September 5, 2012
As the stretch run to this year’s presidential election begins, we are hearing much about fiscal responsibility and budget cutting. Each party claims they know how to spend the taxpayers’ money in a way that will produce the best results for the nation’s economy and its citizens. History, of course, has shown that neither party holds the best record in this race, with the country having enjoyed extended growth and endured crippling recession during the administrations of each party. We all say we agree that “money can’t buy happiness,” but yet politicians always seem to come up with solutions that require significant capital investment on the taxpayers’ part. So, as we all prepare to cast our ballots this Fall, I offer my humble conclusion that there is only one man with the established fiscal restraint and solid results that qualify him to be the next President of these United States. And the winner is, Billy Beane.
In the opening frames of the movie “Moneyball,” in statistics superimposed over the scenes of NYY completing its October, 2001 division series win over the A’s, the viewer is told that NYY’s payroll for that year was $110 million while OAK’s was $33 million. Although NYY beat the A’s, it lost the World Series to ARI, which had a healthy $80 million payroll, but which was still 30% below NYY’s. Beane’s success at winning games with something other than his owner’s pocketbook earned him an offer to become BOS’ GM at a salary of over $4 million/year, 3x higher than the average player salary for OAK (and even higher than the average NYY player salary for that year). Of course, we learn in the last frame of the movie that Beane rejected that offer in order to fulfill his dream of seeing the A’s win the last game of an MLB season. (There’s loyalty and commitment that we need in the White House!) Over a decade later, Beane has yet to accomplish his goal, but he is still winning games with tools other than Steinbrenner gold. American voters should take note of a decade-long record of achievement, but more timely, they should look at today’s MLB standings:
NYY – 76-59; OAK- 76-59. NYY’s payroll at the start of the year was $197,962,289 (tops in MLB, of course). OAK’s was $55,372,500 (29th out of 30 teams).
The words spoken by BOS owner John Henry to Beane at the end of “Moneyball” have proved to be prophetic: “any team not tearing up its roster right now and rebuilding it with your model is a dinosaur doomed to extinction.” Obama and Romney may both promise to cut the federal deficit, but Billy Beane actually succeeds within his means. And now so are many other teams, apparently by following his lead.
In July, NYY had a 10-game lead, but as of today the Evil Empire is tied with BAL (payroll $81 million, led by Buck “Bleeping” Showalter!) and barely ahead of TBR ($64 million). Speaking of freaky success, TBR’s GM Andrew Friedman has surely made a pact with the devil in order to manufacture so many wins for such a small investment over the past 4 years. There must be some clause about “souls to be named later” in that deal, because we know that souls are better currency than cash. NYY apparently knew that back in 1955 when “Damn Yankees” was a hit Broadway play. But Brian Cashman was born in 1967 and so probably has never seen the play. Of course, with a name like “Cashman” Brian was obviously pre-destined/cursed to become NYY’s GM. Andrew Friedman was born in 1976, so how did he know about Faustian deals, you ask? He worked on Wall Street for Bear Stearns. (You can look it up!)
We could now support Friedman for POTUS since he finally celebrated his 35th birthday, but he shares Romney’s Wall Street problem, and personally I think Beane deserves the first shot since he was one who taught us the principle that money can’t buy MLB success (Magic Johnson, you weren’t listening!) Witness that of the 16 highest MLB payrolls only ONE team seems certain at this point to make the post-season (TEX), and even they could blow it with much less effort than it took BOS and ATL last year. Further, EIGHT of these top-paying teams are almost certain NOT to make the post-season, including the next 3 highest paid teams after NYY: PHI, BOS and LAA. And with their current downward spiral, NYY might not make it either. Imagine the irony of the top 4 payrolls all sitting at home while 10 teams play baseball in October for the first time, or the embarrassment of LAD falling short after adding ¼ of a BILLION dollars to this year’s effort. My guess is that no more than five of the top 16 payrolls will be among the 10. That means over half of the post-season participants will have payrolls less than 40% of that of NYY. In the case of OAK, barely 30%.
Hence my conclusion: “Billy Beane for President.” He has served his employer well and reminded us that throwing money at a problem doesn’t solve it. It takes a commitment to ideas, ideas that often fall outside the mainstream. Also attributed to John Henry in the movie: “the first one through the wall always gets bloodied.” Does anyone remember Bobby Valentine running into the centerfield wall, breaking his leg and essentially ending his playing career? Somehow, I don’t think that is what Henry meant, but I digress…..(although I would love to have been at last week’s breakfast table with John and Bobby. Talk about Sleepless in Seattle.)
Anyway, neither Beane nor Friedman is likely to leave jobs they love for one that no totally sane person would want. Therefore, we should perhaps turn our efforts toward making one of them honorary president of the B.A.B.E.S. They certainly deserve it more than I do, since I was seduced by the off-season Yankee-izing of the Angels and Marlins. Obviously, I should have endorsed Billy Beane’s platform since I quote from Moneyball every chance I get. And in this election year, shouldn’t I have seen that the Nationals were going to dominate the NL? No wonder Leo Gonzalez is our defending B.A.B.E.S. champion, since he is the only one of us who picked WAS to win the NL East. Perhaps a Beane/Gonzalez ticket? (Leo, you should have been on TV last night giving the Democratic Key Note speech, not SA’s mayor Julian Castro.)
Well, we have 3 more weeks until MLB’s election day. So much can happen in the last 25 games, and I’ll be back soon with more commentary as the story unfolds. Feel free to weigh-in with your own thoughts because, as we all know, every citizen with a computer can be a political pundit these days (c’est moi).