Moneyball is a raincloud, and A's bloggers are Eeyore. The book follows you where ever you go. It's difficult to come up with an interesting angle on the A's that hasn't been covered by Moneyball, or by the seven hundred billion gazillion essays about Moneyball that followed Moneyball. Sometimes, if you're lucky, you can manage to scrounge up a few sticks, lean them up against each other like a tent, and crawl under. It's better than nothing, but you still get wet.
Even more annoying than Moneyball and essays about Moneyball, are discussions about essays about Moneyball. There exists a sort of Moneyball corollary to Godwin's Law. Whenever there's an online discussion about the A's, someone will inevitably bring up Moneyball. Which is fine, until someone else inevitably feels compelled to say, "They missed the whole point of the book!" Nothing follows from that point but the beating of dead horses.
Of course, by discussing this, I have now written an essay about discussions about essays about Moneyball. And when you enter your comments below...
In other words, Moneyball has become cliché. There's nothing left to add to it, except to start making jokes. As Mark Liberman at Language Log wrote about my Eskimo-word-for-slump joke, "stereotyped rhetoric repeats itself, first as cliché, then as irony."
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So what then, are we to make of poor Jeremy Brown, Moneyball's "fat catcher", the very personification of the philosophical difference between stats and scouts? Can we even look at him as being anything beyond the stereotype? Can the Jeremy Brown the human being transcend Jeremy Brown the cliché?
I was beginning to think that Ken Macha might have taken the scouts' side of the argument. The A's had called up Brown to the majors three times earlier this year, and they called him up again on September 1, but Macha had not once seen fit to get Brown into a game. Of course, when Jason Kendall is your first catcher, your second catcher isn't going see much playing time, let alone your third. But c'mon, give the dude one AB!
I went to the A's-Orioles game today with my family. When the A's scored nine runs in the first inning, I turned to my wife and said, "If Jeremy Brown doesn't get into this game, it just ain't right."
But it just was right. I got to witness a truly magical moment. A wooden character came to life, before my very own eyes. It was like being right there, in the room, when Pinocchio shed his strings and became a real boy.
And now I shall be your Walt Disney, and bring this magic moment to you, for your viewing pleasure. Please enjoy the slideshow below.
The first sign we had that something might happen was when they actually let Jeremy Brown onto the field in the eighth inning. He got to warm up Esteban Loaiza, while Adam Melhuse got his gear on.
When Brown returned to the dugout, he grabbed a bat, and started to warm up. It was obvious that someone told him, "Hey, kid, get ready, you're hitting for Thomas next time up."
When the top of the eighth was over, everyone welcomed Esteban Loaiza into the dugout with high fives for a job well done. Well, except maybe Jeremy Brown, who flew out of the dugout towards the on-deck circle like a cannonball being shot out of a cannon.
The dugout is still milling about after all the high-fives. Brown is busy getting ready for his at-bat.
Brown shaves the handle of his bat just so.
Jeremy Brown starts taking some practice swings.
Think Rene Lachemann had something to say to Brown on his way to first base? "Hey, kid, what's your hurry? Your the second batter this inning! Bocachica's leading off."
Pure torture: after all these years, waiting and dreaming for his first at-bat, after all the jokes and the abuse about how he'd never make it with that body, and after all those days on the major league roster sitting on the bench without making a single appearance in a game, now Jeremy Brown has to stand there and wait for one more batter to take his at bat. It's probably the longest at-bat of his life.
Bocachica takes a walk. Finally! Brown can step up to the plate.
Making sure the umpire has made it official: he's playing in the major leagues!
Brown measures the batter's box with his feet. Yes, it appears to be the same size as in the minor leagues.
Take a peek at the pitcher, Bruce Chen, to see what he's facing.
Brown checks third-base coach Ron Washington for signs. Washington gives the "Hey, kid, it's 10-1, and besides, we're that Moneyball team that doesn't believe in steals or hit-and-runs or things like that, anyway, so what do we need signs for?" sign.
Brown takes a couple more practice swings, just in case he wasn't quite ready yet.
OK, now we're ready for Brown to see his first major league pitch.
Bruce Chen throws...
...and the umpire calls "strike one!"
Here comes the second pitch...
And Brown hits it!
It's a high fly ball! Run, Jeremy, run!
Oh, too bad. The left fielder caught it. In his first major league at-bat, Jeremy Brown makes an out.
But go ahead, and touch first base anyway, just to see what it feels like.
Now take that long lonely jog back to the dugout...