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About Jon
Thank You For Not ...

1) using profanity or any euphemisms for profanity
2) personally attacking other commenters
3) baiting other commenters
4) arguing for the sake of arguing
5) discussing politics
6) using hyperbole when something less will suffice
7) using sarcasm in a way that can be misinterpreted negatively
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11) commenting under the obvious influence
12) claiming your opinion isn't allowed when it's just being disagreed with

From the What Else Is New Department ...
2005-04-15 09:36
by Jon Weisman
Note: The Dodger Thoughts blog has moved to the Los Angeles Times.

Update: Trimmed out of having second thoughts that I was excerpting too much ...

Joe Morgan has a theory that theories do not win baseball games...

I know critiquing Joe Morgan chats used to be the department of Mike's Baseball Rants, and I won't deconstruct Morgan with nearly as much aplomb, but Morgan was so in the groove today that I couldn't resist. From Morgan's chat today on ESPN.com:

Joe Morgan: I think that they (the A's) had the makings of a great team when they had Zito, Mulder, Hudson, Tejada and Giambi. But when you let two MVPs go and two of the best pitchers in the league go, you're not really thinking about winning anymore.

Jon Weisman: Mulder and Giambi don't appear to be key contributors anymore, and there's no mention of the players Oakland picked up in exchange. But, whatever ..

* * *

Joe Morgan: That moneyball theory is overrated. No one has ever won with it. ... PLAYERS win games. Not theories.

Jon Weisman: The statement is, of course, nonsensical. It's like saying, "ARTISTS make music. Not songs." Or, "ANNOUNCERS can be deluded. Not comments."

* * *

Joe Morgan: The Red Sox had the second highest payroll in baseball next to the Yankees!!! The most important play last year was Dave Roberts stealing second base in game four ... that is NOT the moneyball theory. Without the stolen base or just the THREAT of the stolen base Dave Roberts provided, the Red Sox would have been eliminated.

Jon Weisman: And how did Roberts get to first base? As a pinch-runner. Because Kevin Millar reached base on a walk. Not that reaching base matters. And not that that's what Moneyball is all about. It's about making efficient decisions based on the payroll you have at your disposal. Decisions that can include acquiring a Dave Roberts cheaply because another team (the Dodgers, as it happens) has a surplus of outfielders and is willing to part with him.

But what else is new ...

Comments
2005-04-15 10:03:06
1.   Bob Timmermann
I believe Oakland has a pretty good bullpen this year. The starting pitching has been shaky at the beginning of the year especially because Zito has had two bad starts.
2005-04-15 10:08:24
2.   Steve
I could have sworn that there were seven more games the Red Sox had to win after Game 4 of the ALCS.
2005-04-15 10:10:51
3.   Eric Enders
I think Bob's #1 is even an understatement... I'll be very surprised if Oakland doesn't end up the best bullpen in the AL this year.

Joe Morgan is slowly losing his grip on reality. The "not really thinking about winning" comment is pretty close to inexcusable for someone who claims to know something about baseball.

I think Morgan's just been doing what he's doing for too long. A decade or so ago, he used to have fresh insights occasionally. Now he's a bad parody of Abe Simpson, and doesn't even realize it.

2005-04-15 10:12:05
4.   fanerman91
Heh. He calls the Angels the California Angels. Can't really blame him for that one. In fact, I'd probably go so far as to say I prefer the name California Angels to Los Angeles Angels.
2005-04-15 10:21:26
5.   Sam DC
This has to stop -- the pile of work I am not doing right now between reading this blog and scouring the web for a hint on Harry the Hat's secret love of Javelinas is killing me.

Anyhow, reading Morgan's comments made me think, man these Nationals/Expos would be a heck of a team if they still had Vlad Guerrero and Javier Vasquez and Bartolo Colon and Urbina and Orlando Cabrera and Moises Alou and Cliff Floyd and Larry Walker and ... heck, weren't Pedro Martinez and Randy Johnson Expos once? Boy, they sure must not care about winning letting all those guys go. (OK, I realize there are reasons maybe the expo's ownership hasn't cared only about winning for a while, but still.)

2005-04-15 10:29:49
6.   Dodgerkid
He does have a point with the payroll thingy. Also Epstein did a lot less with the team than DePodesta did with ours. That being said, Morgan is otherwise insane.
2005-04-15 10:32:48
7.   Rick
I can't take Morgan anymore. Where did I put that sniper rifle ...
2005-04-15 10:35:35
8.   Dr Love
You missed the part where he said that Mark Mulder won a Cy Young.
2005-04-15 10:40:31
9.   dan reines
hey, you have to admit, billy beane was asking for this kind of backlash when he wrote that book.

(kidding.)

2005-04-15 10:40:54
10.   Jerry
Oakland's offense is letting them down right now--Harden, Haren, and Blanton have all looked very good, especially Harden. Also, that bullpen looks like the best in the AL to me.
2005-04-15 10:50:47
11.   Robert Fiore
Keep it in perspective: Joe Morgan doesn't even believe in platooning. ("If a guy can hit he can hit" sez Joe, evidence be damned.)

And the LAPD thinks he looks like a drug dealer.

2005-04-15 10:57:08
12.   Dr Love
I'm surprized Morgan could make it throught that chat without mentioning he lives in SF.
2005-04-15 11:04:18
13.   Marty
Steve and Jerry, change the name to Fire Joe Morgan
2005-04-15 11:05:15
14.   chumsferd
Morgan is arguably the greatest second base man of all time. That being said, some of the stuff he spouts is LATimes-esque. Sometimes it seems like the only difference between him and Simers is that we know simers is joking and morgan is dead serious.
2005-04-15 11:07:09
15.   Steve
We read that case in Crim Pro. I think it's why Morgan hates LA.
2005-04-15 11:10:35
16.   Eric Enders
Can somebody explain the LAPD thing?
2005-04-15 11:14:10
17.   bigcpa
Zito is the only 7-8 inning horse in the A's rotation. The other four are promising but likely 5-6 inning guys. So the middle relief will factor into nearly every game. Pretty smart planning by Beane.
2005-04-15 11:14:10
18.   Steve
Morgan was searched and seized by LA Airport police looking for drugs while a player. He later sued the police department and it became a search and seizure test case.
2005-04-15 11:27:53
19.   Mark
Time to threadjack.

My buddy and I have always taken different opinions about what Moneyball really represents. He says it's all about constructing a team that, defense be damned, has the chance to score 1 run every inning.

My vote is that it is all about economic arbitrage, raising your margins (by lowering your costs), and, from a baseball standpoint, creating a team that will go 10 games over .500 ball-- enough so that the fans keep coming back, but not having to pump enough salary into the club in order to beat the Yankees/Sox. Profits first, championships second.

(For what it's worth, I semi-agree with Morgan about the Red Sox not being a Moneyball team. To me, the Sox are a different interpretation on whatever formula that Steinbrenner uses.)

2005-04-15 11:34:00
20.   mad reefer
Seems like a good time for a first post...as an audition for an extra role at Cheers.

Recently, a friend suggested I read Moneyball. Given my background in biostatistics, he was interested in getting my take on these revolutionary new concepts (cut him some slack...he's a Giants fan). Needless to say, the content of the book was fascinating and launched me down the digital rabbithole of sabermetrics, the Bill James baseball genealogy and Dodger Thoughts.

What does this have to do with Joe Morgan? Not much. Personally don't care for his brand of coverage but then again I can never forgive him for 1982. Overall, it seems that ESPN is doing a fair job covering the spectrum of baseball philosophies (Morgan to Phillips to Gammons to Neyer, etc.) in chats and columns. Those I don't like, I don't patronize...have a feeling that one of the factors influencing contract renewal as an analyst at ESPN is web hits to chats & columns.

2005-04-15 11:36:10
21.   Smirk
"Joe Morgan: That moneyball theory is overrated. No one has ever won with it."

He's comparing a strategy that is still in it's infancy to the entire history of baseball. No doubt, if the moneyball strategy is around for the next one hundred years, a team will win.

Plus, the A's won the AL West in 2000, 2002, 2003. That may not be the WS, but, hell, it's a successful season. Match it up against all the teams in those years who didn't win their division. If moneyball is "overrated," then what does he call all those losing team's strategies? Underrated? Not rated? Rated? Not yet rated?

2005-04-15 11:37:23
22.   Mush
Steve, where are you in law school?
2005-04-15 11:40:35
23.   Jon Weisman
Mark -

Your buddy is wrong and you are closer to being right, though I'd still disagree with the idea that they're not trying to beat the big-spending clubs. It's the idea that you are as efficient as possible with your resources. You may well be efficient enough to win it all.

The idea that rich teams can't be Moneyball teams is a misunderstanding of the concept, in my opinion.

2005-04-15 11:44:03
24.   Steve
BYU for six more days.
2005-04-15 11:45:24
25.   Dr Love
Mark, your friend needs to read the book again. Moneyball was, pretty clearly I think, a book about the one company that realized how to properly play the market in a business where progression is not a word. In the season that Michael Lewis shadowed Beane, the biggest part of the A's success, at least offensively, was exploiting the market for OBP. If he wrote the book this season, the book would be pretty different.

In an interview with Athletics Nation, Lewis said his original plan was to write a book about the careers of the A's first round picks 5 years or so after they were drafted; but in order to do so he needed a prolouge, and that prolouge is Moneyball.

2005-04-15 11:49:47
26.   Eric Enders
That sequel, incidentally, is not going to have a happy ending. Blanton and Swisher look like they'll turn out, but nobody else. Jeremy Brown has been a bust thus far; so has Colamarino (although he's hitting .480 in AA right now).

The A's have had much better drafts, particularly last year's.

2005-04-15 11:53:34
27.   Steve
You're right Mark, with the caveat that Jon added. Not only that, but it's not about "defense be damned" but assigning proper value to defense per dollar. Same with stolen bases and the other measures that are supposedly anti-Moneyball. They all have value, but were overpriced (like #3 starters this year). But like every market, those markets may correct or even become bearish, wherein you might see a "Moneyball" team suddenly become something one might not have expected by adopting a Morgan-like look at the book.
2005-04-15 11:55:20
28.   Mark
Hmm. I understand the idea that rich teams can be Moneyball teams; we're seeing it unfold before our very eyes. But I think there's a disparity between a true Moneyball religion and "free-spenders".

For example, my take on Moneyball is that you should never spend money to go get a big-name free agent. (eg, if my team can win 90 games without Alex Rodriguez, I have absolutely no incentive to ever consider signing him)

And I think this is part of what DePo's strategy is, especially as handed down to him from McCourt. McCourt clearly wants to lower the margins on giving Dodger fans a good (but not dynasty-worthy) team. The DHL sponsorships, the extra seats, the lowered payroll, this all speaks to increasing revenue and decreasing costs at the same time. That clearly points to Moneyball, I agree, and I think it's part of the reason why we won't see a Vladimir, Hudson, etc, coming to the Dodgers.

2005-04-15 11:57:58
29.   Dr Love
Colamarino wasn't a 1st rounder, but I'm not sure if Lewis limited it just to 1st rounders.

Don't forget about Teahen, who is KC's starting 3B (although he's on the DL at the moment).

2005-04-15 11:59:57
30.   chumsferd
It's amazing how so many people can read one book and interpret it in so many ways. I can't tell if that means it was very well written or very poorly written.

I interpret it as capitalizing on market inefficiencies. On Primer I see all these articles about teams like the Pirates and the Rangers preaching patience. I think the market will adjust in a few years and pitchers will throw more strikes and great contact guys will become more valuable in the years to come. Right now tho, it's all about patience and plate discipline.

2005-04-15 12:03:43
31.   Steve
Here's part of Peter Gammons' story from the other day that he didn't steal.

"DePodesta said, "unless you're the Yankees, you might be able to win once through free agency, but to sustain it is practically impossible financially." And even the Yankees are feeling the fiscal strain of not producing players.

Theo Epstein agrees with DePodesta. "We have put a lot of emphasis into building our farm system while trying to compete," Epstein said. "You have to have $300,000 players to practically afford the star-level players." The Red Sox figure it is not out of the realm of possibility that sometime in 2006 they could have Kevin Youkilis at third, Dustin Pedroia at second, Hanley Ramirez in center, Jon Papelbon in the rotation and Cla Meredith and Abe Alvarez setting up in the bullpen."

I think another reason you may not see a Hudson (or a Beltre) is that the Dodgers have a minor league system that is going to produce major league talent on its own. I know we've been disappointed for...oh...10 years or so, but we have a lot of kids who appear to have the ability to play baseball.

2005-04-15 12:04:56
32.   Suffering Bruin
I've mentioned this before but the irony of Morgan, my favorite player growing up (I kept that quiet being a Dodger fan) was the perfect Moneyball player. He had better stats than what would otherwise be evident from just glancing at the triple crown numbers and he played a good part of his career in the worst hitters park in baseball.

He was also, IMHO, the game's smartest player. And he is today without a doubt the most deluded and reactionary broadcaster on the national scene. I can no longer argue with people who say Joe Morgan was dumb.

2005-04-15 12:05:19
33.   Suffering Bruin
Er, "is" dumb in the last sentence.
2005-04-15 12:07:15
34.   JMK
"For example, my take on Moneyball is that you should never spend money to go get a big-name free agent."

You can spend money on big-time free-agents if you're saving money at other positions (and if you have a good sized budget). It seems to me that the moneyball/sabermetric approach led Epstein to go get folks like Millar, Mueller, Bellhorn, Ortiz, Walker...etc. for undervalue, which then allows him to have room for a Manny Ramirez and his 20 mil salary. They also looked like they were more than willing to take on ARod's contract before that deal fell through.

2005-04-15 12:12:37
35.   Jim Tracy
SB, Joe Morgan was your favorite player growing up?? Oh, how you have fallen...
2005-04-15 12:16:28
36.   Sam DC
I thought Tom M.'s conversation piece on the Lowe signing brought a pretty good "moneyball" perspective to the issue of free agents and when it might be smart, or even efficient, to do something that looks an awful lot like overpaying.
2005-04-15 14:03:12
37.   jlistf
The general theory of Moneyball is that a company should identify and take advantage of market inefficiencies, especially if it is competing with another company that can outspend them. This theory can be applied to any company in any business.

The specific theory of the A's is that they identified OBP as being undervalued and defense, SBs (especially without regard to CSs), and physical tools/looks as being overvalued. They also noticed that college players were less of a risk and often cost less than high school players in the draft.

The general theory has nothing to do with OBP (or even baseball, technically). Recently, OBP has become overvalued, along with established starting pitchers, so Beane has found new market inefficiencies. Namely, he seems to be focusing on more advanced defensive metrics and young, unproven pitchers.

Joe Morgan is a moron.

Dave Roberts 2004: 38 SBs, 3 CSs. Best base stealer this side of Carlos Beltran, bar none. And Epstein got him cheap.

2005-04-15 14:03:21
38.   Eric L
re: #28

The Dodgers really didn't lower payroll all that much from '04 to '05. There is no doubt that the Dodgers are trying to increase revenue.

I do think that the recent moves the Dodgers have made is towards building a dynasty type thing when the prospects start fullfilling their potential.

2005-04-15 14:05:20
39.   Steve
Right on #37
2005-04-15 15:02:11
40.   Nolan
Like a wounded and aged Old Yeller, someone needs to take Joe Morgan out to the barn and just put him down...

At the end of the day, two things are prevening Joe Morgan from "getting it." One, frankly, he isn't well educated. Sorry. That may sound harsh, but it's true. I'm not saying he's a dumb guy, but having certain stores of knowledge make it a lot easier to "get" what Moneyball is about.

Second, he has a congnitive bias. He's threatened by what is written in Moneyball because it challenges his preconceived notions about baseball. Without these notions to cling to, Morgan would lose his ability to interact in and with the only universe he has ever known. So, he's scared.

It's sad.

2005-04-15 15:12:17
41.   dan reines
re #40:

there's a third thing that prevents joe morgan from "getting" moneyball: he hasn't read moneyball. or at least, he hadn't read it as of last year, and he was quite proud of that. presumably, anything he knows about "the moneyball way of doing things" is what he heard from other people, who may or may not have read the book themselves. in fact, i'd go further: because he's shown such a persistant closed-mindedness about the strategy described in moneyball, i think it's probably likely that anything he knows about moneyball he learned from other people who also don't like moneyball.

in other words, he doesn't know what he's talking about.

the weird thing is, i think there's plenty of room to argue against the moneyball approach. i mean, it describes one way of doing things, not the only way. billy beane himself would agree with that. that's why it's so silly that people like joe morgan feel it's necessary to attack straw dogs (e.g. "moneyballers sure do hate the stolen base!").

in other words, what a dope.

2005-04-15 16:24:11
42.   aloofman
Re #32: I agree. As Bill James has pointed out, Morgan was a quintessential Moneyball player, contributing far more to his team's winning than the traditional stats indicated. He probably should have won more than two MVPs. This leads me to two possible explanations:

1) Morgan has totally forgotten what made him good back in the 1970s and now lives in some narrow-minded world of his own making.

2) Or, he never KNEW what skills and talents he had as a player in the first place. This is kind of an interesting thought. Morgan was a great player at the time and everyone certainly knew it then. Since then the statheads have made the case that he was even better than that, but there was no way to measure it until recently. But is it possible that Morgan had a misunderstanding of WHY he was great? That his belief (and most others' at the time) of why he was good was wrong, but it didn't matter since everyone agreed on the conclusion? That's pretty strange, but maybe my imagination is getting the better of me.

2005-04-15 18:11:26
43.   Nolan
#42 - I think #2 is likely. I think most players tend to chalk up their success to "hard work" and "knowing how to win." I think it would be strange to think that just because someone is a great player they would be able to understand the various metrics designed to measure their greatness. The two don't really seem related.
2005-04-18 12:48:13
44.   tatsuke
"he weird thing is, i think there's plenty of room to argue against the moneyball approach. i mean, it describes one way of doing things, not the only way."

Because I like to argue:

Again, depending on how you interpret the book, if you have ANY sort of budget there is only one way to build a baseball team (assuming you make the rational choice to win as many games as possible).

1. Find out what wins ball games.
2. Buy as much of these "traits" as possible per marginal dollar.

And that's it. Otherwise, you are spending money inefficiently even if it's in small amounts. This works whether your budget is $20 million or $200 million. Now, this is simplistic. In the real world the objective is "make money", and the best way to do so is to "win games". But intangibles can also be valuable. Brian Giles may have been a sabermetric machine at the beginning of this decade but I'll bet he didn't put people in the seats lick Ichiro!. But if you are aware of the finances, starpower can also be quantified.

It's all about efficiency...

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