning," and a guest lecturer at the Tufts class last spring. "We're going to wind up with a generation of fans that isn't as beholden to the sacred cows as before."
I still think the idea of Congress subjecting Americans to international law is dubious at best, especially when that law is to be administered by the International Olympic Committee, and I still think Congress was wrong to threaten to write laws that would forbid ballplayers and other athletes from taking legal substances.Speaking of those tax benefits...
This last point is subtler than it is usually thought to be. Because the federal government subsidizes professional sports through various elements of the tax code - especially those that allow municipal bonds meant for the construction of ballparks to be issued tax-free and those that allow corporate entertainment in pricey luxury boxes to be written off as a business expense - it does have a legitimate interest in the inner workings of those sports. The appropriate way to protect that interest, though, would be to threaten sports owners with the revocation of those elements of the tax code, not to threaten legislation of the game.
The difference is important. In the former scenario, the government says that the corruption and illegitimacy brought about by drug use in sports is an issue important enough that the government is willing to forego revenue over it; in the latter, it keeps on subsidizing wickedness while creating a class of citizens to whom a different set of laws applies.
Of course, Congress would never take tax benefits worth billions away from sports owners - plutocrats who in their day jobs as CEOs contribute millions to re-election campaigns and party committees; so, rather than dealing with the problem through the appropriate means, it bullied players and owners into cutting a new deal by claiming the law would be re-written if they didn't.
I can't sign on to that. Process is important, and there are things much more valuable than ensuring juiced-up shortstops can have the book thrown at them if they fail a drug test - things like ensuring Congress doesn't illegitimately intervene in the workings of American businesses. Yesterday might have been a good day for baseball, but it was a bad day for the country at large.
* YANKEES: $379-469 million ($140m in city funds, $15m in city rent rebates on current stadium, $0-90m in Metropolitan Transportation Authority capital expenses, $55m in tax-exempt bond subsidies, $44m in property-tax savings, $22m in sales-tax breaks on construction materials, $103m in forgone city rent revenues)So much for the defeat of that West Side Olympic/Jets stadium when it comes to saving New Yorkers money.
* METS: $435 million ($85m in city funds, $15m in city rent rebates on current stadium, $75m in state funds, $96m in forgone city parking revenues, $55m in tax-exempt bond subsidies, $39m in property-tax savings, $16m in sales-tax breaks on construction materials, $54m in forgone city rent revenues)
* NETS: $399 million ($100m in city funds, $100m in state funds, $50m in tax-exempt bond savings, $21m in property-tax savings, $14m in sales-tax breaks on construction materials, $114m in discounted land price)
After he learned he had tested positive for stanozolol, a serious steroid, Palmeiro said he could only speculate that a vial of vitamin B12 he got from Miguel Tejada, the Orioles shortstop, had been contaminated with it.Of course, Chass may have simply taken his medication before he wrote that one; clearly that was lacking when he concluded that the Dodgers hiring Nationals GM Jim Bowden (whose first two moves for the Nats consisted of $23 million worth of contracts for Cristian Guzman and Vinny Castilla, two players who combined for a grisly 4.4 VORP in 2005) would be a "smart move." Yikes. Suffice it to say that it made my day to find out that Bowden wasn't interested in the Dodger job but was slated to interview for the Red Sox GM opening. As Nick quipped, "Talk about consolidating your schadenfruede into one low monthly payment."
Getting into this area, though, Palmeiro's defense begins to raise questions. For one thing, Canseco wrote in his book that Palmeiro and other players had used stanozolol.
For another, Tejada and two other, unidentified Orioles players, all of whom acknowledged taking B12 shots from Tejada's supply, produced negative tests. Additional vials of B12 that Tejada provided upon request were also clean.
Those three players, of course, could have used tainted B12 shots and not had the substance in their systems when they were tested. If he had steroids-tainted B12 liquid and knew it, Tejada could have supplied different, clean B12 liquid for testing.
But the question remains: If it wasn't the B12 shot, which not even the union believes it was, how did Palmeiro have stanozolol in his system? By immaculate ingestion?
That is the sticking point one has to get past to believe that Palmeiro didn't knowingly use steroids. Palmeiro's test in 2003 was negative, according to the report (2004's results were gone), as was a test Palmeiro took on May 27 - 23 days after the date of the positive test but two weeks before he was notified he had tested positive.
Then it would be impossible for her to land another GM job. As hard as it would be for a team to sell a female general manager to its fans, imagine trying to sell them on a woman with a losing record. And the problem with being first is, Ng would represent every woman who hoped to follow her.That said, I think Ng's hiring would be the silver lining within the dark cloud hanging over the Dodgers. It would be very tough for McCourt, having annointed her, to give her anything but a fair shake, and if he didn't... well, blood may not run through the streets of L.A, but red caps may. The Dodgers have already ceded the city of angels to, well, the Angels (Dodger Thoughts' Jon Weisman has an excellent compare-and-contrast piece in his Baseball Prospectus debut). With the wrong decisions this winter, it may be quite awhile before they can earn it back.
Chavez Ravine has been such a bad place for general managers over the last eight years that even male GMs can't overcome the stigma. Of the four men who have held the position since Fred Claire got the boot in 1998, none has landed a similar job with another team.
The situation is as bleak as it has been in a while. We don't know how closer Eric Gagne and shortstop Cesar Izturis will recover from their surgeries. We don't know whom the Dodgers will get to replace Milton Bradley. There are questions at the corner infield positions. There are payroll restrictions and few tradable assets. The one strength, a solid farm system, might not kick in soon enough to benefit her.
...Unfortunately, because somebody has to be first, these are some of the issues Ng, 36, would face in addition to representing a new era in baseball.
Her qualifications can't be questioned. She went to a top-notch school, the University of Chicago. She has worked for the White Sox under Ron Schueler and Dan Evans, the Yankees under Brian Cashman and the Dodgers under Evans again in an era that's starting to look like the good old days. She has helped negotiate contracts with the likes of Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera.
If stat-geek boys who didn't play the game or drive rental cars from minor league town to minor league town can grow up to be general managers, why can't girls do it?
Amol (Poughkeepsie, NY): Derek Jeter finally manged to be an above average shortstop, at least according to the statistics, and it even seems to be confusing Clay Davenport. Previously, I had thought that it might be an A-Rod effect, but considering his performance this year, it seems unlikely. Do you have any theories?On that last note ("a travesty wrapped..."), my pal Nick (who had a question of his own answered) offered up this assessment via email: "So it's something like a Turducken, then?" I practically fell out of my chair laughing and meant to work it into the chat, but it got away from me.
Jay Jaffe: It's a real puzzle that we were discussing on our internal mailing list the other day.
Judging by our numbers, I do think it's an A-Rod effect. Jeter's strength is his arm, so going in the hole toward third base and making the strong throw is his bread and butter, while his footwork and moving to his left towards second is his biggest defensive weakness.
Scott Brosius and Robin Ventura were excellent 3Bs but nowhere near as athletic as Rodriguez. With him to his right, Jeter can shade towards second and get to more ground balls than he did before.
DrLivy (Charleston, WV): Jay: Did aliens suck Theo's brains out this year, after he was so smart last year? I mean, that payroll and that pitching. Wow. Forrest Gump could have put together a better staff.
Jay Jaffe: Theo made some good moves and some not-so-good ones last winter, and many of the breaks that fell the Sox way in 2004 did not in 2005. For bad moves, I'd start with the Edgar Renteria contract (4/$40 MM) and suggest that the Varitek contract was a Faustian bargain he had to make to stay in the good graces of the locker room and the fan base.
I think the Wells deal worked out OK, that Clement's season was affected by his getting drilled, that Curt Schilling and Keith Foulke left bigger pieces of themselves on the field last October than anyone realized at the time (and that the team should have spent more time insuring they were fully healthy before pitching in 2005), that Wade Miller was a worthy gamble, and that no matter how much they missed Pedro Martinez, resigning him at those prices was a huge risk not worth taking.
I'm somewhat surprised Theo couldn't pull off a midseason deal for an extra starter by dangling a prospect, but I think that goes to show that he had reasonable expectations for this year and was looking out for the organization's longer-term interests. If you're a Sox fan whose 86-year wait has just been ended, I think you have to respect that.
Vince McMahon (Hell): Dan Shaughnessy and Bill Plaschke vs. Christina Kahrl and Joe Sheehan in a cage match. Pay-per-view spectacular! What do you think?
Jay Jaffe: In the words of Homer Simpson, "I have two questions: 'How much?' and 'Give it to me!'" My money is on the BP tag-team.
Speaking of Shaughnessy, I learned that his nickname, Curly Haired Boyfriend, was given to him by Carl Everett. If so, I think that almost justifies Everett's entire existence on this planet (which was, contrary to his opinion, once covered with dinosaurs).
scareduck (somewhere west of Hell, MI): Any comments on the firing of Paul DePodesta?
Jay Jaffe: Is that RMc of 6-4-2? Glad you could join us.
The firing of DePodesta is a travesty wrapped inside a debacle inside a catastrophe. For firing their GM three weeks after he ditched the manager, the McCourt family should be forced to wear matching t-shirts that say, "I'm With Stupid".
Seriously, bowing to the public pressure created by no-brain hacks like Plaschke and Simers and scrapping a five-year plan after year two is one of the dumbest, most thin-skinned things I've seen since the George Steinbrenner '80s. Why any GM would want to take the Dodger job -- even with that great looking farm system and the chance to build on the groundwork left by Dan Evans and DePo -- is beyond me. McCourt and the backstage machinations of Tommy Lasorda would appear to have poisoned the well.
It was legendary Dodger executive Branch Rickey, a statistician, who said it was better to trade a player a year early than a year late. That is the foundation of the Dodger tradition.Slam dunk. Weisman, who was quoted in an L.A. Times article on the Dodger shakeup, has several essential links to other good articles, both in the blogs and the mainstream media.
Meanwhile, Tommy Lasorda's 1988 World Series title was preceded by three losing seasons out of four from 1984-87. The only place that the Dodgers have valued stability over performance in the past 50 years, where one could fail or grow old without repercussions, has been the front office.
The idea that somehow, Paul DePodesta violated the Dodger ethos by trading Paul Lo Duca or Dave Roberts, or letting Adrian Beltre go, or watching a division winner have a losing season the following year, is patently absurd, and anyone who says otherwise has simply forgotten or chosen to forget the team's history.
...The Dodgers traditionally win when they rely on their farm system and the farm system produces. To be sure, the farm system doesn't always produce. But in their entire history in Los Angeles, the team has made only one playoff appearance with fewer than five home-grown players in the starting lineup. That team was the hallowed 2004 team at whose breakup everyone is so aghast.
DePodesta bet his future on the Dodger Way, transforming the team into one that was going to rely on the farm system, supported by a few outside acquisitions. He had not finished the job - a 71-91 record indicates that - but he was doing exactly what people have been asking for since 1988. He was doing exactly what the Dodgers have been doing almost forever.
People will mark the day that the White Sox won the World Series as the beginning of the backlash, though it began at the tipping point the other way. The sabermetric revolution reached the masses -- and the ears of many owners for the first time - with Moneyball... Sabermetrics was a long, meaningless word with difficult spelling and to date, I'm not sure it's ever been uttered on ESPN without being attached to Moneyball.A must-read.
As Beane's philosophy spread apostle-like (or more accurately, restarting a tradition of coaches such as Bear Bryant, Bill Walsh, and Vince Lombardi, as well as Paul Richards) to Toronto, Boston, and Los Angeles, as well as other outposts like Cleveland, Colorado, and Texas, the great story of Moneyball fast became legend. Legend, as we all know, trumps fact every time. The legend threatened a tobacco-stained oligarchy because they felt threatened, not that they were. No organization got rid of scouts and when they did fire them, it was never because they were replaced by a laptop. Scouts get fired, regularly, by organizations of all stripes. Almost everyone in baseball understands the "hired to be fired" mentality of the game.
...There have been books and columns and insane, fact-ignoring rants in the years since Moneyball came out and became the descriptive term for using business-based methodology in baseball. Most have some basis in friendship - writers protect their friends and more importantly their sources - and in fact. The book short-shrifted scouts in order to make a good story. By writing that good story and shifting it to a Faulknerian good vs bad scenario, Moneyball did as much damage as it did good. Don't get me wrong - it's a phenomenal book. It's a bad legend.
So it's really the book, or the idea of the book, and not the Kenny Williams-Ozzie Guillen Series win that started the backlash... The upcoming backlash is a quick snack, the snap judgement of those looking for a reason. The White Sox are a broken bottle, the weapon of opportunity, not of choice. They'll just as soon bludgeon the Yankees and Red Sox with their own checkbooks. They'll ignore the blended approach of Tim Purpura, Kevin Towers, and Walt Jocketty for the more expeditious free-swinging high risk, high reward Angels and White Sox. The backlash will be led by people that would be better served by trying to find a new generation to mold, to find the middle ground that so many refuse to acknowledge exists.
Think about it: Is there a more dysfunctional scenario than ownership cutting loose the manager and general manager three weeks apart? Short of walking around wearing sandwich signs with "We're Clueless" on the front, the McCourts couldn't have provided a greater gift to media critics who view them as an easy target.• Turning to Epstein, most Sox fans are sympathetic to his plight and his reasons for leaving. Here's Sully from The House That Dewey Built:
...There's no disputing that DePodesta's personal style was detrimental to his job security. He was harder to find than Sandy Koufax during spring training in Vero Beach. And in crisis time -- for instance, when the Dodgers took a pounding for backing out of the Javier Vazquez trade last winter -- he was slow to return phone calls and articulate his position to the press. Maybe he just felt that he shouldn't have to, that he was smarter than everybody else.
But this much is clear: DePodesta deserved more than 21 months to execute his vision and prove himself, just as his predecessor, Dan Evans, didn't deserve to be canned after two years on the job. There has to be a happy medium between Chuck LaMar's decade-long tenure with Tampa Bay and management-by-turnstile in LA.
Thank you for everything, and know that you will always have legions of admirers, particularly amongst my demographic (College Grads in their 20’s). Graduating college and entering the real world can be tough because there’s no real manual on demeanor, professionalism, humility and really just how to carry yourself as an ambitious young adult. But the reason why this one will hurt for a long time for us is that I think we all got the sense that Theo had it all down pat - extremely hard working, smart, humble and ultimately, principled. I have no doubt that he will enjoy considerable success throughout the remainder of his working life.Noting that Epstein is "no Brian Cashamn," David Pinto of Baseball Musings writes, "Good for Theo. He stuck to his guns and when it wasn't going to work out, he left. It's the Red Sox loss. Theo can go home knowing his the only living person to put together a championship in Boston."
Cashman had the clout to extract a commitment from his boss that the Yankee front office would be more functional and orderly (not that it means things will work out that way, but admitting you have a problem is the first step).To that comment, Pinto replied, "The Brian Cashman line was to reflect how people think Steinbrenner is impossible to work with, but Cashman does it. It turns out that it's Lucchino that's the tough one to deal with. At least with the Boss you always know where you stand."
Epstein clearly did not have that clout, and now the Sox lose a promising GM who, as you say, is the only who can claim to have brought them a championship. Epstein loses a high-proflie job where he had huge resources to draw upon, not to mention the eternal goodwill of the fanbase for his role in ending the 86-year drought. I'm not sure I see a win for either side there, except in the Pyrrhic sense.
In case you've missed the events of the last 72 hours, counterrevolution is the fashion, and as our own Will Carroll has put it, the weapon of choice is the White Sox. Skip however smug and frequently fact-free interpretations of why the White Sox won are--maybe it's just me, but "pitching, defense and the three-run home run" was Earl Weaver's formula, not Gene Mauch's. However much Ozzieball is a put-up job, it's manna from heaven for the industry's old guard, a generation of men grown jealous in recent years over the credit heaped upon the game's up-and-coming wave of general managers.After exploring the specifics of the two situations, Karhl sounds a topical note when turning her attention to the media's role in all of this:
However unnecessary the "rivalry" between old-school baseball and the next generation of management techniques could and should have been, that struggle has taken on a life of its own. In this sort of contest, the scorecard is not one that counts whether DePo and Theo were both General Managers of teams in the postseason in 2004, or one that records that Epstein's Red Sox did something that Gorman's or Duquette's did not. Success is apparently not the measure of success, it is instead what the now-unfashionable smart kids were damned well supposed to deliver, and the moment that they didn't, they were there to be scapegoated.
These are not the same stories, this particular tale of two cities, but I would suggest that both team's decisions to make changes at the top reflect a battle over fundamentals, not just over the way the game is operated, but how it is supposed to be remembered, and more basically, who is supposed to be remembered. In Beantown, the capacity for jealousy is what poisoned what was supposed to be a model for success in contemporary front office management. Sadly, a team president seems unusually insecure over his place in history. But when America was treated to the bizarre spectacle of Tom Werner, the man who Huizenganated San Diego baseball, suddenly sharing in the credit for Boston's victory in 2004, we were reminded of the truth in the adage that victory has many fathers, while defeat is an orphan.
The poisonous synergy between baseball's old guard and media figures only too ready to rely upon them for the peculiarly dopey "inside dope" is a significant component of this backlash. Both are motivated by careerism, and both stand to lose a lot to what will inevitably be characterized as the "Moneyball" generation of GMs. Again, baseball reflects the times in which we live, an age where the historical actors and the fourth estate interact in such a way that each simultaneously perverts and supports the purposes of the other. Journalists consider their jobs to be no more than the regurgitation of the information they're handed, either from every baseball club's increasingly polished media relations department, or courtesy of some unnamed inside source. It doesn't matter that such sourcing is transparent, whether it's Bob Nightengale's reliance on tales told by two owners named Jerry, or Dan Shaughnessy playing Howdy Doody to fulfill the desire of a Larry To Be Named Later to play "who's your daddy." The '90s showed us that careers involving hopping up and dancing on laps were lucrative; little did we know it was journalism that was the real growth industry on that score. Face it, whether you're a columnist or you're on the beat, once you've settled in, it's not only easy to settle for repeating what you're told, it spares you a lot of the lame daily exercise that goes with chasing down stale pre- and postgame quotes. Nobody thinks of affording themselves the opportunity to pursue actual storylines, like the events of a game (you know, the news event), or assessing a team's performance using facts. Such things simply are not done.Fantastic stuff, at least if you're a BP subscriber.
But however bad that content, or however transparent its craven quality, however standard-issue the bilge may be, that bilge possesses an addictive quality all its own to the subjects of such attention. Insulated within their profession, baseball management, on the field or off, is notoriously tin-eared. It's this that links these two decisions, whether it is Lucchino's jealousy of the credit given to his one-time protege, or McCourt's fear of being singled out for not being a good "baseball guy" for hiring one of those damned kids. In both cases, the elder man has betrayed his responsibilities to the future to hoard the worthless kudos of fickle friends. In each case, I would suggest they have made life easier for their division rivals in the long term. In the short term, whoever inherits the Dodgers has a great chance to look good for a year before being forced to rely on his own judgement. As for the immediate future for whoever goes to Boston, I think it's much less rosy: whoever goes in is going to have to have plenty of Blistex on hand to keep the Bossling happy, while having very little actual control over the franchise.
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