Monday, October 20, 2008

Baseball is to money as...

I like baseball as much as the next person, assuming the next person isn't a rabid Yankees or Dodgers or Sox or Mets fan. Or semi-rabid for that matter.

But several years ago, at a sponsorship conference in Chicago, I heard Billy Beane speak. Who is Billy Beane you ask? So did I, rather prepared to be bored out of my skull. Well, more fool I. I was riveted. It turns out that Michael Lewis, of whom I am a semi-rabid fan, had just published a book all about him. Billy Beane is the man who turned baseball on its head by treating it not only like a business, but like a science.

Moneyball is Lewis' book about Beane, General Manager of the Oakland A's—one of the lowest funded teams with one of the best records. Beane didn't do things the way they were always done. He did them his way. Beane hired brainiacs from Harvard and Yale, not baseball insiders (does the name Theo Epstein ring a bell? No? He's the GM who, two years after being hired, steered the Boston Red Sox to their first World Series Championship in 86 years—but first he worked for Beane). Beane drafted players no other team wanted, and drafted them early. Beane rejected the sacrifice bunt. Beane ran more statistics, and paid attention to them, than any other GM in the game.

As much as it is about baseball—and I would imagine the more you know about the sport, the more you would enjoy the book—this book is about using your brain and following your gut, not the herd.

Pretty good story, right? Evidently Hollywood thinks so too—I hear Steve Zaillian is on board to adapt the book and that Columbia is pitching Brad Pitt to play Mr. Beane, with David Frankel (The Devil Wears Prada) to direct. I'd see it.

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