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The 12th greatest GM of all time is the real “Moneyball” innovator, not Billy Beane

Sandy Alderson

New York Mets general manager Sandy Alderson announces a two-year extension for manager Terry Collins during a news conference at Citi Field, Monday, Sept. 30, 2013, in New York. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)


Mark Armour and Dan Levitt have written a book: In Pursuit of Pennants, which examines how front offices have historically found innovative ways to build winning teams. In support of that, they are counting down the top-25 GMs of all time over at their blog. Since it’s slow season, I’m going to continue linking to the countdown as it’s great stuff we rarely read about in the normal course.

Billy Beane gets all of the love (or hate, depending on who’s doing the emoting) when it comes to advanced analytics in baseball. He’s the one who is praised or derided for statistical analysis, computer ball and every other silly descriptor that gets tossed out when the subject comes up. He’s the one who people consider an outsider. A maverick. The guy who changed everything.

Really, though, Sandy Alderson deserves the praise for that or, if you insist on being a jerk about it, deserves your scorn. As Mark and Dan point out, it was Alderson who introduced modern analytics into team decision making (though Branch Rickey was doing a lot of that decades earlier, of course), and he was the first guy in the modern era hired to run a major league team’s baseball operations without coming from a baseball background. Beane played the game, for crying out loud and came up through scouting.

Yes, perhaps Alderson is too old to have Brad Pitt play him in a movie, but maybe Kevin Kline could’ve done it? I dunno. Beane has always had the better press agents.