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If Cashman Bolts, Would Billy Beane in NY Make Sense?

By Mike Silva ~ September 3rd, 2011. Filed under: New York Yankees, Outside the Apple, Uncategorized.

Most people in baseball believe that Brian Cashman will return to the Yankees after this season. He has a great relationship with the Steinbrenner family, and has been given unprecedented control of the team’s operation. It would be unrealistic to expect someone else to handle all the aspects of the Yankees job as well as Cashman. You have to deal with the unrealistic expectations off the field, front office politics, and the never-ending media scrutiny. With that said, anything can happen, and Cashman’s name has been connected to openings in Baltimore and Chicago in recent weeks. We have seen even the best relationships break apart unexpectedly. Remember when everyone thought it was a foregone conclusion that Donnie Walsh would come back to the Knicks? Pat Riley bolting MSG for South Beach? Bill Belichick was the Jets coach for five minutes. I think even Joe Torre leaving after 2007 was a bit of a surprise. Maybe none of those examples are quite as similar as the Cashman situation, but it goes to show you that you never know what is going to happen in this town.

If Cashman left, who could be his replacement? The Yankee Analysts opined about this earlier in the week. Matt Imbrogno brought up names like Andrew Friedman, Ned Colleti, Theo Epstein and internal candidates like Mark Newman, Damon Oppenheimer, and Billy Eppler. Some have even compared Eppler to a mini-Cashman. The final name mentioned was none other than Mr. Moneyball himself, Billy Beane.

Reports out of the Bay Area are that Beane doesn’t believe he can win with the restrictions put on him in Oakland. Despite his success from 1999-2006, it’s become increasingly hard to compete when you can’t keep your own free agents, can’t sign other teams players, and have to make up a 25 man roster largely on value. Other teams have taken Beane’s temple so what once was proprietary is now standard. You can’t win if you are not playing on equal footing, and Oakland is nowhere near equal footing financially. You are asking a GM to be perfect, which is impossible in a game where the best players fail 70% of the time.

Beane nearly went to a big market nine years ago. Many forget he nearly became the GM of the Red Sox in November of 2002 when he agreed to a four-year deal. He even negotiated the A’s side by himself — serving as the Oakland rep and determining the price the Red Sox would pay Oakland for releasing him from his current contract. He backed out on the deal at the last minute, Theo Epstein would get the job (except for a brief time where he was running around in a gorilla suit), and the rest is history.

Why would Beane walk away from Oakland this time? According to Glenn Dickey of the SF Examiner, “To get away from the penurious ownership of Lew Wolff and John Fisher.” To be fair to the owners, moving to a new ballpark in San Jose would cure the team’s ills, but it appears the Giants are never going to let that happen. Things are probably going to get ugly in Oakland, and Beane leaving would be the equivalent of getting off the Titanic before it left shore.

Beane is an innovator. He was able to understand the value of information in a game that resists change at all costs. He focused on player development, market inefficiencies, and building a team, not a collection of free agent superstars. His model is what we see in Boston and New York today, but they are able to complement with elite talent and buy away mistakes. The Yankees had to change their internal infrastructure because of the pioneering efforts of Billy Beane.  It would almost be a seamless transition from Cashman to Beane.

My main concern with Beane is how he would handle the front office politics of the Yankees. You still have too many non-baseball people who want to put their fingerprints on the franchise. Namely, the Tampa faction and Randy Levine. Coming into this environment, there would be an adjustment period. I doubt the Steinbrenners would give him the benefit of the doubt as they do with Cashman. Beane hasn’t earned his stripes in the land of pinstripes. There are many people in baseball and the media who resent the “genius” label he was given for his work in Oakland. Remember, there are many longtime baseball people who have been cast aside because of the new way of thinking. There are many members of the media who fear change because their industry has been turned over because of it. This is their chance to see Beane’s philosophy fail once and for all. Perhaps he and Moneyball will finally go away. Ironically, many others share similar philosophies to Beane – namely Epstein and Cashman- but its Beane who is the poster child for Moneyball, a concept that is widely misunderstood throughout the game.

If I had to take a guess, Beane will end up in Chicago if he decides to leave Oakland; probably for all the same reasons I thought it makes sense for Cashman to leave the Yankees for the Windy City. The difference is the legend of Billy Beane and Moneyball could finally have real money to exercise his principles and prove its worth.

I don’t expect to see Cashman leave. If, however he does, Billy Beane would be one of the highest profile candidate they could find. The Yankees shop on the top shelf all the time. It would be hard to resist passing him up. It would be hard for Beane to pass up the Yankees.

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Mike Silva has hosted sports shows on 107.1 FM Champions ESPN Radio Long Island ,1240 AM WGBB , Blog Talk Radio and live from Mickey Mantle’s Restaurant. He’s also built and maintained two popular social media hubs: New York Baseball Digest and Sports Media Watchdog. Mike has broken national and local stories, as well as been mentioned on the YES Network, SNY.tv, WFAN, Sports Illustrated, ESPN, NY Daily News, New York Magazine, Journal News and the NY Post. Contact Mike professionally at mikesilvamedia.com

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7 Responses to If Cashman Bolts, Would Billy Beane in NY Make Sense?

  1. Stu B

    “Beane leaving would be the equivalent of getting off the Titanic before it left shore.”

    That’s and overly melodramatic statement that implies the A’s are on the verge of going under as a franchise. Things may get ugly in Oakland, but the franchise won’t fold.

  2. Chuck Johnson

    Beane became Oakland’s GM following the 1997 season.

    The subsequent run of success the franchise enjoyed over the next five years was based on players signed, acquired and developed not by Beane, but by Sandy Alderson.

    Moneyball gave Beane credit for things he either didn’t do or have any control over.

    I feel sorry for Beane in a way, it’s true he’s been hamstrung by not one, but two inept ownership groups (the last of which INCLUDES Beane himself, by the way).

    What makes Beane smarter or further ahead of the learning curve than his contemporaries isn’t his ability to navigate an Excel spreadsheet or quote from memory the formula for WAR, it’s that he’s a former player.

    He didn’t identify weaknesses in baseball strategy, he identified weaknesses in his peers and used them to his advantage.

    Beane already knew how important OPS was, whereas Ivy League nerds like Epstein had never heard of it.

    I had read the reason Beane turned down Boston was because his children were young and established in school, his daughter is now enrolled at Northwestern, I believe, so if he goes anywhere, it will be to the Cubs.

    Getting the Cubs to the series after 100 years will do more for his reputation than anything he’s done, and will erase the false ideals placed on him by Moneyball and by the clueless sabermetric community.

    New York?

    Hell, no.

  3. Brien Jackson

    I don’t know how many times this has to be said, but “Moneyball” is not a philosophy. To some extent I blame Michael Lewis for that, for trying to cram stuff about Bill James and Voros McCracken into a story about the A’s, but Moneyball was basically just about a business organization attempting to be efficient with resources, and a baseball team being efficient with strategy. There was an outsized effect because the market at the time was such that teams were drastically overpricing batting average, foot speed, and defense while undervaluing the factor most closely associated with run production (OBP), and when that imbalance corrected itself Moneyball became what it really is; something that mostly correlates to the marginal decisions a team makes. Even in the case of the A’s, remember that they had Giambi, Chavez, and Tejada in the organization well before DePodesta started running probability models and linear regressions.

    To the extent that there’s any philosophy to what Beane did I guess it would relate to the draft, but to some extent I think every team has to have a draft philosophy of sorts. Beane’s was one dictated by his inability to have a big money miss, and it worked remarkably well for a while.

  4. Brien Jackson

    “Beane already knew how important OPS was…”

    OPS isn’t that important. As statistics go, it would get you laughed out of a high school class, and as such is predictably problematic for doing much of anything with. As simple stats go, OBP is an order of magnitude more important than OPS, and even accounting for SLG%, OPS then becomes redundant.

    And in terms of legitimate numbers that attempt to account for both not making outs and hitting for power, wOBA is infinitely better than OPS.

  5. Max

    I think there is a really bad misconception that is prevalent about “moneyball” and sabermetrics. Moneyball is a strategy that is designed to invest most in OBP, ignore bunting, stolen bases etc. Roughly speaking, Moneyball utilizes basic sabermetric strategies and methods, but is more of a business model than a baseball strategy. Oakland has been forced to make value plays, and roughly speaking, they succeeded in winning beyond what would be expected of them financially. That being said, it is not reflective of sabermetrics in general.
    Sabermetrics is simply a study and isolation of factors and statistics that a baseball player can and cant control. It has two basic uses. 1. to figure out how valuable a player has been, and how valuable a player will be. The former is measured mostly using WAR (wins above replacement). Although the formula is complicated and hasnt been totally standardized, it is a composite of mostly hitting, but some fielding and baserunning metrics. The latter use of sabermetrics is to isolate the degree with which luck has impacted results. As a result of McCracken’s batted ball data, we know that baseball players should generally have around 30% of their ball in play land as hits.
    What is most astonishing however, is how unwilling to accept some of the most simple logic of sabermetrics. If you really think about it, the stat of “wins” is really useless, especially relative to whip, ERA, adjusted era, and FIP. If a pitcher gives up 10 runs every start, he is objectively terrible. This is not a debate. Yet, if every game, his team scored 11 runs, then he would win 30 games. Yet, the pitcher would still be horrible. Wins measure the quality of a pitcher’s offense as much as it measures the pitcher himself. Conversely, if a pitcher gives up exactly 1 run every start, he is an objectively great pitcher. Yet, if his team enver scores a single run all season, he would never win a single game. Yet objectively, he is obviously better than the 10 ERA 30 win pitcher. This is very simple people.

  6. Ralph C

    Personally, I’m not sold on the argument that wins are useless as a stat for pitchers. Yes, obviously if a pitcher goes 30-4 with a ten ERA, he is a bad pitcher who just got lucky. However, when was last time this happened? And would he even make it out of the fifth inning to qualify for a win more than a handful of times with that ERA? I think there is a line between a “pitcher who pitches well enough to win a game” and one who “pitches just bad enough to lose it.” Case in point: Felix Hernandez last year. He won the Cy Young with a 13-12 record which tells me that despite his great ERA, in twelve of his starts he got outpitched by the other team’s staff. And I know Hernandez was on a misreable team last year but so was Steve Carlton the year he won 27 games. No stat should be taken by itself but I think wins have become so devalued that they’re actually now undervalued.

  7. Brien Jackson

    The Carlton/Felix comparison has been debunked so many times that, at this point, so much as thinking about invoking it discredits your opinion.

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