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4.0 out of 5 stars Thinking outside the box, July 19 2004
This review is from: Moneyball (Paperback)
Michael Lewis deftly inserted himself into the A's front office to find out how a professional baseball team with a $40 million payroll can win 102 games and consistently 90 or more wins in subsequent years and compete with teams like the New York Yankees who have payrolls exceeding $130 million.
What he reveals is that by approaching baseball in a more rational, analytical way and doing away with all the traditional conventions, you can compete with anyone who doesn't do the same. Too many GMs and coaches are seduced by speed, home runs, and batters who swing at bad pitches when the simple truth of it is that in baseball the most precious thing you have are your three outs per inning. Anything that risks losing one or more of those outs is something you should avoid. As a long-time fan of the game, it's hard for me to swallow some of the anti-traditional things Lewis describes in this book. But the proof is in the pudding as they say and the A's success over the past several years is hard to argue with.
The focus of the book is A's GM Billy Beane, a former A's player himself who had a world of talent but could not transform that talent into a Hall of Fame career. He didn't have certain intangibles that are needed. Beane now recognizes those talents in the players he drafts, recruits and trades for. Beane's obsessive personality and unorthdox ways make for interesting reading. He's a man who seems horribly tortured by the game and yet thrives on his success in the game as well.
There are excellent mini-biographies in the book including one on A's first baseman, Scott Hatteberg, a Red Sox catcher who was thought all but done with baseball after he ruptured a nerve in his throwing arm. The A's reclamation project recognized a diamond in the rough and brought him aboard to train him as a first baseman, mostly so they could benefit from Hattie's shrewd batting.
Chad Bradford, the A's middle relief pitcher with the unorthodox pitching style and uncanny ability to get outs, is also profiled. A's minor league phenom Jeremy Brown, a former University of Alabama catcher who broke all sorts of NCAA records but wouldn't get a look from most pro teams, is also profiled. You get the sense from this book that there IS no traditional upbringing for a pro baseball player. The A's unusual collection of "misfits" all came from different backgrounds and most have taken a rather odd path to success.
This book is a great insiders look at a pro baseball team and how they approach the game from a very unique perspective. The most fascinating thing of it is, the A's didn't invent what they're doing at all. They're exploiting baseball wisdom that was anyone's for the taking for the past 30 years. You just need to know where to look.
If you're a baseball fan or just someone who can appreciate creativity and ingenuity in a world that promotes imitation, you'll enjoy this book.
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