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Book Review: Moneyball: The Art of Winning An Unfair Game by Michael Lewis
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Book Review: Moneyball: The Art of Winning An Unfair Game by Michael Lewis - Executive Leadership Articles

Book Review: Moneyball: The Art of Winning An Unfair Game by Michael Lewis

Executive Leadership Articles

Book Review: Moneyball: The Art of Winning An Unfair Game by Michael Lewis

If you’ve read only one Michael Lewis book, it’s most likely Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game (Norton, 2004), the exploration of Billy Beane’s then-revolutionary approach to putting together a competitive Major League Baseball team when nearly every reality of the Oakland Athletics’ market seems to conspire against him. The New York Times bestseller—which inspired an Oscar-nominated film starring Brad Pitt—examines an old game played a new way. Rather than rely on conventional wisdom and try to beat teams like the New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers on a decidedly uneven playing field, Beane and his young computer geeks explored the market for inefficiencies, exploiting to their advantage weaknesses where old-school thinking placed too great a value on players with less actual impact.

This is definitely a book about baseball, but it is so much more. It’s a book about how creative thinking brings new answers to old problems, and the clash of instincts and data, and finding leverage wherever in business you can, especially where nobody has thought to look. Lewis is a great storyteller, and in presenting the tale of the Oakland Athletics, he finds lessons for us all, in family, work ethic, expectations, and doing our own thing.

“The pleasure of rooting for Goliath,” he writes, “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.” In Moneyball, Lewis sets us up to root for David, then shows you that, like the Biblical David, Billy Beane has certain advantages from the beginning. He’s not weighed down by preconceived notions of how to win, and he doesn’t care one lick about the “look” in a player’s eye. Wins and losses are what matters, and a player’s worth is in how much he actually contributes to wins.

There is a misconception about Moneyball’s use of data that says Beane and his computer guys don’t appreciate nuances of the game, that their reliance on obscure mathematics takes the humanity out of the most human of America’s major professional sports. However, Lewis reminds us that Beane is driven not only by an understanding of the data, but of the need for the Oakland team to compete while it has far less money than teams in Boston, New York, and Chicago: he is required to find the players other teams are overlooking or undervaluing because he can’t afford to get into bidding wars for baseball’s mega-stars.

It has been 12 years since Moneyball was published, and since then, the Boston Red Sox and the Chicago Cubs have won the World Series using Beane’s approach—but without the tighter purse strings. They are playing Moneyball with more money, and the Athletics still haven’t won a World Series since 1989.

There is so much inspiration in Lewis’s book, so many ways David reminds you of Goliath’s vulnerabilities that it’s nearly impossible not to find applications of its general principles to other areas of our lives, as distant from the National Pastime as they may be. It’s a fantastically written book, a great story, and practically a must-read for anyone looking to gain an edge on the competition, whoever or whatever it may be.

 

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Book Review: Moneyball: The Art of Winning An Unfair Game by Michael Lewis - Executive Leadership Articles

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