September Surprise: How Did Baseball Suddenly Get So Exciting?

Hampton,

I've already seen Moneyball. The film wasn't nearly as entertaining as the Michael Lewis book—which may or may not say something about the contemporary state of Hollywood magic-making, given that the book was less about baseball than the heartwarming world of financial arbitrage.

That said, I still enjoyed the movie. As a fan, mostly. Largely because it featured a bargain-basement team with a legitimate shot at winning. Unlike, say, real life. Oh, sure: a few cheapo clubs find and develop enough young, affordable talent to be competitive. (The Oakland A's and Florida Marlins used to have this market cornered; Tampa Bay still does). But by and large, mo' money means mo' victories, especially now that Moneyball-style statistical analysis no longer provides much of a competitive advantage, given that pretty much every front office uses it. Just look at the opening day payrolls of the 13 teams either leading their division or in Wild Card contention, only Arizona, Tampa Bay and Milwaukee rank outside the top 15 spenders.

So, yeah: remember all that talk about the Pittsburgh Pirates' revival? Me, neither.

What story will I be following the next few weeks? The same story every other baseball fan living in a no-hope home team town follows, year in and year out: the one inside my head. The one about the glorious future. (Release date: TBD). Here in Washington, D.C., that means monitoring Bryce Harper's minor league at-bats and Stephen Strasburg's pitch counts while praying that the next time the Nationals overpay for the likes of Jayson Werth, they'll spend that money on a player who can actually, you know, hit a baseball with some sort of consistency. I can see it now: young talent matures, big-market team can afford to keep it and Washington finally assumes its rightful place in the contending ranks of baseball's big-market haves. And also the New York Mets. Maybe Hollywood can make a movie about that.

Jake, what are you looking forward to?

–Patrick

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Sports Roundtable

Patrick Hruby, Jake Simpson, and Hampton Stevens 

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