As Much As It Changes, Baseball Doesn’t Change


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Billy Beane has become a sort of cult hero for his use of analytics in baseball, and pioneering of the “moneyball” techniques he uses to keep the Oakland A’s contenders. With virtually no budget, comparable to franchises like the Yankees or Dodgers, the A’s have been a good team the majority of my life.

Billy Beane is not the greatest GM in the history of baseball though. In fact, his A’s have not won a World Series on his watch. Or made one and lost. In fact, they don’t really win many first round series even. Meanwhile, the last five teams to win a World Series- San Francisco, Boston, St. Louis, New York, and Philadelphia- are all huge markets with wildly different front offices at the times of their titles. There was the old-school Pat Gillick, a winner everywhere he went. There was the big spending Brian Cashman, and the Yankees huge pockets. There is the superior drafting and player development of the Cardinals, maybe the most disciplined front office in baseball run by John Mozeliak. There is the wildly popular Red Sox, who were supposed to finish last, but Ben Cherington hit the jackpot repeatedly in 2013. Of course, there is Brian Sabean, the envy of all right now, building a mini-dynasty by drafting well, winning trades, and signing the right players. These front offices were all very different. They all won a championship. Beane and Andrew Friedman, the envies of many, have yet to do that.

Which is kind of my point. There is no “right” way to build a baseball team, or no “wrong” one either. While some people want to argue about analytics or scouting, I’m not sure that’s a relevant debate. I’m not sure that the popular view, that money will be less and less of an advantage in baseball, is a reality either- all of the recent championship teams were big market teams. The real key to building a good baseball team, with any size budget, is having a plan and being disciplined enough to follow the plan, all the time. As much as things have changed in baseball, they also really haven’t in that respect.

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