Moneyball is the story of how the Oakland Athletics in 2002, under general manager Billy Beane, became one of the most successful major league baseball teams on one of the lowest budgets. But Moneyball isn’t just a feel-good story of an underdog baseball team. It’s also a detailed explanation of the methodology Beane applied, including hard data science and magical wheeling and dealing. The book balances plain information with personal stories to create a surprisingly engaging educational experience. You’ll learn about economics and statistics and data analytics, but also about key players, managers, and trainers ‒ the hot-shots who flamed out in a hurry, the cool-heads who just kept doing their thing, and the longshots who surprised everyone (except sabermetrician Paul DePodesta) with their game-winning performance.
I have a personal history of pronounced indifference to team sports, baseball included. But I’ve always loved money, and I’m totally into tips and tricks for managing it wisely. So it’s the Money, not the Ball, that attracted me to Moneyball. But the book had a different plan for me. The economic strategy ‒ in a nutshell, finding players who are undervalued due to some perceived but largely irrelevant flaw ‒ sucked me in and kept me there.
|Chad Bradford with the Baltimore Orioles,|
pitcher originally undervalued for his
unorthodox throwing style
Then, as I went along, the personalities and the stories got me interested in the game. Unexpectedly, by the time I was three-fourths through, I found myself yearning to sit in a stadium with my fists full of Cracker Jacks, sweating alongside thousands of other humans, and booing and cheering the action that I was now beginning to understand.
And that, my friends, is the magic of Lewis’s writing. It feels simultaneously journalistic and dramatic. He gives us the facts ‒ lots of them. Sometimes the stats were unduly heavy for my preferences, but he bejewels the numbers with lovely philosophy, smooth wit, and anticipation. He weaves a story like Walt Disney, dangles suspense like Stephen King, and then, like Aesop, brings it back home with the lesson learned.
Photo credit: Justin Hoch at
_MG_2932, CC BY 2.0,
When I finish blogging about a book, people often ask, “Did you watch the movie?” Usually, the answer is no, but on this rare occasion, I can say yes. Unfortunately, but not unexpectedly, the movie couldn’t hope to cover in such lively detail all that Lewis offers in the pages of his book. If I had only seen the movie without reading the book, I would not have been nearly as educated on the brilliant economic strategy, nor would I have been as entertained, nor as delighted by the author’s literary gifts. If you’ve only watched the movie, you’ve bunted. Do yourself a favor. Buy the book and read it. You’ll have a better game at life having done so.