Not Everything Is Moneyball

I woke up this morning, went downstairs, and found the TV turned to ESPN which was airing Sports Reporters.  The panel was talking about Major League Baseball and inevitably landed on the topic of the American League East.  The AL East is interesting this year because the Yankees have a team hot on their trail, but it’s not the Red Sox or Rays.  It is the Baltimore Orioles.  Yes I’ll say it again… the Baltimore Orioles are making the AL East interesting.  After Sunday, the Orioles trail the Yankees by only two games in the standings all while the Yanks are trying to survive some ill-timed injuries.

Of course it was a topic that I was interested in, especially because the panel was focusing on the Orioles as opposed to the Yankees.  The part that bothered me though was when Mike Lupica called the Orioles philosophy by the now overused and oft incorrectly used term “moneyball.”  Lupica pointed to the fact that there is a payroll disparity of over $100 million between the two teams and since the Orioles only have a payroll of $81 million, they are the moneyball team.

People seem to get lost in the fact that the Oakland A’s, the team that made the whole thing famous, had a small payroll.  To me it’s like a square and rectangle deal; moneyball includes a low payroll, but a low payroll doesn’t mean that a team is playing moneyball.  Moneyball is an organization wide philosophy, not just a reflection of spending habits.

If there is any team playing Moneyball this season, it is the originators themselves!  The Oakland A’s have the same exact record as those vaunted Yankees (76-57).  The A’s have a payroll of just over $55 million which is second to last in Major League Baseball.  The $55 million spent by the A’s is $26 million less than the “moneyball” playing Orioles.

The A’s are truly playing moneyball.  Their highest paid players are Yoenis Cespedes at about $6.5 million and Coco Crisp at about $6 million.  Cespedes is a player with tremendous upside and worth the monetary risk even for the tight budget A’s.  Crisp is a veteran past his prime that is epitomizes a moneyball player.

The Orioles have been a great story this season, but they aren’t playing moneyball.  Adam Jones and Matt Weiters are having career years.  Their pitching has been tremendous.  Buck Showalter has put together one of his best managing jobs to date.  The Orioles are playing high end baseball with a middle-of-the-pack payroll.  Even though the Yankees have a $100 million-plus advantage over the Orioles, they are by no means spending small.  Let’s not lose sight of what moneyball really is, and let’s all agree that the Orioles aren’t playing it.

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