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The Backlash, Continues
2005-10-31 15:52
by Will Carroll

As is well known now, Theo Epstein has declined the contract to return as GM of the Red Sox. Dan Shaugnessy in this article set the stage for this to happen and many see Larry Lucchino's fingerprints on the keyboard. There's questions now about where Boston goes next (think: established GM with Lucchino ties) and how "Theo's guys" like Jed Hoyer and Bill James will fare now. Is there a new chapter of Mind Game to be written on how to tear down a team on the verge of a decade-long run of excellence? (Yes, I'm a big fan of their minor league system.) Did Josh Byrnes smell what Lucchino was cooking and exit stage Phoenix while he could?

On the heels of DePodesta's ouster at the hands of a pasta-stained junta, there's only one more shoe to drop in the expected backlash. Still, I'm beginning to wonder if there's more than just these three shoes. It'd certainly help the metaphor to have an even number. By the time we get to Dallas, perhaps sooner, this will have all shaken out. Chris Kahrl would have a great historical metaphor, some old-school return to a previous government. I wonder what it would be and how it turned out. Those who don't know history are doomed to repeat it. Apparently, I need a lesson.

2005-10-31 21:35:38
1.   Louis in SF
How much of this is backlash and how much of it is "the same old story" bad ownership, owners who while saying they want to win, really care more about making money, and run their baseball team as a hobby. If you read the story in the globe by Wilbur, he seems to say that the Red Sox are now more into real estate development than team development. The Dodger case is clearly one with no real plan by the ownwer other than making money and cutting payroll.
While Tommy Lasorda has been given the credit as the leader of the DePodesta coup, if that is the case than the owner may actually be worse than we think, because he listens to him.
There is some quote from the early 20th century that," if baseball is allowed to continue to be run by its current owners it won't last another decade. " A paraphrase yes, but in many ways still applicable today.
2005-11-01 00:55:46
2.   Joe
I was under the impression Bill James was one of "John Henry's guys". If the right GM is brought in -- Towers, DePodesta, Forst, etc. -- I doubt James (or Voros) would leave.
2005-11-01 05:03:20
3.   bob gaj
i believe voros left and went to the other sox...
2005-11-01 07:47:03
4.   TFD
Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think Theo leaving (being pushed) really has anything to do with a 'backlash' does it? This was purely a father/son power/control issue between Theo and Larry. The same result would have happened if Theo was a 'scouting' guy.
2005-11-01 10:02:56
5.   thewebb
If we take Dan S's word at face value, it sounds like Theo was more of the issue than Larry. Real interesting stuff on that Colorado trade and about Theo resenting others getting credit for his success. Wonder what is and isn't true.
2005-11-01 13:37:24
6.   Brent is a Dodger Fan
I, too, would like to see more evidence that there is a genuine backlash happening. I think coincidence is an equally compelling hypothesis. (And the statisticians in the crowd will recognize that coincidence is the null or default hypothesis.)

I cannot imagine a more different set of circumstances than what Theo and Paul faced. True, both had playoff success in 2004 and not-so in 2005, but the similarity, it seems, ends there.

2005-11-01 15:52:04
7.   thewebb
Good article by Bill Simmons echoing Will's thoughts on this article having Luchino's fingerprints all over it. He also gets into Theo's plan Bs and Cs actually working out for him as well.

2005-11-01 19:46:14
8.   Will Carroll
Good point, Brent, but the fact is that this was coming and coming for a while. There were whispers of the backlash as early as the LCS and I heard a lot of discussion at the World Series. It wasn't so much Paul and Theo as "If the Sox win, that will be three years out of four that a team that runs counter to Moneyball has won. If the Sox look like a fluke, then it gives the old school a chance to slit some throats." And that quote (from memory, so probably not exact) comes from someone you'd consider stathead friendly.
2005-11-01 22:44:41
9.   dzzrtRatt
How are the Sox "a team that runs counter to Moneyball." They only run counter to an inaccurate caricature of it. Moneyball doesn't prefer slow runners or poor fielders. Bunts aren't ruled out completely. They're fine if you need one run, right?

Maybe I'm dumb, but I think a lot more teams practice Moneyball than avow it. The Sox in particular seemed like a team totally devoid of sentimental attachments to over the hill or overrated players, a team that tried not to overpay for anything, but got lots of production from an efficient offense and solid pitching. They just didn't brag about it, and thus avoided Joe Morgan's wrath.

2005-11-02 10:09:36
10.   Brent is a Dodger Fan
8, 9 Okay, so Will raises an excellent point: what people are saying. I wasn't in the press-box at the World Series (Will, you were, right? but then again, the press is not exactly my friend these days: witness Plaschke).

I could easily make the argument that it is a horribly off-base reading of Moneyball to think that it should produce a World Series champ, but that's not the point. The point is what do people believe, and it is clear that a great many people just don't understand or are completely threatened by this whole sabermetrics thing...

What confuses me now, and what has always confused me, is that the businessmen who run these baseball teams would be in that class of people who don't understand...

2005-11-02 14:55:10
11.   chris in illinois

I'm not sure that the businessmen don't understand all that, but what is their incentive to win?? Winning doesn't necessarily make them extra money---higher revenues in the first few years of ownership cuts into their monsterous tax breaks. I'm no expert on business (Doug Pappas if he were still around could talk much more intelligently than I on the subject), but financial goals don't always jive with victory.

2005-11-02 16:18:53
12.   Brent is a Dodger Fan
11 Ah, yes. There is that isn't there? Though I don't think I'm saying that, exactly.

Will says: Blacklash... Saber-GMs getting fired.
I say: Coincidence
Will says: It's what people are saying
I say: Businessmen are swept up in what people are saying?

Could be... Still think we need to see who does get hired in Boston and Los Angeles (or where DePodesta and Epstein wind up) to know if teams/owners are partaking in this "backlash"...

2005-11-02 16:24:27
13.   chris in illinois
I think some of these owners simply like to hang out with the Tommy Lasordas and the Joe Morgans of the world. Being a successful CEO may not impress everyone from your high school graduating class, but owning the SF Giants makes a statement.
2005-11-02 17:20:33
14.   Schteeve
RE: 10. Assuming that businessmen will understand the value of statistical objective analysis just because they are businessmen, is borderline laughable. Sure, if they are the CEO of P&G or Kraft where everything is an algorithim, but most businessmen have their heads up their asses just like everyone else, or leave the job of executing their biz plans to people whose jobs they don't understand.
2005-11-03 07:11:09
15.   TFD
Relevant info from Bob Ryan:

"Sure, Henry can find another Bill James pup with a brain and a computer, but Theo brought far more to the table. He clearly possessed unteachable people skills to augment his empirical knowledge. He is an intriguing combination of Old School and New School, and as such he is pretty much sui generis. The Red Sox were extremely fortunate to have him."


2005-11-03 11:14:18
16.   Murray
The Sox should make Bill James their new GM. Why go for a lesser deity when Zeus himself is under contract?

I'm kidding.

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