9 Reasons This Year's Oakland A's Are Better Than the Moneyball A's
The 2002 "Moneyball" version of the Oakland Athletics had an amazing 20-game win streak on their way to 103 wins—still, this year's A's are better.
There are still 60 games left to play.
Not only could the season shake out many different ways, but the 2012 A's also won't win as many games.
Yet, this team is effectively getting it done.
They're playing well in the face of adversity, and they're doing it in oh so exciting fashion.
Here are nine reasons why this year's team is better than the team that earned a major motion picture.
Today's Youth Trumps Cheap Veterans
In 2002, the Oakland Athletics—led by Billy Beane and company—sought out inexpensive "diamonds in the rough."
You can translate that into cheap veterans left for dead if you'd like.
Scott Hatterberg was a 32-year-old converted catcher with a busted arm. David Justice emptied everything he had left and retired after the season. John Mabry, Randy Velarde and Frank Menechino were all on their way out the door too.
Throw in names like Jim Mecir, Ricardo Rincon, Ray Durham, Jeremy Giambi and the late Cory Lidle and the 2002 A's took on many players who the rest of the league had little to no interest in.
Today's A's aren't quite as effective, but it's fun to watch these kids.
Jemile Weeks is having a down year, but his potential is there and when he flashes it it's awesome.
Guys like Derek Norris (23 years old), Chris Carter (25), Josh Reddick (25), Yoenis Cespedes (26), Brandon Hicks (26), Jarrod Parker (23), Tommy Milone (25), Ryan Cook (25) and A.J. Griffin (24) are all contributing quite nicely.
It's a lot more exciting when young men outproduce expectations. It builds enthusiasm for the future.
When over-the-hill veterans shock the world, it makes you wonder if it's a flash in the pan.
The Future Potential Versus a Rapid Decline
The 2002 Oakland Athletics set the ceiling so high.
That team had to win. They were built to compete—just with cheap players.
If they didn't, Billy Beane's tactics would have been further ridiculed.
Each year after would continue to beg the question: Does the Moneyball tactic work or is it a fluke?
After 2002, the Oakland Athletics declined.
From 2003 to 2011, the A's won 96, 91, 88, 93, 76, 75, 75, 81 and 74 games, respectively.
That '02 Moneyball team stuck around into 2003. Most of them however, were gone by 2004.
The 2012 squad is different.
They're built for the future—they're just producing earlier than expected.
So, while the hope in '02 dwindled, the future is bright post-2012.
The A's Are Winning With People the Nation Doesn't Know
The nation knew Miguel Tejada. They were well aware of David Justice, Jermaine Dye and Eric Chavez.
They certainly knew the Big Three—Tim Hudson, Mark Mulder and Barry Zito.
With guys like these, the team was expected to win and they did.
Jarrod Parker, Tommy Milone, Josh Reddick, Chris Carter, Jemile Weeks, Derek Norris, Eric Sogard, Ryan Cook and A.J. Griffin spent significant time in the minors last season.
Sean Doolittle was a first baseman last year. He's a pitcher this year.
Yoenis Cespedes wasn't even playing in America.
Shoot, Kurt Suzuki, Cliff Pennington and Brandon McCarthy have all been in the league for more than five years and some fans outside of the Bay Area still might not even be familiar with them.
The players on this roster are stars to Oakland A's fans and unknowns to the rest of the world.
Consider this fun fact: The A's rotation ERA of 3.68 led the AL in '02. That was with the Big Three. This year's A's lead the AL with a 3.43 ERA.
The 2012 Athletics Are More Well-Rounded
Moneyball—it's all about walks and on-base percentage. Occasionally a home run was nice too.
In Moneyball days there was no stealing. That could lead to thrown out runners, which is a waste. There was no bunting or small ball for the same reason.
This year's A's aren't even close to the 2002 A's in batting average. They're on pace to hit fewer home runs, capture fewer hits, score less, walk less (though they're currently second in the AL just as the 2002 team was) and possibly even strike out more.
But at least they're swinging.
And they're pulling off hit and runs. Occasionally they bunt for hits too. Best of all, they're stealing bases again.
While they aren't hitting as many home runs as they did in 2002, today's A's are still putting balls over the wall.
The A's Spent Money
You knew this year would be different when the team re-signed Brandon McCarthy to a $4.275 million deal. Then, they re-signed Coco Crisp for about $14 million.
Best of all, they gave Yoenis Cespedes a four-year deal worth $36 million.
Rejoice, they never do that.
Tack on Grant Balfour's $4 million, Kurt Suzuki's $5 million and Brandon Inge's $5.5 million and the A's have actually spent some money.
Anything to get the fans' hopes up.
It's hard to argue with a 20-game win streak showcasing the heart of a team and how scrappy they can be.
But how about 12 walk-off wins?
It's as if the 2012 A's said, "I see your win streak and will call with our league-leading walk-off wins."
Both are pretty exciting.
In 2002, the A's had 11 walk-offs and 39 come-from-behind wins. This year they have 12 walk-offs and 27 come-from-behind wins.
The beauty of the walk-off win is that it seems to be a different guy every time. More than a half dozen players have taken a turn winning the game for Oakland.
They didn't win 20 in a row, but the 2012 A's did go 19-5 in the month of July.
Bob Melvin Versus Art Howe
Granted, the manager of the team makes little difference in exciting the fans. He also makes little difference in an attempt to convince readers one team is better than the other.
Still, hear me out.
After four average years (1996-99), the A's turned around under Art Howe. But, there was also a switch in philosophy. At the end of 2002, the A's let him walk.
Teams under Howe typically finish between third and fourth place as well.
Bob Melvin came in to the clubhouse in 2011. Though he was there on an interim basis, he did enough to secure an extension.
Ever since he took over, the A's have appeared to play better baseball (this can be attributed to playing harder for Melvin as oppose to Bob Geren).
It's worth noting, teams under Melvin typically finish between second and third.
The Steroid Era Is Over
Depending on who you are, you may not put a lot of stock into this slide.
But, the prestige of baseball in the late 1990s and early 2000s took a huge hit with the release of names in the Mitchell Report.
The list includes a few members of the 2002 Oakland Athletics including Jeremy Giambi, David Justice, Cody McKay, Adam Piatt and Miguel Tejada (34 home runs, 131 RBI).
Does this mean no one in 2012 is using?
But, the league appears to be cleaned up, so the fact that the 2012 A's are winning this many games with no-name players is pretty exciting whereas the thrill of veterans who strung together 103 wins in an era rampant with steroid use has been significantly lessened.
Come Trade Deadline, the A's Didnt Give Away Any Talent
On July 5, 2002, the Oakland Athletics parted with future slugger Carlos Pena. In the the three-team deal, the A's also traded away Jeremy Bonderman.
Pena went on to hit more than 250 home runs.
In 2008, Pena was largely a contributing factor to the Tampa Bay Rays' World Series berth.
This year—heavy breath of fresh air—the A's stood pat at the deadline.
They didn't give up on anyone.