The True Tragedy of 'Moneyball'; The NFL's Fake Injuries

Plus: Dennis Rodman didn't speak with Michael Jordan in his three years with the Bulls

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Today in sports: The last eight years have not been kind to the real-life Billy Beane, the NFL reminds its players not to blatantly fake injuries and disrupt the game's integrity, and Dennis Rodman got through three years with the Chicago Bulls without speaking to Michael Jordan.

  • Moneyball isn't the kind of movie that lends itself easily to a sequel, but if the film makes a mint at the box office and cleans up during awards season, there's a second, much less crowd-pleasing movie begging to be made about Oakland Athletics general manager Billy Beane's struggle to replicate the success he enjoyed in the early 2000s with a miniscule payroll and a roster full of club-footed relievers, chunky catchers, and creaky sluggers that Moneyball author Michael Lewis (fairly) called "baseball's answer to the Island of Misfit Toys." In this week's New York Times magazine, Adam Sternbergh catches up with Beane eight years after the publication of Lewis's book, and finds the wonderboy who guided Oakland to the playoffs in five of his first eight seasons as general manager adrift. Beane himself blames baseball for correcting the "market inefficencies" that undervalued stats like slugging percentage and on-base percentage, allowing Oakland to compete on a budget. Beane says baseball is "back to an efficient market — albeit one with some random events that don’t offer perfect efficiency — where whatever you spend, that’s where you’re going to finish." Not that Beane hasn't been trying to find one--he's revised his theory that defense is impossible to quantify and turned Oakland into one of baseball's best fielding clubs in recent years, but it hasn't yielded wins. After finishing 2010 with a record of 81-81, Oakland is currently 69-85 with eight games left to play. What's more, Beane barely resembles the chair-tossing, spit-chewing baseball card-counter lionized by Lewis and played by Brad Pitt in the film. Instead, he's a middle-aged man with beetles in his yard who can't wait for the season to end so he can go fly-fishing. He doesn't hold out much hope of winning a World Series, either. "I’m not some Javert, you know, pursuing the loaf of bread that was stolen." Which is true. Because he's turned into Michael Corleone. [The New York Times magazine]
  • Faking injuries is a core part of international soccer, but it's frowned upon in the NFL, which didn't stop the New York Giants from theatrically collapsing to the turf with cramps Monday night to catch their breath and disrupt the timing of the St. Louis Rams no-huddle offense. New York is far from the first team to have exhausted played feign injuries in the manner of Al Czervik in Caddyshack, but the league today sent out an ominous memo to all 32 clubs that that "should the league office determine that there is reasonable cause, all those suspected of being involved in faking injuries will be summoned promptly to this office in New York to discuss the matter," with violators being subjected to "appropriate disciplinary action for conduct detrimental to the game," including  "fines of coaches, players, and clubs, suspensions or forfeiture of draft choices." [NFL via Rich Eisen]
  • Dennis Rodman won three straight NBA titles in the 1990s as a member of the Chicago Bulls, but in that time, he managed to avoid having a single conversation with Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen. It was actually Pippen who first went on the record saying that he had "never had a conversation" with the eccentric Rodman. He confirmed that was true in a web interview with Graham Bensinger, but explained it was a decision driven by strategy, not his general strangeness. "My job is to collate and understand how people work and make people believe in the fact that [I] belong there," Rodman explained. "Talking to people will come. Relating to people will come...We're cool today. Me and Scottie and Michael never had a conversation in three years in Chicago. Only time we had a conversation was on the court, and that was it." [In Depth with Graham Bensinger via Pro Basketball Talk]
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.