Sports Fodder: Moneyball movie came a year early
October 4, 2012
Sports fodder for a Friday morning . . .
Hollywood should have waited until after this season to make the movie Moneyball. The Oakland Athletics of 2012 are one of the most amazing stories in baseball history. The A’s won an extremely tough American League West despite not having a .300 hitter or someone who scored 90 runs or drove in 90. They also didn’t have a pitcher with 15 wins, 150 strikeouts or 25 saves. They won the division with a bunch of no-name players that would have had trouble making the roster during the organization’s glory years in the 1970s and late 1980s. This is the major league baseball version of the movie Hoosiers. The A’s were nine games under .500 on June 10. Since July 1 they have gone 57-26 thanks to an incredible group of young pitchers that should have been busy winning the Pacific Coast League title this year and a bunch of overachieving hitters who turn into Joe DiMaggio in the late innings. This is A’s general manager Billy Beane’s shining moment.
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Both the San Francisco Giants and A’s went 94-68. Both made the playoffs in the same season for the first time since 2003. Both had a key player caught for using performance enhancing drugs (the A’s lost Bartolo Colon and the Giants lost Melky Cabrera). Both of their managers — the Giants’ Bruce Bochy and the A’s Bob Melvin — should win Manager of the Year. Both had to overcome a division rival going out and acquiring big-time, big-money players (the Dodgers and Angels). And both teams play the game the right way, with pitching, defense and clutch hitting. It’s been a wonderful year for Bay Area baseball. And don’t be surprised if we have another Bay Bridge World Series.
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There is no question that Miguel Cabrera deserves the American League Most Valuable Player award over Mike Trout of the Los Angeles Angels. Cabrera became the first major league player to win the Triple Crown in 45 years and his Detroit Tigers won the American League Central. Trout had a marvelous rookie year but his Angels didn’t even make the playoffs. But all of the above doesn’t mean that Cabrera will win the MVP. Ted Williams won the Triple Crown in 1942 and 1947 and finished second in the MVP voting both times. Lou Gehrig won the 1934 Triple Crown and finished fifth. And Chuck Klein won the Triple Crown in 1933 and finished second in MVP to a pitcher (Carl Hubbell). Getting the MVP voting wrong is something that has been going on for decades.
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How long before we start to see the Nevada Wolf Pack football team receive some votes in the Top 25 rankings? It might happen this Monday after the Pack (now 4-1) beats Wyoming this Saturday. But the Pack might have to wait a little longer to jump onto the national radar. Wyoming, after all, is just 1-3 and there are still 49 FBS teams without a loss or just one loss and 34 of them are in BCS conferences. But be patient. Those BCS teams will start to beat each other and the Pack, who now gets to focus on a weak Mountain West schedule, will be among the nation’s elite no later than election day.
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There is trouble in Boise. The once-mighty Broncos were lucky to survive with a 32-29 win over New Mexico last weekend. Boise had a 25-0 halftime lead and then fell asleep in the second half. Remember Nov. 26, 2010, Pack fans? New Mexico, which has been one of the worst FBS teams in the nation since it beat the Pack in the New Mexico Bowl in 2007, used a triple-option offense (sound familiar, Pack fans?) to rush for 330 yards on the Broncos. The Broncos are 3-1 but they just as easily could be 1-3 (they beat BYU 7-6 with a defensive touchdown). Everything seems to be falling into place for the Pack this year.
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The Mountain West, which just a few years ago looked like a conference worthy of a BCS berth with Utah, BYU, TCU and then Boise State joining the party, now looks like a conference stuck in mediocrity. The only three teams with winning records right now are former Western Athletic Conference teams of just two years ago — Fresno, Nevada and Boise — and everyone else is a combined 10-22. It’s doubtful we’ll see a Mountain West team fighting for a national championship anytime soon even with a four-team playoff on the horizon.
Joe Santoro is a freelance writer for the Sierra Nevada Media Group.