Thursday, January 5, 2012

Moneyball, indeed

Despite being a 30-plus year A's fan (who also likes the Dodgers), I still haven't seen the movie "Moneyball". I'm not in a big hurry to watch a glorification of a GM (Billy Beane) whose decisions have done his franchise more harm than good, especially in the last five years. And I'm not alone in my criticism of Beane, either.

Columnist Jonah Keri offers a spot-on assessment of where the A's are as an organization. He begins:
Billy Beane loves to talk about Windows. The Window is the short period of time in which small-revenue clubs supposedly have to compete. Right now, the Window is closed in Oakland. The Window was open once, and the A's general manager did everything he could to keep it that way just a little bit longer. But changes in the game, we're told, have made it harder and harder to prop open the Window even a crack … much less wide open, allowing years of fresh air and pennants to waft in.

There is a nugget of truth behind this Window obsession. Smaller-revenue teams have a tougher time signing premium free agents, or retaining their own top players past their initial six years of team control. That puts extra pressure on these poorer teams to bring up a bunch of great prospects all at once, then hope they get good at the same time before they get expensive.

But far more often it's a [baloney] excuse. It's a vague, faraway goal that always seems several years out of reach. It's a cover for cheap, greedy ownership, lousy scouting, drafting, and player development, and myopic trades. It's a weak attempt to placate a fan base screwed over by years of management incompetence and indifference.

Or in the case of the Oakland A's, their recent fire sale and justification for said fire sale, it's a bold-faced ploy by one opportunistic owner to win territory from another opportunistic owner so that another city can hand out another $500 million check for another boondoggle stadium.

Real estate developer and A's owner Lew Wolff is champing at the bit to build a new ballpark in San Jose. It's a move that's supposed to boost interest in the A's and attendance for their games. The Giants' owners are holding up the deal, claiming territorial rights in San Jose. The Giants won those rights two decades ago, when then-A's owner Walter Haas Jr. ostensibly did them a favor. Whether or not the Giants owe them repayment of that favor and whether or not the commissioner's office should step in to broker a deal, the way it did when the Expos moved to D.C. in relation to the Orioles' territorial rights, is an open question.

While all this gets debated, A's fans will get treated to some lousy baseball. And some sad talk about Windows.

There's a lot more here. If you can deal with his one F-bomb at the end, it's worth the read.

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