The Futility Infielder

A Baseball Journal by Jay Jaffe I'm a baseball fan living in New York City. In between long tirades about the New York Yankees and the national pastime in general, I'm a graphic designer.

Friday, November 25, 2005


It's Educational!

Wednesday's Education section of the Boston Globe featured an article on the Tufts University course, "The Analysis of Baseball: Statistics and Sabermetrics," to which I paid a visit last spring after learning that my DIPS page had wound up on the course syllabus. In the article, by Peter Schworm, yours truly gets in a good quote and a plug for Mind Game:
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.

"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."
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.

A quick visit to the Tufts course's home page reveals that this semester's guest lecturers were Bill James and Alan Schwarz. A bit of a step up from last spring's doubleheader pairing me with Red Sox baseball operations assistant Zack Scott, no? Hey, at least the company's good.

p.s. I've started poking at the 2005 DIPS numbers with a sharp stick, but let's just say that the Hanukkah Fairy is making no promises as to the timing of their arrival.

Thursday, November 24, 2005


Happy Turkey Day

I've managed to come up for air, for a couple of days at least, after meeting both of my deadlines for player comments for Baseball Prospectus 2006. After a long weekend devoted to NOT writing about baseball -- my wife gets me for some quality time, including a celebration of our five-year anniversary together -- I'll be turning my attention to team essays, the JAWS take on the 2006 Hall of Fame ballot, and a very exciting development that will keep me up to my ears in writing about baseball -- none of that pesky graphic design work to track down -- until the new year rings in (details after the i's are dotted and t's are crossed).

Anyway, this is just a note to wish my friends, family and loyal readers a happy Thanksgiving. I'm a big fan of this holiday not only because I enjoy sharing in such a beautiful feast with some of the special people in my life, but because it's a wonderful opportunity for genuine reflection. I count my blessings every year, and I hope you'll take a few moments between the turkey and the mashed potatoes to do the same.

Friday, November 18, 2005


Clearing the Bases -- No, Really, I'm Busy Edition

And you should be too...

• Caught between two batches of player comments, I partook in an email chat about the Dodgers with fellow bloggers and Dodger fans Rich Lederer, Rob McMillan and Jon Weisman, the latter of whom has the transcript of our little roundtable. Suffice it to say that the hiring of Giants assistant GM Ned Colletti as Paul DePodesta's successor fills me with dread (thanks to Jon for inviting me into this little powwow, by the way).

• My man Alex Belth might be his best when his writing only tangentially touches on baseball. This guest piece at Baseball Analysts (Lederer and Bryan Smith's site, where I delivered my Sausage Race piece) is a touching must-read. I think I've got something in my eye.

• The Cy Young voting was, to put it bluntly, for shit, especially in the AL, where Johan Santana got jobbed. The MVPs I'm much happier about. Steve Goldman has an excellent piece of reader mail in the latest Pinstriped Blog on the AL winner: "Aren't you being just a little disingenuous in your A-Rod column, when you wonder why Yankee fans haven't embraced him? Yankee fans aren't smarter than other fans (I wish they were, especially the ones I end up next to at sports bars, but —) The "blame your best player for your team's failure" syndrome has long been identified. If you don't win, it's his fault! — lack of leadership. See all the negative things ever written about Bonds."

• In the wake of ESPN Rag's expansive cover story on steroids in baseball, we've got a stiffer new policy, one that starts the penaltlies at 50 games, includes a lifetime ban for the third offense and testing for amphetamines ("greenies"). Will Carroll has an excellent Q&A about the new policy. In the New York Sun, Tim Marchman explains why the deal is good PR but a horrible precedent in terms of Congressional involvement. Since this may be behind the subscription wall for some, I'll excerpt:
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.

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.
Speaking of those tax benefits...

• ...Nobody covers stadium issues like Neil deMause. This chat, this BP piece, and this Village Voice piece are all required reading for those of you who care about new ballparks, particularly the ones slated to come to the Bronx and Flushing Meadows in 2009. Some frightening stuff there, including the part about $800 million in hidden costs; throw in Bruce Ratner's Brookyn Nets boondoggle and you're up over a billion for New York taxpayers. Quoth deMause:
* 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)

* 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)
So much for the defeat of that West Side Olympic/Jets stadium when it comes to saving New Yorkers money.

• Back to drugs. On the greenies topic, accompanying Jack Curry's piece in the New York Times is a photo of Jim Bouton (circa the time I met him)and a quote from Ball Four: "We don't get them from the trainers because greenies are against club policy, so we get them from other teams who have friends who are doctors of friends who know where to get greenies." Funny that Sen. Jim Bunning's sanctimony about performance enhancers doesn't cover the players of his day who were "beaned up." Or that Sen. John McCain, a former prisoner of war, can find the time to posture on this issue when he's got bigger fish to fry.

Speaking of fish to fry, it's back to reading the tea leaves of toolsy High-A outfielders and the General Managers who love them...

Sunday, November 13, 2005


Clearing the Bases -- Book Season Edition

Back when I attended the Winter Meetings in New Orleans two years ago, I met a handful of Baseball Prospectus writers, nearly all of whom shook their heads, rolled their eyes, and used the term "book season" when describing their general maladies. Now I understand a bit better. I'm up to my rolled eyeballs in my Baseball Prospectus 2006 player comments, with a deadline looming for my first team on Monday and an even more imposing one -- for the other team, which I haven't started, and know less about -- the following Monday. It doesn't help that I'm writing about 50 percent more than I probably need to (Jaffe going over length? Go figure...). I also did a bit of pinch-hitting for the as-yet-unnamed BP book from Basic Books, writing about two-dozen glossary entries for such sabermetric concepts as the defensive spectrum, support-neutral pitching stats, and run expectancy tables. I'm pysched for that book, which will be hitting the shelves in the spring, along with BP06.

Amid this chaos, I've had the opportunity to catch up with a couple of fellow BPers and other baseball buddies in the past few days. Christina Kahrl came through town and offered some sage advice on my BP06 work (she's the co-editor) and an excuse to roust Alex Belth, Alex Ciepley, Cliff Corcoran and Nick Stone for a dinner of comfort food at Chat-N-Chew. We spent a good deal of time talking about the free-agent market, particularly as it pertains to the Yankees, as well as the recent general manager-related drama. And at one point I caught Chris and Alex C. sneaking off to dissect disappointing Cub prospects; I mean, how else does Amaury Telemaco come up in polite conversation?

Later, Chris and I were discussing the demise of the Astros in the World Series. That night I had a strange dream, for part of which I was administering a stern lecture to Astros manager Phil Garner about publicly trashing his players. I was livid, nearly worked up to the point of tears in the dream. Garner, for his part, was severely chastened and admitted he was in the wrong (take heart, Lisa Gray). It wasn't the strangest or most elaborate baseball-related dream I've had, even involving a manager, but it belongs in the pile.

Saturday night found me catching a late drink with BP's Nate Silver after finishing a very rough draft of my first set of player comments. Nate told me about some of the changes to PECOTA, the performance forecasting system that he designed that forms the backbone of the annual book. Lo and behold, Nate and PECOTA are in today's New York Times, in Alan Schwarz's excellent "Keeping Score" column. Check it out, and don't miss the accompanying graphic.

Also in the Sunday Times is a pretty decent Murray Chass take on Rafael Palmeiro's clearance of perjury charges:
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.

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.
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."

As for the Dodger vacancy, I'm rooting for assistant GM Kim Ng to get the job. Not only would she be the first woman (not to mention the first Asian-American) to hold the job in major professional sports, but she's got a very solid resume that includes work with the White Sox, the Yankees (where she became the first female aGM) and the American League, and a great reputation among her peers. She knows the Dodger system, particularly the bumper crop of prospects slated to arrive over the next couple of years, and she's well suited to continue the groundwork laid by her predecessors, Dan Evans and Paul DePodesta, both of whom got the rawest of deals from new owner Frank McCourt (as an upside, maybe the likes of Bill Plaschke and T. J. Simers, assclown L.A. Times columnists who virulently attacked DePodesta from day one, might pull a Bill Singer in trashing her, embarrassing themselves out of a job).

Of course, there are very solid reasons for Ng not to even want the job. The Dodgers have been in chaos since McCourt purchased the team almost two years ago. Failing to invest appropriate capital in the team, firing a GM two years into a five-year plan, firing that GM three weeks after he let the manager go, generally letting the mainstream L.A. media bully him around, giving the impression that Special Advisor Tommy Lasorda is the puppetmaster, making shell-shocked fans yearn for the carefree, spendaholic days of the Fox regime... ugh. Ng "would be set up to fail," argues J.A. Andade of the L.A. Times, continuing:
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.

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?
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.

Anyway, gotta stop this ramble to polish up those player comments. Hopefully I'll get my head back above the Mendoza Line before too long...

Friday, November 04, 2005


"New Heavyweight Champion of the World"

Did I promise "more chat?" The title of this post was bestowed upon me by Baseball Prospectus' Jason Grady, who clocked my BP Chat debut -- scheduled to run two hours on Thursday -- at three hours and 35 minutes. That's believed to be a BP record, coming only a few weeks after Christina Kahrl broke the three-hour barrier. What can I say? Like Christopher Columbus, I didn't set out trying to make history.

I answered 56 questions in all, from a diverse international group (Canada and England represented along with the US) that included family (my brother Bryan), friends, fellow bloggers, FI readers, and a surprisingly large contingent of women (seven or eight, with about another three or four that went unanswered). GMs were the hot topic, with questions about Paul DePodesta, Theo Epstein, Brian Cashman, the Brewers' Doug Melvin, and Pat Gillick, the Phillies' new hire, abounding. Folks had a lot of questions on the World Champion White Sox and their ability to repeat, and several off-topic questions about New York City as I shared a bit of background with my audience. Wrestling references abounded, and I'm pleased to announce that Vince McMahon has cast one Screamin'J to be in a steel cage match coming to you via pay-per-view very soon. Of course, I spent a fair deal of time talking about the Yanks, Dodgers, and Red Sox, but I also expanded and spent a good deal of time on the Brewers, Mets, Rockies, A's, and other teams.

A few of my better answers:
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?

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.
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.

Reading over the transcript, some of my answers are pretty superficial; that's a product of the situation of having two questions pop up for every one that you answer. It's a blessing that I can't actually hyperlink in there or stop to look up splits every time somebody asked a really deep question about what Team X should do, or I'd still be there eleven hours deep. But it was a hell of a good time, and I thank everybody who submitted a question and/or stopped by for the chat. Check it out (it's free), and if you were somebody who submitted a burning question that didn't get answered, drop it in the comments and I'll take a crack at it at my leisure.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005


More Chat, Less Hat

Just a reminder that my first Baseball Prospectus chat is slated for Thursday, November 3 at 1:00 PM Eastern. I've had a chance to preview the questions submitted by BP and FI readers and there are plenty of good ones, but I certainly would welcome more, so follow the link above if you have one burning a hole in your head (well, seek help if it's actually burning, or at least pour a glass of water on it). The recent postseason, the Hot Stove league, awards, deposed GMs, Yanks, Dodgers, the Hit List, JAWS, DIPS, Mind Game, Stottlemyre, The Claussen Pickle or any of my other pet projects -- I'll take my best swing at anything you've got. And if you're on your lunch break, trying to look busy while at work, or simply unemployed and fed up with trying to get a break in today's difficult job market, drop on by!

Tuesday, November 01, 2005


Death From Above

It's a horrible time to be a young, progressive GM or a statheaded fan of one. In a three-day span we've seen both the Dodgers' Paul DePodesta and the Red Sox Theo Epstein leave their posts, the former fired by a thin-skinned, impatient owner, the latter unwilling to work with his poisonous viper of a mentor, walking away from a contract extension that had been reported as done. With both the Dodgers and the Red Sox failing to live up to the lofty accomplishments of their 2004 seasons, the departures will doubtless be spun by the mainstream mediocrity, er, media as repudiations of the Moneyball ethos that links the two bright young execs. Time to invest in a new pair of hip waders, kids, because the bullshit will be especially deep.

Obviously, there are some similarities between the two cases. The 2005 editions of both the Dodgers and the Red Sox were done in by injuries, a stupefying, record-setting avalanche of them in the case of the former, a smaller handful centering around a pair of gritty pitchers who left more than a little piece of themselves on the field during their championship run in the case of the latter. Both GMs were in the process of turning over aged, expensive rosters assembled by their predecessors, looking to shed large salaries while building from within, but they never got a chance to implement their visions fully.

The tenures of both GMs were curtailed by the duplicitous conduct of those above them -- senior VP Tommy Lasorda planting the bug in owner Frank McCourt's ear that it was time to get back to the Dodger Way, Sox CEO Leaky Larry Lucchino chafing at the credit his protegé received and, as is his modus operandi, using the media to retaliate. The media played a role in DePo's demise as well, with the Bill Plaschkes and T.J. Simerses of the world bashing him endlessly in the pages of the L.A. Times and elsewhere since the day he was hired, preying on the undercapitalized and inexperienced McCourt's sensitivity to criticism while doggedly defending the old guard.

I could write 5000 words on this if I had the time, and indeed I will, only you won't get to read them unless you buy Baseball Prospectus 2006 (wink, wink, nudge, nudge). With a heap of player comments and other work awaiting me, I'm going to conserve my bullets, though I'll offer a few here:

• Jon Weisman of Dodger Thoughts points out the rough edges of the so-called Dodger Way, such as the unseemly departures of True Blue heroes like Jackie Robinson, the Longest-Running Infield, Dusty Baker and Kirk Gibson, and the fact that for all of the team's historical success, they have never made the postseason for more than two years in a row. Shocking, isn't it? Here's more:
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.

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.
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.

• Rich Lederer of Basball Analysts has no fewer than 32 questions for McCourt. "If experience is so important, why do the McCourts think they know how to run a baseball team?" asks one. "If McCourt 'wants Dodgers here,' then how does [crusty old GM candidate Pat] Gillick fit into that goal?" asks another. "Is baseball the only business in the world in which a degree from Harvard is a negative?" Inquiring minds want to know.

• At The Juice Blog, Will Carroll steps out of his roles as injury analyst and rumor hound to link the DePodesta firing to the White Sox winning the World Series:
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.

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.
A must-read.

• ESPN's Jerry Crasnick notes the odd timing of the DePodesta move after DePo fired manager Jim Tracy:
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.

...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.
• 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:
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."

I found Pinto's Cashman comparison a bit puzzling at first, commenting
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).

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.
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."

Mmmm, delicious irony covered with a special, creamy schadenfreude sauce. The man who called the Yankees the Evil Empire (and who drove Alex Rodriguez into their waiting arms) has proven to be a more odious boss than George Steinbrenner himself, odious enough to drive away the best and brightest from his dream job.

I should say, mind you, that my sense of schadenfreude is towards Lucchino, not towards Sox fans reading this. You guys (and gals) have been jobbed out of the man who brought equality to one of sport's great rivalries, the man who's made the past three years of Yankee-Red Sox matchups into Ali-Frazier heavyweight title bouts, exhilarating and exhausting. Which isn't to say that the rivalry won't continue on the equal footing it's been on the past three years, but you folks want to see Lucchino's lifeless feet swinging from a lamppost even more than I do.

• My BP colleague Christina Kahrl hits a home run on the two GM departures in her latest Transaction Analysis:
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.

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.
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:
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.

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.
Fantastic stuff, at least if you're a BP subscriber.

There are plenty of nuances to both of these stories, and I wish I could take all day to explore them. Suffice it to say that the men chosen to fill these gaps will add a great deal of further context to these two departures, which seemed so improbable just a few weeks ago. While neither DePodesta nor Epstein may find themselves at the helm of another team this winter, we haven't heard the last of either man or the chaos left in their wake.


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