If, as the great Bull Durham tells us, strikeouts are fascist, just what are we to make of the Yankees spending ten times more per year on player salaries than the lowest spending team? Goshdarned American capitalism, as homey as fresh-baked apple pie and, well, baseball.
Billy Beane made a bit of a name for himself as the little GM who could with the Oakland A’s. Beane took over the job in 1998 and found himself in a dilly of a pickle since the new owners of the franchise that had more World Series titles than any team other than the Cardinals and Yankees wanted to spend something slightly less than pocket change on player salaries. After looting through the cushions of the luxury suites and finding nothing but Al Davis’ pubes, Billy Beane had an epiphany: use sabermetrics to pick out the best players and prospects that cost the least. Ah sabermetricians, the stats guys so geeky they got kicked out of D&D games.
The long story short is that it worked amazingly well; the A’s were contenders on a shoestring. A book called Moneyball came out documenting just how super cool Beane’s strategy was. Funny thing, books. It turns out that the other teams are allowed to read them. I know, total cheating!
And every year the best players to come out of the A’s system are rewarded with fat contracts from New York and Boston while Oakland goes back to rummaging through has-beens and minor leaguers for the next big thing. A string of MVPs and Cy Young winners all pack their bags for the free spenders as soon as the annual exit from the playoffs in the first round. The problem with Moneyball isn’t that it doesn’t work great, it’s that like most things, it works even better if you throw a pile of money at it.
So, Moneyball is getting the big screen treatment courtesy of Brad Pitt (who’s been “attached” to it for over a year), Aaron Sorkin (who wrote the current incarnation of the script), and Bennett Miller (currently slated to direct). The budget? Just over $60 million, which exceeds Oakland’s budget for 11 of the 12 seasons that Beane has been GM. Oh that’s right, I remember why baseball is dead to me.
I wonder if they’ll donate a portion of proceeds to the widows of Oakland A’s fans who hung themselves by their Mark McGwire jerseys.