Monday, February 20, 2012


In the impending wake of that Mayan world-destruction thingee, the Earth just keeps slipping off its axis...whispers and shouts have begun to abound in the baseball world to the effect that the post-fin de siecle hegemony of Michael Lewis' pox baseballiana, Moneyball, is entering its death spiral.

We're apparently going to have to get those last digs in soon, since these real-world rumblings are confirming the copious research that our capricious associate, 3-D "Don't Call Me Crash" Davis, has conducted for us with a series of fearsome algorithms and one very large, gnarly piece of wood (he claims it's a divining rod--we suspect he may be "massaging" the data with it...though "flogging" might be a more accurate term).

Anyway, 3-D's method (such as it is...) involved sifting through millions of on-line records to determine what he called (when he wasn't doing 12-ounce curls with his Aryan beer of choice...) the "Moneyball literacy index." What he discovered was that it wasn't Billy Beane's cult of personality that drove the "discourse" concerning the book and what it offers as a "narrative" (there's that word again...) about roundball and crooked figures.

The shocking separation of what made Moneyball the book a lightning rod and what made the film adaptation a commercial success is captured in 3-D's chart, which we've dumbed down with all of the excruciating attention to detail that we're so known for in our hazy attempt to emulate those who've made their pound of flesh via claims of "deadly accuracy."

The chart shows that the post-season success of the Boston Red Sox in 2004 and 2007 (as promulgated by recently departed GM Theo Epstein) is what pushed the Moneyball discourse upward in a pattern that is disturbingly similar to the "fake bull market" on Wall Street during the same time frame. (Happily, Moneyball proved impervious to the world-wide financial crisis and, as the chart shows, glided through that volatile period, thanks in part to the long gestation period for the inevitable movie adaptation.)

But 3-D's big finding is that as the film moved into production and pushed inexorably toward an actual release date, that Moneyball discourse began to founder and, in a kind of pinnacle of counterintuitivity, began to fall even as the film went on to gross over $100 million at the box office.

3-D isn't 100% certain that the index will continue in freefall in '12 (then again, he's not certain where his next meal is coming from, now that his analyst job with the shadowy independent, rifle-rack-funded franchise, the Idaho Grifters, has been put on "hiatus"), but the signs seem to indicate further retrenchment. Epstein (pictured in the graph refusing the offer of a free screening of the film...) has gone on record that divulging proprietary information is akin to some kind of socialist conspiracy. Bill James has gone on record as claiming that he never read the book in the first place.

And, frankly, why would they? Bill is professionally uninterested in reading a book where they write about him [EDIT: ...except when he conveniently forgets, nine years hence, that he's at least partially read the book]; Theo, with his preternatural media savvy and his familial connections to the entertainment industry, isn't interested in seeing a baseball movie that doesn't tell his story.

But the combination of disinterest and shoegazing displayed by two of baseball numberologism's biggest icons is almost certain to drive down the suddenly fragile literacy index into a quagmire of confusion and lack of consensus, until the entire concept will be rendered...meaningless.

Hey...wait a minute...