This book summary and review of Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game was prepared by Andrew Hickman while a Business Administration student in the College of Business at Southeastern Louisiana University.
Moneyball tells the story of Billy Beane, a former major league baseball player turned general manager. Billy entered professional baseball with the New York Mets and also played for the Minnesota Twins, the Detroit Tigers, and the Oakland Athletics. Although his playing career was short lived, Beane’s time in the front office has been a long and fulfilling one. Baseball was going through an interesting time. Billy Beane was able to surpass any expectations and any team who got in his way. He composed himself in a way that no other general manager had ever conducted themselves in the front office. The ironic thing about Billy was his temper hardheadedness or compassion, whichever one would like to say. With the help of Bill James, who basically mapped out Billy’s new plan on statistics, Billy managed to revolutionize the draft and player evaluation. He found himself going after players that nobody really talked about much. He went after the no names and this that had been outcast from baseball. No longer did he place too much value on homeruns and runs batted in, but Billy was concerned with what scored runs.
After numerous struggles, confrontations, and lonely days at the ballpark, Billy Beane would soon lead his team to consecutive 100+ win seasons all thanks in part to a new way of thinking and conducting business in the Major Leagues. Billy’s advantage was that he could go get the quality guy in the later rounds and draft them in the first round for 20 round money. Most of these guys were just so ecstatic to sign so high they would have played for free. Not only did Billy control the draft, but he controlled how the A’s played the game. Billy managed to hardly ever let anyone decision control his others. He does a great job of learning how to deal with failure, like the one guy he signs and leaves after 3 weeks because he can’t take it.
Billy’s unique strategy makes him who he is in this novel. He deals with failures both personally and socially as it’s difficult to stay out of the limelight in professional baseball. Beane dealt players whether it was to get more money or to save money elsewhere. To his credit, Beane was very conscience of money spent for the players. His main concern was getting back to the World Series, and he didn’t care what he had to do to get there.
His A’s have gone down in the history book, as the A’s won 20 consecutive games in the 2002 season. Using a formula, the A’s were able to find out just what type of players to draft in order to produce as many runs as they needed based on data from the years before. His fear of failure drives him, and he actually turned down a shot to manage the Boston Red Sox, but turned it down because he swore to never do anything just for the money ever again.
The Ten Things Managers Need to Know from Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game
1. “Every form of strength covers one weakness and creates another, and therefore every form of strength is also a form of weakness and every weakness a strength.”
2. “No matter how successful you are, change is always good. There can never be a status quo. When you have no money you can’t afford long-term solutions, only short-term ones. You have to always be upgrading.”
3. “The day you say you have to do something, you’re screwed. Because you are going to make a bad deal. You can always recover from the player you didn’t sign. You may never recover from the player you signed at the wrong price.”
4. Sometime’s the best looking guy or girl, or the best asset doesn’t always result in success.
5. Don’t be afraid of public criticism.
6. Sometimes doing what’s best for the team or organization, isn’t always the popular decision. Understand that you will never be able to please everyone.
7. Just because someone else has been successful by using a certain way of thinking for many years, doesn’t mean it’s the only way.
8. Right, wrong, or indifferent; if you do not have full support and trust from your team members, you will never be successful.
9. Don’t ever settle.
10. You don’t have to have the most money to be the best at what you do.
Full Summary of Moneyball
Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game
Micheal Lewis begins the novel telling the story of who Billy Beane used to be. Billy was a highly-scouted and highly-valued high school baseball player from California. Lewis continues to praise Beane for his extraordinary talent that has Major League teams foaming at the mouth for him. He discusses the new idea of “free agency” and the fact that it now allows teams to become bidding guru’s jockeying for position on all superstars in the game. With free agency, came the increased risk on drafting players. Lewis recalls Beane’s young playing career as one with a lot of potential, as Beane by passed a scholarship to Stanford to play both baseball and football and was selected with the 23rd overall pick by the New York Mets. Coupled with some other young player named Darryl Strawberry, Beane was expected to be one of the best players in his draft class. Strawberry and Beane were projected to be the best outfield combination in the league. Lewis writes about on the more significant times for Beane as a young draftee, when the GM of the Mets takes him to San Diego when the Mets play the Padres. Here, Beane has the opportunity to meet then manager Joe Torre, and the rest of the Mets baseball team. It was after this that Billy decided to start his minor league career despite his mother’s best efforts.
Draft day 2002. The 40 year-old Billy Beane is now in his 5th year as the A’s General Manager and he is beginning to rethink the whole operation. Beane is tired of the same old story when it comes to draft day in the major leagues. He hates the fact that so many teams spend so much money on high school pitchers just because they can throw hard. He knows how little money he has, and how little bargaining power he has, but he also understands how he has to find a way to win. Most teams would say that competing with teams like the New York Yankees is very difficult because of the amount of money they possess. To Billy Beane, this was nonsense. If this were true, than the team with the most money would always win. Beane asked himself, how do we win with so little money? Enter Paul DePodesta. A young Harvard graduate, who surround himself with numbers and statistics. Billy’s goal was to revolutionize the art of scouting, and to have entire control of the entire organization as well. Paul helped Billy accomplish this goal with his computer. In 2002, the Oakland A’s scouts were mostly comprised of 50 something traditional baseball scouts. In their eyes, they knew more than Billy because they followed the same tradition as the rest of baseball for as long as it’s been around. They went after the bigger, faster, stronger baseball player rather than what Billy wanted. Billy wanted the guy that gets on base whether by hit or by walk. There are two players that Billy Beane desperately wants in this draft a young powerful outfielder from Ohio State named Nick Swisher, and an “oddly-shaped” catcher from Alabama named Jeremy Brown. These were just a few of the names that were much higher on Billy’s draft board than any other team. Billy’s draft board consisted of a lot of names that were not even on other teams boards; not even way down at the bottom.
Lewis takes us back yet again to Billy’s playing days with the New York Mets. Billy was an interesting off the field as he was on the field. His flamboyant personality and bad temper made him a very unique individual. He was the guy that stormed in the dugout and slammed helmets after he made an out. Blessed with a golden tongue, Billy could talk his way out of a concrete building if he had to. After an up and down start to his minor league career, Billy found himself in Double-A only after two years of service. As Billy aged in the minor leagues, his skills and production dropped drastically. Lewis denotes a unique bond between Billy Beane and Lenny Dykstra. Like Billy, Dykstra was a young rising star in the Mets organization, but unlike Billy, was almost too stupid to realize any fear he should have. Billy’s fears got the best of him and prevented him from becoming the superstar the Mets drafted him to be and he was traded to the Minnesota Twins in 1987. He bounced around from Triple-A to the Majors and between 3 other teams. It wasn’t until 1990 that Billy decided that he was done playing and now he wanted to be on the other side of the game. His first assignment was an advanced scout for the A’s. He never looked back.
Enter Bill James. Bill James is known as the father of “sabermetrics”, a new way of looking at statistics and evaluating players worth. His annual Baseball Abstract studied box scores, run trends, and correlation between stats, runs, and wins. James’ thought statistics “were not merely inadequate; they lied” (Lewis 67). Which is what Billy Beane knew; that every other major league team following the traditional statistics was being lied to by these stats. He knew he had to change his way of thinking, and he was glad to see someone else make sense of what he was looking to find. James looked at years of box scores to determine a relationship between hits and runs, runs batted in (RBI) and wins, hits and wins and every other traditional combination that “stats” were previously based on and valued. His “Runs Created = (Hits+Walks) x Total Bases/ (At Bats+Walks)” model was Billy’s answer. Bill James paved the way to a whole new way to interpret stats and provide a more precise value for players. The days of the homerun and stolen base were behind the Oakland A’s and GM Billy Beane.
“Bad body” was just about the only way to describe the University of Alabama standout Jeremy Brown. Actually “bad body” was a term commonly used to describe most of the players who played for Oakland. Billy believed without a shadow of a doubt that college players were less risky than high school players. In his eyes, you couldn’t substitute talent for experience. Unfortunately, the rest of the scouts did not have that same belief. Beane and his scouts constantly butted heads because of it. Billy Beane learned that he could not afford the big name players. It just wasn’t possible, but that was no excuse for him. Billy drafted quality players according to him and DePodesta’s calculations and got them at a great price. They were drafting 14-16 round players in the first three rounds and getting them all at 20th round prices. As the 2002 draft begins, Billy begins doing what he does best; divide and conquer. He is busy on the phone with GM’s around the league trying to figure out who he can manipulate and what he can stir up. Lewis manages to capture the absolute mayhem that is draft day in the Major Leagues. Billy is constantly on the phone during draft day feeling out other GM’s trying to see where they stand on the players they want. At the end of the day, Billy and the Oakland A’s have drafted 13 of their top 20 names; unheard of numbers.
Unfortunately for Billy Beane, he did not have enough money to pay the players he drafted. The fact was they were a poor team, and poor teams could go out shopping like the Yankees, who have excess of $200 million to spend on players; the A’s had $40 million. Billy Beane did something that nobody else had done. The A’s got better as their salary cap got worse. They had made the biggest improvement in a 3 year span than any other team with a salary cap that low. The A’s became an embarrassment to Commissioner Bud Selig, who also just happened to own another low budget team, the Milwaukee Brewers, and they were not anywhere close to playing on the level the A’s did. Where other teams complained that players were valued too high, Billy welcomed it. It allow him to get the quality players that he wanted while paying less for them while the rest of the league went after big names. The biggest question was not how the A’s were doing so well, it was how were the A’s still winning despite losing All-Stars from 2001-2002? Names like Johnny Damon, Carlos Pena, Jason Giambi, and Jason Isringhausen were gone due to free agency; but the A’s never missed a beat.
Whereas most teams would have been devastated to lose such big name superstars in the game, the A’s kept rebuilding and kept winning. Billy Beane began to prove his theories on run creation rather than manufacturing runs. The reason that the A’s were able to keep winning was the fact that Billy had perfected a formula and system that involved success based on getting on base. He didn’t care too much for the homerun (although it would be a homerun that would propel the A’s in the record books for winning 20 straight games) or the stolen base. Stolen bases involved too much risk of getting thrown out, and homeruns weren’t that constant to place value on. Thanks to Paul Depodesta, the 2002 A’s baseball season was formulated into a math problem. Based on previous data, Paul was able to figure out how many runs they would score based on how many people got on base and finally how many wins they would have.
One of the best stories of the 2002 Oakland A’s was their ability to win 20 consecutive games. This was fueled by a washed up catcher-turned 1st baseman Scott Hatteberg. After a bidding war with the Colorado Rockies, the Oakland A’s signed Scott Hatteberg for half of what he had made the year before in Boston. On the verge of being quarantined from the baseball world, Hatteberg worked hard to gain respect not only from the A’s organization, but back from Major League Baseball. Hatteberg was a typical Billy Beane guy. He did not have the flair and upside that the rest of the big names did. Billy knew however, that Scott got on base; and guys that got on base, were guys that won ballgames. The lifetime catcher struggled to adapt to first base but with the help of infield coach Ron Washington, he managed to work his name back into the spotlight. On the night the A’s were going for their 20th consecutive win, with the game tied, Hatteberg hit a fastball deep into the stands to give the A’s their 20 win after blowing an 11-run lead.
Billy Beane had a way about him that is known throughout the league. When it comes time to trade, which Billy managed to look to do quite often, Billy Beane was the center of attention and it seemed as if the trade world really revolved around him. Billy was unhappy with a certain pitcher on his staff. In order to get who he wanted, Kevin Youkilis and Ricardo Rincon, Billy managed to make things up and turn them into things of truth. He had a way of making other managers believe there was more to a situation than there really was but at the same time, making that situation better for everyone. Prior to a regular season game with the Indians, Beane made a trade for Rincon 25 minutes before game time. Rincon received the call, took off his Cleveland uniform and walked to the other side of the stadium to put on his A’s uniform. Billy Beane knew what he wanted and didn’t care what he had to do to get it. After a few more additions, the Oakland A’s and Billy Beane began to separate themselves apart from the rest of the division, and major league baseball.
It was unheard of what Beane and the A’s were doing. Nobody was supposed to be that good and have such a little budget. The final piece to Billy’s masterpiece was a submariner named Chad Bradford. His unorthodox delivery resembled Billy’s general managing in the sense that there were none others like him. Lewis goes into great detail on Bradford’s historic yet quiet life. The A’s acquired this small-town kid from the White Sox because Billy Beane knew something the White Sox did not thanks to Voros McCracken. McCracken was a paralegal in Chicago that helped place true value on pitchers rather than just their walks, hits, and runs allowed. Soon, Bill James took interest in what McCracken had to say which in turn got back to Billy Beane.
Not only did Billy Beane control who was drafted, he also controlled how the team played and how the manager managed. He wanted to have complete control. He discouraged things like the stolen base. All-Star 2nd basemen Ray Durham, who at the time was one of the best base stealers in the game, was limited to just 3 stolen bases in an A’s uniform. All due to the fact that Billy didn’t believe in the stolen base. That was just the type of manager he was and he wanted that control over as much as he possibly could. Everyone knew that Oakland Athletics did things differently and Billy Beane didn’t care. He soon was offered to become the next general manager of the Boston Red Sox upon which he accepted the offer. However, when it came down to signing the contract, Billy Beane couldn’t lift the pen. Many speculated why baseball’s most efficient GM finally turned down John Henry and the Boston Red Sox, one of baseballs more prolific histories. Some say it was because Beane’s heir to the throne and former first assistant, Paul Depodesta, had already made the deal for the “Greek God of Walks” Kevin Youkilis to become an Oakland Athletic compensating them for “poaching their general manager” (Lewis 278). Everyone in the Oakland organization knew just how bad Billy wanted Youkilis to be in Oakland. Lewis states that Beane turned down the job because if he were to become the next general manager of the Red Sox, he would be doing the one thing he promised himself he would never do again. “I made one decision based on money in my life-when I signed with the Mets rather than go to Stanford—and I promised I’d never do it again” (Lewis 280). Billy Beane was to become the high paid general manager in the history of baseball. He had proven his worth; he established a revolutionary way to run a major league baseball team. He defied the skeptics and the old timers of the game that said homeruns, RBI’s, and velocity were the most important characteristics a scout looks for in rising stars. Billy Beane proved that in baseball, even money couldn’t buy wins.
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· With business conditions today, what the author wrote is – or is no longer true – because:
With the business conditions today, what the author wrote is still true because this book has been about getting more value for a player without paying him more money. The Oakland A’s figured out a way to re-evaluate players based on a new way of approaching the scouting process. Also, they place different values on different statistics in order to save money. They did not go after the high-priced big name prospect. Instead, they saw higher value in players that got on base more as opposed to the one that hit more homeruns. They were able to save a ton of money by going after the “used” players and were still able to win over 100 games in back to back seasons. With the economy as bad as it is now, saving money and still being successful is something that everyone is trying to figure out.
Then, all of the following bullet-items are mandatory to write about:
· If I were the author of the book, I would have done these three things differently:
1. If I were the author, I would have tried to find out what Billy Beane thought was the reason the Oakland A’s have never won the World Series with all of their regular season success.
2. If I was the author, I would have spent a little more time on Billy’s years in the majors. It is obviously a huge part of who he is today and I just felt like there was more there.
3. If I was the author, I would talked a little more about the relationship that Billy has with his former employees like J.P. Riccardi who is now the current GM of the Toronto Blue Jays. I would have liked to see how they feel about competing against him after being with him so long.
· Reading this book made me think differently about the topic in these ways:
1. First and foremost, I see how stubborn and headstrong you have to be as a manager in order to be successful. Perseverance and persistence are the two things that Billy Beane was great at and that made him become a very successful manager.
2. You cannot be afraid to make mistakes. Not everything works out and sometimes you will make the wrong choice, but you have to in order to make the right one.
3. You cannot be afraid to make enemies. It is a difficult business, however when it comes down to it, are you going to do whatever it takes to win?
· I’ll apply what I’ve learned in this book in my career by:
1. I’ll apply what I’ve learned in this book in my career by calming my worries about making a mistake as a manager and as a coach. This book will help my a lot throughout my coaching career.
2. I’ll apply what I’ve learned in this book in my career by seeing the importance of learning how to read people to know what I need to say or do to persuade them to follow me.
3. I’ll apply what I’ve learned in this book in my career by learning the importance of contacts, and having good working relationships with the people who help your team or business.
· Here is a sampling of what others have said about the book and its author:
“Michael Lewis has a gift: He can walk into an area already mined by hundreds of writers and find gems there all along but somehow missed by his predecessors. Lewis did this in the The New New Thing, his book on the Internet and the new economy. Now he does it with Major League Baseball in Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game (W.W. Norton, $23.95). (Lewis did it even more famously in Liar’s Poker, but that time he was writing about himself, so he had an edge.)” ~Dan Ackman: Forbes
- Lewis does have a gift. He took a great story about overcoming adversity and a revolutionary idea and told it so well.
“Lewis was in the room with the A’s top management as they spent the summer of 2002 adding and subtracting players and he provides outstanding play-by-play. In the June player draft, Beane acquired nearly every prospect he coveted (few of whom were coveted by other teams) and at the July trading deadline he engaged in a tense battle of nerves to acquire a lefty reliever. Besides being one of the most insider accounts ever written about baseball, Moneyball is populated with fascinating characters. We meet Jeremy Brown, an overweight college catcher who most teams project to be a 15th round draft pick (Beane takes him in the first). Sidearm pitcher Chad Bradford is plucked from the White Sox triple-A club to be a key set-up man and catcher Scott Hatteberg is rebuilt as a first baseman. But the most interesting character is Beane himself. A speedy athletic can’t-miss prospect who somehow missed, Beane reinvents himself as a front-office guru, relying on players completely unlike, say, Billy Beane. Lewis, one of the top nonfiction writers of his era (Liar’s Poker, The New New Thing), offers highly accessible explanations of baseball stats and his roadmap of Beane’s economic approach makes Moneyball an appealing reading experience for business people and sports fans alike.”
– This was the method to his madness, his secret of his success. This is not a story you see often. Beane took the outcasts from baseball and turned them into a 100+ win team. This is a great connection between sports and business.
Lewis, M. (2004). Moneyball: the art of winning an unfair game . NY, NY: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.
Contact Info: To contact the author of this “Summary and Review of Moneyball,” please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
David C. Wyld (email@example.com) is the Robert Maurin Professor of Management at Southeastern Louisiana University in Hammond, Louisiana. He is a management consultant, researcher/writer, and executive educator. His blog, Wyld About Business, can be viewed at http://wyld-business.blogspot.com/. He also serves as the Director of the Reverse Auction Research Center (http://reverseauctionresearch.blogspot.com/), a hub of research and news in the expanding world of competitive bidding. Dr. Wyld also maintains compilations of works he has helped his students to turn into editorially-reviewed publications at the following sites:
· Management Concepts (http://toptenmanagement.blogspot.com/)
· Book Reviews (http://wyld-about-books.blogspot.com/) and
· Travel and International Foods (http://wyld-about-food.blogspot.com/).