More than a year ago, an A’s official sent me an email asking me, half jokingly, to stop mentioning Moneyball. It was an understandable request. Baseball changes quickly, and the lessons from Moneyball, or maybe more accurately, the lessons that the readers often perceive from Moneyball, no longer really apply. In 2006, Oakland selected a high school pitcher with their first draft pick, shocking many of the book’s diehard fans, and if you look at their renewed system after all of the trades, the biggest strength of the system is now a plethora of those high-ceiling young arms that give many of the risk-averse shivers. Moneyball is a dead issue it seems, even to the A’s.
And now comes word that one of the players, who often unfairly represented Moneyball, has hung them up, as Jeremy Brown has not reported to camp this year, and informed the A’s that he is retiring. For none of the right reasons, Brown was kind of forced to wear the jersey of Moneyball. The A’s gave him over $300,000 to sign when many teams would have never have drafted him. If you balance the scales in a certain way, Oakland was more right about him in many ways that some of the scouts were. He really could produce offensively, batting .268/.370/.439 in six minor league seasons, including a .276/.364/.469 line last year at Triple-A Sacramento. In 1904 at-bats, he delivered consistency on a secondary skills level, with 115 doubles, 68 home runs and 288 walks.
In the end however, that body, the one that wasn’t selling jeans, worked against him. Brown was often injured, and a downright bad defensive catcher – anything but agile behind the plate, with an arm that wasn’t very strong. With the offensive profile of a backup, as he was never going to hit for much of an average, Brown ended up miscast for the role, as there is little room on a major league roster for an offensive-oriented reserve catcher.
So while overall, I think it’s fair to say Brown turned out better than many thought he would, he still didn’t turn out good enough to be a big leaguer – so at best, it’s a moral victory, and in reality, it doesn’t mean much at all. And with that, I will now finally honor the request that came from that Oakland official.
I’m done talking about Moneyball – and so should you be.