The word “Moneyball” has become a lightning-rod word in the game of baseball these days.
For the record, it is the name of Michael Lewis’ 2003 book (and later the movie based on the book) about the Oakland Athletics.
To some, that term points to the dawning of the age of intellectual baseball analysis, of looking at our dad’s and grandfather’s baseball stats (average, home runs, RBI) with a suspicious eye.
To others, it elicits an eye roll, a “these computer geeks who haven’t played baseball since they were in Little League think they invented the game” reaction.
But, for the millionth time, “Moneyball” was not about on-base percentage. Or computers taking over for scouts.
It was about exploiting market inefficiencies. Again, repeat after me: It was about EXPLOITING … MARKET … INEFFICIENCIES.
Last week we watched the Cubs employ that very strategy. Whether it ultimately works or not remains to be seen, but their three trades last Tuesday could somewhat alter the industry landscape. And it has nothing to do with the players involved.
It was about acquiring international pool money, something that is now specifically doled out to teams each year.
No longer is that market considered the Wild West, but the Cubs are the first team to target pool money in trades to give them an edge on other teams in signing young, raw players from other countries.
It was a clever maneuver in a game whose powers-that-be have increasingly decided to handcuff the brightest and most strategically savvy general managers.
I equate it to playing black jack at any casino in the country. Those who know the math better than everybody else are politely told they can’t play. If you know what cards have been played and what cards might be played, they don’t want you beating the house consistently.
And so it was with free-agent draft compensation and the overpaying of drafted players. Too many teams exploited the loopholes in the system too often, forcing the rest of the industry to pull back the reins and “level the field.”
But, like in any other business, the most competitive and fastidious front offices in baseball will continue to look for any niche they can find that will give them even the slightest advantage over everyone else.
Of course, a lot of fans don’t care about the process. They care simply about results.
And I get that. And Theo Epstein understands that. He’d probably rather not have to explain how they’re going about it. He’d prefer to just do it and reward Cubs fans for their lifetimes of loyalty.
But because of the length of the process, he transparently has laid out the Cubs’ goals from the minute he took over the front office — they won’t cut corners; they won’t build through free agency; they will hoard young impact talent.
There is no guarantee any of this will work. That’s the harsh reality of it. But I truly believe — and the Cubs believe — that the process (i.e., gobbling up as many young, promising players via all means necessary) matters.
If you do everything as meticulously as you can, you should gain an edge (as tiny as it might be) that could put you over the hump for a playoff spot, a division title, and hopefully a World Series championship.
Dan Bernstein from The Score often invokes a great line when discussing trades: “Do these moves get the Cubs closer to winning a World Series?”
My answer in this case is yes.
Because it accelerates the essential process of adding a large quantity of young players to a system that badly needs it, which in turn should push championship-caliber talent to the big leagues on a yearly basis.
ŸLen Kasper is the TV play-by-play broadcaster for the Chicago Cubs. Follow him on Twitter @LenKasper and check out his [URL]blog entries;http://wgntv.com/news/stories/len-and-jds-cubs-baseball-blog/[URL] with Jim Deshaies at wgntv.com. To post comments or questions for Len, click on the comment link with his column at dailyherald.com.[/URL]Copyright © 2014 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.