RIP Earl Weaver, The Irascible, Cigarette-Smoking Orioles Manager Who Was Moneyball Before "Moneyball" Existed

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Earl Weaver, who managed the Orioles for 15 seasons from 1968-1982 (and another two from 1985-1986) passed away on Friday night at the age 82. In 11 of his 17 seasons, the Orioles won 90 or more games, and in his first three at the helm he guided Baltimore to three World Series, one of which, the 1970 Series with the Reds, produced a title.


Weaver was known for sneaking cigarettes in the dugout, vigorously arguing with umpires (Weaver is second on the all-time manager ejections list with 98), and employing a managerial style that preceded and predicted some of the basic ideas of the Moneyball approach by some three decades. Weaver valued power, scoffed at speed, and called the the hit-and-run "the worst play in baseball." He wrote, in 1984's Weaver on Strategy,

The way to win is with pitching and three-run homers...The home run makes managing simple. Nothing can go wrong. The power of the home run is so elementary that I fail to comprehend why people try to outsmart the game in other ways. . . Forget about the bunt, unless there is no other choice. There are only three outs per inning. Give one away and you are making everything harder for yourself.

Understanding risk/reward and the value of an out are now fundamental tenets of baseball's smart-set, but there was a time when Earl Weaver was revolutionizing the game by eschewing then dominant tactics that said to scrap for one run at a time. If you like contrarian sports strategy, heavy-hitters, or both, thank Earl Weaver for finding inefficiencies in baseball before it was cool, and never wavering.

Camden Yards unveiled a statue honoring Weaver in June of this year. At the ceremony, Weaver said of the larger-than-life cast, "Even LeBron [James] will have to look up to [the statue]. I guess there will be a lot of kids looking up at me, too, and saying, 'Who is this?' I just hope their dads and grandfathers have the statistics to show why I'm standing there." That day, Weaver jokingly asked that his tombstone read, "The sorest loser that ever lived."