Friday, August 8, 2008

Put a Milo on Her

For those who don't care about baseball, there's a book called Moneyball, written by Michael M. Lewis, which tells the story of how Oakland Athletics general manager Billy Beane turned to statistical analysis to turn the A's around for pennies on the dollar.

However, some of Beane's decisions had nothing to do with statistics. The book takes the reader inside the Oakland A's draft process. Beane and his staff have to sort through literally hundreds of players, speaking with scouts and making analytical decisions.

But before a single slide rule is touched, we learn about Milo. Milo was a former administrative employee of the Oakland A's who would just say the most horrible things to people and got on everyone's nerves. (He once told a new employee, as a way of greeting, "I was against hiring you.") He gained such a reputation that the name "Milo" was synonymous with someone socially maladjusted.

The Athletics draft board was a large magnetic board with hundreds of names attached. When researching the backgrounds of these players, Beane would find psychological red flags. Some had histories of problems with drugs or the law. Some had "all Fs" in college. Some were "god-squadders", people excessively preoccupied with religion. Some players were revealed to have zero scores in ambition or competitiveness on the primitive psych metrics the A's used.

Whenever Beane heard something that disturbed him, he said, "Put a Milo on him."

At that moment, a magnetic sticker with a picture of ex-Athletics employee Milo was placed next to that player's name on the board. No matter what the player's talent, that player was immediately removed from consideration. For a young player hoping to become a pro, to have a Milo put on you was a potential death sentence from the Athletics. Instead of 30 teams looking to sign you, there would now be 29.

Beane's reasoning was that small, weak franchises could not afford to have the development of players derailed by outside issues. With only so much money to spend, the Athletics had no time to invest in psychological or behavior correction - the choices of the Athletics had to pay off immediately. A club like the Yankees could afford to spend the money or wait for someone to get their head sorted out, but not the A's.

I think the above is true also with poor teams. The "head" of a player is not taken into account when drafting or acquiring players. It's a real risk to spend one's time and energy on a basket case, particularly if you have a sub-.500 record. No coach of a struggling team should be worrying about whether or not a particular player is going to "show up" mentally.

The comment about whether Courtney Paris wanted to play in the WNBA or not was what prompted this post. I don't believe that's the case about Courtney; in fact, everything I've read about Paris suggests that she wants to take her game to greater and greater levels. If this was something she had said, as an imaginary GM it might make me want to pass on her during the draft. (However, there is no proof that she's said such a thing. - Pet)

The Atlanta Dream has a couple of players I'm concerned about. One is Izi Castro Marques. Her meltdown in Madrid was shocking, and it almost cost the Brazilian national team a spot in the Olympics. Of course, we don't know the whole story about the animosity between Paul Bassul and Izi, but Izi should be controlled enough to keep her personal issues off the basketball court.

The other is Betty Lennox. Lennox and Meadors have clashed, and those clashes have made the press. Clearly, they don't see eye to eye, but if there are differing points of view, they shouldn't be reported to the press.

As the newest WNBA franchise, it's important that we make sure that we don't have any future Milos on the Dream. I'm not saying that everyone on the Dream has to have a perfect mental makeup. However, if Coach Meadors is reading this, I have a polite suggestion -- Coach Meadors, when you're evaluating talent for the 2009 Draft, and you hear stories about a senior college player clashing with coaches, or the law, or if you hear that a player's heart might not be in the game at all times, don't try to fix those things yourself.

Put a Milo on her. We'll take the basket cases after we have a WNBA Championship behind us.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I know you watch the Dream so you know this, but clearly Meadors knows the Milo rule and has used it already this season to move out a few Milos that fans may not have known were Milos. People forget that she and Dan Hughes are close friends. Dan runs a similar program in San Antonio with a focus on character and chemistry much like the Spurs. Some coaches love Milos (paging Bill Laimbeer) and it can work short term but you are right a new team and/or a young team can't afford them 90% of the time. Lennox has a Milo-like history in the W at times - let's hope for the Dream's sake that she gets her head on straight or she might be moving on again which fans might not understand but per your theory would probably pay off in the long haul.

Izie's not a Milo though by the way. Like many vets she wants to play a lot, but I think that national team blowup was a shocker and has a deeper story behind it that we don't know. I do know the coach never played her at all in the second half out of spite but then asked her to play in the overtime which is when she refused to play, which is not the same story some media reported which made it sound like she refused in the second half. But it was still a shocker regardless cuz she is pretty easygoing and willing to do whatever for W coaches in the past.