So I'm listening to Joe Posnanski's Poscast (with Michael Schur -- Cousin Mose/creator of the ludicrously overrated Parks and Recreation), this week they're doing a Baseball Book Fantasy Draft. I'd been holding off on listening to it, because it seemed like a really fun idea. I'm pretty disappointed thus far, but the thing that was most annoying is familiar to people who know me.
With the first pick, unsurprisingly, Michael Schur picks Moneyball -- the single most overrated book in the history of hyperbolous statements. While I understand the many reasons why Moneyball is wrongly criticized by baseball purists, it's a ludicrously overrated book that has become more overrated as Billy Beane's career arc has continued. People still read it as genius and laud praise on Billy Beane.
Posnanski is now guilty as an accomplice of dismissing the best criticism -- which is that the A's success was really about Hudson, Mulder, and Zito more than it ever was about on-base percentage or Billy Beane's "genius". But the numbers don't lie. The A's on-base percentage was never near the top of the league when they were good, and stripping it to "seeking undervalued commodities in a market" is effectively stripping the book to an idea that is absurd. Every GM is seeking undervalued commodities, some of them are just really dumb.
Anyway, I'd put together a much longer screed on this subject in response to Schur's paean to Jeremy Brown "retiring for personal reasons" on fire joe morgan.
It even elicited a response from him, which was "Well, I dish it out, so I can take it. I would add that (1) surprise-bunting for a GW single is a lot different from the kind of 1st-inning sac bunting that Beane eschews, and (2) DePo was run out of L.A. by idiot beat writers who didn't like his personality. Dodger fans sure like Brad Penny, though, and they sure don't miss Adrian Beltre, and they like Derek Lowe, and they sure don't miss Paul Lo Duca or Juan Encarnacion...and they sure as hell hate Ned Colletti and Grady Little. DePo was a douchey guy, apparently, but he made some great moves for that team.
So I stand by my criticisms. Moneyball is an interesting book, but if you really tried to run a team by the principles it presents, you would have a team that bears literally no resemblance to any of Billy Beane's teams, which were driven by steroids (Giambi, Tejada) consensus high-value pitching (Zito (9th overall pick) and Mulder (2nd overall pick), and players drafted by (surprise) someone else -- Giambi (drafted by Alderson in 1992), Tim Hudson (6th round pick drafted by Alderson in 1997), and Eric Chavez (1st round pick drafted by Alderson in 1996 - 10th overall). Other than the consensus high picks, Beane's drafts resulted in...five players with greater than 10 WAR: Joe Blanton, Eric Byrnes, Rich Harden, Nick Swisher, and Andre Ethier (who he gave away for Milton Bradley). Lest that still sound adequate (it sure beats Mark Shapiro's drafting in that span), keep in mind that at the time Moneyball was published in 2003, only Harden and Byrnes had made the majors, let alone achieved "greatness".