The Michael Lewis/Oakland A’s love affair: it’s time to move on…

April 19th, 2007 → 9:44 am @ // 9 Comments

In the inaugural issue of the mildly confusing Portfolio, Conde Nast’s new business magazine, Michael Lewis has a story about a “Jock Exchange” that would function like much like the stock exchange. As is almost always the case when Lewis references baseball, the piece is heavy with references to the Oakland A’s. And as is increasingly the case, many of these references are out of date and are used to illustrate points that might have been true four or five years ago, but aren’t any longer.

To wit: the A’s are not “by far the most cost efficient team in baseball,” as Lewis says: since 2001, the Florida Marlins have paid approximately $488,000 per win, while the A’s have paid about $525,000 (and the Twins approximately $542,661). Lewis credits this incredible cost efficiency largely to the work of Paul DePodesta, who left the A’s “first to become the general manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers and then the San Diego Padres’ special assistant for baseball operations.” Left unmentioned is the fact that DePodesta was fired after two years as the GM of the Dodgers…having spent more than twice as much as the Marlins, A’s, or Twins on each L.A. win.

Lewis is a great writer, and Moneyball is inarguably one of the best books ever written about baseball. He’d be doing himself a favor if he let it stand for itself and stopped writing pieces that use increasingly outdated research to do current articles.*

* Note: hopefully I will follow this advice.


Post Categories: Baseball & Boston & Literature & Media & Music & the Red Sox

9 Comments → “The Michael Lewis/Oakland A’s love affair: it’s time to move on…”


  1. zach

    10 years ago

    Seth – I haven’t read Lewis’ piece, but a more charitable reading of his “most cost efficient team in baseball” remark would be that for just $37,000 more per win, the A’s go to the playoffs and the Marlins don’t. If I owned a major league team, I think that’d sound like a good gamble to me.

    Or you could look at it as for $37,000 less per win, the Marlins win the World Series and the A’s don’t, but you make a decent point. But since the playoffs have as much to do with your division/league as anything else, I think a cost-per-win analysis makes more sense…and I think we can all agree that the “most cost efficient by far” is unquestionably inaccurate.

    — Seth

    Reply

  2. xbx

    10 years ago

    isn’t it a bit ironic for the author of a book on the red sox 2004 world series win that didn’t come out until july 2006 (almost a year after similar books by steve goldman and bill simmons) to use the term “outdated”?

    I know how much fun it is to be a wiseass, but you might to actually read my book…or even just the back cover. I spent the 2005 season with the Sox. FTM covers up until spring training in 2006; it came out three months after that. And if you think the BP book, (stat work), Simmons’ book (a collection of columns, memories, and thoughts), and mine (a reported narrative about the last half-decade) are anything like each other…well, you might want to actually read their books, too.

    — Seth

    Reply

  3. poludamas

    10 years ago

    I think you have to account for how a replacement level team will still win some games–probably about 25-30% of the time, judging from how the worst teams in history have done. So the bang for the buck should really be in terms of wins above this level; I think the Marlins still come out ahead, but I suspect that the 2006 Marlins are not sustainable (if their payroll stays that low, I don’t think they’ll reproducibly play near .500, and if they stay near .500, I doubt their payroll will stay that low), whereas Beane’s model appears to be pretty close to it. And yes, there is a big bonus in value for making the playoffs, which the A’s did and the Marlins did not.

    Reply

  4. jeff

    10 years ago

    Before you criticize Michael Lewis for his love affair with the A’s, shouldn’t you write a few blog posts on a team other than the Red Sox?

    Let’s see: Red Sox media news, Manny speaks, Matsuzaka, Wily Mo, Dice K, Beckett, Fenway home opener, Brendan Donnelly quote, Papelbon, former Red Sox (Clemens, Foulke, Pedro), Schilling, “Manny Ortez”…

    So who is next, Mirabelli or Alex Cora?

    Reply

  5. Ethan P

    10 years ago

    Before you criticize Michael Lewis for his love affair with the A’s, shouldn’t you write a few blog posts on a team other than the Red Sox?

    Let’s see: Red Sox media news, Manny speaks, Matsuzaka, Wily Mo, Dice K, Beckett, Fenway home opener, Brendan Donnelly quote, Papelbon, former Red Sox (Clemens, Foulke, Pedro), Schilling, “Manny Ortez”

    ———————-

    Wow. Seth, on behalf of your sane readers, I apologize.
    As for you Jeff–Seth is not criticizing Lewis for focusing exclusively on the A’s. Seth is criticizing Lewis for making outdated generalizations about the A’s.

    Reply

  6. jeff

    10 years ago

    Ethan P, in that case perhaps Mnookin should have come up with a more appropriate headline than “The Michael Lewis/Oakland A’s love affair: it’s time to move on…”

    And Lewis doesn’t focus exclusively on the A’s. Not only does the article mention many other athletes, teams and sports, but Lewis recently wrote a book on the role of the left tackle position in football.

    Isn’t it time for Seth Mnookin to move on from his love affair with the Red Sox? Perhaps he could tag along with the Cardinals for the year, since they just won the World Series while the Red Sox finished in third place?

    Reply
  7. […] • Tennis gimmicks can be quite fun. [The Battle Of Surfaces] • Are the Nationals actually becoming a real franchise? [No One Appreciates Me] • Michael Lewis needs to update his mantra. [SethMnookin] • Here’s something to annoy all your friends with today. [MLB XM] A look back at some sorry Warriors history. [Say Hey] […]

    Reply
  8. […] I’m not sure if this explains the Michael Lewis “Jock Exchange” piece or means it’s even more frustrating that there’s still so much A’s material in there…but there are rumors (via Gawker via Dealbreaker) that Lewis is making $12 a word(!) for his Portfolio stories. By that count, this post would net me a bit less than $1,500, and I’d have made somewhere north of a million bucks off of this blog. Instead, I’m paying for the server space.* If that figure is anywhere near accurate, one thing’s for sure: he’s a lot smarter than I am about monetizing his labor. * After two months, I took down the Google AdSense ads from the sidebar; they netted me a total of $15.79. […]

    Reply

  9. jackeck

    10 years ago

    Left unmentioned is that the Dodgers won the NL West in Depodesta’s first season, and then didn’t play a single game with their originally anticipated 1-8 starting lineup in the second year.

    Reply

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