Saturday, May 28, 2005

And Now for Something Completely Different

There is close to a 100% chance you will never see poetry here again, but this Sabermetric verse is too good to pass up (hat tip: Alan Schwarz).

By Alan Gordon

The outlook wasn't brilliant for the sabermetrics crowd,
Their theories were reviled; their doctrines disavowed,
And baseball went on telling us the way that games were won:
"The sacrifice, the stolen base, the manufactured run."

Through decades of equations, through years of tracking games,
From the postulates of Cramer to the premises of James,
There seemed but little hope that sabermetrics would prevail,
As tears were shed at Harvard, Princeton, M.I.T., and Yale.

They thought, "If only one GM would dare stick out his neck,
If only Branch were still alive, if only we had Veeck."
But seemingly the scientific push was made in vain,
For baseball treated evidence and logic with disdain.

But then in '97, in the midst of disrepair,
The Oakland A's cleaned house and there were changes in the air,
A man named Billy Beane spoke of a new kind of success,
And damned if Billy didn't start computing OPS!

And statisticians far and wide let out a lusty yell,
It rumbled off their charts and graphs and Microsoft Excel,
It knocked upon the blackboards and bounced off the almanacs,
For Billy, mighty Billy, had read all of James' abstracts.

There was ease in Billy's manner as he had base-stealing banned,
There was pride in Billy's bearing and a slide rule in his hand,
And when he preached the value of the all-important walk,
'Twas little doubt that "old baseball" was in for quite a shock.

GMs and scouts around the league belittled Billy's "math,"
Ex-players and announcers shared a universal wrath,
(Ironically Joe Morgan, greatest critic of them all,
Was quite the sabermetric gem when he was playing ball.)

But Billy battled on (despite substantial lack of funds,)
And showed his team the darker side of bunts and hit-and-runs,
He had ten words of wisdom for his players who had doubts,
"To maximize your runs you have to minimize your outs."

He surveyed new statistics as the rest of baseball laughed,
He studied trends and patterns of the players he would draft,
He traded off his superstars for undervalued scrubs,
Unloading hefty contracts on the Yankees and the Cubs.

And sabermetric gurus, with a boundless sense of pride,
Watched on with vindication as their theories were applied,
But deep inside their hearts, there was a single fear that lurked,
"It's beautiful on paper, but in real life will it work?"

At last Billy's experiment had gotten underway,
They fought their way through April, they powered on through May,
And all throughout the season Billy tinkered with the team,
To squeeze every advantage out of each and every seam.

And Oakland won nine more games than they'd won the year before,
The next year they went out and won another thirteen more,
The onslaught had continued and, refusing to plateau,
They made it to the postseason for four years in a row.

And baseball's ideology was turned upon its ear,
"It takes money to win" had been their axiom for years,
But Billy's humble payroll hadn't stopped him in the least,
In fact, as Oakland's payroll dropped, their win total increased!

And quickly sabermetrics started spreading from the A's,
It caught on with the Dodgers and the Red Sox and the Jays,
And still the seed is spreading as the old convictions fall,
And in ten years the whole league will be playing "Moneyball."

Through baseball's evolution we've seen eras come and go,
We watched the dead ball disappear and batting average grow,
We marveled at the farm system that Rickey had revealed,
We watched as night games swept the land (except at Wrigley field).

We've seen a lot of eras, some imperfect, some ideal:
The era of free agency, the era of the steal,
The pitchers' age, the hitters' age, the age of the home run,
Now thanks to Billy Beane the age of reason has begun.


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