Billy Beane, general manager of MLB's Oakland A's and protagonist of Michael Lewis's Moneyball
, had a problem: how to win in the Major Leagues with a budget that's smaller than that of nearly every other team. Conventional wisdom long held that big name, highly athletic hitters and young pitchers with rocket arms were the ticket to success. But Beane and his staff, buoyed by massive amounts of carefully interpreted statistical data, believed that wins could be had by more affordable methods such as hitters with high on-base percentage and pitchers who get lots of ground outs. Given this information and a tight budget, Beane defied tradition and his own scouting department to build winning teams of young affordable players and inexpensive castoff veterans.
Lewis was in the room with the A's top management as they spent the summer of 2002 adding and subtracting players and he provides outstanding play-by-play. In the June player draft, Beane acquired nearly every prospect he coveted (few of whom were coveted by other teams) and at the July trading deadline he engaged in a tense battle of nerves to acquire a lefty reliever. Besides being one of the most insider accounts ever written about baseball, Moneyball is populated with fascinating characters. We meet Jeremy Brown, an overweight college catcher who most teams project to be a 15th round draft pick (Beane takes him in the first). Sidearm pitcher Chad Bradford is plucked from the White Sox triple-A club to be a key set-up man and catcher Scott Hatteberg is rebuilt as a first baseman. But the most interesting character is Beane himself. A speedy athletic can't-miss prospect who somehow missed, Beane reinvents himself as a front-office guru, relying on players completely unlike, say, Billy Beane. Lewis, one of the top nonfiction writers of his era (Liar's Poker, The New New Thing), offers highly accessible explanations of baseball stats and his roadmap of Beane's economic approach makes Moneyball an appealing reading experience for business people and sports fans alike. --John Moe
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From Publishers Weekly
Lewis (Liar's Poker; The New New Thing) examines how in 2002 the Oakland Athletics achieved a spectacular winning record while having the smallest player payroll of any major league baseball team. Given the heavily publicized salaries of players for teams like the Boston Red Sox or New York Yankees, baseball insiders and fans assume that the biggest talents deserve and get the biggest salaries. However, argues Lewis, little-known numbers and statistics matter more. Lewis discusses Bill James and his annual stats newsletter, Baseball Abstract, along with other mathematical analysis of the game. Surprisingly, though, most managers have not paid attention to this research, except for Billy Beane, general manager of the A's and a former player; according to Lewis, "[B]y the beginning of the 2002 season, the Oakland A's, by winning so much with so little, had become something of an embarrassment to Bud Selig and, by extension, Major League Baseball." The team's success is actually a shrewd combination of luck, careful player choices and Beane's first-rate negotiating skills. Beane knows which players are likely to be traded by other teams, and he manages to involve himself even when the trade is unconnected to the A's. " `Trawling' is what he called this activity," writes Lewis. "His constant chatter was a way of keeping tabs on the body of information critical to his trading success." Lewis chronicles Beane's life, focusing on his uncanny ability to find and sign the right players. His descriptive writing allows Beane and the others in the lively cast of baseball characters to come alive.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Unlike professional football and basketball, Major League Baseball has no cap on the amount of money a team can spend on its players, which makes it nearly impossible for "small market" clubs to compete with the behemoths in Gotham and L.A. On the other hand, as Lewis shows us in his engaging saga of the Oakland Athletics, there are always ways to win on the cheap. The hero of Lewis' tale is Oakland General Manager Billy Beane, a bust as a player but a deft judge of talent. Lewis was granted what appears to be unlimited access--he often found himself in the Oakland executive offices when a big trade was going down--and his book reads like it. He also does a wonderful job of picking the brains and explaining the motives of the baseball statistics geeks who are helping redefine the way the game will be played in the twenty-first century. With so many baseball books to choose from, it is difficult to single out a few as must-haves, but this one comes pretty close. Kevin CanfieldCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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"Lewis has hit another one out of the park... You need know absolutely nothing about baseball to appreciate the wit, snap, economy and incisiveness of [Lewis'] thoughts about it." The New York Times "I understood about one in four words of Moneybal, and it's still the best and most engrossing sports book I've read for years. If you know anyting about baseball, you will enjoy it four times as much as I did, which means that you might explode." Nick Hornby "What does it take to turn a subject like baseball statistics into a true-life thriller not even a baseball-loathing bibliophobe could put down? Answer: saturation reporting, conceptual thinking of a high order, a rich sense of humor, and talent to burn. In short, Michael Lewis. Moneyball is his grandest tour de force yet." Tom Wolfe "This delightfully written, lesson-laden book deserves a place of its own in the Baseball Hall of Fame." Forbes "Anyone who cares about baseball must read it." Newsweek" "Engaging, informative and deliciously contrarian." Washington Post
About the Author
is the author of the bestsellers Liar's Poker
and The New New Thing
. He lives in Berkeley, California, with his wife, Tabitha Soren, and their two daughters.
Before Bill James, baseball junkies, even those selecting players, were relegated to assessing players and teams using only mundane statistics. Then, the Oakland Athletics, under General Manager Billy Beane, adopted James's radical methods--and philosophy--with dramatic success. Michael Lewis tells the surprisingly fascinating story behind the success of the A's, whose choices of players were often derided by other teams. Lewis's reading is excellent; he loves the story and the people, and the joy he experienced writing MONEYBALL comes through as clearly as any fastball. Not just for baseball fans, this story will impress anyone who understands that the way things are done can always be improved, even the seemingly subjective process of picking star athletes. D.J.S. © AudioFile 2003, Portland, Maine-- Copyright © AudioFile, Portland, Maine
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.