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Moneyball: The Art Of Winning An Unfair Game Paperback – March 30 2004
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About the Author
- Publisher : WW Norton; Reprint edition (March 30 2004)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 320 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0393324818
- ISBN-13 : 978-0393324815
- Item weight : 266 g
- Dimensions : 13.97 x 2.29 x 21.08 cm
- Customer Reviews:
About the author
Top reviews from Canada
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Just shows you how good this author is: That I would be riveted by a book about baseball! I've never been interested in team sports. But...having read almost everything else by Michael Lewis, am 'reduced' to reading such as this, Enjoying every page (pitch).(play).
He'd better never run out of things to say.
Top reviews from other countries
I'd never heard of Billy Beane, but he sounds like a very interesting guy, a smart guy and a great leader. I particularly like the story of someone who is willing to challenge the conventional wisdom, and he very much did that. The other thing that is really interesting is that he, himself, was given a shot at the big leagues based on the "hokum" of what a ball player should look like, and in defiance of what his stats were saying when he was signed as a player. Despite the pain which it maybe caused him, he purposefully turned his back on picking stars based on the "hokum" approach and went looking for players who did not "look like" him, i.e. weren't natural born athletes, didn't look good in uniform, didn't get the scouts excited, etc, etc. It's a rare quality to go looking for people who don't look like you.
The main thing to love though is the story about how "baseball insider wisdom" (on everything from picking players in the draft to the strategy of winning games to negotiating trades with other teams) was challenged by those outside baseball, but no one from within baseball, except for Beane and the Oakland As, was ever willing to put it to the test. Beane took this body of knowledge, further developed it, and then implemented it, and to great effect. His team, despite its small budget, was very successful over a long enough period of time to prove the point. It's almost impossible to imagine all the pro teams in any other sport, worldwide, ignoring so much data on how things could be done better, and for so long.
Now, I'm going to watch the movie.
On one level this is a book about Baseball and a maverick who subverted the consensus view on how the game should be played and understood but on a deeper level this is a case study of an idea. It is behavioural economics as applied to sport.
The book demonstrates how Billy Beane used the insights of a Baseball statistician named Bill James (a cipher for Nobel winning behavioural economist Daniel Kahneman, author of 'Thinking, Fast and Slow'?) and the practical mathematical genius of Paul Podesta (a Harvard graduate with no Baseball experience) to outsmart his competitors.
'Reason, even science, was what Billy Beane was intent on bringing to Baseball...... Paul wanted to look at stats because the stats offered offered him new ways of understanding.....That was James's most general point: the naked eye was an inadequate tool for learning what you needed to know to evaluate baseball players and baseball games.'
On one level level this is an old-fashioned David vs Goliath story but on a deeper level it is a book about two competing views of human nature. The view being triumphed in this book is that of 'behavioural economics.' In short, that human beings are inherently irrational. Trusting one's gut, or intuition, is inherently flawed and is subject to systematic biases/limitations/flaws/illusions which can only be rooted out by a sophisticated analysis of relevant statistical data.
The author Michael Lewis is really an economics writer and what he has managed to do is something that many writers (including Daniel Kahneman, whose writings in my opinion tend to be turgid in the extreme) seem unable to do, and that is:- make seemingly complex ideas come alive by embedding them in real-life situations with real people. Moneyball is a great sports book but it is also popular social science writing at its finest too.
In Moneyball, Michael Lewis suggests a simple explanation: the game's finances had gone stratospheric, leaving the As unable to compete for the superstars. At the same time, he explains how they remained seriously competitive without going bankrupt: they disregarded the gut instincts of scouts immersed in subjective assessment of players, adopting instead an analysis of statistics weighted in favour of certain key elements.
At first, the book looks at how and why the analysis worked, but it evolves into the story of a single season when it was the essential rationale that governed the way Oakland identified and signed players. So it becomes a human story, focussing on the unlikely heroes out on the diamond and on the General Manager who believes implicitly in the information emerging from the computer of his Number Two. The General Manager is Billy Beane, a former player who should have been a star but never quite made it, and is now a quixotic leader who prefers to be somewhere else when his team is playing. It will be a hard-hearted reader who fails to empathise with Beane as the season unfolds. Never mind the mathematics, the book is worth reading if only to sit beside him while he trades away his best players in order to sign unrated others.
Lewis doesn't claim that the As found a one-size-fits-all infallible blueprint; unarguably, several million dollars into the annual bank balance of a Barry Bonds, an A-Rod or a Jeter make for an interesting alternative. Moneyball, really, is simply a one-off example of brilliant sports writing by an author whose true beat is big business. In this edition, Lewis unfortunately, cannot resist an appendix to deal with a faction in baseball that decries his efforts. He should have let the book speak for itself. It is certainly good enough.
I would suggest trying to pick up the edition with the "new afterword" which discusses the response to the book from the "baseball industry" which treated as arrogant bragadocio from writer Billy Beane, totally missing that it wasn't actually written by Mr Beane and was hardly boastful or arrogant. The baseball industry - the writers, scouts, managers etc - continues to perpetuate their myths even as other smaller teams (and some of the bigger teams) adopt the A's modus operandi with similar successful results.
I'm not a baseball fan but rather a sports fan in general. You don't need an in-depth knowledge of baseball but a background awareness of at least the phraseology would be an advantage. If you love sport but are happy to occasionally have a wry smile to yourself about the nonsensical way it sometimes operates, then this is a great book for you.
The writing style is easy and engaging, and portrays the characters in a way that would make a writer of fiction proud. This may owe as much to the people themselves as to the author, but the two are merged seamlessly. The narrative moves along smoothly and is an easy and gripping read.
Any reader of sport-related books will enjoy this, but don't be put off if this isn't your usual genre and give it a go.