We are a fantasy baseball league whose draft is scheduled for April 23. That's a little late, even for us. But given the spate of players going on the DL...

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Moneyball Lewis Talks About the A's

Well, I borrowed this from an A's fan website.

September, 2004

Without further ado, my conversation with Moneyball author Michael Lewis:
Blez: Hi Michael, I wanted to interview you for my site because I'd seen some rumors around the Internet that you were working on a follow-up to Moneyball. So is there any truth to that rumor?
ML: You know when I sold Moneyball, I sold it in two books. And I decided it was a book after the draft of 2002. So when I decided it was a book, I thought that I would really want to know what happened to these kids. And so I've been marinating in minor league baseball for the two years. It's a different kind of book so I anticipate it taking another two or three seasons before I'm even ready to write it. I'm just gathering string right now. The players really need to work out their fates before I can sit down to write about them.
Blez: That makes a lot of sense.
ML: It takes them so long. So I am working on it. I'm doing other stuff at the same time, but I am doing that. It's tentatively scheduled to be published in 2007. I wouldn't bet money on that happening.
Blez: Do you have a title for it?
ML: Underdogs.
Blez: Great name.
ML: As I say, it was conceived the moment that Moneyball was conceived. They're twins. It wasn't something I thought of doing after I published Moneyball. When I got into it, the funny thing was that I was really worried that I didn't have the stuff to do Moneyball. I was really confident that I was going to have the stuff to do the second book, but I didn't know how the first book was going to look. In a way, I remember thinking as I was working on Moneyball that the only reason I'm writing this piece is so that I can get to the second one.
Blez: Well, you turned out a heck of a piece for someone that just wanted to get to the next one.
ML: Yeah, but that was the spirit in which the whole project was conceived. I really did think, "God I really do want to write that second book. But I can't write that second book unless I write the first book first."
Blez: So you had a good idea going into writing that first book that a good portion of it was going to be about the drafting philosophy of the A's?
ML: I didn't know quite how much, but I did know that there was at least one long scene set in the draft of 2002. It just ended up running longer than I thought it was going to run. I knew that was interesting and was going to be a part of Moneyball because they were just getting real conviction in the front office about what they were doing in the draft. They had sort of dabbled in the draft in previous years. They had more or less taken control of the top draft choices where they were spending a lot of money. But they hadn't said, "Here is a list of the hitters we're going to take and here is a list of the pitchers." They hadn't gone that far. When I walked in, they were beginning to feel much more confident about imposing their theories. And 2002 was really a watershed for them, when they said, "Screw it, even if this doesn't work, it can't be that much worse than what we're doing. And so let's try this." I thought that it would be sort of neat and that it would be a part of what I was writing, I just didn't know how much.
Blez: When you became a part of the draft room, was it something that naturally evolved to them getting used to your presence? Sort of like reality TV stars getting used to a camera person being in their face all the time?
ML: I had been badgering them for two and a half months before that. So I'd developed an extended conversation with Billy Beane about what he was up to, and Paul DePodesta. By that point in the season, it wasn't that weird for me to be there because I'd been hanging around so much. I'd met a couple of the senior scouts and been to minor league games with Billy and scouting trips with Paul. So I don't think they thought twice about who I was and what I was doing. I was just another guy in the room and it was jammed. There was 40 people there so I don't think anyone really paid much attention to me.
Blez: Were you interested in baseball prior to the book proposal? I had thought some of your natural interest in the A's had come from the corporate world and how they were conducting business differently to be successful.
ML: The dirty little truth is that I used the connection of something I'd written a lot about, which is Wall Street and the way that markets work or don't work as an excuse to write about baseball. I don't want to be too clear about this because the truth is ambiguous. It is true that I didn't know that I had a book until I had framed it in terms of the market working or not working, the market being baseball players and how it was changing and how people were thinking about it. Theories on Wall Street were now being applied to human beings. That's really when I realized that there was a big story here. Having said that, I didn't start by saying, I want to write a market/financial-like book. I started by saying, I kind of want to write a little piece about baseball and I'd been curious about this thing going on in Oakland. I paid enough attention to notice that how well they were doing with their money was bizarre. In a properly functioning market, a team with such a severe financial disadvantage shouldn't be able to win so many games. But as for my baseball background, I wasn't interested the way, say Bill James was interested. I wasn't an obsessive. It had been a very important part of my youth. I'd played through my freshman year in college. I played summer ball after my freshman year and gotten very badly hurt playing after my freshman year. But I always felt cheated out of a longer career. I didn't think I was going to play professional ball, but I thought I'd been cheated out of an extra three years.
Blez: What happened to you?
ML: I was a pitcher. I was sliding into second base. I was playing American Legion ball. The team was so bad, they let me hit, which I didn't usually do. I slid into second base and the hole under the base where the base was planted. The gap was still there and my toe went under the base and I popped up after the slide. I ripped everything in my ankle and while my ankle ballooned, like an idiot, I pitched on it. I couldn't walk properly for almost a year, so I just stopped. It was my landing foot, so I couldn't pitch. I was having a good time in college, so I just sort of said, oh well. But then my senior year I remember feeling really sad that I had not been able to continue to play. After that, I didn't follow it that closely because I moved nine months after I graduated college. I moved to London for eight years and this is before it was really easy to get American baseball games on British television. So I was just cut off from it all and didn't pay any attention to it. I was a casual fan who had a history with the game. I wrote something three months ago for New York Magazine. I actually had my old baseball coach on the cover of the magazine.
Blez: I didn't see it, but I did see your Sports Illustrated piece about Moneyball.
ML: The piece for the Magazine was about my high school baseball coach who is still coaching. He's just a fabulous coach and they made him the cover story. I wrote a bit of that story. I had a natural interest in the game, but not the kind of interest that maybe a lot of the people that you hang out with have.
(Laughter ensues)
ML: (Still laughing)...Now I do though. It's a tar-baby. Once you engage with it, it's tough to disengage.
Blez: That's funny that you say that because growing up I was a real big hockey fan and I wasn't all that into baseball, and it wound up being the A's that drew me in and hasn't let go since.
ML: There's a good reason for that. There's a reason to root for this team. That's what is so fun about it. That whenever this team takes the field, it's not just a baseball game, it's a war of ideas. That's kind of neat. That does happen in sports, but not often.
Blez: Do you think that Moneyball in some senses, I don't want to say started that war, but in a lot of ways it did because it brought it to the mass public's consciousness?
ML: There were glowing embers there and the book tossed a can of gasoline on it. That is basically what happened, I think. Billy Beane was already experiencing friction within the game. Largely because he had done pretty well in some trades, but there was a sense that he was doing things a little differently. And people focused on what they could see, which was that they didn't steal bases and they didn't sacrifice bunt. I think word got out a bit that Oakland's front office was a bit more heavy-handed than other front offices and that they were controlling things that the manager would normally control and that the scouting director would control.
Blez: Like on-the-field decisions?
ML: Yes and that is, of course, heresy. And it pisses off all the old baseball guys because the managers, they want that power. They want that prestige and they can't imagine ceding any of it to a suit. There were already some little signs of friction, but the book clearly created a mess. I've always thought that it wasn't going to end really sweetly. The nature of these sorts of things, I mean. History is not kind in this sense. The revolutions tend to consume the revolutionaries. And how they do it is different in each case, but I've always kind of thought that this was a good moment for Billy, for Paul, for David Forst, for the book, but I wouldn't be surprised if the story evolves and there is more of them together in the future. One scenario, the ideas in the book that were spawned in the book-- actually the front office never invented these ideas, they just kind of seized on them. The Bill James stuff, these ideas will become so commonplace that so many baseball teams will be run this way. The attitude towards these people in this book, we know what that is already: "What's this book and who are these people claiming to have known something that we already use?" I wouldn't be surprised to see that kind of thing happen.
Blez: That brings me to a very relevant point about the book. If a team like the Boston Red Sox that has $120 million to play with gets into the same general philosophy that the A's are imploring, does that automatically put the Red Sox two or three steps ahead?
ML: No question about it. The Red Sox will be a better team than the A's for years to come. Thank God the playoffs are a crapshoot. There is room for both of them in the playoffs and anything can happen in the playoffs. Yes the market is moving now. It's moved quite a bit since I was in the front office. There aren't the same inefficiencies that there were before. There are still inefficiencies, but it's just that it's getting more efficient, so it's getting harder and harder for Oakland to operate. You can see it in the way they build the team, from stressing the high on-base percentage guys to not being bad this way now. There's a lot of noise out there now about how they've sort of abandoned the on-base percentage philosophy in favor of pitching and defense, but if you look at the Oakland offense this year and factor in the ballpark, it's actually a good offense. It's not a great offense. But if you take money into account, it is a great offense for the cost. If you factor in the extreme pitcher's park that these guys have to hit in and the money that's spent on them, it's pretty damn good still. It is true that a little before the time I showed up, they were already seeing the market for on-base percentage change, so they couldn't go snap up the same players. Scott Hatteberg wouldn't be available to them now for example. Jason Giambi coming out of the draft would've probably been more coveted. But they were already saying the next game for them was measuring defense better. I don't know this for a fact, but I think that's what they think they are doing.
Blez: I would tend to agree with you because the front office has alluded to the importance of the defense in some newspaper articles.
ML: Yes and it's a natural question to ask, why was it so devastating to Billy Beane that Mark Ellis got hurt? Even now, he sort of mourns the season loss of Ellis. Even taking into account the offensive production of Scutaro which is surprisingly good, and you could even say better than Ellis's. It's because the way they measured Ellis's defense, that defense was extremely valuable. And while Scutaro has, I think I saw on television the other day, committed the fewest numbers of errors of any second baseman in baseball, he just doesn't have the same range and he just doesn't get to some of the balls that Ellis would get to.
Blez: Which is obviously very important with the ground ball staff Billy's assembled.
ML: Exactly right. They built a ground ball staff and if you have Crosby and Ellis in there, you probably have the tightest infield groundball defense in the American League or at least one of the top ones.
Blez: Do you think Crosby is that good defensively?
ML: They think he's really good. They were very comfortable with it. And it would've been really fun to watch Ellis and Crosby grow up together as a double play combination. But what's also happened this year is the outfield defense has excelled. Part of this is luck because Jermaine Dye has come back in a way that you just couldn't predict. But the outfield defense is the best it's been since I've been paying attention to them. With Kotsay, Dye and Byrnes in left, the range is...I mean all of sudden they are running down a lot of fly balls. It's really very damning about Zito's year. To have that ERA and to be a flyball pitcher with the best outfield defense you've ever had behind you, it's very damning of where he is. In any case, the broader issue, as I was talking about the revolution consuming the revolutionaries, no matter how much I, as the writer, say about the book and try to explain to people that haven't read it or misinterpreted it what the book is trying to say and do: the noise against the book inside baseball is so loud and so persistent that there is no way I can drown it out.
Blez: How do you think that noise has affected Billy personally? Have you ever had a conversation with him about it?
ML: We talk about it all the time. I honestly think that after a period of being a little unsettled by just how noisy the response was, and it was very, very noisy, that Billy had started to build a new kind of strength. I think he has an attitude now of just, "Fuck `em." He's indestructible now, and it didn't kill him it only made him stronger. He's liberated from his clippings. This isn't to say that he isn't capable of getting irritated by them, but he really doesn't care what people think anymore, and I'm not really sure he ever did that much. But he just sort of discovered this strength within himself that he is capable of dealing with this and moving on. He's told me he finds it very liberating. And just judging from his behavior and attitude, I'd say that is true. Coupled with that is that it's also been empowering in a different way for him. There is a social power to the book. The reason that baseball was so noisy about it was that it managed to build a bridge between baseball culture and the larger culture. It drew in all kinds of people who would pay casual, if any kind of attention, to baseball. People were reading this and saying, "God this applies to my business and how come the other baseball teams are managed so stupidly." All of a sudden, the owner or the manager has his buddies asking him, "What the hell were you doing there, Fred?" It creates a pressure on baseball from outside of baseball. That has been greatly to Billy's benefit because he's now well known in corporate America whereas no one really knew him before outside of baseball. There have been benefits to him because in some ways it has liberated him from baseball. It's funny because baseball trapped Billy the minute he was talked into not going to Stanford. He was sort of rendered unfit for anything but baseball. It was going to be very hard for him after several years of bouncing around in the minors and the major leagues to go find a job outside of baseball that he would find challenging and interesting. Typically that person spends their life trapped in baseball, which could be an explanation for the behavior of some of the people in baseball. They're completely dependent on the culture. They can't break from the pack because it's too risky and there is nothing else they can do. Billy began to sense, even before I met him, there are other things he could do if he had to. But now that the book has come out, if he wanted to go be a venture capitalist tomorrow, there would be people who would hire him.
Blez: Speaking of people who are fearful of breaking from the pack and baseball being all that they know, what are your feelings about Joe Morgan at this point? I don't think anyone has been a louder, more public voice that won't let go of the book and criticism of Billy and the A's. He seems to have a lot of problems with Billy Beane and the book and new thought in general.
ML: I don't know what to say about that. He says lots of stupid things on the television set. He seems lazy and foolish to me. But on the other hand, he's not completely without merit as an announcer. There are times when he is actually interesting about some things and one doesn't want to give him too little credit. God knows where he is coming from, so I'd hate to explain his motive, but I'd just say he's not a very persuasive character to me. You can't write for a living without creating enemies. Or at least enemies of the things you've written. And I've sort of winced at some of my enemies, saying, "Oh God having that person as an enemy isn't good because whatever he says next could be dangerous." I don't feel that way about Joe Morgan. I actually feel very pleased that Joe Morgan is an enemy of the book. With enemies like that, who needs friends? It's hard for me to get upset about it.

Blez: I want to get some insight as to where you are with the follow-up book. It sounds like you're pretty far away from completing Underdogs, but what have you seen this season? You've seen Jeremy Brown, Mark Teahen, Blanton, Swisher and the other guys close up. You've probably seen them more than most people have.
ML: I'd argue that I've seen them more than anyone has because that's all I've been doing. Their manager has seen them more, but I don't think anyone has spent more days collectively in the presence of these guys. I've seen quite a bit of them. It's been fun to watch. They're still growing. It's still unclear what their future is, even some of the more prominent ones. There was 40 guys that they drafted and 25 of those are really front office picks. They say that they signed 30 of the 40 they drafted. A lot of these guys, their futures are very ambiguous. You just don't know what's going to happen to them. Blanton, it's kind of clear already. I'd say with Swisher it's very clear already. These are going to everyday, possibly extremely well-known, big league players. I'd say that Teahen too that's true of. But you have to look at them everyday to see-- no I don't mean look, I mean pay more attention to their stats than just their batting average. In particular, Swisher. The stats tell you everything you need to know about him. If you look at his walks, it's insane. He's 23 YEARS OLD in a league filled with 30-year-old players who've spent time in the big leagues. And he's got like 78 or 80 walks and the next closest guy has 60? How does that happen? It's freakish. He's got 16 bombs, who cares that he is hitting .260? Last time I checked, he was like sixth in the league in on-base percentage and that's at 23 years old. When you go see him and you look at the numbers, what you see when you watch him just confirms the numbers in that he has a really amazing tendency/ability to control his encounters in the batter's box. He does have a remarkable control over the encounter. He really does have a very, very good eye and just great discipline. He doesn't mind taking his walks. In the big leagues, it's a little harder to get those walks, but it's not that much harder. He's sort of made it clear that he could be given a starting shot next year. Those guys in a way are the rabbits, and the tortoises are more interesting in a lot of ways than the rabbits. The rabbits will be there.
Blez: Can you tell me about some of the tortoises?
ML: I don't want to tell you because I don't want to blow what's in the book.
Blez: Can you mention any names that have stood out to you then?
ML: I hate to even mention them at this point. But one fun part of the project that didn't occur to me when I was conceiving it was that it was going to be fascinating to figure out ways to evaluate the draft. That's honest and valid. The people who said it was a bad draft or a good draft, well there isn't really a valid argument for that yet. You've got to sort of say, "Compared to what? Compared to the other guys that were drafted that year? Compared for what they spent?" You've got to take all these things into consideration when evaluating it. And that's something that I'm going to have to sort through. And then measuring what they got in return. I mean, if you look at what Billy has gotten out of that draft already, it's kind of amazing. He's gotten Dotel for a period of time. And he got Redman. He traded Bill Murphy for Redman. The obvious value are the ones that get to play for the Oakland A's for six years before they go off to free agency. That's an obvious value. But there's a secondary value is the ones who are used as chips in trades and Teahen and Murphy have already served that function.
Blez: Are you going to stop following them now that they're out of the system or will you continue?
ML: I'm going to continue following them. In fact, I talk to Teahen every few days. It's getting harder though.
Blez: The more they disperse you mean.
ML: Yes. They are scattered to the four winds right now and it's only going to get worse.
Blez: What do you think and what has been the impact of Beane and DePodesta being separated? They truly seemed to be the ying to each other's yang.
ML: They're better together than they are apart. That's real clear. I think Billy's biggest loss has been Paul. It's too bad they couldn't find some way for it to be gratifying for both of them to stay together.
Blez: Either in Oakland or someplace else?
ML: Yeah, or even someplace else. It would surprise me if they were someday reunited in some other kind of operation.
Blez: Where it's baseball or not?
ML: The only thing I could imagine reuniting them is some kind of conglomerate of a baseball, a basketball and a football team where they were running all three together.
Blez: Really?
ML: Yes. That was their fantasy when I met them. It probably still is. Paul's got his own thing going now. But three or four years from now, who knows how interested he'll be in that?
Blez: I'm guessing they still maintain a very good relationship?
ML: Oh, very good.
Blez: How are your feelings on the way the book has been taken? I mean, I don't want to put words in your mouth, but it's got to be somewhat gratifying but also at the same time frustrating that so many people misunderstood the basic premise of the book. And to this day we still have people like Bill Simmons on ESPN.com write that the Red Sox are a nightmarish softball version of Billy Beane's Moneyball dreams.
ML: (Prolonged laughter)
Blez: Well, the reality is that you can't even call the Red Sox that because Moneyball was about an idea of beating the system...it's right in the subtitle, The Art of Winning an Unfair Game. And you can call the Red Sox lots of things, but you can't say that they aren't part of the system the A's are trying to beat.
ML: Exactly. They are unfair the other way. Now they're going to get Randy Johnson because Schilling and Pedro aren't enough. But to answer the question about my feelings about the response to the book... look, the truth is that the worst thing that can happen to a book is that it get ignored. The best thing that can happen to a book is that it get read. And this book got read. It would be a bit rich for me to complain about the response to the book. It's been fabulous. Sure, it's frustrating when people write things that I think are stupid about the book, even when they're kind of flattering. It is frustrating when I feel like I haven't been understood, but it's mildly frustrating. It's delightful that anybody's paying attention at all. It's a little hard for me to imagine a better response. The people who are angry about it keep it in the news. If everybody just loved it, nobody would be talking about it anymore. So it's very helpful that the Yankee announcers go on and on and on about how dumb it is when the Yankees are playing the Red Sox. That's just so helpful. You can't buy that kind of publicity. I'm sitting here trying to think of a complaint I could generate about the response to the book. An honest complaint. It's true that it would be nice if everyone had the same high level of reading skills, but they don't. You can't do anything about that. The only thing that I would've liked for the book in its fantasy, and it wasn't going to happen, was that I wish it had gotten a little more serious intellectual attention and literary attention. It got this fabulous review in The New Republic from an economist and a law professor in Chicago, both of whom I admire immensely. But because it's baseball, I think they were the limit to how up-market it was going to go. Literary people were not going to grab for it, and I had those ambitions for it, and those weren't completely realized. But as far as the response in baseball, in the business world and the noise in the papers and stuff, it really doesn't get any better. It couldn't get any better. If you want your book to get attention, you have to put up with people misinterpreting it. In fact what they do misinterpret it when it comes out, it just serves to give me more material. So you can't really complain about that either.
Blez: You know I mentioned this to you in an earlier exchange, but I believe this book belongs in hotels next to that "other book" and is one of the best books I've ever read.
ML: That's really nice, but you do have a little bit of an interest. It confirmed your passion. (laughs) It dignified your passion. You're an Oakland A's obsessive. And now it makes a lot of sense to be one.
Blez: Exactly. It just justifies every single reason why someone needs to root for this team as the underdog. And if you think about it in a lot of ways, Moneyball is a "true American story." It's about looking for a better way to do something.
ML: Absolutely!!! I completely agree. That innovation is at the center of this culture's soul and that it's being done in a game that everyone thought they knew; that makes it a very rich story. It's one thing when people are just inventing new gadgets, but when you've got something that is as high bound and as seemingly perfectly understood as baseball, and right in the middle of it, someone is trying to reinvent it, that's an incredible story. And it's a very American story. It would be like if someone reinvented soccer...I'm trying to think of the European equivalent. I couldn't believe how good a story it was. After I sold the book to my publisher and I was sitting here with a stack of notes four or five months later thinking that the only constraint for this story was my talent. A lot of times the material itself is a constraint. There's only so much you can do with it. I've had that feeling a lot, but in this case, I just knew if it's no good it's my fault. That's such a great feeling, a scary feeling, but a great feeling because there's no doubt. You know you've stumbled upon something terrific. To have that feeling a few times in the lifetime of writer is all you can ask.
Blez: How often are you still around the Coliseum? Are you around a lot to go see the big league club?
ML: Rarely because I'm off at minor league games. At some point in September when the minor league season is over, I'll be there quite a bit. But not before then. And then I'll probably get a press pass because some of my guys are probably going to be September call-ups. Even if not, I've got some interviews to do in the big league clubhouse. The big league players can tell you an awful lot about minor-league life. So I'll be over there in September for three, four or five games.
Blez: How long did it take you to learn and understand the language of Bill James?
ML: You know, I read everything that he wrote in the press box during games. This project took a year and it was very quick. From the moment I engaged to the moment I handed in the manuscript, it was a year. I stumbled upon Bill James a month into it, so I spent 11 months dragging old abstracts around with me to baseball games. I went and visited with him in Kansas and spent some time with him there. But only after I'd felt like I'd earned the privilege, reading everything and grappled with it. So that's how long it took, a year. I'm not everyone ever completely understands Bill James, but that's the amount of work I put into it generating the piece of material that I wrote about him in the middle of the book.
Blez: How do you feel about the pressure some of the kids are under and the scrutiny they are under? It's like the new school applications are kind of hinging on these kids being successful. And how are they dealing with that type of pressure?
ML: I think they are kind of oblivious to it. I mean they weren't at first. Jeremy Brown, for example, everywhere he went people would tease him about being fat. But other than that, they are kind of oblivious to it. And the truth is that there are two more draft classes after them that were drafted the same kind of way. So they're just the first, they're not the only. This is something I'm going to have to say right at the beginning of the second book, but this theory about how to evaluate amateur talent won't be proven or disproven by a single draft class. There's just not enough guys and you need a bigger sample. So it would be false to draw any radical conclusions from a single draft class. So I don't think it's necessarily true that everything hangs on them.
Blez: I've actually talked to a couple of baseball writers who've claimed that this wasn't something that was revolutionary. It was something that was going on in baseball, it was just Moneyball that had brought it to light. Did you get the feeling from Billy and others that this had been going on for some time?
ML: No. Everyone always wants to say I already knew that, but that's bullshit because there was very little good reporting, in fact, virtually none being done on the Oakland front office. So you couldn't really read about what they were doing in the newspapers. They had the sense that what they were doing was very different from what the rest of baseball was doing. It is true that for the most part, that most of their ideas were completely unoriginal. There was a literature out there they just seized upon. It wasn't like they put chocolate in their peanut butter and discovered Reese's Peanut Butter Cups. What they did was that they ate them and they were the first to do that. You can see from the response to the book that there wouldn't be such hostility to it if there was nothing new to it. If everybody was already doing it, it wouldn't be threatening. You wouldn't have the St. Louis Cardinals firing their scouting director and hiring a computer geek to analyze statistics of amateur players. You wouldn't have the New York Mets having their front office read the book. In Boston and Toronto, they have a sense that what they're doing is different. Look, they're still playing the same game so the innovation is a matter of degree. It's not like they've changed everything about the game. To say there was nothing innovative about what they were doing is crazy because I think the response just shows that it was innovative.
Blez: You mentioned the defense becoming more of a part of the equation, for example no Jeremy Giambi in left field anymore. How do you feel the team has evolved since you wrote the book? Do you think they are already trying to figure out the new measure to stay ahead of the teams like the Red Sox and Yankees?
ML: I think the market is getting more efficient so I think the opportunities are drying up. The biggest opportunity is the draft. If they're right about the draft and if these classes of college players they've evaluated in a particular way pan out at a higher rate than past drafts then they're going to successful for another decade. They're going to be successful for a long time. Because they're going to have more good professional players than they'll know what to do with. So that's by far the biggest opportunity. Whatever edge they have there, if they have it, is the most lucrative one. The evaluation of other team's professional players and their farms systems on the other hand, well, there are enough other teams that are looking at and valuing things roughly the same way that there's not huge opportunities there for them. I don't think that they have huge intellectual advantages. I think that Boston and probably Toronto and now Los Angeles for sure. For example, whatever they're thinking about defense, it's mentioned in a slightly complicated part of the book- the AVM - that's the source of their defensive analysis. I think they all have that. The draft is the biggest thing. There are other things that get less attention like the health of pitcher's arms. That in itself could be a wealth machine. If you can draft 15-20 good college pitchers each year and if they're all healthy, then three or four of them are going to be good major league pitchers, then you're in great shape. But that goes back to the draft. If there is anything of extra value of what they've done starting in 2002 to draft players, then there is nothing to worry about for the Oakland A's. They are going to be very good for a long time because they won't even need all the good players coming up through their system. As long as they trade them smartly, which I'm sure they'll do, there is going to be some much value there that it won't matter that they can't play in the free agents market.
Blez: The health of the A's is a natural segue to my last question then, would you call yourself an Oakland A's fan?
ML: Yeah, of course. How can I be anything but? Every time they win, I sell a book. It's more than being a fan. I'm a partner. I feel like a business partner at this point. I feel like my commercial fate is tied to the fate of that team, so I can't completely detach myself from them. I became a fan while I was watching them. Once you understand there is a war of ideas taking place on the field, you're engaging in a different way and I find myself completely engaged in that way.
Thank you very much for taking out the time to answer my questions Michael. Athletics Nation greatly appreciates your considerable contribution here and I'm sure the majority of us can barely stand the fact that Underdogs is coming out three years from now.
Oh and thanks for outing the fact that I'm an obsessive. Wait a minute, AN already knew that.

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