Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Beane Rethinks Moneyball

If Michael Lewis has any plans to write a sequel to “Moneyball,” he might want to reconsider. Over the offseason, the Oakland Athletics have traded and signed their way through several mistakes in a baffling combination of Moneyball tactics and big-market ineptitude.

To his credit, Billy Beane has stuck to many of the principles that allowed the resource-poor A’s to be a postseason fixture in the early 2000s and reach the ALCS in 2006. He traded starter Gio Gonzalez to the Washington Nationals, where he will now make up to $12 million, signed Manny Ramirez for $500,000 and traded closer Andrew Bailey to the Red Sox, where he will make $3 million.

But a funny thing happened during the A’s annual round of dumping middle-aged players for younger and cheaper (if riskier) prospects — the A’s front office began to feel pressure from the high-profile big-money signings made by divisional rivals Texas and Anaheim. As a result of the sensational signings of Albert Pujols for the Angels and Yu Darvish for the Rangers, Beane strayed from his generally frugal ways to sign Yoenis Céspedes.

Most franchises would be ecstatic to win the bidding for a marquee free agent who is generally considered to be a sensational player with all the tools needed for success.

However, the Athletics agreed to pay Céspedes $9 million a year for four years — an astronomical number for a team that spent only $54.9 million last year — and elected not to re-sign their only two players from 2011 that made over $6 million.

For years, the A’s entire philosophy has centered on avoiding overpaying players in the open market and building through the farm system. For example, Oakland’s famous trio of aces — Tim Hudson, Mark Mulder and Barry Zito — made only a combined $6.35 million in 2003 while leading the team to the playoffs.

Further, the signing of Céspedes goes against another principle of Moneyball — valuing sample size. According to Beane, the true value of a player is in the amount of times they get on base and score runs over the course of an entire season.

Given this, it’s startling that the A’s would spend so much for a player whose largest exposure came when he played in six games in the World Baseball Classic. Six games is not enough time to evaluate a player, especially under Beane’s system.

Furthermore, the track record of high-profile international signings has been spotty at best. For every success story like Ichiro Suzuki or Hideki Matsui, there are failures like Kaz Matsui and Daisuke Matsuzaka.

Beane is famous for finding value in players otherwise thought to be worthless or undesirable, but the 2012 Oakland A’s could be in for a long season of ridicule if the Cespedes signing does not work.

In a time when the rest of the division is stockpiling superstars, the A’s seemingly need to rely on Moneyball tactics more than ever to be successful. However, with lackluster talent like Coco Crisp and Jonny Gomes roaming the outfield and less-than-stellar pitching, the few fans that go to the Coliseum could see the worst A’s team of the Billy Beane era face off against the best AL West in recent memory.

By straying from the Moneyball system and instead making mistakes familiar to other small-market clubs, the A’s seem doomed to a long and unsuccessful season. As quick as the baseball community will be to criticize, it must be noted that this may just be the first step in Billy Beane’s next plan to change baseball.

Corey Blaine is a junior in the McDonough School of Business. THE BLEACHER SEATS appears every Friday.

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