Chapters 7-8 (Giambi’s Hole, Scott Hatteberg, Pickin’ Machine)
There comes a day in every man’s life when he realizes how similar he may be to to former Boston Red Sox backup catcher Scott Hatteberg. For most men, it’s a day that never comes. For others, it’s a day that comes all too often. But with the exception of some pretty rare circumstances, it never comes. Because why would it, honestly. What I’m saying is, this happened to me.
For starters, Scott and I both engaged disinterested relatives to throw to us in the backyard when they clearly didn’t feel like it. In Scott’s case, it paid off and he went onto a career in Major League Baseball. In my case, it led to missing a lot of pitches from my crying sister, getting bored after five minutes, and staying inside the rest of the day playing Rogue Squadron.
We’ve also both had coaches call us “horse shit.” In Scott’s case, it was Ron Washington, who recently managed in the World Series. Mine was Coach Blokowski, who went on to kidnap somebody, I think.
The onslaught of perspectives continues as we are introduced to Hatteberg, another of the players blessed by the radius of Billy Beane’s interest. By now, it’s obvious that a bag of dead leaves could play for the A’s under Billy Beane, as long as it could force a walk every other at bat. Lewis does not allow Beane’s priorities to linger in mystery.
And for that reason, we become privy to Scott Hatteberg and the details of his situation. His situation is that there was a franchise on the edge of the country pulsating with desire for him. This is where Scott and my paths diverge. Scott will be played by Chris Pratt from “Parks and Recreation” in the Moneyball movie. That’s also different from me.
I assumed that statisticians were breaking players down to their numerical strengths and weaknesses, and then putting them back together , and that somehow was the process that regurgitating wins out for the Oakland A’s. But there is no reassembly period. Guys are just scanned for their usefulness in a few key areas, or the areas that contribute to the key areas, and then fixed into a combination so that their strengths complement their weaknesses. Which is why everyone seems so shocked when the A’s come calling; Lewis writes that players have no idea how they’re being judged.
Which leads us to the most entertaining part of the whole book: The part where everyone talks about how terrified they are of Jamie Moyer.
Growing up, my sister had a friend named “Amy Sawyer.” Once, as I was sorting methodically through my binder full of baseball cards, and screaming myself hoarse if anyone touched them, just like a normal kid, and I stumbled upon Jamie’s name for the first time. I didn’t have a lot going on at that point in my life, so the revelation that my sister had a friend whose name rhymed with a baseball player was pretty much like a toaster oven suddenly becoming self-aware.
I say this because for way too long of a time, that’s all I really knew about Jamie Moyer. Then suddenly, had been around forever, amassed a career full of glacially paced glory, and was a starting pitcher for the Phillies. Obviously, this provided me–who at this point was a college student, with brains and thoughts and keys and stuff, not just the perpetual “loud kid” of the group–a closer look at him.
And what you get with Jamie Moyer is a question mark that spits out littler question marks and everyone gets really, really pissed if you can’t hit them with a baseball bat. He never seemed to fit the true mold of a starting pitcher in the Majors, from a viewer’s perspective. He was either giving up tons of runs or holding his own, but he was doing it more with more floating and less speed than anybody else. Any success he achieved had to be explained through some back door, roundabout baseball statistic.
Jamie pitched two complete game shutouts this past season, so while he’s not infallible, he also did a lot correctly. And in a story about players who are cast aside because they choose to hit around pitcher, rather than through him, it makes total sense now why Jamie can be so effective, while, as Lewis himself puts it, having “… the demeanor of chartered accountant.”
You just don’t think of guys worrying about Jamie Moyer because I’ve heard so many opposing fans shout, “OH AND WHOSE STARTING FOR YOU TODAY?! JAMIE MOYER?! THE GUYS TOSSES BEACH BALLS THAT SO 20 MPH.” And I would think “Hmmm, that’s not very incorrect.” I let the stigma of enemy fans bleed into reality. And Jamie Moyer, along with Scott Hatteberg apparently, is part of what’s finally visual when the mist of ignorance is lifted off saber metrics.