Moneyball, by Michael Lewis, is probably my favorite book. It was published in 2003, and still today I'll find myself just flipping to a random page and reading for a few minutes. Really, for any baseball fan, it's a terrific read.
Rather than take the time to break it all down myself, here's a pretty good summary of what the book's about from Wikipedia:
The central premise of Moneyball is that the collected wisdom of baseball insiders (including players, managers, coaches, scouts, and the front office) over the past century is subjective and often flawed. Statistics such as stolen bases, runs batted in, and batting average, typically used to gauge players, are relics of a 19th century view of the game and the statistics that were available at the time. The book argues that the Oakland A's' front office took advantage of more empirical gauges of player performance to field a team that could compete successfully against richer competitors in Major League Baseball.
Rigorous statistical analysis had demonstrated that on-base percentage and slugging percentage are better indicators of offensive success, and the A's became convinced that these qualities were cheaper to obtain on the open market than more historically valued qualities such as speed and contact. These observations often flew in the face of conventional baseball wisdom and the beliefs of many baseball scouts and executives.
By re-evaluating the strategies that produce wins on the field, the 2002 Athletics, with approximately $41 million in salary, were competitive with larger market teams such as the New York Yankees, who spent over $125 million in payroll that same season. Because of the team's smaller revenues, Oakland is forced to find players undervalued by the market, and their system for finding value in undervalued players has proven itself thus far.
To basically summarize that summary(does that make sense? probably not), the book centers around how general manager Billy Beane needs to find unconventional ways to build a winning baseball team, without having the payroll to go out there and sign an Albert Pujols. You might not agree with all of the ideas presented by Beane and Paul DePodesta(was the Oakland assistant general manager at the time), but it's fascinating, and it started the baseball sabermetric craze.
Also fascinating, is Billy Beane the person. Constantly in the book, he's unsatisfied. He's tossing f-bombs, getting pissed about the Athletics' manager Art Howe, can't even watch the games because it drives him nuts, etc. He's a perfectionist, which makes running a team with a $41 million payroll quite a difficult job, and it causes him to release anger frequently.
So it's going to be interesting to see how Brad Pitt portrays him. Wait, what? Brad Pitt? Yep, there's a movie about the book coming out(set for a September 23rd release), and Pitt is playing the character of Billy Beane. Other actors in the movie include Jonah Hill(as Peter Brand... a pseudonym for Paul DePodesta) and Philip Seymour Hoffman(Art Howe). Oh, and former major league shortstop Royce Clayton is playing shortstop Miguel Tejada in the movie.
When the news of a Moneyball movie being in the works broke, I really didn't know what to think. Again, I absolutely loved the book, but I had a hard time picturing it as a successful movie. A baseball fan might find it enjoyable, but does the average person want to cough up $10+ bucks to hear about the importance of on-base percentage?
But after seeing the newly-released trailer for the movie, I have to say that it looks pretty good, and I do think it could be a box office success(especially because it only took $47 million to make, which is fitting).
Check it out for yourself:
What do you think? Will you see Moneyball?
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