Baseball is a sport where the offseason has nearly the same amount of significance as the regular season. Teams are built through free agency and trades, and every year baseball fans hope and pray that their favorite team will sign the big-ticket free agent.
But while most die-hard baseball fans have an incredible amount of knowledge of how baseball works during the season, very few know how teams are structured in the offseason. “Moneyball” by Michael Lewis takes the reader into the front office of the Oakland Athletics and takes an in-depth look at the way radical general manager Billy Beane builds his team.
Before I read this book, I was used to the way the big-market East Coast teams such as the New York Yankees or Boston Red Sox structured their squads: throwing huge sums of money at players who hit large quantities of home runs and drove in over 100 runs a season.
“Moneyball” changed the way baseball was built entirely, as Beane put value on on-base percentage and walks more than the mainstream statistics teams focused on for years. At its core, the premise sounds simple: a hitter’s goal is to score a run, and the only way to do so is to get on base. The fact that it took over 100 years for someone to finally use that idea to build a baseball team seems ridiculous.
Beane did not just make minor adjustments to his team, he completely overhauled how players are scouted and used once they are on the team. One of the more significant parts of the book involves a career catcher in Scott Hatteberg, who Beane signs to play first base despite Hatteberg never playing there ever in his life. Beane’s gamble ended up paying off, as Hatteberg turned into a quality defensive first baseman who was able to get on base consistently.
I found myself fascinated that Beane was able to defy what was the sport’s conventional wisdom for so long and see such success. While he may not have won the World Series using his methods, he has changed the landscape of baseball forever. Teams are constantly looking for someone who shares his ideas to run their front offices. Billy Beane may not ever earn a championship ring, but he will be remembered for revolutionizing the game of baseball.
“Moneyball” can be found in Penfield Library under the call numbers GV880 .L49 2003 on the third floor.