Thursday, July 3rd, 2008

2G2K Circus :: Obama as Billy Beane?

Uh oh! Ferentz went there by comparing Barack Obama to Billy Beane. Here we go now.

While I love the equating the two people who probably most inspire in me the most intense mix of fanboy awe and bar-side cynicism, I’m not sure the analogy is perfect. You might say that the campaign is Billy Beane-like, and the candidate is much older-school.

I think Michael Lewis was trying to show how Billy Beane had rationalized the game for the 21st Century, removed it from the mystical realm of old scouts and false indicators. And I think he did it because Oakland is one of the poorest drawing teams in the league–we’re consistently in the bottom quarter, I mean, shit, we’re moving to freakin Fremont.

He’s the epitome of the restless Adam Smith-style capitalist, relentlessly destroying the team to remake it. He’s probably the least wedded to narrative of anyone in the game. Every die-hard A’s fan–of which I am beyond one–knows their heart will get broken in the fall.

Nick Swisher or Danny Haren or Tim Hudson or Miguel Tejada–Miguel Tejada! whom Beane found on the cheap in the DR and built up from a scrawny little, um, beanpole into one of the best in the game–all of these were heroes who conformed to Oakland’s sense of underdog love and bootstrap pride. None of them got the long-term contract, and all of them were traded before their time.

The story Billy Beane delivers every year is this one: we’ll have a new crop of underachivers, outcasts, past-their-prime stars, and hot young stars on the field. And then when the year’s over, we’ll lose half of them–some to bigger paychecks (the Hankees, the Gnats) and some to oblivion. But don’t get too attached.

That’s certainly the mentality of the permanent party operatives, especially Dems who have been mainly out of power for the last forty years. The candidate is the candidate, and next year there will be another. Obama is Mr. Field of Dreams, though, and that’s why I agree with your conclusion. The campaign may be underestimating the damage it is doing with the standard post-primary rightward swing thing.

I think the essential tug-of-war in the Democratic party is between its idealism and its pragmatism. Most long-time observers don’t want to go there–they correctly point to 1968 and 1972 as times when this intraparty fight ended in disaster.

But no one can get to a new majority without some leaps of imagination, and that’s where numbers, statistics, and damn lies can strand this presidential campaign like the last two.

posted by @ 8:27 am | 0 Comments

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