1) Does it seem as though the 2011-12 offseason has been unusually long in unfolding? We are days away from spring training and there is still a considerable amount of activity that hasn't happened yet...someone with time on their hands and some semi-pronounced database skills might just compare the pace of transactions across time, and see if this impression holds up.
2) What is undeniable, however, is the increasing emphasis/investment in foreign players who are expected to step in and contribute immediately at the big league level.
3) Which brings us to Yoenis Cespedes--no, wait, we need to comment about Billy Beane. (It's not as if we haven't been doing this for more than a decade, having been the first to look askance at the much mythified one--even before Michael Lewis brought his meatgrinder to things.)
|Billy Beane 2012: in full camouflage mode|
It's probably the most counter-intuitive aspect of Beane's entire career profile--at least as the frozen-in-time, Brad Pitt-in-amber-waves of engrained fast-and-loose-with-the-facts-ma'am set of circular signifiers would plop it down in front of you like a cup of ice cream that had been thawed and refrozen a couple dozen times by a mischievously malfunctioning refrigeration unit.
broken head) can be stapled, glued, or otherwise unceremoniously reaffixed, albeit not without a twist.
SO what is that twist--that ironic echo that makes history into a tail-chasing ouroboros? Well, it's just this: Cespedes, the Cuban star whom the A's have just signed for $36M over four years, is a virtual clone of the Rangers' late-blooming Nelson Cruz. It's rather astonishing that few if any have noted this as yet (but that's why we're here, smirking in the bulrushes) but there you have it: two linebacker-y guys with circular, windmill swings and the Caribbean tendency to flex rather than flow.
But there's another, far more interesting twist here. Cruz passed through several teams before he bloomed in the hothouse environs of Arlington. The second of these teams, in fact, was the Oakland A's (2000-04: he never made it to the big club).
Billy Beane, in some earlier incarnation of his restless, listen-to-his-daughter-sing-songs-ripped-off-from-Juno-apparently-before-there-was-a-Juno-to-rip-off, late-mid-early ouroboros phase, traded Cruz to the Brewers for a backup infielder named Keith Ginter. (Ginter is one of Beane's Leggo-that-Eggo-on-my-face transactions, one of several can't-miss rip-off trades that backfired...Charles Thomas is another one.)
Cruz got traded to Texas in 2006 and his swing got tweaked--the circle was broken and reattached, so to speak--and, by 2008 he was a late-blooming slugger. So much so, apparently, that otherwise canny Craig Wright was fooled by his abbreviated 2010 season into thinking he was actually a star (pays to look at those home/road splits, folks--it can happen even to the near-best).
Cespedes, like Cruz, is exciting. He may have a bad ballpark fit (odd corollary fact: Cruz can't hit a lick in Oakland, an irony that falls on the proton side of Beane's charge card: to wit, a .194 BA and a .567 OPS) but he's got that same macho flair. If he hits .250 with 20+ homers (and all of baseball's digital projectionists are grope-thinking at this level of achievement--funny thing, that..), he will get a pass from the reeling A's fan base and should settle into a level of "cream-skimming" that will give Beane sufficient maneuverability as he divines future head-fakes.
|Roy Liechtenstein channels the aftermath of Moneyball,|
four decades before its invention...
Sea-change? Cluster-f*ck? Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose? Yes, yes, yes. But, in the all-too-soon-to-be-Mo(e)bius-ized words of Vittorio Gassman in the great Italian comedy Il Sorpasso, 'tis better to chase tail than chase one's own tail--until, of course, it becomes clear that it's all one and the same.