“Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game” (2003) / Michael Lewis / 1.17.17

18 Feb

Moneyball, Michael LewisI saw the film version of this book back in 2011. At that time, I didn’t even know it was based on a book; I just saw a commercial for the film, was impressed that here was a major theatrical release about baseball, and took my ass to the theater to check it out. I recall being quite impressed at how this essentially nerdy story about numbers-crunching and business negotiation strategies kept viewers on the edge of their seats. It was so much fun.

Then, for years, I never really thought about it again.

Now, if you read my previous post about Jeff Pearlman’s The Bad Guys Won, you know that I’m a baseball fan, but I should admit here that a not insignificant portion of my baseball fandom, much like that of plenty of other folks, comes in the form of an admittedly ridiculous passion for nerding out on the statistics and the what-ifs involved in baseball. So, if any part of you relates to that in any way, then read Moneyball. And if you haven’t seen the film, read the book first. It’s just a joyful trove of inside-baseball geekiness and strategy.

That being said, it’s also a book about business. The central question Michael Lewis poses is: how did the Oakland A’s, one of the smallest-budget teams in the period of time from around 1999 to 2003, manage to steadily compete and even out-do other, much wealthier teams? Clearly, a large part of the answer has to do with two guys, General Manager Billy Beane and Front Office Assistant Paul DePodesta, whose histories, temperaments, quirks, shortcomings, and cunning strengths are conveyed wonderfully by Michael Lewis here, and who ran the Oakland A’s front office with both tremendous success and a frustrating lack of success in the period of time covered here.

Michael Lewis(1) Because I don’t want to bore to tears those of you who aren’t baseball nerds and (2) because I don’t want to spoil the delight of reading this wonderful book for those of you who are, I’ll keep from getting too into what’s all involved here. I’ll say these things, though: (1) Lewis does a tremendous job of making this stuff—a lot of stats and numbers, much of it fairly complicated—really interesting and even emotionally touching by putting it all into the context of the lives of some charismatic characters who play and manage this game beloved by millions. And (2) even if you’re not a fan of baseball or of nonfiction books about business strategies, this book is a weirdly riveting, tough to put down, and sublimely compelling read.

A tip of my hat to Michael Lewis. Read it.

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