New-look A's contend with old 'Moneyball' formula

Thu Oct 3, 2013 7:38pm EDT
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By William Robinson

(Reuters) - Coming to theaters this October: "Moneyball 2: Return of the Athletics."

Eleven years after their magical campaign was documented in a best-selling book and Academy Award-nominated film, Major League Baseball's (MLB) Oakland Athletics are back to their successful, frugal, winning ways.

Fresh off their second consecutive American League (AL) West division crown with a 96-66 regular season record, the A's open their postseason at home Friday against the reigning AL champion Detroit Tigers (93-69) in a best-of-five Division Series.

Unlike the Los Angeles Dodgers, who spent a staggering $220.4 million on its payroll -- and produced a season with four fewer wins -- Oakland carries a meager $60.4 million payroll, according to ESPN, making the A's the fourth lowest among the 30 MLB teams.

Chalk it up to the tight-fisted ways of A's General Manager Billy Bean, baseball's curator of cheap talent. This year's iteration of the A's is not exactly similar to the 2002 "Moneyball" team -- that squad featured Eric Chavez, Scott Hatteberg and Jermaine Dye, with all but two players being paid under $4 million.

That team also had three pitchers at the top of their game, headed by AL Cy Young award winner Barry Zito and AL Most Valuable Player Miguel Tejada.

This team boasts no player who will likely win either award but might qualify instead for Most Overlooked Player of the Year.

After floating around the minor leagues since 2007, third baseman Josh Donaldson became a bonafide terror in his second season, hitting 24 home runs, 93 runs batted in, batting .301 as well as providing excellent defense at the hot corner.   Continued...