HOF Writer Tracy Ringolsby: “Movie Continues Moneyball Myth”
In his most recent syndicated column for Baseball America, Hall of Fame journalist Tracy Ringolsby writes the book “Moneyball” stemmed from author Michael Lewis’ “idol worship” of Oakland Athletics General Manager Billy Beane and who was more “overwhelmed” by Beane’s personality and status than by the story he was trying to portray.
Wow, like that’s never happened before.
In his opening, Ringolsby points to his driving down the LA Freeway and seeing a Billboard advertising the movie’s opening, with the tag, “based on a true story”, which Ringolsby relates to “another Hollywood tragedy.”
“…Michael Lewis, as talented a wordsmith as he may be, created a bigger than life hero by taking a morsel of the genius that is Billy Beane and turning it into an absolute for baseball success that even Beane himself has admitted was blown out of whack.”
Intelligent baseball sites such as this one have long claimed and proved that Lewis acted upon his rights as an author to take a non-story and turn it into a story.
As Ringolsby relates from the movie trailer, “…Billy Beane, who built a winning team despite a decreased budget thanks to his sly use of statistical data to calculate the best, and cheapest, players for his roster.”
A fact Ringolsby willing points out and what most of us know, the Athletics made the postseason in four of Beane’s first six years as General Manager, but “as Beane himself acknowledges”, the “foundation of those teams” was put in place well before he replaced Sandy Alderson as the “A’s decision maker.”
The success of those teams was built around the scouting department who signed and developed pitching arms Barry Zito, Mark Mulder, and Tim Hudson.
The same scouting department and scouts Lewis freely insulted in the book.
Ringolsby goes on to point to the position players the book intentionally points to as being “a Beane type guy”, yet the two most productive players signed were Miguel Tejada and Eric Chavez, two guys who “never would have been signed in the system the book emphasized.”
The truth is, Moneyball is fiction.
It’s a 300 page version of Sidd Finch.
I believe without hesitation Beane took advantage of a weakness in a system, but not the system the book portrays.
Billy Beane is a former Major League player.
Billy Beane KNOWS how the game is played; both on the field and the front office.
He knows what it takes to be successful wearing a uniform; he also knows what it’s like to play a major league game, to ride the AAA shuttle, and to lose his job to someone perceived to be better.
The weakness Beane took advantage of was within his own peer group.
The Red Sox and Rays and Diamondbacks were going out and hiring guys with Ivy League or Business School degrees. This is all well and fine if you want to make a profit, but really doesn’t play well in trying to win a ring.
Beane knew of these deficiencies and played to them.
One can easily point to the successes of Boston and Tampa of late, but the truth behind that is they spend more on scouting and development than does the Athletics.
Both Boston and Tampa employ twice the amount of scouts Oakland does.
They also have at least double the payroll.
Theo Epstein can go out and buy the 2011 AL MVP because he can.
Guys like Beane have to create MVP’s.
Whether you believe in sabermetrics or advanced knowledge, whether you believe in the individual, the end result of Moneyball is the same.
It’s a lot of things.
A true story isn’t one of them.
And for those who believe Moneyball to be “the most influential baseball book ever written”.
Shame on you.
Graduating from Yale or having a Master’s in Business has nothing to do with running a baseball team.
Deal with it.