Moneyball by Michael Lewis
(crossposted from Books. Lists. Life.)
One day last weekend while I was confined to my chair by the weight of a lethargic almost-three-year-old I was faced with the problem of having no book within reach. My laptop was here, but I’d already read all of the internets. So I did the unthinkable, I asked my husband to choose a book for me. I should have known better. My husband reads as much as I do, but our tastes very rarely overlap. He has a strong preference for non-fiction, specifically relating to WWII, Mt. Everest, business, and baseball. He is often saying things like, “you should read this one, it’s really good!” and I say, “Sure dear, one day.” Well, that day finally came.
The book he handed me was Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game by Michael Lewis. Now, we have entire shelves devoted to baseball. We watch a lot of games. It is hard to live in this house and NOT pick up on some of the names and facts. So this book didn’t come as a complete and total shock. I’d heard bits and pieces of it before. Regardless, it’s sat on the shelf for a couple of years while I said “Sure dear, one day.”
The short version of what the books is about is: it’s about how the Oakland As continue to win despite having the second lowest payroll in MLB. The long version is: oh my god there are some SERIOUS baseball geeks out there (and I’m married to one of them.) See, Oakland realized that if they didn’t do something different that they didn’t stand a chance against teams like the Yankees who have huge bankrolls. There was no way they were going to be able to buy star power. They had to find a way to work with what they could afford and still have a winning team.
They start by not listening to the scouts. They needed an all new way. They hired Harvard grads and stock traders and analysts who knew how to read the numbers. They didn’t go with “wow, he looks great” but rather “THIS stat is the one that directly correlates to wins. Who can do THAT?” When they lost s great player they carefully determined how to go about replacing what he really meant to the team. There are entire chapters devoted to single players (ie Jason Giambi). It talks about why pitching isn’t the most important factor, as I believed. There is a chapter devoted to Bill James, who is near unto a god at my house.
I wasn’t surprised that I found this interesting. I mean, it’s hard to live with baseball as much as I do and not be a little interested. I was surprised to find it entertaining. It’s really easy to read (except when it’s NOT because it does go a little over my head in places.) My only complaint is that occasionally there was a sentence in need of an editor. I don’t claim to be the world’s best at grammar- I can’t use a comma correctly to save my life- but there were way too many instances where the sentence was missing something vital- like the verb- or where the clauses didn’t match up or something. (Please note this lovely sentence I have crafted to describe my complaint!) Overall, thumbs up. If you (or someone you love) is obsessed with baseball I’d recommend reading this one.