Thursday, March 06, 2008

Good News, Links, and Tonight's Meetup

It's already been an eventful spring down in Tampa , with all eyes watching the Yanks' pitching young 'uns like hawks. Protective mother hawks. But the best news of the spring has been the negative biopsy Bobby Murcer received this week, showing that what some thought could have been a recurrence of his brain cancer was actually scar tissue. Surviving cancer is a day-by-day thing, but I'm glad to hear that we'll have the chance to enjoy some more days with Bobby. You can't ask for much better than that.

Anyway, I'll be at the Barnes and Noble on Fifth Avenue tonight at 6:00 (150 Fifth Avenue, & 18th Street). Being on a panel with Joe Sheehan, Steve Goldman and Jay Jaffe means being guaranteed that no one will ask you a question, but I'll fight to get my cuts in anyway. The tour will also take us (minus Goldman) to Long Island on Saturday, with an appearance at the Border's Book Store in Westbury, located at 1260 Old Country Road. That'll be at 2:00 PM. Next week (the 15th), I'll be in Rockaway, New Jersey with Steve, I'll update you on the time and place later on.

A few quick hits:

The rap on Representative Anthony Weiner, like his political mentor, Chuck Shumer, is that it's very dangerous to get between him and a TV camera, ever. He's also one of the more partisan politicos you'll find, which is one reason I hope his plea to the Attorney General, not to waste further federal resources on Roger Clemens finds a sympathetic audience. I'm on the record saying that Congress had no justification trying to sort Clemens's and Brian McNamee's dirty laundry in the first place; the investigation requested by the Oversight Committee is pouring more money after the initial bad investment of time and funds.

For BP subscribers, a couple of fresh Yankees links: Will Carroll's Team Health Report, and Kevin Goldstein's Organizational Rankings, which lists the Pinstripers as the #6 organization in the game.

I also had a quick take on Moneyball and the retirement of Jeremy Brown for Prospectus Toolbox earlier this week. Here's a taste:

The news that Jeremy Brown was hanging up his spikes due to "personal issues" made more of a stir last week than you'd expect from the retirement of a 28-year-old catcher who's spent the last two years in Triple-A. Our prospects expert, Kevin Goldstein, gave Brown an extremely evenhanded send-off over on Unfiltered; others have been less charitable, invoking imaginary choruses of scouts cheering the end of Brown's career. At least, I hope the cheering is imaginary: it'd take a Grinch-sized heart to rejoice in the end of someone's big-league dreams, unless their name is, say, Ben Christensen. The reason that Brown is the focus of such attention and schadenfreude is because the A's drafted him in the first round of the 2002 draft—an overdraft which, by itself, wouldn't be that noteworthy—and because Michael Lewis wrote a best-selling book which hailed Brown's selection as the bellwether of a new way of doing business, which the author dubbed "Moneyball" in the book of the same name. Apparently, those celebrating Brown's retirement are marking the occasion as the death of Moneyball acumen—a festive wake, with dancing and ironic toasts.

Now, Brown never asked to be the Luke Skywalker of a sabermetric revolution. He was a guy who was already going to face a fair amount of hazing in the minors because his body was not quite one that Calvin Klein would put on a billboard. After Moneyball was published, not only was he much more famous than the average 35th overall pick, the negative aspects of his physique were cataloged in the book for ease of heckling. Saddling him with the additional burden of representing the A's organizational philosophy—as interpreted by Lewis—was never particularly fair. However, five years removed from the book's initial release, it is a reasonable time to look back at the 2002 draft, and at the A's organization in general, and ask: is Moneyball really dead?

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