Manager Tony La Russa stands in the dugout prior to Game Four of the MLB World Series against the Texas Rangers at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
The postponement of Game 6 of the World Series on Wednesday gave Cardinals manager Tony La Russa a chance to play movie critic. He told reporters in St. Louis that he used the off day to go see "Moneyball", for the second time:
As for "Moneyball," La Russa said he went once already and walked out on it.
"It’s our tribute to all the scouts and baseball people that were dissed by ‘Moneyball,’" he said. "That’s why I walked out of ‘Moneyball.’"
Apparently, he stayed for the whole thing Wednesday night; here's one representative quote that was tweeted by a number of reporters:
Offended? Pretty strong language. Let's go back to the link from earlier to see why Tony might have been offended:
"On-base percentage is one of the most dangerous concepts of the last seven, eight years,’’ he said, "because it forces some executives and coaches and players to think that it’s all about getting on base by drawing walks. And the fact is that the guys that have the best on-base percentage are really dangerous hitters whenever they get a pitch in the strike zone.
"So if the pitcher knows that and the catcher knows that, they work the edges, and pretty soon it’s 2-and-1, 2-and-1 rather than 0-and-1 all the time.
"You watch your productive hitters in the big leagues, and they get a chance to drive in a run, they look for the first good strike, and the better the pitching, especially this time of the year, you get that first strike, that may be the last one that you get to see. So you’d better be ready to swing early. It’s not sitting up there and taking strike one, strike two so that you can work the count.’’
That's all well and good, but as you know if you've read Moneyball the book and/or seen the movie, the concept of "Moneyball" isn't "on-base percentage". It's leveraging something that other people in baseball aren't using to bring it to your advantage -- taking advantage of market inefficiencies. In the case of what Billy Beane was trying to do in 2002, that happened to be "on-base percentage". Now that everyone knows that, if a shrewd general manager wants to use "Moneyball" techniques, he has to identify something that no one else is using, and do it himself.
Beyond that, most modern GMs who use a more analytical approach to building a winner will tell you -- as Theo Epstein made a point of doing when he was introduced as Cubs President of Business Operations on Tuesday -- that you need both good scouting and good statistical analysis to find winning players. Billy Beane would surely agree.
But hey, Tony did say there was "good acting" in the film. And so there was. Maybe he was trying to wrangle himself an invitation to the Oscars, since Moneyball is likely to get quite a few nominations.
This is the danger of rained-out games during the World Series. Reporters and managers get bored, and a manager spends the night eating popcorn in a dark room with his feet stuck to the floor, and comes out of it thinking he's figured out what the movie is about.
Play ball already!