Monday, May 10, 2010

Moneyball by Michael Lewis

This is the first of a few catch-up posts for the Reading Rainbow segments of the blog here. I know the Reading Rainbow stuff is probably the area of the blog that y'all are the most indifferent* to, but whatever.

*And, yes, I'm using the degree of indifference as a qualifier, as we all know that this entire blog is met with an indifference that can only be categorized as resounding.

Let's begin.

Moneyball is one of the most compelling non-fiction books I've read in ages. One part business, one part baseball, ten parts awesome.

Why I hadn't read it yet is baffling to me, but I hadn't and am upset with myself for taking so long to get around to it.

For those not familiar with the book at all, its primary goal is to show how the Oakland Athletics under General Manager Billy Beane managed to exploit the market inefficiencies in baseball to field a playoff-caliber team while having the second-lowest payroll in all of baseball. While that may not seem all that interesting on the surface, there is a reason why Michael Lewis finds himself atop the non-fiction bestsellers lists routinely. He is a great writer and manages to intertwine 30 pages of loosely related tangents engagingly and with ease.

Even if you are not a baseball fan, this book is enthralling.

Billy Beane is a fiery former prospect who flamed out when he got to the Majors. Rather than continue on as a player at a certain point in his career, he went and asked his General Manager if he could take a job as an advance scout (if I remember correctly). As he worked his way up through the ranks of the front office, his quest to discover what sort of players actually succeeded at the ML-level in relation to the tools they possessed began to be supported by the writings of Bill James (as he discovered them - they were written before Beane retired as a player), or the theorizing of Voros McCracken.

As Beane becomes united with Paul DePodesta, it becomes clear that this Athletics front office was head and shoulders above the rest in baseball.

While it could have been an insular story just about baseball, Lewis's Moneyball is a compelling, character-driven story about how an organization does more with less.

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