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on March 25, 2005
In Moneyball, author Michael Lewis sets out to show how you can win as a major-league franchise when your roster looks more like the Bad News Bears than a professional outfit. Whether or not he convinces you the reader of his purpose is up to you (I don't necessarily agree with it), but it makes an interesting and illuminating read.

In many ways, it is an alternative history of baseball in the modern era: in a time when home-run sluggers are prized above all else (nevermind how they got those homers), the Oakland A's of Billy Beane take a different tact. Smallball is king in Beane's view, one that he formed while as a member of the Oakland management team. Beane's own brief career is documented by Lewis, as well as the rise of baseball stats guru Bill James and the cult of numbers he helped inspire (sabremetrics). Beane is one of the few baseball men who not only reads James's theories, but tries to apply them to his team.

The story almost speaks for itself: at the time of writing, the A's had managed to continuously appear in the playoffs. Doubters will scoff that Beane's methods fail in the long run: where are the World Series rings? The fact that a small-market team like the A's can manage a run like they have, with the limited resources they have, seems to be overshadowed by that glaring lack of wins when it counts.

And so, without denying the veracity of James's arguements as they are presented in the book, I personally didn't buy Beane's approach. Too often, it seemed, Beane and his cohorts were reducing the game on the field to a series of continuous data sheets, typing out the player's ability to get on base over their ability to hit home runs or run the bases. While it's good to try and overthrow some of the baseball "traditions" that have actually served to harm the modern game, Moneyball offers a solution that is almost "scorched earth" in its approach: throw out the old rules and concentrate on stats previously ignored.

On some level, Moneyball doesn't necessarily champion Beane's approach, but Lewis plays into the hands of the A's by (inadvertantly by his postscript account) making Beane out to be a wizard at figuring out the game. This is the same Beane who traded Johnny Damon to the Red Sox (readers in the post-Red Sox Series win last year could be forgiven for laughing a little at Beane's short-sightedness). This is the same Beane who traded two of his "big Three" pitchers in the past offseason. This is the same Beane who struggles to manage what little cash he has, and he is prone to mistakes. While Lewis doesn't shy from that side of the equation, he almost never addresses the failures of Beane's system as much as its successes. There is something unique about Beane's approach, that is for sure. But Lewis almost destroys his own arguement by leaving out those details that don't fit with his hypothesis.

Also, for a baseball book "Moneyball" is totally lacking in terms of giving the reader a "feel" for the team in question. Beane and his hired helpers are (rightly or wrongly) the focus of the tome, to the exclusion of players like Barry Zito or Tim Hudson. In a way, it's misleading to list it as a "sports book"; it would be a more accurate fit on the business list.

All in all, "Moneyball" is a flawed but necessary read for those wondering what modern sports culture is all about. You come away from it feeling some sympathy for the way Billy Beane has to run his business, but you don't get a feel for the players affected by that business. You never really see the success on the field; you just get Beane and Lewis telling you "it works". That part of the equation keeps me from endorsing this as accurate or solid. But it will challenge your view of our nation's pastime for the better, as you learn what smaller teams have to sacrifice in order to surivive.
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on September 24, 2006
How is it that the Oakland A's have won the AL West in 2000, 2002, 2003 (and are all but assured of winning this year, 2006), as well as the wild card in 2001, even though they are in the bottom third of all major league baseball teams in total payroll? That is the narrative that Michael Lewis uses to tell the story of his book Moneyball. One of the central tenets of Moneyball is that there are objective statistics that although often ignored and undervalued, can, with some specificity, predict certain players' performances in certain areas. It is, however, only half the story, and as your rotisserie league friends will no doubt tell you, old news. The real story that Moneyball drives home is the challenge in getting people who actually make the decisions about the baseball teams to listen up. Lewis repeatedly describes how the Old Boys Club of major league owners (who Lewis affectionately refers to as The Women's Auxiliary), players, and journalists (former Cincinnati Red and current ESPN commentator Joe Morgan is appropriately skewered) reject this statistical approach that has sometimes been referred to as sabermetrics and the teachings of sabermetricians like Billy Beane (the book's main protagonist and current A's GM), Bill James, Dick Cramer, and others. And on the Old Boys Club the point is lost: that objective statistics have the potential to give small-market teams who cannot afford to compete financially with larger market teams for key players, the best chance of winning. When people point to the fact that the A's have not won the World Series since 1989 in spite their almost unparalleled success over the past eight years (roughly since 1999) is when Moneyball makes its point.
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on July 27, 2003
I came across this book to find out the answers to two question. 1) How did Billy Beane put together a good team with such little money? and 2) How is it like to be a General Manager for a major league team? The book does a good job at trying to answer these questions. You'll get an interesting perspective of how the author Lewis approached the material because he compares the building of a team to managing a stock portfolio. Beane took advantage of the traditional beliefs of baseball insiders and turned it on its head. You'll read his beliefs on how he believes the game should be managed, how a batter should approach his at bats, and how to make trades and draft players.
But aside from the methodology, I liked the stories about some of the players in the A's organization as well as the story about the life of Billy Beane before he became the general manager. Lewis gives a good angle about the players personal lives and makes you like the players because he makes them look like underdogs. Other scouts and insiders had passed up in drafting players the A's picked up because they didn't fit a certain stereotype. Beane didn't care if the player was too short or too fat or threw weirdly on the mound. He just cared about men who can play the game.
You'll get funny stories and some dramatic stories. My only regret was that I wished that there was more to read. It only takes a few reading sessions to read the book and its easy reading.
I confess that as a Giant's fan I have only admired (and despised) them from afar just across the bay but I have a newfound respect for the people in the organization from reading this book.
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on September 29, 2003
The author's contempt for traditional baseball wisdom and leadership and his hero worship of Billy Bean the GM of the Oakland team distorts the few insights the book offers. Sure there is far too much "conventional wisdom" and old-time, seat of the pants flying in the game. And what game doesn't have that? The stock market? The attribution of genius to the number crunchers who figured out that on base percentage was more important than batting average and the few other items of this nature certainly doesn't justify a book. In many cases the author grudgingly admits that a lot of people had kind of figured these things out anyway - like that luck plays a big part in any single game's outcome. The liner right at the first baseman, the bloop single... Casey Stengel and Connie Mack knew that.
The book is also disfigured by a certain intellectual snobbery. The new age wizards are all from Yale or Harvard it seems. If you want to irritate baseball people that's a good way to start. The story about the release of a veteran player days before he qualifies for a pension by the hero Billy Bean is mentioned coldly, factually. One can't tell whether this is to illustrate Billy's admirable ruthlessness in pursuit of victory or his bad side which the author couldn't quite condemn out of gratefulness at being allowed inside the clubhouse. It could make a non-A's fan hope they lose.
The book also has page after page of "filler" anecdotal stories about ballplayers which I enjoy as an old-time fan but which have little relationship to the theme of the book.
Verdict: as a baseball book, fair. On a personal basis, kind of nasty. I wonder if Billy Bean liked it?
I might add that it is obvious why the book virtually ignores the three star pitchers obviously responsible for the A's recent success, Hudson, Mulder and Zito. It is because they were not selected on the new, miraculous, computer-analysis basis but presumably by the old time "good face" scouting demonized so acidly in the book! The book is very selective in this area.
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on March 13, 2013
It's a good read but there are a lot of terms in here that the reader is expected to know.. If you've never followed baseball, that's going to be a challenge. But all in all, as with the blind side, the book is more informative and better entertainment that the movie
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on December 3, 2012
I am not a baseball fan, but this book has changed that for me. With what wonderful talent Michael Lewis delves into the deeper meaning of baseball statistics and records a hero's journey where rebels and misfits end up winning the boon of new knowledge. A great book.
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on April 11, 2013
Michael Lewis writes about people who buck the system. He reveals the naked emperor. This book may seem to be about baseball and statistics. It's really about people who believed s in themselves when everyone else says they are wrong.
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on August 24, 2013
this book almost reads like a textbook
but the story it analyzes is so compelling that you read on and on
a very different look at baseball
I'll never look at a baseball game the same way again
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on October 4, 2011
I had the fortune of reading this book a while back and it's great. The epic story of a man versus the world is quite well told and I was gripped throughout the book. Yes, it is a book about statistics, but it's more about taking on the system and changing the world.

I especially like how Billy Beane told the old scouts they were being ridiculous by judging "athlete's" based on non-statistical principles like girl-friends or looking soft.

Good book, I highly recommend it.
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on February 10, 2013
Great read...perfect blend of baseball and business! I would definitely recommend this book to the avid baseball fan and anyone looking to get a better understanding of the business side of the game.
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