Oakland Athletics: In Defense of Former Manager Art Howe

Tom Au

Art Howe let on to Siriux XM's Mad Dog Radio that he was not pleased with his portrayal in Moneyball (via Yahoo! Sports). I would like to second the notion that Howe wasn't given a fair shake, at least in the movie. In the interest of fair disclosure, this is being written by a former Pittsburgher about another former Pittsburgher.

Most Hollywood films like to have a villain. Unfortunately, the movie casts Oakland's former manager, Art Howe, in that role to make general manager Billy Beane look good. This overlooks the role that Howe had in successfully executing Beane's moves.

For instance, in dumping the talented, but lazy, Jeremy Giambi from his team, Beane traded him to the Philadelphia Phillies for the supposedly "replacement" level player, John Mabry. As such, Mabry was supposed to be kept on the bench.

But Howe used him as an every-day player with good results. The change of "scenery" (leagues), brought out something in Mabry that caused him to pull his weight as a "league average" player for the only year of his career. As such, he made a larger contribution than the man he replaced, and thereby "vindicated" Beane's trading for him.

In the movie, Howe is cast as the recalcitrant opponent of "sabermetrics" (baseball science). What IS true is that he wasn't exactly comfortable with the new methods. But Howe showed himself to be a "team player" in these matters, even if it went against his own inclinations.

For instance, when outfielder Adam Piatt stole a base, Howe took him aside and said, "You did that on your own," declining to endorse him. Later, Howe went on the record about why such an action was not a good idea (statistically).

At some inconvenience to himself, Howe also followed Beane's instructions to stand above the dugout, with his chin in full view, to encourage this troops. This created a picture of him as the "steady hand on the tiller." This is a case of the what the boss says is good for the "company" being good for YOU.

One can say that Howe wasn't such a good manager with former clubs like the Houston Astros (just under .500) or the New York Mets (a dismal .424). But the 1996-2002 tenure with the A's (the longest of his career) featured a solid .530.

Through it all, Howe was a good "company man," not fully appreciated by an organization that had passed him by.


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