For those of you who have not had the chance to read Michael Lewis’s classic baseball masterpiece “Moneyball,” do it. It is one of my favorite books of all time, and it introduces a kind of scouting that I think is the future of baseball and I have become well versed in – sabermetrics.
“Moneyball,” which was published in 2003, follows the success of the Oakland A’s and their general manager, Billy Beane. It focuses on the analytical, sabermetric approach that Beane takes to constructing the A’s on a limited budget. Have you ever wondered how the A’s, who had a $41 million dollar budget, were able to go head to head with the Yankees and their $125 million dollar budget? If so, then this is the book for you.
Beane’s attention to detail and appreciation for statistics such as on base percentage (OBP) and how much a player walks, were unorthodox in a time where hitting home runs and juicing up players was the way teams were run.
Organizations such as the Boston Red Sox, San Diego Padres, Arizona Diamondbacks and Toronto Blue Jays have hired those connected to or trained in sabermetrics, and the implications of Moneyball techniques have become so saturated into baseball culture that there is a “scouting vs. statistics” debate that fires up anyone in baseball circles.
“Moneyball” was such a hit, that it is currently being made into a movie starring Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill and is slated to come out in 2011.
Enough with the book review though. How does this relate to the Mets?
Well, Sandy Alderson, the Mets’ new general manager, was the first to employ what is now known as “moneyball techniques.” He first began his foray into sabermetrics in 1995 when he was the general manager of the A’s. His owners at the time ordered Alderson to slash payroll – which forced him to become creative and think of new ways to get the most out of his players on a limited budget (sound like Billy Beane yet?).
While Alderson didn’t get the results he hoped for when he implemented the sabermetric techniques, when he left the organization in 1997, he ushered in Billy Beane. The rest is history.
Beane is considered to be the poster boy for the modern sabermetric movement, and is lauded for his incredibly successful run as A’s GM.
Now, Alderson has the chance to implement sabermetric techniques with budget and resources that he didn’t have back in 1995. While the Mets will not be a “Moneyball” franchise, they will be a better run and more modern franchise.
Omar Minaya’s ill-fated tenure as Mets’ general manager was rife with ineptitude and traditional scouting techniques that garnered only a few international signings that have a high ceiling but cloudy prospects such as Fernando Martinez, Wilmer Flores and Ruben Tejada. Alderson’s reign will be different.
Alderson has already hired former Toronto Blue Jays’ GM and assistant to him in Oakland – J.P. Riccardi. Riccardi is known as a progressive baseball mind and will be integral to the Mets’ front office.
Rumors are also swirling that the Mets are also trying to hire Billy Beane’s former assistant GM Paul DePodesta. DePodesta is one of the main characters of “Moneyball” and is known as one of the best assistants in the MLB.
While the Mets are not likely to be an east coast A’s with a higher payroll, they will likely run with efficiency and modern techniques that will be a breath of fresh air for my beloved, stagnant franchise.
In Alderson I trust.