Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game

Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game

‘MONEYBALL: THE ART OF WINNING AN UNFAIR GAME’


JUMP TO SECTION:

OPENING LINE:

‘Moneyball’ is a movement that brought a new way of thinking to America’s national pastime.


PUBLISHER’S SUMMARY:

Moneyball reveals a quest for something as elusive as the Holy Grail, something that money apparently can’t buy: the secret of success in baseball. The logical places to look would be the giant offices of Major League teams and the dugouts. But the real jackpot is a cache of numbers collected over the years by a strange brotherhood of amateur baseball enthusiasts: software engineers, statisticians, Wall Street analysts, lawyers, and physics professors.
In a narrative full of fabulous characters and brilliant excursions into the unexpected, Lewis shows us how and why the new baseball knowledge works. He also sets up a sly and hilarious morality tale: Big Money, like Goliath, is always supposed to win…. How can we not cheer for David?
©2004 Michael Lewis (P)2011 Random House


THE PLOT:

The Oakland Athletics do not have a lot going for them in comparison to some of the other clubs in Major League Baseball. They don’t have the financial resources of a team like the New York Yankees or the Boston Red Sox. They play in an older stadium that also hinders their ability to generate income. Finally, they do not have a huge TV contract like those signed by so many other teams in recent years.
Yet none of that has prevented the Athletics from remaining competitive. In the early 2000s, they were one of the most successful franchises in the sport, winning more games than every team but the Atlanta Braves. So how can their success be explained despite all of their disadvantages?
That was the question Michael Lewis set out to answer in his best selling book ‘Moneyball’. The man at the center of the Athletics’ success is general manager and former ball player Billy Beane.
Billy Beane does not look at baseball the same way many others look at baseball. It’s a game that has long been resistant to change and big on conventional wisdom. As a result, weaknesses in the system are ripe for exploitation, and if you can be the first to exploit them, it could be a while before anyone else catches up to you. That is a large part of what has made Billy Beane so successful as GM of the Athletics.
‘Moneyball’ follows Beane throughout the 2002 baseball season. It covers the action on the field, in the draft room and over the phone with other major league general managers. It paints a portrait of Beane as a forward thinking executive with a hot temper that he is not afraid to unleash.
The thing you notice while reading ‘Moneyball’ several years after the fact is that for all that Beane has been able to accomplish, baseball is still an inexact science. Many of the draft prospects Beane was so high on in 2002 did not pan out. However, that happens to every team every season. Where it still works out for the Athletics is that their mistakes are often a lot less financially damaging than those made by other franchises.
Aside from Beane, ‘Moneyball’ also profiles the career of baseball sabermetrician Bill James. It was James and his baseball abstract publications that brought new stats and new ideas for how to evaluate talent to the game of baseball.
‘Moneyball’ is as fascinating as it is well written. It allowed Lewis high levels of access inside the inner-workings of the Athletics and gave the public a sense of how exactly the team has been able to remain successful despite all of the inequalities found in the game of baseball.


THE AUTHOR:

Michael Lewis is the author of several nonfiction bestsellers. It could be argued that none of Lewis’ other books has had the impact on their subject matter that ‘Moneyball’ has had on Major League Baseball and other sports.
The book doesn’t pioneer any new stats or concepts itself, but it brought sabermetrics into the public eye. Not every fan of baseball knows about advanced statistics and not every team is a believer in them at this point, but there are certainly more believers now than there were a decade and a half ago.


THE NARRATION:

Scott Brick does another tremendous job with his narration of ‘Moneyball’. The man just knows how to make slight vocal adjustments to accurately convey the tone of a given conversation in the book. This is most apparent in ‘Moneyball’ when he is reading the section concerning Billy Beane’s trade deadline maneuverings.


THE PRODUCTION:

This was recorded in 2003 and it sounds great. There are no glitches on the track, and the level of the narration is at a consistent volume throughout the entire track. There are no music cues or other sound effects to be found.
Some of the book chapters are split into two audio chapters on the track. This is done if a book chapter is particularly long. While I generally prefer to have the audio track chapters match up exactly with the book chapters, splitting the latter in half is not a bad thing. It is much better than having one audio chapter stop, jumping you five or more book chapters.


FINAL THOUGHTS:

Assessing the impact of ‘Moneyball’ and the Sabermetrics movement in professional baseball and other sports is almost impossible. The ‘Moneyball’ movement in the personification of men like Billy Beane and Bill James has had a profound impact on the major sports in the United States.
‘Moneyball’ as both a concept and a book is worth all of the praise and attention it has received over the past decade or so.
I wrote in my review of ‘The Extra 2% that it was a good companion to ‘Moneyball’. The major difference is that ‘Moneyball’ follows much more closely the field action, the draft and the trade deadline. ‘Moneyball’ is a must read for anyone who considers themselves a fan of Major League Baseball, and is probably worth reading if you’re a sports fan in general.


QUICK FACTS:

Title Author Narrator Publisher Genre Release Date Running Time Score
Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game Michael Lewis Scott Brick Books on Tape Sports 03/20/2003 10 hours, 27 minutes 9/10

DISCLAIMER:

A copy of ‘MONEYBALL: THE ART OF WINNING AN UNFAIR GAME’ was purchased from Audible for review.

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