I admit that I chose to read this book because I needed something for the Money! bingo square. I could have used my “read whatever you want” option, but I figured I would save that just in case. I really like baseball though, so I figured that this book might not be a bad choice. I was right.
Having just watched the World Series between the LA Dodgers (a very high payroll team which means they can afford to get top expensive players), and the Tampa Bay Rays (a low payroll team which means they have to make due with what their money can buy them, and get creative doing so to make up a team), it was like watching this book play out on the field (especially in game 5). To be clear, neither of these are my team, but in my house we were supporting the Rays, largely because they were not the Dodgers (who have a negative history with our home team), and also because they were the underdogs. To quote Michael Lewis, “The pleasure of rooting for Goliath is that you can expect to win. The pleasure of rooting for David is that, while you don’t know what to expect, you stand at least a chance of being inspired.” The Dodgers did win, but the Rays certainly did not make it easy for them.
Moneyball takes you through the life and choices of Billy Beane, a once reluctant major league player, who became the manager of the Oakland A’s. (Brad Pitt played him in the movie version). Back in the 1980s, Beane took a very unconventional approach to choosing his team. He had little money to spend, and did not buy into the then held philosophy that hitting home runs were the most important thing a player could do. Back then, scouts would chose could tell what kind of player a boy would become by looking at how many runs he got in high school and college. Beane looked at statistics, played “small ball” where hitting to get on base was more important than hitting a lot of home runs. As a result, the A’s did much better against wealthier opponents with bigger payrolls than would have been expected. Again from Moneyball “if you challenge the conventional wisdom, you will find ways to do things much better than they are currently done.” Other teams began to take notice, and baseball has not been the same since.
Take for example last year’s World Series Champs the Washington Nationals. They have a pretty big payroll, and can afford some super stars (although they are no where near a team like the Yankees). But last year in May they were down 19-31, manager Davey Martinez took the approach of playing “small ball,” one hitter and one base at a time. They went on to win the World Series, beating out powerhouses like the Houston Astros and the LA Dodgers.
The book gets into a lot of statistics. Lots and lots of stats. So if that is your thing, you will love this. But if it isn’t and you still love baseball, this book is worth a read (maybe now through the off-season) just to give you another chance to support the underdog.