Moneyball is much more than just a great movie

Seen here is Oakland Athletic's GM Billy Beane, the centerpiece of the hit book turned movie, Moneyball.

Photo Credit: Photo via Wikimedia Commons under Creative Commons License

Seen here is Oakland Athletic's GM Billy Beane, the centerpiece of the hit book turned movie, Moneyball.

By: Zachary Kaye, Reporter/Editor

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The Oakland Athletics are a small-market team, who struggled for a number of years. However, in 1997, they gave Billy Beane a chance to be their general manager. After doing this, they found themselves in the MLB playoffs for four straight years. Due to the poor financial state of the A’s, Beane had to find the best value on the market. Michael Lewis tells us this fantastic story in his book Moneyball. The story was so good that it wound up becoming a hit movie, with Brad Pitt as the starring actor.

Moneyball Plot/Review

Billy Beane did not just become a GM overnight, and his story has kind of a sad start. He was an extremely talented baseball player, and skipped college to become a first round pick in the MLB draft. The New York Mets took a chance on the 17-year old phenom out of Orlando, Florida.

Unfortunately for both parties Beane’s career did not pan out as advertised. Billy chose to then take up an office job with the Athletics, with his official position being an advance scout. From there he was able to understand that most of the criteria used by scouts to rate players is very subjective, and based on however that certain scout is feeling. He decided that this was not going to be how he was going to go about his business. Instead, he was able to find a way to rate players on a very exact and precise scale. Sabermetrics, the name for this way of managing, is now famous all around the world.

The book shows the reader that Beane was just ahead of his time, and smarter than everyone else. He found a way to make the A’s less dependent on the actual talent on the team, and more dependent and reliant on the actual system of the team. In fact, in 2002, the A’s were only the 28th highest paying team in the MLB. However, unlike most cases, they finished the season with the second best record in the league. They were able to win 103 games in the 2002 season, even going on a 20-game winning streak at a point. Beane was looking at statistics like on base percentage more than he was looking at a player’s batting average.

While this a feel-good story, the A’s have only been able to win one playoff series under Beane’s management. This has to be disappointing, as they have played in ten different playoff series under Beane’s management. So, while they definitely have been experiencing a new, and improved level of regular season success, it has not resulted in championships. What if these players can’t handle the pressure of the playoffs? What if that is why every championship team usually has one or two of those, highly paid superstars?

The book is an incredible read, and it honestly seems like Lewis is the perfect person to be analyzing and telling this story. Billy Beane and the Oakland Athletics went on an incredible run, and it was one of the most unexpected in MLB history. It is extremely easy for the reader to tell that Lewis put a large amount of his own time and research into writing this book. This makes his opinion and questions that much more respectable and readable.

 

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