February 1, 2004

Moneyball-haters of the world, unite!

I have criticized Joe Morgan plenty in the past, usually for things he has written for or said on ESPN.com. I often find that Joe Morgan speaking is about 100 times better than Joe Morgan in writing. That's particularly interesting to me, because I suspect people who know me might say Aaron Gleeman in writing is about 100 times better than Aaron Gleeman speaking. It's not that Morgan is completely unable to write or that I am completely unable to speak, just that we both, like the majority of people in this world, lose a certain something when we step outside our comfort zone.

Anyway, one of the main things I have criticized Morgan for is the fact that he commented, on multiple occasions, that Oakland A's General Manager Billy Beane should not have written Moneyball, the best-selling book about the Oakland A's that came out last year.

Morgan does a "chat" on ESPN.com every week during the season, and essentially each time he was asked a question even remotely related to Beane, he would work in some sort of jab at Beane in his response.

Near the trade deadline he was asked: "you're Billy Beane where do you look to add some pop?"

Morgan's response? "I wouldn't be Billy Beane first of all!! I wouldn't write the book Moneyball!"

Asked in another chat session what he thought of Moneyball, Morgan replied: "It's typical if you write a book, you want to be the hero. That is apparently what Beane has done."

At the time, it really amazed me that not only would Joe Morgan, a Hall of Fame player and respected national broadcaster, comment strongly on a book he clearly never read, he would do so while getting one of the most important aspects of the book, its author, completely wrong. He did it multiple times, weeks apart, which means apparently no one at ESPN.com felt it necessary to tell him who the actual author of the book was (Michael Lewis, for those of you wondering).

Well, Joe Morgan can rest easy today. It is getting close an entire year since Moneyball came out, and a sports journalist at a relatively large newspaper has just now written an article criticizing Billy Beane for doing the thing Joe Morgan incorrectly accused him of doing way back in the middle of last season.

From "staff columnist" Doug Krikorian, in a column about the Los Angeles Dodgers in last Thursday's Long Beach Press-Telegram:

"The other person being mentioned as [LA GM Dan] Evans' possible successor, Oakland's Billy Beane, has done a terrific job with modest funds with the A's, but he's also a shameless self-promoter who wrote a book about his imagined genius and is despised by scouts around baseball."

"He's also a shameless self-promoter who wrote a book about his imagined genius."

This is absolutely mind-boggling to me. There are so many things wrong with this that I'm not even sure where to begin.

For one thing, a columnist at an actual newspaper, one with articles and editors and advertisers and readers, is unable to distinguish, nearly a year after a book is released, whom the author of the book is.

Not only that, but it is apparent Krikorian didn't bother to actually read Moneyball. I suppose that is fine, although I think a California sports writer might have thought about picking up a book about the Oakland A's.

However, if you haven't read the book and you don't even know who wrote the damn thing, at least don't make a complete mockery of yourself and your column by commenting on it. And not only commenting on it, commenting on it in a way that ridicules Billy Beane for writing a book he didn't write (and a book Krikorian didn't read!).

Basically, what we've got here is a California sports columnist...

... not bothering to read a best-selling book about the Oakland A's.

... mis-identifying the author of the book as the GM of the Oakland A's, as opposed to Michael Lewis, who actually wrote the book (and several others).

... using the incorrect "fact" that Billy Beane wrote the book to criticize Beane for doing so, using it as evidence of him being a "shameless self-promoter" with an "imagined genius."

... stating that Moneyball is "about [Beane's] imagined genius," despite the fact that, even if the book were about such things, the columnist hasn't actually read the book, so he wouldn't know and wouldn't be in a position to comment about it anyway.

I've said before in this space that I enjoyed reading Moneyball immensely. I have also said that I think there are several "holes" in the book that could be seen as Lewis (the book's real author) exaggerating things in order to make the story better. Along with that, there are certainly aspects of the book that are open to criticism, whether those are related specifically to Billy Beane, more generally about the A's organization as a whole, or simply about the way things and people are portrayed in the book.

With all of that said, you simply can't comment on, praise, or even criticize a book if you haven't actually bothered to read it. For someone like Joe Morgan (multiple times) or Doug Krikorian (nearly a year after the book was published) to talk about Billy Beane writing a book he didn't write, while using that "fact" against Beane, is absolutely stunning to me.

If you aren't going to read an important book about the sport you are being paid to follow and give opinions on, then at least don't comment on it as if you have read it. If for some ridiculous reason you feel the need to comment on the book, despite not reading it, at least get the identity of the author correct. And if you can't stop yourself from commenting on something you haven't read, and you can't bother to get the name of the author correct, then at least don't make a total fool out of yourself by criticizing a guy who didn't write the book for writing it.

*****Comments? Questions? Email me!*****

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