Posted: Monday September 11, 2006 11:52AM; Updated: Monday September 11, 2006 7:41PM
Billy Beane hit .219 in 301 career at-bats with the Mets, Twins, Tigers and A's. In other words, he wasn't the type of player Billy Beane the GM would pick up.
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Epstein and Blue Jays GM J.P. Ricciardi, another Beane protégé, recently complained that they didn't have enough money to compete with the Yankees, a gripe you'd never hear from Beane and an unwitting admission that Moneyball isn't always the whole answer. If you think about it, their public remarks put the entire concept on trial. After all, wasn't the main point of Moneyball that you could compete for less? The point surely wasn't to outspend your competition but to outsmart them, and Beane, an intellect who needs no sheepskin from Harvard or Yale to prove his smarts and who learned his baseball as a ballplayer and a longtime A's advance scout, still does.
Most of the recent World Series winners were built with scouts, not stats, from the 2002 Angels to the '03 Marlins to the '05 White Sox. Meanwhile, Beane's team keeps rolling along. The A's are in the midst of their usual second-half surge (36-17 since the break) and are adding distance between themselves and two teams with bigger names and more talent, the Angels and the Rangers.
Beane took hits for making no major deadline deals despite the fact that the team was floundering around .500 at the time. "I didn't really think the elixir was out there. That's why we didn't do anything," Beane said. "The key was health. If we got healthy, we'd be all right. If not, we wouldn't."
Pretty simple, huh?
With closer Huston Street back last Friday and potential ace Rich Harden starting to throw, the A's might get even better. Beane's A's have never gotten past the Yankees in October, even when they had stars almost to match them (Giambi, Miguel Tejada, Tim Hudson and Mark Mulder are all gone for greener pastures), and it's hard to imagine them doing it now. However, it's still quite an accomplishment to get as far as they have without any of those stars.
Beane is not perfect (trading Andre Ethier to the Dodgers for Milton Bradley doesn't look good today, and you could argue that he would have been better keeping Tejada long-term rather than Eric Chavez), but his knack is undeniable. Hard as it is to believe, trading Hudson and Mulder has barely cost them. Dan Haren and Kiko Calero, acquired for Mulder, have actually outperformed the ex-A's star, a fact that doesn't please Beane as much as you might think. "I don't necessarily view trades as a zero-sum game. I don't feel so insecure as to root against guys," Beane said. "Mulder's one of my favorites. I just want my team to win."
To that end, no matter the game plan, hardly anybody does it better.
Around the majors
Orlando Cabrera isn't saying it publicly, and he shouldn't be made to, but he's told people he doesn't feel he should have to switch from shortstop to third base if the Angels acquire Tejada this winter. And I think that's only right. Beside the fact that Cabrera's the incumbent, he's also the better shortstop right now.
One coach in the AL East said he has noticed a decrease in Tejada's range. As Alex Rodriguez once did, perhaps Tejada should consider accepting third base with a trade to the Angels. The Angels offered pitcher Ervin Santana and shortstop prospect Erick Aybar for Tejada at the deadline and should be relieved that Orioles owner Peter Angelos nixed the deal.
Greg Maddux told friends he wasn't necessarily impressed by Dusty Baker's managing ability (that's not unusual; a lot of players who leave Bobby Cox find others wanting). Maddux seems happier as a Dodger. But he couldn't have been thrilled on Saturday when he was left in to intentionally walk Carlos Beltran, only to be immediately thereafter pulled and see Beltran score the winning run.
According to Danny Knobler of Michigan's Booth Newspapers, the Tigers have the second-worst record since Aug. 7 at 10-22. Only the Cubs, at 10-23, are slightly worse.
The NL batting race is a dandy with three cost-efficient young stars -- Freddy Sanchez (.340), Miguel Cabrera (.339) and Matt Holliday (.336) -- four percentage points apart. They make about $1.3 million combined (Sanchez $342,000, Cabrera $472,000 and Holliday $500,000). But don't cry for them. All are arbitration-eligible next year, and you can expect that combined decimal point to move over one place. They will probably earn a combined $13 million in 2007, give or take a few cents.
Good to see John Perrotto of the Beaver County Times report what we suggested was appropriate here, that Pirates GM Dave Littlefield be retained. While the Pirates are struggling, let's not forget that Littlefield acquired Sanchez, Jason Bay and Mike Gonzalez. The Pirates' real problem is their low payroll, and the emerging Nuttings seem ready to take the reins from Kevin McClatchy.