The Michael Lewis book (and major motion picture) suggests that the deck is stacked against the A's, but do they want it that way?
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Contrary to what you might hear from more retrograde members of the baseball establishment, sabermetrics and storytelling don't have to be at odds.
As Opening Day approaches, hope springs eternal all around the majors. Some teams' bids at contention are founded upon the presumed maturation of exciting youngsters. Others rest their hopes on their stars' ability to turn back the clock and play as though their time had never passed. You could be forgiven for thinking that the latter was the strategy of the Anti-Sabermetric Brigade, a constellation of writers who insist upon fighting a war that has been fought and largely settled. Yet, signs of their resurgence keep popping up.
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A look at the course of action teams from the junior circuit are considering this offseason, along with other news and notes from around the major leagues.
The hot stove season really began to heat up this week during the general manager's meetings in Orlando and figures to only get warmer by the time executives return to the Magic Kingdom on December 6 for the winter meetings. Here is a look at what each of the American League teams might do between now and the start of spring training:
The retirement of a minor league catcher incites the revisiting of a now-infamous book.
The news that Jeremy Brown was hanging up his spikes due to "personal issues" made more of a stir last week than you'd expect from the retirement of a 28-year-old catcher who's spent the last two years in Triple-A. Our prospects expert, Kevin Goldstein, gave Brown an extremely evenhanded send-off over on Unfiltered; others have been less charitable, invoking imaginary choruses of scouts cheering the end of Brown's career. At least, I hope the cheering is imaginary: it'd take a Grinch-sized heart to rejoice in the end of someone's big-league dreams, unless their name is, say, Ben Christensen. The reason that Brown is the focus of such attention and schadenfreude is because the A's drafted him in the first round of the 2002 draft-an overdraft which, by itself, wouldn't be that noteworthy-and because Michael Lewis wrote a best-selling book which hailed Brown's selection as the bellwether of a new way of doing business, which the author dubbed "Moneyball" in the book of the same name. Apparently, those celebrating Brown's retirement are marking the occasion as the death of Moneyball acumen-a festive wake, with dancing and ironic toasts.
Statistics are a tool, not unlike a microscope. Statistics are a hammer, a speculum, a thermometer. A statistics-based approach to understanding of baseball is one of many paths to knowledge of the game. Calling those who take that path "freaks" or "Nazis" makes as much sense as calling a Ph.D. chemist a wimp because he tests the qualities of his cyanide compound by means of Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy rather than just drinking the thing.
In 1937, George and Ira Gershwin wrote a song for the Fred Astaire-Ginger Rogers picture Shall We Dance that was an instant classic satire of the human need to scoff at the merest hint of progress: