Moneyball Nick Swisher: “Most players signed cards, we signed books”

TThe 2002 Major League baseball draft saw a full harvest of future star players – such as Zack Greinke, Cole Hamels and Prince Fielder – signing their first profile contracts. It also led to a mistake that was widely regarded as one of the biggest falls of all time when the Pittsburgh Pirates won the pitch with Bryan Bullington’s No. 1 overall.

But the 2002 class is forever tied to a book that sent a wave around the world of sports. Michael Lewise Moneyball told the story of Billy Beane, CEO of Oakland A, and his groundbreaking, analytical approach to recruiting during the 2002 draft and MLB season. It was starred in 2011 with Brad Pitt and continues to shape the thinking of many sports.

And 20 years later, Moneyball’s 16th choice still vividly remembers how Beane and Lewis’ book began their careers.

“It was before all the leaderboards, systems and predictors,” says Nick Swisher, a former A- and New York Yankees winger and first chief player. “Rumk scouts should be watching you play -“ Can a child play or not? ”So I’m glad a bunch of these men thought I could play. [the draft], Billy Beane called me and said, “Swish, if you’re 16, we’ll take you.” I had goosebumps.

“Billy Beane was like a father figure to me. I can’t thank him enough for that opportunity. For the most part, just being a part of this book and being a part of analytics before analytics was even analytics was pretty stupid.

Swisher was prominent in parts of Moneyball because he was a rare example of a player who was valued by Beane – who valued the base percentage of intangibles and other statistics more judged by baseball conventional wisdom at the time – and the traditional scouts of Player A. .

“People have always told me they broke the form when they made me,” says Swisher, who is attending MLB’s new Home Run Derby X event in London on July 9th. “My personality and going out is very new, but the way I play is very blue. I didn’t have the talent of Mike Trout. I didn’t have the power of Aaron Judge. I didn’t have Yasiel Puig’s hand. The fact that you don’t have all those skills , does not mean that you do not offer value and can not compete at a high level.

“It was pretty cool that I was known as a new type of school, the analysts were like, ‘Wow, this man’s numbers really add up.’ who gets on the stand, and someone who strikes, who can put the ball on the seats.

Although no one could predict Moneyball’s success and widespread impact, Swisher was aware of the project as Lewis interviewed him with fellow players while the author’s wife, former MTV reporter Tabitha Soren, photographed him. And it wasn’t long before the book was published in 2003, when he played in even smaller leagues, and Swisher began to appreciate the extent of Moneyball’s reach.

“The only time I really remembered was when we were in smaller leagues,” he says. “Most people signed baseball cards. We signed books. That’s when it really clicked -” Wow, this book is very influential. “It gave the game such a different perspective. , who do not have all the money, have to find talent.

Swisher spent three seasons in As, but the biggest triumph of his career came after signing a contract with Yankees in 2008. He initially started out as a key player, but after the Yankees acquired Mark Teixeira, he found himself rooted on the bench.

Demonstrating the vigor and diligence that once impressed Old School A scouts, Swisher made it to the starting lineup on the right field early in the season and was a major contributor when the Yankees won the Philadelphia Philliest in six games. to win the 2009 World Series.

MLB Home Run Derby X
Nick Swisher competes in the MLB Home Run Derby X. Photo: MLB

“I’ve always been a fighter,” he says. “If you had the opportunity to play for an iconic organization like the New York Yankees, you just knew that if you had the opportunity, it would be better to shine because you know how many people are behind you trying to occupy you.

“The first person I met [at the World Series celebrations] was Jay-Z. I’m just saying, “You know it’s going to be a big party!” But I’ll never forget, we made a tape drive. We drove down and 10, 20, 30, 40 floors higher are the people who let the paper out of the window. It seemed that it was snowing in November. It was one of the most magical things my eyes have ever seen, and something that is close and dear to me.

“It’s God’s honest truth: there’s no better place to win than New York City, honey. I can promise you that.”

The following season, Swisher became an All-Star, following his father Steve, who played for the Chicago Cubs in the 1970s. Nick Swisher retired in 2017 after a brief second game with the Yankees, but is once again wearing the famous pins for the Home Run Derby X.

“My guys have been above me,” he says of his preparations for the event, where teams of former MLB stars, newcomers, women’s softball players and wildcard celebrities will represent the Yankees, Cubs, Boston Red Sox and LA Dodgers. . “They say, ‘You have to start training. You wear the Yankee logo. You need to make sure you post. So I went to the ball field. We started hitting a few times this week to get back to it.

Twenty years after its inception, Swisher has the opportunity to take stock and reflect on a comprehensive and diverse career in baseball. The only small regret? The fact that he did not appear in Moneyball’s film, which focused on A’s dealings and tactics on the pitch rather than acquiring their valued draft.

“We all knew it when Brad Pitt started playing Billy B
eane,” Swisher laughs. “We knew we were out. It wasn’t us, man.

“If you haven’t seen the movie, watch the movie. But if you haven’t read the book, read the book.”

  • You can find more information about the Home Run Derby X event at mlb.com/HomeRunDerbyX. You can watch the full Home Run Derby X Tour at @mlb and @MLBEurope.

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