Bitter failure

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Last month, I attempted to write a piece for Slate about John Schuerholz and his book Built To Win. It didn’t work out. Anyway, I’m going to publish the three versions of the article that I wrote.

1. The original article (Schuerholz.doc)
2. The revised article with additions (Schuerholz rev.doc)
3. The savagedly trimmed final version cut to about 1200 words (Schuerholz rev2.doc)

Download file

UPDATE: Here’s an HTML version of the second, preferred version of the article:

Built to Win

75 thoughts on “Bitter failure”

  1. Mac,

    Me thinks, knowing you, you may leave the comments where Schuerholz details his friendship/lovefest with Rushb Limbaugh in the book.

    I read that and pictured you yelling…”my eyes! my eyes!”

    As a moderate, I am perpetually stuck in the middle so I can read this without flinching..you? I am not so sure!

  2. Thanks for including the various drafts of the article — it’s always interesting to see how someone else goes through the writing process. What isn’t interesting, IMO, are Schuerholz’s political beliefs. Thankfully, they aren’t included.

  3. HoRam allowed six hits and one run in three innings pitching for Richmond last night. That kid should stay at Richmond this whole year until he proves he can at least shut down the AAA batters.

  4. But at least he didn’t give up a homerun–he will save that feat for Atlanta…

  5. Mac–its too bad that the readers of Slate did not get a chance to read your review.

    Given your points of comparison, it will be interesting to see how the two organizations approach the 2006 draft.

    The publication of JS books after Moneyball, leads me to wonder whether organizations will do more to study one another. My guess is that for all of the stated differnces between organizations and the personalities that run them, the requirements of the industry probably make them more alike than they would like the public to believe. Of course, some have much more money than others…..

  6. Not to take away from Mac’s work here (which was great by the way) I read DOB’s blog at ajc.com and I did some thinking, using my new college degree, about the team. Tell me what you guys think.

    Problems that can be fixed:
    1) If the Braves can find someone to close the rest of the bullpen will fall into place with all memebers of the pen finding their role. This will give the young guys confidence and we will stop blowing 6 run leads.

    2) Stop striking out so much and take some more walks.

    3) Flip Giles and Renteria, or wait for KJ to get healthy and let him lead-off.

    4) Sosa to the pen and find a 5th starter.

    5) I hate to say this, but I think I would like to see more Jordan at first. He is a smarter hitter than LaRoche and I think he would be great in the 8 hole. He can take a walk and make smart moves on base with the pitcher up. But LaRoche is going to hit better than he has been.

    These are small things that can be fixed. The Mets will cool off, as will the Phillies. It is time to let them beat each other up and we will be ok.

    Here are some positives.
    1)Frency is comming out of it (I think he is just going to be a streaky hitter) Look at these stats from DOB:

    Francoeur, by the way, is batting just .231 this season, but .344 (11-for-32) with runners in scoring position. against the Mets, he’s 10-for-22 (.455) with five extra-base hits (three homers) and 11 RBis in his past four games.

    Another Met killer!

    What do you guys and gals think?

  7. Another positive, Renteria was the best winter pick up in the NL this year. Excpet for those two errors he made on balls hit right at him.

  8. giles will come out of it as well, but my opinion is still pending about him being taken out of the leadoff role. we just dont have a true leadoff hitter to pick from. and the truth is, unless you trade langerhans, that will be something we struggle with all year. i am not saying this is any type of solution because i think langerhans is a pretty valuable left fielder. i wish there was such thing as a speedy, hard-hitting 1st baseman, but i dont know of such invention.

  9. I don’t know about Renteria as a leadoff–after all why argue with success? That said, I think that one of things that has hurt has been the loss of Furcal. While he was not as consistent as many of us would have liked, he could be a spark plug.

    Clearly, Giles is not doing it as a leadoff guy and if the Braves are going to turn this around then they have to find a good leadoff hitter.

    I have never been one to slam LaRoche, always believing that he would evolve into a strong hitter. Obviously, this season is testing my faith…For what it is worth, I wonder if giving Scott Thorman a chance makes sense. By all accounts, he can really give the ball a ride. Still, I think I would stick with LaRoche a bit longer and see if he can raise his productivity.

    Otherwise, we still have 9 games with the Mets and they have yet to play the Phillies (possibly the more dangerous team). In addition, we have more home games, so our chances of making up some ground are good.

    The season is long and we do not even have to make rapid progress: if we gained a game a month on the Mets (including May and September) we would be 3 games short; happily enough, we play our next to last series with them in Atlanta. Obviously, it would be better to be a few games in front.

    There is still plenty of time–as long as we do not go further backwards.

  10. Giles will only come out of it when we sit his ass on the bench for a few nights.

    I swear, he’s the anti Adam LaRoche and Marcus needs to sit down, think for a second about what the hell he’s not doing at the plate and then put him back out there.

    Why Edgar isn’t batting leadoff is BEYOND me.

    If the Braves don’t take advantage of the pitchers they are facing in Miami (i.e. no Dontrelle this series) and get a SWEEP, then we really need to worry.

    Considering the Mets are facing the Phillies, we absolutely MUST gain ground one one or both of these teams the next 3 nights. It’s imperative.

  11. Didn’t we have this discussion about LaRoache last year? It seems the guy has potential, but damn. And him being in the 5th spot is destroying us. Francouer is young and not worried about him at all. Giles…I hate to say it, but ever since he’s gotten off the juice it’s been a struggle. Chipper is pulling a Dale Murphy…is in the Atlanta heat that wears them down?

  12. I would feel better if we can get back to .500 and around 5 back by the end of the month.

    Until July the Mets will stand where they are with their starters. If we make a run they might panic and get Perez or something. I don’t think they will get Willis, they don’t have the pieces. Zito would be fun to hit off. I say if anyone get Willis it should be us. My barber says:

    Pena, Jurries, and one of the young infielders for Willis

  13. I’d prefer to be more optimistic about Frenchy, but if I recall correctly most of his big hits came after the pitcher seemed to forget who was batting.

    And that’s fine, because those stats certainly count, but when Jorge “He Hasn’t Seen MY Heat” Julio pumps in a first-pitch fastball you gotta wonder.

    The other day, Fortunato threw a first-pitch fastball and Frenchy shockingly took it. After a waster outside, Frenchy was sitting on that fastball again and hit into Loge Section 32. That seemed to be a good sign, but I’m going to reserve my thrill for when Frenchy does it against a top-line pitcher, instead of a mop-up man who doesn’t know what day it is.

  14. Of the “available” players right now, I can see Schuerholz targeteding:

    1. Shannon Stewart for Langerhans or K.J.

    2. Closer, although none is available right now, unless he gambles on a trade with L.A. for Gagne, or pays way too much for Lidge.

    Stewart wouldn’t be bad, he’s not great, but he’s more of a leadoff hitter than Giles. Again, he is the only one I know of that is available right now that could fit in this lineup without adjusting/moving a lot of people around.

  15. Smitty,

    The marlins would laugh at us if we offered Pena/Jurries and a minor-league bum for Willis. Considering the amount of interest in him, we’ll have to overpay to get him. It will start with Salty, or someone of his talent to get Willis, considering the Mets can dangle Lastings Millage and the Yankees would use Phillip Hughes.

  16. Shannon Stewart = declining, expensive OF. I wouldn’t trade for him at all, let alone give up a cheap, better version of himself.

    The Braves made their OF bed by believing that Francouer’s start was representative of his true level (I took a lot of ribbing about it last year, but now, the consensus seems to agree he ain’t ready), and by hoping one of KJ/Langerhans would develop into a true everyday player. Neither has panned out yet. Right now, their is no magic bullet. They have to just suck it up until mid season when some players become available. To trade right now is to overpay.

  17. I think Giles’s finger might be an issue still. He should come out of his funk

  18. We just need a solid reliever to solidify the pen. I think we have our closer, but we just haven’t found him yet.

  19. Good article. I do have to take issue with your criticisms of the section on bullpens. The paragraph you quoted mentioned “true” closer, but your rebuke treated it as meaning “proven” closer, which is not at all what he was saying. The braves have not used a bullpen by committee formula, they’ve simply had to change closers because of lack of success.

    Pointing out that Kolb was not a “true” closer of the type JS mentioned is a valid criticism. But saying that they’ve given the job to rookies doesn’t mean anything. Sure, they aren’t “proven”, but he didn’t say proven. They can still fit his qualifications for a “true” closer (which was the point) and not have major league experience.

    Overall, I think JS has a misunderstanding of the whole Moneyball phenomen. But if that is the case, it’s due to the statheads who are equally as confused and think they can replace knowledge of the game with statistical analysis. Beane was simply exploiting players that were undervalued (because he had to with his limited budget). He did this by realizing a flaw in the methodology of the league as a whole. He fixed this by reducing, but not eliminating, the reliance on scouting. At the same time he was increasing, though not to the point of utter dominance that some misguided statheads would like, statistical methods.

    For instance, there are some people, right here on this forum, that put too much emphasis on stats for small periods of time. Take people wanting to move Giles down in the order. Why? The move isnb’t retro-active. His .200 batting average is what he has already done. Is it right to think he will continue? Given his history as a hitter, I’d say most certrainly not, he’s better than that. So what good does it do to move him now? None. If we could warp back in time and rearrange the lineups according to knowledge after the fact, you could do that. But that’s not what we’re talking about here, we’re talking about guessing what’s going to happen in the future. And anyone who thinks one month of poor performance outweighs ytears of consistancy doesn’t have a firm grasp on the nature of the game.

  20. I think Giles has changed his approach to hitting and it has caused him to strike out more. I just don’t think he is comfortable batting lead off

  21. Grst, you’re absolutely right about Marcus, and that’s why Cox won’t move him. He seems to have a pathological dislike of moving people up and down in the order based on how they’re playing, Johnny Estrada’s cleanup day notwithstanding. Personally, I’d love to see Renteria hitting leadoff, because he’s absolutely raking right now and Marcus doesn’t look healthy at the plate. But Cox is as Cox does, and that’s all there is to it.

  22. I wish we’d picked up Danny Graves. We could have had him for a song.

  23. I just don’t think Renteria is the answer at number 1. He is a fantastic #2 hitter, but the problem seems to be that Marcus is also a better #2 hitter. Aside from making a trade, I just don’t think swapping Renteria and Giles is going to make a difference. Maybe JS may try to get someone like Carl Crawford, but in the long run our pitching is what will make or break us. We HAVE to fix the bullpen.

  24. I maybe something of a LaRoche apolgist, but I think our offense will be ok. Francoeur is gonna pull up and LaRoche will also cut down on his K’s quite a bit (he’d almost have to).

    I do think we could really use a better closer. We need somebody lights out. I was all about giving Reitsma a chance at the beginning of the year, but he scares the hell outta me every time he pitches now. I don’t know who’s available, but we gotta have somebody.

    Smitty, maybe we could get the Marlins to throw Borowski in with Willis if we added another AA’er?

  25. Danny Graves?

    Current line: 3Ks/5BBs/2HRs in 13 and 2/3 IP.

    I’m not sure he’s worth a song. ;-)

  26. what position would a good leadoff hitter play if we did get him? our one true offensive weakness is first base. is there a leadoff 1st baseman anywhere in the majors? i highly doubt it. truth is, we trade for a leadoff hitter, then we probably downgrade our outfield defense. francoeur will not be traded, so that leaves langerhans. i dont know of many left-fielders defensively better than langerhans, and can produce leadoff numbers. who COULD be a good fit? personally, i think marcus will be okay and will be producing in the next couple of weeks. then this talk will all blow over and we will again start concentrating on the most glaring weakness-closer. i vote sosa for closer, james for the rotation, and reitsma to take moylan’s place in the “land down under”.

  27. I’m not a big Horacio Ramirez supporter, but the thing that was promising about his start is that he threw 34 strikes in 48 pitches. I know it’s Triple A guys he’s pitching to, but that has to be about the best ratio Horacio has had in the last few years.

    That’s a good sign to me. But I always remember that it is Ramirez I am talking about.

  28. Remember when we tried to get Lugo from the D-Rays? They wanted Marte, Salty, Andruw and TBS for JULIO LUGO! I would think that Crawford (who is overrated) would fetch Chipper, Langy, Smoltz, and CNN

  29. Yes, Yes, smitty…but before you assume what the DRays would want, I think you should ask your barber’s dog’s veternarian.

  30. The Indians are growing concerned with Marte’s performance at Buffalo.

    I have no real point I just thought it was interesting.

  31. Marte hasn’t hit any home runs but has a good avg, obp, bb/k, and some doubles. they are concerned with the HRs?

  32. I agree that Jordan is playing well and deserves to start more, probably at 1B. When we visit some AL parks we’ll see him more often as a DH, and that may determine where he stands.

    Re a Willis trade, the Braves don’t have many pieces that can be dealt to a salary cutting team. Guys like Betemit, Lerew, and Thorman are credible, but Pena, Jurries and their like have no real value. And of course to pay Dontrelle, the Liberty deal would have to boost the budget, and Dr. Malone is notoriously slow at closing deals.

    For dealing with wealthier clubs (e.g. the Dodgers) you can’t expect them to take injuried players like KJ or Hampton, so what could we offer the Dodgers even if a Gagne were okay and available? Middling talents like LaRoche, Langerhans, and Horatio generally command little trade value.

    So at this point a value pickup — someone whose upside is not understood by his present owner, as we found Jaret Wright a couple of years ago — may be our best way out of the bullpen pickle. That, scouting Japan, and/or adding one more pitch or mechanical fix to someone in our current array.

  33. Nigel Thatch was the guy who played Leon in the beer commercials. Kind of funny he got traded for beer.

  34. Since someone ruined my fun with that transaction, I will ruin Mike’s fun ;-)

    It turns out that the dude involved is “Leon,” from the commercials. Yes, folks, we’re putting advertisements in the transactions sections of sports pages now! Although that’s also pretty funny. My personal favorite is the soccer player a few years back who was traded for 15 pounds of meat.

  35. What bothers me are the “arm chair managers” you see talking about the Braves or even some here. You know the type:

    “Well, Bobby Cox should have used Betemit there!” “Why does Bobby keep using LaRoche!?” “Why did he bring in Villarreal there? Is he dumb!?” “He left Smoltz in too long.”

    Most of that comes from people who never who a single game, even involving kids playing baseball. Yet they can always blast Bobby Cox, a man who has won a world series and the division fourteen straight years. Sheesh.

  36. Yeah some people are hard on Bobby at times, but I am sure that everyone is sad when he goes. I am a big Bobby fan, but sometimes he takes chances that don’t pan out, or he uses a one guy when maybe he should have used another.

    He does things like that to give guys chances to shine. He isn’t going to put a rookie in a position to fail because it might destroy them over the long run. His being too loyal sometimes hurts the team in the short term, but in the long run it shows the other players that Bobby will stand behind you, even in the bad times. It takes presure off players. It might cost us a few games here and there, but in the long run we end up winning 5-10 more games than maybe we should.

  37. Giles will only come out of it when we sit his ass on the bench for a few nights.

    If the Braves don’t take advantage of the pitchers they are facing in Miami (i.e. no Dontrelle this series) and get a SWEEP, then we really need to worry.

    Those statements, along with this Chicken Little mentality, are completely mind-boggling to me. There is no way that Marcus Giles sits if he’s not healthy. Period. He’s a guy who will hit some lows throughout the year–hell, only a handful a guys last an entire season doing otherwise. It would also be nice to take care of business in Florida, but we’re not entitled to a sweep just because Dontrelle isn’t pitching.

    I could also go either way on Edgar hitting leadoff, but don’t think it’s UNDOUBTEDLY OBVIOUS that he should be there.

  38. baseball “strategy” is for second guessing, that is why there is no one way to strategize. does being an “arm-chair manager” make us a less of a fan? absolutely not. is bobby cox god? if the answer is no, then it IS okay to second guess his decisions. does that mean we think he is a poor manager? no. i guarantee the thing that makes bobby cox a good manager is the fact that some of the coaches that sit the bench with him HAVE second guessed him. by the way….i think i did win one t-ball game in ’83 :)

  39. I’d like to whip the Marlins as much as anyone, but looking at the next 10 games, I’d still sign for 7-3.

    Take 2/3 from Fla, 2/3 from Was & 3/4 from Fla.

    Let’s win some series & start feeling good about ourselves. Get back to .500 before the 45-game mark & make a move.

  40. I jsut hope the Mets don’t do something silly like sign the Rocket. I am sure that won’t happen, but if I were the Mets that is what I would try to do. I am sure if he comes back it will be with the ‘Stros.

  41. Lil Jonny Schuerholtz is now 0 for his last 23 in Richmond. Luckily I think a call-up is out of the question.

  42. FWIW, I heard Ken Rosenthal on WFAN in NYC this morning & he said a few things about Clemens, the Mets & the Braves.

    About the Braves, he said what most of us already know. 1) The bullpen isn’t good, 2) Overall, the starters have to be better, 3) The lineup isn’t producing. 4) Still, it’s silly to count them out, given their track record.

    About the Mets, he doesn’t think they’ll acquire Willis or Zito. They don’t have enough in their system to acquire Willis because that would have to be a major talent package, not just Milledge. He thinks D-Train will be traded, but to someone like Arizona or another club that can offer a bundle of genuine prospects. He doesn’t think Zito is going anywhere because Oakland will need him.

    About Clemens, it’s Houston or nowhere.

  43. I stand by both my earlier statements, Hoboken.

    Either move Marcus in the order or bench him for a few nights. I don’t think benching Marcus for 1-2 games is exactly trading the guy but he’s not hitting squat right now and we cannot continue to get zilch from the leadoff spot.

    My main point is that Marcus should not be hitting leadoff and I think that’s the majority opinion here. He swings at everything and I am tired of it. This team has too many free swingers and Rentaria is one of the few guys, along with Chipper, who has some patience at the plate.

    I will now say it for the 277,000th time regarding the closer situation:

    We do not have to spend a fortune on a big name like Wagner, Gagne, Hoffman, etc.

    There are a ton of young middle relief arms like JUSTIN DUSCHERER who throw blazing heat, have a terrific K/BB Ratio, and are sitting in the middle of deep bullpens, underused.

    The A’s are having offensive problems and considering how adept Kelly Johnson is at taking pitches, he’d fit right in Oakland.

    As for the Braves supposedly having nothing to trade, besides KJ (who we might as well trade since he doesn’t have a spot in Atlanta) we have one of the deepest and most talented (and pitching rich) farm systems in Baseball. We have a ton of kids to choose from and a team like Florida would be happy to stock their team with some of our kids vs. the Mets who have nothing in comparison to offer, unless they are prepared to swap David Wright. That would trump us.

    Oh, and to the comments earlier regarding Danny Graves…yeah, he’s worth a ‘song’…a bad Michael Bolton song but a song!

  44. Oh, and with regards to my other statement, is there anyone who disagrees with me that we have to go in & sweep Florida?

    Here are the pitching Match-ups:

    John Thomson vs. Brian Moehler
    Kyle Davies vs. Josh Johnson
    Tim Hudson vs. Sergio Mitre

    So, yes, the Braves for their confidence need to sweep a bad team who’s not even throwing Dontrelle Willis at us. Plus, we are not throwing Jorge Sosa at them so theoretically, every pitching matchup favors the Braves signifigantly.

    Only Johnson (with 2 wins and a 3.78 ERA) could be a tough match for our hit and miss lineup. But I don’t think Johnson is going to get confused with Josh Beckett anytime soon.

  45. I don’t think we need a sweep, just winning serise is what we need to start doing. Sweeps are nice though.
    We can’t trade KJ, he is hurt and you can’t trade injured players. He will have to proove he is ready to play before we deal him.

  46. We just had an off day, Giles doesn’t need to sit anymore. We’re about to be facing exactly the types of pitchers you want him getting lots of at bats against. Nobody ends a slump on the bench.

    As for Renteria in the top spot, I don’t see that it matters much either way. Sure, he’s hot right now and has decent speed. But Renteria also walks less than Giles, and he isn’t going to hit .350 all season. Giles, on the other hand, isn’t going to hit .200 all season. Not to mention he’s had bad hit luck recently. At this point I’d say the odds are still pretty good Giles ends up with a higher OBP than Renteria.

  47. I would have to say that Ted won’t be back. I don’t think this group will spend money on the team, seeing how they just took a loss in the market yesterday.

  48. *Ho Ram back to the DL
    *Called up Paronto from AAA
    in order to put him on the 40-man roster…
    *Foster put on the 60-day DL

    …that might have already been posted, but I wasn’t sure

  49. Espn reporting that the Mets are after Livan Hernandez. Does anyone have insider to see the article or to see who they might be trading for him.

  50. As for Renteria in the top spot, I don’t see that it matters much either way. Sure, he’s hot right now and has decent speed. But Renteria also walks less than Giles, and he isn’t going to hit .350 all season. Giles, on the other hand, isn’t going to hit .200 all season. Not to mention he’s had bad hit luck recently. At this point I’d say the odds are still pretty good Giles ends up with a higher OBP than Renteria.

    I agree wholeheartedly with everything said here. Well put, Grst.

  51. Throwing a bat at anyone should be 100 games.

    Hitting an umpire with anything, much less a bat, should be a season.

  52. I guess the thinking from some here is that benching Giles for a couple days would somehow wake him up and that Betemit could fill in for a few days? The thing is he knows he is struggling and IMO the best way to break out of a funk is to fight your way out of it. That being said Giles is not what is ‘killing’ us. We are not 13-18 because Giles has got off to a slow start. Even if you benched Giles for a couple days, the bullpen would still suck big time. If we were going to tweek our line-up in any manner it would have to be kicking the Rally Kicker (Laroche) to the curb.

  53. There are a ton of young middle relief arms like JUSTIN DUSCHERER who throw blazing heat, have a terrific K/BB Ratio, and are sitting in the middle of deep bullpens, underused.

    I know this is nitpicking, but I can’t help it. The Duke is a quality reliever, but he doesn’t throw anywhere near blazing heat. He probably maxes out at 90.

  54. No free lunch here: Giles, Frenchy & LaRoche have all been LaLousy. Granted, of the 3, I’d expect Giles to bounce back best, given his history. The other 2 are on the moon right now.

    And while I’m at it, I’d like to see the Jones Boys kick-start a little bit, too. Maybe Brian Moehler is just the tonic.

    Does anyone know if Andruw is set to start tonight?

  55. Trivia answer: Randy Johnson, May 2004. I was at a movie with Karyn and missed it, but saw the linescore on my cell phone when checking the game and called my friends to tell them to watch the last three innings. They didn’t. Jerks.

  56. I just read it on line and had to post it.

    Kyle, you win a high five from Tennessee. Congradulations.

  57. Saw this over at Hardball Times:

    The Mets restructured Tom Glavine’s contract. He was making $10.5 million this season, with $5.25 million deferred at 6% interest. Now, his 2006 salary is cut to $7.5 million, with $5.25 million still deferred at 6%. In exchange for that, he gets a 2007 player option at $5.5 million and $12 million team option. The player option will be increased by $1 million each for 180, 190 and 200 IP, the team option increases by $2 million for 180 IP and both of them have a $3 million buyout.

    If there were any out there who thought he may finish up in ATL, well that doesn’t look very likely now.

  58. Mac —

    Nice article. I do think the one true statement by Schuerholz is to the effect that these decisions aren’t made by numbercrunchers alone; that it’s a decision based on traditional scouting augmented by stat analysis. And I think that the idea that computer geeks alone, sans old-fashioned eyes on the meat, can produce these results is what drives the anti-Moneyball crowd.

    FWIW, I went to school with Mike Lewis.

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