The Moneyball Mets

LOS ANGELES - JULY 5: Members of the U.S. Marine Corps salute during the national anthem before the game between the Florida Marlins and the Los Angeles Dodgers on July 5 2010 at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles California. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

Throughout the Minaya tenure, we at Amazin' Avenue held a somewhat tenuous position. In contrast to Minaya's stated opposition to advanced baseball statistics, and the opinions of much of the fanbase, we seemed stat-obsessed. Somewhat unwittingly, Eric, James, and I became defenders of a movement, sabermetrics, that we ourselves didn't fully understand or accept.  

In reality, the authors of this blog were not drawn together by a ritualistic reading of Bill James' annuals, but a common emphasis on substantiated arguments and aversion to abject bullshit. Amazin' Avenue often cites statistics, because they are the best evidence at hand. We are often discussing tenured major league players, and the longer someone plays in the majors, the more predictive and useful his statistical record becomes. We are just fans in search of answers, and in many circumstances, statistics are the most empirically reliable tool for deriving those answers.

Contrary to the opinion of some critics, "sabermetrics" is not an agreed upon set of ideas. Like in all fields, a sub-culture exists among those people on the cutting edge, but we sit comfortably on the cutting edge of nothing. Overhearing one of many heated arguments between me and JamesK would scare the word "groupthink" out of any critics mouth.   

For the past five years, though, we've taken considerable crap from fellow Mets fans, concerned with the harmful spread of "Moneyball" ideas in their favorite sport. We (usually) bit our tongues as people with no scouting expertise shielded their bunk opinions under a non-existent "stats vs. scouting" conflict. The same fans, who most loudly bemoaned the failures of Omar Minaya, denounced our specific criticisms without the slightest hint of irony.

Yet, the Mets have now hired the man Moneyball is actually about. Nobody protests. Confronted with the reality of the book, the physical manifestation of its ideas, Mets fans can only respect his undeniable track record of success. Most probably don't even realize that this man, an industry legend, a Marine, a baby boomer, a universally-hailed hire, created the progressive culture they are so quick to deride. 

Moneyball fundamentally changed my view of baseball, not because it advocated any specific theory, but because of quotations like this, from Alderson himself:

"You have to remember that there wasn't any evidence that any of this shit worked." 

Not OBP, not drafting college players, and more than just undervalued markets, Moneyball was about a guy who came into a deeply entrenched institution and questioned its core principles. He accepted logical plans, not hunches and traditions, and implemented them with Marine Corps-rigor. 

"I couldn't do a regressions analysis," [Alderson] said, "but I knew what one was. And the results of them made sense to me." (57)

I'm not a math genius, nor do I have any vested interest in sabermetrics being "proven right." In many instances though, I vetted the alternatives and the statistics just made sense. They added up, when the Mets moves didn't. 

Someone will read this article as triumph des nerds, a seamhead praising our new sabermetric overlord. But I honestly don't think the Mets' biggest lacking these past few years has been a statistically-inclined leader. The blatant disregard for industry-standard statistics was just symptomatic of generally poor leadership, unwilling to challenge their own ideas, unable to think critically about the Mets' problems.

It's hard to imagine Sandy Alderson letting a top prospect jump between three levels of competition in one year, burning arbitration clock,  breaking his development schedule. I don't think Sandy Alderson would let a field manager play washed up veterans over promising young players for months at a time. Sandy Alderson wouldn't see a team riddled with injury risk and lineup holes, and sink the team's entire budget into a single aging outfielder. And none of that has to do with On Base Percentage. 

So welcome to the Moneyball Mets, a team built on sense, not one imagined dogma or another. Maybe when we're all cheering, the bickering will end. 

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