Jay Jaffe reviews The Rebels of Oakland, an HBO documentary. I haven't seen it yet, it's a must-see for me. I grew up on those Oakland teams of the 70's. Unfortunately, I don't get HBO, so I guess I'll have to ask a friend to tape it for me next time it's on.
Jay then proceeds to compare and contrast Charlie Finley with George Steinbrenner:
The difference, in a nutshell, is that Finley was a man who knew baseball talent himself; he served as his own GM and oversaw the development of that homegrown talent. But he was a miser who refused to reward his players for their successes on the field, and his breach of Catfish Hunter's contract ushered in a new era of upwardly spiraling salaries. At the other end was Steinbrenner, unflinchingly willing to pay top dollar for talent, but lacking -- to this day, some would say -- any real understanding of how to evaluate it.
30 years later, the Yankees still have Steinbrenner, and the A's still pinch pennies while expertly evaluating baseball talent with the smallest of staffs. The more things change...
I often wonder how Finley managed to find all that talent. Was he just lucky? He certainly didn't have much of a staff supporting him. On the other hand, he did make his fortune selling insurance. The insurance business is all about risk management, understanding how to beat the odds in the long run. Could Finley have been a closet sabermetrician?