I don’t read books very often. In fact, I think maybe I’ve read one book in the last 5 years. So it’s saying something when I actually get around to finishing a book. Once every so often, I hear about a book that drives me to seek it out. This time, it was Michael Lewis’ "Moneyball".
For those who aren’t familiar with Moneyball, it’s basically about Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane, and how he managed to build a team to compete with financial juggernauts like the Yankees with a mere $41 million dollar payroll. The first part of the book follows Billy’s trials as a player himself, but then begins to focus on how he became a very successful GM within a short period of time.
One of the main points of the book is basically that all those miniscule baseball statistics don’t really matter, and that the two big statistics that really count are OBP (on base percentage) and SLG (slugging percentage), or the hybrid of the two OPS (on base plus slugging percentage). Beane denounces the thought of “manufacturing runs” by playing small ball, and places the emphasis on simply getting on base.
Another focus of Moneyball is avoiding overpaying for talent. This was demonstrated by the 2002 Oakland A’s, and how they managed to let go of three of their biggest players (Jason Giambi, Carlos Pena, and Johnny Damon) and yet still win over 100 games and make the playoffs. The Moneyball business model seemed to be “buy low, sell high” - trade young players at their peak value, and attempt to strike gold by signing some old veterans to small money contracts.
The book does have some connections to the Toronto Blue Jays, most notably with J.P. Ricciardi and Keith Law. Ricciardi did spend some time in the Oakland A’s front office as Director of Player Personnel. A few years later when J.P. emerged as the new GM for the Blue Jays, he started to apply the Moneyball business model to the Jays, just as Beane had to the Oakland Athletics.
Overall, I thought that Moneyball was a great read and it helped shed some light on the business aspect of baseball. It helped me understand the struggles that General Managers and club head offices have with issues like payroll, free agents, and winning at all costs. It's a "must-read" for any baseball fan who wants to delve into the business side of the game.