Moneyball premiers today and I'm really really wanting it to be good. Like I desperately want it to be good.
Because here's the thing. If it's good, then people will realize that the book is about the people in the front office and not so much their tactics.
Sun Tzu is popularly misquoted as saying, "Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat." Looking for high on-base percentage guys? That's the tactic. The strategy is in determining what skill sets are under valued by your enemy.
And by "skill sets" I don't just mean OBP again. Forget OBP for a second. Jeez. Forget Bill James and all of that jazz. I'm talking about strategies that include statistical analysis... tactics that include automated systems to improve process... recognition of red herrings. All that stuff.
Anyways, we're here to talk about the Padres. So let's talk about the most influential person in Moneyball that won't be getting a whole lot of screen time. That's right, former Padres CEO, and the most important Moneyball Player of them all... Sandy Alderson.
Sandy Alderson was Billy Beane's mentor at the Oakland Athletics and really... The movie should've been about Sandy. It would've been so much more compelling. Here's a guy who is a combination of Jonah Hill's character, in that he's not a baseball guy at all, and Brad Pitt's character in that he's amazingly handsome and fit considering that he's a former Marine. You could've had a whole thing with war flashbacks and bootcamp training and then added in the fact that Sandy was a successful lawyer before he joined the Athletics.
It's a war movie plus a compelling courtroom drama before it ever gets to the mental aspects of Billy Beane pretending to be Sandy Alderson.
In fact, maybe that's what the twist should be in Moneyball the Movie. Maybe at the end, we'll find out that Billy Beane and Jonah Hill's character are actually the same dude. And that Jonah Hill is simply a result of sleepless nights and Northern California weed. That would be the movie to see. And then the bonus twist? Billy Beane is actually Sandy Alderson.
"Billy Beane" would be what Sandy Alderson imagines himself as... Younger, athletic, former ballplayer... And Paul DePodesta would be the genius assistant that's actually a figment of Sandy's imagination a la A Beautiful Mind.
Miguel Tejada would be a figment of Sandy/Billy's imagination as well for comic relief.
So you get your war movie, your courtroom drama, all the front office Beautiful Mind stuff and then you top it off with the fact that Sandy Alderson actually took Oakland to the World Series! Happy ending built in. Real Oakland? Real Billy Beane? No happy ending. Too European of an ending if you ask me. American happy ending should have a World Series.
OK Let's get back to Sandy.
I remember back to when Billy Beane came to the San Diego Hall of Champions and spoke. I attended along with my Sports MBA class. Striking up a conversation with some then Padres front office staffers, I was a little alarmed with how defensive they sounded when talking about Billy Beane.
"Come here to pick up some tricks?" I asked them, jokingly.
"From this guy?" They responded. "Not likely. Besides, we basically have the master on the team right now, right?"
And I was like, "Jeez." And then they spit on me. Not really the spitting part, but everything else. Seriously. It's this bitterness that I imagine must've been carried from the top down. I mean, not knowing anything about how the team was being run, people just seemed to have a chip on their shoulders.
It's because of that, I can't help but wonder if Sandy Alderson really does wish the movie was about him. After all, Sandy's the one who came to San Diego and started running commercials that featured him and the rest of the front office. I mean, how do you market a baseball team like that? You feature the nerds and lawyers and fat cats in the front office? There's a Sandy Ego in San Diego, I remember thinking to myself.
And now we get to the movie and all the hype and marketing and there it is. There's what Sandy tried to do in San Diego. Marketing sports by featuring the nerds and the lawyers and the fat cats in the front office. I mean, this is a baseball movie. That's what Sandy Alderson always wanted and they couldn't even find room for him in the film.
Sandy Alderson was the one who showed up in Oakland and immediately started suggesting ridiculous things to investigate, because he didn't know better. Sandy Alderson was the one who arrived in San Diego and immediately started hiring up every single smart person he could find (a strategy which the Padres continue to this day). Sandy was also the fiery personality who would get into shouting matches with callers of radio talk shows and just barely suppress his insane desire to physically kill fairweather fans who dared question his tactics (last part in my imagination again).
So go to the movie. Go see Moneyball. But don't forget the REAL Moneyball player who should've been featured. You love him. You hate him. The movie is really about him. Sandy Alderson.