Moneyball Redux: Will Red Sox Raid Twins' Front Office?
Image courtesy of Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY SportsIn 2011, the film adaptation of Moneyball hit theaters, bringing Michael Lewis's non-fiction work to the big screen.
Near the end of the movie, Red Sox owner John Henry invites Billy Beane to Fenway Park for a conversation. Beane had freshly guided small-market Oakland through back-to-back 100-win seasons, overcoming a limited budget by championing innovative strategies and cutting-edge analytics. His success caught the attention of one of baseball's most storied and respected franchises.
When Henry (portrayed by Arliss Howard) and Beane (Brad Pitt) sit down to chat, Henry says he heard about Beane receiving an extension offer from A's ownership.
"So why did you return my call?" he asks.
"Because it's the Red Sox," Beane replies matter-of-factly.
Ultimately, Beane turned down a lucrative $12.5 million offer from Boston to stick with Oakland, where he remains today. But the temptation was evident and understandable.
You don't have to look hard to find parallels between the Athletics front office of that era, and the current Twins regime. Since taking over a club that had freshly lost 103 games, and hadn't reached the playoffs in six years, Derek Falvey has overseen a complete turnaround for the Twins, who are on the verge of their second postseason berth in three years since Falvey's arrival.
Falvey isn't quite working with the budgetary constraints of the A's circa Y2K, but he has brought sophistication to a dated baseball operation, ushering in a rapid analytical awakening. Suddenly, the Twins find themselves mentioned among baseball's most enlightened franchises.
As Matthew Trueblood wrote at Baseball Prospectus on Monday:
"Most importantly, what the Red Sox need isn't a technological catch-up or an extra fleet of interns in research and development. What they need is, in all likelihood, a top-level change in philosophy, one that aligns them with the Dodgers, Astros, Yankees, Rays, Twins, and Diamondbacks, who now represent the state of the art."
Seeing the Twins mentioned alongside the game's most respected front offices feels surreal, but here we are. Falvey's vision has quickly come to fruition and he – along with his handpicked GM Thad Levine – has this franchise as geared for long-term success as any in baseball. It's no secret that I've long been a fan of the way these guys operate, and the rest of the league has quickly taken notice as well.
Unsurprisingly, Minnesota's Chief Baseball Officer has been mentioned as a candidate for the Boston GM vacancy by numerous outlets, including the Boston Globe. Still only 36 years old, Falvey could be viewed as a long-term fixture atop the Red Sox, in the same way Henry fancied Beane (who was 40 back in 2002).
So let's just assume that the Sox come calling. How tempted would Falvey be? There are a few things to keep in mind.
- Falvey grew up in Lynn, MA – roughly 30 minutes from Fenway Park.
- The Red Sox GM gig brings with it almost unlimited resources.
- It also brings a level of prestige nearly unmatched in the profession.
- Boston will undoubtedly be able to dangle a significant raise if they so choose.
- Falvey and his family have planted roots here.
- He's building something special, and is likely only getting started.
- The Boston job, while glamorous, brings far more scrutiny and stress.
- It also doesn't necessarily offer much job security. (Dombrowski was fired less than one year after winning a World Series!)
If Boston misses on Falvey, they could conceivably turn their attention to Levine, who deserves his own share of credit for the spiffy roster construction in Minnesota. In his case, unlike Falvey's, it'd be a clear step up in terms of role – becoming the No. 1 guy.
But on that note, I guess the Twins are in better position than most in this regard, given that they have a two-headed monster atop their front office depth chart. Both Falvey and Levine seem capable of handling the head job solo. Maybe that would make one of them more amenable to leaving. Maybe it'd make the Twins more at peace with such a defection.
All I know is that Falvey and Levine appear to have great chemistry, and they've jointly built a hell of a roster in Minnesota, as well as a hell of a baseball ops department. Personally speaking, I've never had more trust in the people running this team in my life than I do right now. So thinking about a big-market shark coming in and pilfering away from what is currently the Twins' foremost competitive advantage?
Well, to borrow another line from Moneyball... "It's incredibly hard."
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