Thursday, September 29, 2011

Random Thoughts - Night of Collapse / Moneyball

The Braves and the Red Sox did it. Both teams successfully completed epic collapses. The Braves blew a 10.5 game lead over the Cardinals in the National League and the Red Sox gave up a 9 game lead to the Rays in the American League. The funny thing is - no one gives a crap that the Braves are not in the Postseason. And if you are a Braves fans on a day that has to be one of the worst in the teams storied history you can take solace in the fact that the Red Sox are the ones garnering all of the collapse attention. Click for more after the jump on the Night of Collapse and Moneyball...

The Red Sox are a franchise notorious for losing in historic fashion. Last night was no different. The events that occurred last night alone could probably pen a book by Michael Lewis (more to follow on Moneyball). For those of you that were in a movie theatre, it went a little something like this: Rays throw their Ace David Price against the Yankees and a pitcher that I've never heard of (Cue "Yankees are tanking complaints from Red Sox Nation"). Rays promptly go down 7-0. Jon Lester on three days rest pitches very effectively for the Red Sox and leaves the game with a 3-2 lead. Rays cut lead to 7-6 after 6 runs in the bottom of the Eighth. Rays PH Dan Johnson hits an improbable HR with 2 outs and 2 strikes in the bottom of the Ninth to tie the Yankees at 7. Red Sox blow chance to add some insurance runs after 1st and 3rd no outs in the top of ninth. Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon takes the mound and gets the first two hitters to strikeout. 2 outs, no one on base. Then double, RBI double, Game winning RBI single. Red Sox lose and now await the fate of the Rays. 3 minutes later Evan Longoria scorches AL Wild-Card clinching HR. Only the Red Sox could lose like this. 

As fun as it was to write that last paragraph about the Red Sox historic collapse all balled into one night, I have to admit - I wasn't there to witness it. Nope. At 7-0 Yankees in the 6th, 3-2 Red Sox in the 6th, 3-1 Braves in the 7th, and 7-0 Cardinals in the 5th, I made the decision to go watch a movie that I've long wanted to see: Moneyball. Contrary to popular belief it is a story about Baseball not Lance Armstrong's bout with testicular cancer.  When I read this book in 2004 it absolutely changed how I watched the game of baseball. It was the first time that I viewed the game from a Management perspective instead of a fan's perspective. I was able to understand how much goes into each decision - to release, trade, draft, and sign free agents. So many metrics, both quantifiable and behavioral help back these decisions. It's not quite as simple as throwing darts at a board. Since reading this book, it has been my dream to work in the front office for a Sports team. So yeah - I've definitely been waiting for this movie. 

Overall, I thought the movie was good. Much like the book though, there was one huge elephant in the room that was never mentioned - Steroids. The book/movie go into detail about Billy Beane's struggles as a promising prospect and not being able to achieve lofty expectations at such a young age. He was a cant-miss first round pick and was thrown onto the biggest stage in sports: New York. His failure was "romantic" as he attests to in the movie. After being bounced around by multiple teams he landed a job with the Oakland Athletics as an advanced scout. 

Here's where things get a little cloudy for me on this "Moneyball" concept. The A's Mark McGwire and Jose Canseco in the late 80s were widely known as the Bash Brothers also became the face of Steriods usage in Baseball. Billy Beane was on that team. He was an extremely gifted talent that never met expectations - I don't think it's impossible to dismiss the idea that he would have turned to steroids as a player to revamp his meddling career. Some of the biggest names in Moneyball: Dykstra (who came up with Beane in the Mets organization), Canseco, McGwire, Jason & Jeremy Giambi, and Miguel Tejada have all been linked to steroid use. Furthermore, here's the yearly HR totals for the A's starting in 2002: 205, 176, 189, 155, 175, 171, 125, 135, and 109. Pretty clear trend down. I'd offer that the decrease had to do with the increase in Steroid Testing across the MLB. But that's just me. I'm not breaking any news here just offering up an opinion on a movie and a book that I thought were very well written and produced. I like the idea of advanced metrics - but I don't think that we can credit the A's success solely to finding players with high OBP and Slugging Pct...

At the end of the movie I walked out feeling satisfied at my decision to forego the remainder of the MLB Regular season. Then I checked my text messages and realized that I made a huge mistake. But unlike the outcome for the Boston Red Sox, my night wasn't a failure - just the opposite - a success. Enjoy the MLB playoffs!

Check back later for Predictions on the 2011 MLB Division Series 

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