Moneyball’s Nick Swisher: ‘Most of the players were signing cards, we were signing books’ | MLB

Tthe 2002 Major League Baseball The draft saw a healthy crop of future All-Stars, such as Zack Greinke, Cole Hamels and Prince Fielder, sign their first professional contracts. He also produced a misguided pick widely considered one of the greatest busts of all time, when the Pittsburgh Pirates drafted pitcher Bryan Bullington with the first overall pick.

But the class of 2002 will forever be associated with a book that shocked the sports world. Michael Lewis’ money ball told the story of Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane and his innovative analytics-driven approach to recruiting during the 2002 draft and MLB season. It was made into a movie starring Brad Pitt in 2011 and continues to shape thinking in many sports.

And 20 years later, the 16th pick in the Moneyball draft still vividly remembers how Beane and Lewis’s book launched his career.

“This was before all the rankings, the systems and the predictors,” says Nick Swisher, former Athletic and New York Yankees outfielder and first baseman. “A group of scouts would come to watch you play: ‘Can the boy play or can’t you?’ So I’m glad a lot of those guys thought I could actually play. The previous night [the draft], I got a phone call from Billy Beane saying, ‘Swish, if you’re there by 4, we’ll take you.’ I have goosebumps.

“Billy Beane was like a father figure to me. I can’t thank you enough for that opportunity. In the grand scheme of things, just being a part of that book and being a part of analytics before analytics was even analytics, that was pretty badass.”

Swisher was featured prominently in the Moneyball sections due to the fact that he was a rare example of a player in whom Beane, who prized on-base percentage over intangibles and other stats more valued by conventional baseball wisdom. era, and traditional A’s scouts agreed. .

“People have always told me they broke the mold when they made me,” says Swisher, who will be participating in the new MLB event. Home Run Derby X event in London on July 9. “My personality and extroversion are very new school, but the way I play is very blue collar. He didn’t have the talent of Mike Trout. He didn’t have the power of Aaron Judge. I didn’t have Yasiel Puig’s arm. Just because he doesn’t have all those skills doesn’t mean he doesn’t provide value and can’t compete at a high level.

“It was great to be known as a new school kid, analytics seekers were like, ‘Wow, this kid’s numbers really match.’ I think it was because he was a patient hitter with power. That’s exactly the kind of hitter you’re looking for in today’s game. You want someone who gets to base and someone who provides hits, who can put the ball in the seats.”

Although no one could have predicted the crossover success and widespread influence that Moneyball would achieve, Swisher was aware of the project in his childhood, having been interviewed by Lewis along with other first-timers while the author’s wife, former MTV reporter Tabitha Soren, drank. Photographs. And it wasn’t long after the book’s release in 2003, while he was still playing in the minor leagues, that Swisher began to appreciate the scale of Moneyball’s reach.

“The only time it really caught my attention was when we were in the minor leagues,” he says. “Most of the people were signing baseball cards. We were signing books. That’s when it really clicked: ‘Wow, this book is very influential.’ He gave her such a different perspective on the game. It was like the first time people really understood how organizations that don’t have all the money have to find talent.”

Swisher spent three seasons with the A’s, but the biggest win of his career came after signing with the Yankees in 2008. Originally hired to be the starting first baseman, he sat on the bench after the Yankees acquired Mark Teixeira.

Showing the grit and effort that once so impressed old-school A’s scouts, Swisher struggled to break into the starting lineup in right field early in the season and was a key contributor as the Yankees beat the Yankees. Philadelphia Phillies in six games to win the 2009 World Series.

MLB X Home Run Derby
Nick Swisher will participate in MLB Home Run Derby X. Photography: MLB

“I’ve always been a fighter,” he says. “Getting the opportunity to play for an iconic organization like the New York Yankees, you knew that once you get the opportunity, you better shine, because you know how many people are behind you trying to take your place.

“The first person I met [at the World Series celebrations] it was Jay-Z. I’m like, ‘You know this is going to be one hell of a party!’ But I’ll never forget, we were doing the ticker-tape parade. We were driving down and there were people 10, 20, 30, 40 stories up throwing paper out the window. It looked like it was snowing in November. It was one of the most magical things my eyes have ever seen and something I hold close and dear to my heart.

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

Swisher became an All-Star the following season, following in the footsteps of his father Stevewho played for the Chicago Cubs in the 1970s. Nick Swisher retired in 2017 after a brief second stint with the Yankees, but he’ll be wearing the famous pinstripes again for the Home Run Derby X.

“My guys have been all over me,” he says of his preparation for the event that will see teams made up of former MLB stars, rookies, women’s softball players and “wild card” celebrities represent the Yankees, Cubs, Boston Red Sox and LA Dodgers. “They’re like, ‘You have to start exercising. You wear the Yankees logo. You have to make sure you post. So I’ve been down to the ballpark. We started hitting a couple of times this week, just to start to recover.”

Twenty years after it all began, Swisher is able to take stock and reflect on a full and storied baseball career. The only minor regret? That he didn’t appear in the movie Moneyball, which focused on the A’s trades and on-field tactics rather than their prized draft acquisition.

“We all knew it when Brad Pitt was going to play Billy Beane,” laughs Swisher. “We knew we were out. It wasn’t going to be us, man.

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

  • For more information on the Home Run Derby X event, see mlb.com/HomeRunDerbyX. You can follow the entire Home Run Derby X Tour at @mlb and @MLBEurope.

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