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Rocky and the Oakland Athletics

Never before has a movie franchise ran such a parallel to a sports team.  It is if the money ball Athletics and Rocky franchise were meant for each other.  Has one team or idea ever started out so good and ended up fighting Tommy Morrison in the parking lot (Rocky V).  

Rocky

A down and out boxer, given no chance goes toe to toe with the champ.   

The 2000 Oakland Athletics were a special team; a fresh new idea.  The team was led by Jason Giambi’s MVP season and took the 2000 AL West title.  This team shook up baseball.  Young, brash players who enjoyed being the talk of the MLB.   The leader of the team was an equally brash GM who changed the way players are evaluated.  Out, with batting averages and HR, in with on base percentages.  Once the season ended you know you had witnessed something great, maybe you did not need money to win.

Rocky II

Rocky beats the champ, makes some money, has a kid, and wears a jacket with a tiger on it.

If people thought the 2000 team was a fluke, 2001-2005 made people a believer in the money ball.  How was a team able to pull off such phenomenal results year after year?  The player pool was endless, Tejada, Chavez, Zito.  If one player left for free agency, no problem, that position was filled with a replacement of equal or better value.

Rocky III

Mick dies; Rocky gets a statue, fights Thuderlips, beats Mr. T and reconnects with Apollo, the zenith of his career

2006 was also the zenith of the money ball.  The team did not have the star power of an MVP like Tejada or Giambi but the 2006 Oakland A’s went the deepest in the playoffs of all the money ball teams eventually loosing the series 4-0 to the Detroit Tigers in the AL pennant.  Was that the best A’s team we were going to see for awhile?  Much how Rocky III ends with Apollo and Rocky swinging at each other and the camera pans out showing a painting of the fighters leaving the audience to wonder how will it end for Rocky and the A’s?

Rocky IV

Dolph Lundgren beats Apollo, Rocky gives a speech about peace and trains in a Russian barn one of the most epic montages of cinematic time

The 2007 and 2008 Athletics and Rocky IV foreshadowed what was to follow.  The 2008 Oakland Athletics had either traded away all of their players or allowed them to sign away as free agents.  But instead of an endless pool of players, the well was beginning to dry. Ryan Sweeny led the team in batting average with a .286.  Jack Cust let the team with 33 home runs all while hitting an abysmal .231.  As the credits for Rocky IV roll we say “is this the end, we sure hope so.”

Rocky V

Rocky looses all his money and moves back to the old neighborhood.  The co-star of this movie is Sage Stallone, which will be a good ending to this summary.

The 2009 Athletics are a shell of the franchise from just nine years ago.   Jack Cust is still with the team, he is currently at 17 home runs and still batting .231. Second on team in home runs  is Jason Giambi at 11, however two weeks ago he was cut by the team.  Giambi is a painful metaphor of what this team is now, stuck using a system that doesn’t really work if you do not have the players.  Much like how Sage Stallalone was left carrying the bag of Rocky V.  You may have an iconic franchise, but if you don’t have the actors to deliver, what is the point.  A GM in a recent Sports Illustrated article said it best, “What’s the point of having a team built around on base percentage if no one can hit the ball to score.”

What makes the money ball system work?  Is it the system or the players in the system? The farthest Billy Beane’s system has brought us is a sweep in the AL pennant.  Much like a great movie franchise eventually you have to go with a different script.

[Addressing the Soviet Union]
Rocky: I guess what I'm trying to say is, if I can change, and you can change, everybody can change

 

 

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