Michael Lewis is famous for his awe-inspiring "how the improbable became possible" literature, and his 2003 tale Moneyball shed light on just how the 2002 Oakland Athletics were able to compete with baseball’s best, despite their bottom-feeder status on the baseball market. Using advanced metrics and analytics, the A’s were able to field a team full of undervalued but talented misfits and were able to steal the AL West division that season.
A decade later, not much has changed in Oakland.
The team still fields a bargain-basement roster full of players that, at first glace, might seem like cronies but are again leading the A’s to an improbable playoff run. The plot is so similar that it feels like a sequel to Lewis’ bestseller.
But unlike most sequels, this one doesn’t suck. Let’s examine the symmetry between the two rosters.
It’s a band of misfits, dysfunction and guys you would never expect to churn a winning franchise, but the 2012 Oakland Athletics appear to be on a whole new level when it comes to winning on the cheap.
From Jerry Blevins to Jonny Gomes, did anyone really expect this team to be competitive on any level this season?
But wait, we’ve heard this story before, haven’t we? Chad Bradford? Scott Hatteberg, anyone? Just where does GM Billy Beane find these guys?
It’s impeccably amazing and an absolute joy to watch no-namers become household celebrities. Heck, they’ve even immortalized Scott Hatteberg in Oakland, doing a bobblehead promotion 10 years after the date. Perhaps we might be saying the same for a guy like Brandon Inge a decade from now.
Did Reddick and Cespedes just bash elbows? Cue nostalgia.
Beanetown has always been familiar with the long ball—from Reggie Jackson to the Bash Brothers—and the 2012 rendition of the Swingin’ A’s fits the Oakland mold seamlessly.
Though the 2012 A’s rank 11th in home runs on the season, they’ve torn it up in the second half with 51 touch-em-alls, good for fourth in the big leagues. Led by thumpers Josh Reddick, Yoenis Cespedes, Chris Carter, Jonny Gomes, Seth Smith and Brandon Moss, the Oakland A’s budget platoon has really brought the bash back to the Coliseum.
To put it in perspective, the 2002 A’s finished fourth in home runs at the end of the season, with another wave of hitters in AL MVP Miguel Tejada, Eric Chavez, Jermaine Dye, Terrence Long and Hatteberg. It was a combined team effort that led the Athletics to manufacturing runs, as no Oakland A hit more than 34 home runs that season (a respectable but ordinary number in the height of the steroid era).
Fans might find the modern Bash Brothers of Cespedes and Reddick strikingly similar to the Tejada-Chavez infield-power combo of 2002, and the supporting cast is just as unlikely and improbable a decade later.
Forget that Jason Giambi signed with New York before the 2002 season. Has anyone else noticed that Josh Reddick looks like a less ‘roided version of the young Giambino?
Seriously though, they both sport the same slicked-back, always-wet, locks-of-love shoulder-length hair, spring the same quirky teenage boy-scout smile and even wear the same number 16 in green and gold. Both have that same “dugout clown” persona and simply look like they’re enjoying the sport day in and day out.
Giambi might not have been part of the 2002 team depicted in Michel Lewis’ book, but despite what the movie tells you, Giambi was definitely part of the Moneyball era that brought pennants to the East Bay. Josh Reddick looks like the perfect fit for Oakland’s new face of the franchise as they hope to start a new winning era.
The bread and butter of the Oakland Athletics will always be their pitching staff, and the A’s have failed to disappoint their roots in 2012.
Despite dealing away All-Stars Trevor Cahill, Gio Gonzalez and Andrew Bailey, the 2012 A’s find themselves near the top of the AL pitching charts with a 3.52 team ERA (second only to the Tampa Bay Rays) and are led by a dominant starting pitching rotation consisting of seasoned vet and former Cy Young award winner Bartolo Colon and a slew of young studs in Jarrod Parker, Brett Anderson, Tommy Milone and Brandon McCarthy.
No A’s fan will forget the Zito-Hudson-Mulder trio of aces that carried the A’s pitching staff for so long by the Bay. Regarded as one of the best of all time and arguably the best of the era, and while it’s too early to put the 2012 A’s in that class of dominant pitching, Oakland might have the components to recreate the Big Three in the aggregate right now.
A weirdo relief pitcher with an absurd delivery who still puts ups numbers and helps the team win? Did Billy Beane clone Chad Bradford? Real talk, though: Where does Billy keep finding these guys?
Chad Bradford, as outlined in Moneyball, was a bona fide example of someone the market undervalued. Despite his K/9 and high ground-ball ratios, he was overlooked by baseball purists because of his strange delivery.
Sidewinder Pat Neshek fits the exact same mold.
His 12.15 K/9 is outstanding, and despite one walk-off big fly at Comiskey Park last week, he’s been absolutely dominant out of the pen for Oakland since he was acquired in the beginning of August. He’s posted a 1.35 ERA in seven appearances and appears to be a go-to guy for manager Bob Melvin in tight situations.
The Oakland front office can only smirk when they see the third place Angels' payroll.
The 2012 Oakland Athletics feature a payroll of just over $55 million and have the lowest average salary in the league per player, much akin to their 2002 squad that found success with the third-lowest payroll in the bigs ($39 million).
The best part for A’s fans must be trumping large market teams this season.
They’ve swept the New York Yankees ($197 million) and Boston Red Sox ($173 million) and are 7-5 against last offseason’s biggest spender—division archnemesis Los Angeles Angels ($154 million). It has to put a smirk on the A’s front office to steal wins away from teams that spend exponentially more on their rosters than the Athletics.
They didn't lose a Giambi, but the aggregate talent the A's gave up in 2012 might outweigh the 2002 departures.
The 2002 Moneyball A’s were thought to be left in the dust in the offseason, losing three of their stars in Jason Isringhausen, Johnny Damon and former AL MVP Jason Giambi to free agency.
The 2012 Oakland Athletics were thought to have no chance at contending this season after dealing away their three All-Stars in Gio Gonzalez, Trevor Cahill and Andrew Bailey prior to the season’s start.
No, you didn’t just read the same sentence twice. It’s the same plot as the first book. It’s almost like watching the Hangover Part II.
The Athletics are recreating their stars in the aggregate. They use undervalued players to collaboratively assemble the same type of numbers, and that winning formula has reemerged in Oakland.