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Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game Paperback – March 17, 2004
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"Rebound" by Kwame Alexander
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From The New Yorker
The Oakland Athletics have reached the post-season playoffs three years in a row, even though they spend just one dollar for every three that the New York Yankees spend. Their secret, as Lewis's lively account demonstrates, is not on the field but in the front office, in the shape of the general manager, Billy Beane. Unable to afford the star hires of his big-spending rivals, Beane disdains the received wisdom about what makes a player valuable, and has a passion for neglected statistics that reveal how runs are really scored. Beane's ideas are beginning to attract disciples, most notably at the Boston Red Sox, who nearly lured him away from Oakland over the winter. At the last moment, Beane's loyalty got the better of him; besides, moving to a team with a much larger payroll would have diminished the challenge.
Copyright © 2005 The New Yorker
“Moneyball is the best business book Lewis has written. It may be the best business book anyone has written.”
- Mark Gerson, Weekly Standard
“Ebullient, invigorating.... Provides plenty of action, both numerical and athletic, on the field and in the draft-day war room.”
- Lev Grossman, Time
“A journalistic tour de force.”
- Richard J. Tofel, Wall Street Journal
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In the mid-2000s, all but one of those six players left the A's because of salary considerations. The effort to build from within hasn't yielded the successes of the 1990s. The team now loses a lot of games.
That's the story of the A's in a nutshell. The moral of this story is that if a team can get lucky it can build from within for a few years and win. But eventually, the team has to pay out the money to players. It's not much of a story unless you're a baseball fan. I am.
Mr. Lewis, who is a good writer, took this basic story and embellished it with a myth. The A's supposedly had a magic formula for success. They found players that others didn't because they used an unusual methodology. The A's GM Billy Beane was elevated to the level of a genius.
The thesis for this book is just plain wrong. It's entertaining to read, but it belies facts.
The book focuses on the annual draft in 2002 when the A's were able to pick 7 out of the first 39 players. Supposedly, the A's unusual methods would have yielded both easy to spot gems and diamonds in the rough. They didn't. The draft eventually produced one second rank pitcher, one second rank outfielder, and one middle-talent infielder, none of whom play for the A's. The A's methods at finding young talent have been, as of late, not particularly good.
It was a good thing that this book came out when the A's were winning. It was the equivalent of writing a story about a craps player with a "method" who has an unusual run of good luck. If all goes well, the story comes out before the luck runs out. That's what happened here. But in hindsight, this book looks just plain silly.
A very brief summary of the 12 chapters: 1 - Billy Beans high school years as a baseball phenom; 2 - Beane/DePodesta vs. the A's scouts on talent evaluation; 3 - Beane's minor/league career, move to front office, and "enlightenment" through Sandy Alderson; 4 - the baseball subculture of statistical analysis and people like Bill James, Carl Morris, Eddie Epstein, Dick Cramer, . . .; 5 - the Jeremy Brown story and the 2002 amateur draft; 6 - what the A's did when they lost Johnny Damon, Jason Giambi, and Jason Isringhausen after the 2001 season that allowed them to win even more games in 2002; 7 - how they made up for Giambi's lost "expected run value"; 8 - the Scott Hatteberg story; 9 - mid-season trade for Ricardo Rincon; 10 - the Chad Bradford story; 11 - the night that A's won their 20th in a row; 12 - vindication as other teams (e.g., Toronto and Boston) adopt Oakland's methods of player evaluation.
One thing you have to understand is that statistical analysis works in the long-run. So it works well for building a team for the 162 game regular season. However, it does guarantee anything about the playoffs - "Tim Hudson, heretofore flawless in big games, and perfect against the Minnesota Twins, had two horrendous outings. No one could have predicted that."
So if you are looking for something that gives you insight into the modern/scientific way to structure a cost effective baseball team this book whets your appetite and nothing more.