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Michael Lewis’ Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game had revolutionized the way baseball world think about the game. Lewis told the story of a small market team with low payrolls using sabermetrics to defeat bigger, richer teams. However, not everybody buys into eschewing the advice of old-time scouts, and long-time baseball journalist Lonnie Wheeler is one of these people. In his Intangiball: The Subtle Things That Win Baseball Games, Wheeler argues that it is the intangibles — player make-up, player-play inspirations, and teamship — that are the prime ingredient for baseball success. In a narrative rich in characters and texture narrative that appeals to emotions, Wheeler tells many anecdotal stories with anaphora, derogatory diction, and deliberate syntax to prove his point. In contrast, Lewis uses a combination of appeal to logos and pathos to weave a web for his argument using compare and contrast, vivid imagery, uncensored language, and syntax that contributes to a logical tone.
Focusing on a host of factors he introduces as “teamship”, Wheeler extols player’s individual talent — character, team chemistry, spirit, and make-up — by utilizing anaphora to start every sentence of the paragraph. “To slough off the significance of character is to suppose it merely happenstance that…”, “To contend that players can’t prosper from the company they keep is to presume that…”, “To insist that intrasquad support and cooperation don’t amount to much is to disregard…”, “To neglect tone setting is to suggest…”, etc. Besides creating a rhythm that emphasizes the message, anaphora is used in Intangiball to engage the readers for an emotional experience as they are forced to consider the meaning of the words at the beginning of every new argument Wheeler presents. Repeating his message over and over again, Wheeler underlines the message that group dynamics is what truly drives teams from a level of underachieving to championship levels.
Furthermore, in order to undermine the statistical approach to baseball, Wheeler adopts derogatory diction such as: “Slough off”, “contend”, “disregard”, “neglect”, “call it coincidence”, “gloss over”, “consider a bunch of hooey”, “wave off”, “trivialize”, etc. By using negative diction to present the other side of the argument, Wheeler exposes the incomprehensiveness of the measurable statistics; by presenting the opposite view as dismissive and negligent, Wheeler exemplifies the significance of immeasurable nuances demonstrated in intangible factors.
Wheeler recognizes the vital importance of the intangibles a player brings, which produces winning baseball games. As his major source of evidence, Wheeler employs one anecdote after another. Through the use of anecdotal stories, he appeals both to ethos and pathos. To praise the importance of Kirk Gibson’s contribution to “teamship” when playing for the Los Angeles Dodgers, Wheeler writes: “It is to presume that voters got it wrong when they selected Gibson as MVP that year, even though he led the National League in nothing official and wasn’t really close in most of the major categories. It is to imply that the other Dodgers were unmoved when Gibson, not expected to play in the World Series against the heavily favored Oakland A’s because of a knee injury in one leg and a hamstring problem in the other, hobbled up to the plate with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning of game one, his team down a run, and somehow willed a two-run, walkoff home run against the great closer, Dennis Eckersley”. The anecdote in this example is used to not only reposition Wheeler as an expert on the issue with first-hand experience and establish his credibility, but to also appeal to pathos to convince readers that abstract contributions deserve great respect. Additionally, Wheeler understates his argument by using phrases such as“got it wrong” and “unmoved” to emphasize exactly the opposite. This both stimulates intense reader response and creates an ironic effect to highlight what sabermetrics has been neglecting. It is impossible to talk about Wheeler’s emotional approach without discussing his use of syntax. When illustrating his position, Wheeler repeatedly uses conjunctions to create long run-on sentences. In fact, several sentences are so stretched out that they are long enough to compose a paragraph. “. . . and that Nellie fox, a much older Houston Astro and second baseman…; and that, in Cincinnati with the Big Red Machine…; and that, in turn, Bench prospered from Morgan’s talent…; and that, before a playoff series against Pittsburgh in 1975…”. If a reader is able to follow along this line of logic as if being played in a human thought process, then Wheeler’s goal is achieved. Indeed, run-on sentences are much more representative of the thought and speech illusion when it comes down to communicating the thoughts of the writer. As a sports journalist, Wheeler intentionally focuses on writing about whatever evidence that comes to his mind in his experience, uncovering thoughts that might otherwise kept hidden to readers. Wheeler applies a conversational, humorous, and mocking tone while introducing to readers the subject matter that his book discusses: “. . . involves whatever it is that makes a player better — and sometimes worse — than his slash lines (batting average/on-base percentage/slugging percentage), or even the dizzying decimals tucked behind the bonus tabs of his baseball-reference. com page”.
To elicit a smirk on readers faces by using humor is to stimulate a favorable response from the readers, including enhancing the author’s credibility and establishing an emotional appeal. Here, Wheeler attempts to create a deeper connection with the readers (especially old fans and professionals who like to hold on to tradition) by bringing back what the baseball world has been overlooking in the age of sabermetrics: the seemly “obsolete” value of players’ make-up. However, Wheeler does not deny the significance of sabermetrics: “While the discuss will, for the most part, steer clear of the stampede of stats, there is no ignoring the buffalo in the base path. ” Nonetheless, to make his argument complete, he goes on further to suggests that even sabermetricians are not considering the subjective sides: “In their quest to assign the arithmetic value to virtually every microevent that alters the landscape of an inning, the number crunchers are keeping a curious eye on this subject”. While recognizing other’s argument, Wheeler makes his own stronger by arguing for and presenting the things that sabermetrics doesn’t account for. Utilizing concession, Wheeler ultimately makes strengthens his line of reasoning by refuting potential objections to his points.
On the other hand, the title of the book, Moneyball, suggests that baseball is not only a form of entertainment, but also a business. As a formal Wall Street trader himself, Michael Lewis unravels the yin to the yang side of argument Lonnie Wheeler presents. By applying business principles to baseball, baseball is revolutionized by savvy general managers and sabermetrics. Though richer franchises such as the New York Yankees enjoy great advantages, they do not always get better, and sometimes poorer teams, such as the Oakland A’s, prevail. In order to answer the question of why big teams don’t always make good use of their funds and why players turn out to be bad investments, Lewis employs analogy and contrast. As opposed to baseball scouts’ traditional emphasis on outer appearances and physic: “A guy who could run had “wheels”; a guy with a strong arm had “a hose”, Lewis compares baseball players to writers: “Like writers, pitchers initiated action, and set the tone for their games. They had all sorts of ways of achieving their effects and they needed to be judged by those effects, rather than by their outward appearance, or their technique”. A new idea, using math and statistical analysis to analyze the game of baseball that focused on the outcomes, is conveyed by using the blueprint of an old one, of focusing on superficial techniques, as a basis of understanding. With analogy, Lewis creates a mental linkage between the traditional view with the forward-thinking new view and contrasts both in a simple and succinct manner. With contrast, the image of the irrational, arbitrary old way is juxtaposed to the scientific, rational way.
Oakland A’s manager Billy Beane and his assistant Paul DePodesta arrive at the conclusion that pro-ball players were evaluated by a misleading system. One of the most prominent device Lewis uses to convey this idea is imagery. “A revaluation in the market for baseball players resonates in the lives of young men. It was as if a signal had radiated out from the Oakland A’s draft room and sought, laserlike, those guys who for their whole career had seen their accomplishments understood with an asterisk. The footnote at the bottom of the page said, “He’ll never go anywhere because he doesn’t look like a big league ballplayer”. Playing like a movie in readers’ heads, the descriptive words and simile ignites kinesthetic sensations. By awakening readers’ sensory perceptions, the imagery helps the readers to visualize more realistically what Lewis meant in his writing. They realize that the traditional system has prevented players with valuable traits from uncovering their full potential, and that this system needs to be revolutionized to better assess players.
After arriving at the idea that the practice of sabermetrics is the most efficient system, Lewis heavily relies on appealing to both logos and pathos to evaluate the management style that challenged the conventional wisdom. Working almost like the American economy itself, money is not only the means but the measure of baseball success. With a poorer team and a sabermetric management style, Billy Beane still did not stray away from being money-centric by applying Wall Street derivative tactics to baseball. Raw language, such as “Fucking A Trade”, is used to evoke reader emotional response by the way of exhilaration Billy expressess after he made a successful trade with other baseball teams. Syntax is a vital part of how Lewis presents his argument. The listing of Billy’s five simple rules, also called eutrepismus, predominantly appeals to logic. With one rule after the other, the list ensembles a mathematical formula or a cookbook recipe that allowed the readers to follow step-by-step the process Billy goes through every time he makes a decision. The unwavering and blunt tone in the list reveals an almost unsympathetic view towards players as they are reduced as combinations of interchangeable numbers whose behavior and psychological profile can be predicted.
The combination of raw language and listing of logic reasoning gives readers a glimpse of what drafting and trading is like in the Wall Street of baseball. Lonnie Wheeler and Michael Lewis lay out their arguments of how baseball players should be evaluated with very different approaches. The former takes a very human side of the issue and fills his book with expert observations and anecdotes while the latter takes on the logical road that provides plenty of numerical and athletic action, as well as informative insights. Is Intangiball an answer to Moneyball? The answer lies within the readers themselves.
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