Billy Beane's genius and the A's bad luck can't both exist

The Athletics come up snake eyes again

10/11/13 in MLB   |   PAULLEBOWITZ   |   109 respect

October 10, 2013; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Athletics starting pitcher Sonny Gray (54) reacts after walking Detroit Tigers catcher Alex Avila (13, not pictured) to load the bases during the fourth inning in game five of the American League divisional series playoff baseball game at O.co Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY SportsThe Athletics’ latest loss in the playoffs was their seventh in the past fourteen seasons. In only one of those years did they make it past the first round and when they did, they got swept.
 
There’s a movement that’s been in place since the publication of Moneyball to chalk up the Athletics’ lack of success in the post-season to the “crapshoot” theory that GM Billy Beane’s strategies don’t work in the playoffs. This is not another posting about the validity of Moneyball, nor is it an indictment of Beane in its truest sense. The idea that he’s a “genius” has come from that piece of creative nonfiction that’s taken on a life of its own.
 
For those who started watching baseball as a direct result of Moneyball and think they’re somehow capable of understanding the nuances of the game based on a set of stats, equating Moneyball to anything in the realm of reality is indicative of a blatant lack of comprehension of the game itself. It’s easy to start learning terminology and the calculation of certain formulas and think it somehow morphs into knowledge that can replace the decades of experience that men like Tony LaRussa, Jim Leyland and Dave Dombrowski have. Those who decry experience as a factor are likely only doing so because they don't have any of it themselves. Beane has experience in the post-season and it's a losing one. That's fact. 
 
The book was an homage to Beane’s ability to win without spending the money that the Yankees and Red Sox did. He crafted his success on numbers that no one was paying attention to. Somehow that evolved into the appellation of “genius.” The word itself has become too easily tossed about in today’s vernacular. One person’s genius is another person’s adaptability and willingness to do something different. Beane changed the template out of necessity and became an international star.
 
As the years have gone by, there’s been a concept that he’s infallible. Even in 2012, when his star was beginning to fade – coinciding with the release of the movie version of Moneyball – fate intervened and the Athletics staged a comeback from 13 games behind the Rangers on June 30th to win the AL West, cementing his celluloid and fictionalized persona. 
 
As a thespian Beane may not be Brad Pitt, but he’s taken to his role and the circumstances surrounding what’s expected of him with the same capacity for adaptation that led to his fame in the first place. While he was on top of the world and the perception that everything he did would work out, he was a ruthless businessman in the Gordon Gekko sense. Bullying, intimidating, intense and successful, Beane became a corporate speaking titan and in an unheard of perk in today’s game, received points in the franchise. He went from failed prospect to part owner, an amazing accomplishment. Once the A’s success waned and his moves started to falter, he became the humble everyman, just along for the ride and doing what he knows how to do as best he could.
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