Michael Lewis wrote a book a few years ago called Moneyball, championing the Oakland Athletics’ general manager Billy Beane as someone who got the most out of scant resources. His White Sox counterpart Kenny Williams didn’t come off so well in the book, in part because Beane succeeded in fleecing him in some trades about then in trying to build the A’s as a low-budget powerhouse. But guess what? Since then, the Sox have a ring — as Williams is eager to remind fans — and Beane and the A’s do not. So what gives?
The Chisox — using the same basic monetary dynamic as the A’s, but with a different methodology — have specialized in claiming other teams’ top draft picks, considered washouts, and getting them to fulfill their potential. That’s not about the statistical analysis Lewis wrote about, but about scouts targeting underachieving players and the Sox’ coaches and managers getting the most out of them when they get them in the system. That’s been the key to Gavin Floyd and Carlos Quentin — and one could throw Bobby Jenks in there as well — and it’s what the Sox are banking on in obtaining the highly touted Brent Lillibridge from the Atlanta Braves in the Javier Vazquez trade. So what is it about the Sox that allows them to make gold out of the chaff of other teams’ discarded high draft picks?
“I think the Sox are very good at just telling you whether you’re good or bad very bluntly, how they view you and how you fit with the team,” Quentin said when he was here in town at SoxFest. “They can tell you your potential and also what they think you cannot do.
“For me, the best part of that was just to understand what it would take to get on the field,” he added. “When you’re clear about that as a player, you finally feel as if you can mature. And you feel like a man.
“Sometimes, when you grow up with another organization, things are different. You’re maybe a little too comfortable with everybody.” And you’re not challenged to stress your strengths and minimize your faults.
Funny, isn’t it, how the Sox have thrived developing talent by stressing transparency? Think Obama learned something from watching them?